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The Doctrine of Original Sin

Why do we live in a broken and sinful world? Is man born sinful or are we born good and become sinful? These anthropological questions have been in philosophical debate and discussion for centuries. Nevertheless, whether you subscribe to the notion of man being inherently good or sinful, one must face the fact that man’s nature cannot evade itself from the corruption of sin and evil. One would not only be misleading but also blind to reality if they perceived man being perfect and pure from conception to death. Charles Hodge echoes these sentiments when he wrote, “The existence of sin is an undeniable fact. No man can examine his own nature, or observe the conduct of his fellow men, without having the conviction forced upon him that there is such an evil as sin.”[1] Thus, in search of a Biblical understanding of sin, we point to God’s word and the doctrine of original sin.

What is Original Sin?

Scripture reveals that God originally created man good (Gen. 1:31 ESV) and in his own image (Gen.1: 26-27 ESV), in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24 ESV). However, as a consequence of the disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, who did not obey God’s command to not eat the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17 ESV), all of mankind fell from our original state and from then on became infected and tainted by sin. It is crucial to understand that the term original sin does not refer to the first sin by Adam and Eve but rather the consequence imputed to man because of it. Therefore, the term original sin can be clearly defined as:

  • “A term referring to the universal defect in human nature caused by the fall, entailing the loss of original righteousness and the distortion of the image of God (imago Dei).”[2] or
  • “The condition of sinfulness that all persons share and that is caused by the sinful origins of the race (Adam and Eve) and the fall ( 3). Theologically it consists of the loss of original righteousness and the distortion of the image of God. It results in the hereditary corruption of all humanity.”[3]

The doctrine of original sin is Biblical. The Apostle Paul makes clear in Romans chapter 5 and in the epistles that through the sins of one man (Adam) brought devastation to of all of humanity:[4]

  • Romans 5:12-19: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned – for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous”
  • Ephesians 2:3, “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lust of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”
  • 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”

Are We Born Sinful?

            “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalms 51:5 ESV). David in this Psalm is not saying that it was a sin for his mother to have bore him, nor was he saying it was a sin for him to have been born. Even after the fall, God’s command to “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 2:28 ESV) upholds as not only being a blessing to mankind but also good in the eyes of God. Nevertheless, as R.C Sproul beautifully said, David was “acknowledging the human condition of fallenness – that condition that was part of the experience of his parents, a condition that he himself brought in this world.”[5] Hence, the Bible teaches that all children born are not pure and good but are “brought forth in iniquity”, that is, inclined by nature to sin and pursue evil. God’s word reveals that as an infant grows into his youth “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.” (Prov. 22:15 ESV) and that “… the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”


            The reason we live in such a broken, dark, and sinful world is because of “The Fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise” and as a consequence of this disobedience “This has so poisoned our nature that we are all conceived and born in a sinful condition.”[6] The heart of man is “deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9 ESV).

[1] Hodge, Charles . Systematic Theology. Vol. 2. 3 vols. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2016. pg. 130

[2] Hay, A. (2016). Original Sin. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[3] McKim, Donald K.. The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, Second Edition: Revised and Expanded (Kindle Locations 9938-9940). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.

[4] These scriptures are from the English Standard V

[5] R.C Sproul. “TULIP and Reformed Theology: Total Depravity.” Ligonier. March 25, 2017. Accessed November 24, 2017. http://www.ligonier.org/blog/tulip-and-reformed-theology-total-depravity/.

[6] Heidelberg Catechism Lords Day 2 #7

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