From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Original Sin
If by nature, people are able to love God above all things by their own strength, as the scholastics confidently affirm, then what is original sin? What need is there of the grace of Christ if we can be justified by our own powers of righteousness? What is the need of the Holy Spirit if human strength can, by itself, love God above all things and fulfill God's commandments? Is there anyone who cannot see what preposterous thoughts our adversaries entertain? They acknowledge the lighter diseases in the nature of man but not the more severe. Yet Scripture admonishes us of these everywhere, and the prophets constantly complain (Psa 5:9; 13:1-6; 14:1-3; 36:1; 140:3) of carnal security, of the contempt of God, of hatred toward God, and of similar faults that are born with us. For Scripture clearly says that all these things are not blown at us, but that we are born with them. But after the scholastics polluted Christian doctrine with philosophy concerning the perfection of nature (the so-called light of reason), and ascribed to free will and resultant acts more than was sufficient, and taught that men are justified before God by philosophic or civil righteousness (which we also confess to be subject to reason and in a measure, within our power), they could not see the inner impurity of human nature. For this cannot be determined except by the Word of God, which the scholastics do not frequently employ in their discussions.
Pulling It Together: By means of reason, one may understand that without the doctrine of original sin, God must be considered rather foolish. Why would he send his Son to redeem people who were capable of redeeming themselves? Why would Christ then send the Helper when humanity needed no assistance? Scripture teaches, however, the extreme nature of our malady. We are lost altogether and cannot reason our way to God. Nor are we able to work our way into grace and righteousness. We are born in this condition; it is our nature—and in our nature. There is, therefore, nothing that any of us can do, by natural powers, to justify ourselves. We are all corrupt; no one does good because no one is able to do good. This is evident in Scripture, which the Lutherans charged that their opponents rarely used.
Prayer: Lord, help me hear you in your Word. Amen.
Saints and Sinners, Witnesses to the Faith is a seven-session study, and the first in a three-part series by Dr. Dan Lioy, PhD, on Saints and Sinners in the New Testament who were powerful witnesses to the faith in Christ. May this study of saints and sinners enrich your understanding of life with Christ and encourage you in discipleship.