Original Sin


Essential Truths of the Christian Faith

Original Sin
============
It is commonplace to hear the statement, “people are
basically good.” Though
it is admitted that no one is perfect, human
wickedness is minimized. Yet if
people are basically good, why is sin so
universal?

It is often suggested that everybody sins because society has such a negative
influence upon us. The problem is seen with our environment,
not with our
nature. This explanation for the universality of sin begs the
question, how
did society become corrupt in the first place? If people are
born good or
innocent, we would expect at least a percentage of them to
remain good and
sinless. We should be able to find societies that are not
corrupt, where the
environment has been conditioned by sinlessness rather
than sinfulness. Yet
the most dedicated-to-righteousness communes we can find still have provisions
for dealing with the guilt of sin.

Since the
fruit is universally corrupt we look for the root of the problem in
the tree.
Jesus indicated that a good tree does not produce corrupt fruit. The
Bible
clearly teaches that our original parents, Adam and Eve, fell in
sin.
Subsequently, every human being has been born with a sinful and
corrupt
nature. If the Bible didn’t explicitly teach this, we would have to
deduce it
rationally from the bare fact of the universality of
sin.

Yet the Fall is not simply a question of rational deduction. It is a
point of
divine revelation. It refers to what we call original sin. Original
sin does
not refer primarily to the first or original sin committed by Adam
and Eve.
Original sin refers to the result of the first sin—the corruption of
the human
race. Original sin refers to the fallen condition in which we are
born.

That the Fall occurred is clear in Scripture. The Fall was
devastating. How it
came to pass is open to dispute even among Reformed
thinkers. The Westminster
Confession explains the event simply, much in the
manner that Scripture
explains it:

Our first parents, being seduced by
the subtlety and temptation of Satan,
sinned, in eating the forbidden fruit.
This their sin, God was pleased,
according to His wise and holy counsel, to
permit, having purposed to order it
to His own glory.

Thus, the Fall
occurred. The results, however, reached far beyond Adam and
Eve. They not
only touched all mankind, but decimated all mankind. We are
sinners in Adam.
We cannot ask, “When does the individual become a sinner?”
For the truth is
that human beings come into existence in a state of
sinfulness. They are seen
by God as sinful because of their solidarity with
Adam.

The
Westminster Confession again elegantly expresses the results of the
Fall,
particularly as it relates to human beings:

By this sin they
fell from their original righteousness and communion with
God, and so became
dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the parts and
faculties of soul and
body. They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of
this sin was imputed,
and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature,
conveyed to all their
posterity descending from them by ordinary generation.
From this original
corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled,
and made opposite to
all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all
actual
transgressions.

That last phrase is crucial. We are sinners not because
we sin. Rather, we sin
because we are sinners. Thus David laments, “Surely I
was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm
51:5, NIV).

The universality of sin cannot be accounted for by pointing
to societal or
environmental factors.

The universality of sin is
explained by the Fall of mankind.

Original sin does not refer to the
first sin, but to the result of that sin.

All people are born with a
sinful nature or “original sin.”

We all sin because we are sinners by
nature.

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