By Roy E. Stephens
When the joyful mother looks down at the infant cradled in her arms, and thinks, “never has there been anything more precious, beautiful or pure,” she is right, for that infant is made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26) which image is righteousness and true holiness (Eph. 4:24). “The Lord is righteous in all his ways and holy in all his works” (Psa. 145:17). When Jesus sought an illustration of the character and purity of those who make up the “kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3), the church (those who submit to the rule of heaven), He could find no better than the little child, in its purity. Mankind is the “offspring of God” (Acts 17:29) who is the “father of spirits” (Heb. 12:9). Daddy and mother gave the infant its physical body, but God placed in it a spirit in His image: the soul, the inward man (2 Cor. 4:16). The little baby in mother’s arms was made “upright” (Eccl. 7:29). True, all mankind have sinned, and “sought out many inventions,” but all were made upright. Paul admonished Christians to be as children in malice (I Cor. 14:20). The little child does not hold malice toward another. In a gospel meeting one time I stayed with a family who had a boy about five. One day he came in crying with blood on his face. His playmate had hit him with something. Mother patched him up and he went back to play. In a little while he came in with a piece of mesquite stump in one hand and holding hands with his playmate. “Look mother, here is what he hit me with,” he commented. No malice. He has to grow older and get like “grown ups” with sins of the disposition, the spirit (2 Cor. 7:1), before he begins to hold malice.
But if the little mother was a member of some popular denomination, most likely her pastor, if he told her what he really believes, would tell her that her beautiful baby was not pure as she thought. In reality, according to the doctrine of Calvinism, it was totally depraved, and that by heredity; totally inclined to evil; had a sinful nature; guilty of Adamic sin; original sin; inborn sin; opposed to all good; and a sinner by inheritance. In fact if one set out to catalog the characteristics of the devil, he could do no better than the list of the characteristics of the little baby, according to the theologians. The Presbyterian Confession puts it like this, “Our first parents being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed to their posterity, descending from them by ordinary generation.” John Wesley gives it, “Every man born in the world now bears the image of the devil in pride and self will, the image of the beast in sensual appetites and desires. We are condemned before we have done any good or evil, and under the curse ere we know what it is.”
If the Calvinist doctrine is true, God has spent the last six thousand years since Adam in nothing but bringing children of the devil into the world.
Origin Of The Doctrine
Inherited sin was taught first by Augustine in the fourth century; was made popular by Calvin (1509-1564); taught by Luther (1483-1564); is found in all Catholic writings; and is in the creeds of about every Protestant denomination. It is not to be found in the word of God at all. How true it is that a lie can compass the earth, before the truth gets its boots on! Did Adam become a sinner by inheriting sin? If so he inherited it from God. If Adam did not inherit sin, then sin is not inherited. Adam and Eve sinned when they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, after God had said, “thou shalt not eat of it” (Gen. 2:9; 3:1-17).
The Scriptures which give us “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3) say that “sin is the transgression of the law” (1 Jn. 3:4) and that sin arises when man is drawn away of his own lust (desires, such as lust of the flesh, lust of eyes and pride of life, 1 Jn. 2:16) and enticed. When desire (lust) conceives, that is, when man gains the consent of his own mind to do the act, it brings forth sin (Jas. 1:14-15). In just a few words, the Scriptures tell us of the origin of sin, flatly contradicting the doctrine of the theologians.
To the Calvinist, sin is as much a part of the little child born into the world, as its lungs, liver, appendix, or its heart (by which he means the physical blood pump), and is inherited in the same way the child inherits the color of its hair, or eyes, of the shape of its nose. Once this error is believed, the next error is easy to believe, that the word of God is a dead letter, and obedience to the word in such things as believing and being baptized in order to be saved (Mk. 16:15-16) can no more remove sin than such obedience can remove the lungs, or appendix or the liver. That the word of God is a dead letter, that it is the mere word, is taught and believed by all with whom I have had any contact in the denominational world. “Mere” means nothing less than. To them, nothing is worth less, than God’s word. No wonder there is such ignorance of the Scriptures. Why go to any trouble to learn that which is the least in value of anything in this world? If the word of God is a dead letter, and powerless to save, we wonder why the devil goes to the trouble to take way the word out of the heart when the seed is sown? (Lk. 8:4-12)
The next error, quite naturally is that of irresistible grace; the direct operation of the Holy Spirit on the sinner, which they call regeneration. When the totally depraved sinner receives this operation, he is illuminated and the sin inherited from Adam is erased. Needless to say, all of these, (1) inherited sin, (2) God’s word a dead letter, and (3) irresistible grace, are foreign to the Scriptures.
