I am a Christian, not a Catholic, and have been very pleased with your website where you lay things out very clearly and precisely. Thank you for providing such a resource to the world. I especially enjoyed the article on the Epistle to Laodicea.
I was reading this sermon: http://www.lavistachurchofchrist.org/LVSermons/Catholicism.htm. I find it to be very well laid out and I agree with the vast majority of what you are saying here. The one thing that I had a question about, I wanted to ask you about and get your clarification if you have the time.
I believe that all men and women are born under the law of the flesh. This is referred to in Romans 7. By this "law" we are born into sin for as the Scriptures say, "...all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). But you mention Ezekiel 18:20 as evidence that sin is not inherited in children. Then later you use Romans 5:12-14 to say that "death comes to all because all have sinned".
I am looking for a clarification between these two verses. I believe that Ezekiel is referring to, say, my father steals something, then I am not guilty of his sin. But Romans 5:12-14 is referring to what I might call "original sin" that we all fall under and are also no longer innocent of with the advent of the Law of God given to Moses. Thus, when we are born, death is a part of us because of the sin of Adam. I must come to a place of reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ to no longer be guilty of that sin, as well as all disobedience to God that I might have committed in my life. This would be called the "law of the Spirit" from Romans 8. Of course, an infant or a child is innocent of this original sin cause they just don't know or understand it all. But as I grow up, my sinfulness becomes apparent as does Christ's grace. Thus, infant baptism is nothing because the child is innocent anyway. Let them get baptized when they are older and have a choice in the matter and it means something else entirely.
Am I on the same wavelength with what you are saying or could you clarify your viewpoint for me?
Thank you for your time. I greatly appreciate your teaching and willingness to post that teaching online.
We must first note that the Bible does not use the phrase "original sin." It is an accurate description of the first (that is, the original) sin committed by Adam and Eve recording in Genesis 3. But other than the fact that this sin was the first committed by humans, the Bible does not treat it different from all other sins. The nature of sin and how it operates is something that remains fixed.
Let's start with Romans 3:23, you state that this is proof that we are born into sin. "What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one." "Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit"; "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 ways; And the way of peace they have not known." "There is no fear of God before their eyes." Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:9-23). I quoted the larger context to demonstrate a point. Where does Paul state that sin comes passively upon a person because he is born into this world? It is clear in English and clearer in Greek that Paul charges mankind with committing sin.
The passage in Romans 5 also follows this same charge. People universally and actively commit sin. "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned -- For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come" (Romans 5:12-14). In verse 12, Paul did not state that death came to men because sin was inherited. He stated that death comes to all men because all men actively commit sin. Further, Paul states that death reigns even over those who had not sinned like Adam. In other words, though everyone has sinned, Paul is implying that everyone is not guilty of the same sin committed by Adam. If Adam's sin was inherited, then this statement could not be true. We would all be guilty of Adam's sin as well as our own.
I know you are struggling with this simple concept because it contradicts what is prevalently taught in the majority of the denominations. John states, "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness" (I John 3:4). Sin is the breaking of law. When we state that someone has sinned, we are stating that he has broken a law of God. This is why sin is not inheritable. You can't inherit breaking a law of God. You can personally break a law of God, and thus sin, but you cannot have sin because an ancestor of yours broke a law of God. It is "whoever commits" who is charged with sin. "The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself" (Ezekiel 18:20). Given that fundamental truth, then Seth was not guilty of his father's sin. He bore the responsibility of his own sins, even though he may not have committed the same sin as his father. That concept of individual responsibility does not throughout the history of mankind.
Now, let us look at Romans 7. "What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, "You shall not covet." But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin" (Romans 7:7-25).
Because sin is tied to the idea of law breaking, sin by definition cannot exist without law "because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression" (Romans 4:15). Thus Paul address the apparent problem that God's holy Law somehow led to sin in man. The question being addressed is: Did this come about because the law is in itself sinful? The answer is "no!" Law merely defines what is sin. But in order to define sin, people become aware of sinful things, even things they had not thought of previously.
Now, take special note of Romans 7:9, "I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died." Paul states that there was a period of time in his life when he was alive; that is, without sin. That period of time was when he lived without the law. But when do people live without the law? When Israel sinned against God by refusing to enter the land of Canaan to conquer it as God had said, God punished them by sending Israel into the wilderness to wander for 40 years until everyone over 20 years of age died off. What about those under 20? "Moreover your little ones and your children, who you say will be victims, who today have no knowledge of good and evil, they shall go in there; to them I will give it, and they shall possess it" (Deuteronomy 1:39). The children were not guilty of their parent's sin because they had no knowledge of good and evil. In other words, while they were innocent children they were not held accountable to the law -- they were not directly under the law. By the way, the phrase "knowledge of good and evil" is exactly the same in Hebrew as the description of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Children don't possess the critical characteristic that Adam and Eve gained when they ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Because they don't have this characteristic, God doesn't charge them with sin -- yet another point indicating that children are not born guilty of the sin of Adam.
As you go through Paul's dilemma concerning the conflict between what he desires to do and what he ends up doing, you do not find Paul stating that he inherited sin. The conflict arises from what he does and not what he received. Once again, we return to the main point: everyone commits sin. We have no excuse because we have all individually and personally broke commands of God. We cannot blame anyone but ourselves, which hurts because many of us strongly desire to do what is right, and yet we fail to meet our own expectations. Why does Paul say, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells"? It is because Paul is acutely aware of the sorry fact that he has sinned. And, he can't excuse himself because he knows what he ought to have done. His own spiritual mind, which wants to serve God, testifies against himself. It returns to the same point that allowed Paul to charge the Gentiles with sin even though they had no written law from God. "For not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them" (Romans 2:13-15). The Gentile's conscience, that is his spirit, testifies against him, just as Paul's spirit testifies against himself.
Because men personally and universally commit sin, they are unable to redeem themselves. Man has nothing to give God to buy back his soul. The one thing he eternally possesses, his soul, was sold to sin when he committed sin. That is why it took the sinless Son of God to offer himself up as payment for man's sin. Because Jesus had no sin (II Corinthians 5:21), he could offer a redemption price for mankind. By the way, this is yet another point indicating that sin is not inherited at birth. "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). Jesus was born into this world, and yet was sinless. How? Because he never broke his Father's law. It is amazing to watch the mental gymnastics people must go through when they believe Adam's sin is inherited and yet must explain how Jesus managed not to inherit it. Such complications are unnecessary when you accept the simple truth taught in the Bible. "Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father As well as the soul of the son is Mine; The soul who sins shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4). (Notice the active case in the last phrase once again. It is not the the soul who is born who dies but the soul who commits sin.)