Recently, I realized what a muddled way of thinking I have when it comes to the doctrine of original sin. Depending on how the question is put to me, I might on one occasion indicate that I believe in the doctrine while disagreeing with it on a separate occasion. What does it matter? Well, apart from my preference for being consistent, I think my views on original sin matter because they reflect what I think about God. And, what I believe about God affects my behavior.
I became aware of my conflicting views while listening to Dr. Craig answer a question from a European atheist. The atheist was taking issue with the Christian doctrine that man is accountable before God for his sins. For the atheist, this belief was troubling because: if God is the creator and it is his standards of morality that man is violating when he sins, then the problem is God’s. Either God’s standards are too high for his creatures or his creatures are too flawed. Either way, these things are under God’s control and not man’s, therefore the problem is God’s. In his answer to this man’s critique of God’s creation, Dr. Craig stated the following:
“There’s nothing about human nature, as such, that is sinful or has the proclivity to sin and the evidence for that would not be merely the first human beings, but Jesus Himself. Jesus was truly human. He had a complete human nature and yet he was sinless. So there’s nothing about being human, as such, that means we fall short of God’s standards.”
Before listening to this podcast, I would have agreed with that bit of the doctrine of original sin which says that man is born with the “proclivity” (to use Dr. Craig’s work) to sin. I would have agreed with those who say that the evidence of this is the whole of human history from the Fall to the present. And yet, I also would have disagreed with the logical extension of this belief in man’s warp toward to sin that man is so utterly “depraved” (in that Calvinist sense of the word) that man is unable to have “saving faith” in Jesus. Since listening to this podcast, I’ve been trying to get my thinking straight on the matter.
You see, while Dr. Craig didn’t say this explicitly, it seems to me that the subtext of his statement is something like this: Jesus was fully human and therefore had a human nature. If there is in fact a natural tendency of human beings toward sin, then Jesus by virtue of his human nature also had a tendency toward sin. Since Jesus was sinless, he must not have had such a proclivity and therefore we can infer that all humans are also without this same proclivity. If I’m reading something into Dr. Craig’s statement that isn’t there, it’s only because I’m trying to make sense of his statement.
The problem I’m facing is this: if humans are not born with a proclivity to sin as a product of the Fall, then why do all men choose to sin? Actually, my real question is: how did Jesus manage not to sin? And if Jesus, the fully human person, lived a sinless life, why hadn’t anyone else prior and hasn’t anyone else since?
I definitely believe that Jesus was fully human and fully God. I still believe that he lived a sinless life. I’m just trying to make all of the necessary logical connections and untangle my beliefs on man’s culpability for sin before God.