“Original Sin” - Fact or Fiction?
Part V of V
In this final part of the series, an examination of Bible statements regarding the innocence of very young children will be undertaken. If Original Sin is indeed a fact, it would be impossible for the Bible to contain even one statement which announces, portrays, or infers the innocence of little children, yet the theme is recurrent. The reader is urged to give careful consideration to the following passages with respect to whether Original Sin is fact or fiction:
“The Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said to Himself, ‘I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth’”
The message of this passage follows the global flood of Noah’s day. Contrary to the allegation of Original Sin which advocates man’s heart is evil from his birth, God does not use the Hebrew word yalad which signifies birth, but He employs the word neuray, meaning “youth, adolescence” (Gesenius, 2003). The word is not used here to describe infancy, but is descriptive of a person old enough to make responsible decisions.
A comparison of other passages where the same word is used will confirm the application as signifying the age of youthful maturity rather than a time of infancy. Proverbs 5:18 says, “rejoice in the wife of your youth.” Isaiah 54:6 also speaks of “the wife of one’s youth.” Psalm 127:4 says, “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.” King Saul indicated the giant, Goliath, had been “a warrior from his youth” (1 Samuel 17:33). In none of these examples would an infant be appropriate to the context, but these verses speak of a young person who is mature enough to make choices like marriage, parenthood, and warfare.
When God said “the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth,” He had reference, not to the infancy and early developmental stages of life, but to the time of youthful maturity when a young person is old enough to choose between good and evil. Those not having reached this plateau of maturity have not participated in evil choices and unbelief which causes them to sin against God. This will be seen in practical application in the following passage of examination.
“Moreover, your little ones who you said would become a prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good and evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it.”
The context of this statement by God refers to the loss of the entire adult population (except Joshua and Caleb) which came out of Egypt due to their unbelief and rebellion against God by not choosing to enter the land He promised to give them. It had been alleged by the rebellious adults that their children would become “a prey” or “plunder” (Numbers 14:3), but God affirms it will be the innocent little ones, “who this day have no knowledge of good or evil,” that shall enter the land and possess it.
Because these children were not of age to choose disobedience like their parents, the sin of unbelief is not held against them. These “little ones” had no sin because they were too young to choose obedience or disobedience; neither are they stained by the sin of their parents or of the original sin of Adam. God gave the land to those who were innocent in the matter of choosing evil and rebellion against God.
“They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons, and shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and their daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with the blood.”
Under consideration in this passage is the ongoing sin of sacrificing their children to the idolatrous gods of Paganism (cf. 2 Kings 16:3; Isaiah 57:5; Jeremiah 7:31; Ezekiel 16:20; 20:26). The blood of their children is called “innocent blood.” The word “innocent” is from the Hebrew naqi meaning “innocent, i.e., pertaining to one free of blame and not guilty” (Swanson, 1997). The young children offered in sacrifice by their evil parents were designated “innocent” by the inspired psalmist. How dare any man ascribe the guilt of Original Sin to children affirmed as innocent by inspiration!
If all babies are born guilty of Original Sin, it would be an untruth to refer to them as innocent. But these children were innocent. They were innocent of any contamination–either by personal sin or inherited sin. It is not possible to be tainted by the original sin of Adam and still remain “innocent,” yet the parents of these children were condemned as having “shed innocent blood” (cf. Jeremiah 19:4). These children were “not guilty” in any sense before God.
“But the shameful thing has consumed the labor of our fathers since our youth, their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters. Let us lie down in our shame, and let our humiliation cover us; for we have sinned against the Lord our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even to this day. And we have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God.”
Employed is a form of the same word discussed under Genesis 8:21. The Hebrew neure is used twice in the verse cited. The word is common in the book of Jeremiah, appearing eight times, and always in the sense of one old enough to choose good or evil.
