Book recommendation about original sin

Some have asked for my view of original sin and the connection between Adam and us. I cannot do better than recommend Bernard Ramm’s Offense to Reason: A Theology of Sin (Harper & Row, 1985). It was one of his last books and one of his best. (It’s a bad title because Ramm did not think original sin is irrational; he thought it is beyond reason’s ability to comprehend.) Ramm covers all the Christian options including Barth’s idea of saga. The Bible calls sin the “mystery of iniquity.” If we could “explain” sin we would be explaining it away so that it is no longer sin. It would become ignorance or fate or something else. Either sin is existential mystery or it is not really sin in the full biblical sense.

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  • Bob Brown

    A truly great book that makes the case for “the fall” of the human race.

  • Clay Knick

    I read this fine book in theological school. I really like Ramm’s other books, too.

  • Ivan A. Rogers

    Ivan A. Rogers writes: “Adam’s death process actually did begin the very moment he disobeyed, but continued in transition until he attained the age of 930 years. Accordingly, it can truly be said that in the interim, Adam was a ‘dead man walking.’ And we, his genus, walked the path of death in lock-step with Adam until Christ came to set our feet on the path of life. When Christ died and rose from the dead, so, too, did we — in him. Even so, many people find it difficult to believe that their old Adamic nature with its ‘dead works’ (past, present, and future) has already been judged and is now deceased, having been nailed to the cross with Christ (see Col 2:13-15). They find it equally difficult to believe they have been miraculously re-created with a new life in the resurrected Christ.”
    (An excerpt from a new book, “Dropping Hell and Embracing Grace,” by Ivan A. Rogers. Available from Also available on Kindle).

  • Mikael Stenhammar

    Thanks for this! Please keep more of these kinds of recommendations coming.

    While on it, can you recommend any study or reading on Satan (not just evil in a broader sense, but evil personified as such)? I found Grenz’s covering of it in his “Theology for the Community of God” very interesting yet too short.

    • rogereolson

      The best book I know on the subject of Satan is “I Believe in Satan’s Downfall” by British evangelical/charismatic theologian Michael Green–a wonderful theologian who has sadly been overlooked by too many evangelical. The book was published by Eerdmans in 1981. It was in the series “I Believe…” but Green refused to write a book entitled “I Believe in Satan.” So he and the publisher settled on the rather unusual title. But it is a book about Satan.

      • Mikael Stenhammar

        Great! Thanks for that. I have benefited much from Green before, esp his “I Believe in the Holy Spirit.” In it he touches on the devil and also exorcism in what I find to be a very wise way. I was unaware of this book you mention. Thanks a lot!

  • Tim Reisdorf

    At one time in my life I disagreed of the doctrine of Original Sin. I was persuaded by the Church of Christ (in my experience) against it; trusting, rather, in the principle of Ez 18 “the soul who sins shall die”. I’ve moved from there to loosely holding to Original Sin.

    I see it this way: there is a present reality of universal sinfulness in want of a theory to explain it. The theory of Original Sin makes compromises that I wouldn’t have chosen in relation to “an individual’s responsibility for another individual’s sin.” Yet, I have no better theory. (Why is it that everyone sins? “It’s the human condition.” Not a theory and explains nothing.) Worse still, I have the Romans 5 passages to explain. So, even if I don’t like it, I will say that I agree and hold to Original Sin, but without enthusiasm.

    • rogereolson

      Why do we need to explain it?

      • Tim Reisdorf

        I’m not sure that it’s always wise to try to explain things that may be obvious to observe but more dicey to tease out the origins. But, of course, finding out how things work and behave and come to be are legitimate lines of inquiry – and are largely considered the domain of science. Would they not also be legitimate lines of inquiry for theology?

        Maybe it is also true of this subject when it is said, “Curiosity creeps into house of the unfortunate . . . .”

        • rogereolson

          Yes, but much of that needs to be labeled speculation.

  • Augustinian/Catholic/Reformed ‘original sin’ is traditional, but may not be truth. We do have revelation about what sin is and is not. Sin is volitional, moral, selfishness, disobedience, lawlessness, rebellion, etc. It is not genetic, metaphysical, nature/being, etc. The original sin is Adam’s fall (post-Lucifer fall), the occasion for sin entering the race, but not the cause of all men being sinners. Rom. 1-3 is the hamartiological passage with proof texts in Ps. 51 and Rom. 5 needing to be interpreted in light of it. We are sinners because we sin, not because our parents conceived us, no fault of our own. Babies lack mental and moral capacity to sin and be condemned to hell. All men are condemned sinners in need of a sinless Savior. Denying ‘original sin’ is not a denial of salvation truths. The will and mind are sufficient explanations for sin, not Federal Headship, transducian theories. Moral Government Theology (not to be confused with Pelagianism) seems more coherent, biblical than the traditional view: