You were born a sinner. This does not mean you will sin as much or as bad as you could, it just means that you do not believe that God is above you and you cannot submit to his Lordship over your life. As I said, your propensity for this rebellion was with you at birth. You can’t choose to do God’s will and can’t even want to. Outside of God’s grace, you don’t have a chance.

Romans 3:10-11:

As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.

Christians call this inherited sin. You are infected with an insatiable appetite to sin. We get this from our parents, who got it from their’s and so on all the way back to Adam. Just as you did not choose your physical DNA, so you cannot choose your spiritual DNA. Your physical DNA may have a chromosome that gives you brown eyes, but everyone’s spiritual DNA has a chromosome of enmity toward God. You did not ask for this just as you did not ask for your eye color, height, and desire for food or sex. You inherited it.

Romans 5:19 says “through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners” (emphasis mine). You were made a sinner by Adam.

Of course, there is the natural reaction we all have toward this reality: “It is not fair!” is the cry. If I am a sinner because I was born with an appetite to sin, how can I be held responsible for it? After all, can anyone blame a person for eating? Of course not. We are born with this desire to feed our physical nature. Sin is food for our spiritual nature. But how can God strike the gavel against someone for doing what they were born to do?

On top of this, before we ever sin, we are deemed guilty. This is called imputed sin. When Adam sinned, we all sinned:

Romans 5:12
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.

The tense of the Greek word “sinned” in “because all sinned” could not be more definite. The aorist tense expresses a completed action in the past. We were in the Garden with Adam. When he sinned, we sinned.

“But this is Adam’s fault, not mine,” we may cry. “Why am I held guilty for the sin of another?”

This is certainly not an unfair question. It is one that is plagued Christian theology, causing many divisions in the church from the very beginning. We should all wrestle with this issue very deeply. This is one of those difficult doctrines that can cause Christians to grow faint and non-Christians to reject Christianity. Blaise Pascal expresses the difficulty very eloquently:

What could be more contrary to the rules of our miserable justice than the eternal damnation of a child, incapable of will, for an act in which he seems to have so little part that it was actually committed 6,000 years before he existed? Certainly nothing jolts us more rudely than this doctrine . . .

I want to give you my answer to this question, showing you know how I reconcile it.

We are guilty for Adam’s sin for one reason: God is excessively gracious. So far so good? I did not think so. Let me explain.

Of course, you already agree that there is a biological connection between all humans. As I said earlier, we inherit our physical characteristics from our parents. We are the same species as our parents because humans reproduce through procreation. Therefore, when Adams’s DNA became corrupted, so did ours. But there is also a spiritual connection between all humans. This is called Traducianism. Traducianism (meaning “source”) is the doctrine that we inherit our souls from our parents, not from divine fiat (i.e. Creationism). While I don’t have time to make an argument for traducianism, let this fact suffice: God rested from creation on the seventh day. He is not now creating individual souls and placing them in the human body. Therefore, they are created by our parents, in and with the body. If this is true (and I strongly believe it is), then our spirit/soul comes from our parents and is related to them all the way back to Adam. Therefore, when Adam fell spiritually and was separated from God, the entire human race fell spiritually and was separated from God. The gavel was struck. We are condemned people with corrupted bodies.

Thus far, we might be able to see how sin corrupted our entire species, but it still seems unfair, to speak nothing of it being an act of God’s grace!

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In order to understand my belief that our sin nature is an act of God’s grace, I would like to provide an analogy. You may or may not know this, but angels are all individual autonomous beings. What I mean by that is that they are not related. There is no species called “angels.” We are given enough indication in Scripture to say with relative certainty that angels do not procreate. There is not much (if any) debate about this. Therefore, God creates each individual angel without relation to another. They are individual masterpieces or God.

Saint Thomas Aquinas was asked (really, he asked himself in one of his characteristic diatribes) “Why doesn’t God save fallen angels the way he saves humans?” His answer may or may not be right but I think it provides a perfect analogy for our current struggle. Aquinas believed that the reason God does not provide salvation for fallen angels because Christ would have to represent each angel individually. In other words, since God can’t represent a species called angels, there’s no way for him to die for all the species “angels” at once. He would have to become each individual angel and die countless times. The important thing to notice here is that since the angels were created individually, they also fell from grace individually.

Again, whether or not that is correct makes no difference. What is important is that we can see how Christ, who was born physically and spiritually connected to Adam, yet without sin, could die for the entire human race. He could do so because he became the species human and did what Adam could not. He took on our nature in order to be the new representative. This is why Christ is called the “Second Adam.” This is the only reason that one man, Christ Jesus, could hang on the cross representing all of mankind. Christ was human and could therefore take away the human stain all at once.

This still may not relieve your stress about the issue. You may still say to yourself that we should’ve all been given our own chance, unconnected to Adam. While, if such we the case, we may not be able to have Christ as our Savior, maybe we wouldn’t need him. Maybe we would never sin and fall like Adam. Maybe we could live our entire lives in perfect obedience. In theory, this may be correct. If we could make it our entire lives without sinning, we would not need Christ. If we fell, our condemnation would be understandable. ”At least we would all get a chance!” you might say. This is true. Being born without imputed or inherited sin might give us a better chance. But what if God, who knows all things, saw that every human, given their own chance, completely unconnected from Adam and the human race, would fall into the same destruction? What if he knew every single one of us could not make it. What if God knew we would choose against him? What if God saw this situation and graciously connected all humanity, both physically and spiritually. What if the inheritance of our sinful nature gives us the only chance of inheriting Christ’s righteous nature? I believe that this is an immensely reasonable speculation that most of us would probably assume without question. And if this is the case, if God knew we would all fall in the same manner as Adam, then being born with a fallen nature is most definitely an act of God‘s grace. We now have a second option in our representation as humans. In the end, we will be found in one of two conditions: we will either be found (to use biblical language) in Adam or in Christ.

