Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me. Psalm 51:5
(No, I have not read the cited book. I could barely keep my lunch down just reading the article about it. So that’s my preemptive disclaimer.)
On January 13, 2017, the Religion News Service ran an Op-Ed piece: Author: Jesus didn’t believe in ‘original sin’ and neither should we.
The author cited by the article also claims to be a “pastor” and theologian. And SHE was a founding member of the “emerging church movement” according to Amazon’s author bio. She has an MDiv from Princeton Theological. Taken together, these credentials make the premise of her book much more understandable, though certainly not more palatable.
Danielle Shroyer, the author, has penned a tome entitled Original Blessing: Putting Sin In Its Rightful Place. It’s a book which I already know I won’t bother reading, nor would I recommend, on two counts. First, the premise is doctrinally inane. And B, because Christ has already put my sin in its rightly undeserved (by me) place … by His grace … by bearing it for me.
Here are a few snippets from the RNS article. (I’ve added, for purely personal, cathartic purposes, a brief response to each. Should you find my spontaneous remarks erroneous, please notify me because, as it happens, I don’t have an MDiv from Princeton.)
“According to Shroyer, a former pastor and theologian, Jesus didn’t believe this doctrine and neither did the early church. And if Jesus didn’t believe it, maybe we shouldn’t either.”
Shroyer blames Augustine for popularizing the notion of original sin, the notion having been absent in the teaching of Jesus, the apostles, and the early church. Having read some of Augustine myself, I cannot, however, find him blaming the Psalmist for inventing it. (See opening Scripture citation above) Pretty sure that didn’t happen. Plus, having read incessantly the teaching of Jesus and the New Testament (“incessantly,” btw, means “never enough”), I believe I can state with both Divine and Apostolic assurance that original sin is a notable feature. It wasn’t absent. It drove all of redemptive history.
“…Augustine and others shifted language to an inborn sin nature. Once that happened, all the theological focus went toward trying to fix the problem of sin. The cross was seen differently, and salvation became primarily about sin management, and human bodies became suspect, and on and on.”
The cross was seen differently? Salvation was about sin management?
Though she asserts this of the early church, the article doesn’t give enough space for elaboration. Perhaps the book does, but, like I said, I’ll not be reading it. However, I’m pretty sure that the Incarnate Son of God did not suffer crucifixion merely so that I could engage in more effective, pragmatic sin management. The death of Christ on the cross wasn’t something to be trivialized as some sort of “Jesus App for Sin Management.” Salvation actually isn’t about me managing my sin – past, present, or future – to merit the golden ticket to glory. That’s works righteousness and I’ve got none of that, regardless of how well the cross-enabling sin management app might work.
Frankly, if the cross and salvation were merely about sin management, then the Pharisees might have been on to something. If they could just obey more rules than they disobeyed, they might stand a fighting chance to argue their merits before the Almighty on judgment day. But Jesus summarily thwarted that notion. (See below). Legalistic sin management doesn’t work. Ask a Pharisee.
But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. Matthew 23:13-15 (All the “woes” can be read in Matthew 23:13-24)
Oh, and that “hell” that our Lord mentioned … it ain’t where you wanna be … it’s best to skip sin management and proceed directly to “repent and believe.”
“… when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might …” (2 Thessalonians 7-9)
“As a pastor and now a writer, I want to help people grow into a mature relationship with God. I just don’t think original sin is helpful in doing that; in fact I think it’s very often harmful.”
Yeah, well, for starters, she’s not a pastor. Just as owning a stethoscope doesn’t make you a doctor, neither does having a pulpit make you a pastor. There’s more to it than that, and, well, God decided chromosomes would play a part. But, nobly intentioned or not, one certain way to NOT help people “grow into a mature relationship with God” is to fold, spindle, mutilate, and destroy perspicuous Biblical truth for them. Doing that is not just “very often harmful”; it can be eternally harmful … and never endorsed in Scripture. (2 Timothy 2:15) Beware the stethoscope-wielding faux physicians, folks.
“Here’s the thing: people know they sin. What they don’t know is what to do about it. I don’t think the best answer is admitting you are irrevocably bad. I think it’s realizing your home has been in God all along, and it’s time you head that direction, because abundant life is waiting.”
Yeah, well, here’s another thing. Universalism. That’s what I think I just read. It’s the old God is love and nothing but love forever and ever line. But that’s not the gospel. The obvious problem is that no one can just “head that direction” because salvation isn’t an act possible for the soul dead in trespasses and sin. (Ephesians 2:1) It requires something more, something divine. The impetus for that is the real Gospel. This “pastor” needs more Scripture time and much less pulpit time, methinks.
