The Depravity of Man


Jeff Paton

Part 5



I will attempt to embark upon a subject that generally is not looked upon with much enthusiasm. It only tends to get notice as a sideline to what most people consider as more relevant theology. This I can understand, yet, the idea of human depravity touches upon the holiness of God, the wages of sin, and ultimately upon the grace of God in its relationship to man. In the process of showing how relevant this subject is, I will try to keep it interesting and challenging. The depth of the issue, as with all the other topics in this series, is much greater than the space allows. My focus is to challenge the reader to think deeper upon each issue and evaluate these things for themselves. The attempt is to bring thoughts on each subject that draws the reader beyond most shallow discourses today, but to avoid the overwhelming excess that many theological dissertations lead us to. I have attempted to find a middle ground between these two extremes, which will not please those who are comfortable with simplistic answers, and will not please those that demand thorough answers to every possibility. There is no need to dwell on the explanation of errors, but it is essential to discover truths.

So Why Is It Important?

How we approach this issue, and how we follow those conclusions, effects how we see the atonement and the grace of Christ, and how we understand His work on our behalf. This in itself should cause us to give give some consideration because of the profound effect that our thinking will have on the way we perceive God to work in salvation. If we are wrong at this point, then we can only hope to see error connected with it.

Before we consider the possibilities of the subject at hand, I feel it is essential to the subject to at least cover that which is accepted by all. What we do know of humanity in its beginning, is that God created man in his own image, (Gen. 1:26) and that this image that was in Adam was declared "good" because it was a reflection of the image of God. (Gen. 1:31). God then created Eve from Adams rib. Although there was not a declaration of Eve being "good," this can be rightfully assumed since that in God's holiness, He could walk amongst both of them freely. The nature of the creation of Eve was consistent with the nature of both God and Adam. In an undesignated period of time, Adam and Eve both sinned and died spiritually. At that moment, separation between God and man occurred. Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden and barred from its entrance to access the Tree of Life. (Gen. 3:22-24). The image of God in which Adam was created, with was lost through this sin.  

The argument begins here. Is mankind deprived of the image of God? If so, at what point is he deprived of that image? The state of mankind, and the subject of this article is the issue of Original Sin, Inherited Depravity, sinful nature, Total Depravity, or even, original righteousness. With so many options, it should be obvious that there are many ways in which teachers approach the issue differently. 

"Original Sin is Universal.--This is to be understood in the sense that every descendant of Adam is born into this world with a depraved nature. We read in the creeds that original sin or birth sin is the corruption of the nature of every man that is naturally engendered of the offspring of Adam. It is only on the supposition of the universality of original sin that Paul could affirm that he found all, both Jew and Gentiles, to be under sin, saying, It is written, there is none righteous, no, not one."1  This, in various shades and meanings is considered the orthodox understanding of the state of man. 

Many, to include the Calvinistic position is that this involves actual sin, whether by imputational transfer, or by some foreknowledge of personal guilt. Either way, this nature is transferred through to each person of the race by natural heredity. "According to this conception, the human race is one both physically and spiritually; and the peculiarity of a race is its oneness in life-connection."2 But, this brings us to the crux of most of the debate around this issue; are children born in a damnable state, personally guilty for sin? This only the fatalists seem to adhere too. Others, appalled at the thought of God's holiness and justice being impugned by the imputation of guilt for Adam's sin, say that children are born into this world as Adam was, free of sin and a pure disposition, thereby being eligible for heaven if they die. Here we see the two extremes, children being objects of God's wrath for being sinners, or children being saved by nature, which is the Pelagian position.

As for the Calvinistic proposition, this is usually termed as Total Depravity, meaning that mankind at birth are so far gone from righteousness that they are rightfully subjects of God's holy wrath. As for children, the guilt, or sin of Adam is considered actually theirs. They are guilty as much as Adam was guilty. This is transferred to their account, and unless they were elect before the foundation of the world, they will perish in an eternal hell. This is modified by most Calvinists who are ashamed of the conclusions of their theology at this point. Most will declare all children as "elect" if they die at a young age. Unfortunately, nothing within the doctrine of election or the Scriptures will account for this. God is no respecter of persons, which must include infants who are just as guilty for sin as the greatest heathens are. The thought of a loving, holy, and just God torturing little babies in the flames of eternal hell should bring us all pause as to the validity of such an argument.

