We all have aspects of reality which our worldview either does not fully answer, or we are uncertain about. In Reconciling The Circularity, I shared my impression that the concept of reconciling real or apparent inconsistencies in the Bible presupposes there is a reconciliation, and additionally presupposes inerrancy. Now I would like to discuss what I call the “mandatory” or “required” sin problem. Whether the Christian Theist ascribes to a form of divine determinism, compatiblism, or libertarian concept of human agency (free will), the mandatory sin problem still appears to obtain.
Personally I subscribe to a weak form of compatiblism. I think for the most part man has a libertarian-esque freedom to make decisions and act unfettered and uncompelled by God. However God may, and does intervene whenever and however He sees fit to achieve His purposes. How often and in what way is purely up to God and unknown to man.
- Psalm 14:1-3 — The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good. The LORD has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men, To see if there are any who understand, Who seek after God. They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one.
- Romans 3:9-10 — What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10as it is written,“THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE”
- Romans 3:23 — for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
The Bible is clear that no one is without sin. There is no distinction between adults or children, all have sinned. Since the Bible claims to contain God’s standard, our opinion as to what constitutes sin is rendered moot. God’s standard is perfection in thought and deed. The only person to remain morally perfect was Jesus (1 Peter 2:22). But it would seem that in order for the Bible to be speaking the truth in these passages, every person must sin, and God potentially might have to intervene at some point and compel a man to sin.
The reason I believe this to be a problem, is because if God were in a position where He would have to compel sin, I — and I think most people — would consider this to be a malicious act, thus violating His perfect character. But on any of the views of human agency, it would seem that, at least hypothetically, God might have to.
Here in lies my concern. If man has even some semblance of freedom make the morally right or morally wrong decision in any given situation, then at least hypothetically, someone could go their entire life making the proper choices. Put another way, someone, at every opportunity to do something morally wrong, could choose to do the morally right thing. But if someone were to make every right decision, then the Bible, in respect to the verses claiming everyone has, does, and will sin is false.
This would put God in the position (hypothetically) to cause this “perfect” person to sin in some way — lest God’s Word be rendered false. In this case, it is not man committing the sin of his own volition, but is rather compelled to do so by Divine fiat. Therefore, God would punish man by judging him to hell for evil deeds of which he had no control — and doing so is not just (for example, if I forced my daughter to steal, then punished her for stealing).
This is not to say that someone ever will live a sin-free life. Just because it’s possible doesn’t mean it will happen. To me, the mere hypothetical possibility is what’s disconcerting. I believe the nature of man is accurately described in the Bible, and that even if it were hypothetically possible, it is not actualizable in reality. Everyone will inevitably sin on their own, of their own volition, and ultimately need a Savior.