Inherited Sin Nature — A Devilish Lie

The subject of “inherited sin nature” deserves a book-length treatment. Nevertheless, I’m hoping that by the end of this essay you will see the unbiblical and dangerous nature of this insidious heresy. I hope, at least, to provoke you to do your own Bible study. Don’t just buy into what your pastors and teachers have told you. They were typically taught their doctrine while still unshaven teenagers in Bible college . . . before they really knew their own Bibles. So figure it out for yourself. Come to this subject fresh – prayerful and open-minded to discover truth.

There are 2 key problems associated with “inherited sin nature” that create havoc in both evangelism and discipleship:

1. This false doctrine, as usually taught, invents two different types of sins which apparently condemn us. This leads to massive corruption in presentations of the Gospel.
2. The idea of an inherited sin nature that produces a tendency / proclivity / predisposition . . . yes, even a compulsion to sin creates a misunderstanding of the nature of Jesus Christ, our relationship with Him, and our own responsibilities in many areas, including how to walk the Christian life and how to raise our children.

Let’s take these problems in turn . . .

1. If we have inherited Adam’s sin, then we must be saved from that in addition to the sins that we commit ourselves. Many “statements of faith” published by churches profess that we are sinners by birth AND sinners by our own choices and actions. Which begs the question, “What is sin?” That’s easy, Biblically. “Sin is the transgression of the law.” 1 John 3:4. Sin is breaking God’s law. Sin is rebellion. Sin is missing the mark of righteousness. Sin is willful. Sin is not a mysterious poisonous substance that flows in your bloodstream. You must repent from specific sins in order to seek forgiveness from God. The Bible is repeatedly and exhaustively clear that sin is willful rebellion. It is something that you do. Therefore . . .

You cannot repent from someone else’s sins. You cannot repent from Adam’s sin. You cannot inherit the guilt from another’s willful crimes.

I recently shared some truth with a 70 year-old woman in the so-called “Jehovah’s Witness” cult. When she insisted that she had never sinned throughout her life . . . never lied, never lusted, never been selfish, etc. . . I asked her whether it mattered in her case that Jesus Christ died. She replied that He died for her sin nature. Thus she didn’t need to repent, in her view.

Another example: Many fundamentalists (fundies) and evangelicals (gellies) use the “Romans Road” method for sharing the Gospel. Typically, just a handful of verses out of the book of Romans are used. Sin is treated as a generic issue and – often – the sinner is told that he sins because he was born a sinner. Romans 5:12 is generally perverted to make the claim that we have inherited Adam’s sin. Look it up. It doesn’t say that. The verse condemns Adam for his sin and also condemns the rest of us for our sins. In the typical presentation, the sinner is told that if he believes THAT Jesus died for his sins and verbally acknowledges that fact, he will be saved. “BELIEVING THAT” is different from believing Jesus / believing in Jesus / believing on Jesus, etc. “THAT” implies intellectual assent to facts. Repentance is avoided. Specific sins are avoided. If the soul-winner knows that the sinner is a drunken fornicator, no mention is made about repenting from “that.” The typical “soul-winner” truly believes that repentance from specific sins is not required. Allegedly, once someone believes THAT Jesus died for him, he is saved, and he can be “discipled” later about the advantages of giving up his lying, cussing, drinking, fornicating, etc.

But, of course, if the soul-winner believes that inherited sin is the sinner’s big problem, and that’s why he does so much lying, cussing, drinking, fornicating, etc., then it is the inherited sin that he must be saved from. HE CANNOT REPENT FROM ADAM’S SIN . . . of course. So the sinner, just like that JW lady, must simply believe and trust that Jesus took care of that Adamic problem on the cross, unfortunately inherited by all of us. Thus another false convert is still born into an American church . . . if he ever shows up at church, that is – many don’t even bother. Why should they? Now “born again” they are ready to get back to lying, cussing, etc.

Did Adam commit the “original sin”? Yes, “original” in the simple sense that it was mankind’s first. (Let’s not get into the relative responsibilities of Adam and Eve in this. Scripture is clear that it was the first Adam’s sin that necessitated the incarnation of the second Adam.) Consider the heresy of baptismal regeneration practiced by both Catholics and Protestants for centuries because they believe that this sin was inherited. Thus multitudes are in Hell today because of their reliance on a baptismal certificate. Many such, including Protestant pastors and “Christian college” professors have assured me that they were “born again” into the family of God and assured of Heaven because of a few drops of water sprinkled on their foreheads by an equally unsaved fellow dressed in a robe.

