FOUR reasons I believe in the sinful nature. (original sin/ancestral sin/total depravity)


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For those whom I have come across, who deny that humans have a sinful nature, that is a nature that is incapable of performing a righteously meritorious thought or action without supernatural undeserved grace from God, it all seems to stem back to the idea that, if God allows such a thing, it makes people victims instead of criminals, since no one can help sinning. And underneath that is the appeal to the idea that we can improve ourselves and polish up our genuinely good and pure nature underneath, a kind of self-esteem and self-improvement program to discover the latent goodness in all of us. But Scripture is so strongly worded that every human being has sinned, in both the OT and the NT, that it is very few people who are bold enough to reject this testimony and claim they can somehow be sinlessly perfect.

So the majority will rationalize that, yes, humans seem imperfect and in some way very likely to sin, but that does not necessitate they are somehow evil and spiritually dead and completely incapable of anything righteous—it just means we are born into really tough circumstances with a lot of external temptations and pressures, and some kind of "weaknesses" in our emotions and physical body, such that we are not really super evil, but we just have "dispositions." And many groups, such as the recent so-called "Provisionists," will get very wishy-washy and nebulous around their idea of the sin nature, never really hammering down a clear definition more than some generic "disposition" to sin which sounds unclear on whether people really have inherent holiness or not.

Now people confuse and conflate what is being claimed by so-called "total depravity" quite a bit, which does not help the issue. What is generally meant is a sin nature, and not "inherited guilt," which is a completely different doctrine that is false, and also not believed by very many, usually a small percentage of hardcore Calvinists. Of course we do not literally have the guilt for Adam's particular sins, because Adam is a different person whose free will choices are his own, but since Adam's choice caused him to be spiritually corrupted and disconnected from spiritual life, everyone born to him is also born with a nature that is evil, and cannot help but accrue personal sin immediately with a sinful nature. People are still victims to Adam's failed delegated responsibility to be a good shepherd, and thus sin is passed to all men shown by the fact they all eventually die, even the best of them, since the soul that sins shall die. And some point out people can respond to the Gospel, and so don't have "total inability," but the point being made by those who believe in inability, is that grace is always needed—people don't accept the Gospel gracelessly, with no grace from God.

External things people do that seem good or feelings that one is improving morally can look very good, yet be in actuality bad. We must not trust our own sense of good and evil and eat from that tree of our own knowledge, but submit to trusting what God says in his Word. Since we can perform a good action for the wrong reasons, and this makes the very most moral and best actions have the possibility of actually being very sinful, because they have wrong motivations like idolatry and pride, we cannot ever measure how good humans are by just looking at how good they "look." As Jesus said, good gifts were given by evil people. So let's get right down to the FOUR major reasons I believed in the sin nature, all grounded in Biblical truth.
1. I believe in the sin nature because it is foundational to the Work of Jesus on the Cross.

Did you know the Bible does not just say Jesus died for your sins at the Cross? That there is, in fact, another powerful and important reason Jesus died? This other reason is so that you, yourself can be counted dead, and something evil in you has died with Christ on that Cross when you exert your faith in what Jesus did for you. "Buried with him in baptism," we were "crucified with Christ," that "the body of sin might be rendered inoperative," so that we "have died to the Law which had us bound," since "Scripture has confined all humanity under the power of sin." Scripture tells us that in Adam all die, and that by one man sin entered the world, so there is this connectedness to our ancestrol head, as if we were somehow an extension of him, since we derive some of our existence from his nature. So Jesus did not just die for sins on the Cross, and many people overlook this other massive amount of Scriptural teaching on what exactly Jesus accomplished for us. He took the old man, the body of sin, the fleshly nature, the first Adam, and it was judged and nullified on the Cross—this is a nature, not just individual measurable crimes, but an actual substance or being, as the Scripture tells us "for in my flesh dwells no good thing." You will notice sometimes the Bible uses the word "sin" in the singular, as a principle, as kind of "law of sin in our members," an inner disposition to always desire the wrong thing, a spiritual innate deadness that Christ described as "being dead in our sins," and Paul described as "we all were by nature, children of wrath, dead in our trespasses."

Now, the only way Satan can be legitimately called "the god of this world," and "the ruler of this world" three times in John (confirming that Corinthians is not referencing the proper God), is if he has some legal right over it, otherwise it makes no sense at all, since God created it all, "the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and all that dwell therein." So Jesus is doing something legally for us, as is described in Colossians 2, erasing our debt and the requirements against us, which consequently despoils the evil principalities and powers making a show of them openly. So Jesus had to be free from a sin nature, for he told us "Satan had nothing IN him." Not just that Satan had nothing ON him, like a crime he had committed—but nothing IN him, not one evil desire, not one wayward disposition. By living a perfect life as a representative of humanity free from sinful ties and control, he could function as a true stand-in to reverse original sin. Then as in Adam, all die, so in Christ, all will be made alive, the two unions are logically connected there, as Christ is called the "last Adam" before he died and the "second man" when he was first to live again. And just as sins reigns through the death passed by Adam, so life reigns through the grace passed by Christ. It's a correlation, and federal headship and delegation has mercifully passed the ownership of humanity to Christ over Satan. He has been made head of all things on behalf of the church, he who knew no sin (singular) was made sin for us, our life is hidden in Christ in God, he despoiled principalities and powers, and he frees us from our body of death. He is the one who purchased the field of the world for the buried treasure of his Bride, and we are to sell all and buy him as our Pearl of Great Price.

So Scripture tells us "the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all," and that Christ "purchased for God men with his Blood," and that "through him we have forgiveness, the expiation of our sins," and all those verses that show us Jesus died to suffer our punishment so God can forgive our sins through trust in what Jesus did. But there is also an even deeper union with the Lord, "he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him," and we are "crucified with Christ," and further we are said to be resurrected with Christ and "seated with him in heavenly places." The concept and idea of union with Christ will always point to the deeper truth that our first old nature was sinfully in union with Adam's as a correlation, because not only do sins need forgiveness, our very nature needs to be put to death with Christ on that Cross, as Romans 7 so vividly explains to us. Adam's punishment of "you shall surely die" was completely and finally fulfilled on that Cross, and that is why the snake was symbolized on the pole that healed the Israelites—Satan's very nature was destroyed in us at that Cross.
2. I believe the Law of God is perfection and was given to tutor us to come to Christ instead.

The fact is the Bible plainly and clearly states that no one is able to keep the Law of God because it requires perfection. If you accept that plain testimony, there is no way around God creating a system that seems unjust to us. The Bible plainly and clearly states that no one is saved apart from Christ's sacrificial suffering. Galatians said "If there was a Law that could bring life, salvation would come through the Law, but God has confined all under sin." This means there is no Law that could even potentially bring life; it's dead-on-arrival, it's a no-go. The heart of denying the sin nature is a claim to inherent goodness, when Jesus said there is only one good. You are not just saying you messed up; you are saying you are a good person that messed up. You are not just saying you sinned; you are saying you are a holy and righteous and pure person that made a mistake. But the Bible says we are fundamentally bad, we are sinful to the core, nothing good is in our flesh, the heart is deceitful above all things, and this is why our sin nature and not just our sins have to be crucified and judged at the Cross, our old man, our body of sin, the sin that lives within us.

