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The Problem with Paul's Doctrine of Original Sin


Paul's Original Sin Doctrine Proves the Absurdity of Faith Alone Doctrine 

Paul is the exclusive teacher of the doctrine of original sin. Paul in Romans 5 explains the doctrine of inherited guilt.  Paul states clearly that Adam's sin resulted in every one of his descendants starting life as sinful beings, too. In Romans 5:12, Paul says "death came to all people by the sin of one man" - Adam. Paul in Romans 5:17 says that by "grace" life and righteousness comes through one man, Jesus. Then in Romans 5:18-19, Paul says clearly that all born human enter into life condemned:

Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all
people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life
for all. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be
made righteous. (For more exposition on this doctrine from belief.net, see this link.)

However, God prior to Paul rejected the notion of inherited sin from the sin of your father:

The son will not share the guilt of the father nor will the father share the guilt of the son – Ezekiel 18:20

Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin – Deuteronomy 24:16

Babies have no knowledge of good and evil (Deuteronomy 1:39 / Isaiah 7:14-16).

Jesus clearly implied little children are innocent of sin, in conformance to those well-known principles:

I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven – Matthew 18:3

Paul's doctrine on infants being born in original sin was rediscovered in the Reformation. At the same time,  the Reformation rediscovered Paul's faith alone doctrine. When seen together, this initially led to strong pushback that argued that the faith alone doctrine consequently must be immoral.  This is because without faith, a newborn baby was damned to hell due to an imputed Original Sin.

So in the Reformation, Luther had to find a solution. How can a good God damn the seemingly innocent infants by original sin's imputation to infants?  What if there's nothing to mitigate this due to the only alternative means of salvation is by faith alone? For the latter Faith Alone doctrine provides no solace for the salvation of infants. This means absent some solution for seemingly innocent infants, Paul's doctrine of original sin makes Paul's doctrine on faith alone appear harshly absurd as to infants.

As a specific proof of this dilemma in the Reformation and how it was "fixed", Paul's follower -- Luther -- admitted original sin taints seemingly innocent babies with sin  and thus they must go to hell if they die in infancy,  as faith is impossible to them yet.   Faith alone therefore seemed cruel and unjust. Luther offered a palliative cure  to make acceptance of faith alone still appear reasonable. Luther taught that the cure against God sending such seeming innocents to hell was baptism:  "The Augsberg Confession [i.e., core of Lutheran confession] affirms that baptism is required to remove all punishment from dying infants." (Union Seminary Magazine, 1900, p. 110.) At that same page, it quotes to the same effect that unbaptized babies -- despite their seeming innocence -- are damned according to the Formula of Concord of the Lutherans of 1577. It mentions this was still the belief of the Episcopal and Anglican churches as of 1900, based upon Paul's doctrine of original sin.

Another source explains the Augsberg Confession on this point. In the Child and Religion, Eleven Essays (Ed. Thomas Stephens)(G.P.Putnam, 1905), we read:

The Augsburg Confession, written by Melancthon and acquiesced in by Luther and others, regarded baptism as indispensable to deliverance from punishment for original sin. Baptized infants were saved; the unbaptized were consigned to perdition. (Page 199.)

The magazine Luther Life from 1954 published by the Luther League bluntly states on page 20: "A child who dies unbaptized is lost."

What about salvation by faith? If Paul is correct about faith-alone for salvation, shouldn't all babies and young children be damned until they express faith, right? If that is true, then baptism cannot truly be the cure, can it, as no faith can be formed / expressed by a baby? Paulinism of the Reformation would have died if that contradictory implication between the cure for original sin and salvation-by-faith alone were well-known. Without much notice, Luther made infant baptism render invisible this dilemma between Paul's original sin and faith alone doctrines by the following bizarre interpretation that baptism represents a personal faith:

"Luther saw the difficulty. But he was sufficient for the emergency. 'Yes,' said he, 'justification is by faith alone.' 'No outwart right, apart from faith, has any efficacy.' .. [B]aptism is the symbol of regeneration, and baptism must be administered to infants, or the State church falls. With an audacity truly sublime, the great reformer declares that infants are regenerated in connection with baptism, and that they are simultaneously justified by personal faith. An infant eight days old believe? 'Prove the contrary if you can!' triumphantly exclaims Luther, and his point is gained. If this is the kind of faith that personally justifies, is it wonderful that those of maturer years learned to take a somewhat superficial view of faith that justifies?" (Augustus Hopkins Strong, Systematic Theology: A Compendium and Commonplace (American Baptist, 1909) Vol. 3 at page 954.)

Luther's congratulating himself was premature. Regeneration does not confer belief. This means belief must precede regeneration. This faith-precondition of regeneration is clearly taught in John 20:31, Acts 16:31, and John 1:12 

Wouldn't it be better to accept Christ praised the little children as being innocent, and that salvation is not by faith alone?  Thus the young child is born saved without faith but once your child has reached an age of accountability for sin, their salvation turns upon repentance from sin, confession of the same, and they submit to obey God and the King whom God appointed over us.

Otherwise, with Paul in the mix, what is the implication? Is it moral or evil? 

Original Sin’s Implication in Faith Alone Worldview

As we saw above, Paul in Romans 5:15-19 teaches that every human enters life condemned (to hell) due to the sin of Adam. Yet, through Jesus many “will be made righteous.” How will that happen? Paul taught in Romans 4:3-5 that this salvation came by faith, and no work. 

However, God in the Original Testament contradicts this inherited guilt principle in Deut 24:16 and Ezek 18:20. Children do not inherit their father's guilt. Also, children are born innocent without knowing good from evil.  Deut 1:39; Isaiah 7:14-16. As we said earlier, Jesus in Matt 18:3 also implied children were innocent, and encouraged us to become like children, or otherwise “you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matt 18:3.

However, if you hold strictly to Paul’s view, one is born damned, and until the moment of faith there is no innocence seen by God.  Hence, if you follow Paul, your baby is going to hell until it has faith.

In teaching this, Paul was certainly a teacher of a perverse God! The faith alone doctrine has this clear perverse and absurd conclusion if you also accept the doctrine of original sin.

Luther tried lamely to fix Paul’s doctrinal perversion by making baptism of infants salvific and actually confer personal faith.  Yet, Luther had absolutely no scriptural support. Thus, the absurdity caused by original sin led Luther to adopt another absurd position to cure the first absurdity. It all leads us to nonsense and a perverse view of God, proving that Paul cannot be speaking for God. Especially in Romans.

Paul's Self-Contradiction That Sin Is Not Our Choice But We Are Condemned for Our Choices

If we accept Paul's view that our sin nature is inborn when we are born, and the Calvinist reading is correct that this means we are totally depraved from birth, then we had no choice possible to do good, as they read Paul.

John MacArthur explains his view of Romans 5 in a sermon he preached on August 18, 1991, entitled, “Death Through Adam; Life Through Christ” that God made us sinners from birth - and we had no choice at all in this:

Now the deeds of sin flow out of the character of corruption. That's very important to note. Because we have the corrupt principle of evil within us, we do evil deeds. We are not made sinners because we sin; we sin because we were made sinners. I am not a sinner because I sin; I sin because I was born a sinner. And because I was born a sinner, the death principle operates in me. I will die physically. I am dead spiritually, cut off from God, and someday I may die eternally…… That's the proof of it. So through the one man, Adam, and his one act, the whole human race was plunged into sin and death. And then he says this in verse 14: Adam “is a type of Him who was to come." However, this is a marvelous statement. You're a Christian not because of anything you did. I am a sinner--are you ready for this?--not because of anything I did. That is right. I didn't do anything! I just was born. And I had nothing to do with that. Let alone Adam or whoever all in the process of people finally got to me; I had nothing to do with any of them. And I have passed on the same corrupt legacy to my children and my grandchildren, although my grandchildren seem to have escaped a little of the taintedness of--you know how that is for grandparents. I'm a victim of the whole thing and everybody that comes out of my loins is a victim of it…. (Source: www.gty.org ; bold highlights mine)

In this you also hear MacArthur say we became a Christian through no volitional act at all either. God supposedly made us a sinner. God made us at some point a Christian. MacArthur doesn't see the tension. But it makes no sense. It is nonsense.

The nonsense becomes overwhelming when MacArthur on Larry King Live makes the point that sexual preference is a choice, but claims that heterosexuality was not a choice -- one being a "sin" of choice (same-sex preferences) for which condemnation is supposedly just, but the other -- opposite-sex preference -- is a "natural" choice where God made us that way without a choice. This amazing sequence on Larry King Live makes one wonder how Pauline thinkers keep it all straight in their brain -- we have no choice but to sin, we have choice not to sin; we have no choice but to do right; we have no choice but to do wrong. Listen in!

KING: And homosexuality is...

MACARTHUR: And homosexuality... KING: ... a sin to you.

MACARTHUR: Yes. And...

KING: Therefore, it's a choice.

MACARTHUR: It's a choice you make. It's a sinful choice.

KING: Did you make a choice to be heterosexual?

MACARTHUR: I don't think I had to make a choice to be heterosexual. I think that's a natural thing.

KING: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. In other words, one is a choice and one is not?


KING: So he was unlucky and you're...

MACARTHUR: Because -- because you're not talking about -- because it's natural to be heterosexual. That's built...

KING: What do you mean by natural?

MACARTHUR: Well, I mean, that's the way God made us. That's the normal...

KING: But if he doesn't feel that way, what is he, then? He's not a sinner. It wasn't his decision.

MACARTHUR: Yes, I think it was his decision.

ALLEN: I would love, absolutely love for the pastor to point out for me when in my life I made that decision because I have to tell you, it caused a lot of pain in my family. It caused a lot of pain to me. It's a very, very tough thing that I had to go through. I don't remember making that decision. If I did, maybe can you point it out, but that wasn't the case for me.

(CROSSTALK) ALLEN: It's who I am. You also said that it was in the fabric of the human being that -- to understand that marriage was between a man and a woman and that's what family was. It must not be because it's not in the fabric of what who I am. It's not the way I see it. I think families come in all shapes, sizes and colors.

MACARTHUR: Well, let me respond this way, Chad, and say it had to be in the fabric of humanity or you wouldn't be here.

ALLEN: I believe that reproduction is. I'll give you that. I absolutely believe that reproduction is. However, I think family, the definition of family and the definition of reproduction are very, very different things.

KING: All right...

MACARTHUR: Well, what I said earlier is the DNA, the genetic structure of humanity, of civilization, of society is family. Everybody knows that. That's in the heart. That's how it works. You're coming along with others who are homosexual in their perspective and overturning what is natural to everyone.

KING: Could they also be asking to the privilege of something you have preached for years? Marriage is a healthy, wonderful thing, and they're saying, Let us in...

(CROSSTALK) KING: Why would you deny it to them?

MACARTHUR: Let me respond to Chad, too, just on a personal basis, Chad, by saying, I don't think at some point you said, OK, I'm going to be a homosexual. I got two alternatives. You know, I'm going to go be a homosexual. But I do think whatever sin patterns show up in our lives -- and it may be different for us -- we can choose to continue down those paths of sin, whether it's adultery or whatever it is, or we can say, Look, this is sin, and I need to deal with this in my heart. If this is the way I'm being led, it's not right. It doesn't honor God. It's not according to his word. It's not going to ultimately bring blessing on life. I make the choice at that -- I can't make a choice to be a sinner, OK? I am. We all are. But once you start down the path of sin, if you recognize that it is that, then you look to the Lord for the remedy to that.

