Are we Born with a “Sin Nature?”

Jerry C. Brewer

The undocumented assertion by a local denominational preacher in his newspaper column that, “we were all born with a ‘sin’ nature” and that sin “was bred into us” is right out of John Calvin’s doctrines and is without foundation in the word of God. In 1536 Calvin published his religious views in a work entitled, The Institutes of The Christian Religion, resting his system upon the error that all men are born sinners. Calvin’s doctrine asserts that, “All men are conceived in sin and born the children of wrath, indisposed (inepti) to all saving good, propense to evil, dead in sin, and the slaves of sin…” (“Calvinism,” “Doctrines of Dort,” McClintock & Strong’s Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature, Vol. II, pp. 39-46).

The Bible nowhere teaches that “we were all born with a ‘sin’ nature” or that, sin “was bred into us.” Sin is not inherited, as one inherits the color of his eyes or hair. If sin is “bred into us” then God must be its source for Adam was the son of God (Luke 3:38). To support their lie that “we were all born sinners,” Calvinists cite these words of David: “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psa. 51:5). But notice: The iniquity existed when David was shapen, and the sin existed when he was conceived. There is a vast difference between being born in sin and being born with sin.

A consideration of a verse in Acts 2 will illustrate what David meant. Astonished that unlearned Galileans could speak in their native languages, the mixed crowd on Pentecost Day asked, “How hear we every man in our own tongue wherein we were born?” (Acts 2:8). They said they were born in—“wherein we were born”—their native tongues. They were not born speaking those languages but learned them after they were born. They were born into an environment and culture where those tongues were spoken. They weren’t born speaking them. The same principle applies to David’s words. He wasn’t born with sin, but was conceived in, and born into, a world polluted by sin.

The Hebrews writer says that God is the “Father of spirits” (Heb. 12:9). If sin is “bred into us” that means God is the Father of a sinful spirit and that is little short of blasphemy. When Jesus sought an example of purity and innocence for His followers to emulate, He chose a little child. “Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3). If little children are “born with a ‘sin’ nature” then we must become sinners like them to enter the kingdom of heaven, for that is the example Jesus sets forth in this passage.

That sin is an acquired spiritual characteristic is a truth taught throughout the Bible. Man is not born astray, but goes astray of his own free will. “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they be born; speaking lies” (Psa. 58:3). The wicked “go astray” by “speaking lies.” They aren’t born that way. Ezekiel declares that sin is not passed from generation to generation as an inherited trait from our parents. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Ezek. 18:20). Sin is an acquired characteristic, not something “bred into us.” We acquire sin when we come to an accountable state before God by our knowledge of good and evil and choose to sin. The notion that, “we were all born with a sin nature,” expressed in the statement that, sin “was bred into us,” has no basis in God’s revealed Truth and is false to the core.

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