Are We Born Sinners?
Bro. Mike Miller
|Third most common
What about all those Scriptures that teach we are born sinful?
It always amazes me that folks seem to assume that we have never seen those verses in the Bible. Most of us who have rejected the doctrine of original sin were once just as strong in believing it as our critics are now. We have taken a second honest and closer look at those verses that appear to teach this doctrine of devils and found that we had been looking at them with a preconditioned bias that made us see what we wanted to see in those verses. It is amazing how stubborn and blind we can be when we get an idea in our mind. We can look so deeply and at the same time miss the most obvious and simple facts. If we hope to understand God's Word correctly we must lay aside all our prejudices and fears of what others might think and be totally honest in our heart before God. If we have no intention of accepting or obeying what God shows us then you may be assured that God is not going to reveal anything to you.
Of course, the kingpin of all the verses that "teach beyond a doubt" that man is born sinful would be found in Psalm 51:5:
Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. - Psa. 51:5
Just yank this verse out of context and it looks like the issue is settled doesn't it? However, that violates every rule of interpretation by anyone's standards, and so anyone who is going to be honest is going to have to look a little closer. There are several ways to look at this, unless you have your mind already made up and don't intend to change it.
First of all, this is David's prayer of deep and thorough repentance. He sees himself as very low in the light of God's holiness. He has sinned against God and his guilt is great. He is humbling himself before God, as we all have to do. He is saying that he is just unworthy of anything from God. His best has not been anything to compare with God's holiness, and the best he has ever done now looks very worthless in view of his sin. His sin is all that is before him now and it is the great obstacle between him and God.
This is figurative language and that cannot be denied. If we take this statement and make a literal application with it, then we must also take verse 7 and apply it literally.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. -Psa. 51:7
But we know that hyssop will not cleanse us from our sins - it is figurative language. The idea is that David wants to be clean from his sin. He is begging God for deliverance and forgiveness and holding forth nothing of his own merit, but putting himself as low as he possibly can. He is saying, "I've never done anything worthy of your mercy, but I'm asking anyway."
Again in verse 8 we see figurative language used:
Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. - Psa. 51:8
God did not literally break his bones, and bones do not rejoice. It is figurative language and in the same context as verse 5. Again it is speaking of David's low estate because of his sin and his desire to have his innermost heart pure and right with God.
Another way of looking at this to realize that he said "I was shapen IN iniquity, and IN sin did my mother conceive me " Sin entered the world through Adam. David was born IN this world. His mother conceived him IN a sinful world and he was shapen as he grew IN the midst of a world full of iniquity. This is the way that Jewish writers of old interpreted this verse. We are all in the same boat. We were born into a world full of sin and we have been exposed to it from the day we entered the world. How can anyone imagine that it would not be a factor in our "going astray" or "becoming filthy?"
Some have put forth the idea that David was saying he was conceived when his mother committed fornication. I completely disagree with that idea. I see no evidence to even justify thinking such a thing. In my opinion it is far from a satisfying explanation for this verse.
We can also start dissecting the words in this verse and see much more than the "obvious" meaning that has filled so many textbooks and doctrinal books. "Shapen" means to "writhe or twist in pain." He says he was "shapen in iniquity." It is connected to the later part of the verse, which says, "and in sin did my mother conceive me." The word "sin" there means "a crime or its penalty." Take a look at Genesis 3:16: Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. - Gen. 3:16 Part of the result of sin entering the world through Adam and Eve is that childbirth is painful. David is saying that he entered the world in the midst of writhing and pain and it was because of the fact that sin had entered the world long ago. We surely see the effects and results of sin everywhere, but that doesn't mean that it is physically transmitted from generation to generation. It is a moral problem - not a physical problem. Sin has definitely affected the entire creation, but INFLUENCE is the way sin is spread - it hasn't done so by physically transmitting itself from one being to another.
Of course, Augustine, the father of this doctrine of devils, believed this verse to say that the union of David's parents in which he was conceived was sinful in itself. Augustine believed that intimacy between a man and woman was sinful because it involved lust. The fact that they were married made no difference, as far as he was concerned. He believed that sin was transmitted to the child because of the lust that was involved in the intimacy between husband and wife. Never mind that it is a natural desire given by God and also blessed by God inside a marriage relationship.
Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. - Heb. 13:4
Of course, when you look at a verse with your mind already made up you just don't think about all those other verses that contradict your private interpretation.
So you see that there are other interpretations for Psalm 51:5, and they also fit much better with the rest of the Bible and its teaching on sin.
Second proof text for original sin:
The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies. - Psa. 58:3
Once again we see the words "go astray." If this verse teaches us anything it teaches that we are NOT born sinful - it is something that BEGINS at birth. By the way, infants do not "speak" anything, they only cry. They have to be able to "speak" before they can "speak" lies. Infants only have physical needs, they do not have the ability to reason and make choices. They are not capable of the scheming and planning required to "speak" a lie or deliberately deceive someone.