Though both fundies and gellies decry the heresy of baptismal regeneration, they propagate the heretical cause: they believe in inherited sin. They don’t have many Scriptural passages that they can use to warp to their purposes. Let’s discuss one of their favorites – Psalm 51:5.

Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

On the surface – completely out of context – you can see how if this verse is all you’ve got, then maybe the Bible is teaching that David had sin wired into his embryonic existence. Although it doesn’t say that directly, by any means. So let’s look at the context. (Pull out your Bible. I won’t copy the rest of the Psalm.)

The inspired Biblical preface to this Psalm, inscribed prior to verse #1, is “To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.”

Psalm 51 is David’s confession of repentance to God for his adultery, the arranged murder of Uriah, and all the lies derived from those heinous events. In this psalm he implores God for mercy . . . to blot out David’s transgressions. He asks forgiveness for his own iniquity, his own sin. He confesses that he has done evil. His entire message pertains to his specific sinful actions. In verse 5 he simply reflects the culture and environment of sin that he was born into in this world. There is none righteous. Everyone goes after his own way. If verse 5 taught a doctrine of inherited sin nature, David would have at least a partial excuse for what he had done. There is no sense at all in Psalm 51 that David would consider attaching blame to anyone or anything else. In fact, David’s pleas for mercy depend on him taking the full blame for his entirely free and willful wicked actions.

To read a doctrine of inherited sin nature into verse 5 is to exegete doctrine out of metaphor. The entire psalm is filled with metaphors. The message is clear, though, as to what the metaphors illustrate, namely, David’s complete personal responsibility for sinning against God. Adam is not in the picture. In the last half of the psalm David begs for restoration, a new heart, a new spirit, and renewed joy. If the problem was an inherited sin nature, such restoration and forgiveness – to obliterate the real problem, the sin nature – would not be possible. Of course. David concludes with a promise that God’s forgiveness will enable him to teach other transgressors how to be converted, and how David will praise God publicly and proclaim His righteousness. Verse 17 is telling:

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

Just as his sins were willful and 100% his own responsibility, David confesses that a repentant, broken, contrite heart is his own responsibility.

If we all inherited a sin nature that condemns us and from which we must be saved, such a doctrine would be incredibly important. It should be repeated many times throughout Scripture and be explained in detail by the Lord Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament. But all the way through the Bible, God’s messengers tell us earthlings to repent from our own individual wicked deeds, that we are condemned for our own sins, and that forgiveness saves us and restores us to fellowship with God. Search the Scriptures yourself. I could cite hundreds of explicit examples. FYI, I’ll copy just a few passages below:

The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. Ezekiel 18:20

Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye. Ezekiel 18:30-32

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9

Finally, consider all of the passages in both Old and New Testaments where lost sinners are dealt with. In every case the issues of repentance and salvation were attached to specific sins in the life of individuals. No mention was made of the problem of an inherited sin nature. Yet if a sin nature was the real problem condemning the individual, that should have been the focus. For example, note just some of the encounters in the Gospel accounts:

— The rich young ruler was challenged to repent from idolizing his riches.
— The Samaritan woman’s fornication was called out.
— The woman caught in adultery was told to sin no more.
— Nicodemus was told that men love darkness because their deeds are evil and that to come to the light he must choose salvation through the Lord Jesus.
— The Pharisees were repeatedly condemned for their hypocrisy.
— Jesus challenged the false disciples following him that by committing sins they revealed that they were servants of sin and, in fact, children of Satan.
— John the Baptist challenged the publicans to show fruits of repentance by dealing honestly in tax collecting, and he instructed the soldiers to repent by forsaking unlawful violence.
— The thief on the cross destined for Paradise was repentant for his life of criminal deeds.

If inherited sin nature was the issue, the Biblical record would be extraordinarily different.

2. Regarding sin nature as an inherited compulsion to sin, allow me to slam dunk this heresy very quickly. No one in this debate believes that the Lord Jesus inherited a compulsion to sin. The idea is that His blood was pure and ours isn’t because of our Adamic inheritance. Somehow the preaching on this subject assumes that some portion of our DNA, related to the molecular constituents of our literal red blood, has “sin” coded into it. To those who believe this . . . PLEASE . . . explain this to me. That’s quite an assertion to make – that some molecules are dirty and evil and others aren’t. And furthermore, that the Lord Jesus’ molecules were all clean.

