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Discussion Forum : Scriptures and Doctrine : The "Sin Nature"

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Joined: 2010/11/7
Posts: 193


Here's another from the same article on that recurring passage:

"For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. - Rom. 5:19

In the first place, if we are going to be consistent then we must say that if Adam MADE ALL men sinners then Jesus MADE ALL men righteous. You cannot change your interpretation between two identical phrases in the same verse. The Universalists use the doctrine of original sin to prove that all men are going to heaven. If you believe in original sin then you have no grounds on which to argue with them - they win the debate. The word used here is not ALL, but MANY. This verse is speaking of the INFLUENCE of Adam - not what he physically passed to his descendents. We are not trying to lessen the significance of Adam's sin because it surely did bring sin into the world. It was the beginning of every heartache and misery that has been experienced by men since that day, not to mention all the death. However, the doctrine of original sin is a terrible distortion and misrepresentation of what really happened.

For example, we could say that Hugh Hefner of Playboy magazine has made many men immoral, adulterers, and perverts. That is certainly true, but we don't think of the sins of Hugh Hefner being imputed to others! That would be a ridiculous twist of reason! We could say that all the devil-possessed rock musicians of our day have ruined multitudes of people with their music and their message of drugs and rebellion. That would be true, but we would not think of them being ruined in the sense that the rock singers' sins were imputed to them by some physical means. Again, we might see a family where the father was a drunkard and all his sons were drunkards, too. We would say that father made drunkards out of his boys with his drinking, and that would be true. But you would never think that the father somehow passed that to his children physically. We understand that it was his INFLUENCE that caused his boys to be drunkards also. We have sense enough to understand these things correctly but when it comes to the Word of God we put a twist on it that doesn't fit with reason, or with the rest of the Scripture.

Along that same line of reasoning, we all have known wicked fathers who had sons who were righteous. The Bible is also full of examples like that. Likewise, we have seen righteous men who have had wicked sons. It is the INFLUENCE - NOT THE GENES! It is whether or not they submit their heart to God and his law or rebel against it. EVERY person must choose for themselves - and they DO!"

Again, not written by me. But that is what I believe about it.

Mike Wright

 2010/11/8 23:56Profile


Sorry guys, just getting back online to SI. I have been researching around the web for info on "sin nature". By the way, great questions and answers that you have. I am glad we are researching this.

While googling, I came upon some other brethren that are engaged in a similar discussion. I found many discussions like this, but this particular one was fascinating.

The author of this thread likens "sin nature" to "phlogiston". What??? Haha, that's what I said. But have a read.

Here is the text and to follow the conversation, the link is at the bottom. Very, very intersting.

Sin Nature - the phlogiston of Christian Theology?


Scientists once thought there was a physical substance called phlogiston that was released when things burned. It was interesting stuff because it had no color, odor, taste, or weight. In other words, it was undetectable. They speculated that the ash was the essence of wood after the phlogiston escaped. Then they discovered that combustion is a chemical process, and discarded the false notion of phlogiston as not corresponding to anything in the real world.

Likewise, scientists once thought there was a physical substance called the ether that was required to carry light waves. They could not conceive how light could travel through a vacuum. They thought that all waves, like sound waves in the air or waves in the water, needed a medium to undulate. The Michelson-Morley experiment showed that it, like the phlogiston before it, was undetectable. Apparently, scientists had had enough with "undetectable substances", and so they discarded the false notion of the ether too.

In both of these cases, science advanced by recognizing that the physical substances postulated in their theories did not correspond to anything in the real world. Attempts to formulate theories based on such false notions of reality were doomed to failure.

The same is true for the Christian understanding of the world that God created.

I think the idea of the "sin nature" is the theological equivalent of phlogiston and ether.

It does not correspond to anything in the real world addressed in Scripture.

It seems that theologians have confused the very real and biblical teaching about the flesh with a theological construct called the "sin nature." Most of them speak as if it is some sort of physical contagion transmitted to the next generation only by the father, an idea they use to "explain" why Christ had to be born of a virgin.

