I was recently discussing theology and baptism with my Arminian teacher when he mentioned that he doesn't believe in the doctrine of original sin, saying "I don't believe sin is genetic".

This actually caught me off guard, as I was unaware that there even was a dispute over the doctrine of original sin. Yet later in the day and in the next following days, I spent a little bit of time looking for the basis of such a doctrine. I wasn't really able to find anything online.

So that leads me to my question. What is the biblical basis for the doctrine of original sin?

It may be helpful to me if you defined what is meant by original sin, as I may just be confused.

  • Most denominations do believe in original sin, even arminians, but there's different forms of it.
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 23, 2022 at 22:52
  • Original sin is when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and that is when sin entered into the world and death through sin. Your Arminian teacher said "I don't believe sin is genetic" which may have more to do with imputed sin (our inherited sin nature) than original sin. Should we focus on original sin, or do we need to address the question of imputed sin?
    – Lesley
    Sep 24, 2022 at 16:31

2 Answers 2


Rather than start with the biblical basis for the doctrine of 'original sin', it might be useful to start with the origin of denial of this very early Christian belief. Here is a quote from a scholarly book, defining its origins:

Pelagianism - school of thought named after Pelagius (354 - 418?) and promulgated by Julian of Eclanum (c. 368-455). They taught that the human will was capable of spiritual good without the aid of God's grace, and that sinless perfection was possible in this life. Augustine and Jerome were chief critics of Pelagianism, and it was condemned by church councils in 418 and 431. Pilgrim Theology p.470, Michael Horton, Zondervan 2011

It wasn't until the mid-4th century that clear opposition within the Church to this long-held Church doctrine became solidly clarified, and it can be seen that the objection was that human free-will could not be incapable of choosing to do good. That is diametrically opposed to claiming that all humanity is tainted with sin and dependent on the grace of God to be delivered from that.

The debate has raged on ever since, as shown in the 1610 'Remonstrance' of those supporting the recently deceased James Arminius and what he taught about free will, or human ability. This came to be the first point of Arminianism: that man, although affected by the Fall, was not totally incapable of choosing spiritual good, and was able to exercise faith in God in order to receive the gospel and thus bring himself into possession of salvation.

In response to that, the Synod of Dort in 1618 responded to that first point with the view that man is totally unable to save himself on account of the Fall in the Garden of Eden being a total fall, not a partial one. If man cannot save himself, then only God can, and it is up to him to decree how he will do that. With the best will in the world, fallen sinners cannot get themselves out of the mire they find themselves in. Please note, however, that the doctrine of original sin does not say that man's total inability is due to some supposed total depravity. Man is not as depraved as he could be. That's not what's being claimed. It is that man's natural state (after the Fall) renders him totally unable to gain, or contribute to, his own salvation.

Now we can deal with what you first asked for: the biblical basis for this doctrine. As it would require pages and pages of text to quote all the scriptures, I will just list some sample sources and ask you to read them all for yourself. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but just one that will begin to open up the biblical basis you seek.

Genesis 6:5; Job 14:4; Job 14:4; Psalm 51:5; Jeremiah 13:23 & 18:9-10 & 14; Mark 4:11ff; Romans 3:9-12 & 23 & 5:6, 8, 10-14 & 7:10-8:2; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 2:1-10; Colossians 2:13-15; Titus 3:3-5; 1 John 1:8-10.


Original sin is listed as "probably referred to" in Job 14:4

who can make him unclean...

Psalm 1:7

I was conceived in inequities; and in sins did my mother conceive me

But definitively declared by St. Paul

in Romans 5:12,14-19

by the offense of one, unto all men to condemnation

and 1 Corinthians 21-22

as in Adam all die ...

and Ephesians 2:3

..by nature children of wrath

Source: A Textual Concordance of the Holy Scriptures, Thomas David Williams, TAN books. Biblical quotations are from the Douay-Rheims version if they seem a bit old timey.

As for the controversy, the denial of Original Sin is the Pelagian Heresy, I only remember that because Hillaire Belloc wrote a song about it.

Oh, he thwacked them hard and he thwacked them long

On each and all occasions,

Till they bellowed in chorus loud and strong

Their orthodox persuasions.

  • Is there a tune that goes with the lyric of that song? If so, any pointer to a YouTube or a PDF of the musical score? Sep 23, 2022 at 21:24
  • Helpful, especially that Romans verse. Thanks.
    – Luke Hill
    Sep 23, 2022 at 21:24
  • @GratefulDisciple yeah, in the new edition of The Four Men the annotator set it to music and has a sheet on the last page. Probably too copyrighted for me to post here.
    – Peter Turner
    Sep 23, 2022 at 21:35
  • 1
    @GratefulDisciple NM, you're in luck! fourmenfeast.com/pelagian-heresy.html They do this feast every year in Philidephia I've heard. I'm hoping to do one this year - but all my church friends are decidedly not Chesterton or Belloc fans, which is kind of a bummer.
    – Peter Turner
    Sep 23, 2022 at 21:37
  • 1
    @PeterTurner Very nice ! The tune goes well with lyric too. Must be fun for a few men singing at a small gathering to the accompaniment of a banjo, accordion, etc. Sep 23, 2022 at 21:55

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