December 3, 2007 8 min to read

Original Sin and the Sinful nature, pt. 1

Category : Blogs (Faith), Life-Ecstatic (Faith)

I worry about myself sometimes.

Really, I do.

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.

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Comments (11)

  • ReplyHeavy Metal Albums » Blog Archive » Original Sin and the Sinful nature, pt. 1 December 4, 2007

    [...] Original Sin and the Sinful nature, pt. 1By strayI 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. …Ryan Peter Blogs and stuff - http://ryanpeterblogs.wordpress.com [...]

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    ReplyConflicted December 6, 2007

    I think it’s becoming quite obvious that the “good nature” and “bad nature” in us are beginning to rise up and “wage war” on each other. I don’t think there has ever been a time where I’ve felt like I am literally two people living in the same body. Perhaps this is God’s design for this stage in his creation. This “uprising” is perhaps what is necessary to force us to decide which nature will prevail. Perhaps after this period of conflict, one nature will literally be put to death to allow the other to live. When that happens we no longer have a choice to go to the other nature anymore and that is what is defined as the “end times”? Also, this dualism is similar to my following theory. It’s often felt blasphemous to me so I’ve kept it quiet, but I know God know that I’m not intending it to be so... We are often told that “God is Love” – well, I disagree to a point. He is far more than that “Sunday School” statement. God is sovereign, so he is everything from love, to wrath, to destruction, to creation. Our lives are the battle between what we want and what God wants. I think this battle exists due to the fact that somewhere in us we realize that we actually don’t have a choice. Everything we dream of achieving, owning, etc. has so little relevance to God. So, how do we accept this? This is the nature battle – it’s the place where we have to submit so completely to God... even if it means that we derive absolutely no satisfaction from this life? Anyway, just another theory...

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    Replystray December 8, 2007

    Great comments, thanks :) Not to be argumentative, but the problem I have with the idea of a 'good nature' and a 'bad nature' is that I can't find that in the Bible. There is no mention of mankind having a 'good nature,' only a 'sinful nature.' The conflict mentioned in the Bible is between the "sinful nature" and the Holy Spirit (see Gal 5:17.) There's no mention of a conflict between OUR good nature and evil nature. But yet there is a time when I've felt as I am two people living in the same body. However, according to Genesis, when God created man he said it was 'good.' The present state doesn't appear, to me, to be something God has created but rather a result of the fall. He he, don't think your theory is blasphemous :) Although, you do need to consider that the statement "God is Love" is found in the Bible (1 John 4:8.) I find difficulty in disagreeing what the Bible says. What is interesting to note is that the Bible doesn't claim that God is Wrath, although it certainly says God can be wrathful. I know what you're getting across, though, and that is that God can be darker than we think. This is true, from experience. He created the darkness of the ocean... heck, he created darkness. But darkness and evil are not the same thing. And everything He is, is laced with love. In other words, his wrath is laced with love. When he destroys, he destroys with love and mercy and justice all mingled into one. Thanks for the comments, great thoughts, keep them coming... and let me know what you think of mine

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    ReplyNic Paton December 11, 2007

    Stray I counted - 36 questions out of 68 sentances, thats a question every 1.888 sentances. G-d is well pleased. Y'know, seek and you will find. So, Original Sin, eh? I trust you will take a look at the maverick views of Matthew Fox, in "Original Blessing". Be warned however it got him kicked out of the Catholic Church, it may endanger your NCMI cred. Simply put he says something like "It's as if 90% of the Church has just torn Genesis 1 and 2 out of their bibles and started with Chapter 3." Thats straight, and profound. I design software, and I have learned that if your original idea is not "right" then as time goes on what you build around this gets further and further from the original intention. If we start our theology with sin, sin is what we will have, morning day and night. Sin sin sin. Sin sin sin sin. Sin. OK lets layer some Redemption over that, oh no the colour of sin starts bleeding right on through. Honestly, there has GOT to be a better way for us to think in line with what our hearts tell us: G-d is Love. You mention dualism - that good, because for me that is one of our major issues. Augustine (the most influential post-Paul theologian in Christendom) was a neo-platonist with sexual frustration issues. (I'd better read up on that a bit more; here I am just quoting something I heard) Neo-Platonism has at its heart separation (between real and ideal in Platos case, but leading on to Sacred-Secular, Grace-Works, Work-Play, Heaven-Hell etc etc etc), unlike most other worldviews which embrace or are built on ideas of Oneness (Hebrew, African, Oriental). Hellanistic thought is PECULIAR in history, but we see it as normal, thanks to the Roman Empire and the Christendom it perpetrates. I welcome other models of thinking with arms and mind open wide. I think there is a revival going on of all sorts of things, and I am excited. The wrestling you are doing is part of that. Strength!

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    Replystray December 18, 2007

    Nic, great comments! Seriously, I think that's going to go down in my book of quotes!

  • ReplyOriginal Sin and The Sinful Nature pt. 3 : Sex, sexuality and homosexuality « Ryan Peter Blogs and stuff March 14, 2008

    [...] read Pt 1. of Original Sin and the Sinful nature, click here [...]

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    Replytheenvoy March 30, 2008

    Hi Guys I totally get why you're bugged. I think you should spend some time in the anabaptist tradtion (www.anabaptistnetwork.com) with regard to salvation theology. And if you can get your hands on John Howard Yoder's “Preface to Theology” you will not regret it. Many of your concerns seem to relate to penal substitution and its off shoots. Just some random thoughts. firstly the bible does talk of our nature being good (Rom 2:14) where the Gentiles do right by “nature”. Don't want to go into to much detail but nature in the the Scriptures (Eg Eph 2:3) is often a statement about current realities and not hardware issues. It's as if the Scriptures say the computers do X every time they are booted but isn't arguing whether its a hardware or software problem (software being our learnt behaviours). And yup Augustine (who castrated himself) does play a huge part as does Cartesian dualism which influenced most theology since the Reformation. Anyway you guys inspired me to write an article on our blogg (www.theenvoy.wordpress.com). Hope it helps. Your fellow follower of Jesus paul PS sanctification is sometimes past tense (1 Corinthians 6:11) as someone once said “a tense makes sense in a sentence, and a sentence makes sense in a story”

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    Replytheenvoy March 30, 2008

    Hi Guys I totally get why you're bugged. I think you should spend some time in the anabaptist tradtion (www.anabaptistnetwork.com) with regard to salvation theology. And if you can get your hands on John Howard Yoder's “Preface to Theology” you will not regret it. Many of your concerns seem to relate to penal substitution and its off shoots. Just some random thoughts. firstly the bible does talk of our nature being good (Rom 2:14) where the Gentiles do right by “nature”. Don't want to go into to much detail but nature in the the Scriptures (Eg Eph 2:3) is often a statement about current realities and not hardware issues. It's as if the Scriptures say the computers do X every time they are booted but isn't arguing whether its a hardware or software problem (software being our learnt behaviours). And yup Augustine (who castrated himself) does play a huge part as does Cartesian dualism which influenced most theology since the Reformation. Anyway you guys inspired me to write an article on our blog (www.theenvoy.wordpress.com). Hope it helps. Your fellow follower of Jesus paul PS sanctification is sometimes past tense (1 Corinthians 6:11) as someone once said “a tense makes sense in a sentence, and a sentence makes sense in a story”

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    ReplySandra May 18, 2009

    I happened to stumble across your article here. I can understand your confusion because there is no such thing as "sinful nature." No where will you find this adjective to describe nature. The NIV uses this term, but "sarx" simply means flesh. It has nothing to do with a separate entity. The doctrine of original sin is false also. You may read the Biblical response to this false doctrine. http://www.dividingword.net/Original%20Sin/biblically_refuted.html And you will also find a study on the word "nature" in the same article. Blessings, Sandy

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    ReplySandra May 18, 2009

    Sorry, that's Dividingword.net If you want more information. Blessings, Sandy

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    ReplyMacrina_Walker October 8, 2013

    I touched on this in a blog post recently, and would really recommend the book I mention there: http://avowofconversation.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/its-not-human-nature/ From an Orthodox perspective, the idea that our human nature is inherently sinful is inconceivable; it's a post-Augustinian western idea (although not all of the West went as far as the Calvinists did) that has had some very serious consequences. What I cannot understand about the position of those who hold that human nature (as nature) is sinful is how they can believe in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. If our nature was inherently sinful, He could not have assumed it. And if He had not assumed, He could not have healed it. And, well, if that's the case, what's the point of Christianity? I also don't really get the point about the Virgin Birth, but that's a side issue.