They "go astray as soon as they be born." The trouble begins when they are born into a sinful world. By the time their reason starts to develop they have already made physical pleasure their number one priority. Self-gratification is what their life is about. Before they know anything about God they have already known the lust of the flesh. Paul said: For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. (Rom. 7:9) Sin is not imputed where there is no law. Infants do not know or understand the law of God and therefore are not sinners according to the Bible definition. As soon as they come to the age where the law of God is revealed to them they become accountable and therefore are sinners in the eyes of God. When they obtain the "knowledge of good and evil" that is when they begin to be accountable to God for choosing evil over good.
Third proof text for original sin:
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: - Rom. 5:12
This verse is used to "prove" that we are born sinners. However, it is one of the easiest to refute. The verse says plainly that DEATH passed upon all men - NOT SIN! By one man SIN ENTERED INTO THE WORLD. Death entered BECAUSE of sin and DEATH passed upon all men BECAUSE all have sinned. This verse does NOT teach that sin is passed physically through the genes to all the generations since Adam. It is simply reaffirming the fact that all men have sinned, and "sin when it is finished bringeth forth death" 100% of the time. Read it and interpret it correctly and it fits with all other Scripture. Interpret it through original sin-stained glasses and you have added to the Word of God, a crime which carries a stiff penalty according to Revelation 22:18.
Our critics might say that the fact that all people will inevitably become sinners is no different than saying all men are born sinners. Either way it isn't our fault and therefore we could still blame God for letting us be born in a sinful world where we have no chance. Let me remind you that it wasn't God who ruined the world, but men. And it wasn't just Adam who has made such a mess of this world, all his descendents have done their full share, also. Sin is MAN'S fault - NOT God's fault. God has done far beyond what any man would do to save us from sin. God has provided a cure for it. He has provided an escape from its bondage. You can trade your sin for Jesus and get a renewed mind, a new heart, a new life, a new song, new desires, eyes that can see, ears that can hear, and a home in heaven, all to boot!
Fourth proof text for original sin:
For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. - Rom. 5:19
In the first place, if we are going to be consistent then we must say that if Adam MADE ALL men sinners then Jesus MADE ALL men righteous. You cannot change your interpretation between two identical phrases in the same verse. The Universalists use the doctrine of original sin to prove that all men are going to heaven. If you believe in original sin then you have no grounds on which to argue with them - they win the debate. The word used here is not ALL, but MANY. This verse is speaking of the INFLUENCE of Adam - not what he physically passed to his descendents. We are not trying to lessen the significance of Adam's sin because it surely did bring sin into the world. It was the beginning of every heartache and misery that has been experienced by men since that day, not to mention all the death. However, the doctrine of original sin is a terrible distortion and misrepresentation of what really happened.
For example, we could say that Hugh Hefner of Playboy magazine has made many men immoral, adulterers, and perverts. That is certainly true, but we don't think of the sins of Hugh Hefner being imputed to others! That would be a ridiculous twist of reason! We could say that all the devil-possessed rock musicians of our day have ruined multitudes of people with their music and their message of drugs and rebellion. That would be true, but we would not think of them being ruined in the sense that the rock singers' sins were imputed to them by some physical means. Again, we might see a family where the father was a drunkard and all his sons were drunkards, too. We would say that father made drunkards out of his boys with his drinking, and that would be true. But you would never think that the father somehow passed that to his children physically. We understand that it was his INFLUENCE that caused his boys to be drunkards also. We have sense enough to understand these things correctly but when it comes to the Word of God we put a twist on it that doesn't fit with reason, or with the rest of the Scripture.
Along that same line of reasoning, we all have known wicked fathers who had sons who were righteous. The Bible is also full of examples like that. Likewise, we have seen righteous men who have had wicked sons. It is the INFLUENCE - NOT THE GENES! It is whether or not they submit their heart to God and his law or rebel against it. EVERY person must choose for themselves - and they DO!
Fifth proof text for original sin:
Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. - Eph. 2:3
This is another verse held up as PROOF that we are born sinful. The word used here is WRATH - not a thing said here about being born sinful. The book is written to a Gentile church. The context and emphasis of the chapter is that he is speaking to Gentiles who have been saved. They were born Gentiles - by nature they were Gentiles. The Jews considered the Gentiles to be "dogs" and enemies of God. There wasn't much hope for a Gentile as far as the Jews were concerned. They were "children of wrath." They were wicked and estranged from God and would be recipients of his wrath on Judgment Day.
It is just a terrible strain to try to make this verse "prove" that we are born sinful. The only way someone can believe that is because they come to this verse with an idea already fixed in their mind and every verse must be FORCED to fit their preconceived idea. Try reading it IN CONTEXT while forgetting about the doctrine of original sin.
There are other verses that are also used to support this false doctrine, but these we have discussed are the strongest and most commonly misinterpreted. The Bible does NOT teach the doctrine of original sin. Anyone who is willing to look honestly at the Scripture and lay aside their biased opinion will have to acknowledge that fact.