Sin Nature – The Beginner’s Theological Vocabularium

Sin Nature

“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.”—Romans 8:5

To understand Sin Nature, we must first understand Sin, itself. To view Sin as a state of being, denies the act of will in which one chooses to violate God’s word or will. Relegating Sin to a state, removes will, and results in people falling for such heresies as Sinless Perfectionism, which is the belief that a “true” Christian no longer commits sin. The argument of State vs. Choice really boils down to: Which came first? Are we sinners because we sin, or do we sin because we are sinners.

The argument is made worse by those who grasp a word, phrase or “concept” without bothering to actually understand the underlying logic and biblical backing for each. To add to the confusion is the use of the phrase “Sin Nature” to refer to something that does not always involve an actual act of sin. Thus the problem.

Adam and Eve were created without a sin nature, but they went on to sin. How is that possible? Neither Adam nor Eve were created with the Knowledge of Good and Evil and as Paul pointed out “For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” [Romans 5:13] Sin is the willful disobedience of God. Since neither Adam nor Eve were created with that innate Knowledge of Good and Evil, their behavior was not considered sin—with one single exception. When God told them not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, He introduced a single point of possible sin in their lives. At that point there was only one thing they knew they should not do. But that one thing (we don’t understand how) would itself introduce into their lives the full Knowledge of Good and Evil. It would open the door to all sin.

Before they ate of the tree they had no sin nature. After they ate, they did have a sin nature. While that transition involved committing a sin, the real distinction was the knowledge of sin.

Small children have not yet gained the ability to comprehend right and wrong (We often call the transition, reaching the age of accountability). But as we all can attest, we—as adults—are constantly beset with decisions in which we know we much choose right from wrong. What we call Human Nature means that our focus will be on ourselves, so without moral teaching we would make selfish choices and disregard the knowledge that such selfishness is wrong. This is Sin Nature. Not just the possibility of sin (owing to the knowledge of a sinful choice) but the inevitability of our self interest driving us to make sinful choices.

Sin Nature is the result of the combination of Human Weakness and the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which produces sinful acts. Not one single human (with one notable exception) has ever been able to resist sin, past the age of accountability. This combination isn’t itself sin, any more that saltpeter, charcoal and sulphur, in separate piles are gunpowder or would explode if touched with a flame. Mix them and you will get an explosion.

One problem people have with this, is that to some it seems like such a definition would mean that we could simply choose to not sin. That makes as much sense as saying a hungry dog could walk through a room full of meat, and not eat any. We lack the strength to not choose selfishly. In fact, if we are honest with ourselves it is almost impossible to ever do something that does not eventually lead back to self-interest. If you give to charity, who else knows? If you do it anonymously, don’t you still receive the satisfaction of pride in your gift? Can you ever do something that in, some way or another, does not ultimately result in some benefit to yourself? Our self-interest is inevitable. It occupies our mind, our emotions and our body. It infects every pore of our being. How then could we ever totally resist its lure in doing what we know is not what God wants? A Sin Nature, is itself not sin, but makes sin inevitable.