I notice that there are certain well accepted doctrines within Christianity that really bug me, and my propensity to find alternative answers can put me on the border of heretic, or – at the very least – hetero-orthodox or something.
I take no real pleasure in being controversial, to be honest. Although, I love making people think because I enjoy thinking. And I take pleasure in being free, and seeing others free, which is what I hope my writing would do.
So why do these issues bug me? Because they greatly affect the way I relate to God, and they greatly affect the way in which I live out my Christian life – the way I love, and what makes me sin.
One of these issues is hell – which took me about two or three years to come the conclusion that I believe in the (eventual) annihilation of the wicked. I am not dogmatic about my belief, but my studies of the Scriptures has brought me to this conclusion.
I hardly voiced my opinion amongst friends for some time due to the reason that I feared being seen as weird and heretical. I’m a Deacon at my church, and Deacons ought to have their theology straight (apparently.) At least, though, my salvation is still OK and I’m in the company of some great theologians (John Stott, Michael Eaton, and others.)
Eschatological doctrines are the other one, and if I tell people that I don’t believe in a pre-trib rapture, a great deal of them still look at me funny. But it’s ok to have different eschatological views these days.
My biggest dilemma, however, is one that can place me in a very dangerous position. This one has more implications for me, personally, than my belief in hell or eschatology. Those things can still be discussed within most circles without much of an eyebrow being raised. But my next issue involves the doctrine of Original Sin (as it’s taught, or how I’ve understood it) and any denial of this doctrine has other implications.
For instance, if I say that original sin is all false then I would have to relook at my doctrine of the virgin birth. Not only that, but I also have to then look at the atonement. Why did Christ have to die? Something like Penal Substitution would come up, and any denial of that would place me out of reformed circles by a long mile. Now, I don’t see anything wrong with Penal Substitution, because I don’t think the atonement ought to be limited to one theory, but certainly the way I look at original sin would greatly affect the atonement – the cross and the resurrection – and the atonement is the crux, the center, of the Gospel message.
Why does this doctrine bug me?
Because this is basically what the doctrine says (in various forms) : Adam and Eve sinned, and because of this I have inherited a sinful nature, and am unable to do anything about it. I will sin, because sinning is part of who I am, a part of my very make up and being.
My very being rejects God, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
Well, the doctrine says that Christ has come to set us free from this. But my problem with this doctrine is that I still sin. If Christ came to set me free from my sinful nature, why do I still sin? Because I choose to? But the very ‘choice’ of choosing to sin is the very thing the sinful nature makes me do. How can God hold me accountable? Not only that, but is there ANY promise of being free in this life? What if I’m not actually a part of the elect?
Just from the above sentence I have problems. Firstly, there are issues of sanctification – and this leads into issues of eternal security, or – subsequently – issues with the Gospel message itself.
Paul talks about this in Rom 7 and then says “who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!” This can either mean that Jesus HAS rescued us, or he still WILL rescue us. If the latter, then the Gospel is only ‘half-good news’ because we are unable to enjoy anything of the Eternal Life we’ve been given now (an idea that is starkly against what the Bible is saying – and the doctrine of the indwelt Spirit.)
In reading Romans 6-8 carefully, as well as many other scriptures, it seems to me that the victory Christ made over the sinful nature is quite final. Romans 6:22 says that I WAS a slave to the sin nature, but am NOW AM a slave to God. It speaks in absolutes – I DIED with Christ, and was RAISED with Him. So, how can I go on sinning?
The fact that I have both the Spirit and the sinful nature still operating within me puts me in a divide – a sort of dualism within. Truthfully, I haven’t been told by the Bible that God has given me a new nature – but His Spirit seems unable to FULLY get rid of the sinful nature within me, and this internal dualism is both confusing and a little depressing to me (if I’m going to be honest.) I have problems with thinking of myself with this dualism, because I am a saved man – Christ lives within me. God Himself. Surely that counts for something?
My other issue, which goes hand in hand with the above, is that God created me, and I am made in the image of God. But if this is so, why do I have a natural inclination to sin? I will be told that this inclination is an inherited nature from my parents – but the problem is the word “NATURE.”
This means that sin is ‘natural,’ but any reading of the Bible places sin in the category of ‘un-natural’ because sin goes against what is good, and God called creation ‘good’ in Genesis 1. Sin cannot be natural – otherwise, it would mean God created evil. Surely it is the most unnatural thing in the world to go against your Creator. It’s the most unnatural thing in the world to hate instead of love.
Just because we hate easily doesn’t make it natural. But what it DOES mean, I don’t know.
In essence, I am fighting a fight against NATURE. Must I live my entire life with my very own body beating against me to fulfil its evil desires? The result of such thinking makes nature (or the body) sinful, and anything that is spirit good. Another form of dualism. And this in itself sounds more like greek philosophy than Christian thought – that material is bad, and spiritual is good.
My life is now all about fighting against what is human within me, until the day when I am made no longer human but some spiritual heavenly being.
Yet, the Bible says my body will be resurrected. Yes, a new body, but nevertheless a BODY. Not only that, but God created me as a human – why am I fighting against what is human?
Is the sinful nature human? Or what is it exactly?
How we see the creation is paramount for understanding what is holy and what is not, and how we are to live our salvation out. I need to know what to trust God FOR. Do I trust Him to change my nature? If so, why can’t he seem to do it in certain areas of my life? Or, why do I have to wait for Him to do it? Is it because he is teaching me patience? Alright, but in the meantime the sin could be hurting others in my life. Does he not care about that? Can he change what is part of my very make up and being? Does this mean he wills for me to be something other than human?
Why is he teaching me patience any way? Why doesn’t he just kill my nature in the beginning and allow me to live a life that’s free from such hinderences, and that allows me to take the Gospel out more effectively? Why is he happy to let the sinful nature do what it wants, and greatly taint the Gospel message due to bad testimony of people’s lives?
Can God really blame me for something my parents did, as well as to hard code me with the inability to do anything else – and then give me His Spirit which doesn’t appear to be able to defeat this thing within me? But rather requires a process? There was no process in attaining this nature, why a process in defeating it?
Does anyone else see that it appears that, within this doctrinal view, death and sin seem like quite the victors? Even though I am going to heaven, death and sin still reign in my mortal body, and God insists I don’t let it. But how? His Spirit? In this view, the Spirit is there to help KILL what is natural. But the Bible doesn’t really say that, it says that we have died to sin (past tense, not current tense!) So, again, why do I still sin?
The only answer : ascetism. Laws. Rules. How else do I kill this nature? By the Spirit? But, what does that mean exactly? And then, Gospel says we’re saved by Grace and not Law.
I’m being dead honest about the honest questions, and I know that I know the Bible is God’s Word. My problem is our interpretation. Some of these questions I have some answers on, some of them not. But join me as I look at the doctrine of Original Sin and form my own premise as to what original sin REALLY means, biblically, and with the Holy Spirit. And pray that I don’t veer away from the Gospel of freedom into false teaching that will inevitably bring only more death and not life.
About Ryan Peter
Ryan Peter is a writer, journalist and ghostwriter from Johannesburg, South Africa. He writes fantasy, sci-fi, inspirational fiction, and on faith. Ryan is also part of the New Covenant Ministries International (NCMI) translocal team.