Question:

I came across your article on infant baptism while doing a web search for Scriptures on the topic.  In reading your article, I get the impression that your church does not believe in original sin?  This seems to me like an astonishing view, as it would leave open at least a theoretical possibility for a person to live a sinless life.  If you have the time and could clarify, I'd like to hear your thoughts on this.

To further clarify my own question, as a Lutheran I don't believe we inherit the guilt of specific sins committed by our parents, but I do believe we inherit a sin nature -- an innate will toward sin which in itself is sufficient to separate us from God.  The Lutheran understanding of baptism is identical to that of Catholics: Baptism is the normative means by which we are cleansed of that sin nature.

This does not contradict Ephesians 2:8-9 because baptism is an act performed upon a person, not a work on the part of the recipient.

Answer:

I agree that if sin is not inherited, then it leaves the possibility, in theory, that a person could live a sinless life. And God has informed us that such has happened.

"For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (II Corinthians 5:21).

"For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth" (I Peter 2:21-22).

"And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin" (I John 3:5).

You state that sin itself is not inherited, but that a "sin nature" is inherited and that "sin nature" is sufficient to separate a person from God. This is not what the Bible states. "Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear" (Isaiah 59:1-2). Clearly it is sin that separates a person from God and God defines sin as being the breaking of law (I John 3:4). The separation is not due to the inheritance of a singular sin nature but the personal commitment of many sins.

The idea that sin (or a "sin nature") is inherited leads to the natural dilemma of explaining how Jesus could be born into the world as a man and not be guilty of sin. "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). The Catholics claim that Mary had a miraculous birth where her connection to the inherited sins was broken. Of course, such is not mentioned in the Bible. And it leaves the obvious question of why such a miracle could not have been done directly with Jesus, instead of indirectly with Mary. If a sinless ancestor is required then wouldn't Mary's parents need to also be "disconnected" from this inherited sin nature? And their parents in turn? And before you know it you are back to Adam and Eve arguing that everyone was born disconnected from this inherited sin nature.

Jesus' life proves that man has never been forced to sin. Sin has always been the result of man's free choice and thousands of years of history has shown that men eventually choose to sin (Romans 3:9-23). This matches what Paul stated: "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Romans 5:12). Death did not spread because sin, or a sin nature, was inherited. Paul states that it spread because men personally and actively commit sin. It is universal in the result, but it was never because people did not have a choice. Therefore, Jesus' sinless life proves that we cannot avoid responsibility for our choices.

You state that infants can be baptized because it is external and not a personal work. If such were true, then why don't we get some really strong Christian men and start going around the world dunking people in water whether they want to or not? After all, they are in sin, so let's save them by baptizing them! (See: "An Anecdote from 'Raccoon' John Smith").

But such doesn't work. Baptism is done to a person, but the Scriptures always present it as the result of a person choosing to accept being baptized.

"And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16).

"Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit"" (Acts 2:37-38).

The question was, "What shall we do?" The response was, "Repent and be baptized." Therefore, baptism is something a person chooses to do. Notice that in each of these passages, baptism is not presented as a way to remove a vague "sin nature." Paul was invited to wash away his personal sins. Peter told the people to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins. Both are in the plural and indicate that many sins need to be removed or remitted.

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