The Battle of the Will

The state of the human will, after the Fall of Adam, has been hotly contested for centuries. That battle can be said to be reflected primarily by four different ‘debates’, if you will, between four sets of ‘sparring partners’: Pelagius and Augustine in the 4th & 5th Centuries, Luther and Erasmus in the 16th Century, Arminianism and the Synod of Dort in the 17th Century, and finally, John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards in the 18th Century. An introduction and summary of each one of those ‘debates’ are provided below: More detail is provided for each, and can be accessed at the links provided for each of the four parts.

Regardless of what you personally believe concerning the state of the human will, these summaries present an accurate picture of both sides of the centuries old debate. I trust you will enjoy reading both the summaries and the complete essays from which they were extracted courtesy of The Gospel Coalition.

The Battle of the Will, Part 1: Pelagius and Augustine

AN ESSAY BY Matthew Barrett

The Battle of the Will, Part 1: Pelagius and Augustine – The Gospel Coalition


The debate over the will between Augustine and Pelagius focused mainly on the doctrine of original sin and the nature of the grace needed for humans to lead lives of faith and holiness.


Pelagius and Augustine were two of the first figures in early Christianity to debate the nature of the human will after the fall of Adam and Eve and the nature of the grace needed to allow humans to exercise faith. Pelagius argued that the sin of Adam, called original sin, was in no way passed down or imputed to the rest of the human race. Adam and Eve simply provided a bad example that was followed by all of their offspring. Because of this belief, Pelagius believed that grace simply helped humans to know what to do to live holy lives and that humans were completely capable of following these commands. Augustine, on the other hand, argued that the sin of Adam affected the will of every human who followed, rendering them incapable of following God’s commands or loving God. Because of this, the grace of God is not simply illuminatory but liberates the will and enables it to love and obey God.

One of the most important debates in church history is that between Pelagianism and Augustinianism. As you might have guessed, these labels represent two figures: Pelagius and Augustine, both of whom lived in the fourth and fifth centuries. The debate was complex and, much like an onion, had layer upon layer. But its main facets concerned the nature of man and the necessity of divine grace.

The Battle of the Will, Part 2: Luther and Erasmus

AN ESSAY BY Matthew Barrett

The Battle of the Will, Part 2: Luther and Erasmus – The Gospel Coalition


The debate over the will between Luther and Erasmus focused on the ability of the will to cooperate with the grace of God in salvation; Luther argued that the will was incapable of such necessary cooperation, and Erasmus argued that the will must cooperate with the grace of God.


Although the debate over the ability of the will does not receive as much attention as other Reformation debates, this issue was at the root of many of the disagreements between Protestants and Roman Catholics. Erasmus, a Catholic humanist and respected linguist, argued that the will is free to resist or cooperate with divine grace, even after the fall and affected by original sin. Thus, the will can turn away from the grace of God, and his grace is not irresistible. Luther, on the other hand, argued that man’s will could not be free and autonomous in this manner for multiple reasons. First, God foreknows everything, so the will cannot be able to choose autonomously and not based on God’s foreknowledge. Second, God wills everything that he knows, so everything that we choose he first wills. Thirdly, apart from Christ, our will is in bondage to sin, and only guilt and corruption are attributed to us. Therefore, a grace that liberates our will and restores in us the capacity to love and obey is necessary for our faith. This grace is not coercive but gently restores in us the ability to love what is truly lovely.

When the sixteenth century Reformation is discussed, doctrines like sola scriptura and justification sola fide get all the attention. There is good reason for this, since these issues were central to the divide with Rome. But underneath the surface was another debate, one Luther said was at the heart of the divide, the very meat of the nut itself. It was the debate over free will and it occurred early on, in the 1520s, defining the Reformation over against those who still held to an optimistic view of man’s abilities in salvation. The representatives in the debate were two of the most influential and formidable figures of the day: Erasmus, the humanist and Greek scholar, versus Martin Luther, the German reformer.

The Battle of the Will, Part 3: Arminianism and the Synod of Dort

AN ESSAY BY Matthew Barrett

The Battle of the Will, Part 3: Arminianism and the Synod of Dort – The Gospel Coalition


The debate over the will between Calvinists and Arminians focused on whether fundamentals of Christian theology, such as regeneration and election, are dependent on the free choice of man or whether they are dependent wholly on the freely given grace of God apart from any works of man.


These debates were carried out after the death of Calvin between various Calvinist theologians and Jacobus Arminius and those who sided with him, notably leading to the Synod of Dort. The Remonstrants, as they were called, denied that God’s grace was given based on God’s unconditional election of individuals to salvation. Instead, election was based upon God’s foreknowledge of what choice man would freely make, ultimately making regeneration contingent on man’s decision. Calvinists, on the other hand, taught that God chose those to whom he would give faith in eternity past, rather than foreseeing who would have faith on their own. Therefore, spiritual regeneration preceded the choice of the will for the Calvinist, while for the Remonstrant, the choice of the will in faith preceded the benefits of salvation.

It is often assumed that the debate between Calvinists and Arminians was a 16th century debate between John Calvin and Jacob Arminius. Many are surprised when they discover that Arminius was only a small child when Calvin died. The debate between Calvinists and Arminians took place at the end of the sixteenth century and beginning of the seventeenth century, and it did not merely concern Arminius but certain Remonstrants (objectors, protestors) and the reaction of the Synod of Dort.

The Battle of the Will, Part 4: John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards

AN ESSAY BY Matthew Barrett

The Battle of the Will, Part 4: John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards – The Gospel Coalition


The disagreement over the will continued on into the 18th century between figures such as John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards: Wesley held, as an Arminian, that the will was granted a previenient grace that allowed it to choose to follow Christ freely; Edwards, on the other hand, argued that the desires of the heart were, at the bottom level, given to it by God or the sinful nature of man and, therefore, God was sovereign over the choices of man while allowing men to choose according to their desires, which is what human freedom is for Edwards.


The disagreement over the role of the will in salvation continued on into the 18th century and can be seen clearly by juxtaposing the theology of two prominent theologians and pastors: John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards. John Wesley held, as an Arminian, that the will was granted a previenient grace that allowed it to choose to follow Christ freely. This meant that every person was able to choose to follow Christ or not freely, but it also meant that they could lose their salvation. In addition to this, Wesley believed in a level of Christian perfection that included the Christian being free from all conscious sin. Jonathan Edwards, on the other hand, as someone in the Calvinist tradition, argued that the desires of the heart were, at the bottom level, given to it by God or determined by the sinful nature of fallen humanity. This protected both God’s sovereignty, human responsibility, and the gracious nature of salvation. While man’s desires, or inclinations, are determined, humans always act freely according to their desires, so the free nature of man’s will is also protected in Edwards’s argument.

John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards were two of the most significant Christian preachers of the eighteenth century. Their respective ministries and writings not only influenced Christians and churches across continents, but their legacy was inherited by the generations that followed. Nevertheless, while both men were committed to preaching and teaching the same gospel, their stories differ, and so do their theologies.

Be Blessed!


If nothing else, our hope is that you have benefited from these essays and are better equipped to enter the debate, should you desire to do so!

People Are Basically Good by Cameron Buettel

Wednesday, September 1, 2021, GTY Blog Post


“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death.” [1] Those are heartbreaking words for a couple of reasons.

They were penned by Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl, while she spent two years hiding in Nazi-occupied Holland. She died tragically in a concentration camp soon after, but her writings would go on posthumously to become a widely celebrated bestseller: The Diary of a Young Girl.

It’s staggering to think that in spite of the unimaginable atrocities she must have witnessed and experienced, she still clung to the belief that people are basically good. She even admitted her beliefs were “in spite of” the evidence, not because of it. For her, the alternative was simply too unthinkable. It would seem her beliefs hinged more on hope than conviction.

The other reason Anne Frank’s words are so heartbreaking is because she believed a widespread and popular lie.

Pelagian Origins

The belief that people are basically good is an ancient falsehood going back to the fourth-century AD. It was first propagated, at least in a theological sense, by a British monk called Pelagius. He fervently and persuasively argued against the biblical doctrine of original sin—the belief that all of mankind has been morally corrupted through Adam’s fall.

