Traditional Christian theology teaches that we are born as sinners. It teaches us that Adam’s original sin of disobedience to God is IMPUTED to us – that God considers US guilty of what Adam did, even before we do anything. I content that these ideas began with Augustine in the 5th century, and were taken up later and popularized by thinkers both in the Roman Catholic and Protestant camps later on.
The idea is that God views the people he created for his glory as something like poisonous serpents, and even as the baby serpents are guilty of being serpents and deserve destruction not for what they have yet done, but for what they are and could become and do, so infants deserve destruction from the hands of an Almighty God. Have you heard the phrase “we are not sinners because we sin, we commit sin because we are sinners”? It has a certain comforting ring to it actually, because if you believe it, you can at least take heart in the idea that “you were made that way” and really what you are doing “can’t be helped”. Its similar to what homosexuals who want to be Christians and homosexuals too are saying, “God made me this way”.
The Westminster confession, which is considered by many Protestants, especially Presbyterians and followers of the Reformed tradition to be a statement of Orthodox and true Christian teaching states as follows:
I. Our first parents, being seduced by the subtilty and temptations 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.
II. 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.
III. 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.
IV. 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.
V. This corruption of nature, during this life, does remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be, through Christ, pardoned, and mortified; yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin.
VI.Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, does in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal.
According to the Westminster confession then, God had purposed to order the first sin of Adam and Eve for his own glory. This, we are told, was God’s “holy” and “wise” counsel. In other words, God thought it would be such a great idea to have mankind sin, and disobey His Word, that he actually purposed it to happen so that He would ultimately look good and be honored for it, presumably by saving a few against their will! Horrible!
It gets worse. Not only did God purpose that Adam and Eve should sin, and become guilty, but he also made things in such a way that all their descendants – that is, you and me, should be considered guilty before God of what Adam did even before we have a chance to understand anything! The idea is that the guilt of Adam is “imputed” to us. Not only that, but we are born into the world “UTTERLY indisposed, DISABLED, and MADE OPPOSITE TO ALL GOOD, and WHOLLY INCLINED TO ALL EVIL”. Traditional theology then, would teach that God made us totally evil, UNABLE to do good, and then goes on to command us to “Be perfect” (Matthew 5:48) and to give us many other commands which we He, for his own pleasure and glory, made us UTTERLY indisposed to do, and in fact UNABLE to do. He apparently then demands that we LOVE Him for what He is, this “God” who took pleasure in making us sinners and damning the majority of population to endless torment – that if we do not LOVE Him, worship Him and honor Him and declare with Moses that “all his ways are just” we are guilty, wretched, hell-deserving sinners.
Knowing that we will never love Him because we CANNOT, even though He commands us to do it, according to Reformed Theology, God then sends Jesus to die for a relatively small percentage of the earth’s population, and then sends His Spirit to FORCE people to believe in Him and turn somewhat from their sins. I say “somewhat” because in this system of theology, most of the apparently chosen ones still don’t like holiness very much (see point V in the Westminster Confession above), and have a hard time loving their neighbour as themselves after their conversion, don’t always have much enthusiasm for this “gospel” they believe in and still believe that everything they are doing is pretty much ordained by God, whether they sin or live righteously. It is emphasized that there is NOTHING in the sinner that predisposes God to do this “saving” by the force of “irresistable grace”, that it is ALL of God, ALL of what reformed theology calls “grace”.
The Bible declares that “there is no partiality with God” (Romans 2:11) and that “God shows no partiality”. But what other word could be used to describe the choice of a “God” who chooses people for his own reasons which have NOTHING to do with the responses those people make towards His revealed truth? If that is not partiality, what is?
“Ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for ALL his ways are justice. A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He”. (Deuteronomy 32:3,4)
If making people sin so you look good, and making them incapable of doing righteousness so you can take pleasure in condemning them later for breaking your own laws is “justice” then the word “justice” obviously means something like what we in ordinary life would call “cruel despotism” or “tyranny”.
I want to go on record as saying that I don’t believe the Bible has to be read the way the authors of the Westminster Confession understood it. I believe that God IS just and good, and that every one of the five points of Calvinism (total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistable grace, and perseverance of the saints) is actually false. They ALL hinge on the idea of the total depravity of mankind, with the result that MAN CAN DO NOTHING AND GOD MUST DO EVERYTHING – even to the point of making us believe and repent. Most certainly it will take time and effort to show the Scriptural case against these doctrines. It is true that there are some Scriptures which might SEEM to support the ideas of Calvinism or what some like to call (falsely I believe) the “doctrines of grace”. But taken as a whole, and correctly understood, the Bible does not teach these things. But tradition is a powerful thing, and has held in its grasp both Catholic and Protestant alike. The truth is not always what our parents or pastors have taught us. We should all be humble enough to recognise that we only “know in part” and we must ALL be open to correction which God may wish to give.
I believe, and can show from the Bible that all of us HAVE corrupted OURSELVES for various reasons. But NONE OF THIS can be laid at God’s feet. And if people are going to HELL, and they are, it is NOT AT ALL GOD’S FAULT, but RATHER the fault of the people themselves, AND of the Christians who KNOW THE TRUTH but for one reason or another REFUSE to invest themselves in teaching it to others and leading them to righteousness God’s Way. And what is God’s way? In short, it is the way of humbly accepting that God has provided pardon through the sacrifice of Jesus, and meeting the conditions whereby we may please God, which is the way of faith and repentance. And what faith actually is in practice, is TRUST IN GOD, and DEPENDENCE ON GOD AND HIS HOLY SPIRIT. This is a choice that God has sovereignly declared in His Word that WE CAN MAKE. And if we don’t make it, we are guilty for not making it. Please don’t tell me that God is not allowed to give us a real choice. If you tell me that, then YOU are the one who is denying the “Sovereignty of God”.
