So 2 questions actually:
If we assume Adam and Eve acquired the sinful nature (maybe we could call it a “propensity to sin”) after the fall then how would we define their propensity to sin prior to the fall… as they gave in to temptation for their various reasons?
Question 2. Are there any biblical reference points that contrast these two “sin-propensities”?
@timotto Great question I would make a distinction between having the ability to sin and having a propensity to sin. They are not the same—Adam and Eve could have had the ability to sin without a sinful nature.
Think about it this way—who came up with the idea to eat from the tree? It was the serpent. If Adam and Eve had a propensity to sin, they would not have needed the serpent’s help. We fallen humans are quite capable of devising disobedience without any outside assistance.
You may also find these resources helpful.
The Tree in the Garden
“Concretely, the tree represented for Adam the choice between submitting to God’s law or pursuing moral autonomy : Fearing the Lord (the beginning of wisdom), or judging for himself what good and evil are. Learning obedience would result in greater wisdom, maturity, and freedom. That is what the serpent tempted Adam and Eve with: “You shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). That is, you shall judge for yourselves. You will no be in the position of children, having good and evil dictated to you. The serpent tempted Adam and Eve with the prerogatives of autonomous, mature adulthood, before they had learned submission to God—and he tempted them to achieve this by way of disobedience . But it is important to understand that it could have been achieved with obedience as well , without the consequences of sin—and that is the tragedy. Adam and Eve were indeed destined to rule creation. Becoming like gods was not a bad thing or a bad desire. But this was to be achieved in the same way the rule of Jesus was achieved—by submission to God (Philippians 2:8-9).”
Tim Keller on Sin
So first, our relationship with God has been destroyed. As a result, our relationship with ourselves is destroyed. How do we see that? When Adam says, “The reason I hid from you is I was ashamed because I was naked.” In the Bible, just like walking is an idiom for something bigger than just walking, so nakedness is an idiom for something bigger than just being ashamed of being naked.
Nakedness is a sense of guilt, that there’s something wrong with me, a sense of shame, that I need to prove myself, I need to cover, I need to keep people from seeing who I am because they’ll reject me. Nakedness is a psychological dislocation, a lack of ease with who you are. When our relationship with God is severed, our relationship with ourselves is severed. That is to say, we really don’t want to admit what’s wrong with us. We really don’t want to admit the worst about ourselves.
See the one thing we don’t want to believe is that we’re utterly dependent on God. We want to think we need God occasionally or maybe not at all, but in our heart of hearts we know we’re utterly dependent on God, and therefore, we are in denial about who we really are. That’s where the shame comes from, and that’s where the guilt comes from, and that’s where this lack of ease with being able to admit who we are comes from.
So if I was to take a stab at capturing the essence of what is generally meant by the idea of sinful nature: do you think it would be fair to say that It has to do with twisted self-induced ideas we come up with (especially stemming from guilt) which are entwined within our mind, our will, our emotions, our relationships and sense of identity?
@timotto To be honest, I think developing an exact definition of the sinful nature is not straightforward because it would require first having an exact understanding of human nature both pre and post fall, which I do not think anyone does… However, my main point was simply that we can see that there was a change in Adam and Eve post-fall—they were ashamed and separated from God. And pre-fall it is significant to me that eating from the tree was not their idea.
I think Tim Keller’s article I linked above is helpful for beginning to define the sinful nature. I think a simplified definition we could start with is: the sinful nature is the human tendency to go our own way rather than God’s way and to seek our own interest above that of others.
If my goal was not to come up with an exact definition of sinful nature, but simply to dispel its ambiguity (that might not be a contradiction although it does sound like one ) In as much: I think an exact understanding of human nature pre and post fall might not be necessary.
here’s the thing:
The fact that the sinful nature idea remains rather ambiguous means that it’s sometimes subject to ignorant and loose interpretations (that many times go unvoiced). The idea itself easily becomes a common Christian rationale to encourage ongoing, un-victorious faith. As I see it, when the idea of sinful nature is ignorantly held in unrighteousness it actually becomes a catalyst for sin and shame.
It seems that part of the answer for this is to truly understand and communicate what we’re talking about when we refer to the sinful nature, and what it really is.
I can’t hardly disagree with the simple explanation Keller gives. It just seems like a deeper understanding would be pretty handy to discuss the concern I pointed out.
@timotto Sounds like a great topic for graduate study I agree that there is some concern about using our sinful nature as an excuse to not live a victorious Christian life, but I think we can dispel that by a proper understanding of what it looks like to live the Spirit filled life in Jesus. And to correct unfortunate misreadings of Romans 7.
Romans 6:1-2 - What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
Romans 8:12-13 - Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
@timotto The other thing that came to my mind is that sometimes people do not have a robust theology of what it means to become mature in Christ. When we are first saved, our conscience still needs to be trained by God’s Word and constant practice. This is not an easy process—we have to crucify our flesh and seek God in prayer with persistence.
If we lack a robust understanding of growing up in Christ, we might mistake the struggle of baby Christians as an inevitability of the Christian life. We can grow in holiness, but it requires discipline, self-understanding, and the continued work of the Spirit in our lives.
Hebrews 5:11-14 - We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
@timotto,Hi great questions. Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Paul is talking about and summarizing the whole of chapter 6 which is talking about the two kingdoms that exist the kingdom of sin and that sin has a rule and reign over the non-Christian and then the kingdom of righteousness we are slaves to sin before we become regenerated, justified IE Christians. After we become Christians we are slaves to righteousness. Adam was peccable ,perfect but able to sin. Christ was impeccable perfect divine and unable to sin.
The point of chapter 6 is that if we understand that we have been transported out of the kingdom of darkness Colossians chapter 1 and into the kingdom of his dear son then we would never want to sin. And now we come back to verse 23 the wages of sin is death not more grace but the gift of God is eternal life righteousness. Adam and Eve were tempted to disobey which led to unrighteousness which led to impurity. We now are called to obedience in the power of the spirit which leads to righteousness which leads to holiness. There is no longer any judicial consequence for sin.