Scientists once thought there was a physical substance called phlogiston that was released when things burned. It was interesting stuff because it had no color, odor, taste, or weight. In other words, it was undetectable. They speculated that the ash was the essence of wood after the phlogiston escaped. Then they discovered that combustion is a chemical process, and discarded the false notion of phlogiston as not corresponding to anything in the real world.
Likewise, scientists once thought there was a physical substance called the ether that was required to carry light waves. They could not conceive how light could travel through a vacuum. They thought that all waves, like sound waves in the air or waves in the water, needed a medium to undulate. The Michelson-Morley experiment showed that it, like the phlogiston before it, was undetectable. Apparently, scientists had had enough with "undetectable substances", and so they discarded the false notion of the ether too.
In both of these cases, science advanced by recognizing that the physical substances postulated in their theories did not correspond to anything in the real world. Attempts to formulate theories based on such false notions of reality were doomed to failure.
The same is true for the Christian understanding of the world that God created.
I think the idea of the "sin nature" is the theological equivalent of phlogiston and ether.
It does not correspond to anything in the real world addressed in Scripture.
It seems that theologians have confused the very real and biblical teaching about the flesh with a theological construct called the "sin nature." Most of them speak as if it is some sort of physical contagion transmitted to the next generation only by the father, an idea they use to "explain" why Christ had to be born of a virgin.
Clarification of this issue brings a lot of light to our study of the Bible. For example, most people have been taught that we sin "because we have a sin nature." But that immediately raises the question of why Adam and Eve sinned, since they were created without a "sin nature." Once the "sin nature" is exposed as a false notion, we can easily see the elegant solution to this ancient conundrum. Adam and Eve were created as fleshly creatures, just like you and me. And what does the flesh do when it is not subject to the guidance of God's Spirit?
It can't help it. How could it? It doesn't know what the mind of the Spirit is! How can it know the will of God? All it knows is its own desires and lusts. The flesh by itself can not please God. It is like a horse without a rider, run wild.
But remember, the flesh is not sinful by nature. True, it is very weak, and prone to sin, but we know it can not be intrinsically sinful because the Word (Christ) became flesh and dwelt amongst us, yet without sin. And again, we have proof from Genesis that the flesh is not intrinsically sinful. Adam and Eve were created as fleshly creatures, but had no sin until they disobeyed God.
So how did Adam and Eve sin without having a sin nature?
Simple! They were fleshly creatures, and the story makes it abundantly clear they were not in conscious communion with God when they sinned! And so, they acted as fleshly creatures not guided by God, and sinned. (Note how this relates to the challenges of our daily walk!) This is further confirmed by the description of what led up to their sin:
Genesis 3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat
Sounds like a very fleshly temptation! Compare this with the classic sin passage:
1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (make one wise?), is not of the Father, but is of the world.
So there it is. That's the basic idea I was hoping to share in this post. I think it leads to a magnificent harmony between Scripture and Reality that actually makes sense. And it is extremely satisfying to have a full understanding of Scripture without a mystical undetectable substance that has no "color, odor, taste, or weight."
There is much more to say on this matter, but I will wait for a response to what has been written. I am curious if these ideas make sense to other folks, and if not, why not.
I look forward to your comments.