[This post is part of the Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe series]
In some ways, this chapter of Doctrine picks up where Creation: God Makes left off, and rounds out a set of three chapters that mainly center on exposition from Genesis 1-3. This one of course, covers chapter 3 which is the narrative description of the fall, but certainly doesn’t confine itself to just what is found in Genesis. In many ways, the topic of original sin shouldn’t be all that controversial since as G.K. Chesterton is reported to have quipped, “It’s the only Christian doctrine that can be empirically proven.”
However, even with the prevalence of sin and the ease with which one can demonstrate its existence, most people are not keen on taking the Bible’s (i.e. God’s) interpretation of it. Psychology, just to pick a discipline that I’m familiar with, has no trouble identifying both sinful thoughts and behavior, but when conducted by non-Christians (and unfortunately sometimes by Christians) it refuses to call sin what it is. Diagnosing sinful actions and effects is easily done by most psychologists, but since the ultimate problem is misidentified, the solution never quite as effective as one would like. This is not to say every psychological problem is a sin problem, but in a way, every psychological problem stems from inherent sinfulness of either the person involved, or the people that have shaped that person’s life.
So in a way, every psychological problem exists because sin exists. Malfunctioning brain chemicals are just as much a result of a world that is cursed, as a person who overtly exhibits psychotic (i.e. sinful) behavior is. The distinction to make is that not everyone person’s problem are directly a result of their own sinful actions, but most, if not all of the time, they do contribute to and compound the problem by how they respond. People tend to respond sinfully when sinned against, and when things simply don’t go their way (i.e. not being dealt the hormones or brain chemicals they would have liked). This is probably a topic for another post, but hopefully this illustrates the practical implications resulting from how one understands human sinfulness.
In order to help see more accurately the Bible’s teaching on the fall and sin, Driscoll and Breshears answer the following questions in this chapter:
- What is the fall?
- What is sin? (very thorough Biblical definitions here)
- Where did sin originate?
- What is total depravity?
- What are Satan’s schemes against us? (Quick answer: the world, the flesh, and himself)
- What are some sinful views of sin?
- How does God’s sovereignty relate to sin?
- What are some sinful responses to sin?
- How does God respond to sin?
In the section on depravity, a very useful distinction is made that helps deflect some unwarranted criticism that some people level against the doctrine of depravity. Relying on J.C. Ryle, they note that really by “total depravity” we mean “pervasive depravity,” in that depravity (sinfulness) pervades our whole being leaving no facet unaffected. Some people tend to assume what is really meant is “utter depravity” which is simply not what is traditionally affirmed. To be utterly depraved would be to be as sinful as possible, and no one quite reaches that mark.
Lastly, a resource that is noted in the section on Satan’s schemes is Thomas Brooks’ Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, a classic on this topic. I would wholeheartedly recommend that book, and again would have to say that this chapter does a superb job in its treatment of the difficulties surrounding the doctrine of sin.