Yet Scripture is clear that the 2nd person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, became fully man in the incarnation. (If this is a problem for you, you need a lot more help than I can bring to bear in this article.) In order to be our High Priest, he had to become man. In fact He is called both the Son of God and the Son of Man. Now, you know the following passages in Hebrews, relating to how Jesus bridges the gap between God and man.

Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16

For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted. Hebrews 2:18

Note the clauses “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin,” and “he himself hath suffered being tempted.” Got it? He was tempted just like us. He is able to be our high priest, save us, and secure us because he was tempted as a man. How can that be if we have an inherited compulsion to sin? Can’t be. Ergo, as Jesus had no inherited sin nature, neither do we.

I’ll mention that I have an inherited neurological disease, a form of Tourette’s Syndrome. Every waking moment of my life I suffer compulsions to twitch one or more muscles in my body. If you don’t have the same problem, you can’t even imagine what this is like. Now suppose that a friend of ours observes us together and sees you quite relaxed, yet notices that my body seems to be in perpetual tension. As he watches more closely he can see me twitching almost continuously. Suppose he challenges me to stop twitching. After all, twitching is unseemly and unattractive. And he doesn’t twitch and you don’t either. Since we three are all apparently healthy, strong human beings, I should avoid twitching just like you and him.

Ridiculous, right? Even though every twitch is ultimately a voluntary act and can occasionally be resisted, the pressure mounts unbearably. There is a BIG difference between those afflicted with Tourette’s and those who are not.

So it would be with an inherited compulsion to sin. If we have it and Jesus didn’t as He walked this Earth, then there is NO SENSE in which He was tempted like as we are. Yet Scripture is clear that he fully shared our humanity.

So why didn’t Jesus ever sin? Because He fully understands the stupidity and destructiveness of every sin. And He willfully chose for 33 years to do what was right and productive and fruitful, rather than what was stupid and harmful and destructive. All sin is stupid. Simple sins of the flesh like drunkenness, drug use, fornication, cussing . . . are these helpful, productive, intelligent? All sin is stupid. When God commands us to repent, it is to leave behind the stupid and embrace the smart.

As righteousness tendeth to life: so he that pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death. Proverbs 11:19

Every time you and I sin it is by choice. We cannot blame an inherited compulsion. Churches are filled with false converts who continue to live in a pattern of sin after making some nominal profession to believe in Jesus so they can escape Hell. When they sin they often excuse it because their pastors teach that it is just their sin nature acting out. After all, look at the apostle Paul. In Romans 7 he laments that when he tries to do good he winds up doing evil.

This is an example of how a false doctrine tends toward gross misinterpretation of the Bible. In Romans 7 it is evident that Paul is reminiscing on his formerly lost condition, when he knew God’s laws as a Pharisee, but sinned anyway. The proof that Romans 7 is about “lost Paul” as opposed to “saved Paul” is by reading it in context with Romans chapters 6 and 8. I encourage you to study this out yourself. In Romans 6 and 8 we find Paul, via the Holy Spirit, teaching that salvation frees us from the power of sin, sin has no more dominion over us, as lost people we walked in the flesh, but those that are “in Christ” – those that have been born again – walk in the Spirit. There is a stark contrast between saved and lost in these passages, particularly within the first 10 verses of chapter 8. There are many proofs offered to help you test whether you are in Christ or not . . . for example, 8:14 . . . “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”

Yet many preachers interpret the first 10 verses of Romans 8 as contrasting spiritual vs. “carnal” Christians. Nope: “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Do you have the Spirit of Christ dwelling in you? Then you don’t walk after the flesh – lost – but after the Spirit, loving righteousness and aiming always in that direction. Because of such gross misinterpretation, lost sinners, who never repented, continue to be coddled in a church culture which reassures them that they are saved, even though they never did and still don’t exhibit fruits of repentance. Thus churches are filled with “believers” who engage repetitively in the sins that they were never willing to repent from.

So do Christians ever sin? And just what is it that changed when Adam fell? What is this so-called “flesh” or our “Adamic nature”?

When Adam and Eve walked in the garden they enjoyed the Lord’s presence. They walked in agreement and in fellowship with God. Every choice was right except for the forbidden fruit. When they fell, God removed His presence and fellowship. Every child born into the world since then was born with heart, will, mind, and spirit and the ability to choose right and wrong. God graced us each with a conscience to illuminate the choices. Every time you and I sin we do it by choice. We can see this even in the very young. When a toddler refuses instruction (“Don’t touch that!”), disobeys, and screams at his mother for pulling him away from an electrical outlet, he is exercising his very robust will in defiance of another human’s wishes. He doesn’t need a compulsion to rebel. He just wants to do what he wants to do.

