Friday, March 6, 2009
The Problems with the Doctrine of "Sin Nature."
Many centuries ago, a man named Augustine coined a phrase called "sin nature," which is not one place in Scripture. Sin nature was two words that were used to explain why man sins and falls short of the glory of God. The ideology was based on two passages of Scripture. One is Romans 5 and the other is Psalm 51 and of course, the passages that clearly state that all sin and fall short of the glory of God. The premise was that because Adam sinned, we inherited a sin nature so that we were inclined to sin. Many have explained that this was a dead spirit or an evil wicked heart inherited in Adam.
The problem is that this teaching gave man an excuse. This did not take into account the rest of the book of Romans because Romans 1 is also clear that man has no excuse. Romans 2:14 also would suggest that there are some that walk in the Law without having the Law with a clear conscience.
When we began to preach out on the streets, we began to note a phenomenon where many so called Christians were deceived into believing that they couldn't help but sin in flagrantly vile ways but thank God Jesus died for their sins. I have placed one of our youtubes in front of the abortion clinic in New Orleans to demonstrate this problem. This woman, like thousands of others, thinks she can ask for forgiveness at the end of the day. Homosexuals, in particular, constantly proclaim that they were "born sinners." This caused us to begin investigating these teachings.
People sincerely believe that God understands our plight and will excuse them on the day of judgment because they humbly admit how weak they are in their sin nature even after being saved. I know God fearing Christians that honestly believe that admitting that they sin every day is the right way to be as it is a profession of humility. That right there should throw up red flags. (1 John 3) Unfortunately, people like to sin because there is pleasure in it for a season. They don't like the message that says to "Go and sin no more". They want to believe that God's love, in part, has a sympathy toward sin. Nothing could be further from truth.
Let's think about this logically. We are created beings. Right? This means sin nature is a part of our created being especially since we can't help it according to this doctrine. God knows there is the possibility of sin when he created us. God isn't stupid. He knew very well that Adam and Eve could disobey the one law He had going and eat from this very beautiful advantageous tree. And please recall that they supposedly chose to disobey this law without a sin nature.
God recognizes that He is slain from the foundation of the world. This is important because God knows how much it will cost Him if Adam and Eve do disobey. So God in His infinite wisdom builds within His creation a computer software virus called "sin nature." Now whenever this first created man rebels, the switch on the sin nature program goes into effect so that now all the rest of his offspring will be born with a sin nature doing the heinous things that God hates per God's design so that He must cast everyone into hell's fire and hate them. I hope this is sinking in because this was what got to me to help me see past all the teaching I had ever gotten on this topic. I fought this tooth and nail because I was so conditioned to believe that we are born sinning.
I began to ask myself, "Are there examples in Scripture of people that lived righteously before Jesus died on the cross?" (Romans 2:14) Many folks were declared by God as righteous before Jesus died on the cross. Zacharias and Elizabeth, for example in Luke 1:6. Daniel is another. Abel is another. Even Paul said that he was blameless under the Law. Phil 3. But then in Romans 7, he shares how impossible it was to keep the Law in his heart. The more Law he understood, the more that sin raged in him to where he was brought into captivity to it. He cries out to be delivered from this situation and then declares that he can, thank God, through Jesus Christ.
If you read Romans 5 closely, you will see that sin didn't pass to all men but death did because all had sinned. It is the body of this death that is the problem. We inherited death, not sin. Our problem is referred to as the "flesh." It is apparently the selfish self gratification of this flesh that we desire and are deceived into believing we have a right to.
As to Psalm 51, instead of David declaring that he was born sinning, could he be sharing some infidelity in his conception? Sex is not sin. So he can't be saying that the act of sex conceived him in sin. Is he suggesting that he was conceived in sin because he is human? Was Jesus then "conceived in sin" because he was also created exactly like we are with the "seed of David?" (Hebrews 2:16-18, 2 Timothy 2:8) The parameters had to be the same for the victory to be a real victory over this flesh. Jesus denied His flesh 100% of the time and chose to walk obedient to the Spirit. He gave up heaven to accomplish this.
In terms of child rearing, I had been told through child experts that children have a sin nature and that they should be spanked young to whack that sin nature out of them. Although I didn't follow that admonition, I was conditioned to expect sin from my children so that even when I could clearly see that there was the possibility of them being innocent, I expected the opposite. Without even realizing it, I was encouraging my children to sin. Then I noted that Corrie ten Boom's parents didn't spank their children. They are the most successful family that I can think of.
Fast forward to the 21st century, we are in a heap big trouble with a very Holy God. We have people sinning left and right because they falsely believe that they can't help it. They are supposed Christians on a fast track to hell. Can you imagine living your whole life as a worker of iniquity thinking all that sin is covered because you asked for forgiveness at the end of the day? Matthew 7:21 Actually, that would follow logically because you would have to accuse God for giving you a sin nature should the subject come up during this confrontation. The way I understood it was that I would be different than the heathen because I would plead the blood of Jesus. Unfortunately, that is not what the disciples were teaching. Colossians 1 speaks of being presented "unblameable and unreproveable." 1 John 3 clearly states that the way to tell the difference between someone who is saved and one who is not is whether they are sinning or not.
Some believe these sinning Christians are "false converts." I believe that if Adam could know God and sin then anyone can choose to sin and when we do, our relationship to God is severed until we repent. While we are sinning, should we die and not repent, we will not inherit the kingdom. It is a deception to think otherwise. (1 Cor. 6:9-11, Gal. 5) Paul made that distinction in 1 Cor. 5 by stating that we are not to eat with someone who calls themselves a brother and is sinning.