For instance, in Jeremiah 2:2, Jerusalem is addressed by God with these words: “I remember concerning you the devotion of your youth.” The passage refers to the devoted obedience once rendered by the people, before “they went far from Me, and walked after emptiness” (Jeremiah 2:5). The word “youth” in this application has reference to an age of choice and willingness to obey–not to a post-natal helplessness.
Jeremiah confessed the sins of the people as being from “our youth.” He had absolutely nothing to say concerning the people being condemned from birth by the sin of Adam, but says, “we have sinned against the Lord our God.” By the use of the word neure, Jeremiah linked the sins of Jerusalem to an age of youthful maturity when the choice to obey or disobey God had been reached. The time preceding this stage of youthful maturity for the people under consideration was the innocence of early development during the forty years in the wilderness when God spoke of them as the “little ones” who “have no knowledge of good or evil” (Deuteronomy 1:39).
It was these “little ones” that God brought into “the fruitful land to eat its fruit and its good things. But you came and defiled My good land, and My inheritance you made an abomination” (Jeremiah 2:7). The entire context involves the nation of Israel which entered the Promised Land, but soon polluted the land “with your harlotry and with your wickedness” (Jeremiah 3:2). The sins enumerated by Jeremiah were not committed by the infants and very small children, but by those old enough to choose between good and evil (cf. Jeremiah 32:29-30). The infants and very young were innocent of all such evil.
1 Corinthians 14:20
“Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.”
Paul cautions the church in Corinth concerning the inordinate attention given to the gift of tongues, comparing them to children who are easily captivated by anything which amuses. Instead of focusing on the gift of tongues as a source of self-aggrandizement, Paul calls for mature thinking in the church. The three terms used by Paul in this verse are quite significant to our current study: 1) children, 2) infants, and 3) mature.
Although the church was cautioned against thinking like “children” regarding the matter of spiritual gifts, being called upon to be “mature” in their grasp of the gospel, Paul employs the term “infants” in relation to their participation in evil. The apostle desired growth from the church concerning their comprehension of the gospel and the purpose of spiritual gifts, but, as one author noted, “In one respect only would Paul have his converts not grow, and that was in wickedness” (Williams, 1999, p. 60).
The church was to be like infants with regards to evil. The obvious import of his statement is that the church should be free from all evil–even as infants are free from all evil. If all humans are born in sin as alleged by the doctrine of Original Sin, Paul’s metaphor in this place has no meaning. Why would Paul exhort the church to become like infants in regard to evil if all infants are born with an inheritance of evil that is irresistible? According to the doctrine of Original Sin, Paul would be urging every member of the church to return to a state of total depravity!
But the truth is evident, being witnessed in Paul’s desire for Christians to be free from sin even as infants are clean and pure. If infants are not innocent regarding sin, what is the meaning of Paul’s desire for Christians to become comparable to babes concerning evil? The comparative terms (“children,” “infants,” and “mature”) demonstrate the significant difference comprising the various stages of human development. Paul exhorts the church to be mature in their thinking concerning the use of miraculous gifts, but counsels the church to be innocent like infants regarding evil.
“Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (cf. Mark 9:33-37).
If the doctrine of Original Sin is fact, Jesus was not aware of such. His words in this passage are contradictory to the idea that all children are sinners. If all children are sinners from birth, Jesus would be instructing his disciples to become like sinners in order to enter the kingdom of heaven!?! How absurd!
The disciples had been discussing which one would be the “greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (18:1). Jesus responded by calling “a child to Himself” (18:2). The Greek word for “child” is paidion, defined as an “infant, small child” (Van Voorst, 1990). “This word means ‘small child’ with reference to age” (Kittel, 1985). That a very young child was called by Jesus is made certain in Mark’s account where he mentions Jesus “taking him in His arms” (Mark 9:36).
Jesus uses the “infant, small child” as an object lesson for instructing his adult disciples of the need to “become like children,” otherwise, He affirms, they “shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” If children are born with a totally depraved nature, why would adults, who also possess the same depraved nature, be called upon to “become like children”? Something is amiss in this simile if the theory of Original Sin is fact, but if it is fiction, Jesus is not teaching adults to become like little sinners, but He is teaching the need for sinners to become innocent like “infants, small children.”
“But Jesus said, ‘Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (cf. Mark 10:14-15; Luke 18:16-17).
The word “children” is paidia, the plural form of the singular paidion discussed under Matthew 18:3. Jesus affirms “the kingdom of heaven belongs” to the “infants, small children.” Is Jesus saying the kingdom belongs to sinners? Of course not; but that is exactly what the doctrine of Original Sin, if pressed to explain the text, must assert. If all children are born sinners, and the kingdom belongs to children, then the kingdom belongs to sinners. How insanely ludicrous!
Jesus emphasizes the innocence of small children to illustrate what adults must become if they desire to enter the kingdom of heaven. Quite similar to the instruction of Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:20, Jesus teaches the necessity of becoming like small children, saying, “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter at all” (Mark 10:15).
It is untenable to allege Jesus calls on grown men to become like little sinners in order to enter the kingdom. His desire is for all men to return to an innocent state of purity enjoyed by infants and small children. His desire is achievable through the terms of the gospel which provides forgiveness of sin through repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38).
Infants and Young Children are in the Lord’s House
Many of those wedded to the doctrine of Original Sin argue that infants and young children who die without baptism are destined for hell. This explains the practice of infant baptism which emerged subsequent to the acceptance of Original Sin as a church doctrine. Others, not willing to consign all non-baptized children to the horrors of hell, subscribe to “Infant Limbo” or a similar waiting place as the destiny of infants and small children who die without baptism.
It should be noted by the sincere reader that baptism never precedes belief or repentance in the teaching of the apostles. Infant baptism is meaningless and purposeless. The New Testament affords no evidence for such a practice, but calls on the mature that recognize they are sinners to believe in Jesus Christ, repent of their sins, confess the name of Christ, and be baptized into Christ where forgiveness of sins is made a reality. Babies cannot obey any of the preliminary acts of obedience, and therefore should not have baptism foisted upon them as a remedy for a fabricated depravity.
Does the Bible teach that infants and young children are destined for eternal torment at death as a result of Adam’s original sin? Certainly not! In fact, the Bible clearly teaches the very opposite–that infants are taken into the Lord’s house at death. In 2 Samuel 12, the son born to Bathsheba and David was smitten with a terminal illness by the Lord. Although David fasted, wept, and prayed for the child, after seven days, the child died.
Because David ended his mourning immediately, his servants inquired of him, “What is this thing that you have done? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” David answered, “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows, the Lord may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’ But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:21-23).
It is clear from David’s comment that he anticipated being with his son again someday–not that the child would ever return to David, but that David would go to be with him. It seems rather obvious that David is looking ahead to his own death and departure from this earth, and through prophetic inspiration, David has made known his own eternal destiny. In the beloved 23rd Psalm, David declares, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (v. 6).
If the child born to David and Bathsheba was tainted with the original sin of Adam, how does one account for the fact that the inspired prophet looks forward to being with the child again? The Bible knows nothing of the damnation of infants and small children. Not one verse can be cited which condemns children on account of the sin of Adam, but we do have inspired testimony which demonstrates a father eagerly anticipating being with a departed infant son in the house of the Lord.
Heaven will be home to every child who has not reached the age to choose between good and evil. Heaven will be home to every person who does not develop mentally to choose between good and evil. Heaven will also be home to all sinners who turn to God in repentance, obeying the precepts of God which extend forgiveness.
Whether one lived in the Patriarchal age, the Mosaic age, or within the current Christian age, the Lord has always offered pardon from iniquities. Salvation from sin is now freely provided by the Lord for those who choose to accept life in Christ Jesus through simple obedience to the gospel of Christ announced by His chosen apostles.
