For Part 1, click here: The Faulty Foundations of Faith Alone – Part 1: God is a Trinity of Persons?
The doctrine of Original Sin is another faulty foundation of faith alone that predates Protestantism. Like the Trinity of Persons, it is an old Catholic doctrine that was not rejected by the Protestant reformers, but was incorporated into their sola fide theology.
In fact, Martin Luther (1483–1546) and John Calvin (1509–1564), the primary founders of Protestantism, doubled down the Catholic doctrine of Original Sin, turning it into something even more non-Biblical.
2. We are born with Original Sin from Adam, and are guilty from birth?
In its earlier Catholic formulation, the doctrine of “Original Sin” was mostly somewhat confusing because its name implies that we inherit sin itself from Adam and Eve—who sinned against God by eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which God had forbidden. But if you actually delve into the doctrine as Catholics hold to it, the belief is that we merely inherited a “fallen nature,” and a strong tendency to sin.
And yet, in the end it has the same effect as believing that we are born guilty of sin.
Because the fallen state into which we are born means that our default destination is not heaven, but hell. In other words, we are born in a state of damnation, and will automatically be damned to hell if we are not given the sacraments of the church such as baptism, confession, and the Lord’s Supper.
This “damned from birth” idea was the facet of Original Sin that Luther and Calvin drew upon in formulating their doctrines of justification by faith alone. Luther and Calvin took the doctrine even further than the Catholic church did, saying that we inherit actual sin and guilt from Adam, so that we are indeed damned to hell from birth, and can be saved only by faith in Christ. However, even in Protestantism baptism still seems to be a stopgap measure so that infants and children who die when they are not yet old enough to believe in Jesus don’t have to go to eternal hell.
The passage most commonly quoted to support this “guilty from birth” idea is Psalm 51:5. Modern translations often read something like this:
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Psalm 51:5, New International Version)
But that’s not at all what the original Hebrew says. Here is the old standard translation:
Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. (Psalm 51:5, King James Version)
And a very literal (and rather old-fashioned) translation:
Lo, in iniquity I have been brought forth, And in sin doth my mother conceive me. (Psalm 51:5, Young’s Literal Translation)
The verse is not talking about the sinful state of the newborn infant. It is talking about the sinful state of the mother when the baby was conceived—and by extension, the sinful state of both of the baby’s parents, and of the society into which the baby is born.
In other words, Psalm 51:5 is saying that this infant (the author of the Psalm) was born of sinful parents into a sinful world. (For a good article on Psalm 51:5 and Original Sin, with additional references, see: “Original Sin and a Misapplied Passage,” by Wayne Jackson, in The Christian Courier.)
In fact, the Bible specifically denies that sin and guilt are inherited by children from their parents:
The word of the Lord came to me: What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”? As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die. . . .
Yet you say, “Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?” When the son has done what is lawful and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. The person who sins shall die. A child shall not suffer for the iniquity of a parent, nor a parent suffer for the iniquity of a child; the righteousness of the righteous shall be his own, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be his own. (Ezekiel 18:1–4, 19–20)
This passage makes it very clear that according to God’s laws children will not be punished for the sins of their parents. Yes, children may be harmed due to the sins of their parents, as stated in the Ten Commandments themselves:
For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me. (Exodus 20:5, King James Version)
We do inherit tendencies toward the same sins that our parents committed. And we do experience pain due to our parents’ sins both because we were raised in their atmosphere and because we commonly have to struggle against the same destructive patterns ourselves. But we are not held guilty of any sin that our parents committed. Only of the sins we commit ourselves. The Bible is crystal clear about this. And the doctrine of Original Sin, especially as promulgated by Protestants, is dead wrong.
Adam and Eve were simply the first people who sinned. Yes we all do inherit a tendency to sin due to our parents’ and ancestors’ sins. But we become guilty of sin only when we ourselves sin—which, unfortunately, we all do. Paul was explaining this when he wrote:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned . . . (Romans 5:12, italics added)
Our spiritual death does not come from Adam’s sin, but from our own sin. This is the plain teaching of the Bible.
And yet, the doctrine of justification by faith alone requires us to be born guilty, condemned, and damned to eternal hell. This is necessary for that doctrine’s assertion that believing that Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins is the only way we can be saved from our inborn sinful state, and go to heaven.
After the false doctrine of the Trinity of Persons, the false, anti-Biblical doctrine of Original Sin is the second faulty foundation of faith alone.
For Part 3, click here: The Faulty Foundations of Faith Alone – Part 3: It’s Impossible to Satisfy God?
For further reading: