The Doctrine of the Sin Nature
I am a Bible-believing Christian and I am arguing against the doctrine of the sin nature. The text of the King James Bible will be my final authority. You may use any version you like, but I will be defending my case using the KJB and not other versions. Greek and Hebrew may be referenced by both Pro and Con.
Rules for the debate:
1.) Pro must be a professing Bible-believing Christian
2.) The Bible is to be the final authority in this debate, not church creeds, church fathers, etc.
Round 1 - Acceptance
Round 2 - Opening Arguments Only, No Rebuttals
Round 3 - Rebuttals Only, No New Arguments
Round 4 - Rebuttals Only, No New Arguments
Round 5 - Defense of Arguments and Conclusion Only
I accept this debate.
I understand that it is my task to argue in favor of the doctrine of Original Sin, while Con must argue against it.
I understand the BOP to be shared.
While my opponent has said that he understands his task is to argue in favor of the doctrine of original sin, he actually must argue specifically against the doctrine of the sin nature, which no doubt is related to original sin but is not necessarily the same thing. Original sin may simply refer to Adam's original sin which brought death into the world, which I adhere to as it is clearly stated in scripture (Romans 5:12). The doctrine of the sin nature refers to the teaching that men have received corrupted or depraved natures from Adam and have thus either inherited Adam's guilt or are unable to keep from sin and thus will sin given the chance. "Nature" is described, in reference to sin nature, as an inborn constitution of which a person does not have a choice over, but rather, because of Adam's original choice, is inherited as the result of being born human.
Defining Sin and Its Existence
Sin is defined by scripture as the transgression of God's eternal moral law (1 John 3:4). God has placed a law within our hearts, which our conscious bears witness to, that makes us accountable for the actions, inactions, and thoughts we have (Romans 2:15). This law is not the totality of the 600+ Mitzvot of the Torah, as Gentiles do not innately know about the feast days, Sabbath days, and other Mosaic ordinances, but rather it is the eternal moral law which has been since the beginning of time. This moral law, of which the Torah is also chiefly concerned with, can be summed up with the two commandments to love God and your neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). When we violate this law we transgress God's holy standard and therefore bring upon ourselves the wrath of Almighty God—the Most High, the Holy One, and righteous Lord of all creation (Revelation 21:8). Sin is therefore an abstract entity originating from the heart/mind of men, not a physical substance to be passed down or a spirit to overcome a person (Matthew 12:35, 15:19, et al).
Sin Must be Volitional
Since sin is an action, inaction, or thought of disobedience, it must of necessity be volitional. Men are given the willful choice to obey or disobey the law of God written on their heart. If sin were a product of a depraved estate or corrupted nature, the person committing said transgression would not be able to be justifiably held accountable, as their wrongful act was not derived from their willful decision to disobey God's law but from their corrupted inborn nature. To suggest that one can be held accountable as a sinner when they ultimately had no choice in the matter is to blaspheme and denigrate the character of the most righteous Father God. God has no respect of persons and deals with all men equally (Acts 10:34). For God to be just in His judgment of men as sinners, they must of necessity posses the ability to obey or disobey His law; and if it be thus, God must only condemn those who are accountable for their actions, inactions, and thoughts. In Ezekiel 18, we find God pleading with His people Israel to turn from wickedness to righteousness. While this passage deals with men in the dispensation of the Law of Moses, the principle still applies in that God here is attempting to show forth His righteousness, justice and equality to men:
" . . .ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal? When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die. Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive. Because he considereth, and turneth away from all his transgressions that he hath committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.Yet saith the house of Israel, The way of the Lord is not equal. O house of Israel, are not my ways equal? are not your ways unequal? Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye (v. 23-32)."