Clarification of this issue brings a lot of light to our study of the Bible. For example, most people have been taught that we sin "because we have a sin nature." But that immediately raises the question of why Adam and Eve sinned, since they were created without a "sin nature." Once the "sin nature" is exposed as a false notion, we can easily see the elegant solution to this ancient conundrum. Adam and Eve were created as fleshly creatures, just like you and me. And what does the flesh do when it is not subject to the guidance of God's Spirit?


It can't help it. How could it? It doesn't know what the mind of the Spirit is! How can it know the will of God? All it knows is its own desires and lusts. The flesh by itself can not please God. It is like a horse without a rider, run wild.

But remember, the flesh is not sinful by nature. True, it is very weak, and prone to sin, but we know it can not be intrinsically sinful because the Word (Christ) became flesh and dwelt amongst us, yet without sin. And again, we have proof from Genesis that the flesh is not intrinsically sinful. Adam and Eve were created as fleshly creatures, but had no sin until they disobeyed God.

So how did Adam and Eve sin without having a sin nature?

Simple! They were fleshly creatures, and the story makes it abundantly clear they were not in conscious communion with God when they sinned! And so, they acted as fleshly creatures not guided by God, and sinned. (Note how this relates to the challenges of our daily walk!) This is further confirmed by the description of what led up to their sin:

Genesis 3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat

Sounds like a very fleshly temptation! Compare this with the classic sin passage:

1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (make one wise?), is not of the Father, but is of the world.

So there it is. That's the basic idea I was hoping to share in this post. I think it leads to a magnificent harmony between Scripture and Reality that actually makes sense. And it is extremely satisfying to have a full understanding of Scripture without a mystical undetectable substance that has no "color, odor, taste, or weight."

There is much more to say on this matter, but I will wait for a response to what has been written. I am curious if these ideas make sense to other folks, and if not, why not.

I look forward to your comments.


 2010/11/8 23:57

Joined: 2007/6/26
Posts: 2094
Whittier CA USA


Just as Adam sinned and was condemned as a result of his own sin, likewise all men were condemned as a result of their own sins.

"For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous."(Rom.5:19)

I don't see how we can get away from the clear, plain reading and meaning of that verse. It clearly states that through Adam's sin we were all made guilty sinners.

I understand your point about man being accountable for his own sin and not his parents sin, and I agree. That is why I cannot see any other way of reconciling that truth with the Romans 5 passages other than the way I explained it.


 2010/11/9 0:05Profile



The causative effect of Adam ("made sinners") makes sense if understood as a pattern/example/influence of sin initiated by Adam, rather than strict deterministic causation (involuntary).

Likewise the causative effect of Christ ("made righteous") makes sense if understood as a pattern/example/influence of righteousness initiated by Jesus, rather than strict deterministic causation (involuntary).

Romans 5:19
The way Adam's selfishness figuratively made men sinners (by following his example v12) is the same way Jesus' righteous love will make men saints (by following his example).

I don't think there is anything in that passage to suggest foreknowledge is the key to interpret it. Though I understand how it would make the phrase "made sinners" seem less confusing.

Here is a look at verse twelve which establishes a non-foreknowledge way to interpret Rom 5:19.

I don't think sin and death actually 'move' in a locational sense. Therefore when it says death entered the world and spread all over, it is not as if a moving object called death actually traveled from outer-space into the world (entered the world) - and it is not as if, in a literal sense, an object moved all over the globe (passed upon all men). Rather, I take this language to represent the pattern, example, and influence of sin which resulted in a pattern of condemnation.

The Pattern/Example/Influence of Sin:
1) This pattern/example/influence was initiated by Adam.
As it is written, "sin came into the world through one man"

2) This pattern/example/influence was repeated, followed, and perpetuated by everyone else.
As it is written, "all sinned"

The Resulting Pattern of Death:
1) The result of Adam initiating the pattern/example/influence of sin was his own condemnation.
As it is written, "and death through sin"

2) The result of everyone repeating/following/perpetuating the pattern/example/influence of sin was their own condemnation.
As it is written, "death spread to all men because all sinned"

I put those in the wrong order to show the parallel. I'll restate it in the order in which it appears in the Bible.

