The doctrine of original sin is a church tradition from the fourth century that says everyone is born guilty FOR ADAM'S SIN and that, without Jesus as Savior, everyone is going to burn in hell forever as punishment, even people who never heard about Adam or Jesus.
This doctrine portrays God as an unjust monster and is driving people from God and the Bible. It's so horrific that few Christians dare talk about it in full and raw form with unbelievers.
Many Christians don't believe that the Bible teaches this doctrine and that it's a contradiction to the basic gospel message of love, justice, and free will. For sixteen hundred years, there has been heated theological argument about it.
This page will help you arrive at a confident personal decision about what to believe regarding original sin.
Nearly everyone in the western world knows about 'the fall.' Literature, music, art, and church tradition over the centuries have been so replete with this narrative and its consequences to humanity that most people never bother about investigating what the Bible says about it if anything.
The Bible clearly teaches that everyone has a sin nature and needs the Savior (Jesus) because of personal sin. But the doctrine of original sin adds to the Bible by saying that everyone is fully guilty at birth for Adam's sin and ruin of God's perfect creation.
This page lays out all relevant Bible verses and issues to help you recognize the differences between the Bible and tradition regarding inherited sin.
This topic is usually a contentious conversation stopper when Christians try to explain it to doubters and unbelievers without good preparation. It's essential to maintain an interesting and intelligent dialog without letting it turn into an argument.
This page equips you to discuss this topic thoroughly and confidently, based on scripture, with people who are troubled by it.
The doctrine of original sin – that everyone is personally guilty for Adam's sin – was conceived by theologians long after the death of Jesus, the Apostles, and all of the New Testament writers.
Jesus taught only that we are guilty of our own sins. There is no record of Jesus ever even mentioning Adam's name.
The doctrine of original sin is not named, stated or taught in the Bible.
The concept had its origin in the writings of Tertullian (160-220) and Cyprian (200-258), but it was popularized by Saint Augustine (354-430), and eventually it became part of church tradition.
Augustine believed that original sin was transmitted from generation to generation by 'concupiscence' (sexual intercourse) when people had sex and conceived a child. That was believable 1600 years ago, but with modern knowledge of DNA, we now know that the physical part of the doctrine is preposterous.
Christians talk about original sin as though it's a theme that runs throughout the Bible. Not so. It rests upon four verses pulled out of a broad context of free will and individual choice.
There are 31,102 verses in the Bible. The four verses are a very small and fragile biblical footing for such a monstrous doctrine!
Here are the four verses, with commentary in red:
Christians talk about original sin as though it's a theme that runs throughout the Bible. Not so. It rests upon these four verses pulled out of a broad context of free will and individual choice.
Even with these verses out of context – read them again! – one has to strain to try to make them say that everyone is guilty of Adam's sin. It's a big stretch, and it's adding to scripture.
If Adam caused a horrific change in God's master plan and basic human nature, we would expect the Bible to contain more than four brief – and questionable – references to such a catstrophic event that affects the life and destiny of every person ever to live on earth. We would certainly expect Jesus and his twelve Apostles to have said something about it, but they never mentioned Adam or any such catastrophic event.
Proponents of the doctrine of original sin sometimes also cite these additional verses for support, but notice that they don't mention Adam or a catastrophic event either:
The theologians who constructed the doctrine of original sin did not have any personal interaction with Jesus or his disciples. Hundreds of years had passed. Oral transmission was no longer consistent and trustworthy, so for truth, they studied the same verses in the Bible that we study today.
Now we can study these verses as well – even better – than they could in their day, for reasons explained at today we know more.
Proponents of the doctrine of original sin believe it because they have been told that the Bible says it in Romans 5 and I Corinthians 15.
➤ See the Bible study here on original sin which examines these two passages in depth and shows that they don't say what most people have been told.
Original sin is an example of how scripture is often read to support tradition rather than to learn what it actually says.
Justice is a big issue throughout the world today, especially among the younger generations, and is regarded as one of the highest – perhaps the highest – of all virtues.
When doubters and unbelievers hear about original sin, most are, repulsed. To them, there is nothing more unjust than torturing people in the most horrific way imaginable – burning them in fire forever – for something they didn't do or even know about and not making known any means of salvation.
It is especially onerous to be told that God places this guilt and sentence of punishment on every infant at the moment of birth. Most people react by thinking consciously or subconsciously: I could never be attracted to a God like that!
Christians who believe in original sin usually respond simply by saying (1) God can do whatever He wants and (2) it's what the Bible says, so we have to accept it.
This study challenges that response:
(1) Of course, God can do whatever He wants. He is Creator and Sovereign of the universe. But this is not the issue here. The ISSUE IS NOT whether or not we like how God deals with sinners, but rather the ISSUE IS whether God likes how we portray Him as a monster by stretching and adding to scripture.
(2) Not all Christians believe in original sin. Apparently, Jesus didn't believe it either, or else he would have said something about it. Christians who believe it keep saying that this is what the Bible teaches (though there are only a few verses on the subject, all dubious) ... but Christians who don't believe it search the scriptures and can't find it there, not even in those few verses.
If the Bible compels a belief that God tortures the innocent, we would have to accept it. However, that belief comes almost entirely from human tradition, not from the clear teaching of scripture, which is the point of this study.
At least once in a lifetime, every Christian should carefully study this important theological issue personally, not believing or disbelieving based on what one's church tradition says, but based instead on what the Bible says as understood from personal study.
Our mission from Jesus is to 'go and make disciples of all nations' (Matthew 28:18), but statistics show that the church (body of believers) is now failing miserably in America.
The church is contentious and squabbling over unessential points of doctrine while losing disciples at an alarming rate. The generational gap is huge and growing.
This site shows the many ways that Christians are making the Bible say things it doesn't really say, with the result that the Bible is losing credibility and Christians are being marginalized for blindly believing whatever they're told.
Christians should be talking to family, friends, associates, and neighbors enthusiastically about the things Jesus spoke about. Instead, church add-on doctrines have put us in positions impossible to defend.
Without good answers, most Christians get pummeled in spiritual conversations, so most keep quiet. Sadly, most Christians are unable to articulate the gospel in a way that ordinary people can understand or desire.
The purpose of this site is to broaden understanding of scripture to the point that a Christian becomes willing – especially in conversations with unbelievers – to explain spiritual topics with informed interpretations that are not turn-offs and conversation stoppers ... for example, to explain that not all Christians believe in the doctrine of original sin and that a person does not have to embrace it to become a Christian.
Here are the three points typically expressed by people who believe in the doctrine of original sin:
Some Christians believe only one or two of these three points, and some (below) don't believe any of them.
Here's a response to the above three points from people who don't believe in the doctrine of original sin:
This Part A examines the above points and PART B is a verse-by-verse study of scripture.