REFUTATION OF ORIGINAL SIN & TOTAL HEREDITARY DEPRAVITY:

The theories of Augustine and John Calvin Historically Traced & Examined in the Light of Scripture

by John Doughty, October 11, 2013BAKS Skincare Co.

The doctrines of Original Sin and Total Hereditary Depravity are accepted by the majority of denominations in so-called Christendom.  Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, and some Baptists, to name a few, all subscribe to this teaching.  If such a doctrine comes from the holy scriptures, why can we not find it, let alone define it, from the word of God?

We have to go to the reliable Merriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of World Religions (1999) p. 830, for an accurate and honest definition:

“ORIGINAL SIN, in Christian doctrine, condition or state of SIN into which each human being is born; also, the origin, or cause, of this state.  Traditionally, the origin has been ascribed to the sin of ADAM, who disobeyed God in eating the forbidden fruit and, in consequence, transmitted his sin and guilt by heredity to his descendants.”

The Merriam-Webster’s article points out that there is nothing in Genesis, the Old Testament, or the Gospels to substantiate the idea.  “The main scriptural affirmation of the doctrine…” they write is the apostle Paul in Romans 5:12-19, which they describe as a “difficult passage in which Paul establishes a parallelism between Adam and Jesus Christ.”  The article concludes that it was Augustine, who, “helped to fix the sinful state of humanity as a central element of orthodox Christian theology.”

How could an obscure bishop, three centuries removed from the apostles, take a difficult passage in Romans 5:12-19, where Paul makes an analogy between Adam and Christ, and help it to become “a central element of Christian theology?”  Does your red flag go up?  How could this passage come to be a chief pillar in support of the doctrine of Original Sin (that the sin of Adam was transferred to the entire human race) and the later idea of Total Hereditary Depravity (that all men are born in sin with the bondage of will)?

How would one make such an inference based on this text:

Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin; and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned-”

Adam brought sin into the world, and since “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), the result of sin was death; because of the Fall, the whole creation was put under the curse of “futility, “the bondage of corruption,” or “decay,” (Rom. 8:19-23).  But where does this verse say that the sin of Adam was transferred, hereditarily, to all men?  It does not.

Romans 5:12, What “passed” or “spread” upon all men?  Death.  We inherit death, and not just the physical death of a fallen world as a consequence of Adam’s sin; but physical and spiritual death because of our own sin… “for that all have sinned,” or “because all sinned.” This passage does not teach Original Sin nor Total Depravity at all.

Let us trace the history of this false teaching and see how it came to be accepted as a central element of “orthodoxy.”  We find that the root goes back to Augustine (A.D. 354-430), bishop of Hippo, North Africa, in his book Confessions, which is an account of his journey from a life of promiscuity and sin to faith in Jesus Christ.

Augustine gives us the first mention principle of the term “original sin.”

“There I was received by the scourge of bodily sickness; and I was very close to falling into hell, burdened with all the many and grievous sins I had committed against you, myself, and others—all over and above that fetter of original sin whereby we all die in Adam.”

He invokes the concept of the transference of Adam’s sin:

“Thus it was no more I who did it, but the sin that dwelt in me—the punishment of a sin freely committed by Adam, and I was a son of Adam.” (Confessions, Saint Augustine, translated by Albert C. Outler, Barnes & Noble Classics, New York, 2007.)

 Augustine writes affectionately of his believing mother who maintained a constant prayer vigil over him, despite his indulgence in the passing pleasures of sin.  Describing a setback in his personal battle with the lusts of the flesh, Augustine reported uttering the famous phrase, “Grant me chastity, but not yet.”  Convicted of his fornication, he identifies with David, and alludes to the famous Psalm 51:5 at the beginning of his book, applying it to himself:

But if ‘I was conceived in iniquity, and in sin my mother nourished me in her womb,’ where, I pray you, my god, where, lord, or when was I, your servant, ever innocent?

According to Augustine, not only are infants born in sin: “Who brings to remembrance the sins of my infancy? For in your sight there is none free from sin, not even the infant who has lived but a day upon this earth;” but their crying is evidence of their spiritual reprobation, “I have myself observed a baby to be jealous, though it could not speak; it was livid as it watched another infant at the breast.”  The bishop should have read Romans 5:13, “sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.”  James 4:17 says, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

While Confessions does not mention the Romans 5:12-19 analogy; it contains all of the elements of Calvinism: the “secret counsel,” predestination “[you] were carrying out the plan by which you had predetermined it should be done,”  “the elect,” a “sin nature,” the rejection or marginalization of free will…  No wonder a contemporary scholar has accused John Calvin of being “an organizer and not a speculative theologian.”  And what is interesting is that this “doctrine” comes from a so-called “church father” whose teaching is claimed by the Roman Catholic Institution to be equal in authority to the word of God.  Yet, John Calvin, a Roman Catholic priest turned Protestant, who later referred to the Roman religion as the “whore of Babylon,” seemed to swallow it hook, line, and sinker.  There was one Augustinian view, however, which came to be rejected, if not by John Calvin himself, then by his successors whose teaching came to bear his name:

[Victorinus]  said to Simplicianus-as he himself told me- ‘Let us go to the church; I wish to become a Christian.’ Simplicianus went with him, scarcely able to contain himself for joy. He was admitted to the first sacraments of instruction, and not long afterward gave in his name that he might receive the baptism of regeneration.