"If the traditional theology even has sometimes felt constrained to admit an opportunity for the conversion of "sinful infants" in the world to come, why draw the line just there? Is any later sin more blameworthy than that first fatal transgression in which the infants in question are alleged to have participated? That primordial sin is declared to be sufficient to render every human being guilty from the very moment of birth, and, in consequence, an object of the wrath of God... Whether rightly or wrongly, there has been a powerful revulsion of feeling, within the various divisions of Protestantism, against this conception."3 And this I believe to be rightfully so. This image of God as smiting little babies with His holy wrath should be seen as anti-scriptural and contradictory to every description in Scripture of the attributes of the justice, holiness, and love of Almighty God. 

"The corruption of the human stock which is transmitted by race-connection must be carefully distinguished from guilt. Guilt, of which more will soon be said, can be neither transmitted nor transferred. Guilt is necessarily personal, the sinner's own. It is a result of sinning, and can belong to no one but the one who has sinned. It is impossible for one to be guilty of another's sin, unless the other's sin first leads him to sin also. Hence there is no such thing as inheriting guilt before God from the first sinner, or from any other ancestor. Sin cannot be imputed to a sinners offspring. Heredity conveys depravity down the stream of life, but not guilt for sins already committed."4  

Romans 5:12 states, "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." 

" If "all sinned" refers to the personal sinning of all individuals, the statement would not be true. The phrase is intended to give the reason for the universal reign of death. "And so death passed unto all men because all sinned." Now, millions of infant children have died who have not consciously and personally sinned. How could Paul assign the personal sinning of all individuals as the cause of their death in view of this obvious fact? If he was thinking of personal sin, how could he overlook such an immense and significant exception?"5 This of course brings up the question what is meant by "all men" in this passage. Is it all mankind without exception? Or is it all those in earshot of this statement that can comprehend it? What I am saying, is it speaking strictly just to adults? For it is true that all adults have "sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God." (Rom. 6:23). All humans that have come to an age of accountability have followed Adam in his first rebellion. But what cannot be ignored here is that death has doubtlessly affected children. "There is another view which accounts for all the facts without affronting man's moral sense or casting any reflections upon the goodness and justice of God. It is called THE THEORY OF THE GENETIC TRANSMISSION OF DEPRAVITY. It is the familiar "law of heredity" that "like produces like." Adam propagated his depravity, and it has been propagated through all generations. His sin was not in any sense our fault; the natural consequence of it -sickness and death- was not a penalty for a sin for which we never could have been responsible. It is only our misfortune."6 But this misfortune affects us all in a profound way. "Theologians have argued that if "all" sinned and so died, then babies who died during the past ages must have sinned; therefore they either sinned in Adam or his sin was imputed to them. But there is no need of any such forced and unnatural, not to say absurd, argument. St. Paul was simply using language in a popular way, as we all do; and little children died, not because that had sinned in some fanciful imaginary way before they were born, but because they were born with the sin-principle in them, and therefore also with the death principle in them."

When we return back to our original premise that Adam, created in the image of God, lost that original image upon sin and became depraved and sinful by nature. Then, just as God transmitted His image to Adam, Adam transmitted his image to his posterity. This unfortunately was a depraved image, spiritually dead and subject to physical death. It was a sinful-nature we are born with that gave us bent towards sin. This sounds like all bad news for us up to this point, so now we come to the good news:

