The Doctrine of Original Sin: If You Reject it, then You Have to Reject Christ’s Righteousness

In my recent discussions with a few open theists, the doctrine of original sin became a source of contention. They argue that the Bible doesn’t teach such a doctrine—that is, all are born in the sin of Adam, inheriting his sin nature, which God has given over to all of mankind (This is also known as Pelagianism).

So, when theologians speak of original sin, they are not speaking about the first sin of humanity per se; rather, they are referring to the effects of Adam’s first sin upon his posterity. All born after Adam have inherited the guilt of his first sin, the loss of original righteousness (that state of fellowship as God originally created man to exist in with him), and the corruption of our whole nature. Adam was the head of the human race, and when he fell, we all fell in him. What it ultimately teaches is that we are all sinful not by actions but through progenation; specifically, we are not sinners we because sin; we sin because we are sinners.

Stemming from the doctrine of original sin is the teaching of federal headship. And open theists reject this doctrine as well, (1) which teaches that Adam’s action, as the head of the human race, to disobey God’s command, results in our condemnation.

What open theists believe is we are only culpable for our individual sins. Our individual sins alone are what count against us. While it is true that we are all going to have our sins brought before us (Romans 2:16), what they don’t realize is that if we don’t accept Adam’s headship, we have to reject Christ’s headship for the new humanity, for Paul is the one who makes this contrast in Romans 5:12-19 between the head of the old, fallen humanity and the Head of the new, redeemed humanity. Now, I know we would never consider rejecting Christ’s free gift; however, I think many want to reject Adam’s freely chosen trespass. But we need to be consistent!

Let’s examine these verses:

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— 

– Sin came into the world through the Adam’s sin, producing death.
– All die because all sinned (both Adam and his progeny, which the biblical narrative demonstrates clearly in the idolatrous nature of mankind)
– There is a causal inference here.

The Bible is clear that all people without exception sin (except Christ) (Romans 3:23). As Adam’s progeny, we are all under the power of sin (Romans 6:14). While we will answer for each sin, our judgment remains because of Adam’s sin, for Adam’s sin is imputed to us. This will be more apparent in verses 18-19. We are all separated from God. That is why Christ did not come from Adam, so he would not be in sin by virtue of Adam’s imputation of sin to all his posterity. Furthermore, if you remember the Genesis 3 account, it was Eve who actually sinned first; however, it was Adam who was held accountable for it. But what did he do? He immediately tried to pass the blame on her. So even then, we see the headship role Adam had over humanity, with the first being his wife.

13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 

– Sin was in the world before the law. Why? Because of Adam’s sin.
– Though sin was not counted before the law, people still died. Why? By virtue of entering the world in a state of death, all humans sinned. Adam’s transgression meant condemnation for all (see vv.18-19)

14 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.

– Again, ‘yet’ death reigned from Adam to Moses, explaining why people died though they did not have the law.
– Adam was a type, being head of humanity, as Christ is head of the new humanity.

15 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 Christ abounded for many.

– Christ’s free gift was his perfect life of obedience to God, his offering for reconciliation, leading to eternal life and fellowship with God—which is not like Adam’s trespass; his act of unrighteousness severed that relationship.
– Many died through Adam; many are made alive through Christ (his act of righteousness).
– Though all die through Adam, the ‘many’ are those who are in Christ (Unless you are a universalist).

16 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.

– The free gift results in life; Adam’s sin resulted in death (for all, the many included).
Key point: Judgment followed the one trespass, bringing condemnation—for all
Key point: The free gift, Christ’s act of righteousness, brought justification—for many
– Christ’s act does not include all, otherwise that would mean universalism.

This is really important to understand, for I know many may struggle with this. As I mentioned in my introduction, we are under judgment for Adam’s sin; it brought condemnation for all.

17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 

Death reigns because of one man’s trespass (to all and many).
Righteousness reigns because of One Man’s righteous act (only to the many).

  • Here is the conclusion of vv. 15-17; therefore
  • Adam’s trespass resulted in condemnation for all men.
  • Christ’s act of righteousness results in justification and life for all men.
  • By Adam’s disobedience many were made sinners.
  • By Christ’s obedience many will be made righteous.

It may sound a bit repetitive, but it is important that you see the contrast and groupings of the old humanity under Adam and the new humanity under Christ.

-What is the relationship between Adam and us?
-Why do all without exception sin? Verse 18-19 explains

18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 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.