As the reader will see, the doctrine of Christian baptism in the Fourth Century was still recognizable, at least in its purpose, as to what the apostle Peter had given on the first day of the church,

Acts 2:38, Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

The apostle Peter said of Paul’s epistles, that there were “some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the scriptures.”  The apostle Paul had warned the early church that there would be an apostasy, or falling, away from the faith.  In Acts 20, 29-30, he told the elders of the church of Ephesus that “savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.”  He continued, “Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after themselves.”  It was not the original Ephesian eldership which would go bad, but a future generation of men, Paul warned, who would come through their positions as presbyters (elders) and bishops (overseers.)  Augustine, bishop of Hippo, is heralded as having the greatest influence upon modern Christendom today, after the apostle Paul.  Could Paul have been prophesying of him?

Augustine lived in a day when the government of the church was through the oversight of the bishops.  The word EPISCOPOS means to “oversee,” literally “scope out” in protection of the flock, as Paul described their role at Ephesus.  There was no mono-episcopacy in the Fourth Century.  The name of the church was being called “Catholic” with a little “c” and it was not the same organization as wears the name today, though as historians, we might say it was evolving in that direction.  Nevertheless, the Roman Catholic religion derived a great deal of its theology from Augustine, pertaining to Original Sin.

The Roman Catholic Catechism says: By his sin Adam, as the first man, lost the original holiness and justice he had received from God, not only for himself but for all humans. Adam and Eve transmitted to their descendants human nature wounded by their own first sin and hence deprived of original holiness and justice; this deprivation is called “original sin”. As a result of original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers, subject to ignorance, suffering and the domination of death, and inclined to sin (this inclination is called “concupiscence” [lust, desire]).

The leaders of the Protestant Reformation all subscribed to the Augustinian theology of Original Sin.  Martin Luther (1483–1546), asserted that humans inherit Adamic guilt and are in a state of sin from the moment of conception.  The Augsburg Confession (1530), the creed of Lutheranism, says in article two, “Of Original Sin,”

since the fall of Adam all men begotten in the natural way are born with sin, that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with concupiscence; and that this disease, or vice of origin, is truly sin, even now condemning and bringing eternal death upon those not born again through Baptism and the Holy Ghost.

But John Calvin was the chief of the promulgators of Augustinian theology.  One cannot read Calvin’s famous Institutes of the Christian Religion without finding frequent reference to and quotation from the Bishop of Hippo:

Therefore, since through man’s fault a curse has extended above and below, over all the regions of the world, there is nothing unreasonable in its extending to all his offspring. After the heavenly image in man was effaced, he not only was himself punished… but he involved his posterity also and plunged them in the same wretchedness. This is the hereditary corruption to which early Christian writers gave the name of Original Sin, meaning by the term the depravation of a nature formerly good and pure. The subject gave rise to much discussion, there being nothing more remote from common apprehension, than that the fault of one should render all guilty, and so become a common sin.  Book 2, chapter 1, section 5

 

…the sin of the first man passed to all his posterity… The orthodoxy, therefore, and more especially Augustine, laboured to show, that we are not corrupted by acquired wickedness, but bring an innate corruption from the very womb. Book 2, chapter 1, section 5.

 We thus see that the impurity of parents is transmitted to their children, so that all, without exception, are originally depraved. The commencement of this depravity will not be found until we ascend to the first parent of all as the fountain head. We must, therefore, hold it for certain, that, in regard to human nature, Adam was not merely a progenitor, but, as it were, a root, and that, accordingly, by his corruption, the whole human race was deservedly vitiated. (Book 2, chapter 1, section 6)

Adam, therefore, when he corrupted himself, transmitted the contagion to all his posterity… even our Saviour himself, declares that all are by birth vicious and depraved, when he says that “that which is born of the flesh is fleshy” (John 3:6), and that therefore the gate of life is closed against all until they have been regenerated.  Book 2, chapter 1, section 6)

There is nothing absurd, therefore, in the view, that when he was divested, his nature was left naked and destitute that he having been defiled by sin, the pollution extends to all his seed. Thus, from a corrupt root corrupt branches proceeding, transmit their corruption to the saplings which spring from them.  Book 2, chapter 1, section 7

Original sin, then, may be defined a hereditary corruption and depravity of our nature, extending to all the parts of the soul, which first makes us obnoxious to the wrath of God, and then produces in us works which in Scripture are termed works of the flesh. This corruption is repeatedly designated by Paul by the term sin; (Book 2, chapter 1, section 8).