The Pelagian heresy was defeated at the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD. But Pelagius’s beliefs have been readily imbibed by most secular cultures and are alive and well in the present day. Atheism and Darwinism may have toned it down by embracing an anthropology of moral neutrality rather than goodness. But their worldview remains essentially Pelagian because they still deny the inherent sinfulness of man.

In that sense, Pelagius still stalks the hallways of government, higher education, and the mainstream media. Most foreign policy disasters are connected to the naïve assumption that people are basically good. Welfare programs flounder because of beneficiaries who prefer to extort the system rather than behave ethically. Psychologists continue to exclude the possibility of a sinful nature from their study of the human experience. Behavioral experts relentlessly try to solve bad behavior with better education. And society at large is now burdened with a younger generation that identifies as victims rather than perpetrators, refusing to be held accountable for its actions.

The realm of parenting has also been poisoned by the belief that people are basically good. Our children should be the greatest empirical proof of original sin. After all, we don’t have to teach them to lie, throw tantrums, or be selfish—they are all born with ready-made expertise in sinning. But like Anne Frank, many parents prefer to believe in the inherent goodness of their kids despite the massive weight of evidence to the contrary. Consequently, appeasement and medication have usurped the role of discipline in far too many families.   

We get an even harsher dose of reality when we honestly assess our own lives. God has written His morality upon our hearts and consciences (Romans 2:14–15)—we instinctively know right from wrong. But we live with the natural desire to rebel against what we know is right. Those who choose to deny this truth end up affirming it through their denial anyway.

Clearly then, the Pelagian lie is incredibly pervasive in the world. Churches thus carry an enormous responsibility to repudiate it. Unfortunately, that isn’t happening. The belief that people are basically good is now a thriving heresy in some of the most popular churches in America.  

Pelagian Churches

Bethel Church in Redding, California, is a prime example. Pastored by Bill Johnson, Bethel is perhaps the most influential charismatic church in the country. They are most widely known for their Jesus Culture music, testimonies of trips to heaven, gold dust “miracles” pouring out of their ventilation system, and many other bizarre claims and antics. But undergirding these strange recent phenomena is well-worn ancient heresy.

Eric Johnson (the son of Bill Johnson) is one of the pastors on staff at Bethel. In his sermon “The Joy of Consecration,” [2] he argues:

You’re not born evil. It’s amazing how many teachings and theologies start with that thought. Anytime you start with that you will create a controlling, manipulative environment.

Every government, every structure . . . every system fundamentally and theologically must start with the concept and the idea that people are good and they mean to do good. Even if they are not saved, we have to start from that premise.

Like a pope speaking ex cathedra, Eric Johnson usurps the clear teaching of Scripture and insists on redefining it according to his own theological preferences. And just to make himself clear, Johnson explicitly restates his Pelagian worldview later in the sermon:

We have to adjust our theology. We have to adjust our fundamental stance when we look at people. . . . We have to adjust our perspective of people. We have to realize that people are good and they mean to do good.

Johnson’s error is nothing short of catastrophic. In one fell swoop he has made repentance redundant in the lives of his massive audience and completely obliterated the reason for the gospel. His false gospel will damn those who embrace it.

Man Is Totally Depraved

The undeniable truth is that man is totally depraved. That doesn’t mean unregenerate sinners are incapable of doing anything good or noble. But it does mean that sin has permeated every part of their nature, and even the seemingly good things they do are ultimately done with sinful motives.

Keeping one’s head in the proverbial sand is the only way to ignore the doctrine of total depravity. It is the reason we have arguments, assaults, and wars. It’s the reason we need governments, police, and the military. It’s the reason for locks on our doors, walls around our prisons, and armed guards at our borders.

And the wrong things people do aren’t because of ignorance or a lack of education. Sinners deliberately rebel against what they know to be true about God and His righteousness. As the Lord Jesus Himself said,

This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. (John 3:19–20)

As far back as Genesis 6—prior to God’s judgment in the Flood—the depravity of man’s sinful heart was obvious. “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).