As we see in Ezekiel 18, God holds men accountable for their own sins, not the sins of their ancestors (v. 19, 20). Therefore, any rendition of the doctrine of the sin nature which states that men are guilty sinners because of Adam's original sin is unbiblical and an attack upon the justice of Almighty God. Men must be born with a morally "clean" slate from which, upon reaching an age/understanding of accountability, they volitionally choose to disobey God, going their own wicked way, and indeed this is what scripture teaches (Ecclesiastes 7:29, Isaiah 53:6).
For ease, I will also use a KJV Bible, as published below:
Genesis describes the world before the Fall as a world in harmony; Gen 1:31 “ And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” The earthly desires of Adam were sublimated to his reason and will. Gen 2:25 “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”
The state of man is drastically altered by the first sin. When Adam and Eve disobey God, their nudity becomes unbearable to themselves and to each other Gen 3:7. Man becomes fearful of God and hides himself from the Lord.
What the account in Genesis shows is that Original Sin resulted in a fall from grace of the entire race of man. Man lost his special relationship with God and doomed himself to a weakened state. The sin nature is a loss of grace- an inability to perfectly sublimate his desires to reason and the law of God. The sin nature is the weakened state of man.
The sin nature is evidenced by our experience in the world around us. Augustine was driven by the dilemma of a world filled with sin but created by God and declared good. Only through man’s fall from grace can we understand that our world is not the world before the Fall. Man’s sin nature explains why all men sin.
From the above analysis we can see that Original Sin is not the same sort of sin as personal sin. Original Sin is related to personal sin in that both result in a separation between man and God or man and man. Unlike personal sin, original sin is not a personal fault earned by an individual but a state of being inherited by virtue of Adam’s loss of grace. The two are analogous and share similarities but are not identical.
This distinction between Original Sin and personal sin is important to bear in mind when undergoing Biblical exegesis.
The misconception exists that the sinful nature of man obliterates personal responsibility for his actions
Original sin does not bind the will of man. We are free to make our own decisions, and we all are able to refuse the temptation of sin. But still the temptation of sin does exist, and therein is the evidence of our sin nature. Our sin nature results in the constant temptation that all humanity is subject to, it is the cause of the eternal battle of good and evil over the soul of man. Our capacity to resist sin is diminished, but not destroyed.
Any claim that original sin is somehow unfair, that we should not be culpable for the sins of Adam is flawed on two counts.
First, our sin nature is not an instance of us being “held accountable” but of our inheritted separation from God and lack of grace. It is not a punishment but a fact of our nature caused by the first sin.
Second, the mercy and sacrifice of Jesus is symmetric to the fall from grace of Adam. Jesus’s sacrifice atones for all of mankind and gives us far more than was lost in the Fall:
1 Cor 15:22 “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
6) Romans Chapter 5
In his letter to the Romans, Paul makes the shared burden of Adam’s sin and the need for Jesus’ sacrifice and grace clear:
“But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.
And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.
For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)
Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”
7) Problematizing the Denial of Original Sin
Denying Original Sin is a problematic position for a Christian to hold. Without Original Sin, the Christian has a challenging time answering the following questions:
How do we reconcile the sin in the world with the Biblical account of creation before the Fall; an account in which God declares the world to be good and finds no fault in it?
Why do all men sin?
If we are not born with a sinful nature, is it not possible that some men may never sin and thus would have no need of salvation or Jesus?
Pro states, "Man lost his special relationship with God and doomed himself to a weakened state. The sin nature is a loss of grace- an inability to perfectly sublimate his desires to reason and the law of God. The sin nature is the weakened state of man." This is a statement based on hypothetical reasoning and not based on scripture itself. Genesis, and all of scripture for that matter, does not even remotely hint at what Pro has claimed.
Pro states, "I do not agree with Pro's [Con's] description of sin nature; his description is a strawman." What part of my description do you deem a "strawman?" I'm quite sure Pro's statements concerning sin nature fall within the definition domain of my description.
Pro states, "Only through man’s fall from grace can we understand that our world is not the world before the Fall." On the contrary, we understand the pre-Fall world because of revelation from holy scripture itself. Regardless, this statement does not support Pro's main thesis in any way as it again is a hypothetical claim based on Pro's theological preconceptions.