The scriptures that John Calvin uses to defend his expansion of Original Sin into Total Hereditary Depravity are enumerated in his book 2 where he spends a great deal on the effects of the Fall.  He starts, as did Augustine with Psalm 51:5, quotes Job 14:4, and then proceeds to develop Paul’s parallelism of Romans 5:19-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:22.  He touches on Eph. 2:13 and Gal. 5:19, and winds down with a reference to John 3:6 and Romans 5:12 conclusion.

Let us examine these verses.

Psalm 51:5 “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.”

This is the prayer of David, being caught in the sin of adultery, and receiving the visit of the prophet Nathan who admonished him, “Thou art the man.”  It is an emotional outcry of David in repentance from sin and its guilt.

Some Jewish commentators take the grammar of the verse as speaking of David’s mother, and there is a tradition in the Talmud that David was considered by his brethren to be illegitimate.  It is also interesting that the word, “conceive” is not the usual Hebrew word HARAH, for conception, such as “a virgin shall conceive…” in Isaiah 7:14, but is YACHAM, which is used in the narratives of Jacob’s animal breeding, Genesis 30:41, Genesis 31:10.  It corresponds to animal heat, or breeding heat.  David is claiming that his very existence arose from the heat of passion, and now he has succumbed to that very thing.  While he had no control over the events of his own conception, he knew it was wrong to take Bathsheba.  David’s exclamation is the expression of frustration over his giving in to the lust of the flesh, a battle he had apparently been fighting for as long as he could remember.

To use this verse as a defense of Original Sin is to mitigate the guilt of David’s sin of adultery and shift the blame from David to Adam.  If the sin belongs to David by birth, through the sin of Adam, why is he suffering the guilt of the sin so personally:

Psalm 51:

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.

2Wash me throughly from mine iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

3For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.

4Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

5Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

6Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.

7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

8Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.

9Hide thy face from my sins and blot out all mine iniquities.

10Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

The Psalm 51:5 phrase is a Hebraism, a unique expression.  David is using hyperbole, an exaggeration for the sake of emphasis.  Many Old Testament writers employed similar phraseology when they referenced their experiences as being, “from the womb.”

Isaiah 49:1, Listen, O isle, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; The LORD hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name.

Jeremiah 1:5, Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

It would be foolish to base one’s harmatology (theology of sin) and soteriology (theology on salvation) on this single and controversial verse.  It is a leap of faith to extrapolate David’s situation, as epitomized by his declaration in verse five, to the entire human race.  And yet, Augustine and Calvin did just this, and so do the modern Calvinists.  How can a theologian use this text to justify the theory of original sin in contradiction to other scriptures which indicate that sin is not inherited:

Compare David’s comment in Psalm 25:7:

Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; According to Your lovingkindness remember me, For Your goodness’ sake, O LORD.

The word for youth “here” is NAUR, which in Hebrew means “youth” or “early life.”  Notice David does not ask God to forgive and forget any sins acquired at “birth” which would be the Hebrew word YALAD.  This is the normal word for “birth” such as is used in Isaiah 66:9,

“Shall I bring to the point of birth and not give delivery?” says the LORD. “Or shall I who gives delivery shut the womb?” says your God. NASB

In the same vein, Genesis 8:21 says:  And the LORD smelled a sweet savor; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth;

Again, the word is “youth” NAUR, not “birth” YALAD.  This verse indicates that God was not holding man accountable for any inherited sin, or infantile behavior committed before the knowledge of right and wrong.

The Calvinist interpretation of Psalm 51:5 contradicts David’s comment in Psalm 58:3:

The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.

If men are born in iniquity or sin, or with the guilt of sin, or with a sin nature; how is it said that “they go astray” from the womb, or from their birth?  The Calvinist notion of original sin and total hereditary depravity cannot be reconciled with these passages.

Calvin’s second verse was probably filler, because it does not prove anything, Job14:4, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.”  But Calvin’s third passage, Romans 5:19-21, does bear merit on the subject.  First of all, the author would like to point out that text actually begins in Romans 5:12, and the Adam/Christ analogy begins in verse 14.  Here is the full text:

Romans 5:

12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.

14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.

15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.

17 For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)

18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:

21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

An examination of the Romans 5 text shows what we get in Adam, and what is reversed in Christ:

Adam                                                                                                                     Christ

Vs. 14, Death reigned from Adam to Moses                              ————————————-

Vs. 15, offence of one many be dead                                           one man, free gift abounds to many

Vs. 16, judgment by one to condemnation                                 free gift is justification of many

Vs. 17, one man, death reigned                                                     they of grace & righteousness reign

Vs. 18, one man, judgment came to all                                       one righteous man, free gift came

to condemnation                                                               to all men unto justification of life

Vs. 19, by one man’s disobedience, many                                  by obedience of one shall many

Were made* sinners                                                         be made* righteous

Why did Calvin omit the first four verses of this very critical text from his comments?  Because four out of five verses in Paul’s Adam versus Christ text do not support his contention that Adam’s SIN was passed on to all men.  We have to wonder if Calvin was being honest with the reader at this point.  He seems to be picking and choosing the verses rather selectively in his polemic.  Apparently, he left out verses 14 through 18, because they do not provide him enough fuel for his battle against his enemies, the “free will” loving Pelagians, but rather seem to agree with the simple fact of Romans 6:23, “the wages of sin is death.”

