Does God Really View Us As Guilty From Birth? (Doctrine Of Original Sin)
By Mike Edwards
The doctrine of original sin suggests we are guilty even before we were born because of Adam’s sin in the garden thousands of years ago. This may be hard for many to understand why God would hold a person responsible for another’s person sin. This seems totally unjust according to human logic. God forbid certain disputable images of God drive people to unbelief and despair.
Does the Bible really imply God holds us responsible for another’s person sin?
Exodus 20:5 says: “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.” It is true when parents disobey the Law when in one’s best interest, the impact can be felt for generations. Parents can provoke positive or negative behaviors from their children. With freedom given by God comes the possibility and responsibility of influence. This passage suggests only consequences to children who hate God as their parents do.
The Bible clearly states children are not held responsible for their parents’ sins
Children who break the law, as their parents do, suffer consequences. Legal biblical texts concur. “Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each of you will die for your own sin.” (Deut 24:16). The Bible doesn’t declare that sin is inherited. Ezek 18:20 says: “The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.”
What does the New Testament claim?
A fair reading of Romans 5:12–21, which is the main passage referred to about original sin, implies Adam’s sin was not transferred but certainly influential. Sin entered the world through Adam as did God’s grace through Jesus’ birth. We are born in sin but not with sin. Babies are not guilty of sin and doomed to eternity without God before the age of accountability. The truth though is the influence of sin is so powerful that only one person has ever managed to live a totally unselfish life.
Romans 5:12–21 says Adam’s sin brought alienation from His Creator; Jesus’ life brought reconciliation. Adam hid when God visited the garden after he sin. Guilt will do that to those with a conscious. Adam’s sin brought him spiritual death or alienation from God. (Gen 2:17, see Col 2:13). In the same way, spiritual death is inevitable if others follow in Adam’s footsteps. We don’t inherit Adam’s guilt. Condemnation is conditional. Could anyone after Adam not have sinned and led a totally selfless life? The Bible doesn’t say that is impossible, though clearly all have sinned.
How does God view us if not condemned from the beginning?
Original Sin theology assumes sin is inherited and we are condemned before we are born because of Adam’s sin. Some assume the Bible says Adam’s offspring were condemned to some place like Hell before even birth. I doubt it! Our Creator loved us enough to give the freedom to rebel and the choice whether to be with God after death or not. God loves us as any loving parent loves us. Fear of God is overblown. I guess fear God if helps to avoid consequences of destructive actions. But if struggling and need encouragement and mercy, a loving God awaits with open arms.
Mike Edwards has been writing for Done with Religion for some time and has been a great addition to the site. Mike also has his own site where he writes that can be found at What God May Really Be Like He can be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org