The Law's purpose was to show us up as condemned, inadequate, terminally ill, a ministry of death to our souls, to illustrate and show us our terrible and hopeless plight, to highlight how evil the smallest sin really is, and to take away the most remote hope of being justified in our own goodness and achievements. The Law is not a guide to pulling up our boot straps and trying even harder to morally improve ourselves, because even 99.9% perfection still deserves hell in the light of the purity and height of God's standard. This whole logic of "If God asks you to do something you can't do he's unjust and doesn't love you" just does not work. There is some cognitive dissonance here. Admitting the Law is perfection, and also that God asks people to keep the Law, the standard is still then lowered to a requirement of "just trying to keep as much of the Law as you can." That's cognitive dissonance, that's two versions of the Law, one that requires perfection, and one that is just "try the best you can Law." That waters down the Work of the Cross making it only partially what saves us, and it waters down how bad the very smallest sin is, that it is still damnable. Although the Bible clearly says the Law does not save us, people reflexively jump into "But what if I rape 1,000 people every day, HUH, HUH, HUH?" because they don't like the logical implications of what they "claim" to believe—that we don't earn heaven and nothing we do saves us in the area of merit. The truth is by making a "worst case" scenario Hitler sinner, they are MINIMIZING their own sin declaring it "not really hell-worthy." Our lack of perfect love for God and neighbor deserves hell just as much as raping 1,000 people every day, and if we don't see that, then we are logically trusting in your own goodness and righteousness to add to what Jesus did, even if we pay lip service to the idea that "we still believe in grace." You can't escape the logical conclusion no matter how much cognitive dissonance you put out, that it's just asserting A and NOT A constantly, if you claim Law keeping is any way necessary.

There's a reason we often refuse answer an exact measure of how holy we think we are. It's because it brings the realization no amount is enough, and it's not working or helping—it leaves you guilty. The Bible is crystal clear that no can keep the Law of God to love him perfectly. That means we are born not loving God perfectly. No one is justified by the Law and that includes babies! The heart of this denial of our sinfulness is a heart of pride and self-righteousness in the inherent goodness of mankind. Do not accept such a deception! The problem is the worst sins are not externally visible. You can see when someone is sexually immoral, violent, doing drugs or stealing stuff. You can't ever see when someone is full of secret pride about how holy they are, or looking down on others and thinking themselves a better person. I would just urge this consideration, a sin can be an attitude. Could an attitude be a part of your nature? Of course it could. Therefore we are born sinners, and sinful, and the Bible is not lying to us when it says "all have sinned and fall short of God's glory," and that "by the works of the Law no flesh shall be justified."

Would you really think—honestly—that if you gave it your very best shot, you could achieve loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength? It's honestly tempting to think I might be able to do it, but I personally have been convinced, and God knows I've tried for years, that I would never be able to love God perfectly. And by all accounts one must admit that not falling short of that standard—that glory of God, as it were—is something we are actually never capable of doing. And if we are born—from the very start, the "get-go"—incapable of loving God perfectly, incapable of perfectly keeping that Law the Scriptures so vividly tell us we all fall short of—that must, logically, be indicative of something about my very nature, that I can't love God perfectly even if I tried. One might think with an absolutely perfect nature someone, somewhere would get it right. So the logic that if you can't help something you can't be guilty of it is very humanistic—that is, centered around humans as the greatest value, instead of God. Most so-called "Pelagians" that I've talked to admit you can't perfectly keep the Law. They will admit that all imperfection is sin. But then cognitive dissonance ensues, because they will jump back into another scenario where you don't "have" to sin each moment. If the Law is perfection, and no one can attain it, then logically we DO have to sin constantly, because each moment perfection is unattainable and we fall short of it. Now I might argue with God and say "It's not fair the Bible says to love God with all my heart when it tells me that all fall short of the Law and will be judged by it!" And it might seem unfair to me, to my emotions, my logic, my sensibilities—but something is inherently wrong with my own capability of determining right and wrong, I'm really not in a place to judge whether something God does is good or evil, because I desperately need Him to tell me, instead of eating myself from that tree of thinking I know good and evil—"God, you tell me what is right, and what is wrong, because my feelings may not align with it."

Some use this term Ancestral Sin—which I like very much, and really should replace Original Sin altogether as a more accurate term—for it shows us sin is somehow interwoven into our spiritual DNA, that the wicked might go astray even from the womb, that all die in Adam, not just when they first sin. So by that train of thought, I think we can trace sin back to a fundamental attitude we have that is a part of our very nature, and we can't wash it away by our own inherent goodness or deeds of penance, and is the real indication why every single human being fails, and every single human needs Christ, no matter the age. And does the Bible tell us that all flesh is like grass, that all have fallen short of the glory of God, not leaving some loophole somewhere, that no one can come to the Father except through Jesus—no loopholes, no exceptions. It's an important truth to admit the fundamental nature we have needs that redemption along with our sins; the old man is crucified with Christ, the body of sin is put away in him, we have died to the Law so that we might live to God.
3. I believe everything that denies the absolute need for grace is in the end a form of self-righteous pride.

Many Scriptures clearly indicate that Adam and Eve's sin passed on to us a sin nature. The end result of denying original sin, is to take a stand and ground that humans are inherently good, which the Bible describes as self-righteous pride; this is having the Deity owe us because our actions and attitudes are inherently meritorious. Even if we admit we have sinned—and almost all denominations that deny original sin do admit they sin—we still claim to be fundamentally good people who made a bad choice. When one points out the odds of billions of fundamentally good-natured people not having one actually live out their sinless nature seeming quite strange, they simply turn a blind eye to it. The Bible goes quite beyond that, and calls people fundamentally bad, that all our righteousness is as filthy menstrual rags (connecting it to our origin, human birth). And so it through no fault of their own, and this very offense is what brings objections to the sin nature. Yet there is no one good but God, in our flesh dwells no good thing, all have fallen short of the glory of God, by the works of the Law no flesh shall be justified, the Pharisees were those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, Paul was not having a righteousness of hi own derived from the Law, the Jews stumbled at the stumbling stone of the Cross because they sought righteousness as if it were by works of the Law, and if we rebuild what we destroyed we show ourselves to be a transgressor every single time, and the wicked turn astray even from the womb, and every man knows the plague of his own heart, and surely there is no one on earth who is righteous, and on and on. Now I'm not denying people attempt to reinterpret all these clear verses in a self-righteous way, but it seems to me quite impossible to convincingly do that, and almost all original sin deniers will also admit it is impossible to keep the Law and be sinless, which logically equates to the same thing as a sinful nature without them seeming to realize it.

Self-righteousness is the most prevalent, sneaky, hard-to-see, and deadly sin for all humanity, because it masquerades as goodness hiding the deep true nature of our depravity, covering it over with behavioral conformity and a veneer of self-esteem. If we need our sin nature crucified with Christ, if the Law was meant to fill us with the terror of our sinful state before God, if the only way to be saved is to remove all the pride in our efforts and our own inherent goodness, then all that is left is an absolute and sheer, bare and naked trust in the Work of Jesus on the Cross. Our very best works we ever produce are contaminated with self-righteousness, pride and idolatry, and our very best works all deserve hell, to be punished eternally with the wrath of God. We better hope Jesus gives us righteousness as a gift, because ours is not going to cut the mustard. Every moment we don't love God and neighbor perfectly, we fall short of perfection, and each second we earn and deserve the punishment of God's wrath, storing it up eternally in hell. We cannot earn and merit our way to heaven, either before, or after having sins forgiven. It doesn't work that way. Saying it's not just or fair if we can't help sinning, logically equates to self-righteous pride that a human being can (even theoretically) achieve what the Bible clearly says only Christ could achieve for us—it's setting up an idolatrous moral system that puts the creature at the center of value which determines how things should be judged, instead of the Creator, and our stand is then realized as essentially human self-righteousness before a thrice holy God.

I encourage anyone to consider if the way they have formed their doctrine is around the emotional feeling of God being "bad" if he allows a certain doctrine, such as the sin nature. If Scripture says we CANNOT obey the law, that means we have an inherent inability to obey the law. The fundamental tenants of the law is love, and no human being loves God the way they should at any point in time. It is not some weird coincidence that every single person sins but yet we are really and actually born perfectly holy, saved and spiritually alive, that makes no sense. If the Scripture says "no good thing dwells in my flesh," that same flesh is the flesh we are born with. Nothing good dwells in it. Now the physical body is not inherently evil, it is called good. The flesh lusts for "witchcraft" and "pride" in Scripture, and these are not physical lusts. So the very fact that our "old man" has to be crucified with Christ shows we need more than just sins forgiven, we need a nature removed. This is backed up and testified in hundreds of places that all need to be elaborately explained away. It may feel like one is defending the character of God to defend the innocence of a child, but in actual fact, there is a prideful and stubborn independence in demanding God meet our own standard of justice, and a deep self-righteousness in viewing our race as inherently worthy, pure, holy and righteous. We can "clean up" the outside of the cup and look good, but we will always be sinful underneath.