Many will object to the idea of a corporate demerit based upon the guilt of the father of our race. But keep in mind, that which seems to be an injustice becomes a blessing, for if God treated Adam and Eve as he did the angels, then they would have been judged without any hope of salvation. God however, decided to make a way instead of condemnation. We saw that when Adam and Eve sinned, God immediately procured a sacrificial substitute for their sins. Blood was shed, and a prophecy was given concerning One who will come and crush the head of the serpent. You see, God could have justly ended it all there and sent Adam and Eve to hell for their sin. He could have started all over, yet He decided to rescue from this situation, a race, a people for His own. While death both physical and spiritual affected Adam and Eve, God was able not only to atone for the specific sin, but also the depraved nature in which they now had. God chose to continue the race. This allows for grace today. Unlike the angels, Adam's posterity, the human race, is odious and unfit for an eternal presence with God in heaven. This needs atonement for God to reconcile us to Himself. While it is not our fault, it is our misfortune. "But to match this awful misfortune God gave us the grace of an atoning Savior, and that as we became depraved and sinful through Adam we can have a "much more" salvation through Christ."Even though the misfortune of a fallen nature is passed onto every person since Adam, we are provided for as a family, a race. Grace given to Adam is passed to us just as the demerit of a fallen nature was. We have grace because of this relationship to Adam. 

The misfortune we inherit ends up being the fortunate circumstance in which we receive grace and are not condemned for the act of another. Our race is given a chance to respond to the Gospel and be saved. What seemed like a bad trade becomes a greater opportunity to learn to love God and enjoy Him forever. Inherited depravity is not our fault, it does not need forgiveness, it needs cleansing. Because it is odious to God, it requires atonement for this cleansing. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 Jn. 1:9).  

Prevenient Grace

This is a term that describes grace that goes before salvation and sustains after salvation. The idea in connection with inherited depravity is that through the atonement of Christ, the barrier of this corruption is already removed. 

"Therefore as by the offense 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." (Rom. 5:18). While not stated specifically, it is in context of the universal demerit of death that was passed on to all mankind. The work of Christ is displayed as offsetting the other aspect of the inherited depravity- judgment. This relates to the spiritual problem passed on to us.   

"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men." (Titus 2:11). There is a grace that touches us all and "prevents" us from being totally depraved. God's grace ensures that every man is free to do right and wrong through the freedom to act given by this grace. No man will condemned for that which he could not help but do. Wesley stated that because of depravity, "yet this is no excuse for those who continue in sin, and lay the blame upon their Maker, by saying, "It is God only that must quicken us; for we cannot quicken our own souls." For allowing that all the souls of men are dead in sin by nature; there is no man, unless he has quenched the Spirit, that is wholly void of the grace of God. No man living is entirely destitute of what is vulgarly called natural conscience. But this is not natural; It is more properly termed, prevenient grace."9  He continues saying, "Every one has some measure of that light, some faint glimmering ray, which, sooner or later, more or less, enlightens every man that cometh into the world. And every one, unless he be one of the small number whose conscience is seared as with a hot iron, feels more or less uneasy when he acts contrary to the light of his own conscience. So that no man sins because he has not grace, but because he does not use the grace which he hath. Therefore, inasmuch as God works in you, you are now able to work out your own salvation."10

Depravity Not Inherited?

I noted earlier the Pelagian concept of the denial of depravity. This suggests that there not only is not inherited guilt, but there is not inherited depravity either. This assumes that if man is born depraved, then he cannot be judged as guilty for that which he is not responsible. As covered previously, personal guilt has been denied, but depravity (racial demerit and lack of a spiritual nature) has been asserted. I have also asserted the belief that the prevenient grace of God atones for this depravity so that no man will be condemned for that which he could not do, and can only be damned for that which he is guilty of personally. This grace "prevents" men from being without excuse. So, the charge of impugning God with an injustice is removed.

