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The Cruciality of Distinguishing Between Cause and Effect

March 12, 2008

[UPDATE!!! Tim Challies has recently blogged on this very topic. I would suggest his post to relate to this]

It has often been said,

“We are not sinners because we sin, but we sin because we are sinners.”

Believe it or not, where you fall on either side of this equation is a matter of utmost importance. It will not only determine your definition of man’s nature, but also your theology, view of sin’s sinfulness, methodology, philosophy, morals, ethics, and your whole world view. This is infinitely more important than the age old equation, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” This equation effects your view of the nature of man and therefore your view of God and therefore the power of redemption.

So…which came first then: your sin or your sinful nature? Well, the nature must be inherent for the sin to come. Sinfulness must come from a sinful nature, not the other way around. In other words, you are not something because of what you do but you do something because of who you are. Perhaps this quote from an article called “Original Sin” says it best:

“R.C. Sproul very clearly explains one of the very important truths that original sin teaches us: ‘We are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners.’ People do not come into this world good and then get a sinful nature upon their first willful sin that they commit. Rather, we come into the world with a sin nature and all of our sins are a result of having that sin nature. We act according to our natures. So because of our sin nature, we do sinful actions. A cow does not become a cow by mooing, but moos because he is a cow. Likewise we do not become sinners because we sin, but we sin because we are sinners.”

This is what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that all of us are “by nature children of wrath, haters of God, lovers of evil, born in our mother’s womb in sin, conceived in iniquity, suppressing the truth in unrighteousness, dead in transgressions and sins, all our righteous deeds are filthy rags, all things done not in faith are sin, hostile to God, not willing or even able to submit to God’s law, walking after our flesh, the world, and the devil, blind, deaf, and hard hearted to even seeing, hearing, or understanding the truth, selfish”, etc. etc. etc.

This Biblical doctrine is called Original Sin which basically says:

“Humans are all born sinful as a result of the sin of Adam, the first human”. (taken from Original Sin article)

Original Sin directly opposes the popular worldly, and often professing Christian view that we are born with a clean slate. We are all given a new “blank sheet of paper” to start fresh and new with a willingness and ability to choose good and righteousness over evil and unrighteousness. This couldn’t be further from reality. When God’s Word says in Romans 3:10-12, “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one”, it means just that. And it doesn’t mean that they are that way because they act that way. It is defining men by their nature, their inherent state. They act that way because they are that way.

Men are experts at sinning because they are sinners. They didn’t somehow learn this lifestyle of sin. You don’t have to teach a child to sin do you? No. You know that children aren’t taught to lie, steal, complain, whine, not share, or throw temper tantrums, right? They do it naturally out of their own sinful nature to act that way. How much more are grown men, who’ve had a lifetime of opportunity to practice their sinful nature and perfect their profession of “sinner at large”?

Understanding the doctrine of Original Sin enables us to approach, accurately and honorably, God, the doctrine of holiness, righteousness, the sinfulness of sin through the law, the power of the Gospel, the necessity of the Cross, the perfection of Christ, the anger and fierce wrath of God, and therefore the origins and cause of sin. If you miss or deny the doctrine of Original Sin you will not only delve into false doctrine and theology, but will end up believing in a false view of God and therefore an inaccurate definition of the Cross, its power, worth, value, necessity, and accomplishment!

Embracing the biblical view of this equation on the origins and causes of sin will effect forever how you think, feel, and therefore how you live.

Summary:

Problem – Misunderstanding the truth about the origin and cause of Sin (sin comes from deep within, not from without. It is inside of us, it doesn’t happen to us).

Solution – Belief in the biblical doctrine of Original Sin

Source – Read and study God’s Word, specifically: The Fall in the Garden of Eden, Sin, God’s law, God’s Holiness, and the Gospel

Manifested Proof – Look at the world any day of the week or the news and see the current display of our sinful nature. We learn of depravity from the Bible, and see it lived out in the world.

Helpful Resources:

  1. What is the biblical evidence for Original Sin?
  2. Original Sin article
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