Preston Sprinkle vs The Reformation

Preston Sprinkle Says “Being Gay” Includes Virtuous Desire but Does the Protestant Tradition Agree With Him?

Back in November 2023, Rosaria Butterfield, author of Five Lies of Our Anti-Christian Age, raised quite a stir at Liberty University’s convocation when she called out some people and their ministries. She said that Preston Sprinkle, his Exiles in Babylon Conference sponsored by his Center for Faith, Sexuality, and Gender, and Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) were “heretical liars.” And she gave a list of the heretical lies they have spread:

1) “Same-sex attraction is a sinless temptation, and only a sin if you act on it?”

2) “People who experience same-sex attraction are actually gay-Christians called to life-long celibacy?”

3) “People who experience same-sex attraction, rarely, if ever, change, and therefore, should never pursue, heterosexual marriage.”

4) “Sex and gender are different, and God doesn’t care if men live as men or if women live as women, because all you need to do is grow in the fruit of the Spirit, as if the fruit of the Holy Spirit can grow from sin.”

She concluded her presentation by saying,

Choose this day whom you will serve, the lies of our anti-Christian age, the idol of LGBTQ+, or the God who made you male and female, image-bearers all, divinely patterned for the purpose of building strong Christian marriages, families, churches, communities; and calling those outside of Christ to repent of sin and to come in, where even in suffering, it is safe, and good, and purposeful. So, it is my question to you, choose this day whom you will serve. Thank you.

The reason why Rosaria made these bold statements is that Cru has utilized Sprinkle’s resources in training their staff on how to minister to “LGBTQ people.” And Sprinkle has taught some serious errors, saying things like,

“I’m actually pro-gay. I’m pro-gay in the sense that I am for gay people and I want God’s best for them and believe they can fully follow and honor God while being gay.”1

“SSA includes a virtuous desire to be intimate—in the David and Jonathan, or Jesus and John sense of the phrase—with people of the same sex.”2

“Given their destructive potential, mixed orientation marriages are rarely viewed as an option for people who are same-sex attracted (or gay).”3

“Trans* people are needed in the church. The church will look more like Jesus if it has more trans* people in it, not fewer.”4

“…many trans* people are already following Jesus more faithfully, more passionately, more consistently, more boldly than other non-trans* Christians”5

“Jesus wants more trans* and dysphoric people in His church, not less. So should we.”6

“…someone could use a trans* identity label and still believe that Jesus reigns supreme in their life.”7

“We can acknowledge that many of the elements that draw people to polyamory—deep relationships, care for others, hospitality, and community—are good things.”8

Yet, even with these statements from Sprinkle, the claim that he is a “heretical liar” requires that we look at church history to see if what he teaches is indeed heresy. The rest of this article will show how Augustine’s understanding of original sin and its motions being morally culpable sin was the orthodox position throughout church history as taught by the Roman Catholics for a time, and then, by the Protestants during and after the Reformation, even to our present day.

Augustine9

Augustine of Hippo was one of the most influential Christian theologians in church history. He defined concupiscence, or the lust of the flesh, in his final work, the “Unfinished Work in Answer to Julian,” as “whichever sense of the body the flesh has desires opposed to the spirit.”10 Concupiscence is that evil desire that is inherited from Adam by all mankind that is opposed to the perfect moral law of God. It is the lust of the flesh.

“Sermon 90,” Preached in 41311

In 413, Augustine encouraged his hearers to examine their own spiritual fruit in “Sermon 90”:

That is the wedding garment. Examine yourselves; if you have it, you can be confident about the Lord’s banquet. There are two things in one person: charity and cupidity, love and greed. Let love be born in you if it hasn’t been born yet; and if it has, let it be fed and nourished, let it grow. But as for that greed, even if in this life it cannot be totally extinguished, because if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 Jn 1:8), but insofar as there is greed in us, to that extent we are not without sin; so let love increase, greed decrease, so that one day that one, that is, love, may be perfected, greed may be wiped out.12

Augustine contended that cupidity or greed cannot be totally eliminated in this life. Greed is a form of concupiscence, a desire for money above God. It is a lust of the flesh, a sin that must be confessed. Christians must labor to increase in love and to decrease in greed until Christ perfects their love and wipes out their greed, in the end, according to Augustine.

