Section 8A .. A Question Of Salvation/Original Sin

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Original Sin.. Fact Or Fable? - PART II

Misunderstood, Misused and Misinterpreted Bible Texts 

Carol Brooks

    Part I - HERE
    Introduction to Original Sin -The Original Miscarriage of Justice. Defining Sin. Adam's Sin and The Book of Genesis.
    Guilty By Inheritance or Guilty by Deed? The Old Testament Emphasis on Personal Accountability. Babies and Young Children.

    Misunderstood, Misused and Misinterpreted Bible Texts 
    we point our finger at the cults, let us remember that we are doing exactly what most of them do.

     The Psalms - 51:5  58:3-6
    The Psalms are Hebrew poetry. Virtually all poetry uses figurative language, dramatization or hyperbole - not meant to be taken literally but used to make a vivid and lasting impression 

    Jeremiah 17:9

    Isaiah 64:6
     If we were to take the time and effort to read or study the verse in context we would find ...

    Romans 3:10-18, 5:12, 5:18 -19
    Several verses are said to support the doctrine of Original Sin. Except there is a lot more to them than first meets the eye.
    Especially Romans 5:12 - Did Adam's sin do something that affected his descendants and caused them to no longer be "in His image"? ... A something that has to be put right before a person can be considered once more a "son of God", eligible for the Kingdom of Heaven.

    Most Christians who profess to believe in the doctrine of original sin are ignorant of the fact that the doctrine has not always existed. They are ignorant of the fact that it evolved, that it had its roots in a heathen philosophy and that it was made a dogma of the Roman Catholic Church in the 5th century A.D. They are ignorant of the fact that it is only philosophical assumption. To say nothing of the fact that it blackens God's character.

    Origin And Spread
    The fact is that the doctrine came into being with some second and third century interpretations of Paul's writings, particularly the fifth chapter of Romans. However it was Augustine of Hippo who, in the fifth century (354-430), built on foundations laid by the early church fathers  and used Paul's teachings on the Fall as 'proof' for the doctrine of Original Sin.

    Misunderstood, Misused and Misinterpreted Bible Texts
    If you go to the Scriptures to see if there is actually any support for Original Sin, what you will find is a small number of verses that, at first glance, seem to verify the doctrine. What you will not find is a single passage that clearly teaches a person will be eternally condemned because of the stain of sin that he inherited from Adam.

    And those verses that give the impression that the doctrine is indeed Biblical are unclear at best. In fact, they have been manipulated, misunderstood, and misinterpreted. In the case of a couple of verses from Romans science has actually provided a very reasonable explanation of what Paul meant and may very well help us understand what exactly the 'Born Again' experience is - something that no one has yet been able to do. Simply because they have no idea). See Romans: 5:12 below

    The Psalms

    Two of the commonly cited passages come from Psalms 51 and 58.

    However why are we forgetting that the Psalms are Hebrew poetry, and that virtually all poetry is well known for its figurative language. When a writer uses literal language, he or she is simply stating the facts as they are. On the other hand, figurative language often uses dramatization or hyperbole that is not meant to be taken literally but used to make a vivid and more lasting impression without using complicated descriptions.

    Because figurative language often uses words or expressions that have a meaning quite different from the literal interpretation (Who in their right mind would take the phrase "cry ones heart out" literally?), it is a mistake of tragic proportions to use imaginative figures of speech from poetical literature as a foundation or even as supporting evidence for a major doctrine.  The Psalms were never intended to be a handbook of systematic theology... They are songs - poetry set to music and often expressions of emotions and must be read as such.

    And how do we know if the language in any of the Biblical verses is figurative or literal? We can assume it is figurative speech if a literal interpretation of a verse causes it to contradict other literal and straightforward verses.

    Psalm: 51:5
    Psalm 51:5 is often quoted as support for the doctrine

      Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.  (Psalm 51:5 NASB)

    The argument is that because David claims to have been born "in sin", he must have been referring to Adam's sin which he inherited. The NIV's Calvinistic bent caused them to translate this verse in line with preconceived beliefs

      Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (NIV).

    The Amplified Bible adds (in parentheses) an extremely prejudicial slant not found in the original text...

      I was brought forth in [a state of] wickedness; In sin my mother conceived me [and from my beginning I, too, was sinful]

      Note however that the Amplified Bible is not a literal translation, but a paraphrase that uses "alternate readings and amplifications to assist the reader in understanding what Scripture really says". This, in plain English, means it is the translator's beliefs that has been presented to the unsuspecting reader, not the original Hebrew and Greek words).

    Psalm: 51:5 cannot possibly provide support for the doctrine of Original Sin because numerous Bible verses (in plain literal language) teach that sin is not inherited, that human sinfulness commences from one's "youth" , that a child must reach a certain level of maturity before he is able to choose between evil and good (See Previous Chapter) All of which warrants a closer look at the pivotal and crucial words - "in iniquity" and "in sin."

    In Iniquity
    I was brought forth in iniquity gives one the impression that David himself was guilty of iniquity from the time he was brought forth. However, the words translated in iniquity is the Hebrew "be aw-vone'.

       be meaning "in"

      aw-von (avon) meaning perversity, that is, (moral) evil: fault, iniquity, mischief, punishment (of iniquity), sin. (Strong's #5771).

    The two words are used in Genesis: 19:15 where Lot is warned to leave Sodom lest he be consumed in the iniquity (ba·‘a·won ) of the city [00]. Note there is no difference between be and ba except that be is a combination of be and ha. Be means 'in' and ha means 'the'

    The whole point of the story is that Lot was an innocent man who was living in a very sinful city or in the midst of iniquity. Which is probably exactly what David was saying.. He was born in the midst of iniquity.. into a very sinful world.

    In Sin
    The "sin" in the passage "in sin did my mother conceive me" is all too often attributed to David, giving the impression that he was born sinful. However this is not so. Lets substitute the word 'sin' to prove a point...

      If the verse said.. 'In drunkeness did my mother conceive me or in anger did my mother beat me', who would attribute drunkenness or anger to the child?

    So why are we attributing sin to David when the passage is quite obviously talking about David's mother. This is by no means suggests that David was conceived as a result of an adulterous relationship nor that the sexual act of conception is sinful. David is simply describing the general condition of his mother and the rest of the world.

    It is to be particularly noted that suggesting that David inherited sin from his mother takes us into very shaky ground since if depravity comes by inheritance through our mothers, then Jesus would have been a sinner whether He Himself committed sin or not

    Psalm 51 is one of seven Penitential Psalms (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143) It reflects David's anguish resulting from his adulterous liaison with Bathsheba. If in this Psalm, David was saying that he was a sinner by birth, it is no longer a Psalm of penitence but becomes one of excuse, there being no better one than being born "a sinner".

    However, David's words are not those of a man making excuses but of a man deeply repentant for having himself sinned against God.  In it David prays for deliverance from sin and laments the condition of the world into which he was born. However, there is a change in tone about midway through the Psalm: when David moves away from the language of penitence and forgiveness to the language of new creation and transformation. He admits that his very existence is defined by sin and cries out for what literally amounts to a rebirth..

       "Create in me a clean heart, O God. And put a new and a steadfast spirit within me".

    To see this Psalm as a proof text for Original Sin is not only misguided, but misses the whole point of the Psalm.

    Psalm: 58:3-6
    Taking Psalm 58 as a proof text for Original Sin is even more absurd. The verse reads

      The wicked are estranged from the womb; These who speak lies go astray from birth. They have venom like the venom of a serpent; Like a deaf cobra that stops up its ear, So that it does not hear the voice of charmers, Or a skillful caster of spells. O God, shatter their teeth in their mouth; Break out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord. (Psalms 58:3-6 NASB)

    Many readers believe that this Psalm teaches that infants go astray or sin from the moment of birth. But if this is to be taken literally then Psalm 22 that has David saying he trusted in God from his birth, has to be taken literally as well.

       Yet You are He who brought me forth from the womb; You made me trust when upon my mother's breasts. Upon You I was cast from birth; You have been my God from my mother's womb. (Psalms 22:9-10 NASB)

    Also note what the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah wrote

      And now says the Lord, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, To bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel might be gathered to Him (For I am honored in the sight of the LORD, And My God is My strength), (Isaiah 49:5 NASB)

      Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations." (Jeremiah 1:5 NASB)

    However, as explained above, the Psalms were never intended to be a handbook of systematic theology... They are songs, poetry set to music, and must be read as such. The sheer absurdity of trying to press what is obviously dramatic hyperbole into a literal meaning cannot be over stressed.

    The fact is that the sinner goes astray rather than being born astray . This indicates personal culpability and is in line with numerous other verses (in unambiguous prose) like the one found in the book of Isaiah...

      "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way" (Isaiah 53:6).