Sinners go astray from the womb, all have fallen short, and there are not babies who DO NOT NEED THE BLOOD OF JESUS. That is the pride of self-righteous thinking, and BYPASSING the suffering of Christ for humanity. The Bible CLEARLY SAYS that NO ONE CAN KEEP THE LAW. It clearly says that in multiple places. If you feel that is unjust, YOUR FEELINGS DO NOT DICTATE TRUTH, you are pridefully setting up your feelings as your own judgment, putting your intellect, emotions, and goodness above God's!! Sure, we can believe that God is merciful and it is surely very possible he covers the infants and mentally ill with vicarious faith in his atonement, but let us not stand on the ground of the Pharisees who thought they were righteous in themselves and "not like other men." Jesus said there is no one good but God, not "no one good but God and babies." There is no good thing in our flesh. The wicked go astray from the womb, there is no one good but God, in your flesh dwells no good thing, all have fallen short of the glory of God, by the works of the Law no flesh shall be justified, the Pharisees were those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, Paul was not having a righteousness of his own derived from the Law, the Jews stumbled at the stumbling stone because they sought righteousness as if it were by works of the Law, if I rebuild the Law that I destroyed I show myself to be a transgressor, the Law arouses the sin that lives within my members, we are by nature children of wrath, and on and on. Don't let anyone deceive you that these verses preach self-goodness, self-reliance, self-effort, self-holiness, and self-righteousness, it's a lie.

To have a sin nature, that is, to be fundamentally in your essence "prone" towards sin, is not an innocent thing, it's not righteous, pure or holy. It's like we are using an adjective "dispositions" to "lessen" the impact and force of saying we are evil. Oh, I don't think we are really SINFUL, just "prone" to sin once in awhile. Now either we are sinful or we are not sinful, that's a true dichotomy. We don't have a "little bit" of a sin nature, like a 10% proclivity towards maybe messing up somewhere on a bad day. We have a sin nature!!! This is why the Bible uses "sin" in the singular quite often. And why don't more people murder and rape and steal and do obviously outward sins? Because sin is not always easy to see. Many sins are not visible right? Like unbelief, like resentment, like pride, like lust, like the attempt to be in control of our own life and not submit... and often we are the last to realize. A person can say "I gave to the poor" and say it pridefully, or say it humbly. It's impossible to know and there is no visible or demonstrable way to determine that statement was sinful. When exactly is the sin of pride committed? Upon a thought? The very act or attitude of pride is the sin itself. Now to be truly disposed towards a sin is not just to be tempted with the sin. Adam was tempted with sin with no sin nature. Jesus was tempted with sin with no sin nature. To have a sin nature is not just to be tempted... no, it's to LIKE sin, to WANT sin, and Chris tells us that is to COMMIT sin in the heart, and so to BE sin, like the air you breathe. So we have to say under any definition, that having a sin nature is a sin itself, because it is violating God's law by just existing! And that incurs guilt however you want to describe it. This is why babies don't somehow circumvent the need for Jesus' blood, and we know in our heart and conscience the Bible says no one merits heaven. Now if the Law of God is a demand for a perfect state of being, then by definition, a being that does not meet that demands IS breaking the law and sinning, merely by existing an in imperfect state. Esau and Jacob were fighting even in the womb. Selfishness is in our DNA. To claim that billions and billions of people all could theoretically live sinless but somehow NOT A SINGLE ONE does, is just... it's beyond words for me. Something is spiritually wrong with that belief.

If the heart and motivating principle of all sin is a nature predisposed and desirous of sin, then when the Bible tells us Jesus was "apart from sin," it makes a fundamental and monumental difference between Christ and us. Notice it doesn't say "apart from sins" in the plural, and when it says "It is longer I that do it, but the sin that dwells in me," and "Jesus put away sin by the sacrifice of himself," it also uses the singular. What many theologies end up doing is denying that sin is a living principle, and only reduce it to individual deliberate decisions. That way, you could sort of hypothesize that Jesus "cleans you up" and then "sets you loose to do better," as it were, let's you turn over a "new leaf" with a "clean slate," but it's still the same old you. No—the Bible describes sin as a living thing inside of us and declares "in my flesh there dwells no good thing" and that we are "sold on the auction block to sin" inside of Adam. This makes what Jesus did for us more than just erasing a slate of bad decisions, but also actually resurrecting, recreating and doing a supernatural change in our heart. We go from being spiritually dead, to being spiritually alive. NOT from having done some bad things, to getting to try again and do less bad things this time. God offers us real grace in the form of becoming a new creation, and he himself, living through us to do for us what we can't do for ourselves.

When we in any way deny the sin nature, we logically are forced to embrace one or another form of self-righteousness. We deny the Biblical declarations of our old man, our sinful nature, our body of sin, being nailed to the cross with Christ, as just a metaphorical way of saying we pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and try a little harder. We are so fundamentally sinful, evil and fallen in our old nature, that God clearly says we must count ourselves as actually having been "crucified with Christ" so that Christ has the opportunity to live through us instead of our own efforts. "The life I live I live by trusting the Son of God," is Paul really counting himself to have died, not just died to his failed attempts, but actually died to every source of his own ability and goodness, in Christ. He had a righteousness that was not his own through the Law, but every good thing he did was just Jesus living again inside of him as a gift of grace. He said his power was "not I, but the grace of God which was with me," and that the death of Christ worked in us so his life can be manifest. This method and way of looking at sanctification protects us from self-righteous, self-goodness and secret pride. The whole idea of sinless perfection in any way, shape or form, is just an idol to self-goodness and prideful attempt to produce what only Jesus Christ could ever please God with in his death and resurrection. We ENTER IN to the Work of Christ, we don't "co-create" another good work along with him to be co-worthy with him; that is encroaching upon and replacing the grace of God, as the book of Galatians teaches us. Christ has "been made unto us righteousness" and we have been "made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus."
4. I believe in the sin nature because I have tried with all my heart to be good, and I have sought God to show me my sin.

Have you ever posted a really long, clear, elaborate, passionate, well-thought-out, prayerful analysis against for someone to turn around and say "I don't see what you're saying"? Analysis and argument in itself doesn't always convey spiritual truth, because we need our eyes opened to something. Paul prayed the "eyes of our heart would be enlightened," not that we would study the laws logic and formulate a thesis. To me, it is clear that the sin nature is a cardinal truth almost blatantly said throughout Scripture, and something the Holy Spirit constantly affirms to me personally in my need for grace. To deny the sin nature is not just an intellectual thing to do; it is the sin of self-righteousness. And I would have to say, and I don't like saying this lightly, I think it is demonic. I am not saying this to "diss" anyone but that no matter how long and hard I try to show someone, it won't be effective without acknowledging the spiritual warfare component of what is happening, and the most fundamental doctrines are fought over the hardest.

One thing I've noticed myself is, I would always verbally say the Blood of Jesus is the only reason I was going to heaven, but then, just secretly I guess, I really started to believe I was a good person in certain subtle ways. In the end, I actually tried to read the entire New Testament in one day, fast 40 days, and pray all night long. And in fact, you know, I don't think I got completely nothing out of that. And I felt like I did things only because I loved people, and I prayed for people way more than they did for me, and more than anyone I know. I translated entire books of the Bible and learned every doctrine I could. But it's like God opened my heart up in a unique way, and showed me that what I thought was pure was somehow off to him. Once the Lord really shows you the depths of how evil you are, you are really convinced in a non-mental way of justification by faith. You see that every moment your best actions are impure. Paul called his best "works of the Law" as actually feces, excrement, human dung—poop! Self-righteousness is subtle, and you always see it in the other guy first. I thought sanctification was me somehow getting better, and not me realizing more deeply how bad I was.