In his book 2, Calvin seizes upon Romans 5:19, “many were MADE sinners.”  On the surface, it looks like perhaps he has the scriptural vindication for his theory.  In the Greek language, the word for born again, ANAGENNAO, is translated “born” or “made.”  If the Greek word here is some form of this word, GENNAO  “beget,” “born,” or GINOMAI, “made” or “become,” then perhaps we could say that Adam’s sin has “degenerated” men into sinners.  However the word is KATESTATHESAN, which means “delegated,” “categorized,” or “constituted.”  The Marshall’s Greek Interlinear reads:

For as through the disobedience of the one man sinners were constituted the many, so also through the obedience of the one [man] righteous will be constituted the many.

George R. Berry’s Interlinear reads the same.  If this is the best that Calvin has, then his theory of total hereditary depravity is as dead as a doornail.

Calvin lists his fourth scripture, 1 Corinthians 15:22, which is the companion text of Romans 5:12-21.  Again, Calvin did not address a verse, 21:

21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

The next scripture Calvin gives is Ephesians 2:3, where the apostle says,

Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

No question we were by nature the children of wrath.  But again, the question is, WHEN did we enter that state?  He refers to Galatians 5:19, where Paul speaks of the “works of the flesh…”  Calvin seems to be running out of steam at this point, he concludes with his last verse, Romans 5:12, which leaves us with the question, if he were a systematic theologian, why would he work a text backwards?   We have already shown that Rom. 5:12 actually says that “death spread to all men…” and that comes about “because all sinned.”  Romans 5:14 bears out that this was physical death.  Paul has made an excellent point from typology, what we received in Adam, death, is offset by what we receive in Christ, life, and the resurrection of the dead.

We have rejected the idea that mankind became sinners in Adam’s fall.  Is there any scriptural information that reveals when a man does enter into that state?  Some people call it the “age of accountability.”  Where is that in the Bible?  We have read how Augustine and John Calvin both had a problem with infants.  Speaking of his own infancy, Augustine imagined his life as a baby, filled with carnal wants and desires,

I grew indignant that my elders were not subject to me and that those on whom I actually had no claim did not wait on me as slaves – and I avenged myself on them by crying.

John Calvin is worse,

Hence, even infants bringing their condemnation with them from their mother’s womb, suffer not for another’s, but for their own defect. For although they have not yet produced the fruits of their own unrighteousness, they have the seed implanted in them. Nay, their whole nature is, as it were, a seed-bed of sin, and therefore cannot but be odious and abominable to God.  (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 2, Chapter 1, Section 8.)

 One would definitely not want to invite these church fathers to their baby shower, but all this pedophobia is quite unnecessary.  We have already read that “sin is not imputed when there is no law,” Rom. 5:13, and whether we apply the guardianship of the law (Gal. 3:24) to the nation of Israel, or to an individual, such as Paul himself (Rom. 7:7-12), we know that sin is not imputed without the law and commandment.  Romans 7:7-12 says:

I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’  But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead.  I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death.  For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me.  Therefore, the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.

There is no question that man is depraved.  We are wicked people.  There is no question that we were dead in our sins and trespasses, Eph. 2:1-3, Col. 2:13, and were by nature the children of wrath.   The question is where and when we got into that spiritual death?  John Calvin’s mistake was to substitute the Adamic fall as the time and place of man’s becoming a sinner and receiving his spiritual death sentence.  This is a big mistake.  Paul puts man’s spiritual death at the time he received the commandment.  Paul said that sin’s opportunity and occasion to deceive and kill him came to him through the commandment of God.  This is consistent with James 4:17, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

The Calvinists say that we became sinners at birth because of the fall of Adam, and that every person born of a woman enters this world dead and totally depraved.  If this is true, then we should substitute the term “Fall of Adam” for “commandment” in Paul’s 7:7-12 text.  Try it and see how absurd it becomes.

I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’  But sin, taking opportunity by the FALL OF ADAM, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead.  I was alive once without the law, but when the FALL OF ADAM came, sin revived and I died. And the FALL OF ADAM, which was to bring life, I found to bring death.  For sin, taking occasion by the FALL OF ADAM, deceived me, and by it killed me.  Therefore, the law is holy, and the FALL OF ADAM holy and just and good.

