part of the what is truth? series

Original sin is not actually in the Bible per se, but it is an interpretation of what the Bible teaches. It’s a doctrine typically credited to Augustine of Hippo (334-430), but he credits Irenaeus of Lyon, Bishop of Lyon (130-202). While the doctrine of original sin has taken many shapes over the centuries, it fundamentally declares that all sin is inherited from Adam, and in its truest form, all humans since Adam bear the guilt of his “original sin.”

Protestant reformers Martin Luther (1483-1546) and John Calvin (1509-1564) adopted and carried the idea even further. They considered that the guilt of original sin completely overwhelmed an individual’s free will to choose not to sin. In the Westminster Larger Catechism it is stated as, “All mankind…sinned in him [Adam], and fell with him in that first transgression… The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consisteth in the guilt of Adam’s first sin.” (Questions 25 and 26)

There’s much more that could be said about the origin and evolution of the original sin doctrine. For now, the question is does Scripture support its basic tenant of guilt for sin passed down from Adam to all of mankind?

T-U-L-I-P

(aka “total inability”) Every person that is enslaved to sin as a result of the fall of man and further, is not inclined to love God. Instead, man’s nature is to reject the rule of God and serve themselves. As a result, no human has the moral capacity to choose to obey God for spiritual salvation. Their sin (“depravity”) affects every part of them (“total”). Calvin’s “total depravity” doctrine is based on his interpretation of Augustine’s definition of Original Sin.

From the beginning, God chose individuals that he would call his own. This was not based on any foreseen virtue, merit, or faith in those people. Instead, his selection is unconditional (e.g. unilateral) and based only on his mercy. He extends mercy and salvation in Christ Jesus to those chosen (the “elect”). Those not chosen are separated from him because of their sins, receiving his wrath.

(aka “particular redemption” or “definite atonement” or “particular atonement”) Because of God’s complete sovereignty over man, the sins of the elect – and only the elect – were atoned for by Jesus’ death.

(aka “efficacious grace”) God’s saving grace is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save (that is, the elect). By his sovereignty, he overcomes any resistance to obeying the call of the gospel, bringing them to a saving faith. After all, he has purposed this from the beginning (“Unconditional election”). Here a distinction is made with the Holy Spirit’s “outward call” (preaching of the Gospel) that goes to all (elect and non-elect). It is only this “outward call” that can be rejected by sinners, whereas the “inward call” (or “effectual call”) of the Holy Spirit’s saving grace cannot be rejected (e.g “irresistible”).

(aka “perseverance of God with the saints” and “preservation of the believing”) God’s sovereignty precludes any that have received his “inward call” to be lost.  These “elect” will definitively be saved.

how Scripture answers "What does the Bible say about the concept of original sin?"

Scripture does not support the concept of “original sin”. There are passages making clear and definitive statements to the contrary2,3,7 and a chorus of New Testament passages and writers6 confirming the individual’s sin (and guilt) without ever any reference to Adam or any type of inherited sin/guilt. Last but not least, Jesus confirms the innocence of children with His teaching8.

The few passages plucked to support “original sin” are perfectly harmonious with the rest of Scripture. Paul’s statements4,5 are taken out of context. Their true meaning is consistent across the two different Pauline letters. Finally, and without other scriptural support, it’s easy to see that David is using a figure of speech1 to emphasize the depth of his sorrow clearly borne throughout the Psalm.

the answer above is based on and footnoted with the following Scripture Blocks
1
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, I [David] was brought into iniquity, and in sin my mother birthed me.

A lament of David after Nathan confronted him in his sin with Bathsheba. David is tormented and repeatedly confesses his sin against God.

How does it inform?

In his sorrow, David repeatedly speaks of the sin in the first person (“I”, “my”). While David could be stating a doctrinal truth in vs 5, he could also be emphasizing the extent of his self-loathing and pity — much like we would say, “I’m rotten to the core.”

Does it apply? Maybe

2

Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin.

An individual bears the punishment (death) for their own sin. The punishment is not inherited or past on to the next generation.

Moses is re-telling the law to the people before entering into the promised land.

How does it inform?

This is a direct statement of doctrine and would contradict David’s declarative statement (if David’s statement was taken literally1).

Does it apply? Yes

3

But the Lord said to Moses, Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book.

God is stating that each individual is responsible for his/her own sin.

Moses is on the mountain receiving the law (ten commandments) from God while the people have become impatient and built a golden calf to worship in Moses’ absence. Moses tries to intercede on the peoples’ behalf, but a plague is sent by God to punish the people “because they made the calf.”

How does it inform?

An Old Testament example of the consequences of sin — specifically the individual’s sin and their own guilt/consequence. God makes this declarative statement as an eternal truth, even referencing “my book” (e.g. “book of life” Revelation 20:12)

Does it apply? Yes

4

For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

As death was brought forth in a man (Adam), so too was resurrection from the dead brought forth in a man (Christ).

Paul is making a great defense for the resurrection of Jesus and what that means for the Christian’s faith.  Without Jesus being raised, their faith would be “in vain” (vs 14), they’d still be in their sins (vs 17), the dead “in Christ” would have truly perished (vs 18) and everyone else “in Christ” should be “most pitied” (vs 19).  He then shifts to highlight what will happen because He was resurrected and confirm the raising “at his coming those who belong to Christ” (vs 23).
How does it inform?

Among other arguments, here he is comparing the fact that all humans die physically (Adam being the first) contrasted with the spiritual life the risen Christ brings.

Does it apply? No

5

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—

Sin was introduced to the world through one man (Adam), which results in death (spiritually), which in turn has spread to all mankind (because all have sinned).

Paul is arguing for the “obedience of faith” throughout this letter to the Romans. In the immediate context, he is speaking to the reconciliation that Christ brings and why it’s needed.

How does it inform?

To say that “sin came into the world through one man” does not necessitate the transference and guilt of that “original sin” to all descendants. In fact, the point being made seems much more related to the contrast Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 154.

Does it apply? No

6

Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out,

Call to repent (e.g. turn) in order that sins are removed.

A sermon from Peter to the crowd gathered in Solomon’s portico.

How does it inform?

Peter makes it clear that individual repentance is required for that individual’s (“your”) sins to be removed.

Does it apply? Yes

7

The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

The soul (individual) that sins will die (spiritually). Punishment or guilt for sin is not passed from one generation to the next.

Ezekiel is speaking God’s words and throughout the entire chapter illustrates the point of individual responsibility and accountability before God. He further illustrates the point with an example covering three generations – father, son, and grandson. In vs 2, God says their proverb, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?” will no longer be spoken. Apparently, it was a well known expression and philosophy during Ezekiel’s time.

How does it inform?

Guilt for sin is not passed down from generation to generation.

!! study note: context is extra important here !!

Does it apply? Yes

8
And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
He called a child to Him and said that unless people repent and become like children, they will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus’ response to the disciples after asking Him who was the greatest in the kingdom.  His point is that they become humble and innocent as children, going on to warn them not to cause “one of these little ones who believe in me to sin” (vs 6).

How does it inform?

Jesus is teaching to be innocent like children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Does it apply? Yes

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