    Jeremiah 17:9

      "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9 NASB)

    The problem is the very next verse says

      "I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds. (Jeremiah 17:10 NASB)

    Isaiah 64:6

      For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. (Isaiah 64:6 NASB)

    This verse has to be one of the most commonly misquoted, misapplied passages in Christianity long used as a "proof-text' for two totally distinct yet equally unfounded beliefs.

    Calvinists use it to establish the idea that everything the natural man does is wicked... even good deeds. This helps to set up the dogma of "total inability," the engine which drives their entire theory of salvation. Details In Calvinism Part II A -  Total Inability

    On the other hand, the Evangelical uses the same verse to show that good works, obedience, virtue are all useless. This sets the stage for the doctrine of "accepting Christ" through a once-for-all act of faith and casts an unfavorable slant on the whole Biblical requirement of Holiness.

    If we were to take the time and effort to read and study the verse in context we will find a completely different picture than the skewed ones that have so often been painted for us (See Filthy Rags)

    The Book of Romans

    Romans: 3:10-18
    is often quoted to bolster the claims of universal depravity that no one ever seeks after God. Paul says

      "there is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one. their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known. there is no fear of God before their eyes." (Romans 3:10-18 NASB)

    However if one examines the source of Paul's quotes a very different picture emerges. The Psalms he cites did not show that no righteous person had ever lived but, on the contrary, often spoke of God's protection and favor towards the virtuous people of that day.

    What then could Paul have possibly meant? How could he possibly say that it is of no profit for men to live righteously, when innumerable verses spoke of God's protection and favor towards the righteous. Why did he present one side of the coin and ignore the verses that speak of God's support and favor for those who feared Him? (See None That Seeketh

    Romans: 5:12
    Romans 5:12 was a crucial verse in the development of the doctrine of Original Sin.

      Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned (Romans 5:12 NASB)

    Notice that it says "Death passed upon all men for that all have sinned". It does not say, "Death passed upon all men for that Adam sinned." It was through one man that sin entered the world, but death passed to all men because each and every man sinned himself.

    Because Augustine spoke Latin not Greek he possibly relied on Jerome's Latin Translation or the earlier less than accurate Latin translations. However in the case of Romans 5:12, it seems that the Vulgate did not differ from  the earlier translations.

      "By one man sin entered the world, and death by sin; so death passed upon all men, for in him all men sinned."

    This is a far from an accurate translation of the Greek. Modern translators agree that "because all men sinned" is far more correct..

    However there is more to this issue than first meets the eye:
    In Romans 5 we cannot escape from the fact that Paul is saying that something happened to all humanity because of Adam's sin - something that affected the entire race. While there no question that guilt cannot be imputed to one who has not committed the crime, we can not ignore the fact that Paul makes a direct connection between Adam's sin and the fallen condition of the entire race.

    This brings up the very interesting question of how exactly did Adam's sin affect his descendants causing them to be separated from the Father and doomed to physically die? Is there something that caused man to no longer be "in His image"? ... A something that has to be put right before a person can be considered once more a "son of God" eligible for the Kingdom of Heaven.  

    See Original Sin and Epigenetics
    What exactly was it that Adam passed down to his descendants ?
     Paul was right in what he said, however, he couldn’t possibly have understood the details. Only in the light of very recent scientific discoveries can we say “So that’s what he was talking about!”

    Romans: 5:18 -19
    The verses reads (All Emphasis Added)

      So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.  (Romans 5:18-19 NASB)

    Paul seems to imply that all people are condemned because of Adam's sin. However if we could just put preconceived ideas and denominational bias aside for just a moment and read only what the text is saying (not what someone else thinks it means), we will find that if this passage teaches universal inherited depravity, it also supports universal salvation. Bear with me for a moment...

    If Adam's sin automatically causes all mankind to receive condemnation for something they did not do or had any choice in, then Christ's dying on the cross also should automatically causes all mankind to be saved regardless of whether they choose to be or not.

    So if these passages are not teaching universal salvation, they cannot be teaching universal depravity. In reality neither is being taught. Paul is simply saying that physical death was introduced into the world by Adam, just as physical life was brought into the world by Christ, who is life.

    This seems like an appropriate place to remind the reader of the prophet Ezekiel's words,

      "The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.  (Ezekiel 18:20 NASB)

    1 Corinthians 2:14-15

      But a natural (Gk. Psuchikos) man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one.

    Certainly the word "natural" here stands opposed to "spiritual", but those who believe in Original Sin or Calvinism allow their theological presuppositions to drive their interpretation of this verse, insisting that when Paul used the words natural man he was referring to man in his state of total depravity.

    However, these verses can only be properly understood if read as part of the surrounding verses that form the setting, or the big picture.