Pro states, " Unlike personal sin, original sin is not a personal fault earned by an individual but a state of being inherited by virtue of Adam’s loss of grace." As I was sure of, Pro's idea of sin nature falls precisely within the bounds of my description. People sin because of a corrupted nature, according to Pro's view, and therefore cannot be justly condemned for their actions, inactions or thoughts, rather, their sins are a product of their natural inborn estate, not a derivative of their own personal fault. Pro's argument clearly falls apart through basic logical deduction. Either God is unjust in condemning sinners, or Pro is wrong. Men are either directly responsible for their sins, or they are not, their is no middle ground.
Pro states, "Original sin does not bind the will of man. We are free to make our own decisions, and we all are able to refuse the temptation of sin." In a poor attempt to reconcile Pro's obvious logical contradiction, he posits that man is still able refuse sin, then what role does sin nature play? Why is it necessary to explain the sinfulness of man? Pro goes on to state that, "Our capacity to resist sin is diminished, but not destroyed." What does this mean? If our will is not in some way bound to our fallen nature, in Pro's view, then in what way is our capacity to resist sin diminished? Clearly it cannot be both.
Pro states, ". . .still the temptation of sin does exist, and therein is the evidence of our sin nature. Our sin nature results in the constant temptation that all humanity is subject to, it is the cause of the eternal battle of good and evil over the soul of man." Pro utilizes the reality of temptation as an evidence for his case, but in doing so he unwittingly accuses Jesus of having a sinful nature. Matthew 4 and Hebrews 2:18 clearly indicate that Jesus was tempted, but he was without sin because He overcame those temptations. God has given us desires for food, comfort, etc. It is not desire itself that is the cause of sin but rather the willful misappropriation of said divinely prescribed natural desires; the misuse of what God has given man.
Pro states, ". . .our sin nature is not an instance of us being 'held accountable' but of our inherited separation from God and lack of grace." While Pro's claims are clearly an unbiblical usage of such phrases, his assurance that men are not held accountable for Adam's sin does not remove the fallacy of his overall argument in that men remain unaccountable for their sins if a natural inborn precondition weakens, in any way, their capacity to will.
Pro's emphasis of Romans 5:19, in a seeming attempt to support his case, is refuted by Pro himself when he previously stated that men can choose to resist temptation. If men have the capacity to willfully resist or give-in to the temptations of sin, then they cannot be accounted sinners because of Adam's orginal sin. Again, we see that it is painfully clear, either men have an unguided will and are thus accountable for their sins, or they have a will guided by their inherent sinful nature and are thus not accountable for their sins. Pro cannot have it both ways. Regardless, if this is indeed how Pro intended to use v. 5:19, we must consider the parallel being made. To determine the meaning of "many were made sinners" we must consider how it is "many be made righteous." From scripture we recognize that men are made righteous by believing in the propitiatory shed blood of the righteous Christ as the atonement and payment for their sins (Romans 3:24-26). Therefore all men are not automatically accounted righteous by virtue of being human but rather must follow Christ in faith to obtain imputation of the righteousness of Christ (Romans 4:24). Likewise men are not accounted sinners by virtue of being Adam's descendants, but rather must follow Adam in disobedience to obtain the imputation of sin (Romans 4:6-8).
Out of space. . .
Con’s description of sin is accurate for PERSONAL SIN and is totally compatible with my account of original sin.
Original sin is not identical with personal sin, it is analogous to it. Original sin is a state, not an act. This state IS capable of being transmitted from person to person, as Paul says in his letter to the Romans. Original sin is not just man’s diminished capacities, but also his lack of grace and separation from God. Genesis shows us that Adam lost his innate intimacy with God.
Nothing about sin “originating from the heart/mind of man” or not being a physical substance is incompatible with the claim that original sin has been passed down from Adam. We have inherited the deprivation of grace Adam incurred by disobeying God.