– Because of Adam’s trespass, death reigned through him, leading to condemnation for all men.
– Because of Christ’s act of righteousness, justification and life is given to all men in Christ.
– Verse 19 shows us what Christ’s gift does for the many, who were made sinners by Adam’s disobedience—they, the many, are made righteous.

So, what we see is that all men are physically born, stemming from the root of Adam; therefore, all men receive condemnation for Adam’s trespass. Christ’s, representing those who are born of God (the elect), act of righteousness results in justification for all of those he represents. The many that were made sinners through Adam’s disobedience are the many that will be made righteous through Christ’s obedience.

Here are some important points to see in this:

Did we do anything to earn righteousness on own individual efforts? No
Did we do anything to earn condemnation by our own individual efforts? No

However, after the fall of Adam, our nature in Adam is corrupted, and we can do nothing but sin, so we are judged by our works. But after the resurrection of Christ, our nature in Christ is restored, and we can now live righteously.

This is the big picture of Paul’s argument. And if one rejects the portion regarding Adam, then one also has to reject his argument about Christ because the logic of the argument is the same for both.

If you don’t get the sin from Adam, then you don’t get the righteousness from Christ.

If you struggle in accepting Adam’s sin, just think of it this way: if you were in his place, you would have done the same exact thing, and we could all be under the headship of Bob or Jack or Steve. We know we sin because we are sinners and that is why we need a Savior who can redeem us and regenerate our hearts to love God and no longer turn away from him

 

—Romans 11:36

__________________________________

1. I don’t intend to speak for all open theists; however, my experience has demonstrated that this is so.

Penal Substitutionary Atonement a Lie? Part 3

[1756 words = 7 minute read]

Last week, I ended my post with a plethora of biblical texts refuting Ericksen’s statement that penal substitutionary atonement is a lie. Ericksen’s diminutive perspective of God’s holiness demonstrates he doesn’t understand the depravity of man and the deserved wrath stored up for him because of sin.

I continue on.

He writes,

“The whole premise of penal substitutionary atonement is a lie. God didn’t respond to Adam and Eve by mimicking them. God didn’t turn from them. In fact, God went in search for them. “Where are you?” God asked Adam and Eve. That’s the truth of the Adam and Eve story, it’s the truth of the biblical story, and it’s our truth. When we abandon God, God doesn’t abandon us. God doesn’t respond with wrathful anger. Rather, God responds with grace and compassion that seeks to be in relationship with us.”

Ericksen is right on this point. Though Adam and Eve disobeyed God, incurring death for their sin, God came for them and extended grace to them in the shedding of the blood of another animal to cover their sin. We see before a theology of the atonement is fully developed an exchange being made. While God spared their lives at this moment, God told them that they would surely die if they ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and they most definitely will, returning to the dust that they came from (Genesis 3:19).

But he spared them.

After God made “garments of skin and clothed them” (3:21), “he drove out the man” (v.24), cleansing the temple-garden and closing it off from sin and death in placing the cherubim and a flaming sword as guards at the east end of it.

God did not respond with the wrathful anger they deserved; if he did, there would be no Christ, the one to come in whom God fully manifests his nature and character in—demonstrating wrath and love through. So, while we see God’s demonstration of grace, his wrath still has to come. A just judge cannot let lawlessness go unpunished. If God overlooked the sins of mankind, he would not be righteous; he would be unjust and a liar (Ps. 9:8).

Adam’s sin brought death into the world (Romans 5:12), and “the judgment following one trespass [Adam’s sin] brought condemnation” (5:16). So while Adam’s sin brought condemnation, Paul tells us that God in his divine forbearance “passed over former sins” (Romans 3:25). Beginning with Adam and Eve, his provision through sacrificial substitution allowed them to live for a while, along with God’s covenant people, Israel. But it did not remove man from his deserved condemnation, reconciling man and God. But in Christ, God put forward a propitiation that demonstrates his righteousness, so that he might be just and the justifier” (Romans 3:24, italics mine), by exacting justice for the sins of the world but also showing his love and mercy in reconciling the world to himself (2 Corinthians 5:18).

The Bible makes it clear—“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36, italics mine). God’s wrath remains on those who have transgressed the law. Christ or no Christ, God’s wrath remains. Paul says to the Ephesians, “you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world . . . carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature, children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (2:1-3).

Just because the wicked are still living, it doesn’t mean their just condemnation through God’s wrath won’t be displayed. God will respond with wrathful anger; he already did for those who are his in Christ’s first coming and will do so for the children of Satan at Christ’s second coming.

