We bristle at the idea that God calls us to be righteous when we are hampered by original sin. We say, “But God, we can’t be righteous. We are fallen creatures. How can you hold us accountable when you know very well we were born with original sin?”
The illustration is as follows. Suppose God said to a man, “I want you to trim these bushes by three o’clock this afternoon. But be careful. There is a large open pit at the edge of the garden. If you fall into that pit, you will not be able to get yourself out. So whatever you do, stay away from that pit.”
Suppose that as soon as God leaves the garden the man runs over and jumps into the pit. At three o’clock God returns and finds the bushes untrimmed. He calls for the gardener and hears a faint cry from the edge of the garden. He walks to the edge of the pit and sees the gardener helplessly flailing around on the bottom. He says to the gardener, “Why haven’t you trimmed the bushes I told you to trim?” The gardener responds in anger, “How do you expect me to trim these bushes when I am trapped in this pit? If you hadn’t left this empty pit here, I would not be in this predicament.”
Adam jumped into the pit. In Adam we all jumped into the pit. God did not throw us into the pit. Adam was clearly warned about the pit. God told him to stay away. The consequences Adam experienced from being in the pit were a direct punishment for jumping into it.
So it is with original sin. Original sin is both the consequence of Adam’s sin and the punishment for Adam’s sin. We are born sinners because in Adam all fell. Even the word fall is a bit of a euphemism. It is a rose-colored view of the matter. The word fall suggests an accident of sorts. Adam’s sin was not an accident. He was not Humpty-Dumpty. Adam didn’t simply slip into sin; he jumped into it with both feet. We jumped headlong with him. God didn’t push us. He didn’t trick us. He gave us adequate and fair warning. The fault is ours and only ours.
It is not that Adam ate sour grapes and our teeth are set on edge. The biblical teaching is that in Adam we all ate the sour grapes. That is why our teeth are set on edge.
Chosen By God (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publisher, 1996), 97-98.