Our diminished capacity to resist sin does not eliminate our free will or responsibility for our actions. We all know that certain biological states make us more vulnerable to sin. When we are hungry and tired we are more likely to be callous or cruel, we are more likely to shirk our obligations. In the same way, our spiritual state can make us more or less vulnerable to sin. When we are close to God and filled with grace, we are more capable of resisting sin.
When Adam was in the garden, he was unashamed of his nudity and Eve was unabashed in hers because they were filled with grace. Their bodies did not constantly tempt them and so they had no shame After the Fall, their bodies became a burden- lust and hunger that were previously governed by reason became constant urges to sin. Man found this shameful and hid himself from God.
Claiming that man’s diminished capacity to resist sin eliminates responsibility for his actions is like claiming a man who murders because he is hungry is not responsible for his actions. Our will is influenced by many factors, but so long as we have the ability to choose our actions we are morally responsible.
Con claims God would be unjust to condemn sins that are a product of a deprived estate. But men who are lphysicalllly deprived of estate- i.e. born in poverty- are much more likely to commit crimes/sin. Surely God holds these men accountable for their actions, even though their sins are in part caused by their deprivation of physical estate.
But again, the infinite gift of salvation for Jesus renders untenable any claim that original sin is incompatible with justice.
Con claims that I accuse Jesus of having a sinful nature by claiming that original sin is the cause of temptation. But this is not my claim! The pervasiveness of sin is evidence of our fallen nature and our diminished capacity to resist temptation. Temptation clearly exists regardless of original sin since Adam was tempted by Satan. Since sin is against reason, we need an explanation for why all men sin. The explanation is that man lost the grace that allowed him to keep temptation subordinate to his reason- Jesus had this grace and so overcame temptation.
Please note that Con didn't answer the questions I posed in my opening round. If we are born without sin then couldn’t some people be saved without Jesus’ sacrifice?
Con’s entire case rests on the false dilemma fallacy that:
He ignores the reality of life, which is that man’s will is influenced but not determined by his nature.
But we need not worry about these philosophical difficultes as Paul plainly says “by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners.”
Con must jump through hoops to argue this line away. He claims the phrase doesn’t actually mean that men were made sinners, but that men are not automatically saved. Paul's language is plain, unlike Con's convoluted restructuring.
The context of the passage does not support Con’s claim. Paul says “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation," setting up a dichotomy between the sin of Adam which damned all humanity by destroying the innate grace of man and the gift of Jesus which saved all humanity. Paul repeatedly ascribes the plight of humanity to Adam.
Con is in denial to claim that “men were made sinners” actually means “men are not automatically accounted righteous.”
Note that this passage is specifically referencing the sin of Adam, while Con largely relies on passages directed at other topics- the Ezekiel passage he cites is not about Adam or original sin.
Con’s citation of Ezekiel concerns, again, personal sin. It speaks to our moral responsiblities for our actions but it does not speak to the uniqueness of the first sin.
Con himself acknowledges that Ezekiel is specifically addressing the laws of Moses but claims it is relevant because it speaks to God’s justice and equality. I have shown that original sin is consistent with God’s justice and equality. God offers forgiveness and salvation from the universal sin incurred by Adam. Jesus’ gift of salvation far exceeds the deprivation of grace of original sin, thus we cannot claim that God is unjust.
