Born sinners? The “Original Sin” doctrine on trial.

Are we born sinners?
Are we born sinners?

Are we born sinners?

There are many professing Christians who hold to the belief that we are all born sinners, and for this primary reason they say that God condemns us for an eternity in hell (bar receiving reconciliation through Christ). Bear in mind, they profess this to be so, not because we have done anything wrong, but for the simple reason of being born! But are we actually born sinners, and does God condemn mankind to an eternity of misery for being born?

Popular belief of “Original Sin” – being born sinners

Advocates of the “Original sin” doctrine state that when Adam sinned the just wrath and condemnation that he deserved for disobeying God was also passed down genetically / biologically to all of his descendants. Therefore, God, they believe, condemns all of mankind to hell to an eternal misery because we supposedly biologically inherited the guilt of Adam’s sin!

John Piper’s video interview of “Original Sin”

In his video, John Piper, who is one of the many strong contenders for the Original Sin doctrine, details the condemnation upon all of mankind because we are Adam’s progeny. This condemnation, he proclaims, is not because everyone is guilty of their own sin, but because they are “in him” (Adam), and therefore we “go down with him”. He says: “… we’re under the wrath of God because of it” (i.e. because we are born under Adam). He teaches that God condemns all of mankind to hell to suffer torment forever because they are of Adam’s progeny – except, of course those whom (he teaches) God predestines for salvation, apart from their own reasoning and choice!

But if we are all “born sinners” and are all condemned because of it, this would mean that babies who die in infancy are going to hell. Not only that, but by the same doctrine, God condemns aborted / miscarried babies by the same decree to an eternity without Christ. The implications are just appalling!

Calvin’s explanation of being born sinners

The doctrine goes further to say that not only does God elect some for salvation without man’s choice, but He also condemns the rest without a chance of them choosing to obey Him. Calvin, the author of their doctrine states: “Many professing a desire to defend the Deity from an invidious charge admit the doctrine of election, but deny that any one is reprobated . This they do ignorantly and childishly since there could be no election without its opposite reprobation. God is said to set apart those whom he adopts for salvation.” 1

But Mr. Piper and like advocates, obtain their teachings from Calvin who encapsulates his doctrine in his book: The Institutes of Christian Religion, by saying: “…individuals are born, who are doomed from the womb to certain death, and are to glorify him by their destruction.” (Book three Chapter 23). Calvin declares: “Those, therefore, whom God passes by he reprobates, and that for no other cause but because he is pleased to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines to his children.”

Piper’s contradiction

However, faced with the reality of what he professes and believes, Mr. Piper doesn’t really like Calvin’s doctrine of babies going to hell, for when asked about it he says” I think they are all saved”. (In other words: he doesn’t really know), and contradicts his own belief and statement that “… we’re under the wrath of God because of it”.

But as the saying goes: “You can’t have your cake on the plate and eat it at the same time”.

Other peer-advocates’ comments

But Mr. Piper is not alone in his thinking and teaching. Here are some other leaders who agree with him; hear what they teach:

Chuck Swindol: “All children are born delinquent”.

R.C Sproul: “…John Calvin said that babies were as depraved as rats” Then Mr. Sproul continues in his own words: ” this was the first time I opposed the teaching of Calvin”. He went on to explain: ” …because that is terribly insulting…(he pauses for effect) to the rat!”

Paul Washer‘s teaching is more graphic and I won’t repeat all that he said for shame. But he teaches that babies are so sinful that an 18 month old baby would, without remorse, murder his own father for his watch if he had the strength to.

John MacArthur says that a man demonstrates the depth of his depravity and sinfulness through the act of procreation because the man is reproducing a sinner!

However, we will see later what God says in scripture.