The “flesh” is simply our natural set of fleshly desires. There is nothing wrong with a desire to eat, but carried too far we find gluttony — sin — and poor health, a poor testimony, embarrassment, and guilt. Sexual desire is a God-given gift, but outside the bounds of marriage the act (or even the lust) is sin — entailing sexual addiction, a broken marriage, STDs, a mind taken over by fantasy, and so on. Desire for a comfortable environment is appropriate, but sin abounds when greed takes over and you live merely to acquire fancy cars, houses, jewels, fashions, and assorted toys. When we “walk in the flesh” we have lost perspective, devoting our selves to this world and its god — Satan — rather than making our days count in the service of our Creator and Saviour. To “walk in the Spirit” necessitates repentance from our willful sins and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. If your life pattern is “walking in the flesh,” then you have not been born again. Your god is Satan. The true follower of Jesus Christ can choose sin — just like a sheep can fall into a mud puddle. But the sheep is miserable in the mud and works to get out. It’s the pig who wallows in the mud — that’s the life he wants!

Let me tell you a parable . . . Consider a carnival arcade with 1000 interesting targets arrayed on a large wall. You have an air gun and are about to choose which target to aim at. You have been reliably told by a good friend that target #777, although small in cross section, generates the best prizes for you to take home if you hit it. The prizes from #777 don’t look so great at first, but he tells you that they last forever. You can see the reasonableness of this advice, but there are so many other attractive targets to hit, too. The arcade owner works to convince you to aim at many other targets which also seem to have appealing prizes. Your friend, however, tries to show you that these other prizes are worthless because they degrade very quickly once you have them in hand. Furthermore, winning such prizes tends to addict you to keep playing the game, and to keep shooting at worthless targets.

You decide that it’s fun to shoot at a big variety of interesting targets, especially since you can get such quick satisfaction from the associated prizes. Bang, bang, bang, bang. You may take an occasional shot at #777, but you’re not very interested in those prizes, so you don’t spend much ammo in that direction.

What does the parable mean? Target #777 is righteousness which produces long term, even eternal rewards. The other 999 targets represent the many unrighteous choices in life. The prizes for unrighteousness may give pleasure for a season, but assure death sooner rather than later, and eternal death in the long run. The good friend is a Christian who cares for your soul, and by extension is the Lord Jesus Christ, via the work of the Holy Spirit in this world. The arcade owner is Satan, also known as the god of this world. Nobody but you chooses the target for each shot.

To extend the parable, if you come into agreement with your friend, you see the wisdom of aiming consistently at #777. You don’t always hit it . . . in fact, you may get distracted and aim at #666 occasionally, especially if #666 represents some “prize” of particular temptation during your lost years. Of course, you’ll quickly correct your aim when the prize disintegrates in your hand after wasting money and ammo to obtain it.

When a sinner is born again, the Holy Spirit indwells the new believer. He instructs the conscience and the mind on the value of aiming toward the mark of righteousness. This “new creature” in Christ has very different goals – aims – than those “in the flesh”, than those who inherited the “Adamic nature”, which is simply the free will to choose his own marks. In the presence of the Lord, as in the Garden, making the righteous choice is simple and obvious. On your own, apart from the Lord, what you are likely to do is anything other than the right thing . . . just because you feel like it. You don’t need a compulsion to aim at target #666 or #243 or any other target. The Lord Jesus used the metaphors of narrow and broad roads in Matthew 7:13-14. The narrow road leads to life and the broad road leads to destruction. Most stay lost because they like the broad road. They abhor the narrow road of righteousness.

Ironically, those that choose the broad road, that love to shoot at anything besides righteousness, shrink smaller and smaller into a life pattern of sin addiction. Ultimately, all addicts look and act alike, and others not so addicted see them for the pitiful wrecks they are. If you keep feeding your natural fleshly inclinations . . . for example, a desire to feel relaxed and unworried . . . with alcohol or drugs, your body and mind will spiral into self-obsessed destruction. Ultimately, Hell also is a small, dark, boring place with no fellowship and nothing for you to entertain yourself except your own despairing regrets.

