Dr. Ralph Larson on Original Sin

 

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Dear Forum,

Dr. Ralph Larson was a Professor of Religion in the SDA Church. As of 1986, Dr. Larson had completed forty years of service to the Seventh-day Adventist church. He was once the Pastor of the Loma Linda Church. The following material is on the subject of Original Sin, and is taken from Dr. Ralph Larson's book, The Word was Made Flesh, Appendix C, pp. 330 and on: This treatise by Dr. Larson, is most effective in exposing the errors of the apostate New Movement SDA, New Theology Church.

"Should Augustine's Doctrine of Original Sin be Added to Seventh-day Adventist Theology?
Since it is common knowledge that Augustine's doctrine of original sin is now being recommended for addition to the theology of the Seventh-day Adventist church, it would appear that a careful examination of that doctrine would be undertaken by all who share a concern for the purity of the Adventist faith. Major changes in our theology would be required by the addition of the doctrine of original sin because the nature of God, the nature of the incarnate Christ, the nature of man and the nature of salvation itself are all involved in the Augustinian doctrine.
Significant changes would be required in the cherished doctrine of righteousness by faith. The student may easily verify the close relationship between the concepts of original sin and the doctrine of righteousness by faith by asking advocates of the so-called 'new theology' two questions:
1. Why do you believe that it is impossible for Christians to stop sinning, even through the power of Christ?
2. Why do you believe the incarnate Christ had to take the nature of the unfallen Adam rather than a nature like ours?
The same answer will be given to both questions: Because of original sin. Since the corruption of original sin remains in all believers until they die, it is impossible for them to ever stop sinning, even through the power of Christ. And since the inherited guilt of original sin would have disqualified Christ from becoming the Saviour of the world, He had to be protected from original sin by assuming the nature of the unfallen Adam.
So the basic issue in the present discussion is not the doctrine of righteousness by faith; it is the doctrine of original sin. Before making their decision whether to add the doctrine of original sin to the theology of the Seventh-day Adventist church, careful students of the subject will wish to examine that doctrine in its historical context. [Larson here includes titles of a number of books on the differing positions Protestants and Catholics take on the subject of original sin]. Then Larson goes on:
"Aurelius Augustine (*354-450) was born in Tagaste, North Africa, to a pagan father and a Christian mother.....Neither of the two companion doctrines, predestination and original sin, was fully originated by Augustine. Catholic writers tend to see more of the 'germ' of these ideas in the writings of the earlier fathers than Protestants do, but it is generally agreed that he was the first to develop the doctrines and their implications into a system, which included the following points [Larson provides footnotes to the following list, but I have not included the footnotes]:
1. God imputes guilt for the sin of Adam to every human being born upon this earth in addition to teir inherited moral weakness.
2. The guilt of original sin is terminated at baptism, but the moral weakness continues throughout life.
3. Because of this continuing moral weakness of original sin, it is not possible for Christians to stop sinning, even through the power of Christ.
4. Since God imputes the guilt of Adam's sin to all infants, and this guilt is terminated only at baptism, it follows that all infants who die before being baptized are lost and condemned to the never ending tortures of hell fire. This horrifying dogma was a problem even to its author. Augustine tried during one period to soften its shocking impact by proposing that the punishment of infants might be less severe than that of adults. He appealed desperately but fruitlessly to Jerome for help in solving the problem. But in the end he returned with fanatical determination to the logical consequences of his theological presuppositions, that unbaptized infants will fully experience the torturing fires of hell throughout eternity.
5. Because the guilt of original sin is terminated only at baptism, it follows that all unbaptized heathen are lost and condemned to the eternal flames.
6. In obvious self-contradiction Augustine maintained that God's sovereign will expressed in His decrees of predestination is absolutely irresistible by the will of man, yet the will of man remains totally free. As Williams has remarked, in this teaching Augustine was clearly trying to run with the hare while at the same time chasing with the hounds.