What if there is no depravity? "The doctrine of original sin lies at the foundation of the Christian faith. It is a scriptural doctrine, and apparently one that was known to the people of God from old. It was a maxim among the Jews that "the whole world sinned in the same sin whereby the first man transgressed; for he was the whole world." [Carpzov in Rom. 5:12}. It was probably the basis for circumcision. " Who can bring a clean thing out of  the unclean?" says Job [14:4] in speaking of man's frailty. Similarly, "What is man, that he should be clean? and he that is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?" [15:14] "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; in sin hath my mother conceived me," is the language of the Psalmist.[51:5]. Man must be cleansed from his sin before he can advance in his way towards heaven. St. Paul, therefore, in treating of man's justification, speaks first of the incidence of original sin, and of its removal. "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" [Rom. 5:12]: "even upon them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression" [ver. 14]; "through the offense of one many be dead" [ver. 15]; "for judgment was by one to condemnation" [ver. 16] "by one man's offense death reigned by one" [ver. 17]; "by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation" [ver. 18]; "by one man's disobedience many were made sinners" [ver. 19]... "We were by nature children of wrath" [Eph. 2:3]. "Sinful flesh" is the Apostle's synonym for "human nature;"11  I might add John 3:6, where Jesus replied, "That which is born of flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." "Total depravity means that every power of man's being, physical, mental, and moral, is affected by the Fall of Adam. Man is not as strong as he would have been without inborn sin. Man has naturally an aversion to God. In his inner life he prefers self to God as long as he is not born again.12   

To assert that infants are born free of a sinful nature complicates into more problems. It is not long before a parent witnesses the selfish temper-tantrum of their child. Even in the perfect environment a child will learn to lie. If they are free from any sin or rebellion at birth, what becomes of their salvation as soon as they disobey their parents? This cannot be denied that it universally happens early on, maybe at age 3-4. Are these children mortally lost for another 10 years because they cannot comprehend the Gospel, repent and believe? If one must deny the need of a prevenient grace for infants and toddlers, then the Pelagian scheme leaves children in a terrible position indeed! Pelagianism leaves children worse off than fatalistic Calvinism could ever do, for upon the very first sin they would be condemned, perhaps for years before they could comprehend the Gospel and turn from their sin to God. This in itself  is a good enough reason to reject the idea of free-willism and to rely on the idea of a universal prevenient grace at birth.  

Writer A. F. Rogers makes a statement that strikes a blow at the root of the assertion that Children are born completely free of sin: "All admit (besides unscriptural fatalists) that children are saved—that they go to heaven when they die. Now, if they are saved, I ask: what are they saved from? And who saved them? You answer, Christ is their only Savior. But if Christ saves them, it is from sin; and what sin do they have to be saved from? Guilt? No; they have none to be pardoned. There is, therefore, but one sense in which He can save them, and that is from the depravity of their nature that unfits them for heaven."13

Wesley brings up his objections to those that deny universal depravity which he calls "Original Sin":

1. If Original Sin is not, either death is not " the wages of sin," or there is punishment without guilt; God punishes innocent, guiltless creatures. To suppose which is to impute iniquity to the Most Holy.

2. If we were not ruined by the first Adam, neither are we recovered by the Second.

3. If we do not derive a corrupt nature from Adam, we do not derive a new nature from Christ.

4. A denial of original sin represents the greater part of mankind as having no need of Christ, or the grace of the new covenant.

5. A denial of original sin contradicts the main design of the Gospel, which is to humble vain man, and to ascribe to God’s free grace, not mans free will, the whole of his salvation.14

I would differ with Wesley over "guilt" in point #1 if he speaks of personal guilt. This is an unlikely conclusion since in his other writings he specifically stated that "the sins that damn men... are not those for which they have no personal responsibility."15 Since Wesley stated that death was clearly aligned with the wages of sin, we should examine how and why. 1). While the wages of sin is death, and death has passed to all mankind, then it would be a reasonable assumption to say that their is a racial guilt- something that is passed from man to his posterity that makes them unfit for heaven. 2). Racial guilt does not make God unfair as Pelagians would charge, for Adam's sin does not pass onto men as if they were personally guilty of any uncommitted sin, but that they are rendered unfit for heaven by their inherited nature, which is of a sinful bent. 3). The Old Testament command of God for the Israelites to kill infants proves to be problematic for the Pelagian. If God is "just," and God is "love," how could He order the slaughter of "innocent" children? By discarding the idea of racial guilt, God becomes a cruel and murderous tyrant! He orders the death of "innocent" infants! “Only you shall not allow anything that breathes to live from the cities of these people… but you shall certainly destroy them...” (Deut. 20:16-17). “I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt.  Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys” (I Sam 15.2). If the Pelagian concept that children are fit for heaven because of their innate innocence, and not grace, then we create an unnecessary conundrum in the nature of God. But if the child is racially unfit for heaven, and has its nature automatically covered by grace, as is the entire race is through Christ, then there is no injustice with God. The child will be in heaven, and God could be just in His actions in commanding the destruction of a sinful culture in its entirety. 

God destroyed infants and children in the Flood, and we see the death of infants through the frailty of their fallen and imperfect bodies, and natural disasters today. If being "innocent" makes us fit for heaven at birth, then the death of a child would be a greater injustice than the death of Christ! Understanding that salvation is all of grace, even for the infant, erases the charge of an injustice with God. One does not have to ignore or artificially "adjust" certain passages of Scripture in order to rescue God from the charge of injustice and acting contrary to love.   

Point #2 connects the universal effect of Adam, and the universal effect of Christ. Let's consider Romans 5:14,15, and 17-18. "Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression... But not as the offense, so also is the free gift.. . For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness... 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." Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed unto all men. If Christ did not correct something that Adam caused, then did He really accomplish anything in retrospect to Adam? Did Christ undo anything for us racially if Adam did not do anything that affected the entire race? Pelagians generally answer by suggesting that the "all" and "death" in Romans 5 are interpreted as being physical death. Now it is admitted that physical death was the result of Adam's sin that affected all, but that this speaks of spiritual death they strenuously deny. While the context of Romans chapter five may give them some wiggle room to see it this way, 2 Corinthians 5:14 does not. It is a parallel verse that unambiguously says, " For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that is one died for all, then all are dead." Now, it is obvious that we are not all physically dead, and that this speaks of a spiritual death that affects all for whom Jesus died.

"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." Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed unto all men." This statement from Scripture asserts that the effect of Adam's sin was universal, and that the effect of the atonement of Christ is also universal in a related way. We know that all are not saved and going to heaven, so what is this universal effect? This is not a difficulty when we consider the doctrine of inherited depravity. If we all inherit a nature that brings death and makes us unfit for admittance to heaven, it is not our fault, but our misfortune. God would not be unjust, for He does not have to allow that which is unfit and odious to His holy character into His presence. God owes no man salvation. What we can say however is, since God did not terminate the existence of the race after the fall of Adam and Eve, He must have desired to reconcile and save a portion of that race, so He made a provision of atonement to cover that defect so that no man would be condemned for a sin that he did not personally commit. This my friend is grace. This makes Jesus the Savior of all mankind, and not just those that are saved as adults. Wesleyans would call this action prevenient grace. Anyone born into this fallen race is not automatically a candidate for heaven, but is actually separated from a Holy God by nature. There is however a universal provision that effects all mankind that comes upon all men unto justification of life- it is called grace. No man is therefore condemned for a sin they did not personally commit, though at the same time, no man is born into this world fit for heaven. Without grace, no one would be fit for heaven.  

If there is no racial sin, then there cannot be a racial salvation- for every male would be his own Adam, and every female would be her own Eve. Therefore, it would not be possible that Christ died for the whole race, but only for individuals. The Gospel therefore could not be universal in nature, but selective in its application. The Pelagian scheme actually leads back to the logic of the Calvinistic fatalism that it so ardently attempts to deny! 

Why is it so important to consider the racial nature of demerit and the racial nature of atonement? An example would be to consider that in the death of Christ, angels are not offered redemption. Why not? It is because each angel is an individual creation, and not a race. To save the individual, there must be an individual atonement. However, to save a race, there can be a racial atonement, which we see in Christ. For there to be a racial atonement, there must be a racial need. No one born into the human race can be exempt from the need of atonement and grace, otherwise, there is no racial atonement, but an individual atonement that leads us to individualistic fatalism. But Jesus came as a man, and not an angel. He died for a race, and not for individuals.  The racial connection establishes that salvation for all men was provided for upon the Cross. What Pelagians claim to be an injustice is actually a blessing in disguise.