I’m not saying this doctrine as I have explained it is gospel. I’m not positive if it is right. But I do think it makes the most sense and alleviates us of the negative emotions we might have toward God for allowing us to have a sin nature from conception.

1 Corinthians 15:45
Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

(Here is the same issue dealt with a bit more extensively.)

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C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    11 replies to "Is it Fair that You Were Born with a Sin Nature?"

    • Michael Fisch

      I think both views are valid the representative view Adam was our perfect sinless representative and traducian (Hebrews 7:9–10 ESV)
      “9 One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, 10 for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.” I lean toward the view that sin is past on through the male sperm since Jesus was conceived through the Holy Spirit so he couldn’t inherit sin through Adam.
      What about this verse he continues to create (Psalm 104:30 ESV)
      “When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.”
      He creates or brings into being His prophetic word (Isaiah 48:7 ESV)
      “They are created now, not long ago; before today you have never heard of them, lest you should say, ‘Behold, I knew them.’”
      He is forming us in the womb maybe (Psalm 139:13 ESV)
      “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.”
      He makes us a new creation spiritually. 2 Cor. 5:17
      (John 5:17 ESV)
      “But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.””

    • Rob Bright


      I enjoy your work a lot, but on this issue we have very different views. If you have the time and interest, take a look at Dr. Michael Heiser’s coverage of Romans 5:12 in the blog posts here:

      His position (which I held for decades before I started reading his stuff) makes more sense, and resolves some of the concerns you raised in your post.

      Have a good evening!

    • Bob Seidensticker

      I was born with a sin nature? Then blame my Maker.

      • A. J. Derxsen

        Okay . . . he kinda just explained why we /shouldn’t/ “blame” God–but rather /thank/ Him. Why did you ignore Patton’s argument?

    • Bob Seidensticker

      “Romans 5:19 says “through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners” (emphasis mine). You were made a sinner by Adam.”

      You didn’t quote the entire verse: “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”

      In other words, you didn’t opt in to get Adam’s sin, and you needn’t opt in to get Jesus’s salvation.

      I guess I’ll see you in heaven.

      • A. J. Derxsen

        That doesn’t actually follow. It’s possible to /recapitulate/ the original Fall — i.e., make it our own — and thus /forfeit/ Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. In other words, the scenario runs like this:

        1) Adam (with Eve) falls, and God includes all of us in that fall.
        2) By including all of us “in Adam,” God can then turn right around and include all of us “in Christ” when he died for sin: “one person died for everyone. So all have died.” (2 Corinthians 5:14)

        **However . . .

        3) “He died for all so that those who live would not continue to live for themselves. He died for them and was raised from death so that they would live for him.” (2 Corinthians 5:15)

        Therefore: Christ’s death on your behalf /doesn’t/ give you carte blanche to sin with impunity thereafter. His intent was to restore you to God so that you could live the life God always intended for you. But if you /reject/ His intention, then you recapitulate Adam’s fall, make it your own, and forfeit what God’s done for you.

    • Austin

      Gotta say, I did NOT see that answer coming…

    • Tony Scialdone

      >> Aquinas believed… God can’t represent a species called angels, [so] there’s no way for him to die for all the species “angels” at once. He would have to become each individual angel and die countless times.

      This seems illogical at best.

      The idea that God HAD to become human to forgive us has no basis in Scripture, and – I would suggest – is superstition. We have only two options:

      1. It’s true because there was some law, external to God, that He must follow to accomplish our forgiveness, or
      2. It’s false.

      Logically, God is not subject to any external laws.
      Logically, God could have used any method at all – or none at all – to forgive us.
      Logically, any method He would choose would be the perfect method… so Jesus becoming human wasn’t the necessary method, but simply the most effective method.

      I see no logical reason to think that Jesus would have to become an angel in order to forgive angels.

    • A. J. Derxsen

      Fine piece — but I’m very surprised you didn’t mention Romans 11:32: “For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone.”

    • John

      Therein lies my biggest problem with Calvinism. There is no real “loving” or logical answer for those who were created simply to be tormented for eternity, especially for the sins of the father. They were born incapable of salvation and this was determined before the foundation of the earth. Also, they did not have the honor of being chosen for salvation, despite God wanting all men to be saved. I have no desire to go back and forth about this, just wanted to say that this is why I will never be able to be a Calvinist. Fortunately, I a see the God of the Bible as one who provides everyone with a choice. Cleary from the book of Romans and Ecclesiastes God has blessed man with a flicker of life with which he can still accept a gift when it is freely offered or reject it.

    • Gordon Holley

      Traducianism forces you to believe in the immaculate conception, or that Jesus was born a half-sinner. You are assured as Paul teaches you that God created you a sinner through Adam, and all you can do to justify it is to say that God might have made you a sinner individually instead of collectively, and would have been less willing to die for you, since you couldn’t be bought from God’s bulk-bin. God’s working on a budget here: you’re only worth a 20 billionth of his love.

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