Louis Berkhof – The Results of the First Sin

systematic-theology The first transgression of man had the following results:

1. The immediate concomitant of the first sin, and therefore hardly a result of it in the strict sense of the word, was the total depravity of human nature. The contagion of his sin at once spread through the entire man, leaving no part of his nature untouched, but vitiating every power and faculty of body and soul. This utter corruption of man is clearly taught in Scripture, Gen. 6:5; Ps. 14:3; Rom. 7:18. Total depravity here does not mean that human nature was at once as thoroughly depraved as it could possibly become. In the will this depravity manifested itself as spiritual inability.

2. Immediately connected with the preceding was the loss of communion with God through the Holy Spirit. This is but the reverse side of the utter corruption mentioned in the preceding paragraph. The two can be combined in the single statement that man lost the image of God in the sense of original righteousness. He broke away from the real source of life and blessedness, and the result was a condition of spiritual death, Eph. 2:1, 5, 12; 4:18.

3. This change in the actual condition of man also reflected itself in his consciousness. There was, first of all, a consciousness of pollution, revealing itself in the sense of shame, and in the effort of our first parents to cover their nakedness. And in the second place there was a consciousness of guilt, which found expression in an accusing conscience and in the fear of God which it inspired.

4. Not only spiritual death, but physical death as well resulted from the first sin of man. From a state of posse non mori he descended to a state of non posse non mori. Having sinned, he was doomed to return to the dust from which he was taken, Gen. 3:19. Paul tells us that by one man death entered the world and passed on to all men, Rom. 5:12, and that the wages of sin is death, Rom. 6:23.

5. This change also resulted in a necessary change of residence. Man was driven from paradise, because it represented the place of communion with God, and was a symbol of the fuller life and greater blessedness in store for man, if he continued steadfast. He was barred from the tree of life, because it was the symbol of the life promised in the covenant of works.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER STUDY. What different theories are there as to the origin of sin? What Scriptural proof is there that sin originated in the angelic world? Can the allegorical interpretation of the narrative of the fall be maintained in the light of Scripture? Is there any place for the fall in the theory of evolution? Did God will the fall of man or did He merely permit it? Does our Reformed doctrine make God the author of sin? What objections are there to the notion that the souls of men sinned in a previous existence? Was God justified in making the spiritual state of mankind in general contingent on the obedience or non-obedience of the first man? What do Barth and Brunner mean when they speak of the fall of man as super-historical? Why is it that the doctrine of the covenant of works finds so little acceptance outside of Reformed circles? What accounts for the widespread neglect of this doctrine in our day? Why is it important to maintain this doctrine?

LITERATURE: Bavinck, Geref. Dogm. III. pp. 605–624; III, pp. 1–60; Kuyper. Dict. Dogm., De Foedere, pp. 23–117; De Peccato, pp. 17–26; Vos, Geref. Dogm. II, pp. 32–54; Hodge, Syst. Theol., pp. 117–129; Dabney, Syst. and Polem Theol., pp. 332–339; Alexander, Syst. of Bibl. Theol. I, pp. 183–196; 216–232; Schmid, Doct. Theol. of the Ev. Luth. Ch., pp. 239–242; Valentine, Chr. Theol. I, pp. 416–420; Litton, Introd. to Dogm. Theol., pp. 133–136; Pope, Chr. Theol., II, pp. 3–28; II, p. 108; Raymond, Syst. Theol. II, pp. 50–63; 99; 111; Macintosh, Theol. as an Empirical Science, pp. 216–229; McPherson, Chr. Dogm., pp. 220–242; Orr, God’s Image in Man; pp. 197–240; Candlish, The Bibl. Doct. of Sin, pp. 82–89; Talma, De Anthropologie van Calvijn, pp. 69–91; Kuyper, Uit het Woord, De Leer der Verbonden, pp. 3–221; Tennant, The Origin and Propagation of Sin; ibid, The Concept of Sin.

Berkhof, L. (1938). Systematic theology (pp. 225–226). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing co.

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