Augustine was soon challenged by Pelagius, a British monk who had moved to Rome, and who was temperamentally the opposite of Augustine. For him Christian living was apparently easy, and he was baffled by Augustine's pressing need of an accommodation with sin, which accommodation he felt was neither necessary nor scriptural. Unfortunately he over-reacted and went to the extreme of denying that either guilt or weakness descended from Adam to his descendants. As he saw it, every child born upon the earth has the same start that Adam had....
Thus the battle lines were drawn, and in succeeding ages there would be a tendency to identify all views on the subject in terms of their relation to the early views of Augustine on the one side or Pelagius on the other, calling them Augustinian, Pelagian, Semi-Augustinian or Semi-Pelagian....
Calvin was essentially Augustinian...
Speaking generally, the Reformers were in agreement with Augustine. The Reformers fall back on Augustine's theory....
Until about 1750 the stern Puritans of New England held to strict Calvinistic (Augustinian) views regarding the inherited guilt of original sin, but reactions against it eventually launched a prolonged controversy that lasted over a hundred years in the Calvinistic Congregational, Reformed, and Presbyterian churches of America. So through the centuries since Augustine launched his doctrine a vast repository of literature has been accumulated in the recording of the conflicting views of its defenders on the one side and its opponents on the other. It has been without question one of the most intensely debated issues in the history of Christianity. The student will find it instructive to spend a few hours examining this material. Certain general observations are possible. First, due to the paucity of scriptural evidence on the subject of original sin, the arguments tend to be philosophical rather than scriptural, consisting of page after page of desperately labored human reasoning which makes rather tedious reading. Second, the awareness of enormous problems pervades this literature, much of which is devoted to elaborate explanations intended to defend the character of God against the implications of injustice and cruelty. It is apparent that these explanations have taxed the ingenuity of their authors to the utmost. Third, the dissatisfaction of each group of theorists with arguments advanced by other followers of Augustine is likely to remind the Seventh-day Adventist of the confusion and disagreement which exists among the defenders of Sunday worship. Some of the arguments advanced are simply incredible and speak eloquently of the desperate plight of their authors.
The problems facing those who wish to support Augustine are indeed formidable. How can men be involved in the wrong-doing of a man who died thousands of years before they were born? How can a just God impute the guilt of an adult to an innocent infant? How can a just God consign that infant to the agonies of a fire that will never stop burning? And if men acquire guilt simply by being born into the human race, what happens when that guilt rests upon Jesus at His birth? Regarding our involvement in Adam's sin, pros [like Jim Ayars] have argued that we were all present in Adam's body when he sinned, to which cons [like Ron Beaulieu] have replied that if this were true we would inherit the sins of all of our ancestors, and not only Adam's, since we were equally present in all of their bodies.
Pros have argued that Adam had a covenant with God which involved us, and that he broke it, thus implicating us. Cons have replied that scripture knows nothing of such a covenant, and there can be no covenant without agreement, which we neither entered into nor authorized Adam to negotiate for us.
Pros have argued that Adam represented us as our head or ruler. Cons have replied that subjects of a ruler are not responsible for his personal crimes, and in any case Adam ceased to be ruler long before we were born.
Pros, including some in our own church, are arguing that men are born into a state or condition (as yet undefined) that causes them to receive something that is equivalent to guilt without inheriting it. A systematic statement of this argument would be:
Because of the sin of Adam, all men are born into (but do not inherit) a state or condition (undefined) which causes them to fall under the judgment and condemnation of God (but it is not guilt).
To this marvelous arrangement I can only respond that the disposition to run with the hare while at the same time chasing with the hounds did not die with Augustine. To be born into something is to inherit it, and that which places men under the judgment and condemnation of God is guild, word-games notwithstanding.
In response to the many horrified protests that the doctrine of original sin is a blasphemous indictment of the character of God, the pathetic rejoinder has often been made that what is unjust for men may be just for God, so we should not expect God to abide by principles of justice as understood by men. But has God invited us to evaluate His justice? [EGW, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 42]
Calvin and Luther both sought refuge in the plea that it is not proper for created beings to ask any questions about the justice of their Creator.
And in order to keep Christ, the child of Mary, from being contaminated by original sin, two ingenious schemes have been devised. Catholic theologians proclaimed a doctrine of immaculate conception which called for a special miracle that kept Mary free from original sin, so that she would not pass it on to Christ. Protestants, not to be outdone, invented a slightly different doctrine of immaculate conception which called for a special miracle that made it possible for Christ to be born as the son of Mary, yet not inherit her human nature but rather the nature of Adam before the fall. [This is a non-Scriptural fabrication and is therefore antiChrist! This is the position of Jim Ayars].
Demurrers have pointed out that both of these schemes are extra-Biblical, since scripture knows nothing of either miracle, and the humanity of Christ, the hope of our salvation, is effectively destroyed by either of them. [And this is another reason why both versions are anti-Christ!] It was primarily for this reason that our pioneers FIRMLY REJECTED the doctrine that Christ came to earth in the nature of the unfallen Adam. They spared us involvement in this enormous controversy [UNTIL THE INTRODUCTION OF THE NEW MOVEMENT'S NEW THEOLOGY] by following Wesley, Arminius, and Zwingli rather than Calvin, Luther, and Augustine.
They observed that the scriptures advanced in support of the doctrine of original sin do not bear up well under investigation. exhibit A has been Romans 5:12:
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men....[Jim Ayar's prime exhibit on this forum]
Let us observe that at this point we have a statement of fact with no explanation offered. The explanation comes in the next clause:

