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Born neutral or born in sin?

I was recently discussing original sin with some people who disagreed with it.  It seemed to them something like the doctrine that 'God hates babies'.  Fumbling around for what to say, I eventually settled on this.

If you buy into the 'born neutral' position, you're living in a world in which performance is everything.  God's waiting with a clip-board to assess how you develop the 'blank slate' He's given you.

If you go for the 'born in sin' position, you're living in a world in which God's grace to sinners is everything.  It's all about His forgiveness, not our good behaviour.

The bible says "God has bound all people over to disobedience so that He may have mercy on them all." (Romans 11:32) Original sin is actually all about the mercy of God.

Initially original sin may sound like the harsh option.  Actually the 'born neutral' position is the really harsh doctrine.  Especially once you become aware of your own sin.

If I've failed to convince you that 'original sin' is what the bible teaches, can I at least convince you that ongoing sin is true in your own life?  And if you realize that ongoing sin is a problem for you, let me ask you which world you'd rather live in - the world of performance or the world of grace?


0 thoughts on “Born neutral or born in sin?

  1. pgjackson

    I have a feeling that the underlying view of humanity in the 'born neutral' version is lacking too. And not really very Trinitarian. Is my personal identity constituted by my (covenant) relations or is it something simply to do with me 'considered by myself'? I'm born in sin because I'm born in Adam, which isn't so strange if being a human person is always being a person-in-covenant.

    Not sure that's necessarily the first port of call in talking it through with someone though, - your comments in this post are probably more immediately helpful for that sort of scenario. But from a more long range view, perhaps if we generally did our anthropology better than people might not have so many instinctive issues with original sin and related doctrines.

  2. Heather

    I've wondered if the offense to those who don't believe in "original sin" is that it lowers every one of us to the level of Hitler or Nero or Stalin or some other undeniably evil figure.

    Human pride likes to say "I may not be perfect, but NO WAY could I ever be like that!"
    But, If I'm understanding Jesus' teachings correctly (and God's words to Samuel--and a host of other passages), He made it pretty clear that our standard of right and wrong is based on externals--but He weights our hearts.
    Rotten hearts bring forth rotten thoughts and rotten deeds. Period.

    Attitude leads to action and "good" actions that attempt to hide the dirty interior is simply hypocrisy. God can't even count our "goodness" as good unless our works are covered in Christ's blood.

    Anyway. I do wonder if the resistance to the concepts of "original sin" and "total depravity" is that we often fail to realize that regardless of how it looks from the outside, the playing field is pretty much level in that we all are, by default, equally offensive to God's very nature.

  3. david

    Good point, Heather, I think that the levelling aspect of the doctrine is one of the ostensible reasons why people find it offensive. One odd thing though, is that I don't think that it is the levelling aspect per se which people are repelled by. What I mean, is that the biological determinism of pop-Darwinianism has it that all our so-called altruistic motives are in fact crude distortions of the need to pass on our genes one way or another; love isn't just reduced to sex, it's reduced to a meme designed for the sole purpose of replicating the human organism etc. Also, in Freudian psychoanalysis, the idea has entered popular culture that all our better motivations have distinctly sexual origins, channelled through repression. Nothing "good" is what it seems to be; in fact, the more good, the more suspicious we should be of it.
    So, my point is that the idea of original sin as a great leveller can't be the only thing that people find offensive about it, because we already have the idea (in various forms) floating through culture anyway. if people have no problem thinking that they are descended from apes, and that all their deepest feelings spin on the axis of an Oedipal complex, they should have no difficulty accepting original sin. Personally, I think that the problem is that people don't like who is saying it or why.

  4. Heather


    I see what you mean. And yes, there are plenty of people who think it is fine to be "equal" as descendants of pond slime. Or those who feel it is desirable that all citizens be "equally" controlled under oppressive socialistic regimes. Anymore, the "proper" way to speak with others is to acknowledge that their opinion is "equally" valid, regardless of how severely God's word disagrees.

    I believe you nailed the core problem as being that of a denial of accountability.

  5. Glen

    Good comments!

    Yes Pete, corporate, covenant identity is at the heart of this.

    Heather - the level playing field is definitely jarring!

    And thanks David for that insight about determinism. Hadn't thought about it in connection with original sin.

  6. Gad

    Are you absolutely nuts? If Grace is nothing but a big eraser, then what value is there to following GOD?

    Is there a commitment to your wife; a commitment of your wife to you? Is there expectations? Roles?

    If you and your wife have roles... why not with GOD?

    Did your dad have rules in his house? You mom? And what happened when you broke those rules.......

    Are you saying that GOD has no rules and we can just "love him and do as we please?"

    Romans clearly says that Adam brought sin into the world... But where does it say that all people filled with sin from birth. Are you onw of those who believes that sex, even in the sanctity of a monogamous marriage is sin? If not, where did the sin of the infant come from? Genetics? Is there now a "sin" chromasome?

    Sorry for the correction ( oaky, not really. It is my job as a believer!!!!) but I beg of you to NOT just follow mainstream thinking blindly. Even the Seminaries throughout the nation disagree on this point... I Challenge you to think on your own. Study and actually read the scripture.

    BTW... Can you now define sin using only scripture?

  7. Glen

    Hi Gad,
    The gospel is this:

    We are born into Adam and share in his sin, guilt and condemnation apart from any works of our own. Our works only manifest what we are.

    But God "binds all men over to disobedience" not for the sake of judgement but "so that He might have mercy on them all" (Rom 11:32). We are born again into Christ by the Spirit and so, in union with Him, we share in His righteousness, vindication and salvation. Any works we now do are manifestations of our new identity.

    Grace is not an eraser - He is a Person. A Person to Whom we are united. And in fellowship with Him we are liberated to live out whatever roles God has for us - child of God, husband/wife, parent/child, etc, etc. This is not the abolition of our God-given duties but their proper establishment.

    Before our union with Christ we could only ever produce works of the flesh (however religious they may appear). We could only serve God for our own benefit - to buy Him off. But in Christ we produce the fruit of the Spirit - His life worked through us. But this is the fruit of our gracious union with Christ that occurs by faith apart from works or merit on our behalf whatsoever.

    I'd be interested to know how you explain the gospel yourself?

    in Jesus,


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