Questions and Answers on Man and Sin

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These questions and answers are from the Student Catechism.

70.  Why is there moral evil in the world?

God made beings (angels and humans) with the freedom to choose between good and evil. Many of these free creatures chose evil over good.

71.  Why did God make free creatures?

God wanted His creatures to have a personal love relationship with Him. Love implies freedom. “Forced love” is a contradiction.

72.  Did God need someone to love?

God didn’t create to fulfill some need that He had, for God has no needs. Rather He created out of the fullness of the love which the three members of the Trinity have toward each other. The Trinity made the human race in order to share their love with creatures made in their image, just as human parents want to share their mutual love with the children they procreate.

73.  Does God honor us by making us in His image?

It indeed honors us for the transcendent, infinite God to make us in His own image in order to enjoy personal fellowship with us. We must be incredibly special to Him, for He made us even though He knew the grief which our rebellion would cause.

74.  Why, then, do people suffer?

Suffering is the natural consequences of the moral evil in the world. The world is full of suffering because the world is full of evil. Even innocent people suffer because the world does not distribute its curse fairly. Just as it rains on the just and the unjust (a positive thing), so also pain comes to both the just and the unjust.

75.  What is the image of God in man?

Part of the image of God in man is personality (including the mind, the will, and emotions), morality (the capacity to be holy), and spirituality (we have a spirit that will never cease to exist).

76.  How did man break his original holy relationship with God?

The first man, Adam, disobeyed God in the garden of Eden. This was an offense against a holy God, who cannot tolerate sin.

77.  What were the effects of sin?

In the Fall, Adam became guilty, separated from God spiritually, and corrupted in his nature. He also began to die physically and brought a curse of death on all of the earth. He lost the moral image of God, and other aspects of God’s image in man (such as man’s rationality) were damaged severely.

78.  How did Adam’s Fall affect us?

We are all born with inherited depravity and live in corruptible bodies with weakened intellectual and emotional capacities. Though grace can cleanse us now of inherited depravity, only the resurrection will restore immortal physical bodies to humanity.

79.  Are human bodies sinful since they are subject to death?

Sin is not physical. Inherited depravity is a spiritual, moral condition. However, sin has a destructive effect on the body.

80.  Why are we depraved because of Adam’s sin?

As the first man, Adam was chosen by God to represent the whole human race. All of Adam’s descendants (connected organically to him) suffered because of his disobedience. The human race is sinful because Adam sinned (Romans 5:12).

81.  Were we made guilty by Adam’s sin?

We were not made guilty by Adam’s sin. We inherited a tendency to fall into sin, and we inevitably do fall into sin, but we did not participate in the original sin of Adam. Romans 5:14 teaches that Adam’s descendants did not sin in the same manner as Adam himself did. If we did not sin with Adam, we are not guilty of that sin. Ezekiel 18:20teaches that the son shall not bear the sin of the father. We certainty are suffering the consequences of Adam’s sin because we are biologically connected to him, but we cannot be justly condemned to hell simply because of inherited depravity.

82.  What are the two basic kinds of sin?

The two basic kinds of sin are inherited depravity, which is the corruption of our nature that inclines us toward sinning, and acts of sin.

83.  How does scripture support the idea that all persons are born with inherited depravity?

Among scriptures that teach the doctrine of inherited depravity are Genesis 8:21 (the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth), Psalm 51:5 (in sin did my mother conceive me), Jeremiah 17:9 (the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked), and Romans 5:12-21 (by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, for that all have sinned).

84.  What are the biblical terms for inherited depravity?

Biblical terms for inherited depravity include: Indwelling Sin (Romans 7), Law of Sin (Romans 78), Flesh (Romans 8), Sin (I John 1:71:8Romans 5-8), and Body of Sin (Romans 6:6).

85.  What are the theological terms for the Sin we inherited from Adam?

Theological terms for this Sin include: Original sin, Inherited Depravity, Inbred Sin, Inherent Depravity, Racial Depravity, Adamic Depravity, and the Carnal Nature.

86.  What are the two categories of actual sin?

According to John Wesley, acts of sin can be divided into sins “properly so-called” and sins “improperly so-called.”

87.  What are sins “properly so-called?”

Sins “properly so-called” are willful transgressions against a known law of God. This is the normal biblical definition of sin. I John is a good example of a Biblical book that certainly treats sin as willful and knowing. Willful, knowing sin brings condemnation.

88.  What are sins “improperly so-called?”

Sins “improperly so-called” are unintentional transgressions. The Bible doesn’t usually refer to unintentional transgressions of the law as sin. However, we do have references to sins of ignorance in Leviticus 45 and Numbers 15. These sins of ignorance needed a blood sacrifice. Therefore, there is a sense in which all transgressions of the law of God, whether intentional or not, could be called sin. But since this is not generally the way the term ‘‘sin” is used in the Bible, Wesley called these sins “improperly so-called.”

Mark Bird
Mark Bird is Professor of Theology and Apologetics at God's Bible School and College.