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.
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.
Original sin conveys a message of “sin with us,” but the gospel proclaims a better message of “God with us.”
Let us abandoned 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.