Theology Book Review

Does Man Inherit a Sinful Nature?

by Jesse Morrell
Reviewed date: 2022 Aug 30
205 pages
A Scriptural Discourse on the Human Constitution
cover art

I'm not convinced.

Jesse Morrell is a proud Pelagian and this book is his comprehensive argument in support of the idea that humans are not born with a sinful nature, but rather we create in ourselves a sinful second nature by our choice to sin.

To claim Pelagianism isn't as bad as it sounds, because apparently Pelagius didn't teach most of the things Augustine accused him of, at least according to the writings of Pelagius that survived. Still, I wasn't too keen on Jesse Morrell's decision to quote Pelagius a lot, and positively. But I got over that and just examined the arguments put forth in the book.

I confess I did not complete the book. I gave it a good try, but it's disorganized and the author repeats himself. A lot. If there is a solid case to be made for man not inheriting a sinful nature, I'd be interested to read it. This book isn't it.

I read enough of the book to get the general idea, but I just don't buy it. His intepretations of the scriptures seem to be coming less from a neutral reading of the text and more from a need to find a way to discard the idea of original sin. From what I can tell, Jesse Morrell believes that if we are born with a sinful nature, then it would be unjust for God to hold us accountable for our actions. This has implications for how we preach the gospel to unbelievers--if we tell them that they have an inborn sinful nature, that allows them to excuse their actions and deny their need for a savior--after all, how can God hold people accountable for acting in accordance with their nature?

I just don't see the problem. We can be born with a sinful nature, that is, an inclination toward sin, and still have free will to make our own choice to sin or not, and still be held to account before God. None of this is unjust. I'm a free will guy, but I don't see a problem with an inborn sinful nature.

Further, some of Morrell's argument don't hold up to basic scrutiny. He points to the existence of a conscience as evidence that men have an inherently good nature, not a sinful nature. That isn't evidence. There's no reason why humans can't have both a conscience and a sinful nature, despite Jesse Morrell's protestations.

Also: I am a persnickety reader so I do look up the Bible verses he references to support his various claims, and they often don't.

I'm not sure whether Jesse Morrell's views amount to heresy. Probably. They are at least heterodox. In any case, even though he's wrong about this, he is a brother in Christ.

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