If we are saved as individuals, as our own "Adam and Eve's," then we each would have a probation that was independent from each other. We would all be at risk, for nothing would hold God to applying the atonement to each and every individual. It is apparent that God did not atone for angels, and that He does not owe them anything in the way of an offer of salvation. If Jesus did not die for the race, then He does not owe any man an offer of redemption anymore than He owes an offer of redemption to any of the fallen angels. If the atonement was not racial, then there would be nothing unjust in God if He were to change His mind about desiring "all men" to be saved. God did not lift a finger to reconcile the fallen angles, so God is not under any obligation to save individual men. Since Jesus died for a race, the whole race must need the merit of His death without exception. If there is no direct and universal connection of sin and death through Adam to his entire posterity, then there cannot be any direct and universal connection of Christ to the salvation of all mankind.     

Wesley's points #4 and #5 touch upon a theme that I feel is immensely important to the Gospel. If infants that die go to heaven on their own merit, then they are not saved by grace. They have no need to cast their crowns before the Lamb, for the Lamb is not their Savior. Jesus therefore cannot truly be the Savior of the whole world. This would be a denial of the clear statements of Scripture to the contrary.  

I admire the intent of this doctrinal denial of original sin; it is to hold man accountable, for the Bible holds man accountable. Unfortunately, the result ends up in exalting man and his will. It makes the atonement unneeded for much of the existing population. It robs Christ of His work and grace towards all men. 

The argument that inherited depravity would make God unjust is greatly flawed. Inherited depravity establishes the justness and grace of God towards the entire human race. Inherited Depravity makes no man sin. Prevenient grace restores every man's freedom and ability so that he is not "Totally Depraved," but is able to choose between right and wrong; thus making him truly accountable. The charge that Inherited Depravity is unfair is therefore unfounded. No man sins because he has a sinful nature; he sins because he chooses to rebel. This however would never be possible without the intervention of grace that was provided for the entire race. 

Without a doubt,  the Scriptures establish that Jesus is the Savior of all who will be in heaven. This point I cannot treat as if it were negotiable. 

Difficulties of the Issue

It is admitted that many will struggle with this concept of depravity. Hopefully by showing some of the problems involved, one can see the long reaching implications of denying the position. We have also seen that by overstating the position and assigning guilt where there is none leads to unscriptural conclusions. We have examined many passages that suggest that at birth one inherits a sinful nature. These passages are fewer that we would like, and at times they are somewhat ambiguous. I believe that we would all wish that the subject were clearer than day, but that is not the case with all doctrines. This fact however, does not diminish its importance. The vagueness at times indicates that the topic is still relevant, but is not the need of the moment. When it comes to the knowledge about this issue of sin and the sin nature, the Scriptures give us the proper balance and priority. We are told much more about our actual sin and rebellion with God than we are told about original sin. This is understandable, for man's need is not to settle the issue of what to do with the unfit nature we were born with, but what are we to do about the actual sins we are guilty of! Inherited Depravity  is of no importance to an unbeliever! It is secondary to the new believer. The first priority is to settle the issue of sin and be reconciled to God, the secondary issue is what to do with this nature that we were born with. This becomes an issue that only a born-again believer has to be concerned about dealing with. 