    Details In Calvinism Part II A -  Total Inability

    Also See Context is CRUCIAL

    The entire doctrine of Original Sin is succinctly summed up in the following statement excerpted from an article entitled The Myth of Original Sin by Alfred Overstreet..

      Most Christians who profess to believe in the doctrine of original sin are ignorant of exactly what its teachings really are. They are ignorant of the fact that the doctrine has not always existed. They are ignorant of the fact that it evolved, that it had its roots in a heathen philosophy, and that it was made a dogma of the Roman Catholic Church in the 5th century A.D. They are ignorant of the fact that it is only a theory, and that there is really not one but several differing theories that have evolved and come down to us in the church.

      They are also ignorant of the fact that the Bible passages used as proof-texts for this doctrine have been taken out of context and tortured into teaching a doctrine that is completely foreign to the Bible. Finally, they are ignorant of the fact that the doctrine of original sin is an evil doctrine that corrupts Christian practice, blackens the character of God, excuses sin in the sinner, contradicts the Bible, makes Jesus a sinner, harms the cause of Christ, and stumbles professing Christians into hell. And it is this ignorance of Christians concerning these facts that helps to protect and perpetuate the doctrine of original sin. [01]

    So if not the Scriptures where and when did the doctrine of Original Sin originate

    Origin And Spread
    The fact is that the doctrine came into being with some second and third century interpretations of Paul's writings, particularly the fifth chapter of Romans.

    Irenaeus connected man's sinful state and what he called the old wound of the serpent

      ... men can be saved in no other way from the old wound of the serpent than by believing in Him who, in the likeness of sinful flesh, is lifted up from the earth upon the tree of martyrdom, and draws all things to Himself. [02]

    St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote:

      "Evil was mixed with our nature from the beginning...through those who by their disobedience introduced the disease. [Vladimir Moss. The New Soteriology. https://www.orthodoxchristianbooks.com/articles/804/-new-soteriology/

     Basil, bishop of Caesarea attributes to us the act of the first man: "Because we did not fast (when Adam ate the forbid-den fruit) we have been turned out of the garden of Paradise" (Horn. i de jejun., iv). [03]

    Tertullian wrote

      "Every soul, then, by reason of its birth, has its nature in Adam until it is born again in Christ; moreover, it is unclean all the while that it remains without this regeneration; and because unclean, it is actively sinful, and suffuses even the flesh (by reason of their conjunction) with its own shame." [04]

    Cyprian wrote that since "baptism is administered even to those who have committed heinous sins, so it would be inconsistent to deny God's grace to infants who have committed no personal sin:

      ... how much rather ought we to shrink from hindering an infant, who, being lately born, has not sinned, except in that, being born after the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of the ancient death at its earliest birth, who approaches the more easily on this very account to the reception of the forgiveness of sins - that to him are remitted, not his own sins, but the sins of another. [05]

    What boggles the mind is that Cyprian was elected bishop of Carthage "within two years" of being converted to Christianity in 246. [06]  In other words, a fledgling Christian was made bishop

      Similarly no one can be sure whether John Calvin had even converted from Catholicism when he wrote the Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1536. At best, he was a brand new convert writing it 3-6 short years after converting. See Calvinism Part I - An Introduction to The Reformed Doctrine of Calvinism

    The Council of Carthage - a synod of Catholic bishops of North Africa held in A.D. 397 - gave official legs to the doctrine of original sin

      Likewise it seemed good that whosoever denies that infants newly from their mother's wombs should be baptized, or says that baptism is for remission of sins, but that they derive from Adam no original sin, which needs to be removed by the laver of regeneration, from whence the conclusion follows, that in them the form of baptism for the remission of sins, is to be understood as false and not true, let him be anathema. [07]

    Augustine, Original Sin and Calvinism
    However it was Augustine of Hippo who, in the fifth century (354-430), built on foundations laid by the early church fathers and used Paul's teachings on the Fall as 'proof' for the doctrine of Original Sin.

    Although Augustine was Catholic to the core and wrong about any number of issues, his influence had disastrous and widespread consequences. John Calvin accepted Augustine's fabrications in toto, with generations of theologians blindly following suit, teaching this fallacy to millions more. 

