Has Original Sin Made you a Bad Parent?

One of the strangest things I had to get used to as a young father, was my children freely admitting to their sins. Adam and Eve hid when they sinned, but my kids bragged about it.

One time I discovered crayon drawings all along the hallway wall.

“Who drew on this wall?” I asked.

“I did!” replied the little offender.

I hoped the frown on my face would convey my displeasure, but her response was one of delight, as though she was thrilled that her father had discovered her artwork.

“Aren’t you impressed Daddy? Isn’t this an amazing picture? Would you like me to draw another?”

Clearly my daughter had no idea that she was a sinner. She was too young to know right from wrong.

I was angry, but only for a moment. My daughter’s innocence disarmed me, and we ended up discussing the merits of her art. Then I suggested that for future drawings she might try alternative media, like paper.

Why did my daughter vandalize the hallway wall? Why did she occasionally fight with her siblings and disobey her parents? It was because she was a born sinner and a rebel by nature. She entered this world inclined to sin.

Or so says the unbiblical doctrine of original sin.

The doctrine of original sin is one of the most enduring and influential ideas in the church. Original sin says we all inherited Adam’s fallen nature. From the moment you draw your first breath, you were inclined towards sin, utterly depraved, and hostile towards God.

There is no question that sinners have a sinful nature and that we all need to be saved from sin, but Augustine went further. He said we are born corrupt, and that we inherited a rebellious streak from our forefather Adam.

Augustine’s doctrine of original sin is one of those ideas that appeals to our religious sensibilities. We think it explains why the world is godless and broken.

But blaming original sin for our problems is like blaming your parents for all the stupid stuff you did when you were a rebellious teen.

There is no question that we live in a corrupt and sinful world. But the idea that we inherited a predisposition to sin – a sinful gene, if you will – is worth questioning.

We humans are good at sinning. But were we born corrupt or were we corrupted as a result of living in a corrupt world?

Your answer to this question matters a lot.

Imagine we lived in a world where we could genetically test our kids to discover their hidden talents. You take your two-year-old to the testing center and are told that your child has the genes of a virtuoso violinist.

You and your spouse are thrilled. You start making plans.

“We’re going to get Junior some violin lessons. We’ll hire the best teacher around.”

Fast forward a few years and your child has become a talented violinist.

But what if the DNA test said your child was likely to become a raging alcoholic or a serial philanderer or a sociopath. Say goodbye to violin lessons Junior, we’re taking you to therapy!

If you believe in original sin, it will influence the way you raise your children. If you see your kids as little rebels ready to explode into a life of sin and depravity, you will train them different than if you see them as curious explorers, talented artists and gifts from God.

Our children are profoundly shaped by the words we speak over them. Tell them they are born sinners and chances are that’s what they will become.

Original sin will also affect your witness. If you see your neighbors as sinners and godless rebels, you will never connect with them in a meaningful way.

“Why don’t you come to our small group so we can talk about how angry God is with your sin?”

When they refuse, you’ll dismiss them as unregenerate rebels.

And they’ll dismiss you as weird.

Original sin also affects your sense of self-worth. If you think you were born bad to the bone and bearing Adam’s guilt, you’ll behave different than someone who sees themselves as the apple of their Father’s eye.

What you misdiagnose, you will mistreat. We have been told that we inherited a sinful gene and that Jesus is the cure. But the issues are far more serious than that.

You were not born with a bit of bad code; you were born dead in sin.

You do not need to excise your sinful habits; you need to be raised from the dead.

The bad news is that sin is deadly, but the good news is that Jesus raises the dead.

Augustine’s doctrine of original sin conveys a message of “sin with us,” but the gospel proclaims a better message of “God with us.”

Let us abandon manmade notions of original sin and learn to see ourselves, our kids, and our neighbors and as God sees us – as dearly-loved and precious beyond words.


Extracted and adapted from Paul’s new ebook, Original Sin: What Does the Bible Really Say? available now on Patreon.

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10 Comments on Has Original Sin Made you a Bad Parent?

  1. We are all born spiritually dead in Adam but, through the resurrected life of Christ, we can all become new creations spiritually alive in Christ”.

  2. Yes, I loved this article, I wish soneone could convey this message to everyone! Only one part I think the news is even better than you know, Paul! You say at the end that we were all born dead in sin. What if it’s true that we weren’t? What if, again, we act like we are dead only because we thought we were, not because we were. I think the gospel was all good news, no teeny little snippets of bad news like, oh, but wait, you’re still dead! You need to be raised!
    We died with Christ, but we were also RAISED with him, and everyone is born fully alive!