The apostle Paul delivered a powerful reminder to all believers that the primary struggle for unbelievers is never the lack of evidence for God, but their love for every form of defiance against Him.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18–20)

Atheism, Darwinism, hedonism, and victimhood are all excuses for the fact that people love sin, hate God, and refuse to be held accountable for their guilt. And that’s because all people are sinners by nature—a nature passed on to every descendant of Adam after the Fall (Genesis 3). “Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). “Through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners” (Romans 5:19).

In his book The Gospel According to Paul, John MacArthur explains the imputation of Adam’s sin to all of his descendants:

All humanity was plunged into this guilty condition because of Adam’s sin. “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners” (Romans 5:19). This is the doctrine of original sin, a truth that is expounded by Paul in Romans 5:12–19. . . . We prove our willing complicity in Adam’s rebellion every time we sin. And since no one other than Jesus has ever lived a sinless life, no one is really in a position to doubt the doctrine of original sin, much less deem it unjust. [3]

We need to abandon the lie that people are basically good, and instead embrace the truth that man is totally depraved. Understandably, it is an unsavory subject for most people. And without the gospel, it is only bad news.

But without the bad news, the gospel becomes strange and nonsensical. The cross becomes confusing. And there is no good reason for Christ to die as a sin-bearing substitute. If mankind is basically good, the gospel is an unnecessary farce, and the death of Christ a tragic waste. Choosing to deny the imputation of Adam’s sin demands that you also reject the imputation of our sin to Christ, and the imputation of His righteousness to our account. It cuts you off from the Savior, and any hope of salvation.

Ultimately, the difference between believing the soothing lie of Pelagius or the harsh truth of depravity is the doctrinal divide that separates heaven from hell.

Romans 8:6-10 & 1 Corinthians 2:14: A Tale of Two Minds

Romans 8:6-10 (ESV)

6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV)

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

In these few verses addressed to believers in Rome and Corinth, the Apostle Paul describes and contrasts two types of human thinking, two mindsets or worldviews, if you will.

In our Romans passage, Paul speaks of ‘the mind set on the flesh’ and ‘the mind set on the Spirit’. He contrasts the old ‘natural’ mental state of the unregenerate (unbelievers) with the ‘new ’natural’ state of born-again believers in Christ. I use the term ‘new’ natural in reference to believers because while we are still capable of carnal/fleshly thoughts, our new nature in Christ changes our thought lives. You might say that believers are capable of being ‘double’ minded, while unbelievers, without the Spirit of God, are very ‘single’ minded and completely incapable of understanding spiritual truths (1 Cor 2:14). In fact, a carnal mind (the only one available to the unregenerate) cannot please God (Rom 8:8)!

Some Logical Implications:

1. It takes a supernatural act of God to raise a spiritually dead (carnally minded) person to spiritual life capable of spiritual understanding.

2. Spiritual understanding is necessary to comprehending the gospel message that Christ died for the sins of his people.

3. Free will decisions of unregenerate people don’t please God because unregenerate people cannot please him.

4. Regeneration necessarily precedes genuine saving faith, which pleases God.

So how is anyone saved?

Romans 8:29-30 (ESV)

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

Those whom are foreknown by God WILL be brought to glorification by the same God.

Does this mean that there are those who are not foreknown in the same way who will die in their sins? That is an inescapable conclusion, dear friend. And while we don’t know who they are, we are called to share Jesus with all whom we meet. Not only did God decree and bring to pass the salvation of his remnant people, he also decreed the means by which he would save his elect – the preaching of the gospel, That is our great privilege.

God gives life to cold dead sinners, and like Lydia in Acts 16, opens their hearts to heed the message of the gospel that we bring!

All Jesus really wanted was my heart?

That’s the theme of a song by a popular contemporary Christian band that shall remain nameless. It’s a nice thought that permeates most of today’s evangelicalism, but is it true? Does Jesus want us to just give him our hearts? Ask 10 Christians on the street and 9 of them would probably give you a resounding YES, as if ‘everybody knows that’!

I ask again, is it true? Is such a thought in the Bible? What does the Bible say about our hearts, every single human heart, after Adam’s Fall?