Response to Pro's 3 Questions from Round 2
Let me begin by answering Pro's questions which he deems problematic for Christians who deny his view of original sin. In answer to Pro's first question concerning how one might reconcile the state of the world today with that of the pre-Fall world, I simply would point to the sinfulness of man since Adam. The Bible records many of the sins of man which have brought about the condition of the world around us today. Pro's second question is similar to the first, and the following answer applies to both: to simply point out the condition of something or of a particular phenomena does not by any means, in and of itself, support any statement or claim concerning the origin or cause for such a condition or phenomena. If I said there are so many more creatures in the ocean, therefore life must have originated in the ocean, my observation in no way would support my claim. Pro's final hypothetical question concerning the possibility of not sinning does not pan out in his favor. If it were not possible for men to abstain from sin and be perfect as God is, then God's commands, reprovings, admonitions, and pleas would be in vain; God would be deceitful for commanding that which could not ultimately be kept; He would be unjust for condemning people for falling short of His perfection if it were impossible for them to maintain such perfection. So I answer your question with a resounding YES, with the qualification that all conscious, accountable men have indeed sinned despite their ability to be perfect, and therefore all are deserving of punishment. Christ came and showed that it was possible, as a man, to be perfect not to teach self-righteousness but to demonstrate God's righteousness which is according to His eternal law written on our hearts.
Rebuttal of Pro's Round 3 Claims
Pro states, "Con’s description of sin is accurate for PERSONAL SIN. . ." The only biblical type of sin is personal sin. Sin is the transgression of God's law and therefore requires the personal, accountable thought, action or inaction of an individual to be rightfully used in any context. Pro goes on to say, "Original sin is a state, not an act." No scripture supports such an arbitrary definition for sin. Pro seems to believe Romans 5:19 teaches such a contradictory doctrine, but as I have already shown, it in no way teaches men are accounted sinners because of Adam's sin, nor does it at all teach that men have received a fallen sin nature from Adam. If the former be true, then this refutes Pro's claim that, "our sin nature is not an instance of us being 'held accountable,'" and if the latter be true, then as previously stated, men cannot be justly held accountable for actions or thoughts they have no ultimate control over.
Pro states, "We all know that certain biological states make us more vulnerable to sin. When we are hungry and tired we are more likely to be callous or cruel, we are more likely to shirk our obligations. In the same way, our spiritual state can make us more or less vulnerable to sin. When we are close to God and filled with grace, we are more capable of resisting sin." I mostly agree with Pro's statement here except for of course his application to our "spiritual state." Such language is vague and unsupportive of Pro's case. Regardless, Pro states, prior to this explanation, that, "Our diminished capacity to resist sin does not eliminate our free will or responsibility for our actions." Again I ask, in what way is our capacity to resist sin diminished? If I am enslaved, tortured, starved, etc. and then given the opportunity to sin, my accountability and free will capacity is not hindered, affected, or altered in any way. If a soldier comes back from battle with PTSD and goes on a killing rampage in his hometown, his previous battle experiences and his PTSD have not eliminated or affected his accountability nor his capacity to will. Why is such a contradictory and illogical, not to mention heretical, doctrine as that of the doctrine of the sin nature necessary if men remain fully accountable and able to resist sin?
Pro states, "When Adam was in the garden, he was unashamed of his nudity and Eve was unabashed in hers because they were filled with grace." Your usage of the word "grace" is vague and seemingly unsupportive. What do you mean by "filled with grace?" They were unashamed because they had not yet eaten of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Pro's claims following this statement are unscriptual and hypothesis-based.
Thus far I have argued for the accountability of men for their own personal sins and that no such depraved estate as a sinful nature exists. I have argued from multiple scriptures and from the logical application of said scriptures. Without Pro's wrongly interpreted v.19, his case would otherwise have no support. Again, and I hope finally, I ask Pro, if Adam's original sin has "damned" all men as you say, how can men be justly held accountable?
Con utterly fails to answer the three questions I posed in R2.
Genesis tells us that man, God, and nature lived in harmony at the beginning of the world. God says the world is “good” - God notes no deficiency or flaw in his creation. But the world around is clearly deficient.
Con’s only response is that man has been sinful since Adam, but this does not answer the question of WHY man has been sinful since Adam. Sin is against reason. The creation deemed “good” be God should act in accordance with reason and avoid sin; this was God's plan. Some rare men might sin, but governance of reason would result in trust and obedience in God. Instead, we see a world ravaged by sin- man is incapable of submitting temptation to reason.
