Of late, my time is consumed by many things which have prevented me from posting and writing the way I would like. However, the time is spent preparing lessons, conducting those lessons, and preaching. Between those things and working full-time, and trying to fix my house, my time to write is non-existent. Nonetheless, in researching and attempting to write, one of the subjects I am studying is the issue of righteousness: what constitutes it, what destroys it, et cetera, et cetera. In my apologetics research on righteousness I came across the following:
Fundamentally, there are two opposite errors regarding original sin. One is an error of deficiency, in which original sin is treated as less damaging to human nature than it actually is. That is the error of Pelagius. The other is the error of exaggeration, in which original sin is treated as more damaging to human nature than it actually is.1
So the Catholics mean to say that the effect of Adam’s fall was/is a nuanced thing in which we have to understand precisely the effect it had, else we will either:
A.) Not go far enough in assigning the effects of the fall.
B.) Go too far in assigning the effects of the fall.
I am sorry, but this sounds like something I would shovel out of my neighbor’s barn.
Because the Scripture could not be more plain:
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: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. (Romans 5:12-14)
For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (I Corinthians 15:21-22)
And yet again:
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:14-15)
I really do not know how you can “go too far in assigning the effects of the fall” as it were. After all, this death includes the following:
And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (Rev 20:12-15)
I suppose there is something out there worse than eternity in the Lake of Fire, but nothing ever describes it or even alludes to it.
So then, how is it that one can “go too far” in holding that the effect of the fall upon man was utterly devastating, warping man’s perception and distorting man’s ability to understand?
I suppose it could be that most Baptists and Protestants hold that man is utterly depraved and incapable of righteousness at all.
Well, not quite:
Here we find the opposite error with respect to original sin, namely, an exaggeration of original sin.
Luther’s two principal errors with respect to original sin are as follows:
(1) Treating original sin as the complete corruption of human nature, rather than as the loss of the preternatural and supernatural gifts.
(2) Treating concupiscence (i.e. the involuntary disorder in the lower appetites) as original sin. 2
Without going into all the convoluted arguments, let us examine what the Scripture declares about man’s fallen state:
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 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. (Ephesians 2:1-3)
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. (Psalm 14:1-3)
Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. (Psalm 51:5)
Well now, if we are all the children of wrath by nature, dead in trespasses and sins, and exist in iniquity prior to coming to Christ, and there in nothing we can do about it outside of coming to Christ for salvation… How do you exaggerate that?
I find it hard to believe that anyone could think, especially after the evidence of Scripture, that the depravity of man could be worse.
No, if you are borne with a nature to do wickedness, and the LORD God accounts you as dead in trespasses and sins, bound to do every evil work, it is kind of hard to top that. No, there is no exaggeration when it is stated that man is utterly depraved and incapable of any righteousness. That is, if you evaluate what the LORD God evaluates — the soul.
If, on the other hand, you ignore the soul and concentrate on the flesh, and concentrate on sin, rather than iniquity, then you could claim that declaring the soul utterly corrupt is in error and excessive. However, since it is the LORD God who is the sole determiner of who righteous and who is not, it really matters little what the Catholic Church believes and teaches.
The sad part is, the Catholic Church has had over 1500 years to get this teaching right — and they have not. Instead, they cling to a doctrine that is provably wrong.
That is the very definition of Stupidity — writ large.
- Protestant Objections to the Catholic Doctrines of Original Justice and Original Sin, Bryan Cross, Oct. 16, 2011; NOTE: It is unclear here whether Mr. Cross is quoting Professor Lawrence Feingold or simply building off his material.↩
- Protestant Objections to the Catholic Doctrines of Original Justice and Original Sin, Bryan Cross, Oct. 16, 2011↩