Ericksen continues, quoting from a . . . Rabbi?

As the great 20th century Rabbi Abraham Heschel explained, the primary point is not our search for God, but rather God’s search for us.

“All of human history as described in the Bible,” wrote Heschel, “may be summarized in one phrase: God is in search of [humans].” 

Now, I will have to give him credit here because Heschel shares a glorious truth of the Christian faith: God entering into his own creation coming to man through Christ to restore what was lost. However, I just find it ironic (and sad) that he is quoting a Rabbi who, while making this profound point, ultimately misses it.

Ericksen writes,

“For Christians, Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God’s search for humanity. In this particular human being we see that atonement has nothing to do with God’s pent up wrath or violence, but everything to do with the truth of God’s grace and forgiveness. The Gospel of John tells us, “’The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth … From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.'”

Yes, Christ is the ultimate revelation of God’s search for humanity, but Ericksen doesn’t demonstrate how what Christ did was not part of God’s wrath. The grace given is that Christ comes to bear our penalty taking the wrath of God for us. Galatians 3:13 says “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law becoming a curse for us.”

What is grace? It is getting something we don’t deserve. Christ came to give his life as a ransom for many, paying the debt we could never repay.

I think Colossians 2:13-14 most succinctly captures this legal exchange:

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”

Why do you think we have the earthly example of the Levitical priesthood and the sacrificial system? (Read Hebrews 9-10)

Why is Christ referred to as the spotless Lamb (John 1:29)?

Peter speaks of “the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:19), which finds its origin in Exodus 12:5, in God’s instruction to Israel regarding Passover, “Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old.”

Ericksen writes,

“In each Gospel we discover that God didn’t need the cross in order to forgive. The truth of God’s “grace upon grace” is that God forgives sinners, tax collectors, and cowardly disciples, in other words, everyone, before Jesus even went to the cross. God has never atoned for sins through wrathful violence. God doesn’t respond to us mimetically. When we abandon God, God doesn’t abandon us. Jesus is the particular revelation of what the Bible generally reveals — God makes atonement, God became at-one with us, not through wrathful violence, but through nonviolent love and forgiveness. It was human wrath that hung Jesus on a cross, not God’s. How does God respond to our wrath? As John wrote, with “grace upon grace.” Jesus revealed that grace as he hung on the cross and prayed, “’Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'”

God did not need the cross to forgive? One needs to look at the statements in the Gospels Jesus makes regarding his purpose and reason for coming (Matthew 16:21; 20:18-19, 22, 28; Mark 8:31; 10:33-34, 45; Luke 11:42; 22:22, 37, 46; John 6:38; 10:17; 12:27) to see the cross was not just needed, it was planned to be used to show his glory. So, whatever God purposes is needed.

Another key element that Ericksen fails to see is what the cup represents that Christ is to drink. In the Old Testament, the cup normally signifies God’s judgment in the outpouring of his wrath (Ps. 75:8; Isa. 51:17, 22; Jer. 25:15, 16). This means intense suffering for those who drink of it. Christ demonstrated great fear in the moments prior to his crucifixion where he prayed to the Father, asking to not drink this cup (Matthew 26:42; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42). He was fearful because it was one thing that the Son never experienced: the wrath and separation from his Father as only those under judgment experience.

In those six hours on the cross the Father abandoned the Son (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34).

His abandonment led to our adoption.

And then Ericksen uses wrath in a way I have never seen in theological discussion; he says, “It was human wrath that hung Jesus on a cross.” Where in the Bible do we see human wrath? What we do see is that our sin is what hung him up on the cross.

Ericksen concludes saying that we don’t need to feel guilty if we find ourselves abandoning God; God doesn’t respond to human sin with wrathful anger. Now, that is true for those in Christ, for nothing can separate them from his love (Romans 8:38-39). But God responds with wrath, judgment, and fury to those who are still enemies (Romans 2:8; cf. 5:10)

I am not sure if Ericksen assumed that the woman was a Christian who strayed from the faith. I wasn’t there but from what he said about her upbringing and experience in church, I assume that she is not a Christian; rather, she is one coming to the end of her life, feeling guilt wrought about by the Spirit, opening her eyes to the condemnation she is under. She should feel anxious and fearful. Christ says, “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

Ericksen’s experience tells him that when he “channels God’s nonviolent and nonjudgmental love,” anxiety and fear go away. And that is what manifested in this lady’s demeanor.