Con simply dodges the question “why do all men sin?”
All phenomena have an explanation. Con’s argument about sea creatures is a non-sequitur and has nothing to do with my case.
The fact that all men sin is incompatible with the perfection of creation described in Genesis- we require some explanation for why man today does not resemble pre-Fall man. The pervasiveness of sin is incompatible with man created in God’s image. We require some explanation.
Con says it would be unjust for God to make a command we can not keep.
Con simply concedes that it is logically possible for man to be saved without Jesus; he only says that all men have sinned so this hasn’t happened. This is the most unbiblical thing in this debate! We know that the only way to salvation is through Jesus: “no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) Jesus didn’t say "no man yet born," he said NO MAN. If man is born without sin, it is logically possible that some men do not need Jesus for salvation.
Original sin is what necessitates the sacrifice of Jesus for our salvation. Before the Fall, Adam lived in a state of grace- he would not have needed Jesus. But Adam’s sin condemned all humanity, necessitating universal salvation. Denial of original sin is denial of the need for universal salvation.
Jesus did more than show humanity how to live, he died on the cross in penance for the sins of humanity.
Rebuttal to Con’s R3:
Con simply asserts that the only biblical type of sin is personal sin, but Romans speaks of universal sin, I will rest my case on that in addition to the description of the Fall in Genesis. Additionally, the symmetry of Christ’s salvation and the universal sin of Adam supports the idea of original sin- see my argument 5) in R2.
Pro asks in what way our capacity to resist sin has been diminished- I have answered him by way of analogy. Our capacity to resist temptation is diminished by fear and hunger; in a similar way our capacity to resist sin is diminished by the loss of Adam’s original grace.
Con concedes that our accountability and free will is not harmed by fear and hunger. My argument is thus:
P1. Biological factors diminish our ability to resist temptation.
P2. Biological factors do not destroy moral accountability or free will
C1. Diminished ability to resist temptation does not destroy moral accountability or free will.
P3. Our sin nature diminishes our ability to resist temptation.
C2. Sin nature does not destroy moral accountability or free will.
I argue that our sin nature does not compel us to sin, it only diminishes our ability to resist temptation. Where temptation was subordinate to Adam’s reason, post-Fall man is unable to properly subordinate temptation to reason. But just as
None of my argument is incompatible with Con’s claims that men are accountable for their personal sins none his citation of passages such as Ezekiel. Con’s entire case relies on mistakenly asserting that passages which speak to to the nature of personal sin are in fact addressed at fundamental truths about the nature of man. At the same time, Con seeks to dismiss the very plain language or Romans:
“For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners”
There is no tension between Ezekiel and Romans. Romans is specifically addressing the relationship between Adam, humanity, and Jesus while Ezekiel is speaking about the laws of Moses.
In conclusion I will respond to Con’s final question:
“If Adam's original sin has "damned" all men as you say, how can men be justly held accountable?”
Adam condemned all humanity but Jesus’ sacrifice offer salvation to all. Man still has the freedom to spurn the offer of salvation- those who sin and do not repent will be held accountable.
creationtruth forfeited this round.
The universal nature of original sin is plainly laid out in Romans. A full understanding of original sin is only possible in light of the Gospels and Jesus' sacrifice for man's salvation. Original sin brought on the universal damnation of man kind, but Jesus offers the universal salvation of man kind.
Con's primary objection to original sin is rooted in a flawed philosophical argument that a sin nature is incompatible with free will. I have shown that free will is no more mitigated by man's natural tendency to sin than by man's tendency to be cruel when physically exhausted or his tendency to commit crime when placed in poverty. The sinful nature of man does not consume his free will and it does not absolve him of personal responsibility.
Original sin is in harmony with God's infinite mercy and justice. God holds each man accountable for his sins and through Jesus offers salvation from the spiritual death incurred by Adam.
Thank you to all who took the time to judge this debate.
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