Our natural pride wants to see our nature as holy and good when it's not. I can give witness that I have prayed to God sincerely and for a prolonged time, and he has revealed to me I have a sin nature. I have directly asked God, "Am I pure, holy, perfect, righteous, worthy and good in the core of my being?" and he has answered me, "No, you are not!" Now I can't convince you with Bible verses like "in my flesh is no good thing" or "by the works of the Law no flesh shall be justified" or "I am crucified with Christ," because anyone can make really elaborate arguments to say somehow that doesn't mean what it really says, and we can actually be good people justified in our own flesh, wasting both of our time. I'm sure people who hate this doctrine are sick of these verses by now, but I believe in the power of the Word! And the only thing I can do is say I think you are deceived in this area and if you sincerely ask the Lord to show you, I honestly believe he will show you that you have a sin nature. Like all doctrine, I urge continued prayer to God for clarity. Only God can show these deceptions to us, as our heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, and who can know it. Not only are there people out there who deny the need for the full atoning work of Christ, but we all at times think we can add something virtuous to it. Everyone I've talked to that denies a sin nature, it seems like a literal spiritual blindness of some kind has fallen over them. I promise you—that if you seriously take this before and God and ask him if you have a sin nature, he will answer and you confirm its truth, if you will remain open to whatever he might say. If you do, you have my prayers are in agreement. It's all in there brother and I pray we be willing to accept the Bible for what it says, so that you don't come against the very Blood of Jesus which is the true blasphemy of self-righteous pride.

And it is for these reasons we should all be wary of thinking we are somehow improving ourselves instead of trusting in the Cross more deeply—a wise old saint once said, Christian sanctification is not getting better and better and trying harder and harder, it is rather a deeper awareness of one's own faults and shortcomings, and the acknowledgement that no amount of self-effort will ever improve us unless by the grace of God. If there is no good thing in our flesh, our old man, our body of sin, then it can't do good. If we are by nature children of wrath, then it is the nature that brings the wrath. To have a sin nature—to be inherently inclined to the evil—is a sin in and of itself, before any deed has been done, because to be sentient is to have a spiritual attitude, and this will include a lack of perfect love and belief in God. Romans 7 ends with "I thank my God through Jesus Christ," and not thanking his willpower. This emphasis on willpower is nothing but legalism and will put a believer in the terrible bondage of always thinking they can do a little better if they try a little harder, plus it denies the Cross was necessary because it posits another method of salvation, perfection through self-works.

Through the law is the power of sin, and this is nothing but law. "For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe." (Gal 3:21-22 NKJ) Look at this verse again, if righteousness could come by any kind of law, this verse could not be written: "For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe." (Gal 3:21-22 NKJ) Any potentiality of a person keeping the law would allow the law at the very least to be a potential life-giver. The reason it is not, is because we are confined under sin, not because we cannot maintain a long series of potentially perfect actions like some circus balancing act. Think of it another way. If you can have the ability to choose any single righteous act, all on your own steam, than that act in isolation will be no different than the cumulative potential of any number of righteous acts. Perfection would be an actual possibility, but it's not a possibility. There is only ONE who is GOOD. One!

So I commend all to the grace of God.
Gnosticism vs. Early Christianity

In the days of the Early Church, the debate between the freedom of man’s will vs. the total depravity of man’s nature was one of the major divisions between the early Christians and the Gnostic sects. Beausobre said, “…those ancient writers, in general, say that Manichaeans denied free-will. The reason is, that the Fathers believed, and maintained, against the Manichaeans, that whatever state man is in he has the command over his own actions, and has equally power to do good or evil.”[2] W. F. Hook said, “The Manichaeans so denied free will, as to hold a fatal necessity of sinning.”[3] Lyman Beecher said, “…the free will and natural ability of man were held by the whole church… natural inability was to that of the pagan philosophers, the Gnostic’s, and the Manichaeans.”

There were many different Gnostic groups in the days of early Christianity, who also denied the freedom of man’s will, such as Marcionism started by Marcion. But one of the greatest competitors and threats to the Early Church was the Manichaeans started by Manes, a Persian philosopher, also known as Mani.

The Early Church debated the founder of this Gnostic group in the “Acta Archelai,” also known as “The Disputation with Manes.” Archelaus, a bishop in the Early Church, represented their doctrine that God does not make us with ruined natures but has given us free will. Mani took the Gnostic position that man’s nature was totally depraved and corrupted and that man did not have a free will.

The judges of the debate ruled in favor of Archelaeus and ruled against Mani, stating that man does in fact have free will as opposed to a depraved nature. The belief of early Christianity is stated in the debate in this way, “All the creatures that God made, He made very good. And He gave to every individual the sense of free will, by which standard He also instituted the law of judgment… our will is constituted to choose either to sin or not to sin… And certainly whoever will, may keep the commandments. Whoever despises them and turns aside to what is contrary to them, shall yet without doubt have to face this law of judgment… There can be no doubt that every individual, in using his own proper power of will, may shape his course in whatever direction he pleases.”

This debate of constitutional liberty vs. constitutional corruption between Mani and Archelaus dealt with the very core of Early Christianity vs. the emerging Gnosticism. The danger that the Early Church saw with the Gnostics was that they professed to be Christians and they claimed to be teaching Christian doctrine. In fact, the Gnostic’s declared that they were the real or true Christians who had special knowledge that others did not. The Church considered Manichaeans to be imposters and Manichaeism to be a counterfeit. The leaders of Christianity were worried that Gnostic doctrine might corrupt the Churches.

The Gnostics, for example, taught that the flesh was sinful in and of itself. Hans Jonas said that in Gnosticism, “The human body is of devilish substance and – in this trait exceeding the general derogation of the universe – also of a devilish design.”[6] Because the Gnostic’s viewed the flesh as a sinful substance, they denied that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, and that is why the Scriptures called them “antichrist” (1 Jn. 4:3, 2 Jn. 1:7). “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is the spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world” (1 Jn. 4:3). “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist” (2 Jn. 1:7).

Gnosticism believes that sin is the substance of the body, which is inherited at conception, so that man is born sinful or with a sinful nature. The Early Church, on the other hand, taught that sin was a free choice of the will, which is originated by the individual. The Gnostics taught that man was sinful by nature, while the Early Church taught that man was sinful by choice.

It was referring to these Gnostic groups that John wrote, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (1 Jn. 2:19). We can see then that the teachings of the Gnostics were condemned in the Scriptures.
On the other hand, in Philippians 4:3 Paul mentions “my fellowlabourers” “in the gospel,” and he names “Clement,” whose name he said was written “in the book of life…” History knows this man, who was Paul’s companion and who was endorsed by the Scriptures themselves, as Clement of Rome. Clement said, “It is therefore in the power of every one, since man has been made possessed of free-will, whether he shall hear us to life, or the demons to destruction.”[7] Clement said that “free-will” was given because “he who is good by his own choice is really good; but he who is made good by another under necessity is not really good, because he is not what he is by his own choice…”[8] Clement also said that the reason a sinner was susceptible to God’s punishment for their disobedience was because a sinner has the ability to obey God. He said, “For no other reason does God punish the sinner either in the present or in the future world, except because He knows that the sinner was able to conquer but neglected to gain the victory.”[9] The reason that a sinner is punishable for sinning, he said, is because a sinner is able not to sin. He said that a sinner is punished, not for his inability but for his negligence.