...for that all have sinned.

"For that" means because. The verse does not say because all have inherited guilt from Adam. It says because all have sinned. They therefore have guilt of their own and have no need to borrow any from Adam. Consider also I Corinthians 15:22:

For as in Adam all die, in Christ shall all be made alive.

Proponents of the doctrine of original sin are required to break up the natural parallelism between in Adam and in Christ and give these two phrases altogether different meaning. In Adam is taken to mean an organic relationship of nature which man has of necessity and about which he has no choice at all. But the phrase in Christ, instead of being ascribed a similar meaning as natural parallelism would require, is given an altogether different meaning. We all know that we are not in Christ by a natural or organic relationship without any choice or decision of our own. We are in Christ because we have deliberately chosen to follow Him and make Him our leader, model, and guide. this is the only thing that in Christ can mean.
Surely it is an unwarranted wrestling of scripture that takes two phrases that are set up by a writer in a parallel construction and gives them altogether different meanings. The purpose of the writer is best preserved when both phrases are read alike. In Christ means to follow and imitate Christ. In Adam means to follow and imitate Adam. There is no reason to say that in Adam means a natural unchosen relationship and in Christ means the opposite. And finally, consider Psalms 51:5:

Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Augustine seized upon this as evidence that the very act of procreating a child is sinful, but Paul writes in Hebrews 13:4:

Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled.

And if we take Psalms 51:5 as a statement of original sin, this contradicts David's words in Psalms 71:5-6.

For thou art my hope, O Lord God, thou art my trust from my youth. By thee have I been holden up from the womb: thou art He that took me out of my mother's bowels.... [Here Larson goes into an entire page of exegesis in diagram form]

An Exegetical Exercise on Psalms 51:5

Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

QUESTIONS

1. Who is speaking?

2. Who is he talking about?

3 What act is he talking about?

4. What does he say about it?

5. Whose sin was it?

6. What was its nature?

7. What are the possibilities?

8. Who was his mother?

9. Was she Jesse's lawful wife?

10. Was she a concubine?

11. Was she an adulteress?

12. Was her union with Jesse lawful?

13. What can we conclude?

14. How does exegesis compare with eisegisis?

ANSWER BY EXEGESIS
(Getting meaning out of text)

1. David.

2. His mother and himself.

3. His own conception.

4. It was done in sin.

5. His mother's.

6. We are not told.

7. Adultery, concubinage, an evil mother, the condition of the race.

8. We are not told.

> 9. We are not told.

10. We are not told.

11. We are not told.

12. We are not told.

13. Any of #7 would be possible.

14. Every statement above is a fact.

ANSWERS BY EISEGESIS (Putting meaning into text)

1. All men.

2. All mothers and all men.

3. The conception of all men.

4. It is always done in sin.

5. All mothers.

6. Original sin and guilt.

7. Original sin and guild.

8. The wife of Jesse.

9. Yes, she was.

10. No, she was not.

11. No, she was not.

12. Yes, it was.

13. This proves the doctrine of original sin and guilt.

14. Every statement above is an assumption.

So the conclusion that Psalms 51:5 proves the doctrine of original sin and guild is based on thirteen assumptions, and not a single fact.

