Posted by: minnow | December 26, 2013

Our True Nature

Recently my son wrote a blog called Born a Sinner.  You can check it out here if you’d like.  Most of my understanding about the traditional Christian doctrine regarding man’s sin nature comes from my rather simplistic understanding of John Calvin’s and  Jacobus Arminius teaching on the fall of man.   As the story goes when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit sin entered them and from that day forward mankind had a sinful nature.  [Here is a side by side comparison of the applicable teachings. And here is a review of a 2013 book which compares John Calvin and John Wesley, the men most often associated with these teachings].

I have two problems with the fall of man doctrine.  In order to choose to eat the forbidden fruit in the first place mankind had to have the capacity to sin.  We also had to have the capacity to NOT sin or we could not justifiably be held accountable for our choices.  Neither Calvinist or Arminian teaching solve that problem.  My second problem with the Calvinist interpretation of scripture is once we have a sin nature (are totally deprived) how can we later choose salvation. Enter the theory of the elect, those chosen few who God provides with an irresistible call response–He calls we must respond. Ultimately, this interpretation makes God out to be a monster because not everyone is “called” (otherwise we’d all be Christians) thus God created some for the purpose of eternal torment. Personally, I can not reconcile the notion of Calvin’s elect with a loving God.  Rejecting Calvin’s interpretation , John Wesley  embraced the Arminian interpretation which  asserts that God forgave Adam’s original sin (providing prevenient grace) and thus made way for man to choose to accept salvation.  The “elect” for Amenians are simply those God knew from the beginning would eventually choose Him.  This particular loophole has its own set of problems since both Calvin and Wesley also teach that man must ask for forgiveness in order to be forgiven.  Allowing Adam off the hook without taking that step is a fairly major “exception to the rule”. (Making that exception for the rest of us leads to universalism which is a Calvin/Armenian no-no).

Most mainline Christians like the fall of man theories and have been preaching them since they were first theorized 500 years ago.  Personally, I believe we were created with the potential to sin from the beginning and the theology of the fall is an attempt to explain away the idea that God created man with the potential for both good and evil. (We don’t like to think of God as creating even the potential for evil because He’s ALL good).  Still, I believe this potentiality is essential if we are to embrace the theology of free will which directly impacts whether or not we can justly be held accountable for our choices and our need for forgiveness.

Recently I’ve noticed, in posts like this one, our sin nature has been used to try to skirt the fact that many Christians still think being a homosexual is a choice.  They feel justified calling homosexuality a sin but don’t want to be seen as unloving or judgmental toward homosexuals.  While I agree homosexuals make choices as to how they act out their sexual urges just like heterosexuals do (some of which might be sinful), their orientation (their same-sex rather than opposite-sex attraction) is not a choice.  I did not choose to be female, to be short, or to have hazel eyes. Each of those facets (to varying degrees) make me me but since I did not chose them I am not responsible for them.  The same is true with regard to my sexual orientation.  I never chose to be heterosexual.  It is astate of being. On the other hand, I have chosen to be married and to be monogamous. Those are both behaviors.

I understand how sharing posts like the one I linked above and proclaiming that the most loving thing a Christian can do is to warn homosexuals of their impending doom, is not a conscious act of malice or hate.  I get that the Church means well.  We don’t intend to hurt the people around us–or for that matter those clear across the country via Facebook.  Our goal isn’t to make God out to be a Tyrant when we proclaim what He is for or what He is against. However, our intentions do not determine how our words and actions are received.  As Christians we can remain in denial as to the differences between a state of being and a behavior.  We can continue to ignore  the uncomfortable atmosphere our judgments create (no matter how kindly they are worded).  We can even insist, despite  our negative attitudes and ugly behavior, we have “friends who are gay”.  (Frankly, that says more about our friends’ abilities to forgive and be tolerant than it says about us).

I believe our actions and our attitudes reveal our true nature–be that a Sin nature (a heart turned away from God) or a Grace nature (a heart turned toward God).  When we come at people with our best interpretations of an English translation of an ancient scripture, when we point fingers at the Other and when we focus on sin instead of God’s love we do, all too often, portray God as a disapproving brute, a bully to be afraid of rather than a God to be feared (awed, revered, trusted, and adored). When we ignore God’s priorities–we ignore God altogether.

I have interacted with many of you who think taking the high road–agreeing to disagree or disengaging from on-line debates–is your most Christ-like option.  But, the Christ I see witnessed in the gospels confronted, in very specific ways, a world which had turned away from God.  He rebuked the hypocrites and the Pharisees for their self righteous and legalistic thinking and teachings.  He chased away the money lenders for their wrong priorities. He equated faith and love with acts of compassion and generosity.  He forgave soldiers who didn’t ask for His forgiveness.  He healed and ministered to women, servants, Romans, and Samaritans–without concern for their social status.  In short, He reached out to those marginalized by the spiritually correct.

We have been called to do like-wise and we accept that call every time we call ourselves little-Christs. We’re not meant to take the high road.  We are meant to take up the cross.


  1. Your words were well-spoken!! and the last two sentences went directly through my heart! Thank you for using your spoken/written word gift…even when they provoke and challenge… will continue to chew throughout the Eve…

  2. […] wrote this blog about Our True Nature (as opposed to a sin nature) and the need for Christians who do not line […]

  3. […] call themselves Christians but I’d like to connect these two thoughts to my recent post on Our True Nature which pushes against the boundaries of the traditional fall of man doctrine.  We know from Genesis […]

  4. Part of the issue here is the nature of time. If the future exists for God even as the present does, then God is consistently in all places at all times and is not restricted by time. This would mean that time was not a part of His nature to which God is subject, and that God is not a linear entity; that is, it would mean that God is not restricted to operating in our time realm and is not restricted to the present only. If God is not restricted to existence in the present, our present, then the future is known by God because God indwells the future as well as the present (and the past). This would mean that our future choices, as free as they are, are simply known by God. Again, our ability to choose is not altered or lessened by God existing in the future and knowing what we freely choose. It just means that God can see what we will freely choose — because that is what we freely choose — and knows what it is.

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