Ignatius was another figure in the Early Church. He was a disciple of the Apostle John and was martyred in the Roman Coliseum by being eaten by lions. In contradiction to Gnosticism, Ignatius taught that men were sinners, not by nature but by choice. Ignatius said, “If anyone is truly religious, he is a man of God; but if he is irreligious, he is a man of the devil, made such, not by nature, but by his own choice.”[10] Ignatius also said, “…there is set before us life upon our observance [of God’s precepts], but death as the result of disobedience, and every one, according to the choice he makes, shall go to his own place, let us flee from death, and make choice of life.”[11]

The Apostle John also had a disciple named Polycarp. Polycarp was the Bishop of the Church in Smyrna when Revelation was written. The Church of Smyrna was one of the only Churches in Revelation which Jesus did not say anything negative against (Rev. 2:8-11). Polycarp was a personal friend of Ignatius and he too was also sent to the Coliseum and was martyred as Ignatius was.

Polycarp had a faithful disciple named Irenaeus. Irenaeus refuted the Gnostics by saying, “Men are possessed with free will, and endowed with the faculty of making a choice. It is not true, therefore, that some are by nature good, and others bad.”[12] He also said, “Man is endowed with the faculty of distinguishing good and evil; so that, without compulsion, he has the power, by his own will and choice, to perform God’s commandments.”[13] And, “man is possessed of free will from the beginning, and God is possessed of free will (in whom likeness man was created)…”[14] And he said, “This expression, ‘How often would I have gathered thy children together, and thou wouldst not,’ set forth the ancient law of human liberty, because God made man a free agent from the beginning, possessing his own soul to obey the behests of God voluntarily, and not by compulsion of God.”[15]

Justin Martyr was an early evangelist and apologist for the Christian faith. He labored tirelessly for the Lord until he too was martyred in Rome. He said, “We have learned from the prophets, and we hold it to be true, that punishment, chastisement, and rewards are rendered according to the merit of each man’s actions. Otherwise, if all things happen by fate, then nothing is our own power. For if it is predestined that one man be good and another man evil, then the first is not deserving of praise and the other to be blamed. Unless humans have the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions – whatever they may be … for neither would a man be worthy of praise if he did not himself choose the good, but was merely created for that end. Likewise, if a man were created evil, he would not deserve punishment, since he was not evil of himself, being unable to do anything else than what he was made for.”[16]

Tertullian was another leader in the Early Church. He was a Christian apologist and is known for his prolific writings. He was in perfect agreement with early Christianity when he said, “No reward can be justly bestowed, no punishment can be justly inflicted, upon him who is good or bad by necessity, and not by his own choice.”[17]

Methodius was a Christian martyr who lived near the end of the third century. He wrote, “Those [pagans] who decide that man does not have free will, but say that he is governed by the unavoidable necessities of fate, are guilty of impiety toward God Himself, making Him out to be the cause and author of human evils.”[18] He said, “…the Divine Being is not by nature implicated in evils. Therefore our birth is not the cause of these things…”[19] He went on to say that men are “possessing free will, and not by nature evil…”[20] He said, “…there is nothing evil by nature, but it is by use that evil things become such. So I say, says he, that man was made with free-will, not as if there were already evil in existence, which he had the power of choosing if he wished, but on account of his capacity of obeying or disobeying God. For this was the meaning of the gift of free will… and this alone is evil, namely, disobedience…”[21] And he also said, “God did not make evil, nor is He at all in any way the author of evil; but whatever failed to keep the law, which He in all justice ordained, after being made by Him with the faculty of free-will, for the purpose of guarding and keeping it, is called evil. Now it is the gravest fault to disobey God, by overstepping the bounds of that righteousness which is consistent with free-will…”[22]

Eusebius was a Bishop in the Early Church who is considered the father of “Church History” for his extensive writings in ecclesiastical history. He wrote, “On the Life of Pamphilus,” “Chronicle of Universal History,” and “On the Martyrs.” He clearly laid out the position of the Early Church on this topic when he wrote, “The Creator of all things has impressed a natural law upon the soul of every man, as an assistant and ally in his conduct, pointing out to him the right way by this law; but, by the free liberty with which he is endowed, making the choice of what is best worthy of praise and acceptance, because he has acted rightly, not by force, but from his own free-will, when he had it in his power to act otherwise, As, again, making him who chooses what is worst, deserving of blame and punishment, as having by his own motion neglected the natural law, and becoming the origin and fountain of wickedness, and misusing himself, not from any extraneous necessity, but from free will and judgment. The fault is in him who chooses, not in God. For God has not made nature or the substance of the soul bad; for he who is good can make nothing but what is good. Everything is good which is according to nature. Every rational soul has naturally a good free-will, formed for the choice of what is good. But when a man acts wrongly, nature is not to be blamed; for what is wrong, takes place not according to nature, but contrary to nature, it being the work of choice, and not of nature!”[23] Eusebius went as far as to say that it was the doctrine of devils to teach that man’s will was not at liberty but in the bonds of necessity. He said, “The devil in his oracles hangs all things upon fate, and taking away that which is in our power, and arises from self-motion of free will… brings this also into bondage to necessity.”[24]

There is no shortage or lack of supply from the Early Church when it comes to quotations in regards to the freedom of man’s will; but the quotations referenced above should suffice to make my point that free will was a universal doctrine of early Christianity. What the Early Church believed and what the Gnostic’s believed should be brought to our attention and considered in this discussion. An understanding of the origin of doctrines such as inability is very helpful. The Gnostic’s held to the doctrine of man’s total inability and this doctrine did not find any acceptance at all by the Church until Augustine converted from Manichaean Gnosticism, as we shall see.
Free Will Is A Faculty Of Our Nature

The Early Church, before Augustine, taught that free will was an essential element of our God given nature. That is, they taught that it was a faculty of our constitution, and that we abuse that faculty of free will when we choose to sin. They taught that all men have the same nature in the sense that the faculty of free will is in the constitution of all.

Irenaeus said, “Forasmuch as all men are of the same nature, having power to hold and to do that which is good, and having power again to lose it, and not to do what is right; before men of sense, (and how much more before God!) some… are justly accused, and receive condign punishment, because they refuse what is just and right.”[25] Again Irenaeus said, “Those who do not do it [good] will receive the just judgment of God, because they had not worked good when they had it in their power to do so. But if some had been made bynature bad, and others good, these latter would not be deserving of praise for being good, for they were created that way, nor would the former be reprehensible, for that is how they were made. However, all men are of the same nature. They are all able to hold fast and to do what is good. On the other hand, they have the power to cast good from them and not to do it.”[26]

Pelagius, who is historically known for teaching free will in the days of Augustine, was in perfect agreement with the Early Church on this point. He said, “In all there is free-will equally by nature…”[27]

Origen said, “The Scriptures…emphasize the freedom of the will. They condemn those who sin, and approve those who do right… We are responsible for being bad and worthy of being cast outside. For it is not the nature in us that is the cause of the evil; rather, it is the voluntary choice that works evil.”[28] He also said, “the heretics introduce the doctrine of different natures.”[29]

There were two conflicting views of human nature during the days of the Early Church. The Christians believed that free will was a faculty of the nature of every man by virtue of his creation. Therefore the Early Christians viewed the sinfulness of man as being all together voluntary, caused by the freedom of their own wills. The Gnostics, on the other hand, believed that the human nature of each man was created so corrupt and ruined that mankind did not have the freedom to choose what was good. They viewed the actions of men as being caused by their natures. The Early Christians taught that it is not that some men choose evil because their nature is evil, while other men choose what was good because their natures were good, but that all men have the same nature, all having the faculty of free will in their constitution, and each man chooses by free will to be either good or evil in their moral character.

The errors of the Gnostics were continually rejected by the Early Church, but the Gnostics continued to try to penetrate the Church with their views. The Gnostics even wrote their own gospels, known as the Gnostic Gospels today, where they stole credible names like Mary and Thomas to try to give validity to their teachings.

