Understanding The Bible
Clarence E. Mason's "HAMARTIOLOGY - The Doctrine of SIN"


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Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible

    Evolution says that our race has painfully struggled upward from a state of savagery.

    Scripture is irreconcilably opposed to this theory. Indeed, Romans l:18ff. would definitely lead to the opposite conclusion of "devolution" rather than evolution, i.e., the direction has been downward.

    The historical conditions of many nations prove the opposite.
    1. Biblical teaching (Gen. 1:31)
      1. Intellect - power to know (cp. the fact that Adam named the animals)
      2. Sensibility - power to feel
      3. Will - power to choose (note his authority over animals)
      4. Moral state of man
        Some theologians speak of man as being innocent; others speak of him as being holy. If innocence implies immaturity or being like a child, it cannot be affirmed. The maturity and perfection of man in all other regards suppose that he is mature in respect to right moral action (cp. Eccl. 7:29; Col. 3:10). Neither was it a complete holiness such as that which is an attribute of God. (Some urge that innocence does not imply immaturity but simply an untainted state, with righteousness being obtainable through obedience and sin through disobedience.)

        (a) The knowledge possessed by Adam and Eve before the fall was different from that after (Genesis 2:25; cp. 3:7). "Originally man was conscious of holiness, and had no con­sciousness of sin. . .There are two ways of knowing sin:
            (i) As the sinner knows it, and
            (ii) As the saint knows it. . . Holy man was ignorant of sin; and sinful man was ignorant of holiness. " (Shedd)
        (b) Man's original condition entailed a disposition and inclination which was harmonious with the character of God. Law and will were one (1 Tim. 1:8).
      5. Note circumstances surrounding first man
        1. Perfect environment
        2. A clear responsibility
        3. Communion with God
        4. Given a help(er), meet for (suited to) him
        5. Placed under probation
        6. Had an adversary
    2. Probation (Gen. 2:8-9,15-17)
      Necessary in order to test their loyalty to God by obedience or disobedience to God's command.

      Purpose: to transform their sinless nature into holy character. There had to be the opportunity for this, even though it involved the possi­bility of disobedience and the resultant sinful character. Their virtue, apart from testing, was simply passive--absence of evil. There must be active moral character and this involves a test.

      The test (Gen. 2:17a)
      A moral command carries its own reason for obedience (e.g., the ten commandments).
      A positive command involves merely personal right (e.g., God with Abraham and Isaac, Gen. 22). Genesis 2:17 is a positive command. The tree of knowledge of good and evil was simply the occasion by which God made known His will, the ground of testing. It was God's right to command; it was the duty of Adam and Eve to obey.


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