And in any case, as has been pointed out [in the exegesis] if David were speaking of a personal sin, it was his mother's, not his. So we had best see this verse as a more poetic way of expressing Paul's thought that all have sinned. Then we force no contradictions on scripture.
The student who has studied Hebrew will wish to examine the words "in sin" in the Hebrew text and in various lexicons. It will be observed that the preposition "in" is translated from a Hebrew prefix consisting of one letter and a subscript, and that it is used in a great variety of prepositional arrangements. The meaning can be in, on, among, or even without, depending on the context. Some lexicons list eight different translations of the word (prefix). It is apparent that such a word provides a less than adequate base on which to build a major theological doctrine, such as the doctrine of Original Sin.
I have not been able to find any use of the term original sin in reference to guilt or weakness imputed to us for the sin of Adam in the writings of Ellen White, but I do find clear evidence that she was familiar with the concept and the uses made of it:

'There are many who in their hearts murmur against God. They say, "We inherit the fallen nature of Adam, and are not responsible for our natural imperfections." They find fault with God's requirements, and complain that He demands what they have no power to give. Satan made the same complaint in heaven, but such thoughts dishonor God. E. G. White, Signs of the Times, August 29, 1892.

One of the major emphases in Ellen White's writings is her understanding that the claim that God's law could not be obeyed by His creatures was Satan's first, greatest, and most persistent attack against the character of God. The student will find references to it in DA 29, DA 69, DA 117, DA 308-9, DA 311-13, DA 6718, ST 1/16/96, and ST 7/23/02, to mention only a few. Her own response to this claim is best given in her own words:

"Therefore he (Satan) is constantly seeking to deceive the followers of Christ with his FATAL SOPHISTRY that it is impossible for them to overcome. (Emphasis mine) The Great Controversy, p. 489.

"Let no one say, I cannot remedy my defects of character. If you come to this decision, you will certainly fail of obtaining everlasting life." E.G. White, Christ's Object Lessons, p. 331.

Seventh-day Adventists, therefore, have historically preached a doctrine of inherited weakness, but not a doctrine of inherited guilt. As we consider this subject, we will do well to remember that theological systems may be compared to a chain-mesh, that is, a net formed of metal chain links that connect with other links around them. Few doctrines exist in isolation with no connection with other doctrines.

Thus, those who accept the doctrine of original sin defined as inherited guilt are required to develop some sort of immaculate conception doctrine in order to keep that guilt from reaching Jesus. Having done this, they are required to define Christ's role as our example in harmony with this separation of His experience from ours, which leads to the conclusion that we cannot overcome temptation as He did. This in turn leads to the conclusion that man is saved by justification only, since it is not possible for him to stop sinning. And this leads to a doctrine of salvation by manipulation, whereby God will perform a mechanical adjustment to man's brain in order to eliminate sin from his experience when He takes man into the heavenly kingdom.
All of this is contrary to the platform of truth developed by our pioneers under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and is foreign to Seventh-day Adventist theology.

In concluding this section, may we offer a few thoughts regarding the subject of guilt for the student to consider:
At the beginning of the history of sin in human experience, we see a woman looking at the forbidden fruit, taking it into her hand, and eating it. Which, may we ask, was most guilty -- the eye for looking, the hand for taking, or the mouth for eating the fruit?
We pose the question only to demonstrate its lack of appeal to the reason. No intelligent person would assign any of the burden of guilt to the eye, the hand, or the mouth of Eve. These fleshly instruments were all under the control of Eve's will, and could not do other than obey. The option of making other choices was not theirs; indeed, they possessed no equipment for the making of choices. The choice and the decision were acts of Eve's will, and her will must therefore carry the burden of responsibility, the guilt.
There was never any guilt in the flesh of Eve.

The human will, that had set itself in opposition to the will of its Creator-God, was guilty. Ellen White, with characteristic perception, writes:

"... the flesh of itself cannot act contrary to the will of God. -- Adventist Home, p. 127.

If the flesh cannot act contrary to the will of God, then it is certain that the flesh cannot be guilty.
In the next scene of this cosmic tragedy we see Adam looking at the fruit, taking it, and eating it. Shall we ascribe guilt to the eye, the hand, the mouth, or any other part of the flesh of Adam, such as the genes or chromosomes?
The answer can only be, No. It was the will of Adam that sinned, and it is the will of Adam that must carry the burden of responsibility, the guilt.
There was never any guilt in the flesh of Adam.

The flesh of my stomach desires food. The moral distinction between eating the food in my neighbor's lunch and eating the food in my own lunch is not meaningful to my flesh. The will must direct the flesh to not eat my neighbor's lunch and to be content with my own. With every need, appetite, or desire of the flesh the same principle holds. All voluntary actions of the flesh are controlled by the choices and decisions of the will. All involuntary actions are controlled by mechanical relationships. The flesh makes no choices and no decisions, either in voluntary or involuntary actions, hence has no responsibility, and no guilt.
There is never any guilt in the flesh of any human being.
How unprofitable, then, to endeavor to discover by what means guilt is transferred from flesh to flesh; from the flesh of Adam to the flesh of his descendants, or from the flesh of any parent to the flesh of any child.