While many of the attempts of the Gnostics to infiltrate the Church failed, and many of their views are widely rejected today, it seems that their particular view of human nature, free will, and the nature of sin has found wide acceptance in the Church today. While the view of the Early Church on human nature, free will, and sin is seldom held to or taught in our time.

None Deny that the Early Church Taught the Freedom of the Will

Episcopius said, “What is plainer than that the ancient divines, for three hundred years after Christ, those at least who flourished before St. Augustine, maintained the liberty of our will, or an indifference to two contrary things, free from all internal and external necessity!”[30] One would think that if a doctrine was truly derived from the Scriptures and were taught by the Apostles, that we would find that the Early Church believed it, especially during its years when it was the most faithful to God, when men were shedding their blood in martyrdom in the Roman Coliseum. But the doctrine of total inability was not taught by the Churches which the Apostles founded; rather, the doctrine of man’s natural ability was.

Regarding the term “free will,” John Calvin admitted “As to the Fathers, (if their authority weighs with us,) they have the term constantly in their mouths…”[31] He said, “The Greek fathers above others” have taught “the power of the human will”[32] and “they have not been ashamed to make use of a much more arrogant expression calling man ‘free agent or self-manager,’ just as if man had a power to govern himself…”[33] He also said, “The Latin fathers have always retained the word ‘free will’ as if man stood yet upright.”[34] It is a fact that cannot be denied even by those who most ardently oppose the doctrine of free will, that the doctrine of free will and not that of inability was held by all of the Early Church.

Walter Arthur Copinger said, “All the Fathers are unanimous on the freedom of the human will…”[35] Lyman Beecher said, “the free will and natural ability of man were held by the whole church…”[36] And Dr Wiggers said, “All the fathers…agreed with the Pelagians, in attributing freedom of will to man in his present state.”[37] This is a very important point because whenever a person today holds to the belief that all men have the natural ability to obey God or not to obey Him, or that man’s nature still retains the faculty of free will and can choose between these two alternatives and possibilities, he is almost immediately accused of being a heretical “Pelagian” by the Calvinists. This accusation is being unfair to the position of free will since all of the Early Church Fathers held to free will long before Pelagius even existed.

The Pelagians agreed with free will, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who agrees with free will is a Pelagian. Such reasoning is as fallacious as saying that everyone who believes in the virgin birth is a Catholic. While the Catholics believe in the virgin birth, that belief is not exclusively Catholic, thus it is fallacious to say that everyone who believes in the virgin birth is a Catholic.

Likewise the Pelagians believed in free will, but the belief in free will is not exclusively a Pelagian doctrine. Therefore, not everyone who believes in free will is a Pelagian. Williston Walker said that even in Pelagius’ own day, Pelagius’ teaching on “the freedom of the human will” was “in agreement with many in the West” and with “the East generally…”[38]

Asa Mahan said that free will “was the doctrine of the primitive church for the first four or five centuries after the Bible was written, the church which received the ‘lively oracles’ directly from the hands of some of those by whom they were written, to wit: the writers of the New Testament. It should be borne in mind here, that at the time the sacred canon was completed, the doctrine of Necessity was held by the leading sects in the Jewish Church. It was also the fundamental article of the creed of all the sects in philosophy throughout the world, as well as of all the forms of heathenism then extant. If the doctrine of Necessity, as its advocates maintain, is the doctrine taught the church by inspired apostles and the writers of the New Testament, we should not fail to find, under such circumstances, the churches planted by them, rooted and grounded in this doctrine.”[39] Rather, we find that absolutely all of the Early Church affirmed free will and explicitly denied the doctrine of total inability. If the doctrine of total inability was taught by the Apostles, you would expect that their faithful disciples who gave their lives in martyrdom would have taught it; but as we have seen, they did not.

David Bercot said, “The Early Christians didn’t believe that man is totally depraved [totally unable] and incapable of doing any good. They taught that humans are capable of obeying and loving God.”[40] He went on to say, “There was a religious group, labeled as heretics by the early Christians… they taught that man is totally depraved [totally unable]… the group I’m referring to are the Gnostics.”[41]

When reading the writings of the early Christians, you would think by some of their quotes that they were engaged in debates with Calvinists and were seeking to refute Calvinism. However, it was actually the Gnostic’s that they were debating. It was Gnosticism which they were refuting. It should cause no small concern for those who hold to the doctrine of inability that there is no support from the Early Church for their doctrine, but they actually only have the Gnostic who agree with them. At the very least, this should make them reconsider their doctrine.
Reviving an Old Truth &

Confronting an Ancient Error

It is my aim to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jud. 1:3). It is my hope that this book will help return the Church, or at least a remnant in it, to the doctrines of Early Christianity on this point. The objective of this article is to confront and correct the Gnostic errors which have crept into the Church and to revive a very old Scriptural doctrine which was held universally by early Christianity in the days of its prime, but which has been largely forgotten overall by the Church ever since.

If all of the Early Christians believed in free will, we have to ask: what went wrong? When did this change and who changed it? The Apostle Paul said, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Rom. 16:17). If the Church was so perfectly united for hundreds of years on this doctrine, when did the division occur and who brought it? Who lead the Church in its departure from Early Christianity? These are very important questions that few consider; yet, the answer is obvious enough in history.

It was not until the fourth century that Gnostic and Manichaean influence started to infiltrate the Christian Church, polluting it with their doctrines. Augustine, after saturating himself in Gnostic philosophy for many years, joined the Church and became a Bishop. He then began to contradict what the Church had always taught on human nature and the freedom of man’s will and taught in accordance with the Gnostic views of human nature and free will. The Church, through the influence of Augustine, began to embrace and teach the doctrine of natural inability.

It is an undisputed and known fact of history, admitted by Augustine’s admirers and supporters in their historical accounts of his life, that Augustine was influenced by, and a member of, the Manichaean Gnostic sect. John K. Ryan, in his introduction to “The Confessions of Saint Augustine” said, “The two great intellectual influences upon Augustine prior to his conversion were Manicheism and Greek Philosophy.”[42] In their introduction to “The Confessions of Augustine,” John Gibb and William Montgomery said, “In the same year in which he read the Scriptures and was disappointed in them, Augustine joined the Manichaean sect…”[43] They also said, “For nearly nine years Augustine was a Manichaean Auditor. At first he was a zealous partisan who contended publicly for his new faith, and did not hesitate to ridicule the doctrines of the Church and especially the Old Testament Scriptures…”[44]

Remember that Manes, also known as Mani, was the founder of Manichaeism. That was the same man who Archelaus of the Early Church debated against on the topic of free will and inability. Augustine had been in Manichaeism for many years and studied the writings of Manes. Surprisingly, when Augustine first joined the Christian Church, he began teaching the freedom of the will when debating against the Manichaeans. He said, “We [Christians]…assert the liberty of the will, whereby our actions are rendered either moral or immoral, and keep it free from every bond of necessity, on account of the righteous judgment of God.”[45] He also said, “The religious mind… confesses… and maintains… that we do by our free will whatsoever we know and feel to be done by us only because we will it.”[46] And he said, “we sin voluntarily and not by necessity.”[47] But after refuting the Manichaeans and defending free will, when he was debating the Pelagians, Augustine unfortunately went back to the doctrine of total inability, as the Manichaeans had taught. Beausobre also noticed this change and noted that Augustine defended free will “so long as he had to do with the Manichaeans. But when he came to dispute with the Pelagians, he changed his system. Then he denied that kind of freedom which before he had defended; and, so far as I am able to judge, his sentiments no longer differed from theirs [the Manichaeans] concerning the servitude of the will. He ascribed the servitude to the corruption which original sin brought into our nature; whereas the Manichaeans ascribed it to an evil quality, eternally inherit in matter.”[48] When Augustine forsook his position on free will, saying “I have tried hard to maintain the free choice of the human will, but the grace of God prevailed,”[49] he began to influence the rest of the Church with the idea of natural inability, which view the Church did not previously believe at all. The doctrine of free will was soon replaced with the idea of a ruined, corrupt, sinful nature.

