Not According to Christ: “Calvinists deny Jesus came in the flesh and was like us in every respect. If you truly believed that, then you would have to affirm that Jesus was born in sin, since you believe we are born in sin (i.e. Original Sin; Total Depravity). Rather, we are born innocent, and like us, Jesus was born innocent.”
objection heretical teaching is a summarization of the view put forward by a false teacher that I have interacted with on Facebook. His name is Warren McGrew. Not only does he deny that we are born with a sin nature, instead believing that we are born innocent, he likewise rejects the penal substitutionary nature of the atonement. It is likely he holds to other false teachings, but I have not yet come across them.
The proper response to his objection is seen in Chapter 8, “Of Christ the Mediator”, paragraph 2 of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, which says, “when the fullness of time was come, [Christ took] upon Him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit coming down upon her, and the power of the Most high overshadowing her, and so was made of a woman, of the tribe of Judah, of the seed of Abraham and David, according to the Scriptures….”
In essence, the nature of the incarnation allowed Jesus to be born a true man, yet without sin, thereby being the perfect substitute for God’s people to bring about the forgiveness of sins. We may add to this that sin is not intrinsic to the nature of man, otherwise God would have made Adam and Eve sinful. In other words, recognizing that all of Adam’s posterity is born with a sin nature does not require that we view Jesus as being born with a sin nature in order to be like us and represent us. Jesus’ likeness to us is in regard to true humanity – being fully human – not in regard to sin or the lack thereof. This is essentially what I communicated to Warren. Following is the back-and-forth I had with him on a Facebook group. These are our exact words (copy/paste). Keep in mind that this is a FB group, so conciseness was key.
Warren (Original Post): So on another group I said Calvinists deny Jesus came in our flesh and was like us in every respect. This guy screenshot it and posted it rebuking me. Everyone jumped in and called me a liar… until I asked them to affirm without equivocation that Jesus came in our flesh and was like us in every respect… Then the tap dancing began and they overwhelmingly proved my point.
Drew: Obviously, your point is that, if we believe mankind is born in sin and Jesus was born in our likeness, then we must affirm that Jesus was born in sin too. The problem with your reasoning is it’s backward. The Scriptures do not teach that we need to be born innocent so that Jesus can be born innocent. This is the uniqueness of the incarnation. In Hebrews 2:14-18 we see that Jesus took on flesh and blood in order to serve as a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. He was a human being in every respect – fully human, not partial. Yet, sin is not intrinsic to humanity, otherwise, God would have created Adam and Eve sinful. The sin nature is the result of the Fall, but the Son of God came into this world unstained by the fall of Adam, being without sin (Heb. 4:15), in order to serve as the perfect redeeming substitute of God’s people. Again, the connection between Christ and his people is true humanity, not sin or the lack thereof.
Warren: I understand your point, however Scripture does not say Jesus came like Adam and Eve (pre-sin and expulsion) in every respect, it says He came like us, like His brothers in every respect. It also says Jesus was the seed of Abraham, a descendant of David. Additionally, He suffered in all things as we are.
If Jesus did not come as we are, then the incarnation and crucifixion did not redeem us.
Scripture makes no statement that men are born spiritually dead, possessing Adam’s guilt and sin nature but does make numerous assertions to the contrary. Couple this with the incarnation and one sees total depravity and original sin are not merely extra-Biblical but anti-Biblical doctrines.
Drew: Warren, we’ve briefly discussed Rom. 5:12-21 before. But let me introduce another passage that teaches the total depravity of mankind – Gen. 6:5, 11-12.
Four key words, describing the sinfulness of man, are utilized in this passage: wickedness, evil, corrupt (3 times), and violence. The wickedness of man is described as being great; the evil of man is said to be continual; the violence of man is spread throughout the earth; and the corruption of man is true of all flesh. The text says “that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (emphasis added). There is a constancy expressed here. Mankind lives in a cesspool of sin. Even their good acts in the sight of man are corrupt in the sight of God. Additionally, the very core of man’s being – the heart – is described as being the source of all this evil, wickedness, corruption, and violence (cf. Mk. 7:21-23). It affects everyone and everything they do, continually. This is true of man, even from their youth, “for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21). There is no good within man and the evil that is full within overflows to manifest itself without. So, we see here the depth and comprehensiveness of the sin nature.
The fact that Jesus is said to be the anti-type of Adam (Rom. 5:14) and the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45) argues against your point regarding how Christ came into this world. But yes, he also became like us. How does the Scripture define this? Flesh and blood; i.e. true humanity. Again, the connection between Christ and his people is true humanity, not sin or the lack thereof.
Warren: Drew, Genesis 8:21 tells us the imagination of man’s heart is set on wickedness from his youth… not conception, womb or birth. The word translated as YOUTH is the same Hebrew word used to describe the age of David when he faced Goliath and the same word which described the age in which we marry and have children. It speaks of young adulthood. So if man was born set on wickedness that would indeed affirm your position, but the text claims the opposite.