The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father. -- Ezekiel 18:20

Flesh cannot transmit to flesh that which flesh does not and cannot possess.
What, then, of the will? Is it not also flesh?
Apparently not.
This is one of the major mysteries of human existence. The flesh (of the brain) produces the will, and then the will apparently stands apart from and controls the flesh, even including the flesh of the brain.
Inspiration has not revealed to us how this can be, and scientific investigation has not yet been able to explain it. Yet it is clearly and demonstrably true.
That the flesh of the brain produces the will we cannot doubt. Many examples have proven that damage to the flesh of the brain can impair, or even destroy, the function of the will. These examples would also indicate that the "production" of the will by the flesh of the brain is a continuous process. The will does not outlast the brain, or survive the destruction of the brain. So the brain continuously produces the will, which in turn continuously controls (or should control) the brain.
This, again is observable in our own experience, and in the experiences of all around us. Thought control is to some extent practiced by everyone. And in every experience wherein the will instructs the brain to start thinking along a certain line, or to stop thinking along a certain line, or to accept certain ideas, or to reject and dismiss them, we see that mysterious phenomenon, the will giving instruction to the flesh of the brain which is producing it.

I decided to stop thinking about that.

That simple and often heard statement reflects one of the major mysteries of human existence, the control of the flesh of the brain by the will that is itself produced by the flesh of the brain.
No, the will is not flesh. To define the will in terms of its essence or nature does not seem to be possible at the present time, but to define it in terms of its function is both possible and instructive. This is Ellen White's approach to the subject. She tells us what the will is by telling us what it does.

"The will is the governing power in the nature of man, bringing all the other faculties under its sway...It is the deciding power.... --5T 513 (Emphasis mine.)

"... it is the choice... the Kingly power....MH 318 (Emphasis mine.)

Logically and consistently, therefore, Ellen White assigns the responsibility for sinning exclusively to the will.

But while Satan can solicit, he cannot compel to sin... the tempter can never compel us to do evil ... The will must consent....--DA 125 (Emphasis mine.)

The flesh of man, then, has never known guilt, has never carried guilt, and can never transmit guilt from flesh to flesh. The transmission of guilt has always been and must always bee from will to will, and only by the consent to sin of the receiving will.
Which leads us, at length, to a definition: What, precisely, is guilt? I am proposing that the most useful and defensible definition is this:

Guilt is an assignment of responsibility by the will of a law-maker to the will of a law-breaker.

This definition carefully avoids ascribing to guilt any mechanical, organic, or intrinsically legal qualities, for these reasons
1. Those who would ascribe to guilt mechanical or organic qualities, which would make it possible for the guilt to reside in the flesh and be transmitted from flesh to flesh by biological inheritance, must struggle to answer the questions about the transmission of guilt to innocent infants, the transmission of guilt to the infant Jesus, etc., that have been examined earlier in this book, and the larger question lying behind them: If that is the way it is, who made it that way? Thus the responsibility inevitably goes back to God.
2. Those who seek to avoid these difficulties by discussing the problem in quasi-legal terms (some even avoid using the word guilt, but refer to a state or condition that produces the same result) fail to deal adequately with the larger underlying question, If that is man's state or condition, who made it that way? Who established those conditions? Again the responsibility inevitably goes back to God.
The problem shared by both groups is that their concept of guilt and its transmission contains so many gross inequities, even cruelties, that it simply will not do to let the responsibility for it go back to God. Yet until now no effective way has been found to prevent this result.
If the will of man is in control of all his other faculties, and if Satan cannot compel that will to sin, it follows that sinning is always a free choice or decision of a free will, which may be expressed by either an inward attitude or by an outward act, or by both.
There can never, then, be anything unjust or cruel in holding the free will of man responsible for its choices and decisions, particularly if human inabilities to perform the good that is willed are matched or exceeded by the enabling grace of God.
As we reflect about the nature of guilt, let us keep in mind these basic scriptural truths:

