Sinful Nature

Charles J. Aebi

Dear Aebi: “Is man’s sinful nature the curse God placed on Adam after the fall?”

Last week a man with whom I was talking insisted that the answer to this question is “Yes,” and many folk think he is right. I did not, so he called me “an Arminian.” I tried to explain to him that I am not an Arminian; I am a Christian. I do not follow Arminius; I follow Christ. He would not tell me what he was, or even what his name was, but that does not matter. What does matter is that there are some errors in saying “Yes” to this question.

First, let us look at the curse. In what passage does it say God cursed Adam? My Bible says that God cursed the serpent (Gen. 3:14) and the ground (Gen. 3:17), but not Adam. A curse is a wish for evil on the person or thing cursed; it is the opposite of a blessing. If God wished evil on the serpent and the ground, it was certain to happen, unlike the curses of men. Although God did punish Adam and Eve for their sin, He did not curse them.

“Sinful nature” is not a Biblical term. The New International Version of the Bible (NIV), in passages like Romans 7:5,25 translates “sinful nature” when the word “flesh” [sarkos] is used by the apostle. “Flesh” is the physical side of man, who is composed of flesh and spirit, but flesh is not inherently sinful. Since the time of Augustine, however, many have taught that all people have a sinful nature and cannot help but sin. Believing this, the NIV translators have Romans 7:5 say, “When we were controlled by the sinful nature … .” The non-Biblical doctrine of “original sin” teaches that Adam was cursed with a sinful nature which all his descendants inherit when they are “born in sin” and, thereafter, must sin. That is a cop-out, like “The Devil made me do it.” Nobody makes us sin, nor do we inherit it. Sin is transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4). We are responsible for our own disobedience; we cannot blame our sins on Adam or anybody else. See Ezekiel 18:2-3,19-20.

Now if Adam had a sinful nature to pass on to us, God must have given it to him, either at the time of his creation or after he disobeyed and ate the forbidden fruit. So, shall we blame God? Certainly not. A careful study of Genesis will show that God created Adam and Eve sinless but with freedom of choice, which they exercised and chose to follow Satan’s rather than God’s rule. Except for their guilt feelings, they were no different after “the fall,” if we choose to use that term to describe their sin. When Cain sinned, he did the same thing in principle that his parents had done: he disobeyed God’s rules, this time His rules about worship, and, later, murder. The Bible does not speak of “the fall” nor say that, thereafter, Adam had an evil nature; this idea came from the mind of men, not from the Spirit of God. James’ description of the process of temptation leading to sin and death in James 1:12-15 describes the sin of Adam and Eve, just as it describes it today. Neither proceeds from a sinful nature; both come about by wrong choices. Do not let your own desires entice you to sin; control your desires to want to do right, not wrong. Right is defined by God, not by men, so we must choose the things God defines as right for us, which means we must study God’s word carefully to determine what is right and what is wrong. -2660 Layman Rd, Vincent OH 45784.

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