Regarding the doctrine of a sinful nature, Charles Finney said, “This doctrine is a stumbling-block both to the church and the world, infinitely dishonorable to God, and an abomination alike to God and the human intellect, and should be banished from every pulpit, and from every formula of doctrine, and from the world. It is a relic of heathen philosophy, and was foisted in among the doctrines of Christianity by Augustine, as everyone may know who will take the trouble to examine for himself.”[50]

Harry Conn said, “Augustine, after studying the philosophy of Manes, the Persian philosopher, brought into the church from Manichaeism the doctrine of original sin.”[51]

The corruption of our nature, or the loss of our free will, Augustine credited to the original sin of Adam. Augustine said that the “free choice of the will was present in that man who was the first to be formed… But after he sinned by that free will, we who have descended from his progeny have been plunged into necessity.”[52] “By Adam’s transgression, the freedom of’ the human will has been completely lost.”[53] “By the greatness of the first sin, we have lost the freewill to love God.” And finally he said, “by subverting the rectitude in which he was created, he is followed with the punishment of not being able to do right” and “the freedom to abstain from sin has been lost as a punishment of sin.”[54]

Julian of Eclanum properly stated Augustine’s position when he said, “…by the sin of the first man, that is, of Adam, free will perished: and that no one has now the power of living well, but that all are constrained into sin by the necessity of their flesh…”[55] In this teaching, that free will was lost and that men sin by necessity as opposed to abusing their liberty, Rev. Daniel R. Jennings said that Julian “sensed a carryover of Manichaean thought from Augustine into the Christian Church…”[56] This is why Julian referred to the Augustinians as “Those Manichaeans…”[57] George Pretyman said about Augustine, “He was in the early part of his life a Manichaean” but “some remains of it seem to have been still left upon his mind…”[58]

By teaching that free will was lost and sin is the result of a defect in our nature, or the necessity of our corrupted constitution, Augustine was infiltrating the Church with Gnostic concepts and doctrines. Sin was no longer viewed as an ethical problem or a problem with how men use the faculty of their will. Rather, the problem of sin was now viewed as a metaphysical problem or as a fault in the faculty of the will itself.

Those who stood against the error of Augustinian Gnosticism, who accused Augustine of teaching Manichaeism and held unto the old ways and truths of early Christianity, were soon persecuted and condemned as heretics once Augustinianism was given civil and Church authority. The many bishops in the Church who denied that the original sin of Adam so corrupted human nature that free will was lost continued to teach that men were sinners by choice and not by constitution. As a result, they were ripped out of their pulpits, had their possessions confiscated, and were excommunicated by both state and church. The doctrine of free will that the Early Church taught was soon replaced with the Gnostic teaching of a necessitated will because of a corrupted, ruined, sinful nature. Augustinian theology was a massive departure from Early Christianity. Like Calvinism after it, Augustinianism used political and governmental force to silence any voice of opposition so that its doctrines could spread like a plague without challenge. Gnostic views, on this point, successfully crept into the Church.

There are major similarities and yet subtle differences between Augustinianism and Gnosticism. While the Gnostics said that man’s nature was sinful and corrupt and that man didn’t have a free will because man was created by an inferior god, Augustine agreed with the Gnostics that man’s nature was sinful and corrupt and that man did not have a free will, but he said that God made it that way on account of Adam’s sin. While the Gnostics said that flesh was sinful and therefore Christ did not have a flesh, Augustine said that concupiscence in the flesh was sinful and that this sin was hereditary or transmitted from parent to child through the physical passions of intercourse, but that Jesus avoided this hereditary sin by being conceived without physical passion and being born of a virgin. Therefore, Augustine agreed with the Gnostics in principle, but he differed from them inexplanation. In this way, Augustinian theology was a modified Manichaeism or a semi-Gnosticism.

Consider the following facts:

All of the Early Christians, before Augustine, believed in man’s free will and denied man’s natural inability.
The Gnostics in the days of the Early Church believed in man’s natural inability and denied man’s free will.
Augustine was a Gnostic for many years, in the Manichaeism sect, and converted to the Church out of Gnosticism.
After joining the Church and being appointed a Bishop, Augustine began to deny the free will of man and to affirm the natural inability of man
The Church, under Augustine’s influence, began to believe in the natural inability of man, which it never before held to, but which it formerly would refute.
What can we conclude by these facts except that when Augustine converted to Christianity out of Gnosticism, he brought with him some Gnostic doctrine? His views on human nature and free will were never held by the Early Church, but were held by the Gnostics. How can we possibly account for the fact that all of Christianity held to the freedom of the human will while only the Gnostic’s taught a corrupted and sinful nature, until Augustine joined the Christian Church out of Gnosticism? It seems abundantly clear that Augustine departed from the theology of the Early Church and remained in agreement with the Gnostics on the issue of human nature and free will. Church doctrine and theology has been infiltrated and polluted with Gnostic heresies. The Church went wrong at the time of Augustine. Christian theology violently crashed like a train, falling off the tracks, and has continued to charge and move forward on the wrong path and in the wrong direction ever since.

The greatest contributors to modern Christian theology have been Augustine, Luther, and Calvin. Augustine was influenced by Manichaean thought and Luther and Calvin were influenced by Augustinian thought. Therefore, it is no surprise that Augustine denied free will as the Manichaeans did, and Luther and Calvin denied free will as Augustine did. The Manichaeans influenced Augustine and Augustine in turn influenced Luther and Calvin.

There is no dispute over the fact that Luther and Calvin were influenced by Augustine. Luther was even an Augustinian monk. William Carlos Martyn said about Luther, “The study of the Bible and of Augustine theology… lead him to the Redeemer.”[59] In his historical account of Luther, Johann Heinrich Kurtz said, “Luther zealously studied the Bible, along with the writings of Augustine…”[60] Principal Tullock said that Luther “nourished himself upon Scripture and St. Augustine…”[61] Robert Dale Owen said, “Calvin’s ‘Institutes’ are based on Augustine’s ‘City of God’”[62] Thomas H. Dyer said in his biography of John Calvin, “The doctrine of predestination, which is generally regarded as that of which principally characterizes Calvin, is in fact that of St. Augustin…”[63] Oliver Joseph Thatcher explains why, “In theology he [Calvin] was a close follower of St. Augustine. His influence was to revivify the ideas of St. Augustine and, joining them to the main ideas of the Reformation, embody them in the Church he organized.”[64] The Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics said, “Luther… Zwingli and Calvin, with minor divergences, agree in reverting to St. Augustine on the main issuesand in the supposed interests of evangelical piety…”[65] Luther referred to Augustine thirteen times in his book “The Bondage of the Will”[66], and twenty four times in the “Works of Martin Luther.”[67] John Calvin referred to Augustine two hundred and sixty five times in his “Institutes on Christian Religion.”[68]

Since Luther and Calvin were both students of Augustine and learned much of their theology from him, it is not surprising to find the remains of the Gnostic view of human nature in their theological writings. Martin Luther said, “…man has lost his freedom, and is forced to serve sin, and cannot will good… he sins and wills evil necessarily…”[69] He said, “Sin in his nature and of himself he can do nothing but sin.”[70] John Calvin said that man does not have a “free will” in the sense that “he has a free choice of good and evil,”[71] but denied this all together. Calvin paraphrases Augustine saying, “…nature began to want liberty the moment the will was vanquished by the revolt into which it fell… by making a bad use of free will, lost both himself and his will… free will having been made a captive, can do nothing in the way of righteousness… man at his creation received a great degree of free will, but lost it by sinning.”[72] The Christian Spectator said, “Augustine, and Calvin, and all of the reformers, taught the bondage, or moral impotence of the will.”[73] While the Early Church wrote about “the freedom of the will,” Martin Luther wrote an entire book called “The Bondage of the Will.” This shows a clear departure from the views of early Christianity.