    Calvinism is under girded by the doctrine of Original Sin, which would have us believe that our fallen state (total depravity) renders us incapable of choosing God and, of ourselves, powerless to respond to God's offer of salvation. In the words of a Calvinistic site..  (Emphasis Added)

      What total depravity does mean is that no one is innocent of sin, and that no one standing on his own merit is righteous in God's eyes (not even infants). It also emphasizes that, as a result of Adam's sin, man is born spiritually dead, having a corrupted nature which desires to sin and which hates God. Since man cannot act contrarily to his nature, man has no ability to do anything truly pleasing to God. Everything man does comes from a heart that hates God, and therefore everything man does is fundamentally unacceptable in God's sight. This is why man in his natural state can never be good enough to save himself, and can never savingly accept the gospel of his own accord. [08]

    Since man is incapable of saying, doing, thinking or believing anything that would propel him towards salvation, God Himself must step in and elect certain individuals to salvation (Unconditional Election). Of course it naturally follows that if it is God that wills a person to be saved, there is no way that person can fall from grace or get "unsaved" (Perseverance of the Saints).   See Calvinism

    Without the bedrock of Original Sin, the entire edifice would crumble.

    Why Exactly Do We Care What Augustine Thought And
    Why Should It Influence Us One Single Iota One Way Or The Other?

    It would take a lifetime to uncover the riches and layers of the Bible alone, yet men seem to have the time to attend to the voluminous writings of an ancient Catholic philosopher who believed in a purgatory, masses, prayers for the dead, the intercession of saints and martyrs in our favor and the innocence of Mary... In short all the superstitious baggage of the Catholic church.

    In fact, Martin Luther, Calvin and Augustine were all rather horrible men

    See The Sins of Augustine (Scroll down to Augustine and force)

    Martin Luther Part II
    And his vitriolic polemics against those he considered to be 'enemies' of the faith - The Jews, Catholic Bishops, and Anabaptists. He also took the side of rich nobles against oppressed peasants many of whom were slaughtered.

    Calvin - Supremely Unfit To Be Called A Church Leader

    I have to wonder whether in Original Sin Augustine came up with the perfect excuse for his early debauched lifestyle.

      In his autobiographical book, Augustine tells a story about stealing pears. He was part of a gang who took them, not because they were hungry or poor, but simply for the pure pleasure of doing wrong. This led Augustine to conclude that there is a part of our nature that enjoys the thrill of wrongdoing, just for the sake of its own badness. We delight in sin, from a tiny pointless lie or a nasty put-down all the way up to adultery and betrayal.

      Augustine's work is laced with racy stories (by the standards of the time). He describes his teenage years as a "bubbling cauldron of vice" and would pray, "Lord, make me pure — but not yet!" He fathered an illegitimate child with his mistress of many years. (It was only after his mother forced the issue did he leave her, and he is deeply apologetic about the matter in his Confessions.)

      Augustine spent nine years in Carthage, which he makes sound like a seething den of iniquity, what with its "dance-girls," "sea monsters," "captured gorillas," and ... philosophy! As scholar John Boswell said, Augustine "abandoned himself to urban pleasures with ... enthusiasm." Quite the start for the man who would become a saint and Church Father.

      Once Augustine saw his wayward ways for what they were, he sat down to do some serious thinking. Why did humans tend to be so evil? Why do we delight in sex, excess, gluttony, and drunkenness?

      He reasoned that all this vice was because, after The Fall, humans had placed their pride and vanity above the laws of God. We had been expressly told not to eat that fruit. It was a simple enough instruction from a God who had given us all we could ever need. But there is something inside of us that cannot leave it at that. It is a bit like telling someone today not to press a button. We are naturally inclined to disobedience. We have to press it. So, with an arrogant, proud swagger, humanity thought we were better than God. [09]


    End Notes

    [00] https://biblehub.com/interlinear/genesis/19.htm

    [01] A. T. Overstreet. Are Men Born Sinners? The Myth of Original Sin. http://www.gospeltruth.net/menbornsinners/mbsindex.htm

    [02] Irenaeus. Against Heresies (Book IV, Chapter 2) https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103402.htm#:~:text=For%20the%20law%20

    [03] https://www.catholic.com/encyclopedia/original-sin

    [04] Tertullian IV: Baptism and Original Sin. On the Soul (de anima, XL)

    [05] New Advent  Epistle58 (Cyprian of Carthage) > Epistle https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/050658.htm

    [06] St. Cyprian.  Encyclopaedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Cyprian-Christian-bishop ].

    [07] Council of Carthage (A.D. 419) http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3816.htm

    [08] Ra McLaughlin. An Overview and Defense of the Reformed Doctrines of Salvation.

    [09] Are we born evil? St. Augustine and "original sin". https://bigthink.com/thinking/born-evil-augustine-original-sin/


      Original Sin - Part I