Some may be interested in the more subtle evidences. In the writings of John we do not see an emphasis on the subject directly, but a different approach to the issue. "There is no attempt to trace it back to Adam. Nevertheless there is nothing to suggest an alternative idea which would conflict with this essentially O.T. View... It has been maintained that a different kind of dualism is found in John when compared with the synoptics... The whole problem of man is viewed in dualistic terms so far as the world is set over against God. The various antitheses all illustrate this. Light, truth, life all come from above; darkness, falsehood, death, belong to the world below... the sphere above is the sphere of the Spirit, that below is the sphere of the flesh."16 This seems to indicate an underlying philosophy in John's writings that indicates that there is no middle ground. There is darkness, and there is light. One is either righteous, or they are sinful. This would seem to indicate that in the philosophy of John, an infant would be either/or. Either spiritual, or carnal. In-between or neutral would not be an option. Flesh on its own seems to be aligned with the absence of spirituality. It appears that with John, he approaches the issue of depravity as an assumed reality without ever making an overt statement or argument for any such depravity. The result is the same without giving the reader the satisfaction of an explanation as if truth had to be stated in the form of a systematic theology. Jesus stated, "That which is born of flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3: 3, 6, 7). John gives us no indication that that which is born of the flesh (infants) are birthed spiritual. By the implications of Christ's words, and John's emphasis on either/or, we have a subtle, yet consistent witness to the nature of depravity at birth. Paul writes that Jesus Himself, came in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom.8:3), yet was not actually birthed with a fallen flesh. Keep in mind, Jesus "came" as a baby, but only in the likeness of sinful flesh. To say that all infants do not inherit a sinful disposition, or that they are born spiritual, is to say that Jesus coming in the likeness of sinful flesh was not anything unique at all. John's record is clear that no man is born anything other than the flesh. All must be born of the Spirit in order to be spiritually fit for heaven. 

Paul also has some subtle indicators to consider. "Although it seems inescapable that Paul accepts that mankind inherits a sinful bias through Adam, what might be called "a bent towards sinfulness", yet it is the definite committing of sin which brings condemnation. Paul's whole approach to the subject of sin elsewhere would not support the view that any man is held responsible for the sinful bias he has inherited. But does this mean that man can claim that his will is shackled and that consequently it would be unjust to hold him responsible for his own actions? This question never seems to have arisen in Paul's mind..." "In a passage which also contrasts Adam with Christ in 1 Corinthians, Paul mentions the coming of death to all through Adam (1 Cor. 15:21ff.), but makes no mention of sin... He did not debate the question whether death was introduced into the race by Adam, or whether it is the result of the inevitable course of nature. The solidarity of the race was sufficient to support both contentions at once, without any attempts to resolve them." "From this brief survey of original sin in Paul's teaching we must conclude that he saw the human race as affected by Adam's sin, but gives no indication of how this worked out apart from the universality is sin and death."17    

To grasp the Gospel in its fullness, we need to get beyond the individualism that is stressed in today's preaching. God has always desired a people; He chose the human race. He chose the Jewish nation, and now has chosen the Church. We are His "Body." We are His "Bride." Individualism, while important in relationship to the whole, fails on its own. Salvation never has, or ever will be an individualistic effort. "Evidently a member of such a race must be something more than a mere individual, and all doctrine of mere individualism must be one-sided and incomplete. A race-connection so vital must necessarily exert a profound influence upon every individual, in respect of what he is in himself, and in the life that he lives."18    

When one surveys the obvious race-connection throughout the Scriptures, the concept of an inherited depravity and the racial connection to Adam does not seem all that problematic. In fact, given all of the emphasis on corporate salvation in the Scriptures, it would be out of place to insist that there would be no racial connection to the first man.   

We know that sin is twofold in that it accounts for actual sins, and for sin as a state, or nature. We can be thankful to know that through the atonement of Christ, both are dealt with for the believer. Unfortunately, many people stop short when it comes to receiving the blessings that Christ purchased with His atonement. So much more could be ours if we could only grasp the greatness of God's provision. Forgiveness, and cleansing, deliverance from sin, a new heart perfected in love. Charles Wesley's song speaks my heart for all who read these words:

Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heaven to earth come down;
Fix in us thy humble dwelling;
All thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus, Thou art all compassion,
Pure unbounded love Thou art;
Visit us with Thy salvation;
Enter every trembling heart.

Breathe, O breathe Thy loving Spirit,
Into every troubled breast!
Let us all in Thee inherit;
Let us find that second rest.
Take away our bent to sinning;
Alpha and Omega be;
End of faith, as its Beginning,
Set our hearts at liberty.

