Tag Archives: original sin

What is original sin?

When dealing with the doctrine of “original sin” it is important to understand what this doctrine does and does not mean. Simply put, it does mean that because of the sin of Adam and Eve (though, Biblically, the full weight of responsibility for this sin falls on Adam’s shoulders) sinful proclivities have entered into the hearts of men. As a popular Christian song puts it:

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;1

Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

What the doctrine of original sin does not mean is that we are all borne owing the debt of sins Adam incurred. In order words,

We are not responsible for the sins of someone else.

One of my favorite verses showing how we do not pay for the sins of others, Deuteronomy 24:16:

“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.”

This doesn’t mean we don’t suffer the effects of sinful choices of others. David’s son certainly did, as Exodus 20:5-6 and Deuteronomy 5:9 clearly state. This also doesn’t mean we don’t suffer from a proclivity towards sin (which is what we inherited from Adam).

It simply means God does not charge us a debt we did not incur which is why Jesus’s willing sacrifice on the cross is so full of grace because He freely chose (under no compulsion, though with great agony) to take on a debt He Himself did not incur.

“Original sin”, if understood in the sense that we are guilty of sin from birth logically leads to the untenable conclusion that all children go to hell (unless one holds to the unbiblical stretch known as covenantal theology) for sins they did not freely choose to commit.

Romans 3:23, which tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God“, is not a prescriptive phrase, that we will by necessity sin, but rather a descriptive phrase about what we all freely choose to do. Given long enough, after reaching the age of accountability, we will come to know the difference between good and evil and we will freely choose to sin of our own accord.

The fact is that we are actually borne innocent and freely choose to sin thereby breaking ourselves and disqualifying ourselves from participating in a relationship with a holy God.

We need a savior, not because of a bum deal we inherited but because we knowingly bought into the lie of sin.

UPDATE: Here is an excellent article on this subject over at 4truth.net.

  1. Unfortunately this actually came true in the life of the author. []

Wordy Wednesday: Age of accountability

The age of accountability is a teaching in Christianity which posits an age at which children are deemed responsible for their actions. Proponents believe that before this age where sufficient cognitive awareness of self-determined actions is reached, sins and the ensuing punishment is not charged to the unconscious child’s account.

The exact age at which one acquires sufficient cognitive awareness of their actions (which, in turn makes them accountable for their actions) is not known. Jewish tradition holds to it being around the age of 12 (bar mitzvah). Other traditions such as Methodists have confirmation at the age of 13 (a commonly accepted age).

Some passages that lend weight to this teaching are:

  • Jonah 4:11 – God seems to compare innocence of the unconscious animals to the children of Nineveh.
  • Deuteronomy 1:39 – This is perhaps the clearest affirmation of the doctrine of the age of accountibility as it is a clear charge to the Israelites to teach “your children who do not yet know good from bad”. This verse helps pave the way for the Deuteronomy 6:4
  • Isaiah 7:14-16 – Speaks about he complete righteousness of the promised messiah. This verse is especially powerful since it also affirms that children do sin before they are consciously aware of it.

Additionally the following verses give us additional reason to think that:

For more information on the age of accountability, take a look here and here