Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Quick thoughts


No simple answer. Some (e.g. Oliver Crisp, Plantinga, Van Inwagen) would appeal to the possibility of  libertarian freedom. Any agent can act contrary to her disposition and nature. This appeal fails to explain precisely how sin came to exist since libertarian  freedom reduces to capriciousness. Others see sin as a privation of good. Still, others would argue Satan, a created peccable Angel,  chose a lesser good, namely self-love, above the greatest Good, God himself.  Notice, this is consistent with divine determinism and (compatibilistic)freedom. 

Why would God allow this to obtain? God has a morally sufficient reason, it is for His glory and our good. I'll leave it there for now.


Sin was transmitted either by realism or federal headship. I take both to be true. If realism and traducianism are true then sin can be inherited. Adam sinned thus God justly remove his goodness and restraining Grace. The result was catastrophic the very heart of man was corrupt and darkened.  Perhaps you reject realism and traducianism, then one can resort to federal headship with creationism. God gave a command to Adam. Adam disobeyed. Therefore, as punishment God  creates each soul with a sinful inclination.

Federal headship accounts for guilt imputed. We possess Adam's guilt since he represented us before God. Once he sinned we were liable for his sin as our representative. We sin by imitation as we encounter sinful role models that influence us to sin. 

Thus we are sinners by inheritance, imputation and imitation.

In Detail

The only difficulty, I see, is making sense of the origin of sin without appealing to any libertarian conception of freedom. And this directly leads to the question, who is morally responsible or blameworthy for sin? The moral character of God would strongly deny even the logical possibility of God as the author of sin. This is consistent with the Scriptures conception of God as the most perfect being. Some have affirmed hard determinism to unabashedly ague God is the author of evil yet without sin.

(1)  God is the only agent that causes all things. [This is an important premise to distinguish hard and soft determinism]
(2) Man sins.
(3) God causes man's sins.
(4) God is responsible for man's sins.

But even if one grants hard determinism, this is not a problem, since all one has to do is adopt volunteerism. God could not be held responsible for sin, on such a view, given the fact God is ex lex. God would be above the laws and commands He gives to His creation. Furthermore, on such a view the requirement for responsibility would be satisfied. God the highest moral authority would hold man responsible for sin since He is the ultimate authority. I agree, though, such a view is not appealing. Perhaps a moderate view of divine command theory can be properly utilized to argue the same conclusion without the intractable problems of volunteerism.  

So how could Satan sin? What is sin? How do people become sinners? The scriptures tell us that only Adam and Eve as the first humans became sinners every person subsequent to Adam is (i.e. exists qua) a sinner. Humans ‘are’ sinners while Adam and Eve ‘became’ sinners.

Sin: Definitions

  1. Sin is any state, disposition, or act that violates God’s commandments.
  2. Sin is anything that is contrary to the purposes, character, and nature of God. 
  1. Analysis: Let sin (as a verb such as "sinned" or adjective "sinful") stand for S, and A stand for agent.

(1) If, and only if, an agent is sinful, or wills sin or does sin, then a subject is sinful. This doesn’t seem broad enough to include circumstances thus a revision must be made.

(1)’ If, and only if, an agent is sinful, or wills sin or does sin in circumstances that are sinful, then a subject is sinful.

II.    Origin of Sin

  1. Satan:
It is speculative what sin Satan committed. Many people have refereed to pride, selfishness, or self-love as Satan’s sin. He wanted to take God’s place. Satan was good, but he was able to sin. God determined Satan to sin and Satan determined to sin. Satan must have reasoned he should have all that God possesses. Perhaps, external things influenced him; and he gained a stronger desire to sin than to obey God. Notice, however, no matter which sin Satan committed, he always had a reason that motivated him. At no point did Satan sin without a reason (though a bad one at that) or purpose.  But how could good choose evil? How could a good creature choose to sin than continue to do good? This is logically possible when we understand Satan was not perfect, impeccable, or omni-benevolent. Therefore, he possessed the ability to do evil. Satan sinned in a way that was quite consistent with his nature.

III.  Transmission of Sin
 My analysis suggests sin cannot be thought of as a mere bad habit, or evil tendency learned and then internalized. It is not something nurtured in a child. Sinful desires can be cultivated or de-cultivated, but they do not derive from cultivation. Sin is a property all mere humans (thus excluding Christ who was not a mere human), possess. All members of a class possess the property of sin, iff the federal head of that class possesses. Adam sinned, therefore, all mere humans sinned in Adam. But what is the property of sin? Is it transmittable? Sin is not a physical property like H2O, nor is it a supervening property like wetness. It is a property that deals with the soul; therefore, it must be immaterial. Or could it be the lack of a property that gives rise to man's continual sinfulness? Edwards and Augustine thought so! Could it be that God created Adam with certain properties that enabled him to choose between good and evil, and after his choice of evil God was obligated to remove these properties in man? It is not clear if sin is a property or a privation. Whichever position is assumed will lead to different conclusions on the transmission of sin. Either, God, as punishment for Adams sin put in man a positive property for sin (i.e. disposition) or God removed a property from man as punishment for Adam’s sin. It seems more plausible that God removed than added a property that resulted in man being sinners. Such a conclusion would be consistent with God’s character. But what could the property be? Was Adam’s disposition towards good prior to the fall? If so, how could he choose to sin? If God created man to be in constant union with God, and to partake of his goodness this could be disrupted by Adam’s sin. God would have no choice but to punish Adam for sin by leaving man to himself. To leave man with a darkened heart. Man was to live with the light of God but once Adam sinned God was obligated to punish him. This could have resulted in man being left in darkness. God by removing the property of his grace and communion with man leaves man to himself. Man became self-centered and not God-centered. He loved himself more than God. Adam was created good, and therefore, must possess an inclination for good.  This inclination was over come by Eve who was convinced by the serpent. The chain of causes and effects lead directly back to Satan. Satan, Adam and Eve were constantly influenced to do good but they determined in their own minds to do that which is evil. Their strong desires to do evil were planned by God. But only those beings which sin can be held responsible for sin since they willingly, deliberately, knowingly and purposely sinned. Some may object and say that since God knew their motives he should have stopped them from sinning But where does this ‘should’ come from? Obviously it is from God, right? If so, we must assume God planned sin and evil with a morally sufficient reason. Both the Calvinist and Arminian must conclude God included sin and evil in His divine plan for a good reason.