ALLEN: And I respect you beyond anything for your belief on that. I really do. And let me tell you where the sin was in my life, as I see it. When I was in high school and kids were getting picked on and I was one of those kids picking on other kids, the ones that couldn't help but show that they were gay, the effeminate boys, and I picked on them and I beat them up. That was a sin for me. The sin for me was hiding who I was, when I was -- when it was dark inside my life and I was hiding who I was and trying to be something else, that was the sin for me. I believe that it's God who's called me to open up and start talking. See http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0402/24/lkl.00.html

However, this contradicted MacArthur's message on Romans 5 -- the passage on original sin, and the doctrine of total depravity which derives from it. MacArthur read Paul to mean in Romans 5 that we had no choice but to sin -- it was inborn into us, just like Allen was claiming was true for his homosexual feelings.  MacArthur said he himself was "a victim of the whole thing," just like Allen was claiming was true for himself.

So if Paul means what MacArthur and many others believe about total depravity based upon it (Calvinists predominantly), then Allen is right that his same-sex preference is no sin. MacArthur would be wrong. But on live TV, when people might wonder about Christians who claim God made us sin, and made us sinners, and we had no choice in that, as Paul also teaches about original sin and God making us totally depraved (supposedly), MacArthur turned on the switch to not expose his horrific view on God-made-me-a-sinner from birth, and we are all "victims" of that.

What should we think?

Psalm 119:113: "I hate double-minded men. But I love your law."

Revelation 3:15-16: "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were one or the other! So because you are luke-warm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth."

Mistranslations to Promote 'Original Sin' Doctrine

Incidentally, in Greek, the word "sarx" means human flesh. Jesus came in "sarx." Jesus came in human flesh. 1 John 4:2 and 2 John 1:7.

There is nothing implied into this word "sarx" that it means "sinful nature" unless you add the doctrine of original sin in Romans 5 into a word that in Greek does not have that meaning.

If you want to support the original sin doctrine, you will refer to sarx not as human flesh (its true meaning) but as "sinful nature" to accent the meaning to support the doctrine of "original sin."

Did any Bible do that? Did any Bible inconsistently translate "sarx" to a doctrinal end?

Yes, the original New International Version.

SARX is "flesh" when referring to Jesus in the 2 passages cited above, but in the 22 other times, when referring to a human other than Jesus, it is rendered as "sinful nature," or "sinful human nature." 

SeeRomans 7:18 Paul, sinful nature; Romans 7:25 Paul, sinful nature; Romans 8:4 sinful nature' Romans 8:5 sinful nature; Romans 8:8 sinful nature; Romans 8:9 sinful nature; Romans 8:12 sinful nature; Romans 8:13 sinful nature; Romans 13:14 sinful nature; 1 Corinthians 5:5 sinful nature; Galatians 5:13 sinful nature; Galatians 5:16 sinful nature; Galatians 5:17 sinful nature; Galatians 5:19 sinful nature; Galatians 5:24 sinful nature; Galatians 6:8 sinful nature; Ephesians 2:3  sinful nature; Colossians 2:11 sinful nature; Colossians 2:13 sinful nature; 2 Peter 2:10 sinful nature; 2 Peter 2:18 sinful human nature.

The NIV in 2011 obviously answered critics by removing 20 such references, changing it to "flesh," but leaving Romans 7:18 and Romans 7:25 still as "sinful nature."

So when you read the Greek original text untainted by deliberate mistranslations, Jesus and you share the same SARX -- human nature -- at birth. Jesus resisted sin. You have not. Jesus became the sinless lamb. You didn't get that far! The reason for you is you fell into sin. Jesus did not despite temptation.  As Hebrews 4:15 states, Jesus can function as our High Priest because He was tempted in all ways just as we are. The only difference between Him and us (with respect to temptation) is that He chose to resist the temptations that He was faced with.

Hence, since you and I share the same flesh, and Jesus' atoned for the world, Jesus had no sin nature or inherited sin, nor do we. We have the same flesh. It is anti-Christ, Apostle John says, who claims Jesus' flesh somehow materially differed from ours, and was more heavenly or divine. But if Paul's doctrine of original sin were true, then Jesus could not atone for us.  Jesus would have inherited guilt and sin, and thus could not atone. Paul's doctrine of original sin is self-destructive of the entire Christian faith. This is just one more reason why Paul is not an inspired voice.