Luther defended his position against free will by saying, “Augustine… is wholly on my side…”[74] Calvin, like Luther, appealed to Augustine to support and defend his position. Calvin said, “Let us now hear Augustine in his own words, lest” Calvin be charged with “being opposed to all antiquity…”[75] Calvin tried to dismiss the charge of being opposed to the Early Church by saying, “Augustine hesitated not to call the will a slave…”[76] Charles Partee said “In his teaching on total depravity and bondage of the will Calvin is essentially following Augustine and Luther and not creating a so-called Calvinistic doctrine.”[77]

While Calvin tried to say that he was not “opposed to all antiquity” when it came to free will, what he meant was that he was not opposed to Augustine. Augustine was the only exception. He was opposed to all of the Early Church fathers before Augustine on this topic. John Calvin said, “…all ancient theologians, with the exception of Augustine, are so confused, vacillating, and contradictory on this subject, that no certainty can be obtained from their writings…”[78] Calvin believed that men like Clement of Rome and Ignatius, who personally knew the Apostles, did not understand the Epistles of the Apostles; while Augustine, who did not know the Apostles, apparently did understand them. Calvin admitted, “It may, perhaps, seem that I have greatly prejudiced my own view by confessing that all of the ecclesiastical writers, with the exception of Augustine, have spoken too ambiguously or inconsistently on this subject, that no certainty is attainable from their writings.”[79]

The reason that John Calvin rejected all ancient theologians and dismissed all of their writings on this matter, except for Augustine, is because all ancient theologians affirmed the freedom of the will in their writings, except for Augustine. Gregory Boyd said, “This in part explains why Calvin cannot cite ante-Nicene fathers against his libertarian opponents…. Hence, when Calvin debates Pighuis on the freedom of the will, he cites Augustine abundantly, but no early church fathers are cited.”[80] That is why George Pretyman said, “…the peculiar tenets of Calvinism are in direct opposition to the Doctrines maintained in the primitive Church of Christ…” This we have clearly seen, but he also said, “…there is a great similarity between the Calvinistic system and the earliest [Gnostic] heresies…”[81]

The Reformers sought to return the Church to early Christianity, but actually brought it back to early heresies, because it stopped short at Augustine. The Reformers did not go far back enough. Rather than returning the Church to early Christianity, the Reformation resurrected Augustinian and Gnostic doctrines. The Methodist Quarterly Review said, “At the Reformation Augustinianism received an emphatic re-enforcement among the Protestant Churches.”[82] The Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics said, “…it is Augustine who gave us the Reformation. For the Reformation, inwardly considered, was just the ultimate triumph of Augustine’s doctrine… the Reformation came, seeing that it was, on its theological side, a revival of Augustinianism…”[83] The Reformation was to a great extent a resurrection or revival of Augustinian theology and a further departure and falling away from Early Christianity.

Gnosticism, Augustinianism, Lutheranism, and Calvinism have much in common. Augustinianism, Lutheranism, and Calvinism teach Gnostic views of human nature and free will but under a different name. It’s the same old Gnosticism in a new wrapper. Other doctrines also seem to have originated in Gnosticism, from Basilianism, Valentianism, Marcionism, and Manichaeism, such as the doctrines of easy believism, individual predestination, constitutional regeneration, a sinful nature or a sinful flesh, eternal security or once saved always saved, and others. But no Gnostic doctrine has spread so widely throughout the Church, with such great acceptance as the doctrine of man’s natural inability to obey God.

This view has been held in both Catholic and Protestant Churches, taught by both Arminian and Calvinist theologians. Augustine taught many false doctrines such as the sinless life of Mary, praying to the dead, persecuting heretics, infant damnation, infant baptism, baptismal regeneration, etc. Yet it is his false teaching in regards to human nature and free will that has spread beyond the Catholic Church into the Protestant realm.

Consider these facts that have been shown:

Augustine’s mind was highly influenced by the teachings of Manichaeism on the topic of human nature and free will; and in his views on the subject, he clearly departed from the views of the Early Church.
The minds of Martin Luther and John Calvin were highly influenced by the teachings of Augustine on the topic of human nature and free will and admitted to departing from the views of the Early Church.
The greatest contributors to modern theology have been Augustine, Luther, and Calvin.

Isn’t it abundantly clear that Gnostic doctrine has infected the Church? The Gnostic doctrine of the bondage of the will, or the doctrine of man’s natural inability to obey God, has crept into the Church through a “Trojan horse” and has been masquerading as Christianity ever since. It has survived the centuries through Augustinian, Lutheran, and Calvinistic theology. These groups have preserved and promoted the doctrine of natural inability. This belief has spread like a dangerous plague, finding acceptance in many denominations and churches, but what it is not what orthodox Christianity believed.’

Source: Jesse Morrell, “Was Augustine A Gnostic Heretic? Did He Corrupt The Church With Gnostic Doctrine? Did The Early Church Agree With Pelagius?” (biblicaltruthresources). This article is an excerpt from his book, The Natural Ability of Man: A Study on Free Will & Human Nature.
I'm familiar with Jesse Morrell. I have interacted with him directly on his Facebook group years ago.

Just two things to remember:

1. Avoid the genetic fallacy, this is a non sequitur, something somewhere being associated with something does not have a necessary logical correlation.

2. Original sin still believes in free will, it just teaches a free will that needs the help and empowerment of grace.
All this study would be more accurate if you first apply it to His covenant people.
Gentiles were never under the Law. You say "us" and as a Gentile yourself you have never been under the Law.
And it is for these reasons we should all be wary of thinking we are somehow improving ourselves instead of trusting in the Cross more deeply—a wise old saint once said, Christian sanctification is not getting better and better and trying harder and harder, it is rather a deeper awareness of one's own faults and shortcomings, and the acknowledgement that no amount of self-effort will ever improve us unless by the grace of God.
Interesting analysis.

Because I am such a student of history, I am surprised your analysis did not begin at the beginning of sin. 1st with Satan and 2nd with us humans. Why did your analysis exclude the beginning of sin?

You mentioned pride and that is certainly at the heart of it.
Interesting analysis.

Because I am such a student of history, I am surprised your analysis did not begin at the beginning of sin. 1st with Satan and 2nd with us humans. Why did your analysis exclude the beginning of sin?

You mentioned pride and that is certainly at the heart of it.

This is focused on the sin nature rather than the origins of sin.

Certainly pride is the prime sin, and Satan's nature is somehow connected to all sin, as he is the "father" of lies.
Every mouth is stopped, not just Jew mouths.
Yes, but their blindness will very soon come to an end (in your lifetime) and the two witnesses of Revelation 11 will have big mouths and will say a great many things that will lead to their deaths.
And, as Saul said, ALL Israel shall be saved.
This is focused on the sin nature rather than the origins of sin.

Certainly pride is the prime sin, and Satan's nature is somehow connected to all sin, as he is the "father" of lies.
There is no sin nature in the bible thats an assumption at best. :) We are sinful, become a sinner when we sin.

If Total depravity is true and original sin is true then babies are born sinners, are sinful and deserve hell just like anyone else without faith in Christ deserves hell.

God would be just in sending them all to hell if original sin is true, the sin nature from birth is true and total depravity is true and faith in Christ, the gospel is what saves on from their sins.

Thats the GIANT PICKLE it leaves one in with these aberrant teachings.

hope this helps !!!
Even Calvin and other Hyper C's can see the problem and have come up with a get out of jail card free with babies. Its a contradiction within their own false systematic.

The reality is everyone knows that babies are innocent, not guilty so they come up with a reason that they are saved- hence infant baptism is one of those ways the church has come up with an "exception" clause to have them saved if they die before the man made doctrine of the age of accountability. What a huge maze of unbiblical teachings to get God off the hook for condemning babies because of their own contradictory beliefs with original sin, born sinners, totally depraved, wicked from the womb etc......
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