The origin of the “Original Sin” (born-sinners) doctrine

In the fourth century, Augustine established the doctrine of Original Sin from an embryo doctrine of Irenaeus some two hundred years before his time. The reason he did this was, confessedly, because of his own unrepentant sin for much of his Manichaean and then self-professed Christian life. (We can presume that he contracted his concept that sin is imputed to one genetically and therefore one cannot but sin from the Manichaean view of sin). And because he would not give up his sin, through his political influence in church and state he popularized the idea that we all sin because we are born sinners. Sadly, the leaders of the Catholic (universal) church adopted the idea and made it a mandatory doctrine. (See also the Contradiction of Catholic Infant Baptism at the end of this article).

Note on Augustine’s death:

But it is interesting to note that in the last few months of Augustine’s life, he seemed convicted of his sin and led an exceptionally ascetic life in prayer, fasting and reading the Word of God. For even though he taught for years that we all continue in sin and can never give it up, and that God still covers us by His grace, he changed his heart, mostly likely through fear of conviction (and imminent death) and gave up his conscious sin anyway, contradicting his own teaching that we cannot choose to give up sin.

Augustine’s change of mind

However, even though the Roman Catholics adopted the concept of being born sinners from Augustine, it wasn’t always the case with him. From his initiation into the priesthood in 392, Augustine argued with the Manichaean Fortunas, affirming that we have freedom of choice. And a couple of years later (about 394) he writes in his Propositions from the Epistle to the Romans that God does elect by foreknowledge those who choose to exercise faith in Him. (This is precisely what Paul was teaching in Romans 8:29-30. See also 1Pet. 1:2).

Nevertheless, later when he answers Simplician’s (of Milan) questions on Paul’s epistle to the Romans, he discards his former belief that man has freedom of choice and that God elects based on foreknowledge of the merit of faith (through exercising faith – not earning merit, as some would try to suggest), to brazenly assert that grace comes before merit – even the merit of faith. This he meant then that God chooses who He wills, for reasons undisclosed to man.

“Born sinners?” – What does scripture say?

It is surprising to note that of all major doctrines in Christianity, even contradictory doctrines amongst denominations, how the doctrine of Original Sin is based on so few “proof-texts”. In essence, the doctrine is founded on only two misconstrued scriptures, which will be covered later. Yet, they do not teach doctrines like the freedom to choose to be holy according to our original design, even though there are hundreds of scriptures in the Bible to support it. (I have over 470 underlined in my Bible alone). This is largely because many want to retain their sins and want to believe that they can justifiably do so before God.

Were we born sinners and found sinning at birth?

Some, like Mr. Piper above, say that we didn’t have to learn sin, and that we were born sinning. Yet, scripture says that God made all men holy. (Ecc7:29).

“Behold, I have found only this, that God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices.”
(Ecc 7:29)

Everything made by God is good (Gen 1:31). There is no exception. The testimony of the whole world of men demonstrates that everything we do is learned. This is true from our first step and our first word to the progressive cultivated state of our being at our last breath. Everything we do, we do from our own choice, whether good or bad.

God tells us in His Word that He perpetually makes men according to His likeness. God is absolutely holy, righteous and true and men, “who have been made in the likeness of God” (James 3:9), are thus born likewise.

men, “who have been made in the likeness of God” (James 3:9)

(See also Deut.32:6, 15, 18)

What are the two “supporting” scriptures predestinarians use?

There are really only two scriptures that predestinarians use that they believe support their argument. The rest of their proof-texts are just not worth pursuing at this stage. These are (Rom 5:12) and (Psa 51:5).

So let’s address each one of their misconceptions at a time to make it more clear:

Romans 5:12

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—  (Rom 5:12)

Paul says in Rom. 5:12 precisely what caused the death of all men. It was not because they were born as decedents of Adam, but “because all sinned”. He said that one man’s sin caused sin to enter the world as did death (which is the result of sin – both physically and spiritually), and therefore death spread to all men both physically and spiritually because all men sinned, causing their own death.

