Written Debate On Inherited Sin, between Robert L. Vaughn, Mitchell Street Landmark Baptist Church, Nacogdoches, Texas, and Steven F. Deaton, Loop 287 Church of Christ, Lufkin, Texas: “The Scriptures teach that, as a result of Adam’s fall, all men are born sinners.” Robert Vaughn affirms; Steven Deaton denies.
In 1998 Steven Deaton and I engaged in a written debate on the topic of “Inherited Sin.” I believe we inherit a nature to sin from our first ancestor Adam. Mr. Deaton does not. In his church column in the Lufkin Daily News, May 30, 1998, Steven Deaton challenged Baptists to a public discussion on depravity, offering the proposition “The Scriptures teach that man is born totally, hereditarily depraved and this complete corruption of his nature is the cause of all sin.” Mr. Deaton seemed to suggest someone other than himself engaging in the oral discussion. Recognizing that he was a good writer, and that I am not skilled for oral debate, I wrote Mr. Deaton and proposed that we engage in a written debate on depravity and salvation – which he readily accepted. We corresponded and agreed on the wording of the propositions and the terms of the debate.
We originally planned to publish the two-part debate in the newspaper on consecutive weeks – the first to be printed in the paper one week and the other following the next week. At about this time (October 5-9, 1998) David Bonner (Church of Christ) and Hoyt Chastain (Baptist) debated at the Lufkin Civic Center, Lufkin, Texas. Each affirmed that the church of which he was a member was scriptural in origin, name, doctrine, and practice. Mr. Deaton and I sped up the depravity debate to get it in the Lufkin and Nacogdoches newspapers prior to the Bonner-Chastain debate (I believe it appeared October 3, 1998), and then were not ready to follow up the next week with the salvation debate. Sometime afterward Mr. Deaton sent me his first affirmative on salvation, which I read, made notes on, and then stuck in a file eventually to be forgotten. I had several significant difficulties occurring at this time, and in addition we disbanded our church in Nacogdoches. Mr. Deaton later left Lufkin for Kentucky and that debate was forgotten. I take the primary blame due to my procrastination. At one time much later I contacted Mr. Deaton by e-mail about whether he might want to finish it to post on the Web, but received no reply. The inherited depravity debate is available in print (if you can find the old newspapers), as well as on the WatchmanMag.com web site. I’ve decided to make it available here on my blog for those who might never find it there.
This debate was necessarily brief because it was designed to fit on one page of newspaper print.
ARE YOU BORN IN SIN? Or are you born without sin? Mr. Steven Deaton and I invite you to consider the following proposition:
The Scriptures teach that, as a result of Adam’s fall, all men are born sinners.
DEFINITION OF THE PROPOSITION
- The Scriptures - 66 books inspired by God, often called the Holy Bible [quotations are from the King James Version].
- Teach - cause to know
- Result - something that arises as a consequence of
- Adam’s fall - Adam’s disobedience to God’s command (Genesis 2:16,17) and his subsequent separation from God (Gen. 3).
- All men - the whole number of the human race.
- Born - having certain characteristics from birth.
- Sinner - one that sins.
IMPORTANCE OF THE PROPOSITION
Why should I take time to read this? Is it important? Certainly! The Bible should define all Christian belief. On this subject hangs the very nature of man, the nature of his need, and the nature of his remedy. If we cannot determine the sickness, how can we determine the cure??
PROOF OF THE PROPOSITION
Romans 5:12, 18- Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned; Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. Clearly, by one man (Adam) sin entered into the world. Death comes as a consequence of sin: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die (Gen. 2:17). Death passed upon ALL MEN, not all adults! Romans 6:23 tells us that “the wages of sin is death.” The consequence (death) passed from father to son, therefore, the cause (sin) passed from father to son. Adam was created in God’s image and likeness (Gen. 1:26,27). Everything God made was very good (Gen. 1:31) and there was no death before Adam’s transgression of God’s covenant. Adam begat a son in HIS OWN likeness, after HIS image (Gen. 5:3). Adam, the son in his likeness, and successive generations, died. The intervening element was sin. Many are dead through the offence of ONE, Rom. 5:15. The offence of the one (Adam), not the many (his descendants), is offered as the CAUSE. The reign of death is not by the sins of all, but by the offence of ONE (Adam):...by ONE man’s offence death reigned...(Rom. 5:17). By the offence of ONE judgment came upon ALL...(Rom. 5:18).
By the one act of disobedience of Adam, judgment came upon all men to condemnation. To those who were brought into condemnation (all men), the free gift of justification to life was brought through the one righteous act of Jesus in His substitutionary death on the cross (Rom. 5:18). This guarantees that no one (infants included) will be condemned for Adam’s sin. Only those who do not believe in the name of the only begotten Son of God are condemned. He that believeth on him is not condemned (John 3:18). Jesus died to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). What is the ONE singular sin of THE WHOLE WORLD, both infants and adults? The sin which caused our sin nature! Jesus was sent to be the Saviour of the world, and is a special Saviour to those who believe (I John 4:14; I Tim. 4:10). In what sense can he be the Saviour of ALL MEN? His righteous act took away the Adamic sin for ALL!
1 Corinthians 15:22- For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. This is a parallel passage to Romans 5:12. The context is physical death and bodily resurrection. That ALL DIE IN ADAM directly and distinctly ties the source of death to Adam. All who are in Adam die. ALL DIE, even infants, therefore all are in Adam. All in Adam represents the totality of the human race.
The scriptures teach that both sin and death are universal and that one is the consequence of the other. As the consequence, so the cause. The universality of sin (the cause) and death (the consequence) indicate a common source for both. Romans 5:12 identifies that source - Adam. It is incredible to be asked to believe that ALL are born into the world pure and innocent, but ALL who live to an accountable age sin. How much more consistent that all are born sinners and that all sin. If all are born pure and innocent, it seems at least a few would live without sinning, yet the Bible declares that sin is universal - ALL HAVE SINNED. If all are BORN pure (without sin) and remain so until they choose to sin, how is it that in all the history of the human race, not even one solitary individual has chosen not to sin?
Some verses that teach the universality OF SIN: Rom. 3:23; Gal. 3:22; 1 Kings 8:46; Eccl. 7:20; OF DEATH: Heb. 9:27; 2 Sam. 14:14; Eccl. 3:20; Eccl. 8:8.
Ephesians 2:3- Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were BY NATURE the children of wrath, even as others. Here Paul declares what we are by nature and he implicates all in this nature. This word is used elsewhere in the New Testament to indicate the inherent character or basic constitution of a thing. For example: homosexuality is against the inherent NATURE of men and women, Rom. 1:26,27; uncircumcision is the way of NATURE (the way man is born), Rom. 2:27; those who were born Jews were Jews BY NATURE, Gal. 2:15. Those who are BY NATURE children of wrath are BORN children of wrath. If not, then how does one become a child of wrath?
- All people who are subject to death are in Adam.
- All infants are subject to death.
- Therefore, all infants are in Adam.
- All who die are in Adam.
- All who are in Adam are sinners.
- Therefore, all who die are sinners.
- All who are subject to death are sinners.
- All infants are subject to death.
- Therefore, all infants are sinners.