Just as the pattern/example/influence of sin was initiated by Adam, and the result was his own condemnation, likewise everyone else received their own condemnation because this pattern/example/influence of sin was repeated/followed/perpetuated by everyone else.

Here is another non-Augustinian commentary on verse 19,


“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners . . . ”

Through Adam’s leading, influence, and example, men have voluntary chosen to become sinners of their own free will. Adam has provided the circumstances of temptation and the occasions to sin through his leading, influence, and example, though each man is the cause of his own sin, and is therefore accountable for his sin, and for his sin only.

One man can wrongly influence another man, who wrongly influences another man, who wrongly influences another man, who wrongly influences another man, and on and on it goes. But if we were to trace all of these influences back as far as we can go, we would terminate upon Adam, who started this chain reaction, in the garden. So Adam has made many to sin by his leading, influence, and example.

It can also be argued that because of Adam’s fall, all of his descendants inherit physical depravity which inclines them, influences them, and tempts them to sin, and in this way does Adam “make” us sinners, though we voluntarily choose to obey those inclinations, influences, and temptations by our own free will.

Many Old Testament Kings “made Israel to sin” (1 Kings 14:16; 15:26, 30, 34; 16:13, 26; 21:22; 22:52; 2 Kings 3:3; 10:29, 31; 13:2; 14:24; 15:9, 18, 24, 28; 21:11, 16; 23:15); that is, through their leading, influence, and example they made Israel to sin.

Foreign women caused King Solomon to sin (Nehemiah 13:26); that is, through their leading, influence, and example, Solomon decided to sin. By setting up high places of Baal, men caused Judah to sin (Jeremiah 32:35); that is, they sinned because of this leading, influence, and example. Israel had leaders who would “lead [them]” and “caused [them] to err” (Isaiah 3:12) by their leading, influence, and example. Through a person’s leading, influence, and example, a little child can be caused to sin (Matthew 18:6; Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2). The leading, influence, and example of a Christian can even cause a weaker brother to stumble (1 Corinthians 8:9).

These are all cases in which someone can be “made” or “caused” to sin through someone else’s leading, influence, and example. Likewise, because of Adam’s disobedience, “many were made sinners;” that is, through his leading, influence, and example, men voluntarily choose of their own free will to sin and to be sinners, and thus become spiritually dead and receive eternal condemnation.

“ . . . so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”

Christ makes men righteous in their standing and in their doing, so that those who are converted are accounted righteous by His blood, and those who are converted are actually righteous by following His example. Christ brings pardon of previous sins and purification of present sins, forgiveness to the past and freedom to the present.

Through Christ’s obedience in shedding His blood on a cross, we are given the possibility of being accounted righteous (forgiven) through faith. We can be forgiven (accounted righteous) by faith in His blood.

“And therefore it [faith] was imputed [accounted] to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed [accounted] to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed [accounted], if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for [on behalf of] our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:22-25).

“Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted [imputed] to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, in thee shall all nations be blessed” (Galatians 3:6-8).

Through Christ’s obedient life we are given an example to live righteous by following Him. Christ will “lead” us “in the way of righteousness” (Proverbs 8:20). “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15). “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). “For the grace of God that brings salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:11-12). And we are to follow the example of brethren who are followers of Christ’s example (1 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 3:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:9).

Being righteous is not only a standing, but is also a moral character in relation to deeds: “Obedience unto righteousness” (Romans 6:16). “Yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness” (Romans 6:19). “If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him” (1 John 2:29). “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous” (1 John 3:7). “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God” (1 John 3:10).

The purpose of the atonement was to cleanse sinners from all their sin, to pardon their past and to purify their present (Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:24). Both imputed righteousness (forgiveness) and imparted righteousness (repentance unto obedience) are by faith in Christ, and not by outward works (Acts 26:18; Romans 3:28; 1 John 3:3).