    • Hi Helen, I’m glad you enjoyed the article. Those who have not received new life remain dead in their sins and trespasses. This is why the Lord told the sinners of Sardis, “You are dead” (Rev. 3:1), and this is why Jude said those who rejected the gospel were doubly-dead (Jude 1:21). We cross over from death to life when we put our faith in Christ (John 5:24). More here.

  3. I, like you, do not subscribe to the theory of original sin but there is no doubt that inherited genetics is a factor. This is clear with twins (of which I am one) brought up the same but turning out very differently. Also in some adopted children where the behaviours of their biological parents come through despite being treated lovingly and identically to others in the family. As a twin I took part in a nurture and nature study at a well known London medical centre and the effect of nature (genetics) was shown to be as strong as nurture. Being to a small extent involved with Christian inner healing in the past the healing of ancestral links usefully forms part of it.

    • Hi Ian, thanks for your comment. I agree that sin casts a long shadow and that the mistakes of fathers can harm their children. But the moment you come to Christ, the person you used to be dies (see Rom. 6:3). You become a new creation with a new nature. Certainly, you retain all the memories and habits of old, but surely these are learned behaviors, not genetic predispositions. Dig far enough and you will find that every one of us has ancestors who did terrible things. But in Christ we are brand new and can partake of his divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4).

  4. Us and how the earth is handled- definitely messed up us as kids definitely beautiful,innocent of, love,pure joy,awe,wonder,innocence,trusting,believing all wonderful stuff. Then the “adult world” gets a hold on us with its dos,donts ,commands,demands,expectations,rules,opinions,influences,reward/punishment threats,behaviour/ performance modification whether it is right for us or not to conform and fit into a general,global idea of what a human “should” be/do believe / expect along with passed down damages,brokenness from not having been loved unconditionally,mixed,dysfunctional unwholesome messages about Love-how to give receive love.When we know we are loved.seen,heard,liked cherished ,accepted,wanted,understood.”got” we act out/ play up less it’s when we are insecure that we are unloved,unloveable feeling ashamed of ourselves that mess occurs it’s passed down and from nature and nurture it’s from when the devil convinced,corrupted Adam and Eves conscience about ABBA – “adults” to doubt ABBA God and His unconditional whole, perfect complete love/ heart/ provision/ plans for them. No blaming or shaming to us adults as we once were those beautiful kids . Our need is to turn back to the Author/ Filler of Love as innocent,trusting,believing kids in our adult form.

  5. I love your point of “sin with us” vs “God with us”. There was a time when my focus was on sin and the messages I listened to were about sin. I was always conscious of sin with me and the influence of sin in my life. What if we could be this conscious of God with us and focus on His influence in our life?

  6. Hi there, I just wanted to comment on this post. While I do not believe that we were born totally depraved as some would have it, I do believe that we were born with a nature that tends towards sin. We all have felt that jealously that wanting our own way or perhaps even wanting to hurt another person and the list goes on. Paul in Romans 7 reflects back and describes himself and his fellow Jews noting to then “when we were in the flesh (unsaved) the motions of sins which were by the law did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. Note Paul is saying this was when he and they were in the flesh (unsaved) under the law and sin was at work in them by the law bringing forth fruit (thats sinful fruit) causing their deaths. Paul notes how he finds it impossible to keep the law in fact Paul notes that it is the law that stirs up the sin that is alive in his members… If we are all pure and nice basically then why do we need a rebirth? If there was nothing wrong with our first birth then why do we need to be born again?

    • Hi Alan, thanks for your comment. To answer your question, why do we need to be born again? The answer is because we were born dead in sin (Eph. 2:1). Humanity did not inherit a bad gene from Adam, but death and condemnation (Rom. 5:12, 18). Augustine’s doctrine of original sin minimizes the gravity of the problem and in doing so it minimizes the work of the cross. More here.

  7. What I have seen in parents who see their kids as sinners is that they don’t teach self-control. The logic seems to be that if the kids are inherently depraved, then have no power to resist. It is up to the parents to control them. The problem is that when the parent takes on all the responsibility to keep their children from sin, the kids don’t learn how to behave. It’s all about fear of punishment. So, what they learn is how to avoid getting caught. That’s why such parents end up with terrible children; they’ve unwittingly raised them to be that way.

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