Having said that, it is now my responsibility to show WHY I believe the way I do. In doing this, I will appeal to the teaching and declarations of SCRIPTURE, rather than merely to emotive appeal to our conceptions of what justice should look like. I am not sorry that what I am saying goes against the cherished theologies of many of the church’s leaders of bygone days. God uses people often IN SPITE of their theology. If He can find someone who is preaching enough truth and living with enough dependence on Him, He will move, even if so much else is wrong. Both Scripture and the history of the church until the present time shows this to be a fact. The fact that God used men like George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards in no way means that God endorsed their theological ideas, any more than the fact that God greatly used John Wesley proves that HIS theology was right either. God uses godly humble men who lead people to righteousness in spite of their theological errors. God is a gracious God who, as the Scripture says, “wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
What is important is not whether denomination X, Y or Z considers what I am teaching to be heretical. What does matter is WHAT GOD has SAID. Denominations X, Y and Z contradict each other on many points anyway. Hopefully they all teach that the Scriptures when correctly interpreted teach the truth, so it is to the Scriptures we must look. And we must look CAREFULLY, and not assume our preconceptions into the meanings of words used, thereby making it obvious, at least to us, that we were right all along.
Problems with the View that God Made Us Sinners
God did make us
No one should dispute that the Bible teaches that God made us. We can’t get out of the problem by saying that “our parents made us”, that is why we were “born with a sinful nature”.
Psa 100:3 Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
In Psalm 139, David says:
I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. (Psalm 139:14)
With what Kind of Nature did God make us?
Now if God made us, how did he make us? Let the Scripture speak for itself.
Solomon said in the book of Ecclesiastes which concerns itself with things that happen under the Sun:
“Truly, this only I have found: THAT GOD MADE MAN UPRIGHT, but they have sought out many schemes.” (Ecclesiastes 7:29)
Solomon is strongly emphasising something here. He says, “Truly, this only I have found”. If we are going to say that Solomon is wrong on the one thing he is most sure of, then we flatter ourselves that we are wiser than Solomon and that Solomon in fact knew nothing.
Solomon declares here that GOD MADE MAN UPRIGHT. But all of us, soon after having the chance, “seek out many schemes”. That is, we seek out plans that depend on our own native cunning, abilities and understanding. We begin to rely on what the Bible calls “flesh” and in doing so, we corrupt ourselves.
“Gen 6:12 And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. “
Who made these people corrupt? The Bible is plain. “All flesh” had corrupted his way upon the earth. It didn’t say that Adam had corrupted them, or that God had made them corrupt.
What does the apostle Paul say about his experience. Listen to Romans 7:9
“I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died”.
How could Paul say that he was once alive without the law, and then he died. Is he talking about physical life and death, or spiritual life and death? Clearly, he cannot be talking about physical life and death. Paul is very much physically alive when writing these things. If Paul is saying he “died” spiritually when sin revived, after the commandment came, then he is also saying he was “spiritually alive” at one time, BEFORE the knowledge of the law came to him. But Paul was trained in the ways of Torah from a young age. The only reasonable conclusion is that Paul was speaking of the time when he was a little child, before he had the knowledge of the law. This is consistent with the doctrine that God made man upright, and explicitly DENIES the doctrine that God made us to be BORN dead in sins and transgressions. For us, the death is sins and transgressions comes WHEN WE FIRST KNOWINGLY SIN, not before. I can’t see how you can make sense of this Scripture if you deny that. And its totally consistent with the teaching of Jesus on the state of little children and what he said in Matthew 19:14:
But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 18:3 and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
Mattew 18:4 Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
The view of Jesus on the status of little children here seems to be ENTIRELY at odds with the views expressed in the Westminster Confession.
But, what was the “sin” that Paul was speaking of in this verse? Many fail to address this point correctly. The doctrine of inherited sinfulness has experiential support in our lives precisely BECAUSE all of us actually do battle at some stage with this indwelling sin thing that Paul describes in Romans 7. The claim I make here is not unique to me, but it is probably equally unacceptable to much of protestant theology as what I have been saying until now. My claim is that “sin” here is related to what the Old Testament frequently refers to in terms of inherited “iniquities” and these are tendencies towards certain kinds of sinful thinking and behaviour brought on BY THE PRESENCE OF INDWELLING DEMONS. Traditional theology of course has little place for the demonic in its ontology (philosophy of what actually exists) and so would tend to discount statements like this immediately. But what is actually going on in people’s live is something like this – if only we had eyes to see and wisdom to understand: demonic spirits are getting access to children and normally lying low pretty much until the children come to hear the moral law of God. The demonic spirits may cause other problems before that time, but that is another issue. When little children finally yield to the demonic, their brain structure (and all our brains are flesh) sets up a pattern which reinforces evil behaviour with pleasure and causes pain if the evil pattern is resisted. In this way, the little children become progressively enslaved to the evil prince of darkness and his minions. Although their consciences and their parents rebuke them, without the help of God’s Spirit they are too weak to consistently resist. It is at this point that they become guilty and corrupt and in need of salvation. The only solution for them is in the full gospel of Jesus Christ. I cannot prove all of this in a few sentences, but the case for its truth is powerful, both experientially and Scripturally.
Is it any wonder that Jesus has such grave warnings for those who cause little ones to stumble into sin? Parents and schoolteachers especially should beware, for it is not for nothing that Jesus said in Luke 17:1,2:
Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come!
It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. “
The evangelisation and discipleship of CHILDREN is extremely important, and I believe it will be seen as a major emphasis of God in the final days before Jesus returns. At the same time, the devil will be working to take the youngest and turn them into his disciples while they are yet small.
This article will be continued at a later time. It is not possible to adequately deal with these weighty issues in one sitting.