1. Sin is the transgression of the law. -- 1 JOHN 3:4

2. Where there is no law, there is no sin. -- Romans 4:15

3. The times of this ignorance God winked at. -- Acts 17:31

Thus guilt is not automatically incurred by a violation of God's law. There can be wrong-doing without guilt, if the act is ignorant rather than willful. The deciding factor is the attitude of the will of the law breaker. Did he will to violate the law of his Creator God? Or did he violate an unknown or misunderstood precept of God's law while willing to serve and obey God? The Creator-God takes into account these extenuating circumstances in deciding whether or not to assign guilt.
And it is the will of the law-maker, the Creator-God, that decides whether to hold the will of the law-breaker responsible, i.e., guilty. Remove from this equation either the decision of the law-breaker's will to sin or the decision of the law-maker's will to assign responsibility for sinning, and guilt cannot exist. The action of bothwills must be present.
This definition of guilt, then, would seem to be accurate, fair, and reasonable:

Guilt is an assignment of responsibility by the will of a law maker to the will of a law-breaker.

With this definition of guilt there is no need for elaborate defenses of the character of God. We need not struggle to explain how a God of love and justice can hold babies responsible for the sin of someone who died long before they were born, and punish them for the sin that they did not commit. There is no need to explain God's condemnation and destruction of persons in heathen lands who followed all the moral light that shone upon their pathways. And there is no need to construct elaborate schemes for the purpose of keeping the guilt of Adam from resting upon the infant Jesus.
There can be no sin without an act of the will of the law-breaker. There can be no guilt without an act of the will of the law-maker. When Ellen White makes reference to a reception of guilt, or an inheritance of guilt from Adam, she does not leave the will-factor out of the picture.

It is inevitable that children should suffer from the consequences of parental wrongdoing, but they are not punished for the parents' guilt, except as they participate in their sins. It is usually the case, however, that children walk in the steps of their parents. By inheritance and example the sons become partakers of the father's sin. Wrong tendencies, perverted appetites, and debased morals, as well as physical disease and degeneracy, are transmitted as a legacy from father to son, to the third and fourth generation. This fearful truth should have a solemn power to restrain men from following a course of sin. -- PP 306 (Emphasis mine.)

These dear children received from Adam an inheritance of disobedience, of guilt, and death. -- Baker Letter, p. 1 (Emphasis mine.)

Ellen White wrote in careful conformity to dictionary definitions, and according tot he dictionaries an inheritance is something that can be retained, rejected, divided, bought, sold, or lost, according to the choices of the recipient's will. Calvinistic concepts of inherited guilt as something that no human can avoid or escape would need to be described as a biological, or flesh to flesh, inheritance of guilt. In that case the inheritance could not be rejected or disposed of by any means since it would be in the flesh. No such expression and no such thought can be found in the writings of Ellen White. She never describes guilt or its transmission in terms of flesh, nor in terms of an unavoidable state or condition.
According to the teaching of Ellen White, and of the Seventh-day Adventist church in general until recent years, all earth-born children, including Jesus, inherit the fallen nature of Adam as weakness, not as guilt. At the point in time when the will of the child chooses to sin, guilt enters the picture. (Ellen White attributes the death of infants to separation from the tree of life, not to inherited guilt. See page 19.)
The will of the child Jesus never chose to sin, therefore never experienced guilt. According to Ellen White, this possibility is open to all:

He has demonstrated that a lifelongobedience is possible. --Ms. 1, 1892 (Emphasis mine.)

There is no excuse for sinning. -- DA 311-312

Let the children bear in mind that the child Jesus had upon Himself human nature, and was in the likeness of sinful flesh, and was tempted of Satan like all children are tempted. -- YI 8/23/94

Just as firmly as Ellen White rejects the concept that we unavoidably inherit guilt from Adam, she also rejects the concept that we inherit such a severe weakness from Adam that sinning is unavoidable.

Since the sin of Adam, men in every age have excused themselves from sinning, charging God with their sin, saying that they could not keep His commandments. -- AST 9/14/03

There are many who in their hearts murmur against God. They say, "We inherit the fallen nature of Adam, and are not responsible for our natural imperfections." They find fault with God's requirements, and complain that He demands what they have no power to give. Satan made the same complaint in heaven, but such thoughts dishonor God. -- ST 8/29/92

Finally, let us consider this question: Do we know of any unavoidable inheritance other than biologicalinheritance?
Since this is a supremely important question, let us carefully define our terms.
By biological we mean something that resides in the flesh of man in such a way that it can be transmitted from flesh to flesh, as from the flesh of the parent to the flesh of the child.
By inheritance we mean something that we receive from our ancestors by reason of being born.
By unavoidable we mean something that no human being on earth can escape, since it is an ever-present consequence of being born, with no exceptions (except by the miraculous intervention of God).
With our definitions established, let us return to our question:
Do we know of any unavoidable inheritance other than biological inheritance?
First, is biological, flesh-to-flesh inheritance actually unavoidable?
We must concede that it is. There is no way that we can reject the chromosonal conditions that in our very conception set us up for blue or brown eyes, black or blond hair, white or brown skin, etc. Biological inheritance is altogether, unconditionally unavoidable, it would seem.
Second, are there other types of inheritance that are equally unavoidable?
We cannot conceive of any.
Let the student test this proposition by making a list of all of the types of inheritance that he can call to mind. It will be immediately apparent that each and every one of them can be avoided.
An inheritance of money? We don't have to accept it, or keep it.
An inheritance of land or property? We can reject it, or dispose of it. An inheritance of citizenship in a certain country? We can renounce it.
Though the list be ever so long, the result will be the same. We are forced to the conclusion that there is no universally unavoidable inheritance other than biological inheritance.
Therefore for us to say that man's inheritance of guilt from Adam is unavoidable, and in the same sentence say that it is not biological, is to fondly contradict ourselves in a single sentence. An unavoidable, non-biological inheritance simply does not and cannot exist.
It follows, then, that if a baby is born with guilt inherited from Adam, this must be for one or the other of two, and only two reasons:
1. The inheritance is biological and therefore unavoidable. In this case, it is generally conceded that the responsibility traces back to the creator of human biology, who made the flesh of man in such a way that it can and does carry and transmit guilt.
2. The so-called inheritance is by the direct will of God, reflecting an administrative attitude on the part of the Ruler of the universe, and is therefore unavoidable. In this case the responsibility is obviously and unquestionably God's, but the word inheritance must be re-defined, since the guilt comes from God, and not from the parents. Thus it is not a genuine inheritance.
Those who have tried to invent a third arrangement by which man is born into (but does not inherit) a state or condition (undefined) which unavoidably places him under the judgment and condemnation of God (but is not guilt) have only muddied the waters. This is an attempt to describe something as unavoidable, yet neither biological nor the applied will of God, and this is impossible. No such thing exists. Hence to follow this argument requires us to depart from reason an reality, and take a flight into the realm of sheer fantasy.
At the risk of being tedious, we must pause to consider this unusual use of the terms, state and condition.
These, we recognize, are both appositional terms, that have no specific meaning unless they are used in connection with other words. We may speak of a state of health, or a condition of the weather or of a condition of the economy, but it is meaningless to speak of a state or a condition, period. These words must modify something, and they cannot modify themselves. This may appear to the student to be absurdly technical, but the level on which the arguments are now being presented forces us to point out that there is no state of state, there is no state of condition, there is no condition of state, thee is no condition of condition. Yet when I have sought carefully to find in those arguments an answer to the essential question, State of what? Condition of what?, I have found nothing that goes beyond this:

Original sin is a state or condition of original sin.

I do not find this very helpful.
Describe guilt or define guilt however we may, I see no way that we can escape the conclusion that if it is neither a biological inheritance nor the applied will of God, it is not unavoidable.
There is no unavoidable non-biological inheritance. And if it is the applied will of God, the word inheritance is hardly applicable. Judgment would be the more appropriate term.
This is no problem to the Adventist, who does not visualize the Lord applying a judgment of guilt to tiny infants, including the infant Jesus. It is a problem to the Calvinist, and has required him to invent an altogether extra-Biblical theory that the Lord Jesus Christ came to this earth in the human nature of the unfallen Adam, n order to keep the guilt of Adam from resting upon the infant Jesus.
May I respectfully and I hope not unkindly suggest that this is the Calvinist's problem, and not ours. We would have nothing to gain and much to lose by accepting into our theology an artificial problem: the unavoidable transmission of guilt from Adam to all of his descendants, including Jesus; a problem that can only be remedied by an equally artificial solution: the doctrine that Christ came to the earth in the human nature of the unfallen Adam.
Our position that all men inherit weakness from Adam but do not inherit guilt is, I am convinced, by far the best understanding of scripture, and is the only possible understanding of the inspired counsels that have come to us through Ellen White, such as this, one of her most simple and clear and yet most meaningful statements:

Just that which you may be, He was in human nature. -- Letter 106, 1896.