Methodists Make A Chance
Hereditary total depravity, and direct operation of the Holy Spirit are Siamese twins; double monsters tied together and depending on one another. From 1729 to 1910 the Methodist discipline taught that the baby is born in sin, guilty of the sin of Adam. They got ashamed of the doctrine and revised the discipline in 1910 and had the baby born in Christ, but they retained the error of direct operation of the Holy Spirit, and left the Holy Spirit with nothing to operate on! I know of no creed written by men but that it contradicts the word of God, conflicts with its own teaching and is filled with such absurdities as the above. God’s word is perfect (Jas. 1:25). Why not be content with it? It is the creed that needs no revision. If the creed makers had been content with the word of God as authority in matters religious, and never begun their nefarious work, such doctrines as inherited sin, and irresistible grace would be unknown. Be content with the word of God. This will cut off everything that is human, and preserve everything that is divine, and ought to be pleasing to all whose hearts are right.
Are Acquired Characteristics Inherited?
Since a human being becomes a sinner by something that he does, how could he be a sinner by inheritance? And if sin is inherited, why, by the same token, could not righteousness be inherited? Suppose a man and wife, who have (as some of the denominational preachers admonish them) been to the mourners’ bench and “prayed through” and have (as they say) been regenerated and the sin of Adam erased, conceive a child. The child cannot inherit the sin of Adam from the parents for it has been erased. If character, or attributes or acquired characteristics can be inherited, why cannot righteousness be inherited as easily as sin? A sinless nature, ought to be inherited as easily as a sinful nature. And again; if one parent is a sinner and the other regenerated, the offspring ought to be half sinner and half saint. Those who think, ought to be able to see this logically demonstrates that acquired attributes are not inherited. A person is a sinner when he commits sin.
“Proof” That Does Not Prove
Many Bible passages are advanced to “prove” inherited sin, but all these passages, correctly viewed, prove the opposite. Once the doctrine is believed, some passages seem to prove it, but upon careful examination do not prove. If all would pay attention to what the Scriptures say and what they do not say there would be much less error taught. It is sad that the young people of almost the entire Protestant and Catholic world are taught this “tradition receivedfrom the” theologians which flatly contradicts the word of God. Let us note first some Old Testament passages.
Exodus 20.5. “. . . I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children. . . . ” This passage has been used as proof of inherited sin, but it does not prove. If God is here saying the guilt of Adam’s sin is passed along by ordinary generation to the descendants of Adam, you and I have nothing to worry about on this point, for whatever He meant, it went no further than the “fourth generation of them that hate me” which would be Mahalaleel. Inherited sin would have stopped with him, and Jared would have been born, as would all who were born after him, as pure as Adam was before he committed sin.
God’s people were not to bow down to idols, or even have an image of an idol before them as they worshipped (v. 4). If they did, they were said to “hate” God, that is, love him less than the idol, and God’s wrath was brought against them for such sins. The results of iniquity, but not the guilt, might reach down as far as the fourth generation. The innocent suffer for the guilty. This is a known truth. A man might drink, gamble and squander all the family has and the family be impoverished for years. I said the funeral service some time ago for an infant born without arms and legs. Mother and Daddy had been experimenting with drugs. We are told that the effects of drug use can be seen in deformed bodies, etc. as far down as five generations.
Suppose two parents go out one day for a picnic, taking their infant along in its basket. They put the basket down in the shade of a tree, and proceed to get drunk. Those who drink are “not grieved for the affliction of Joseph” (Amos 6:6), so the parents were not concerned for the welfare of the baby. God who causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good (Matt. 5:45) moved the shade of the tree and soon the baby was looking into the direct rays of the sun, and was blinded. The results of the sin of the parents were visited on the innocent child, but the guilt was theirs. The results of Adam’s sin reach down to all humanity, for we all die because of what he did. The guilt of his sin did not even reach down to Seth.
