10. Don't Blame It All On Adam
Man's problem is called moral depravity. It is a voluntary condition, requiring a total moral transformation. External remedies will not work.
Man needs more than behavior modification. He needs a new heart, that is, a complete change of ultimate choice. A new heart will correct a person's behavior. Without a new heart, behavior will regress, reverting back to the self-commitment of the will.
But change the direction of the will, and the life will change.
"Moral depravity is depravity of free-will, not of the faculty itself, but of its free action. Depravity of the will as a faculty is, or would be, physical and not moral depravity. Moral depravity is depravity of choice." 73
The most common Greek word in the New Testament for "sin" is hamartia. It means "missing the mark." In other words, sin is aiming at the wrong target, striving for the wrong goal, living for the wrong end.
Virtue is living for God. Sin is living for self.
Remember, all choices of means are made with the purpose of securing the end chosen. Consequently, the character of the end determines the character of the means. What we are living for detemines how we are going to live and the moral character of our living. The motive of the heart counts for everything, because it is the reason why we do what we are doing.
So then, a person's total moral character is determined by what he is living for. If he is living for God, he is morally right one hundred percent. If he is living for self, he is morally wrong one hundred percent.
If self is the ultimate preference of the soul, the total moral character of the person is selfish. While this selfish ultimate preference continues, he does nothing to please God, and can do nothing to please God; for if pleasing God were his motivation, he would order his whole life accordingly.
"So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God" (Rom. 8:8). They miss the mark. Holding onto the wrong end, everything they do is wrong. It is selfish. It is sinful.
That means, then, that every unconverted person is totally, morally depraved, without any real moral goodness in him. He does nothing consciously that is contrary to the selfish ultimate purpose that motivates him. He is pursuing this purpose with all his heart according to all the knowledge and opportunity he has. He is totally self-committed, and therefore totally guilty.
But why is selfishness so universal, and why is everyone of us so committed to self-gratification to start with that to save even some of us, God has to use the most powerful persuasions to pry us away from selfishness and win our hearts to Himself?
The most common explanation is to say that we were all born that way, that we all were born with a sinful "nature" down inside of us that craves sin and causes us to commit sin.
Whether we agree with this explanation or not is influenced largely by how we have been taught to interpret certain Scriptures (e.g., Ps. 51:5;58:3; Rom. 5:12-19).
Finney was quite opposed to this doctrine of original sin. For one thing, he did not believe that the Bible really teaches that we are born with a sinful nature or a natural dispostion toward sin per se.
Also, Finney believed that the idea of original sin inherited by the whole human race from Adam involves a wrong concept of what sin is. Sin is a choice, not a substance. It is moral, not physical or metaphysical. It is a choice that we are responsible for, individually and personally. It is not an accident or misfortune that happened to us, but a crime that we commit and are accountable for.
"Moral depravity consists in selfishness, or in the choice of self-interest, self-gratification, or self-indulgence as an end. Consequently it cannot consist in a sinful constitution or in a constitutional...craving for sin. Moral depravity is sin itself, and not the cause of sin.
"To talk of a sinful nature...is to ascribe sinfulness to the Creator, who is the author of nature.
"It is a monstrous and blasphemous dogma that a holy God is angry with any creature for possessing a nature with which he was sent into being without his knowledge or consent.
"If sin necessarily implies a sinful nature, how did Adam and Eve sin? How did angels sin? Had they also a sinful nature?
"Can we not account for Eve eating the forbidden fruit without supposing that she had a craving for sin? Her craving was for the fruit, for knowledge, and not for sin. This led to prohibited indulgence. All men sin in precisely the same way. They consent to gratify, not a craving for sin, but a craving for other things, and the consent to make self-gratification an end is the whole of sin.
"I object to the doctrine of constitutional sinfulness that it makes all sin, original and actual, a mere calamity, and not a crime.
"Upon this supposition, the law is tyranny and the gospel an insult to the unfortunate.
"What! Create them with a sinful nature, from which proceed by a law of necessity actual transgressions, and then send them to an eternal hell for having this nature, and for transgressions that are unavoidable! Impossible!
"The Bible...intimates that Adam's first sin has in some way been the occasion, not the necessary physical cause, of all the sins of men.
"James says that a man is tempted when he is drawn aside of his own lusts and enticed.... Paul and other inspired writters represent sin as consisting in a carnal or fleshly mind,...in minding the flesh.
"The representations of Scripture are that the body is the occasion of sin. The law in his members, that warred against the law of his mind, of which Paul speaks [Romans 7] is manifestly the impulse of the sensibility opposed to the law of the reason.
"Selfish choice is the wicked heart.... This sinful choice is properly enough called indwelling sin.
"Moral depravity in our first parents was induced by temptation.... All moral depravity commences in substantially the same way. The impulses of the sensibility are developed gradually...from...birth. The first acts of will are in obedience to these. A habit of self-indulgence is formed. When reason affirms moral obligation, it finds the will in a state of...committal to the impulses of the sensibility.
"Selfishness confirms, strengthens and perpetuates itself.... It grows with the sinner's growth, strengthens with his strength, and will do so forever unless overcome by the Holy Spirit through the truth.
"The constitution of a moral being as a whole, when all the powers are developed, does not tend to sin, but strongly in an opposite direction. When reason is thoroughly developed by the Holy Spirit, it is more than a match for the sensibility, and turns the heart to God. The Holy Spirit reveals God and the spiritual word,...so as to give reason the control of the will. This is regeneration and sanctification." 74
So then, sin is not a thing--a solid, liquid, gas, electrical impulse, radio wave, ray or some mystical substance that pollutes our blood stream.
Sin is a choice. It is not just a thought. It is a commitment. It is not something that sits inside of us and makes us do bad things. Sin is inside of us only in the sense that choices take place inside of us.
Our moral choices are not determined by anything internal or external. We determine them ourselves. When we choose whom we will serve, that's whom we will serve until we choose otherwise.
Internal and external influences appeal to us to choose in their direction, but they cannot force us to do so. Our attention is continually addressed by considerations that tend to stir up feelings. Many of these feelings are normal and proper. Some are not. In either case we can keep our feelings under subjection to reason and to the higher interests of God, others and even ourselves, or we can surrender to them and let them rule us in spite of the consequences to God, others and even to ourselves.
The surrender of the will to be controlled by the desires is sin when it is done under light and in opposition to the reason. It is deliberately placing the demands of desire above the values presented to us by reason and the revealed Word of God.
So then, we do not have to look any futher than our own desires and the things that stimulate our desires to find the cause of temptation and the reason for sin. People are doing what they feel like doing instead of what they know they ought to do. It all adds up to selfishneses--a refusal to love.