However, the Arminian says that God wanted to preserve libertarian freedom, which necessitates the possibility for sin and evil to enter into any possible world. In fact, the arminian argues that there is no possible world with creatures that possess libertarian freedom, with the amount of people like the actual world, in which each creature freely chooses not to sin. The number of people with libertarian freedom increases in any state of affairs the potential of sin and evil being committed by those free creatures. Out of all the possible worlds God could have created the options were limited according to the Arminians by God's desire of what was feasible. The Arminian says God could not make a possible world obtain where God determined all of His creatures would freely love and worship Him. Since such a state of affairs would be logically impossible. Something cannot be both determined and free according to the Arminian. God chose the possible world in which He could achieve His plan. The dispute between Calvinists and Arminians is on the nature of God’s plan. Both agree God does not coerce his creatures to act. Hence, they agree God’s moral creatures voluntary act. Thus sin can only rightly be traced back to free creatures. However, the objection still stands, that if God knew X was going to obtain, and he could prevent it, is He not responsible for X obtaining? As Paul says, “Who are you oh man to answer back unto God?” We cannot object to God’s actions since we do not have a moral or logical standard apart from Him. God is all wise, all good, and all knowing, so on faith, we must trust He knows best. So is this the best possible world? Only God is in a position to say what is ‘best’ not us. Only God is intrinsically God. Adam was derivatively good. Adam was created in God’s image. But moral perfection is exclusively an essential property of God not man. Hence man is not in a moral position to question God. However, we can determine that if God can stop Adam from sinning but did not, even though knowing Adam was going to sin; we must conclude it was for a morally sufficient reason. If what I have stated thus far is true, it follows its both metaphysically, logically and morally impossible for God to sin given His moral character and nature. For sin would violate God’s nature which He has revealed. Therefore, we can say in some sense the cause of sin is God, but the author of sin is free-creatures. Only creatures can be properly blamed for sin not the Creator of those creatures. But how does sin get transmitted? Before I can answer this question, I must go back to the subject of sin. The more I think about sin in my own life I am convinced it must be more than a lack or privation. An inability to do what I ought doesn’t seem to require a new nature as 2 Corinthians 5:17 states. It seems the positive disposition toward sin could not merely be a privation. Perhaps God when He instructed Adam and commanded him not to eat of the forbidden fruit the violation of the command had the consequence of dying spiritually that entailed guilt, and a disposition to sin to all mankind. This disposition became natural when it was unnatural. Adam was created with a disposition of righteousness, but then this disposition changed to unrighteousness as punishment for sin. The sinful bias in man from Adam to his decedents was passed on by a legal declaration, inheritance and imitation. God transmits the sinful bias in man either directly or indirectly. Sin deals with the soul. But the human soul is either individually created by God or by humans with God’s directive. Either God gave man the ability to reproduce after their own kind which includes both body and soul. Or man produces bodies by procreation and God creates souls for them. It seems to me we should understand sin as being transmitted by procreation. The sinful bias is transferred by inheritance. Person X reproduces with person Y and conceives a child XY with dispositions from both parents. What is included in all cases with mere humans is they are all born sinners. As a human soul inhabits a body and all its various physical parts this likely includes any given woman's egg, and man's sperm.    


Sin is a state, disposition or action that violates God’s commandments, which reflect His essential good nature. Sin originated with His creatures and not the Creator. Satan and Adam sinned willfully according to their natures. They were never forced to sin but chose by their own reasoning. Subsequent to Adam’s sin, man died spiritually. This entails man is born sinful in a fallen world. Man inherited from Adam a sinful nature, i.e. a soul that ultimately desires sin and uses the body to reach that end. Sin is transmitted by imputation, inheritance, and imitation. Sin is inherited through procreation. A man and woman reproduce after their own kind; hence they reproduce bodies and souls by procreation. A man with a woman produces a human being with a sinful nature. At regeneration a person is given a new nature and therefore, his sinful nature is removed. Thus his new nature, with its desires, is to please God. He still sins but not fully willing. He does not fully consent to sin nor does he find his identity from it. 

Michael, C Rea. The Metaphysics of Original Sin  Here

Paul Copan.  Original Sin and Christian Philosophy Here

Jonathan Edwards. Original Sin Defended Here

Paul Helm. Blog Entry Here                             

Clay Jones. Original Sin: Its Importance and Fairness Here

James N. Anderson. Calvinism and the First Sin Here

Paul Helm. The Great Christian Doctrine(Original Sin) in A God Entranced Vision of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards (Wheaton, IL: CrossWay, 2004) p.p.175-200.

Paul Copan. "If God's Creation Was 'Very Good', How Could Evil Arise?" Here

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