Understanding The Bible
Clarence E. Mason's "HAMARTIOLOGY"


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


    1. Transmission of sin nature accounts for universality of personal sin.
      The law of generation by any living thing is "reproduction 'after its kind.'" What happened to Adam when he sinned has been transmitted to all the human race. The whole race is viewed as being present in Adam, its natural head; when he sinned, they sinned (Rom. 5:12).

      Adam became a sinner by sinning. Every other member of the human race, except Christ, sins because he is a sinner by birth. Thus, with Adam the sin nature is the effect and his sin was the cause. But with others the sin nature is the cause and the sins are the effect.

    2. Description of the sin nature.

      1. With respect to the understanding - BLINDNESS

      2. With respect to the conscience - INSENSIBILITY (not extinction)

        It is the corruption, defilement, and pollution of nature, bringing guilt upon the sinner (Gen. 8:21; Ps. 14:2-3; Rom. 3:9-19; Ps. 51:5; Jer. 17:5, 9; Jn. 3:6; Eph. 2:3; Gal. 5:17-21).

    3. Theories of imputation of sin
      Read Romans 5:12-21. (For further discussion you may refer to Chafer, Vol. 2, pp. 299-310.)

      1. Pelagian view: that Adam's sin affected only himself.
        Pelagius (AD~409), a leader in the early church, who held to the thought that mankind was not affected at all by the fall of Adam and Eve, except that man had before him the force of a bad example. Beyond this there is no relationship between the sin of Adam and our fallen condition. Every human being is born as free from sin as was Adam.

        Answer: The Word of God teaches us that man has a fallen, sinful nature.  "Men do not fall by their first sin. They are born the fallen sons of Adam." "Men do not become sinful by sinning; but they sin because by nature they are sinful" (Rom. 5:12-14; 1 Cor. 15:22).

      2. Semi-Pelagian (or Arminian) view: that man is not accounted guilty of Adam's sin; it is not imputed to him; he is however, destitute of original righteousness.

        Adam's nature is passed on, but only as an evil tendency. God gives to each individual at the dawn of consciousness a special gift which will aid him to be righteous if he cooperates with it. Man is not guilty at all until he commits sin. If he cooperates with God, he can be righteous. [This view is also held by the Greek Orthodox Church]

        Answer: Man has sinned in Adam and is therefore guilty before he commits personal sin.

      3. The Federal Head view (Cocceius and Turretsin, c. 1660): that God made Adam the representative of the race and entered into covenant with him as Federal Head of the race. Thus God immediately creates each soul of Adam's posterity with a corrupt nature which leads to acts of sin and is itself sin. The corruption of our nature is not the cause of the imputation of Adam's sin, but the effect of it. We sinned in our representative, Adam.

        Answer: There is no mention in Scripture of this Covenant of Grace asserted by the Reformed theology's "Covenant theology" adherents. The theory also impugns the justice of God in representing Him as immediately creating each soul with a corrupt nature. We hold that corruption precedes imputation and accounts for it.

      4. The Mediate Imputation view (Placeus, 1644): that all men are born physically and morally depraved; that this depravity is the source of all actual sin and is itself sin.

        The physical depravity has descended by natural propagation from Adam, and the soul is immediately created by God, but it becomes actively corrupt as soon as it is united with the body. This native depravity is the only thing God imputes to man, but merely as the consequence of Adam's sin and not the penalty therefor.

        Hence, Adam's sin is imputed mediately, and not immediately. According to the Federal theory, imputation is the cause of depravity. According to this theory, depravity is the cause of imputation. Thus, "all have sinned" by having a sin nature (Rom. 5:12).

        Answer: Depravity is made an arbitrary infliction of God, since we had no part in originating it. Depravity is therefore our misfortune and not our fault. Thus, it destroys the Scriptural parallelism between Adam and Christ.

      5. The Augustinian view (AD 400): that Adam's sin is imputed to his posterity because all sinned in Adam, their natural head (e.g., Heb. 7:9-10).

        Man possesses a corrupt nature and is unable to save himself. Adam's sinful nature is transmitted to the race by natural generation in the same way physical life is passed on to posterity. Adam's sin is imputed to us, not as something foreign to us, but something properly ours.

        Because he is the son of Adam, man is lost and undone, incapable of doing anything good at all until he is saved. His estate under sin is delineated in such passages as Rom. 3:9; 7:14; Gal. 3:22; Col. 1:13; Eph. 2:2; 2 Cor. 4:3-4; 1 Jn. 5:19.

        This is the view held by Luther, Calvin, Shedd, Strong, and others. It is generally held at PCB.


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