Northview "Worldviews 101"
Q & A Page

Feel free to Email your questions that arise during the "Worldviews 101" class sessions. The teacher, Dr. Rich Knopp, will offer some responses on this page. (For the teacher's bio information, click here.) Please note that these answers express my own responses to submitted questions; they do not necessarily represent the official views of Lincoln Christian University or of Northview Church.

For a description of all six of the Northview class sessions on "Worldviews 101," click here. (This event will be broadcast by video for Northview's West Lafayette campus delayed by one week.)

Questions/Answers

(1) Questions about human depravity. While taking the online world view "test," a student encountered a question about human depravity and would like some explanation about it. Some Christians hold that, because of Adam's sin, all humans are conceived or born with a "guilty sin nature." Other Christians maintain that "we are born only with a tendency to sin," not with actual guilt that stems from Adam's sin. Is this like "arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? What does it matter as far as the actual working of the church?"

RESPONSE:
This is one of those difficult questions that Christians have been discussing and debating for centuries. It is an important question, yet I believe that genuine Christians can disagree on their answers to it. If we take the view that Adam's guilt is necessarily transmitted in some way to all human descendants, then we face the problem of how Jesus avoids the same guilt. Roman Catholic theology attempted to resolve this problem by invoking the doctrine of "immaculate conception." The conception here does not refer to Jesus' conception, but to his mother, Mary. Since she was miraculously conceived in an immaculate way, then she avoids Adam's guilt and provides a sinless womb for Jesus' conception and birth.

Personally, I do not believe that all humans are born with the guilt of Adam's sin. Instead, I hold that all humans (and our world in general) suffer incredible damage because of Adam's sin. As a result of Adam's sin, physical death currently reigns. But also because of Adam's sin, the condition and very environment of our existence is fallen; and this condition essentially makes it inevitable that humans will sin. Fortunately, one human, who was also God, was obedient to the point of death (Phil 2:8), and even though he was tempted as we are, yet he had no sin (Heb 4:15).

If we take the view that we are damaged rather than guilty because of Adam's sin, this seems to suggest that infants and very small children are not yet lost sinners in need of God's specific forgiveness. On the other hand, if they are guilty in sin and thus spiritually "lost," then it is difficult to see how they can be saved. Roman Catholic theology uses infant baptism as the means to bring forgiveness to such infants. But even if we simply hold that faith is necessary for forgiveness, it is difficult to see how such an infant can truly "believe." As a result, I think it makes more sense to talk about an "age of accountability"--a difficult-to-specify age when someone personally and volitionally chooses to sin. If we take this view, then those who tragically die in infancy are safe in the arms of God. At least metaphorically, Jesus put it this way when referring to the little children: "Of such is the kingdom of God" (Mt 19:14; Mk 10:14; Lk 18:16).

I hope this addresses your questions and offer some guidance for further thinking. I hope you can see that different answers to this question produce very significant consequences; whereas it's totally insignificant how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

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