Some men of God proposed that sin was unacceptable to God but only in terms of repercussions here on this earth. One taught that initially your spirit gets saved but it just takes time for your soul to be saved meaning that you will continue to sin until you stop eventually. Regrettably, this still came at the problem from the foundational doctrine of sin nature. To battle sin nature, instead of seeking the power of God to be set free, (2 Timothy 3) he gave people tangible ways to stop sinning and in essence presented his own law. Those who did not uphold the "law" were shunned and ostracized. Some people, it would seem, were able to make a better show than others. Others, who were not so good at acting, did not fair as well.
Can we stop sinning? If you recognize that the problem is your flesh and a weakened spirit, you realize that there is real hope through the power of God and His divine nature imparted to us called grace. We are not born sinning but innocent and we have been given a conscience. Most children do not sin. They tell the truth. They love their mommies and daddies. Crying babies are not sinning as we have been led to believe. This is why Jesus said to become like a little child for of such is the kingdom of heaven. When we sin it is usually because we are between a rock and hard place and we CHOOSE to do the opposite of what our conscience is telling us is the right thing. We also have an adversary, the devil, who deceives us. The other reason is to give us some sort of physical pleasure. James says that we are enticed by our own lusts. Apparently, this happened to Adam and Eve as well. When we sin, the guilt is overwhelming especially as a child. I remember those things as though they happened yesterday. Once you give into sin, you become a child of wrath and are by nature then evil. It is a path of no end until it is broken by repentance and pardon through the blood of Jesus who creates a clean heart in us and then we are set free from sin by His power. It is the only way to get into heaven.
See if you understand the problem, then there is a solution to the problem and we can be set free by His power without any law. We can actually be around hard core sin and not feel the least bit enticed to do it. I have lived that.
There was so much fear built into this teaching because it is the law and with the law there must be consequences when the law is not upheld. So there was fear of reprisal and humiliation but there was also fear in being around anyone else that didn't uphold these standards. When parents would come to these folks disparagingly because of a rebellious son or daughter, these people would direct their attention to a place where they did not keep this law. For example, they might say, "Did you ever listen to rock music?" Unfortunately, in this day and time, rock music is virtually impossible to stay away from. Another question that might be asked was, "Does the mom ever feel the the husband is not living up to his spiritual responsibilities and let him know? If so, she encouraged the child to be rebellious." Thus the child's sin is now the mom's fault for not upholding the typical sinning husband. God is not going to excuse their rebellious son on the day of Judgement because the parents happened to be a particular way. That child's sin is not the fault of the parents, which explains why God does not distinguish which parents should be honored and which shouldn't.
People were encouraged to pull away completely from the world and cloister themselves for this reason and to shun any other believer that was not like they were mainly out of fear of being dragged into sin. Sin equals not keeping standards. So there was no multiplication of talents, which is a hell-bound offense. Matthew 25 Let that one sink in. Jesus said (not Vera) that if you don't multiply your talents, He's casting you into hell's fire. See, there was never a distinction made between who was literally sinning and not going to heaven anyway and someone who might not, for example, wear dresses. I don't think they even realized what they were doing at the time because I think they were genuinely trying to keep people from falling into sin because they knew sin offends God. It is only folks that have a weak faith in the power of God that need standards to keep from sinning. (Romans 14) If rock music causes you to sin, then by all means, cut it off and I as your brother or sister in Christ will uphold your conviction.
I am not suggesting that we shouldn't have standards or convictions. I know there are things that offend God and so I don't participate in them. I have a dress style that I believe is modest. But those things can't make me righteous and they won't save me. They may or may not indicate that I am holy. My holiness is dependent on what is going on on the inside which will translate in my actions. I have seen nuns that look so holy in their habits. But that dress does not make them holy. They could be practicing evil in their hearts in privacy and still be wearing this outfit.
I see that God has used many men even when they were wrong to keep people from offending Him. And even though I would argue that rock music isn't an excuse, I would agree that it can have a negative effect on one's spirit. I definitely do not like it for worship because it does not reflect the holiness of God.
Take this new movie called Fireproof. In it, the mom is writing this journal and she basically says concerning the pornography that this fellow is into that to have a fine marriage, he must give up the pornography. Do you see a problem with this advice to help this person to repent?
While it is true that he might have a restored relationship, his turnaround may or may not fix his marriage. What if the wife decided to run off with the rich doctor? Since things did not go as planned, does the husband go back to his porn addiction because the promised result didn't happen? What would stop him at that point? Let's face it. In a movie, we imagine that the wife would be remiss for rejecting Kirk Cameron. But in real life, she's not on camera and the sinning husband is Joe Nobody. What about that he is offending a Holy God and she is too and they're both going to bust hell wide open if they don't repent?
This was the kind of advice and focus that these folks promoted all the time. If you do this, God will do that. But what if our actions or repentance do not bring about the promised change especially because the promise would have to come through someone that is either sinning or somehow says yes or no to the promptings of the Holy Spirit? Where does that leave us with God? I tell you where it left me. I felt that somehow God must not have liked me as much as the other guy that got the blessing.
For the first time in my life, I feel that I am on the right track. Just by pulling that one teaching from the mix of teachings along with "once saved; always saved" and recognizing that God has done much to keep me from sinning and yet I chose to sin anyway entrapping myself in the devil's web by my own freewill choice, I know now how to help others out of their sin by grace through faith. I chose to sin. I chose to repent.
I found what I was looking for in Christ by His Spirit leading me in the way. I found genuine righteousness by grace through faith and this not of myself, it was the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast.