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 Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon 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. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

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