When we read in Genesis 6 we see it speaking of adults and young adults, as it says they corrupted their way… again another phrasing for the Biblical reality that God creates us upright but we go astray into sin becoming corrupted.
When Jesus is said to be an Adam it speaks of the role He played in the life of mankind. The first Adam rebelled and introduced death and bondage. The final Adam obeyed and introduced life. The passages simply make no mention of an inherited condition but rather speak to the enabling act of each.
Drew: Warren, the universality and comprehensiveness of sin as taught in Gen. 6:5, 11-12 speaks against your point. The focus may be on the severity of the manifestation of sin as man grows up, but the Scripture is abundantly clear that this is true of all mankind and the Scripture roots it in our relation to Adam (Gen. 5:3; Rom. 5:12-21). The corruption or pollution is present from the start, but it becomes evidently manifest over time (cf. Ps. 58:3).
“The passages simply make no mention of an inherited condition but rather speak to the enabling act of each.” Enabling? Please demonstrate that. Genesis 5:3 is explicit that Adam had a son after his own likeness, in his own image. The fact that this comes after the Fall is significant. Moses is saying that the descendants of Adam are born in his spiritual likeness and image, which is corrupted by the Fall. That’s why we see the refrain, “and he died” in the following verses. The curse of Adam’s transgression is passed to his posterity. Again, Rom. 5:12-21 speaks of the effect of Adam on all those united to him, which is all humanity. Adam’s sin brought condemnation and death, contra the effect of union with Christ, which brings justification and life. Are you actually saying that Christ’s work enables us to justify ourselves and give ourselves spiritual life? You have to say that if you read enabling into Adam’s sin, placing the emphasis on what we do.
Again, the connection between Christ and his people is true humanity, not sin or the lack thereof. Christ came into this world like us in every respect, sin excepting. Sin is not definitive of true humanity; it is the result of the Fall, which Christ overcomes and brings life (Rom. 5:12ff).
Warren: Drew look at Psalm 58:3 again. The wicked GO ASTRAY from the womb, becoming deaf and growing fangs… in contrast to the righteous who await the Lord’s judgment.
You’re reading a presupposition into these passages and believing they claim something they do not. Simply let the text speak for itself
Drew: Warren, a minimalist response. The Psalmist is affirming that the root of the wickedness being evidenced then goes all the way back to birth. This does not fit your theology unless you want to modify your theology to say that some are born with a sin nature whereas others are born innocent. Even the righteous were born in sin. Their righteousness is not their own, it is the grace of God.
Again, in reference to the main point of your OP, the connection between Christ and his people is true humanity, not sin or the lack thereof.
Warren: All are created innocent and upright, born into a corrupt world which seeks to corrupt and kill us. We go astray into sin, leaving our natural innocence and veloping a sin nature. However, Jesus came in our flesh, like us in every respect and suffered everything we suffer yet He remained innocent, never departing His natural innocence. He died a sinless man and when the Father resurrected Him He conquered the hold of the grave, destroying the works of the devil. Now He makes His appeals to us to be reconciled… come and live. This is what I believe.
If you wish to say all are born in sin means simply that all are born into a corrupt world, then on this we agree. If however you say this means all are born spiritually dead possessing Adam’s guilt and sin nature then I vehemently oppose such a position based on them opposing the Scriptures.
Drew: Warren, I do not merely mean that we are born into a corrupt world. So, no, we are certainly not in agreement. But your statement, “All are created innocent and upright, born into a corrupt world which seeks to corrupt and kill us,” is utterly contradictory. What is a corrupt world if not a corrupt humanity? If it’s a corrupt humanity that corrupts our innocence, then you’re arguing against yourself. Rather, the reason we’re born into a corrupt world is that we ourselves are born corrupt and this is manifested more and more as we grow. All of history argues against you. If your perspective was true, then we would certainly see a more friendly and righteous humanity throughout history. This, however, is not the case.
The reason Jesus was born without sin is due to the miracle of the virgin birth, not because all of humanity is born sinless. The ordinary means of conception brings condemnation and death due to our first parent, Adam (Rom. 5:12ff). Jesus’ birth, as the eternal Son of God, was not ordinary, but extra-ordinary, being conceived by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.
So I say again, the connection between Christ and his people is true humanity, not sin or the lack thereof. As all conversations must have an end, I will leave you to have the last word. I am sure we will have further exchanges on this and other topics.
Warren: And with all those words you reject Christ came in OUR flesh, like US in EVERY RESPECT.
The absence of any single verse teaching as a result of Adam’s transgression all mankind is born spiritually dead possessing Adam’s guilt and sin nature stands as self evident such a position is extra-biblical.
The fact it undermines the incarnation and work of Christ is doubly problematic.