Here is another similar commentary on the same verse,

In understanding Ro. 5:12-19, we must distinguish between "occasion" and "cause." By occasion we mean an opportunity or "a condition of affairs that brings something about; ...especially, the immediate inciting circumstances as distinguished from the real or fundamental cause." By cause we mean that event or force which actually produces the results or the effect without any further action. Cause is therefore the reason for the action, occasion the opportunity or circumstances. This passage speaks of two individuals who did something to or for the human race - Adam and the Lord Jesus. We have a direct parallelism drawn, extending to the same group of mankind, or, most evidently, to the whole of mankind. The article "the" inserted before "many" in verses 15 and 19, adds emphasis and affirms that the same group is referred to in both cases. In verse 18 we have "all men" appearing in each parallelism. By what linguistic authority could we say that the terms, "the many" and "all men," when appearing on the Adamic side of the parallelism refer to the whole of mankind, while the same terms appearing on the Christ side refer only to those who are actually saved?

Since, obviously, the terms, "the many" and "all men," appearing on each side of the parallelism, refer to the same mass of mankind, we are entitled to say that if Adam was the cause of the downfall and condemnation of all, then Christ is the cause of the salvation of "all men unto the justification of life." If free will and moral agency is eliminated on one side, it is also eliminated on the other. But if we view the two great leaders of the human race as providing occasions or circumstances for moral action, each to the whole mass of mankind without exception, then we may say that Adam's sin strongly influenced every member of the human race to follow in his footsteps and choose for himself the life of sinful indulgence, while the Lord Jesus by His life and sacrificial death likewise provided something for each member of the human race to act upon. Just as Adam permeated the atmosphere with wrongful indulgence to draw all men towards sin, so the Lord Jesus permeated the atmosphere with love and mercy to draw all men toward holiness. The passage, then, describes the occasion of sin and the occasion of salvation as being co-extensive, committing to each moral being the cause and the responsibility for his own response to these influences. In this view, the passage becomes a blessed revelation of the glories of our Lord and Saviour, unencumbered by perplexity.

C. G. Finney remarked on Ro. 5:12-19 as follows: "The Bible once, and only once, incidentally intimates that Adam's first sin has in some way been the occasion, not the necessary physical cause, of all the sins of men. It neither says nor intimates anything in relation to the manner in which Adam's sin has occasioned this result. It only incidentally recognizes the fact, and then leaves it, just as if the quo modo was too obvious to need explanation."

We are considerably relieved, therefore, to find the lack of Biblical evidence for the dogma, that the guilt of Adam's sin is imputed to all his posterity, and to conclude that "the Judge of all the earth" will hold each moral being accountable only for his own sins. While the sin of Adam and its consequences provide a strong occasion, nevertheless each moral being is the cause or author of his own guilt. The guilt of all past sins must be forgiven if the objective of reconciliation is to be achieved.

 2010/11/9 1:05

Joined: 2007/6/26
Posts: 2094
Whittier CA USA



Adam was created mortal. Adam died because he did not have access to the tree of life.

Mortality is not a curse. Jesus became a mortal man just like we are mortal. Jesus did not have access to the tree of life just we don't have access. Just as Jesus was not being punished for his ancestor's sin, neither are we. Just as it was not a punishment for Jesus to be mortal, neither is our mortality a punishment

Romans 6:23 clearly declares that the wages/penalty/punishment for sin is death. And Romans 5:12, the verse we just looked at also declares this truth. So I'm curious to know how you interpret those verses.


 2010/11/9 1:07Profile

Joined: 2007/6/26
Posts: 2094
Whittier CA USA


The second commentary you quote seems to give two possible interpretations of Romans 5:12-19 regarding Adam's sin and our relation to it. Out of those two possibilities this is the one I agree with, which Finney also believed:

It can also be argued that because of Adam’s fall, all of his descendants inherit physical depravity which inclines them, influences them, and tempts them to sin, and in this way does Adam “make” us sinners, though we voluntarily choose to obey those inclinations, influences, and temptations by our own free will.

So I may not agree with Finney's views regarding the issue of "imputed guilt" but I do lean toward his view of human depravity or corruption.