Note carefully what he continues to say later in verse 14:

“Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come”.  (Rom 5:14)

All men sinned (vs 12) but not all sinned in the act of direct disobedience like Adam did. All men are born righteous but learn sin from their fallen parents and from sin which is universally present in the world, and by the time they are conscious of the law of conscience they discover they have sinned even though they may not have sinned against a direct law which only came through Moses (See Rom. 7: 9 in context of Rom. 7. See also The Romans 7 Scenario).

Psalm 51:5

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

Many believe that David in this scripture claims that he was born a sinner.

Firstly

David said that he was “brought forth in iniquity”. This by no means even hints that he himself was born a sinner. If he was brought forth in the sea would he be termed a fish? Part of one’s birthright may be his citizenship to the country of his birth, such as if he were born in America, he would be an American citizen. But we cannot use the same principle to someone who is born in a world of sin and call him a sinner. For on the one hand, citizenship is a right of birth, and on the other hand a sinner earns his title by sinning.

David, like all men, was born into the iniquity of the world. We all are. That does not make us a sinner. Scripture says explicitly that sin is the transgression of known law – whether of stated law or of the law of conscience. And we are all condemned for this reason.

Secondly

The fact that he was “conceived in sin” has nothing to do with his own moral standing at the time of conception. Here are two main trains of thought; and both are wrong:

  1. That his mother committed fornication when conceiving David.
    Yet we have no account of his mother’s moral standing in the Bible upon which we can cast judgment.
  2. That his mother was a sinner and therefore he automatically became a sinner by inheriting her sin.
    * This now loops back to the predestination doctrine that states all are sinners because we inherit a sinful nature from our parents – something that never appears in scripture. And assuming a “truth” based on unproven foundational principles is careless conjecture.
    * Inherited sin, they believe, is passed on genetically only through the father (A Catholic inculcation to save Jesus from inheriting sin from Mary).
    How then could David be a sinner because of the mother?

However, the second part of the verse simply reiterates and clarifies the first; in that it was in the world of sin that his mother conceived him. This bears no direct guilt of his mother, nor does it have any bearing of accusation towards David for being a sinner, which, at birth was impossible. For, to reiterate, scripture states that sin is the transgression of the law. Therefore, if one has not broken the law of statutes, decrees, commandments, etc. or the law against conscience, then one has not committed sin and cannot be deemed a sinner. Therefore, the innocents of infants bears no guilt.

Is the Original Sin doctrine true to reason?

If we are born sinners –

All would commit the same sins

If we are born sinners then we all would be committing the same sins. All would be murderers, robbers, liars, adulterers, etc.. After all, if we inherit sin then the essence of sin would be universally the same. All lions kill for food. No lion eats grass, or swims under water to catch fish like say a shark does. They do what God created them to do. So if we are born sinners then all would universally act in accordance with all sin. There would be no varying degrees or differences in the sin we commit.

We would have no conscience

We would also have no conscience or remorse. Conscience comes from recognizing righteousness from sin. This is exemplified after our fist sin when our conscience is at its strongest against the act. But after a while of repeated acts of the same sin, our consciences weaken as our hearts grow harder in depravity. This testifies to the fact that we are born innocent; for if we were not, then there would be no growth in depravity and all would sin to the extent that others would permit them to against their own selfishness / depravity. The strongest, or the one with the most influence would be the one to sin the most for he would have less resistance from others.

There would be no law of righteousness

If we were born depraved then there would be no law of righteousness and all would be exceedingly wicked in all things. Society would not then have their own laws to protect them; yet all civilizations throughout mankind testify to the contrary having developed their own code of law with which to protect themselves. For everyone would be doing the most evil in serving themselves to the highest degree of depravity.

Even in the prediluvian period there was a law of their own making. And mankind lived in a greater or lesser degree of righteousness according to the light he would receive. He understood concepts like justice, protection of rights, trade and industry; none of which could exist if the world of men were utterly depraved. For to be so would make islands of all men and society as a whole could never exist in any civilization. So to say that man is born utterly depraved is simply foolish speculation based on no evidence in scripture, reason, or the history of mankind.

