Inheritance

Some Christians have expressed dismay by the discovery of a genetic origin to certain sins. But I don’t understand the upset. After all, the biblical materials themselves clearly demonstrate that the existence of sin in human beings is an inherited trait.

For instance, the psalmist writes:

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Psalm 51:5)

Paul, writing to the church in Rome, indicated:

Therefore…sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned…(Romans 5:12)

Such passages (among others) speak very clearly of the inherited nature of human sin; it should not come as any great shock to any Christians, therefore, that scientists should discover this to be the case. It also is no great surprise that sin is something beyond human abiity to control or solve.

Christianity has generally taught, especially since the Reformation, that humanity is “depraved” –that is, that it is incapable of saving merit–a technical way of stating that there is nothing good a person can do to win God’s favor.

The Bible is quite clear on this, too:

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. (Isaiah 64:6)

What Christianity does is acknowledge that if human beings are to reach heaven it is going to be solely because of the mercy of God. It certainly won’t be because of any earned merit.

Perhaps an analogy will be in order.

As human beings, we are like a man born without any arms or legs who discovers that he istrapped in a buring building and the only way out is up a long ladder. Obviously he is in deep trouble. But if a firefighter arrives and carries him up the ladder, he’ll survive.

That’s what Jesus did for us. He found us in a wretched, hopeless state, unable to solve our problem, a problem that wasn’t even of our own making: it was one we inherited. So he solved it for us. He was the only one who could.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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