The Bible Versus Original Sin

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It is written:

Ezekiel 18:20-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.

One of the most prominent and horrific religious doctrines in the world today is known as “original sin” (also commonly referred to as total hereditary depravity). It is the teaching that children are born as sinners into this world, having somehow inherited the actual sin of Adam and Eve. From this teaching have sprung up other false doctrines and practices (including infant “baptism,” Purgatory, and Limbo). Some through the Christian Age have taken this doctrine to terrible heights, claiming that there will be many children in Hell through no fault of their own (Augustine, early Catholicism, Calvinism, etc.).

This is especially tragic since the Bible is very clear that sin is not something which a person passes on: it is personal. What’s more, the Bible is very clear that children are conceived and brought forth as sinless creatures in this world.

Let’s notice some Bible texts which help us to see this clearly.

Deuteronomy 1:39-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.

The phrase “no knowledge of good and evil” is only referenced one other time in the Bible, and there it has reference to how Adam and Eve in their sinless state of purity were innocent before God (before they sinned). So, Moses refers to babies and small children as being in the same sinless and uncondemned state as Adam and Eve.

Children are sinless and not condemned before God.

Ezekiel 28:15-You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you.

This was spoken to the wicked king of Tyre. Notice that there was a timer when he was “perfect” from the day he was created, “till” iniquity was found in him. The word “perfect” is an interesting word used here.

“Tamim…perfect, blameless; sincerity; entire; whole; complete full…Tamim means complete in the sense of the entire or whole thing…Tamim may mean incontestable or free from objection…In several contexts the word has a wider background. When one is described by it, there is nothing in his outward activities or internal disposition that is odious to God.” (W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words, 176 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

Could language be any more plain?

Matthew 18:3-and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 18:14-Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

Matthew 19:14-But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

Would the Savior encourage us to become as little children if they were by nature wicked little sinners?

Would Jesus tell us that children are those who make up the kingdom of Heaven if they were totally depraved?

Could the Savior assure us that children will not perish if they were actually enemies of God from the moment of conception?

To ask these questions is to answer them.

How did the earliest Christians outside of the apostolic age view the matter?

They clearly believed in the innocence of infants and children.

“They are as infant children, in whose hearts no evil originates. Nor did they know what wickedness is, but always remained as children.” (Hermas, 150; 2.53)

“Who are they that have been saved and have received the inheritance? Those, doubtless, who believe God and who have continued in HIs love-as did Caleb of Jephuneh and Joshua of Nun-and innocent children, who have had no sense of evil.” (Irenaeus, 180; 1.502)

“Behold, Christ takes infants and teaches how all should be like them, if they ever wish to be greater. However, (the Gnostics point out that) the Creator, in contrast, let loose bears against children, in order to avenge His prophet Elisha, who had been mocked by them. This antithesis is impudent enough, since it throws together things so different as ‘infants’ and ‘children.’ The first is an age that is still innocent. The other is one already capable of discretion (able to mock, if not to blaspheme). Therefore, God is a just God.” (Tertullian, 207; 3.386)

“If you mean the (region in Hades of the) good, why should you judge the souls of infants and of virgins to be unworthy of such a resting place-those who by reason of their condition in life were pure and innocent?” (Tertullian, 210; 3.233)

In fact, the testimony of the early church regarding the sinlessness of infants is clearly attested in the burial inscriptions of the first several centuries.

As Ferguson notes:

“The earliest surviving Christian inscriptions come from the end of the second or beginning of the third century. They are overwhelmingly burial inscriptions. The thought of the innocence of children continued to be expressed with no reference to baptism: “Eusebius, an infant without sin by reason of his age, going to the place of the saints, rests in peace” (ILCV 2155).” (Everett Ferguson, Baptism In The Early Church: History, Theology, And Liturgy In The First Five Centuries, 7423 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)

The Bible opposes the notion of original sin.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

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