One of the earliest glimpses of the human heart after the fall can be found in the book of Genesis, just before we are told that ‘Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord’:

”The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Gen 6:5

The writer of Ecclesiastes reiterates that thought with a keen observation concerning all men:

“. . ., the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.” – Ecc 9:3

One of the strongest descriptions of the human heart was given to us by the prophet Jeremiah:

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” – Jer 17:9

In case you are thinking that those are just Old Testament passages, and not Jesus’ opinion of the human heart, consider this:

“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” Jesus – Matt 15:18-19

Do you think that Jesus wants any of the above ‘hearts’? If he doesn’t, what sort of human heart does Jesus really want?

We are given an answer in a ‘thus sayeth the Lord’ moment spoken through the prophet Ezekiel:

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh”. – Eze 36:26

I’ll ask it one last time. Does Jesus really just want us to give him our hearts?

Think about it. . .

The Predicament of Fallen Man

"The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:15-17 ESV)

"Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-5 ESV)

Pre-Fall Adam had knowledge of what was good – and a disposition ‘bent’ toward God. Post-Fall Adam had a knowledge of good and evil and became separated from God, and ‘bent’ toward evil. That ‘bent’ has been called different things; original sin, sin nature, human inability, human depravity. Whatever it’s called, its effects are inherent characteristics of all fallen men. What are some of these?

What is the natural disposition of man toward God?

  • John 3:20 – “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”
  • Romans 8:7-8 – For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God
  • Colossians 1:21 – And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds

Are men at least seeking God?

  • Psalm 10:4 – In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
  • Psalm 10:2,3 – The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.
  • John 3:20 – “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”
  • Isaiah 65:1 – “I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.
  • Isaiah 64:7There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.
  • Romans 3:10-12 – “no one seeks for God.”

Can the natural man comprehend the gospel or come to saving knowledge of God on his own?

  • 1 Corinthians 2:14 – The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:3-4our gospel is veiled… to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:18,21-24 – For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles
  • Deuteronomy 29:2-4 – And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: “You have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, and those great wonders. But to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.”
  • Matthew 11:27 – “no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

What about the human will?

  • John 8:34 – Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.”
  • 2 Peter 2:19 – They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.
  • Titus 3:3 – For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
  • Galatians 4:8-9 – Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?
  • Romans 6:6,16,17,19,20 – We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey…? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed… For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
  • Romans 7:14 – For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.
  • 2 Timothy 2:25-26 – God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

Are people good deep down? What about the mind and heart?

  • Jeremiah 17:9 – “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
  • Titus 1:15-16 – to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.
  • Ecclesiastes 9:3 – Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.
  • Romans 1:28-31 – And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were… foolish
  • Ephesians 4:17-18 – you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.
  • Jeremiah 10:7-8,14 – among all the wise ones of the nations and in all their kingdoms there is none like you. They are both stupid and foolish… Every man is stupid and without knowledge
  • Matthew 15:19 – “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” (c.f. Mark 7:21-23)
  • Genesis 6:5 & 8:21 – The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually… from his youth.
  • Proverbs 10:20 – the heart of the wicked is of little worth.
  • Proverbs 28:26 – Whoever trusts in his own [heart] is a fool
  • Mark 7:21-23 – “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (c.f. Matthew 15:19)
  • Psalm 5:9 – For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue.

Food for thought. . . .

“Original” Sin?

I agree that the specific term “original sin” is not found in scripture. but is it a scriptural concept? There are many who deny the very concept who maintain that we are all born completely innocent and at some point in time become sinners deserving of God’s just punishment for our sin. Does scripture say anything at all about it? While there are many passages to which we can point, when a single passage seems to provide us a rather clear point of doctrine, I tend to grab it. Here is what I think might be the single passage in the issue of original sin, not because I want to accept a doctrine ‘invented’ by men, but because of what it says:

Ephesians 2:3

“All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.” (NIV)

“All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.” (NLT)

“among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (ESV)

“Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”  (NASB)

Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. (KJV)

How can we be born completely innocent if we are “by nature” children deserving of God’s anger and wrath? Are we born  without “nature”’? That’s my question. Do you have an opinion about ‘original sin’? Please note that the discussion around whether or not babies and young children below a certain age of ‘accountability’ is NOT on the table. That’s another issue, so please don’t get into it here.