Objections to Original Sin – Innocent Babies and That’s Not Fair

 

In the last few posts, we’ve continued working through a series on 1 Corinthians 15, which I find to be one of the more challenging chapters in Scripture, and have arrived at the passages on the Doctrine of Original Sin.  We’ve since turned our attention towards common objections of this foundational teaching from Scripture, beginning first with the Objection of Eve. Here we’ll explore two more objections that are frequently brought up, What about innocent babies and That’s Not Fair.

Objection #2 – Doesn’t this concept of original sin condemn all mankind, even “innocent” babies?

Answer – The doctrine of original sin does condemn all mankind, even babies.  Scripture knows no such thing as the doctrine of accountability, which loosely states that children reach an “age of accountability” around 12-13 years of age (which similarly is the age for the Jewish Bar mitzvah).  Additionally, Scripture knows nothing of a state of innocence  based on age.

If this teaching were true, and if original sin was not inherited even by babies, then there wouldn’t be any death among those under a certain age.  In other words, the Scriptural teaching “in Adam all die” would be wrong, and it’s not.  Death touches us all, even those in the womb, and it is the direct product of original sin upon the world in which we live.  The wages of sin is death and we must all pay, regardless of age.

As a side note, the effects of original sin, namely guilt and pollution, applied to “innocent babies” does not necessarily mean that should infants or young children die that they are automatically condemned to hell.  We must allow room in our thinking for the truth that the Judge of all the earth will do what’s right.  Admittedly, this is a difficult subject deserving of its own post, but in the meantime, I would lean towards agreeing with Charles Spurgeon’s understanding of infants who die, which you can read for yourself here: Infant Salvation

Objection 3 – Isn’t it unfair that God would punish us as a result of another person’s sin?

Answer – This is perhaps the strongest emotional argument against the doctrine of original sin, particularly in light of objection 2.  However, calling God’s own character, namely His holy justice, into question is a wrong starting point.  We must be like Job and place our hands over our mouths and confess that not a day has gone by that we have not sinned on our own.

If the argument of fairness is allowed to stand, then it must also be allowed that it is unfair for Christ to have the sin of those who would believe imputed to Himself and likewise suffer the punishment that they deserved.  Additionally, it would be “unfair” that Christ’s righteousness should be imputed to all those “in Him” who did nothing to earn that.  This objection of equity cannot consistently stand, despite its emotion appeal.

The “That’s not fair” card was played repeatedly in the Old Testament, particularly in Ezekiel 18 which we will look at next time. Instead of stomping our feet and screaming that’s not fair, ought we not to be petitioning the Lord for Mercy.  Assuredly we do not want fairness.  Thankfully, both justice and mercy kiss at the cross of Jesus Christ.

An Objection to Original Sin – What about Eve?

 

In a recent post, we looked at the doctrine of original sin as defined by the Word of God through the inspired pen of the Apostle Paul in his first epistle to the Ekklesia at Corinth.  This doctrine, which asserts that “in Adam” all humanity has inherited the guilt and pollution from his original sin, are thereby born with a corrupt nature, and under the wrath and condemnation of Almighty God, has been criticized, even denied, throughout church history.

The denial of original sin is sometimes referred to as Pelaginism, after Pelagius (360-418 A.D.), though it does not find it’s origin here.  Rather it can be seen in the early Gnostic heresies that the Apostles so frequently encountered and refuted.

Recently, the denial of original sin has resurfaced (though it’s never really gone away) through the publication of Adam and the Genome, where the authors Dennis Venema (genetics) and Scot McKnight (theology) systematically work to debunk the historicity of Adam and as a consequence the doctrine of original sin.

With this in mind, let’s begin our look at some of the more common objections to this foundational teaching with the appeal towards the priority of Eve.

Objection 1 – Eve sinned first, why then is it those “in Adam” who share in his guilt and pollution?

Answer – Yes, it is true that Eve sinned by eating of the forbidden tree first.  Though perhaps a cogent argument could be made that Adam sinned first by not protecting the garden from serpent and defending Eve from his wiles.  However, there is a needed point of clarification.  Adam serves over mankind in a dual capacity, first as the natural progenitor of the human race and second as all humanity’s federal representative.  Natural (seminal) headship and federal headship.

In his seed, all those who descend from him are tainted with the corruption that he incurred.  The concept of seminal offspring developed so strongly in the Old Testament traces mankind back to Adam, not Eve.  (See the genealogies of Genesis, 1 Chronicles, and Luke).  In other words, sin has a genealogical connection and this is tied directly to the father.  An important point for later.  When the source point of a stream is polluted, all of the waters downstream are impacted as well.  So it is with the influence of sin on the human race.  But there is more.

As to his representation – in politics, particularly in the United States, we understand the role of a representative, one who is chosen to speak or act on behalf of others.  Generally speaking this is the concept of Adam’s federal representation.  Adam was the representative of the human race, thereby when he sinned and fell, all those whom he represented fell also.  While we did not participate in the sin that he committed, we do share in the guilt and punishment.

Admittedly, and this is important, the Bible does not clearly outline the steps for the transmission of sin, so there is room for some debate between natural and federal headship, though here I am asserting the necessity of both.  But we do know from the passages in 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 5, that in some sense sin is traced to Adam and that all mankind are thereby corrupted from sin’s pollution and guilty, deserving of God’s righteous judgment.

When we look at Union with Christ in a subsequent post, I hope to show why BOTH  of Adam’s headships are necessary and how there is a similar dual relationship in Christ as well.

 

Retractions and Edits

 

One of interesting components of online writing, particularly in blog form is the ability to see, review, and otherwise critique previous writings.  In a very real sense, blogging allows for a review of how one’s writing has developed, how thought processes have changed, and how one’s theology has matured (hopefully).

This same observation was made by many of the more profound writers in Church History, for example Augustine.  After the publication of numerous writings, Augustine realized that some of his previous thoughts were in need of revision and editing.  I suppose the mark of a good writer, whether theological or not, is the ability to recognize areas where they have been lacking, inaccurate, or otherwise wrong and make public those changes.

In an online forum like this, the easy thing to do would be to simply delete or make unnoticeable edits to blogs and go on with future writing projects.  But this doesn’t seem helpful.  In my own case, I’ve recently reviewed the large majority of the over 600 posts I’ve written here in an effort to whittle down what I view as the most helpful posts.  In doing so, I’ve found many things that I wish I had expressed differently, not written at all, or those writings that are in need of major clarification and revision.

I’ve decided that as I encounter those posts, I will make appropriate edits, identifying them within the text, and republish them under the blog category “Retractions and Edits”.

In my humble opinion, it is the height of arrogance to allow known errors to go unrecognized or to assume infallibility.  Likewise, it is the height of arrogance to think that one has “already arrived” as the Apostle Paul states so clearly (Phil. 3:12).  Not that our doctrine or views on Scripture should be blown like a reed in the wind, but we should hold to them in such away that the Spirit of God through the Word of God may refine and reform them to be more in accordance with what God has revealed.

Hopefully this will be beneficial and edifying to both those who follow this blog and those who, like many, stumble upon it through various search engines.

Grace and Peace,

John

Ephesians 4:15 "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ"