Was Christ’s Human Nature Sinful?

3 Mar

Straight off the bat this might seem a ridiculous question to ask. But it can have massive ramifications on your theology.

In 2009 this question was posed to me by one of my lecturers in the form of an essay for assessment.

Here in full is my essay, I hope you find it useful.

You may also want to hear what Dr. Piper has to say on essentially the same topic:

“Talk to my hand because the face, it is no longer listening.”


7 Responses to “Was Christ’s Human Nature Sinful?”

  1. Perry Robinson 05/03/2010 at 6:38 am #

    Here are some better questions. Does willing otherwise always mean willing the opposite? That is, is goodness one thing or no?

    Some notes on your paper below.

    Letham is mistaken because this is a false analogy. The counselor is trying to fix a problem that can be fixed from an external position. This isn’t true of our fallen state. 2nd it confuses doing the act (person) with the condition (nature). The fallenness position only commits one to the idea that Jesus’ inherited our natural corruption, not that it was possible for him to do sinful acts. The point about Christ becoming a woman to redeem women seems also to be off point, since according to Paul, man is the head or source, so assuming man, he assumes both. The differences in the life of Christ have to do with the different kind of person he is, a divine person whereas the fallenness view posits an inherited state with respect to nature. If Christ’s humanity was free from the effects of the fall, then he shouldn’t have had to work for his food either and wouldn’t be mortal. There is another error to be concerned here, that of apthartodocetism, the idea that Jesus’ humanity was already deified, but he permits suffering to occur. To be fallen is to have sinned against God only if we presuppose a certain understanding of original sin which tends to conflate person and nature. But not everyone does so and so this begs the question. Children inherit a corrupt condition before they perform sinful acts.

    The material from Hebrews on the high priest not paying for his own sins leaves the fallen view untouched since Christ can inherit our corruption without compromising his personal impeccability. If the image is altered by human choices then this entails that human choices can alter the divine will since God wills human nature to be a certain way. Moreover, human nature would be different for different persons since each person wills in his own way. The image isn’t lost, just the likeness.

    The virgin birth doesn’t keep Christ form inheriting Joseph’s guilt since guilt can’t be inherited, only natures can. And no, the idea of inherited guilt has not been the universal position of the Church. The Orthodox never held to this view for example.

    As for temptation and the army example, it seems a more powerful witness that Christ experiences our temptations and overcomes them. Lethem then is wrong if Christ is a divine person, he could have inherited a corrupt human nature and still triumphed. The question is, is Jesus a divine person only or a divine and human person? (WCF8.2)

  2. Larry 05/03/2010 at 8:05 pm #

    If Christ inherited our sinful nature we would be doomed. Sin evidences our sinfulness; it does not make us sinful.

    Good essay Sam. – Looking fwd to tackling this topic at Emmanuel’s Systematics group on Sunday!

  3. Perry Robinson 05/03/2010 at 10:39 pm #


    Since God is the creature and sustainer of all natures, there is no sinful nature. There are good natures that are corrupted by a deficiency in divine power. Sin is in the use of the nature and not natural.

  4. Perry Robinson 05/03/2010 at 10:42 pm #

    Opps!, Should be “God is the creator and sustainer…”

  5. Larry 06/03/2010 at 4:38 pm #

    Dear Perry,
    Whilst not wanting to argue on someone else’s post, what then becomes of Romans 8: 3 “By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh”, emphasis on “sinful flesh”.

    Do you really want to say there is a deficiency in God? Because non of God’s attributes are split up apart from one another. If there is a defiency in His power then there is by implication a deficiency in every other attribute within Him. At which point the entire Bible falls down and becomes a lie, for Christianity is built at every step on the truth that God has no faults or defiencies….

  6. Perry Robinson 06/03/2010 at 6:14 pm #


    The question is, what does “likeness” mean? Ther are a variety of concepts that that English term can pick out. I’d argue that Paul has in mind, after the pattern of or a recapitulation of, as he does in Romans 6.

    God destroys the power of sin in the flesh of Christ, not extrinsically, but from the inside out.to use a modern image,Neo goes into Smith and breaks him from the inside out. He condemns or breaks sin in the flesh of Christ.

    Why would noting a lack of divine power and a disordered state in Christ’s humanity to which he is hypostatically united and not essentially so, imply a deificiency in the divine essence? The relation is asymetrical. The deficiency is in his human nature in which the divine persons subsists, unless you think because Christ is one divine person he must have one nature too, but that isn’t a Chalcedonian Christology, but Monophysite.

    Does Christ being ignorant of the day or hour imply a splitting up of divine “attributes” too?

    Secondly, attributes aren’t properties. They are predications made of a simple object in which all the things that are true of it are one and the same thing. They are aspectual and not featuritive. They do not pick out parts or different objects. They are judgments we make about an object for which we lack a single term to cover all those truths. The difference is in us and not in God.

    I don’t think God has attributes, since I don’t share the Latin tradition of thinking God is simple in that way. Consequently, it wouldn’t follow that even if we took the fallen view to imply a deificiency in one of the divine properties that it is true of all of them since one doesn’t reduce to the other.

    Biblically, Christ took on human ignorance and human weaknesses no matter whose gloss on the humanity of Christ we take. If God qua divine person of Christ doesn’t have these, then a mere man died for your sins, which isn’t going to be very helpful.


  1. Informing Postmoderns « saintbeagle - 10/03/2010

    […] yet to receive the mark I’m not sure if it’s worth posting here as I did with my Christology essay. However it was the first time I’d done any thinking/reading on the topic of postmodernism […]

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