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 The Principles of Theology - Article 9

by W.H.Griffith Thomas


<< The Meaning of Original Sin

Part 2. The Extent of Original Sin

“Of every man that naturally is ingendered of the offspring of Adam.” This statement of the universality of sin has two implications of great importance connected with the word “naturally,” for thereby Christ is excluded because He was ingendered, but not naturally, and the mother of our Lord is included because she was naturally ingendered. [1]

The Article clearly associates the inborn sinfulness of man today with the first transgression. There was something in Adam which rendered sin possible and which was influenced by an appeal from without. Adam had the liability to sin, but not the tendency. He was innocent, but not in the strict sense virtuous, and somehow or other the effect of sin upon his nature led to its propagation among his descendants.

When we seek to understand the cause of all this we naturally think of the historic connection of man today with the first man, the head of the race, for inborn sinfulness in the individual is a testimony to the racial unity of mankind. The Fall is a fact, account for it how we may, a case of arrested development, and the causal connection of sinfulness today with the primeval sin is clear, even though we may not know exactly what was the nature of the latter. There are three elements in human life that together account for sin; heredity, environment, and freedom, and it is impossible to overlook any one of them. Those who endeavour to explain sin merely as a matter of environment and of freedom fail at the vital point, which seems to imply hereditary tendencies. There is still an inscrutable fact which compels attention and calls for explanation. There seems to be no doubt that St. Paul in his great passage in Rom. 5:12-21 derives inborn sinfulness from the Fall as recorded in the story in Genesis, and argues that the sin of Adam has affected all mankind with an inherited tendency to evil. It is impossible to overlook the significance and vital importance of this passage, and no exegesis worthy of the name can avoid the implication of the Apostle’s teaching that “by one man sin entered into the world.” [2] Nor is the force of this really affected by any theory of the precise character of the story in Genesis, for it is essential to distinguish between the fact of the Fall and its literary form. Even though we may regard the story as pictorial, yet, nevertheless, figures of speech embody and even intensify the facts which they symbolise. [3] To the same effect is the Apostle’s teaching in 1 Corinthians, in which the twofold connection of Adam and Christ with humanity is clearly pointed out. “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:22). [4]

The Pelagian view of sin has found several modern advocates who, speaking of the Old Testament, say that there is no evidence that any connection between human sinfulness and Adam’s transgression had as yet occurred at all to the human mind. [5] But it has been well pointed out that the Old Testament bears ample proof of the universality of human sinfulness, e.g. Gen. 6:12; Psa. 14:1; 51:5; Job 14:4; 15:14; 25:4, and the belief in human descent from Adam who was made without sin and afterwards became sinful “at least suggests connection between the common descent and the common sinfulness of man as cause and effect.” Further, it has been shown that we are compelled to attempt to discover the sources of St. Paul’s teaching, and if we regard these as arising outside the Old Testament it only puts the problem further back, and compels the enquiry as to whence these writers who influenced St. Paul derived their teaching. [6] If, moreover, it be said that the doctrine of the Fall, found in Genesis and again in the teaching of St. Paul, is not found elsewhere in the Old Testament, the answer is that “the whole tenor of the Scriptural representation of man” points in the direction of sinfulness as due to its entrance at the beginning of the race, for “at no point in Scripture history does man appear as standing in right or normal relation with God.” [7] So that the only conclusion that seems reasonable and possible is that “if a Fall were not narrated in the opening chapters of Genesis we should still have to postulate something of the kind to account for the Bible’s own representation of the state of man.” [8]


>> Part 3. The Result of Original Sin


[1] Litton, ut supra, p. 149-151.
[2] “If you wish to know whether a man is a theologian, turn to his Greek Testament, and if it opens of its own accord to the fifth chapter of Romans, and you find the page worn and brown, you may safely set him down as a devotee of the sacred science” (Stearns, Present Day Theology, p. 321).
[3] Martensen, Dogmatics, p. 155; Sanday and Headlam, Romans, p. 146.
[4] Modern criticism admits that with the abandonment of the historical character of Genesis 3 we are left with “no account in the Bible of the origin of sin, thus excluding the subject from a strictly Biblical theology” (Orchard, Modern Theories of Sin, p. 24).
[5] So Tennant, Sources of the Doctrine of the Fall and Original Sin, and Origin and Propagation of Sin.
[6] Eck, Sin, p. 14, Note.
[7] “Orr, God’s Image in Man, p. 198.
[8] Orr, ut supra, p. 201.




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Article 9

>> Introduction

>> The Meaning of Original Sin

>> The Extent of Original Sin

>> The Result of Original Sin

>> The Condemnation of Original Sin

>> The Permanence of Original Sin

Content of The Principles

>> Index

>> Preface by J I Packer

>> Introduction

>> 1 - Trinity

>> 2 - Christ

>> 3 - Descent into Hell

>> 4 - Resurrection

>> 5 - Holy Spirit

>> 6 - Holy Scripture

>> 7 - The Old Testament

>> 8 - The Three Creeds

>> 9 - Of Original or Birth Sin

>> 10 - Of Free Will

>> 11 - Of the Justifcation of Man




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