doctrine of original sin and the church

The doctrine of original sin teaches that every single human being who ever was, is, or shall be inherited from Adam a sinful nature that makes us predisposed to wickedness and rebellion against God. Because of the fall, we are hardwired towards evil. We sinned in Adam and died through his trespass, inheriting his guilt and a corrupt nature (see Romans 5:12-21). We are born into the world with a bent towards evil and in need of a Savior.

If the doctrine of original sin can give us a more accurate view of our own history, it can also give us a more realistic appraisal of the world’s future.

The doctrine of original sin can also help the church from drifting away from what matters most. The danger of incessant polling and trend watching is that the church’s target will always be changing. We will be forever doomed to chase relevance, manage people’s perceptions of the church, and catch up with the cutting edge. The nice thing about the doctrine of original sin is that it focuses our attention on issues that are a little more timeless. People will always be sinners. So our main problem is not lack of integration or balance, or lack of success or education, or even poverty and injustice, as serious as these problems can be. Our main problem will always be sin. And hence, we are always in need of a Savior.

The doctrine of original sin forces us to take a more honest look at ourselves and our remaining indwelling sin. This goes for all of us church goers and church leavers. Church goers need to admit that they don’t always look much like Christ. Many of them need to own some responsibility for the negative impression people have of the church. Others need to see that they live in a wacky Christian subculture that, for all its blessings, looks strange to outsiders. Churches need to realize they have often been more adept at welcoming clean-cut, suburban families than pierced, indie-rocker, artist types. The church needs to follow up with those who leave and be patient and humble enough to hear their complaints, whether they prove to be justified or not. And disgruntled “church stinks” crowd needs to be careful that their disillusionment does not become an idol, that they do not find their identity in being jaded. And ask yourself, “What am I not disgruntled about?”

The church will be full of sin so long as she is full of sinners. But as sinful and mess as the church makes itself to be it is still the beautiful Bride of Jesus Christ.

The church is not an accidental part of God’s plan. Jesus didn’t invite people to join an antirelgion, antidoctrine, anti-institutional bandwagon of love, harmony, and reintegration. To be sure, He showed people how to live. But He also called them to repent, called them to faith, called them out of the world, and called them into the church.

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:7). If we truly love the church we will bear with her in her failings, endure her struggles, believe her to be the beloved bride of Christ, and hope for her final glorification. I still believe the church is the hope of the world–not because she gets it all right, but because she is a body with Christ for her Head.

Don’t give up on the church. The New Testament knows nothing of churchless Christianity. The invisible church is for invisible Christians. The visible church is for you and me.

This is adapted from the book, Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion [Kevin DeYoung & Ted Kluck, Moody Publishers Chicago, IL. 2009] pgs.208-226.


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