God does not tolerate worship of an idol or the image of an idol in our devotions. He will not be placed on a shelf along with man’s other idols and be worshiped according to man’s first love. He does not say, “seek ye second the kingdom of God. . . ” (Matt. 6:33). He does not tolerate corrupting the worship man offers to Him. When men love their own inventions, the doctrines and commandments of men and inject them into the worship of God, the worship becomes vain (Matt. 15:9) and the worshippers are said to hate God, that is, they love their invention more than they love God. Today preachers from the Independent Christian Churches are crying crocodile tears over the division between them and churches of Christ, and are mounting a campaign for what they call unity. Of course churches of Christ are supposed to ignore the unscriptural practices of the Christian Churches, such as instrumental music in the worship, if such unity comes about. Preachers of the ICC have already accepted the missionary society concept of the work of the church as seen in the Herald of Truth and the sponsoring church arrangement. There is good reason for the progress they have made with such congregations. The churches of Christ that have already gotten over one hurdle, the missionary society, should with very little trouble, be led to hurdle the next obstacle, instrumental music in the worship. The ICC preachers who are lamenting the division between them and us, ought to be weeping over their sin in introducing the missionary society concept in the work of the church, and instrumental music in the worship, in the first place.
Psalm 51:5. Another Scripture offered as proof of inherited sin, which does not prove reads, “. . . I was shaped in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Read all of Psalm 51 noting carefully that David speaks of my iniquity, my sin and I have done this evil. There is no reference to the sin of Adam visited on him by “ordinary generation.” From the depths of a penitent heart, David pours out his soul in sorrow for the sins of murder and adultery (2 Sam. 11 and 12), but as though he pleads extenuating circumstances in that he was born into a world where all were sinful; “everybody is doing it”; he declares “I was shopen in iniquity. ” David certainly did not exist before he was shaped (in the womb) but the iniquity existed and he was shaped in a world of iniquity. In Genesis 6:5 the world was so sinful that every imagination and thought of man was evil continually, but they were not born that way. Man had corrupted his own ways (v. 12). Nothing is affirmed of them about a corrupt nature. In Isaiah 59:2, “your” iniquities, “your” sins had separated men from God. How strange that theologians will ignore the Bible statement that sin is the transgression of the law (1 Jn. 3:4) and declare one guilty of original, inherited sin, or as one put it, “the guilt that came through the parent’s loins.” Like all babies, David was born pure, in the image of God. It is true David sinned, and sought out many inventions, but God made him upright (Eccl. 7:29).
“In sin did my mother conceive me.” Nothing is affirmed about David’s mother sinning when David was conceived, or about sin coming through the loins of the parents. In a world of sin David was conceived and shaped, but not a syllable in the word of God suggested anyone is guilty of inherited sin. You and I are also conceived and shaped in a world of sin, but we are guilty of sin only when we transgress the law; corrupt our own ways.
In Acts 2:6-8 we read of the “tongue (language) wherein we were born.” This does not mean babies were born speaking that language, but they were born where all spoke that language. David was shaped in a world where all were guilty of sin, but they were their own sins, not the sins of Adam.
Let us pay attention to what the Bible says and what it does not say. All the difficulties men think they see in the Bible are man made, and they all vanish when we let the Bible speak for itself.
Psalm 58:3. “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.” A preacher is hard pressed for proof of inherited sin when he uses this passage as evidence. The inspired writer’s own definition of being estranged from the womb is “they go astray, ” so nothing is affirmed of inherited sin, but rather of actions on the part of the one born. This speaks of what one does after he is born. When after? When he is old enough to speak lies; to voluntarily sin. Lying is a sin. Any man can choose between telling truth and lying, but these with the power of free will, chose to lie. I have never heard a baby “from the womb” speak anything, much less lies. This passage, with all others, points out that sin is transgression of the law and we become sinners, like all mankind of times past, when we violate the law of God, when we corrupt our own ways (Gen. 6:12).
Teachers of “original sin” must turn from error to truth, or God’s plan of redemption is chaos to them. Clouds and darkness hover over their understanding from which they can never emerge, until they see that man is born into the world pure, sinless, upright, holy, and righteous, and he goes astray when he sins. If he is born totally depraved, as far from God as he can get, a child of the devil, the only way he could go would be toward God. They have the child, when born, going astray toward God.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 1, pp. 31-33
January 1, 1987