Now, Contending for the Faith. In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here is this week’s question: “Dear Dave and T.A., I grew up Roman Catholic and I was taught about original sin. Now, as a believer who is relatively young in the Lord, I haven’t been exposed to any teachings about it. What am I now supposed to believe about original sin?”
Tom: Dave, I think it’s a good question, particularly, what’s the impact of original sin with regard to—as a Roman Catholic I thought it was taken away at baptism; we know that’s not biblical, you can’t find that in the Scriptures. But, does original sin have an impact on everyone’s life? How is that sin passed?
Dave: I guess we would have to define that. When God created man, He created man in His own image—Adam and Eve. I believe the Spirit of God indwelt the spirit of man. And a beautiful way that I used to depict it, and I think I learned this from Andrew Murray, I’m not sure. You draw three concentric circles—the outside, the body; the next one inside, the soul; and then the inner one, the spirit. And when man was created…well, the body is the sense-consciousness; the soul, self-consciousness; the spirit, God-consciousness. It’s in our spirit that God communicates with us, and the Spirit of God indwelt the spirit of man. But when man sinned, rebelled, the Spirit of God is no longer dwelling—the Spirit of God left. So, originally man was God-conscious. In other words, he was oriented toward God, but when he sinned, he became self-conscious and sense-conscious—he became sensual.
Tom: Now Dave, if somebody is doubting this, all they have to do is go to Genesis, the first three chapters, and it’s spelled out very simply.
Dave: You see an immediate change in people. So now, when Adam and Eve bear children, obviously their children do not have what they originally had, which they lost, okay? So, sin had that impact. It brought a separation between God and man, which meant that the descendants of these people, now, were also separated in the same way from God. But the Bible adds a little more to that. Romans 5, says, “As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; so death came upon all men.” And then it adds, “For all have sinned…” and we get that elsewhere, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” and so forth.
So, original sin? That’s what it did. It brought a separation between Adam and Eve and God, which meant that the same separation was true of all of their descendants and all of their descendants are sinners. Not necessarily as proof of that, because Adam and Eve were once in perfect communion with God, and yet they sinned. It’s inevitable that human beings who have the power of choice will take a less-than-perfect path of life in rebellion against God, okay?
So that’s what original sin is. Now Christ paid the penalty for Adam’s sin. He had to, for mankind to be saved, and this would be one of the reasons why I reject the Calvinist teaching of limited atonement. Christ had to pay the full penalty for Adam’s sin, and that’s for all sin. All of His blood had to be shed for anyone to be saved. Therefore, salvation is available to all who will receive it.
Tom: Now, Dave, again, as a Roman Catholic, I believed that until you were baptized, you were under the stain of sin. That was enough to keep you separated from God. It’s not official within the Roman Catholic Church teaching, but we always believed that there was a place called Limbo—that those who died before they could be baptized went to this place called Limbo. But we’ve talked about on this program what happens to children before they reach the age of accountability. Now, would we apply, as evangelicals, the idea of that sin, original sin, would keep a child from eternity with Christ, as the Catholics would say, because it is sin and it separates you from God. We have the stain of sin, that’s what I’m saying.
Dave: It would keep any person, whether they are a day old or what, from God’s presence were it not for Christ’s payment of the penalty for sin upon the Cross. Now, an infant not only has not received, has not believed, the gospel, but they have not rejected Christ. So although they are born in this condition of separation from God, it’s not their fault; it’s something that came from Adam and Eve. They did not themselves sin, as the scripture says. They couldn’t because they are not morally accountable to God. Therefore, the death of Christ that pays the full penalty for Adam’s sin—Adam’s and Eve’s sin—would redeem them. They haven’t sinned themselves; therefore, I believe the scripture indicates they would be accepted of God.
Tom: So this is based on God’s justice: “Shall not the Judge of this earth do right?”
Dave: Yes. Also, you have a strange scripture, which seems to support this, where Christ said—speaking of children—He said, “Do not their angels always behold the face of my Father in heaven?” It indicates that somehow there is a relationship with God that has not yet been broken, although Adam and Eve have broken this for the human race.
So, original sin? I think that’s it. Original sin was the sin of Adam and Eve. It cut them off from God in a spiritual way, and that brought death upon the human body. And the fact that this happened, as you indicated, is because we all die, and we all sin. So, that separates us from God, but Christ paid the penalty. And that is a payment that will be credited to every person who accepts it as having been paid on their behalf. You accept this pardon as a free gift, you are pardoned. You don’t, you are lost forever. If you are a baby and you can’t, then you are covered by Christ’s death, paid in your behalf.
Tom: Dave, I believe as you do—everybody has to come to their own conclusion about this—but it think it just rings true to everyone’s conscience and particularly to the scriptures that deal with the justice of God. He is a just judge.