Before getting into this highly difficult subject I want to tell you the practical conclusion on salvation. The fact is that God knew that all would sin except Jesus Christ, and that man would not be able to save himself from either the guilt or the power of sin. That is why it was established before the foundation of the world that Jesus would be sent by God the Father to come as a man and die on the cross to take the punishment, guilt and power of sin upon Himself. It is only through the cross we can be saved. But to be saved from the power of sin, we NEED the Holy Spirit and we also need to practically fill our hearts and minds with the Word of God. We are too weak to do the right thing consistently without the power of God working in us.Wisdom then is to seek the Holy Spirit daily and learn to yield to God daily. If you don’t do this you are on dangerous ground no matter what your theology.
Now onto the really Difficult Stuff
This is material that raises unanswerable questions for many. The subject is really too difficult to be fully understood. And people waste their time on the internet arguing about a lot of these issues when in fact a more humble approach would be to seek to be obedient to God in daily living through God’s help, and seek the eternal and temporal welfare of others through acts of loving service done in the power of the Holy Spirit. But if obedience is NOT nearly so important to us as the belief that “we have the right ideas” then perhaps we have failed to understand a lot of important things in the Bible.
So Why Talk about it?
I am going to create some blog entries on this because every now and then I am hearing the voice of accusation against the justice of God – that God cannot be righteous in making people who He knows must and will sin, and then condemning them for it.
Do I Have the Answers Yet?
No I don’t. I am just asking questions and trying to affirm what Scripture says. There are two sides to all of the issues here and you can try to avoid them by presenting only one side. But if you do that you must ignore a lot of other Scriptures. There is a tension that may be impossible for us to resolve intellectually this side of eternity. God commands us to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).
Does God Make Sinners?
Firstly, we can see that the Scripture teaches that God made us, and not primarily our parents.
“Know that the LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves”. Psalm 100:3.
Of course it COULD be argued that the next verse limits this because it says, “We are His people and the sheep of His pasture”. (Psalm 100:4). Not all men are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Jesus said to some of the Jews,
“But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” (John 10:26,27).
But other Scriptures tell us that the wicked are made by God.
“The Lord has made all things for himself; yea even the wicked for the day of evil.” (Proverbs 16:4, KJV).
The question is, were they wicked when God made them? Or did they become wicked through their own choices and by yielding to evil influences?
There are Scriptures that seem to say that God makes people upright.
Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes:
“Truly, this only I have found: that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.” (Ecclesiastes 7:29).
Poor Solomon, if this is all he found out after so much study, learning and God-given wisdom, and it actually turns out that he was WRONG in this one thing!
Most of the church throughout history has taught the doctrine of original sin, which is that when Adam fell into sin, all his descendants fell with him, and are born with the sinful nature of Adam.
That is one issue, and seems to fit Scripture and experience well – although the phrase “sinful nature of Adam” is not in the original text anywhere, similar words are used which could easily be interpreted that way.
Some go on from there to say that all babies are born sinners. Can one be a sinner without sinning? There are different kinds of sin according to the bible. Words like iniquity, transgression, evil, wickedness, sin, lawlessness, ungodliness and unrighteousness all mean slightly different things. In the sense that sin is to “miss the mark” or to “fall short of the glory of God” then yes even babies have missed the mark since they fall short of the glory of God, even though they have made no moral choices.
Some calvinists and also roman catholics even teach that babies are deserving of hell from the moment they are born, or possibly even beforehand. For calvinists, there is some assurance that such babies will not go to hell if they are part of a believing family, which is in covenant relationship with God. Roman Catholics see it more in terms that the baby needs the sacrament of (infant) baptism to purge his little soul of original sin – lest the baby perish in the fires of hell eternally because of the sin of Adam.
If those holding the latter view are right, too bad for all the aborted fetuses who were denied a chance to live and must now suffer eternal fires of hell because of Adam’s sin!
How many of these interpretations of the Bible consistent with the One who inspired these verses:
“The soul who sins will die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” (Ezekiel 18:20) ?
Its interesting to read the entire chapter of Ezekiel 18. None of the context seems to mitigate against the plain meaning of verse 20, rather it all seems to reinforce it.
I am not being dogmatic on these issues. I do not think there are easy answers. But I find it hard to see the justice in God creating something evil and helpless and then condemning that person for being who God made it, or for not being spotless or perfect in a world full of demons, corruption and evil systems beyond that person’s capacity to overcome. Is it “just” just because some theologian says that “God is just” and that God does this?
If our systems of law punished people for what their ancestors did, then the whole world should be locked up and put in jail. But who would be there to do it?
God says in Ezekiel 18 that children are not accounted guilty for the sins of their fathers. Does that include the sin of Adam or not?
One thing I am sure of. Whether we were born sinners or not, we all have definitely chosen to do wrong at times when we could have chosen right. There may have been times when we had no way of escape from certain sins before we were in Christ. But there were also times when we could have chosen right, and still we chose wrong. We have all resisted the leading of the Holy Spirit, both before and after believing in Jesus. Therefore God is righteous to judge us. Its just that if we have accepted God’s Work in Christ, and applied it to our lives, the righteousness of Christ is applied to us just as if we had never sinned, even as believers. That is my position.