Today let’s take a look at a passage (Ezekiel 18) that for some reason many Christians seem unfamiliar with:
1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel: “The parents eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”? 3 As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. 4 For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child— both alike belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die.
19 Yet you ask, “Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?” Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live. 20 The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.
29 Yet the house of Israel says, “The way of the Lord is not just.” Are my ways unjust, house of Israel? Is it not your ways that are unjust?
30 Therefore, house of Israel, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, house of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!
I quote this because it has bearing on the belief that sin can be passed down genetically, and as some claim, only through male “seed”. I have written about this before (see Here and Here), but this time I want to focus on the teaching that only the male gamete carries sin.
Since we know that only what is encoded in the gametes is passed to the offspring, we can only say sin or “sin nature” is passed down if we can find a gene that carries this non-physical quality, which of course is impossible. In fact, I read somewhere recently that this undisputed fact of biology is why some reject the Bible, because they think (erroneously) that “original sin” or “sin nature” is a necessary Biblical teaching. So if for no other reason than that some people use it as a reason to turn from God, we need to take this teaching seriously and deal with it.
When we read the passage in Ezekiel above, we cannot escape the fact that scripture stands in opposition to this teaching of inheritable sin, since Adam is included in the groups “parents” and “fathers”. But what of the fact that Eve was promised she would have the honor of her seed alone producing the Savior? Doesn’t this strongly imply that the man’s gametes were tainted with sin?
The argument goes that since she was formed from Adam before there was sin, her seed was sinless. Yet Adam was charged with bringing sin into the world; nothing is said about his genes or flesh being tainted with sin. And who would call Eve sinless? Certainly they both ate the fruit and became mortal, but only Adam added to his sin by blaming God and Eve for it. Yet both had mortal flesh. So does the fact that Adam brought sin into the world by his additional failure mean his flesh was cursed? Not at all; the fact still remains that scripture only says the ground was cursed, not Adam himself.
Biologically, we know that at the moment of fertilization the egg and sperm nuclei fuse to form a zygote. So right there we have a tainted human. But also consider the fact that the tainted man determines the baby’s sex; that is, he provides either an X or Y chromosome. So there can be no untainted cells in a female’s body, which will eventually make its own eggs from that same tainted source. It is also nonsensical to think that only the gametes of a female are sinless, if one wishes to acknowledge that women are not sinless otherwise.
So we have seen that neither scripture nor biology can support inheritable spiritual qualities, and that the significance of “the seed of the woman” is not in literal flesh. The only option left to us is symbolism; that is, the promised Savior would come through a virgin simply to signify that only the man sinned willingly and then blamed God for it. There is also a connection here with the question of the sign of circumcision (Gen. 17:10-11). Why did God choose this as a sign, when obviously women were never excluded from the covenant? God calls it a sign but doesn’t specify what the sign means. Can it not be similar to the virgin birth, in that both signify the additional rebellion of Adam? Somewhere I read that the ancients considered it the removal of the “fig leaf” to signify the taking away of sin.
And last but not least we have the fact that Jesus was a male, which along with the virgin birth and circumcision, surely symbolizes the same thing. Being sinless, there would have been no need for Him to be circumcised. Sometimes this is brushed off with His need to be obedient to Jewish law, but then we could use that same excuse for all other Jewish males, which puts us back on square one regarding the reason this law was made in the first place.
But no matter which way we look at it, the fact is that there is nothing in the Bible requiring a belief in sin nature passed down genetically. People cite the rampant evil of humanity, which no one would deny, but anecdotal evidence is not grounds for putting words in God’s mouth. Scripture never expresses or implies this alleged genetic sin nature, and the passage quoted above teaches explicitly against it. The only reason people cling to this teaching is because of other errors in understanding the atonement and redemption, which I covered in my previous post.
We all die because of Adam; even Jesus had a mortal (able to die) body. So we must not equate death with sin, especially since scripture says one caused the other. The incarnated Jesus was sinless but mortal, and it is that mortality that He and all of us inherit from Adam. Sin entered the world through Adam (Rom. 5:12) and as God said, death followed. But note the mirror image of that verse: sin brought death, death brought by sin; it’s saying that just as death followed sin for Adam, so also it follows sin for us.
But vs. 14 gives more detail: that many who “did not sin by breaking a command as did Adam” died anyway, because “death reigned”. So Adam opened the door to sin, and we all willingly followed through it. But why? Because of a sin nature? We know that can’t be it, so we are left to attribute it to our being agents (sentient beings with a free will) in an environment of decay. Think about it: if Adam could sin in the perfect environment of Eden, what is the likely result for people born in a world of decay, death, and all sorts of evil? And we cannot discount the serpent’s role in all this. Adam did not sin till the serpent beguiled Eve, and we know that Satan “prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8)— a recipe for failure.
I realize many believers have this teaching of inherited sin nature so ingrained that they cannot imagine Christianity without it, but the facts are what they are, and we need to be able to give a defense (not just a testimony) of our faith. We need to think things through and make sure they don’t cause a contradiction or give reasons for people to reject God.