What shall we say?  It has been our purpose in this article to trace the history of Augustine’s theory of Original Sin and John Calvin’s teaching on Total Hereditary Depravity and to evaluate it in the light of the scripture.  At stake is the credibility and validity of what is called a central element of orthodox Christian theology.

Wikipedia conveys just what is at stake:

John Calvin… developed a systematic theology of Augustinian Protestantism by interpretation of Augustine of Hippo’s notion of original sin. Calvin believed that humans inherit Adamic guilt and are in a state of sin from the moment of conception. This inherently sinful nature (the basis for the Calvinistic doctrine of “total depravity”) results in a complete alienation from God and the total inability of humans to achieve reconciliation with God based on their own abilities. Not only do individuals inherit a sinful nature due to Adam’s fall, but since he was the federal head and representative of the human race, all whom he represented inherit the guilt of his sin by imputation.

If it is proved that man has not received the sin of Adam, and that he is not “totally” depraved in the Calvinist sense, that is that man is born in a fallen state and lost all ability or will toward God.  Then it logically follows that the Calvinist doctrine of election which they call “regeneration” is unscriptural and unnecessary, and we can put TRUE “regeneration” back where it rightfully belongs, where the scriptures place it, which is in our conversion, specifically in the washing of Christian baptism…

Titus 3:5, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

Acts 22:16, And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

John 3:5, Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

Since we have discarded the fallacy of hereditary depravity and total inability, we do not have to concoct a conversion process such as the Calvinists do with its three mythical “phases;” one the supposed pre-conversion “regeneration” when a soul is granted God’s predestination favor, then two, when a person subjectively “receives Jesus into his heart” without any authority or scriptural warrant, and then three, when he is later baptized in water as a “symbol,” an outward sign of a previous inward act.

And when you ask the Calvinist which one of these three phases represents “baptism in the name of Jesus Christ,” he cannot give you a straight answer.  But the Ethiopian knows, “See, here is water.  What hinders me from being baptized?” Acts 8:36. Peter knew in Acts 10:47, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized…”  If you want to know what is the water of the new birth in John 3:5 just scroll down to John 3:22-23, “Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized…” John is using the Lord’s night conversation with Nicodemus to kick off the baptism ministries of John the Baptist and our Lord in his Gospel account.

Since the scriptures prove the concept of total hereditary depravity to be false, then so its it’s necessary consequence, the theory of the bondage of the will.   All the creeds of men that are founded upon this teaching are proved to be in error:

We are all sinners by nature; therefore, we are held under the yoke of sin.  But if the whole man lies under the power of sin, surely it is necessary that the will, which is its chief seat, be restrained by the stoutest bonds.”  (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 2, chapter 2, section 27)

To everyone there is imputed from Adam an original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil” Westminster Confession of Faith, 1646, chapter 6, section 4.

Because of the bondage of sin by which the will is held bound, it cannot move toward good much less apply itself thereto; for a movement of this sort is the beginning of conversion to God, which in Scripture is ascribed entirely to God’s grace” (ICR, Book 2, chapter 3, section 5)

Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, OR TO PREPARE HIMSELF THEREUNTO” (WCF, chapter 9, section 3)

From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.” Second London Baptist Confession, 1689, chapter 6, section 4.

All the necessary consequences of total hereditary depravity are found to be lies: regeneration by abstract spiritual influences, infant sprinkling, Limbo, confirmation, the Immaculate Conception of Mary, salvation by grace alone, salvation by faith alone, monergistic salvation, unconditional eternal security, second work of grace…  All of these false doctrines, which are extensions of the lie, go down with it.

In a recent online discussion, a Calvinist made a series of progressive comments to the author on the nature of Adam’s Fall, and what he believes was its effects upon the human race. He believed in John Calvin’s theory of Total Hereditary Depravity; that because Adam sinned, every person is born a sinner, a child of wrath, an enemy of God.

“Don’t you understand from the Scriptures that God gave Adam & Eve “free will” in the Garden, and they used that “free will” to sin against Him, and have lost their “free will” in the Fall, so that since the Fall they are in “bondage to their sin”?”

“God created Adam and Eve WITH A FREE WILL, which they exercised to sin against God, and all men everywhere are now born “into sin” since the Fall – with the same nature that Adam had when he died. His sons were born into sin. Man is “by nature a child of wrath”. “The wrath of God abides on those who do NOT believe/obey”. God must Regenerate His elect, grant them faith and repentance, or they will NOT come to Christ.”

“Since we are all from Adam’s lineage, we inherited his “sin nature”. Paul says of the “Christian”, “were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest” in Ephesians 2:3. In other words, all men everywhere are by natural birth and the nature given them at conception “children of wrath”.”

“God does not now find men in a state of neutrality, like in the Garden, with a “free will” to choose whether or not they want to “follow Him”. God finds every man born of a woman to be an “enemy”. Those who are “reconciled” now, “were enemies”. Man is NOT born with “free will” since the Fall in the Garden. He is born an “enemy” of God – a “God hater” (see Romans 1).”