Now, maybe he shared more than what he wrote about in his experience, which led to a further discussion about the gospel.

But, maybe his unbiblical understanding of God’s holiness, the atonement, wrath, and judgment only affirmed her in her sin.

There was no discussion here of repentance and faith in Christ for what he did on the cross to save sinners. If she truly saw how amazing it is that God saves wretches, then I would think her fear and anxiety would turn into weeping.

If Ericksen shifted the conversation toward the gospel of Jesus Christ, in which those elements were mentioned, which demonstrated the work of conversion by the Holy Spirit, then amen!

But if demonstrating “God’s nonviolent and nonjudgmental love” only made her feel justified in her own deeds, then that is a pity. Her blood is on his hands.

 

—Romans 11:36

 

Penal Substitutionary Atonement a Lie? Part 2

In this post I am continuing my response to pastor Adam Ericksen’s article on the ‘Nonviolent Atonement.’ If you just got here, click here for part 1.

In the end of last week’s post, it clear that Mr. Ericksen’s emotively prompted response to the woman who felt guilty for abandoning God is misplaced, according to Scripture. As I stated, he should have been expressing joy that a sinner who has abandoned God, feels guilty for doing so.

Ericksen says this turning away from God, which God reciprocates toward us, is a “pernicious theological claim . . . that’s a lie. Don’t believe it.” But what do the Scriptures teach about fallen man’s relationship with God?

Isaiah 59:1-2, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear (italics mine).” So, while we see that God can save, man’s sin has separated him from God.

Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all (italics mine).”

Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

Romans 3:12, “All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one (italics mine).”

Romans 5:10a, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son (italics mine).”

Does it sound like there is a separation between God and man? The amazing thing is that for those who are his, there will never be separation or a time of God turning his back on us, as Paul writes:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

After saying that God turns his back on us is lie, Ericksen clarifies his point further:

Sure, the Bible can be interpreted in that way. People often point to the Adam and Eve story as evidence. Adam and Eve turned their back on God by eating the forbidden fruit, so God turned God’s back on them. Many claim that God has been angry at Adam, Eve, and their children (that’s everyone!) ever since. Strangely, these people continue, God had no other way of dealing with his pent up anger than to inflict violence upon God’s own son.

You’ve heard that story before. It’s called penal substitutionary atonement. Again, don’t believe. It’s a lie.

Wow! I think the most flabbergasting statement is Ericksen attributing God’s holiness and disgust of sin to be nothing but pent up anger. He doesn’t say it, but that is exactly what the implication is.

Has he read Leviticus?

Does he understand the sacrificial system is what made it possible for Israel to be God’s people?

If God did not make provision through the sacrificial system, which only cleaned the outside of the cup (Hebrews 9:1-10), Israel would have been further separated from God; Israel would have been (to use a New Testament expression) as a Gentile and a tax collector to God.

So, did God inflict violence on his Son? “It was his will to crush him” (Isaiah 53:10). He decreed from before the foundation of the world that the Lamb would be slain for the sins of the world. It was violence that God decreed, but it wasn’t the violence Ericksen presumes it to be; it was a righteous giving of oneself for the unrighteous . . . the most honorable of actions. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay his life down for his friends” (John 15:13). It was what Christ came to do (Matthew 20:28; John 10:15, 17; 12:27).

I won’t post the entire foretelling of the Lord as the Suffering Servant from Isaiah 53:1-12, but a few choice verses are needed to demonstrate Ericksen’s error.

Verses 4-5 – “Surely has borne our grief’s and carried our sorrows; yet we esteem him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed (italics mine).”

Verse 6b — “and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all (italics mine).”

Verse 10 —“Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him (italics mine).”

And all of this speaks in regards to Jesus, the Son of God, who was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, [and was] crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23).

And what was the reason for this?

Because “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22). His own blood secured an eternal redemption (9:12b).

His death reconciled fallen man to a Holy God:

“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself ” (2 Corinthians 5:18a)

I leave you with what Peter says regarding Christ’s death:

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).

So, is penal substitutionary atonement a lie?

Did Christ not die for us, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God?

Well, I am not going to be able to finish responding to his article. My word count is getting up there; however, there is just too much that needs to be said regarding this truly precious doctrine, which our faith hinges on, so I don’t want to give it a light treatment.

I will pick up on where I left off next week.

 

—Romans 11:36