Then where did Adam’s sin come from?

If we are born sinners by the genetic descendance from Adam, then who did Adam inherit his sin from? Eve enticed him to sin, but Eve came from him. Now if sin was inherent in Adam then God must have created Adam with sin, thus being Himself a sinner. We can go further and say that Satan caused Adam to sin transmitting his own sin onto Adam. But Adam was free to choose between righteousness and sin, but willed the enticement rather than choosing to remain faithful to the defined will of God. And again; where did Satan inherit his sin if sin is indeed hereditary? God?

The doctrine slights God’s character, because –

God would become a creator of sin. For God made man in His image and likeness, and each one is the continual creation of God (Deut. 32: 6, 15, 18; James 3:9). Therefore, if man is born a sinner, then his Maker must be of sin making God too a sinner.

It makes God to be a monster, for He made man and pre-selected from eternity those who will perish to perish and that without their having a choice in the matter.

If God made the sinner then would we not be justified in deeming God to be cruelly unreasoning? For how can God condemn someone for sin when He made the sinner?

It makes God unjust – for how can He judge one for another’s sin, particularly, when He states in His own Word that He would not (See Ezek.18:20), and that He is not a respecter of persons (Matt. 22:16)?

How can God condemn one for being born? For if we are born sinners, then we would sin as a natural and instinctive expression of our existence. We would also have no guilt, because sin is the antithesis of righteousness. Therefore, if we were born sinners there would be no knowledge of righteousness. And in the absence of the knowledge of righteousness, everything would be sin. Now, if all is sin then there is no guilt for there is no law. For the law of righteousness is based on knowledge of the law. One is only guilty of sin if one transgresses the law that God has given. This includes the innate law of conscience and the written law of Moses. (See Rom. 5:14). For sin is that which transgresses the law (1John3:4).

The word “Repent!” – A big problem for the predestinarian

The very word “Repent” is a calling to return to one’s former state. (See Dr Adam Clarke’s commentary on the word “repent”). The direct translation is compounded of two roots words meaning
a) to change our way of thinking (after hearing the truth about our state of being)
b) to return from the madness of sin
How then do we return if we were never there in the first place?

Important note on the contradictions of infant baptism

Infant baptism – a supposed cure to being born sinners

Calvin inherited “Original Sin” from the Catholics. Yet their sacrament of infant baptism contradicts their doctrine of Original Sin, refuting that man is born sinful.

Because of their belief that we inherit the original sin of Adam, they included infant baptism as a sacrament, and as a cure for infants’ supposed eternal damnation should they die as infants. This purification is meant to cleanse them not only of Adam’s sinfulness, but his guilt also.

Let me make this clearer. The Original Sin doctrine teaches that all men born into this world are born sinners. They have supposedly inherited the sin and guilt of Adam. And under this doctrine, God destines everyone to eternal damnation primarily for being born as a descendant of Adam.

Infant baptism contradicts being born sinners

However, Catholics believe that infant baptism washes away original sin (Original Sin is derived from the Roman Catholic church). This means that baptism supposedly restores one to Adam’s state before he sinned. This baptism then would also cleanse the child of the propensity to sin as was in Adam’s state. And, even though Adam was of flesh, if he had not sinned he would not have died. Yet it is universal evidence that death visits everyone sooner or later – baptized or not. The testimony of the entire human race refutes this doctrine, for all have chosen to sin and also die.

Now if we sin because all inherited a sinful nature, then the purification of baptism couldn’t have cleansed them. For if infant baptism cleanses original sin by the act of a sacrament (which is spiritual cleansing) how do they explain that sin is hereditary? For they claim that we inherit sin genetically i.e. physically transmitted. Their sacrament therefore contradicts their doctrine of Origin Sin.


  1. The Institutes of Christian Religion (Book three Chapter 23)
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