“I don’t remember at all saying that we became sinners by being born of a woman. What I have stated is that we have inherited a sin nature like Adam’s nature, after he fell into sin and transgression in the Garden. Their son’s Cain & Abel inherited their father’s sin nature, which is how Cain became the first murderer. Both had lost “free will” because Adam is the representative of us all. This is what Romans 5:12 teaches;”

We do NOT inherit the “sins” of our parents. We inherit the “sin nature” of Adam through our parents, and their parents, and their parents, all the way up to Adam.

Looking closely at these comments, we discover this Calvinist creating a dichotomy of the human race as sinners and recipients of the curse of God.  That is, this commentator says, the children of Adam (men today) are not in the same category as Adam.  He says that Adam was given a “free will” by creation, but every man born after, was NOT given a “free will.”  He says God does not find the sons of Adam “in a state of neutrality….” “like in the Garden…”  How great this man has made leaps of deduction, inference, and forcing of the scripture to say what it does not say!  We can dismiss all of this with one simple verse:

Hosea 6:7, “But like Adam they have transgressed the covenant; There they have dealt treacherously against Me.”

Israel had sinned against God, and the Lord was calling them to repentance. God compared the sin of Israel to that which was committed by the FIRST MAN, Adam, and also committed by ALL MEN… “they transgressed the covenant.”  Since the word in Hebrew, “Adam” also means “man,” some translations say, “like Adam,” and some say, “like man…” But this is irrelevant to the argument, because God is describing the spiritually fallen state of man, not as a result of something acquired or inherited, but because of something willfully committed… “they transgressed…” “they broke the covenant.”  The Hosea 6:7 passage proves that this Calvinist has made a false dichotomy, because God counts all men as sinners by transgression, not transmission.

This is what Romans 3:23 is saying,

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”

Does this sound like something which is inherited or received from Adam, or something that is committed by every person?

Romans 5:12, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:”  Again, “death passed upon all men,” NOT SIN, “for that all have sinned:”

What shall we say then?

“they transgressed the covenant…” Hosea 6:7

“for all have sinned” Romans 3:23

“because all have sinned” Romans 5:12

“Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” James 4:17.

In the Old Testament, there was a lingering tendency of Israel to blame their predicament on preceding generations.  Ezekiel 18:1-4 says:

1 The word of the LORD came unto me again, saying,

2 What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?

3 As I live, saith the Lord GOD, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel.

4 Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.

What does the phrase, “Behold, all souls are mine,” mean?  If God created every soul of the entire human race, and made them in his image, would they not, then, belong to the Lord.  It is hard to imagine God claiming ownership, as a righteously jealous God, over the human race and then, arbitrarily predestinating a portion of these souls to reprobation and condemnation, unconditionally, that is upon no apparent criteria or basis.

The Ezekiel 18 text can be encapsulated in one verse:

20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.

The context bears upon the immediate predicament of Israel, the complaint that the captivity of Babylon was the sin of preceding generations.  Thus the false proverb, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?  God rebuked that quickly, every soul will suffer the consequence of his own sins.

A fuller picture of Israel’s complaint against God emerges from the Ezekiel 18 context:

19 Yet say ye, Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live.

20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.

21 But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.

22 All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live.

23 Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?

24 But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.

25Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal?

26When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die.

27Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive.

28Because he considereth, and turneth away from all his transgressions that he hath committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.

29Yet saith the house of Israel, The way of the Lord is not equal. O house of Israel, are not my ways equal? are not your ways unequal?

30Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.

31Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

32For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.

By application, we see a great similarity of the complaint of Israel and Calvin’s theory of total hereditary depravity.  Calvinism rejects the idea that, “All souls are mine,” Ezekiel 18:4.  It makes the same claim, “Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father?” Ezekiel 18:19. If by “father” the sons of Judah referred to the preceding generation, why could it not be extended ultimately to father Adam?  The Calvinist view of predestination and election is tantamount to the proverb of these sour grape Israelites, “The way of the Lord is not equal” Ezekiel 18:25.  And this is the spirit and essence of the idea of unconditional election, “the way of the Lord is not equal.”  No wonder God was upset.

If Peter subscribed to the Calvinist view of Total Depravity, Predestination, and Unconditional Election; why did he say in Acts 10:34-35, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”  If Paul was a Calvinist, why did he say in Romans 2:6 that God “will render to every man according to his deeds…” and, “there is no respect of persons with God.”  Romans 2:11.

Romans 2:6-11: 6Who will render to every man according to his deeds:7To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: 8But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,9Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; 10But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: 11For there is no respect of persons with God.

The rebuke of the Lord from the prophet Ezekiel should have been sufficient to repudiate the germ of blasphemy from these impenitent captives, who were alleging God to be inequitable.  And yet, we read in Jeremiah 31:29-34, that the Lord acknowledged this sacrilege would persist until the future time, “behold the days come…”  “after those days,” of the new covenant.  The Babylonian captivity transitioned to the Persian captivity, where a remnant returned from exile to Jerusalem, rebuilt the temple, and the days of the prophets of the Old Testament came to a close.  The scriptures do not reveal the end of the Inequality movement of Israel, but by the time of the inter-testamental period, the four hundred years of silence between Malachi and Matthew, it is clear that the teaching had taken root among the Jewish renegades.

A pseudepigraphical book (false book), 2 Esdras, contains the first real statement of Original Sin and Total Hereditary Depravity as Augustine and John Calvin described, and as is taught by Calvinists today.

2 Esdras 4:30-31:

[30] For the grain of evil seed hath been sown in the heart of Adam from the beginning, and how much ungodliness hath it brought up unto this time? and how much shall it yet bring forth until the time of threshing come?

[31] Ponder now by thyself, how great fruit of wickedness the grain of evil seed hath brought forth.

2 Esdras 3:21, 22:

[21] For the first Adam bearing a wicked heart transgressed, and was overcome; and so be all they that are born of him.

[22] Thus infirmity was made permanent; and the law (also) in the heart of the people with the malignity of the root; so that the good departed away, and the evil abode still.

2 Esdras 7:48:

[48] O thou Adam, what hast thou done? for though it was thou that sinned, thou art not fallen alone, but we all that come of thee.

Scholars date the authorship of 2 Esdras from A.D. 110 to 260.  It was not derived from the inter-testamental period, but was written after the book of Revelation was sealed.  It was a forgery, written in the voice of a Jewish author, but rejected as “inspired” by Jewish scholars.  Indeed, how could the Jewish authorities accept it?  It seems to have been written by a proponent of the Christian religion albeit with Gnostic tendencies, mocking the Jews over the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and suggesting that they needed another “Ezra” to lead them, this time from the Roman captivity.  Hence, the imaginary author is titled “Esdras” which is the Greek name for “Ezra.”  The book bears some influence of Greek Philosophy which is not surprising as the Jewish community in Alexandria, as well as the later Christian thinkers there, attempted to amalgamate their teachings with Platonism, for example the dualism of flesh versus spirit, and Gnosticism, the emphasis of knowledge.  While Jewish authorities rejected this book, the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox institutions both added it to their Christian “Bibles” as Jewish “Apocrypha.”

It is very likely that Augustine’s source of Original Sin was not the Old or New Testament, but rather Greek philosophy influenced apocryphal religion of a Christian and Jewish flavor.

There are striking similarities in the belief systems of the Manichean religion, to which Augustine belonged in the years of his formal schooling, and the “Christian” worldview that he later purported to write about in Confessions and City of God.

Manichaeism is the name of the teachings of Mani (216-276 A.D.), of Persia, who attempted to synthesize the teachings of Buddha, Zoroaster, and Jesus into a greater religion of light.  Manichaeism taught an ongoing process in the course of time, in which light is taken from the physical universe and returned to the spiritual world from where it had originated.  It taught a dualism between light and darkness and good and evil, to which they assigned two groups of people, who were possessed by these respective natures.

It was preoccupied with the origin of evil, with its characters such as “Primal Man” or “Original Man,” which in time were assigned the names of the Persian Zoroastrian deities, “Ohrmazd Bay” which became Ahura Mazda (the god of light) who battled Ahriman (the god of darkness.)  In the Zoroastrian religion, the “Original Man” battles the evil one (Ahriman) with the help of the God of lights.  In one sense, “Original Man appears to be the Persian corruption of Jesus.  In the other sense, it could be Adam.  Manichaeism believed in an “elect” though it was composed of male and female monks.  It incorporated apocryphal Jewish books as a source of information, particularly the Book of Enoch, and its teaching concerning the race of giants.

In his Confessions, Augustine’s favorite theme is the “true light,” “immutable light,” “light of my eyes,” “light of my heart,” “lights of heaven,” “radiance of light…”  He references James 1:17 where God, the Father of lights is said to have “no variableness or shadow of turning.”  Augustine wrestles with the origin of evil, the events of the Fall, and Adam.  He coins the word “original sin,” which very well may have been taken from Mani’s “Original Man.”  He writes incessantly of the “sorrow” and “punishment” of Adam, and also the “inheritance of Eve.”  Augustine presents two kinds of “wills,” and “minds,” (good and evil), and verifies that he, as a Manichean, believed in an “elect.”  He wrote of that time, “For it still seemed to me that it was not we who sinned, but some other nature that sinned in us.”

The underlying teaching of Original Sin and Total Hereditary Depravity is the idea that we are not sinners because of something we have done, but something that has been done to us.  It is interesting that Augustine mentioned the James 1:17 text, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”  As leader of the predominantly Jewish congregation in Jerusalem, he was probably aware of the temptation to blame God for the consequences of sin.

13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:

14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

16 Do not err, my beloved brethren.

According to James, there is a spiritual birth, not in the good sense of the “new birth” but in the sense of the birth of sin.  “Every man… is tempted… when he is drawn away OF HIS OWN LUST (DESIRE), and enticed…  Then when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin, and sin brings forth death.  According to James, it is not WE who are born in sin, but SIN which is born is us.

The truth is, there is no consensus on what we receive from Adam.  And so my Calvinist commentator has a lot of trouble determining just what we inherit from Adam:

“God created Adam and Eve WITH A FREE WILL, which they exercised to sin against God, and all men everywhere are now born “into sin” since the Fall – with the same nature that Adam had when he died. His sons were born into sin.”

I don’t remember at all saying that we became sinners by being born of a woman. What I have stated is that we have inherited a sin nature…

“11. Again, I do not believe that the sins of the parents are inherited. I believe what the Bible teaches – that the “sin nature” is inherited.”

Why does our Calvinist representative contradict himself?  He is confused because his Protestant creeds are confused.  Since there was no scriptural foundation upon which to build the doctrine, it is not surprising that there is no consensus among the Roman Catholic or Protestant creeds.

The Roman Catholic Catechism says: By his sin Adam, as the first man, lost the original holiness and justice he had received from God, not only for himself but for all humans. Adam and Eve transmitted to their descendants’ human nature wounded by their own first sin and hence deprived of original holiness and justice; this deprivation is called “original sin”. As a result of original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers, subject to ignorance, suffering and the domination of death, and inclined to sin (this inclination is called “concupiscence” [lust, desire]).

The Lutheran creed says: …since the fall of Adam all men begotten in the natural way are born with sin, that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with concupiscence; and that this disease, or vice of origin, is truly sin, even now condemning and bringing eternal death upon those not born again through Baptism and the Holy Ghost. (Augsburg Confession (1530).

John Calvin said: Therefore, since through man’s fault a curse has extended above and below, over all the regions of the world, there is nothing unreasonable in its extending to all his offspring. After the heavenly image in man was effaced, he not only was himself punished… but he involved his posterity also, and plunged them in the same wretchedness. This is the hereditary corruption to which early Christian writers gave the name of Original Sin, meaning by the term the depravation of a nature formerly good and pure. The subject gave rise to much discussion, there being nothing more remote from common apprehension, than that the fault of one should render all guilty, and so become a common sin.  Book 2, chapter 1, section 5

 …the sin of the first man passed to all his posterity… The orthodoxy, therefore, and more especially Augustine, laboured to show, that we are not corrupted by acquired wickedness, but bring an innate corruption from the very womb. Book 2, chapter 1, section 5

We thus see that the impurity of parents is transmitted to their children, so that all, without exception, are originally depraved. The commencement of this depravity will not be found until we ascend to the first parent of all as the fountain head. We must, therefore, hold it for certain, that, in regard to human nature, Adam was not merely a progenitor, but, as it were, a root, and that, accordingly, by his corruption, the whole human race was deservedly vitiated. (Book 2, chapter 1, section 6)

 Adam, therefore, when he corrupted himself, transmitted the contagion to all his posterity… even our Saviour himself, declares that all are by birth vicious and depraved, when he says that “that which is born of the flesh is fleshy” (John 3:6), and that therefore the gate of life is closed against all until they have been regenerated.  Book 2, chapter 1, section 6)

There is nothing absurd, therefore, in the view, that when he was divested, his nature was left naked and destitute that he having been defiled by sin, the pollution extends to all his seed. Thus, from a corrupt root corrupt branches proceeding, transmit their corruption to the saplings which spring from them.  Book 2, chapter 1, section 7

 Original sin, then, may be defined a hereditary corruption and depravity of our nature, extending to all the parts of the soul, which first makes us obnoxious to the wrath of God, and then produces in us works which in Scripture are termed works of the flesh. This corruption is repeatedly designated by Paul by the term sin; (Book 2, chapter 1, section 8).

The Westminster Confession, 1646, said: To everyone there is imputed from Adam an original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil” chapter 6, section 4.

The Second London Baptist Confession, 1689 said: From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.” chapter 6, section 4.

The Roman catechism says we inherit a “wounded nature.”  The Lutherans affirmed we are “born in sin.”  Calvin reaffirmed the Lutheran view.  The Westminster Confession really watered it down…  We receive an imputed “corruption,” disability, and an inclination to evil.  The Second London Baptist mimics the Westminster, a “corruption,” disability, inclination.  This is the vocabulary of a non-scriptural religion, a Christian philosophy not based on Jesus Christ, the head.  No wonder our Calvinist commentator is beside himself.

Our conclusion, then, is that the notions of Original Sin and Total Hereditary Depravity are lies.  Babies are not born in sin.  Sin is transgression against God.  The creeds of men are irrelevant.  The Bible says that sin is willful transgression.  The ideas of original sin and total hereditary depravity have no foundation in the word of God but have been built upon the traditions of men.  Such a theological house cannot stand.