The doctrine of original sin, whether intended or not, implies that human beings are not responsible for the evil they do. It is claimed that Adam made the original choice to sin, but all others have derived the inclination to sin from him. Supposedly, then, one is not responsible for the sin that is committed. If men were void of the disposition to sin, they would not sin, so the logic goes. But because of the inheritance, each one sins—and it is not their fault, it is Adam’s fault!
The doctrine of Original Sin promotes sinful indulgence. If men have an alibi for sin, what is there to refrain one from engaging in any and all excesses of wickedness? When combined with the Calvinistic doctrine of the impossibility of apostasy, we have a sure-fire recipe for rampant sinful behavior within the realm of Christianity.
The evidence of such unbridled evil is seen in the post-modern pragmatic movement of the “Emerging Church,” wherein every fundamental doctrine of Christianity has been assailed. Instead of calling on the world to become like Christ, the pragmatic church of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries calls on Christians to become like the world. The church has become the gathering of masses craving worldly entertainment.
Despite the warnings issued against the evil practices of the world (1 John 2:15-17), one writer has observed, “Yet today we have the extraordinary spectacle of the church programs deliberately designed to cater to fleshly desire, sensual appetites, and human pride…For several years a colleague of mine has been collecting a ‘horror file’ of clippings that report how churches are employing innovations to keep worship services from becoming dull. Since the late 1970s, some of America’s largest evangelical churches have been employing worldly gimmicks like slapstick, vaudeville, wrestling exhibitions, and even mock striptease to spice up their Sunday meetings. No brand of horseplay, it seems, is too outrageous to be brought into the sanctuary. Burlesque has become the liturgy of the pragmatic church” (MacArthur, 2010, p. 32).
When one is convinced that sin is an inherited defect and that salvation is by “grace alone” or “faith alone,” the need for repentance from sin becomes totally unnecessary. When the church becomes like the world, worship of God is forgotten, and every ill gotten form of entertainment that will advance the marketability and profitability of the “church” for its owners becomes the sole doctrine of importance. Joel Olsteen’s current empire is a text-book example of a “church” that accepts worldliness in its members while promising salvation without and apart from any need to repent from sinful practices that are irresistibly inherited from Adam.
How can anyone with even a smattering of Bible knowledge be deceived into believing sin doesn’t matter? Repentance from sin is a core doctrine of Jesus and His apostles (cf. Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 8:22; 26:20, etc.). The apostle John wrote, “My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin” (1 John 2:1; cf. 2 Corinthians 13:7).
The doctrine of Original Sin contends the apostle’s holy intention for the church is impractical and foolish because men are predisposed to sin. Yet the apostle Paul concurred with John, stating, “Therefore be imitators of God…do not let immorality or any impurity or greed be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or course jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks” (Ephesians 5:1-4). If these sins cannot be resisted, why does Paul command their absence among members of the church?
The very implication that man is powerless to turn away from sin and live godly in Christ Jesus (cf. 2 Timothy 3:12) reveals the doctrine of Original Sin as fiction. The abundance of conclusive Scriptural evidence also corroborates the theory as fiction. Moreover, any theory which requires the dredging up of non-scriptural doctrines to bolster its credibility automatically discredits itself as fact, revealing instead that it belongs to the realm of fanciful imagination and sheer fiction.
Jesus does not condone the denigration and disparagement of little children as rank sinners condemned by the original sin of Adam. Rather, Jesus intends for the church to become like little children, “for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” The Lord’s affirmation proves that men are not born sinners. Having weighed the evidence, the verdict is rendered: The doctrine of Original Sin is pure fiction.
Gesenius, Wilhelm and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles (2003), Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures.
(Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software).
MacArthur, John (2010), Ashamed of the Gospel
(Wheaton, IL: Crossway).
Swanson, James (1997), Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament). electronic ed.
(Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.).
Van Voorst, Robert E. (1990), Building Your New Testament Greek Vocabulary
(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Williams, David J. (1999), Paul’s Metaphors
(Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).