Come, Almighty to deliver,
Let us all Thy life receive;
Suddenly return and never,
Never more Thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
Serve Thee as Thy hosts above,
Pray and praise Thee without ceasing,
Glory in Thy perfect love.

Finish, then, Thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before Thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise.

May we not cut short the glorious work of Christ. May God encourage you to explore His wondrous possibilities of grace.  

Inevitable Consequences

What Depends upon Choice on Both Sides

By A.M. Hills 19





Depravity at birth for all. Birth in realm of grace for all.
Physical death for all. Resurrection for all.
Possibility of eternal death for all. Possibility of eternal life for all.
Disaster from one sin to all. Provisional salvation from all sins to all.
Mental and spiritual darkness upon all. The light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. 
The condemnation. The free gift.
The sin abounded, depravity in all. The grace did much more abound in sanctification for all, and heaven.





No guilt from sin of Adam, until endorsed by our own choice of sin. No salvation from Christ's righteousness until endorsed by our choice of salvation.
No responsibility for possession of depravity until remedy is rejected. No escape from the depravity through Adam's sin till the remedy is accepted.
In spite of all misfortunes from Adam, no hell except by our own choice of sin. Notwithstanding all Jesus has done for salvation, no heaven but by our own free choice.
The sin that reigned (by consent). The grace may reign (by consent).


1. Systematic Theology, S.J. Gamertsfelder, D.D., Ph. D., page 437, Evangelical  Publishing House, Harrisburg, PA. 1938

2. An Outline of Christian Theology, William Newton Clarke, D.D., page 218, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1898

3. The Christian Doctrine of Salvation, George Barker Stevens, Ph.D., D.D., LL.D., page 514-515, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1905 

4. An Outline of Christian Theology, William Newton Clarke, D.D., page 244, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1898 

5. The Theology of the New Testament, George Barker Stevens, Ph.D., D.D., LL.D., page 356, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, reprint 1947 

6. The Establishing Grace, A.M. Hills, D.D., page 19, Schmul Publishing Co., Inc., Salem Ohio, reprint 1983

7. The Establishing Grace, A.M. Hills, D.D., page 19-20, Schmul Publishing Co., Inc., Salem Ohio, reprint 1983 

8. The Establishing Grace, A.M. Hills, D.D., page 20, Schmul Publishing Co., Inc., Salem Ohio, reprint 1983 

9. Wesley's Works, Rev. John Wesley, 6:512,Working Out Your Salvation, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., Peabody, MA. Reprint of 1872 edition, 1986

10. Wesley's Works, Rev. John Wesley, 6:512,Working Out Your Salvation, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., Peabody, MA. Reprint of 1872 edition, 1986

11. Dictionary of Doctrinal and Historical Theology, Rev. John Henry Blunt, M.A., F.S.A, page 528, Rivingtons, London, Oxford, and Cambridge, 1872

12. Systematic Theology, S.J. Gamertsfelder, D.D., Ph. D., page 438, Evangelical Publishing House, Harrisburg, PA. 1938

13. Christian Baptism, A. F. Rogers, page 73, Pentagraph Stationary Company, Bloomington, IL., 1888 

14. Wesley's Works, Rev. John Wesley, 9:429, Original Sin, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., Peabody, MA. Reprint of 1872 edition, 1986

15. The Word and the Doctrine, Kenneth E. Geiger, Page 145, Schmul Publishing Company, Inc., Salem, 1989. 

16. New Testament Theology, Donald Guthrie, Page 196-197, Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. 1981

17. New Testament Theology, Donald Guthrie, Page 212-213, Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. 1981

18. An Outline of Christian Theology, William Newton Clarke, D.D., page 218, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1898

19. The Establishing Grace, A.M. Hills, D.D., page 26, Schmul Publishing Co., Inc., Salem Ohio, reprint 1983


 A Theology Of Sin

The Holiness of God

What is Sin?

The Wages of Sin

The Depravity of Man

The Grace of God

Sin and the Atonement

Must we Sin?

Chastisement and the Christian







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