Theology Corner

Addressing commonly asked questions about Christianity from the perspective of a non-theologian

90. IS SIN JUST A MINOR NUISANCE?

Consider a paraphrase of Maulana Muhammad Ali, nearly 100 years ago, on the origin of sin:

 

A fundamental difference between Christianity and Islam is that the former teaches that every human child is born sinful, while the latter teaches that every human child is born sinless.  Thus in Islam, human nature is raised to the highest dignity by a plain declaration of its purity, while in Christianity human nature is brought down to the depth of degradation by declaring its inherent sinfulness.  This low view of human nature which forms the foundation stone of the Christian religion must, sooner or later, be abandoned by the civilized world.

 

Was the teaching of Maulana Muhammad Ali correct?  Is sin absent from the human soul until adolescence or even adulthood?  Or, if a human child is actually born with some sort of sin nature, is it like a small birth mark on the otherwise pristine skin of a baby, a birth mark which may gradually fade with time?  As the child grows, should he take a rational view of life and say that a person can gradually lift himself up, from the taint of sin, by his own bootstraps; can he learn to control his instincts and shed the burden of sin by education and experience?  The answer to all these questions is no!  Here is a directionally correct Christian scenario.

God created the universe with such precision that the slightest change in any one of its properties would preclude our existence and God designed the earth as a home for man.  God placed certain powerful angels in charge of his creation and instructed them to be good stewards.  Some angels began to oppose God under the leadership of Satan, the most powerful and intelligent of all rebellious angels.  Satan exercises a pervasive, structural and diabolical influence, on whatever he touches, which caused all creation to be captured by the bondage of evil.  That which God created as good began to exhibit a pain-ridden, bloodthirsty, sinister and hostile demeanor.  “Mother Nature,” became an inherently violent and terrifying system dominated by disease, suffering and death – a system red in tooth and claw.  Man had not yet been created.

God set aside some real estate for the Garden of Eden and restored it to its condition prior to Satan’s diabolical influence.  He then created Adam and Eve to live in this Garden.  In full view of all the angels in Heaven, Satan demanded unrestricted access to Adam and Eve and, although they were created sinless, Satan won them over.  Evil had taken up residence in the soul of man, that particular evil called sin.  The will, intellect and heart of Adam and Eve had been possessed and permeated by sin.  But what about us, the descendants of Adam and Eve?

God is just.  God does not impute to us the individual sins of Adam and Eve.  But He knew it would be pointless to allow the offspring of Adam and Eve to be born sinless.  He knew they would follow exactly the same path as their created ancestors.  So He allowed the generations of Adam and Eve’s offspring to be born with a sin nature.  We are all born corrupt, averse to God and inclined to evil.  However, for this depraved nature we are not responsible and no guilt or demerit attaches to it.  We become responsible for this sin nature only after attaining the age accountability and ratifying it as our own.  The age of accountability is not the same for all persons and, for many, it may be very young indeed.

God knew, before the creation of the universe, that all this was going to happen.  On one hand, God knew sin would prevent Him from fellowship with man; on the other hand, God knew He would love each individual unconditionally and would not want eternal separation to be the inevitable consequence of sin.  But sin could not simply be overlooked; a price had to be paid for every crime.  Unfortunately, if you and I paid the price for our own crimes, our souls would spend eternity in Hell.  Before the universe began, God chose an incredible, astounding and magnificent solution to this dilemma.  That solution was the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In the words of Oswald Chambers:

 

“We have to recognize that sin is a fact, not a defect; sin is red-handed mutiny against God.  Either God or sin must die in my life.  The New Testament brings us right down to this one issue.  If sin rules in me, God’s life in me will be killed; if God rules in me, sin in me will be killed.  There is no possible ultimate but that.  The climax of sin is that it crucified Jesus Christ, and what was true in the history of God on earth will be true in your history and in mine.  In our mental outlook we have to reconcile ourselves to the fact of sin as the only explanation as to why Jesus Christ came, and as the explanation of the grief and sorrow in life.”