But when the believer is indwelt with the Holy Spirit, the same wisdom is available to guide his choices as when God walked with Adam and Eve. Fellowship between man and God is restored on the individual basis. The Holy Spirit provides a constructive “compulsion,” so to speak, that encourages us to aim for the mark. Yet it’s a “compulsion” that we willingly take on at salvation, because when we repent from stupidity, we thoughtfully and willfully embrace righteousness. We want the help of the Holy Spirit to nudge us toward righteousness. Growing in grace – the life-long process of sanctification – is the fine tuning whereby we become more and more what we should be and what we want to be with the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Even better than what the U.S. Army offers, we can be all and even more than we can be.

Interesting, isn’t it? The devil has sold Christendom a lie. There is no inherited compulsion to sin. In supposing so, God is effectively blamed for creating a system that is patently unfair. No human court would convict a man for the sins of his distant ancestor. The false doctrine also serves to obscure the reality of the new POSITIVE benefit of restored fellowship with the Spirit of God, who works to gently compel us toward the righteousness that we know we want when we become disciples. Some irony, huh?

Calvinists take a giant leap into heresy by interpreting inherited sin nature as “total depravity” – which to them actually means “total inability” to choose any good at all. Free will is denied – that’s what Calvinists mean by God’s “sovereignty” – even more so than by materialistic atheists who see the laws of physics as determining all events in the universe. Thus the materialist sees all human actions as deriving from brain chemistry, even thoughts that lead to rape, murder, and child molestation. The Calvinist sees God’s “perfect plan” from before the foundation of the world to be pre-determined, including all thoughts that lead to rape, murder . . .

In Calvinism, because of their views of sovereignty and total inability, salvation comes only to those “elected” from eternity past, and only through the means of God’s “irresistible grace.” All these are damnable heresies that are enemies of the Biblical Gospel, and lead sinners away from a simple knowing responsibility for all their willful actions, including the sins for which they must repent.

Most of “Christendom” is afflicted with the heresy of inherited sin nature. Such a vital doctrine should permeate the Biblical record. How much text relates to the creation of the world? How about the cross and the resurrection? The incarnation and the 2nd coming of Christ? What about repentance from willful transgressions of the law? Isn’t the doctrine of salvation by faith apart from works expounded throughout the Bible? Regarding our responsibilities to our fellow man, as shown in the 2nd table of the law, the book of Proverbs, and epistles such as Paul’s letter to Ephesus, how much instruction is there?

So if you hold to a doctrine of inherited sin nature, which condemns each child ever born on this Earth, and afflicts each of us with a compulsion to sin . . . you should be able to show many explicit passages that explain it and offer useful help to solve such spiritually deadly problems. Yet each of the few passages that you attempt to use is much more easily understood, in context, without invoking what Catholics, Calvinists, and other Protestants use to promote their damnable heresies that pervert the Gospel.

So . . . man up! Step up to your responsibilities as a believer. Your next thought, your next action . . . it’s up to you! Don’t blame Adam. When you share the Gospel, preach against specific sins. Don’t blame God for creating a system that transfers blame to us from our ancestors. The sinner must repent from his own sins. Specific sins and specific repentance produce God’s specific forgiveness and the sinner’s specific salvation.

If you disagree, I double-dog dare you to walk up to a lost person this week, particularly a skeptic who has rejected the Bible entirely, and explain the Gospel to him your way. Explain about inherited sin (via DNA?) that condemns in addition to willful sin. Explain how the cross and repentance and forgiveness works for both types of sin. Of course, if you are a Calvinist, be honest and explain TULIP, because an honest Calvinist does not believe that every sinner he preaches to actually can be saved, because most are not “elect.” And the sinner is unable to repent on his own, since God must do that for him, too. Come on, be honest if you believe that!

Thus one experiential “proof” against the doctrine of inherited sin nature is that no fervent Christian who actually cares about the souls of men can actually explain to a lost person . . . in a way that makes any reasonable sense . . . just what the deal is!! Yet the lost is to come humbly, as a little child, and be converted. “Hey friend, you’ve broken God’s laws. You’ve lied, lusted, blasphemed, hated, and even murdered in your heart. You need to repent . . . forsake your sins. Trust Jesus Christ. He died for you and rose again. Repent and trust Him and He will give you eternal life. You’ll be on a different road. Everything changes. Read the Bible and obey it from this day forward. And you and I can be friends in fellowship for life and for eternity. Join the family.”

Simple, huh? It’s the devil that adds deceptive complexity.


Comments are closed.