Please could you clarify the doctrine of original sin?  Some say there is such a thing as original sin and some deny this.  Why is it that believers, theologians and Bible students are unable to have a single conclusion about original sin? Please help me with my doubts about this.  1. What is the difference between inheriting a sinful nature and inheriting sin from Adam?  I presume that inheriting sinful nature is different from bearing the sin of another.  2. Did Jesus come to redeem us totally from a sinful nature and from sins or only to redeem us from the sins that we have committed?   3.  Is it plausible that having a sinful nature is also a sin.  We see Job was perfect in his days. Did he not inherit a sinful nature?  Was it his sinful nature that motivated Job to commit sin?  Please provide me with a profound answer. Thank you…..


The idea of Original Sin is false doctrine.  The idea that human beings are born already guilty of someone else’s sin is not only false doctrine, it does dishonor to the God of the Bible.  This would mean that we are held accountable and punished for a sin that we did not commit.  Ezekiel 18:4 says that “the one who sins is the one who will die.”  Ezekiel 18:19-20 says that the son does not inherit the sin of the father and the father does not  inherit the sin of the son.  There are many other passages which state unambiguously that we will be held accountable for what we have done, but not for what others have done when it comes to judgment.  Another passage we could use is 2 Corinthians 5:10 which tells us that “we will all appear before God’s judgment seat to receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”  I would argue that we do not really even need a specific passage that tells us that we will only be held responsible for our own acts, because God is a just God and to hold someone responsible for a sin committed by another, such as the sin of Adam is a violation of every conceivable rule of justice.

One would be tempted to ask where this outrageous idea of Original Sin came from.  It goes back to the fourth century.  It is debatable that Augustine created this idea, but he is the one who made it normative for Western Christianity.  He was trying to explain why infants need to be baptized, and to explain why we have a sinful nature.  He made the mistake of explaining it by claiming we are born steeped in sin.  The problem with this is that  Augustine was trying to explain an unbiblical practice–infant baptism.

The tragedy is that this doctrine of Original Sin formed the basis for the equally false doctrine of Total Depravity (that we are totally helpless to choose to obey God), Unconditional Election (If God elects you to be saved, you will be saved whether you want to or not), Limited Atonement (the most terrible of all the doctrines of Calvinism, which proposes that Jesus only died for the elect, and all others were selected by God for hell) and Preservation of the Saints (one cannot lose one’s salvation if saved).

You ask why people are unable to come to a single conclusion with regard to Original Sin?  I suppose you should ask Augustine or John Calvin.  The Bible is clear on this.  It is not confusing.  I could list some possible “explanations.”  One is that Augustine overemphasized God’s sovereignty above his love and his justice.  Another is that he was influenced by his background as a Manichee (a dualistic religion which proposes that physical things are evil).  Another possible cause is that he had to explain a second false practice, which was infant baptism.  Each person who chooses to accept this false doctrine probably has a different reason and you should ask those individuals.  The fact is that there are false beliefs about Christianity out there, and this is not because God has not been clear.

Next you ask about the idea of having a sinful nature.  Here the Bible gives us suggestions but is not as definitive as it is on the question of Original Sin.  It seems that Adam and Eve were somehow different when they rebelled and ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Possibly, what we inherit from Adam and Eve is the knowledge of good and evil, not their sin, and it is this knowledge which produces in what is sometimes in the Bible called our “sinful nature” or our “fleshly nature,” or simply the “flesh.”   This knowledge is not sin, but it brings a propensity to sin.  You could say, “What is the difference?”  There is a big difference.  Children are born innocent and if they die while still innocent, then they will not be condemned to hell.   Like Paul says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  All who reach the age of accountability do eventually sin.  This is a fact found in the Bible and found from our human experience.  This inevitable tendency is given the name “sinful nature.”  I do not claim to have a precise understanding of exactly how this fleshly nature works, but I know that we have it.

Jesus came to save us from our sin and to help us to deal with our sinful nature.  Our sin is removed, but our sinful nature is only changed and reduced, but not eliminated.  This is explained in Romans 6 and Romans 8.  Paul tells us that outside of Christ we are virtually helpless before sin.  We are completely enslaved to it.  But when we have the Holy Spirit we no longer have to sin.  We are no longer compelled to sin.  Yet, we do still sin, which proves that we still have a sinful nature, but that this nature is less powerful.  Again, EXACTLY how this works I cannot say.

No!!! Having a sinful nature is not sin!  James 1:13-15 shows that our sinful nature causes us to sin, but it does not force us to sin!  And, like I said, children inherit a sinful nature which is awakened when they reach the age of accountability.  Job, like all humans, had a sinful nature and he sinned.  God saw him as righteous, just as he saw Noah as righteous, but neither were sinless.  I hope this helps.

John Oakes

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