Jay Blogs – Original Sin
This year, as we’ve been looking at spiritual warfare through our school theme, “Battle Tested,” one area that I haven’t yet talked about is perhaps the most devastating idea of all, yet one we often spend a lot of time trying hard not to think about: original sin.
I was reading an article the other day from the Gospel Coalition called “Is ‘Gentle Parenting’ Biblical?” For those of you who may not know, Gentle Parenting is a philosophy of parenting popularized by multiple bloggers, podcasters and Instagram influencers, some of whom are credentialed. The idea behind Gentle Parenting is that, rather than focusing on discipline and reward, the idea is to improve children’s self-awareness and their own understanding of their behavior. Gentle parenting involves redirection and exploring each other’s feelings as a means of getting the child to want to change his or her behavior.
So, if a child is refusing to put on his shoes to get him to school and dad to work on time, rather than saying, “straighten up and put your shoes on right now or I’ll have to discipline you.”, you might say, “When you don’t put your shoes on in a timely manner it hurts my feelings and makes me anxious. Why are you having such a hard time right now?”
While there’s certainly nothing wrong with considering and working to develop a child’s emotional health, and we should avoid not unnecessarily stepping on those emotions when possible, the Gospel Coalition article notes that Gentle Parenting is based on an unbiblical premise. As Dr. Becky, one of the advocates for Gentle Parenting writes in her book, aptly entitled Good Inside: “I truly do believe that we are all good inside…When you’re confident in your child’s goodness, you believe in their ability to behave ‘well’ and do the right thing.”
The problem with Dr. Becky’s premise is original sin, or as G.K. Chesterton once humorously described it, “The only Christian doctrine that has been empirically validated by 2,000 years of human history.” Paul tells us about original sin in Romans 3: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” In Romans 3:23, Paul tells us that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
It’s not just that we have sinned by what we’ve done and what we haven’t done (although that’s certainly true). Original sin means that, in a sense, we are sin. It’s a condition, like a disease. We are born into sin; It’s part of our nature. Even if we spent our lives being really good guys and gals, doing really nice things for people, we would still be completely corrupt. We are contaminated with sin, like radiation.
And, we can’t work our way out of it. In his biography of Apple icon Steve Jobs, writer Walter Isaacson notes that Jobs first discovered the cancer that ultimately killed him when doctors were screening for kidney stones. Although it was pancreatic cancer, the good news is that the cancer was the 5 percent that was slow-growing, and most likely to be cured. Doctors were elated; at this point, Jobs had a highly-positive outlook.
And yet, for almost a year after his diagnosis, Jobs refused surgery and traditional treatment, choosing instead to try to heal the cancer with diet and holistic methods, like acupuncture. “I didn’t want my body opened…I didn’t want it violated that way,” Jobs said. Despite his family and friends urging him to have more aggressive treatment, he refused.
Isaacson reports that, for Jobs, something even deeper was at play. “Jobs felt that if you ignore something, if you don’t want it to exist, you can have magical thinking. And it had worked for him in the past.” Jobs was so used to being a maverick, a visionary, to believing a new future could be so true that he could mold and shape it to be so, that he thought it could work on the terminal disease that was eating away at his body. Once he realized he was wrong, and admittedly to his later deep regret, it was too late. Jobs died at 56 years old, tragically and probably unnecessarily.
That’s original sin. It’s a cancer eating away at our souls, a cancer that’s slowly killing us, 100 percent fatal. For so many of us, we think if we just do good things, or achieve something, or we’re good people, we can beat it, but these efforts are even less effective than carrot juice and acupuncture on pancreatic cancer. The problem is the fatal disease.
Nor can it just be wished away. We can’t just pretend it doesn’t exist, that we’re all basically good, even though the terrible things we all say and do to each other every single day for thousands of years proves otherwise. Forty-five minutes with the dozens of toddlers at our Grace Early Education will dispel anyone of the notion that any of us are basically good (even though they’re cute, their hearts are black as coal, just like mine).
There’s only one cure: God’s grace, shown to us by the bloody sacrifice of Jesus Christ, dying on the cross for our sin and paying the price to set us free. Christ didn’t just pay the price for your individual sin, every time you look at that thing or person in the way you shouldn’t or tweet something you wish you could take back. Jesus died to eradicate the entire system of sin, the actual disease, the condition that held you and me in bondage no matter how nice we were, or how much money we gave to this cause or that, or how many mission trips we went on. All we can do, our only response, is to fall on the deep, deep grace of God in making this provision for us: to accept the only cure, the only hope that God provides for the disease that’s killing us.
And, yes, because kids are basically rebels and totally depraved, like the rest of us, you’re not going to reason or persuade them into doing right. Their hearts and, sometimes, bodies have to be restrained by their parents who love them until the Holy Spirit can someday do so. Their hearts have to be trained and disciplined through rewards and consequences, those that are unpleasant enough to get their attention and dissuade them from repeating those actions that are evil, and self-centered, and unhealthy for them. Because that’s what parents who understand original sin and the grace that is ours (and will, Lord willing, someday be theirs) by the blood of Jesus Christ do.