Source: The Monthly Record, 2000. 2 pages.

Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 6 - The Fall of Mankind into Sin

From its study of the Providence of God, the Confession of Faith turns in Chapter 6 to look at the doctrine of the Fall of mankind into sin, and the various aspects of this doctrine. At the outset, it tells us that "Our first parents, being seduced by the subtilty and temptation of Satan, sinned in eating the forbidden fruit". This statement implies three things.

The Personal Nature of Sin🔗

Sin is a personal thing. Although we can speak of it abstractly, and talk of the presence of sin, or the presence of evil, the Bible does not allow us to speak of sin except in conjunction with the agents of it. Sin is a personal transaction against a holy and per­sonal God.

The teaching of the Confession is that sin came into the experience of mankind through Adam and Eve, the original and primitive parents of the human race. This assumes their original perfection, a point already noted in the Confession in 4:2. This is important for our apologetics. The hypothesis of evolutionary biology assumes the inherent evil of the race. The stronger exterminate the weaker. There is no place for the weaker to survive. Immorality (or amorality) is built into evolution from the outset. The creation doctrine is quite differ­ent, and teaches that mankind was created with a moral power and a moral obligation.

In consequence, sin was no part of Adam and Eve's original constitution. Sin is no part of the definition of humanness. It is not indispensably necessary to our nature. But, acting freely and willingly, Adam and Eve sinned.

The Confession also registers the fact of the solidarity of the human race by describing Adam and Eve as our parents. The race was in them, both physically and federally. Adam stood at the dawn of history as the biological head and the covenant, representative head of the race. His sin was our sin. We can only explain the fact of sin in our experience through the fact of sin in his. Yet Adam and Eve are not responsible for the sins we commit day by day.

The Devilish Nature of Sin🔗

Satan's role in the fall was one of seduction and temptation. His own perfection and fall have already been alluded to in the Confession (5.4) and he plays a part in the drama of the Fall. In Genesis 3 he tempts Eve by arguing that God will not really fulfill his threat, and by suggesting that she and Adam will be the better by doing what God forbids. Listening to his voice, Eve sins against God.

Paul takes up the fact of Eve's seduction by the devil as an argument in 1 Timothy 2:12-15 against female headship and authority in the church. This is no anti-feminist polemic; Paul himself owed a personal debt to women who provided for his needs as an itinerant missionary. Yet his argument is clear enough. The role of Eve in listening to the devil's voice undergirds the Bible's prohibition to have women in authority in the Church.

Our Lord highlights the fact that sin is the child of hell itself. Turning to the Pharisees of his day, he claimed that they were of their father, the devil (John 8:44), who was a murderer from the beginning. All sin is stamped with Satan's image, and leads to death and hell.

The Objective Nature of Sin🔗

Sin can be defined objec­tively. The Fall consisted in eating forbidden fruit. Ac­cess to the tree of life was possible while the tree of knowledge was preserved. But once the forbidden tree was touched, the way to the tree of life was closed.

Modern theology tends to view sin in subjective terms. It becomes little more than psychological malfunction or personal disorder. It cannot be defined. But the Bible makes it clear that sin can be defined. There is a standard by which an action can be judged sinful. That standard is the holy, peerless law of God. And at last, our account to God will be based not on what we appeared to be to others, but on what we actually became, in the light of God's holy standard of truth.

The enormity of sin is not to be seen in the action committed. Eating fruit is a small thing. But God had forbidden it. The action was one of defiance and wilful rebellion. It may be small in the eyes of some, but it was great in the eyes of God. And it plunged the world into misery, as sin always does.

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