“Scripture certainly talks about the universal reach of sin. But no passage or verse in scripture speaks definitively to the concept of an inborn sin nature. We can take sin seriously without going there. After all, Jesus didn’t believe in original sin, and the disciples and the early church didn’t either.”
Umm, yeah. This warrants a foul shot warning buzzer. Jesus affirmed all that the Old Testament contained, including the pesky notion of original sin so pithily penned by the Psalmist. (and, since Scripture is “theopneustos” – God-breathed – Jesus, who was God, also affirms the other Scriptural references parenthetically provided immediately below.) Jesus didn’t affirm erroneous doctrine. He didn’t endorse mistakes in His Word because there are no mistakes in His Word. This’d prolly get a Pharisee-like “woe to you” from the Lord.
(A list of Scriptural citations to consider … Psalm 51:5 (cited above), Ephesians 2:1-3, Romans 3:23, Genesis 6:5, Genesis 8:21, Ezekiel 18:20, Psalm 58:3 (cited above), Jeremiah 17:9; Matthew 15:18-19, Romans 7:23, Romans 5:12-18. Those are just a few and no, they’re not talking about occasional moral “oopsies” that, with Christ’s example, we can more effectively manage like entries on a sin-management smartphone app. They’re talking about humanity’s intrinsic sin nature which, apart from Christ, demands God’s righteous, holy justice.)
“Original sin hinders us from seeing the world as created for connection—to God, to each other, to all created things. It forces us instead to begin with the notion that humans are separate from God.”
Humans are separate from God? Yeah. Guess what? We are “separate from God.” He is holy; we are not. We are not just separate because He is the creator and we are the creature, we’re also separated from him by … hold your ears, pastrix … original sin. Original to Adam and inherited by pastrixes everywhere. See Romans 5:12-18. I don’t care how much redder the roses will be or how bluer the sky will appear in this pastrix’s idyllic wonderland, I want to see, know, and commune with God. The wretched state of my intrinsically corrupt flesh has so defiled my soul that pretty flowers and bluer skies are the least of my desires. I need to be reconciled with God by becoming a new creation, sloughing off the corrupt nature I inherited. (2 Corinthians 5:17) But, GREAT NEWS! Original sin, for all the separating horrors it causes, was resolved in the most unimaginable way – “Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6) Don’t stop to smell the roses … “repent and believe” … first.
“We are in a relationship with God, and God started it, and God is sticking with it. While original sin is centered on human action, original blessing is centered on God’s sovereign choice to love us.”
Yep, we’re in a relationship with God all right. And Jesus said that those who don’t believe in Him will remain in a rather undesirable default relationship with God. He phrased it like this … “condemned already.” (John 3:18) Not the relationship you want. I recommend “repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)
“Original blessing wisely reminds us we are all capable of both remarkable good and horrifying evil. It reminds us to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. You could say it’s a grace-filled view of humanity, but I wouldn’t call that optimistic. I’d call it the good news.”
Well that sounds all happy happy happy, but a “grace-filled view of humanity?” More like a delusional view of humanity. Or a Scripturally-uninformed view of humanity. Give me grace, for sure. But it’s the grace of the authentic gospel, not this false “good news,” that saves. “Amazing grace that saved a wretch like me” – that’s what’s needed for humanity. The pastrix’s false gospel creates what the church already has far too many of … false converts.
“I think it’s impossible to explain what happened in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection with any simple formula. He came to be God-with-us. He came as the Messiah. He came to embody faithful humanity. He came to be the Way and to make a way. He came to glorify God and to empty himself. He came to share in our deepest sufferings, and to bless us even as we killed him. He came to defeat death, and to bring abundant life.”
Ehhh, yeah. Okay. How ‘bout this one? A propitiation for our sins. (1 John 2:2) Leaving that atoning work out of the list of what Christ has done leaves me dealing with guilt, dealing with sin, and without any assurance that I’m actually on “the Way” – which, by the way, Jesus didn’t come to make; He IS the way. (John 14:6) Christ’s life, death, and resurrection are the pinnacle of human history, but with a fundamental purpose … to ransom for Himself a people completely unable to balance the scales of required divine justice in their favor. Only Christ could do– and did – that. And He had to, else we’d be left wallowing in the false assurance of self-help gospels like this one.
More than ever, the world needs the unvarnished Gospel truth about their Christ-less standing before God. The sobering news of original sin only serves to magnify His cross, His Gospel, and His glory when one is saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
From before the foundation of the world, (Ephesians 1:4) the Gospel has been the original redemptive plan of God …. to deal with original sin.
It’s a shame this “pastor” doesn’t know it.
(Contend for the faith, somebody … take away her pulpit and give her the Gospel.)
” … I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude 3
[Contributed by Bud Ahlheim]