BTW could you give the names of the authors of those commentaries? Just curious to see if I know of any of them.


 2010/11/9 1:42Profile



Both Romans 5:21 and 6:23 contrast "death" with "eternal life". I think Paul was talking about eternal death, judgment, condemnation.

I believe the second death, eternal punishment, not physical death or annihilationism, is the true penalty of sin. The physical death penalty is just a shadow of what sinners deserve.

If Jesus saves us from the punishment for our sins, and we still physically die, then the true punishment for sin must not be physical death.

I agree with Finney's view on eternal punishment: that the severity of punishment is determined by the value of the law and that the value of God's law is immeasurable.

 2010/11/9 9:23


The second commentary you quote seems to give two possible interpretations of Romans 5:12-19 regarding Adam's sin and our relation to it. Out of those two possibilities this is the one I agree with, which Finney also believed:

It can also be argued that because of Adam’s fall, all of his descendants inherit physical depravity which inclines them, influences them, and tempts them to sin, and in this way does Adam “make” us sinners, though we voluntarily choose to obey those inclinations, influences, and temptations by our own free will.

So I may not agree with Finney's views regarding the issue of "imputed guilt" but I do lean toward his view of human depravity or corruption.

Winkie Pratney also mentions that view in his "Me or Adam" tract.

Jesse Morrell, who wrote the second set of comments I quoted on Romans 5, also proves that Jesus Christ was a descendant of Adam (physically that is).

I mention this because I believe it is very important to understand that Jesus was tempted in all the ways we are tempted. If Adam's descendants inherit a physical (not moral) depravity which is a source of temptation, yet Jesus did not experience this same burden, then the whole section in Hebrews about him being made like us, tempted like us, and able to fully relate to us, becomes meaningless.

I'm not against the idea of inherited physical depravity being a source of temptation as long as we don't say 1) Jesus didn't have the same burden of temptation it causes for us, and 2) something we inherited from Adam unavoidably forces us to sin so that we have an excuse, something to blame sin on.

BTW could you give the names of the authors of those commentaries? Just curious to see if I know of any of them.

The first set of comments on verse 12 were my own notes which I had previously written to someone else.

The second was Jesse Morrell:

The third quote was from Gordon C. Olson (not to be confused with "C. Gordon Olson"):

 2010/11/9 9:46

Joined: 2010/9/19
Posts: 134


UB said

I understand the "sin nature", "flesh", "old man" to all refer to the same thing.

I agree......... and it the thorn in the flesh that is the messenger of satan

Sin is not just a verb but is a noun that adheres unto the law of the seed and brings forth a verb in its image

Evil became sin and it lives in all of humankind....... then someone somewhere called it a "sin nature" that is not mentioned in the Bible but nevertheless is very true



 2010/11/9 9:56Profile

Joined: 2006/8/10
Posts: 555


Jesse Morrell is an admitted Pelagianist. Here is an explanation of Pelagianism from Theopedia:

Pelagianism views humanity as basically good and morally unaffected by the Fall. It denies the imputation of Adam's sin, original sin, total depravity, and substitutionary atonement. It simultaneously views man as fundamentally good and in possession of libertarian free will. With regards to salvation, it teaches that man has the ability in and of himself (apart from divine aid) to obey God and earn eternal salvation. Pelagianism is overwhelmingly incompatible with the Bible and was historically opposed by Augustine (354-430), Bishop of Hippo, leading to its condemnation as a heresy at Council of Carthage in 418 A.D. These condemnations were summarily ratified at the Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431).

Nearly all Pelagianists greatly admire fellow Pelagianist Charles Finney. Most people can admire Finney for preaching repentance and holiness but when it comes to the atonement, Christ being our substitutionary sacrifice, and the imputed righteousness of the believer, Finney's theology was gravely in error. Finney did not believe that Christ died and paid for our sins. Rather, he taught that God poured out His wrath on His Son in order to show us the seriousness of sin. If you want to read up on Finney and all of his heresies, go here:

Question to naatmi: Are you Jesse Morrell? If not, you can simply say: Not Me

 2010/11/9 10:22Profile

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