“Unfinished Work in Answer to Julian,” Written in 430

In a quote from Augustine’s final work, his “Unfinished Work in Answer to Julian,” he commented on the pure evilness of concupiscence:

We are all, however, tempted, attracted and enticed by our own concupiscence. For this favorite of yours pleases you so much that, when anyone is not drawn by it to consent, you suppose that she should be praised, as if something that draws one toward evil is not evil if one does not give in to it, but resists when pushed. And yet, you argue with great nonsense that, even if one consents to it, we should blame the one who fell, not the one who pushed, the one who was seduced, not the seducer, the one who was enticed, not the one who enticed, for the former makes a bad use of something good, as you define it. You have such an evil spirit that the concupiscence by which the flesh has desires opposed to the spirit seems good to you.13

Augustine argued that concupiscence tempts, attracts, pushes, seduces, and entices Christians to sin. He railed against Julian for seeing concupiscence as a good created by God that is misused by man. Instead, Augustine reasoned that concupiscence should not be praised for tempting one to commit evil from within, any more than the Devil should be praised for tempting, since he is its source and father.

Additionally, consider a brief excerpt from the same work where Augustine strongly argued that concupiscence is always sin:

Why is it, I ask, that you say that concupiscence is not a sin? Do you not see that in that way you argue against the apostle? For he showed quite clearly that concupiscence is a sin when he said, I did not know sin except through the law. For I would not have known desire if the law had not said: Do not desire (Rom 7:7). What could be said more clear than this testimony? What could be said more foolish than your statement.14

Augustine plainly contended against Julian that concupiscence is a morally culpable sin, in and of itself. The difference for the saints is that God no longer counts this sin against them, since He has counted it against Christ, and forgiven his saints.

Moreover, consider this quote from the same work where Augustine disputed against Julian that the desire for sexual misconduct is just as much an evil as willing sexual misconduct:

But what is more insane than to call sexual misconduct an evil and the desire for sexual misconduct a good? What is more insane than to think that by the term “concupiscence of the flesh” the apostle of Christ brought accusations, not against concupiscence of the flesh, but against sexual misconduct, which would not exist at all, if a person were not enticed, pulled, and possessed by concupiscence of the flesh? You say this as if this great teacher had not found a reason to blame concupiscence of the flesh, but to blame under its name a person who sins sexually, though a person who sins sexually ought not to be blamed except for obeying its desires. Stop speaking so much and being wise so little. You will never succeed, no matter how great is the river of your wordiness by which you are carried off into the depths; you certainly will never succeed in making sexual misconduct an evil and the desire for what pertains to sexual misconduct not an evil, even if one does not consent to such concupiscence in order not to commit the sin.15

Augustine said that concupiscence “pulls” and “possesses” Christians. This language describes more than temptation; it describes coercion. He also maintained that concupiscence is an evil. To him, if the act is evil, the desire for the act is evil as well, even if one does not consent to the desire. 

Concupiscence Will Not Exist in Heaven

Since Augustine viewed concupiscence as morally culpable sin, it should come as no surprise that he also taught that there will be no concupiscence in Heaven. Consider Augustine’s argument from his “Answer to the Two Letters of the Pelagians,” completed between 420 and 42116:

lf we fail to observe something in those commandments, God grants pardon; for this reason we say in prayer both, Your will be done and, Forgive us our debts (Mt 6:10, 12). ln this life, then, we have the commandment not to sin; in that life we will have the reward of being unable to sin. ln this life we are commanded not to obey sinful desires; in that life we will have the reward of not having sinful desires.17

Augustine believed that in this life, God’s grace is essential for Christians to live in relationship with God, for concupiscence is ever-present within us. And the reward for holy living will be the inability to sin in eternity and the inability to have concupiscence or sinful desire. There will be no concupiscence in Heaven because there will be no evil or sin there.

Christ Did Not Have Concupiscence

Since concupiscence is evil and morally culpable sin in Augustine’s theology, it biblically and logically followed that he believed that Christ did not have any concupiscence. First, consider Augustine’s “Homily 3” on John 1:15-18, preached between 406 and 407. He, commenting on Christ the Second Adam, preached, “The first man fell, and all who have been born of him have contracted the lust of the flesh from him. There was a need for another man to be born who had contracted no such lust. One man and another: a man for death and a man for life. That is what the apostle says: Death through a man, through a man also resurrection of the dead.”18

Augustine taught that since Adam fell and all his posterity inherited his corruption, original sin and concupiscence, it was necessary for an uncorrupted Second Adam to redeem mankind. Mankind needed a new Adam who did not inherit the original sin and concupiscence of the old Adam. Death came through the old Adam and life came through the New Adam. If Christ possessed the concupiscence of the old Adam, he could not redeem anyone.

Second, consider an excerpt from Augustine’s “Unfinished Work in Answer to Julian” written in 430.19 Commenting on Christ’s true humanity and his lack of concupiscence, Augustine wrote,

We do not say: “By the blessedness of a flesh which was deprived of our senses Christ could not experience the desire for sins.” Rather, we say that because of the perfection of virtue and a flesh which was not begotten through the concupiscence of the flesh he did not have a desire for sins. It is one thing not to have had an evil desire; it is something else not to have been able to feel it. He would have felt it, after all, if he had had it. For he did not lack the sense by which he would have felt it, but he had a will by which he did not have it. Do not be surprised that Christ, though a true human being, yet good in every respect, refused to have an evil desire. For who apart from you denies that the desire by which we desire evils is evil? Who, I repeat, apart from you tries to persuade us that the desire which is admittedly a desire for sins is not a sin and is not something evil, though one does an evil action if one consents to its persuasion? Christ could have felt this desire, if he had it, and he could have had it, if he had willed to. But heaven forbid that he should have willed to! If, nonetheless, he had evil desire and, to use your word, “a desire for sins,” it would have begun to exist in him from his will, because he was not born with it, as we are. And for this reason, his virtue meant that he did not have it; our virtue means that we do not consent to it and that we imitate him so that, as he did not commit sin because he did not have this desire, so we do not commit sin because we do not consent to it. And as he willed not to have this desire and was able not to have it, so let us too will to be without it because we will be able to be without it. His grace will, of course, set us free from the body of this death, that is, from sinful flesh, the grace of him who came to us in the likeness of sinful flesh, not in sinful flesh.20

Augustine contended that Jesus could not have had concupiscence because his Father was not Adam. His Father was God. He was not born with concupiscence like the rest of mankind since Adam. The only way Jesus would have concupiscence was if He willed to have it, even though there was nothing in His human nature, concerning His human faculties, that would prevent Him from willing concupiscence. After all, Jesus is truly Man and Truly God, not a mixture of the two. Therefore, Christians should seek to be like Christ, choosing to not have sinful desires. Augustine taught that this was an impossibility in this life, but he emphasized fighting against concupiscence, which included Christians willing its death while we plead to God to forgive our debts.

Third, consider another quote from Augustine’s “Unfinished Work in Answer to Julian.”21 Commenting on Christ and concupiscence, he wrote,

Christ, then, refrained from sin in such a way that he also refrained from all desire for sin, not so that he resisted that desire which existed, but so that it never existed at all, not because he could not have had it if he had willed to, but he would not have rightly willed to have what the sinful flesh, which he did not have, would not have forced him to have even against his will.22

Again, Augustine taught that Christ could have had concupiscence, meaning He was truly human, but He would have had to will it. His flesh did not desire sin. There was no conflict within Christ between his flesh and spirit. Of course, this emphasis of Augustine on Christ’s not having concupiscence further shows that Augustine viewed concupiscence as morally culpable sin. Concupiscence would have disqualified Christ from being the church’s Redeemer.

Reformation Confessions, Catechisms, and Important Figures and Writings:

Inauguration (1517-1565)

Although both traditions claim to follow Augustine, the Roman Catholic tradition and the Reformed tradition disagree in their understanding of concupiscence. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, late Professor of Church History and Historical Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, helpfully summarized this disagreement when he wrote,

While allowing that it is sinful in the unregenerate, medieval and Romanist theologians argue that it is only the testing scar and combustible material of sin in the baptized, in whom original sin is supposed to be abolished. But Reformation theology does not accept this distinction or its presupposition. Although not imputed, original sin remains in believers, and therefore concupiscence may and must be said to have “of itself the (true and proper) nature of sin.”23

Roman Catholics taught that concupiscence is not morally culpable sin in the regenerate but is merely the “combustible material” of sin that only becomes morally culpable sin if submitted to. On the other hand, the Reformed tradition argued that concupiscence is always morally culpable sin, but in Christ Christians have been declared righteous. He has paid for the sins of His church and given us His righteousness through faith.

The rest of this article shows that the Roman Catholics departed from Augustine’s teaching on concupiscence and the Protestant Reformers sought to follow Augustine’s teaching on concupiscence. This means that Sprinkle, though he claims to be in the Protestant tradition, is not in line with the Protestant tradition’s teaching on the doctrine of sin. And he’s not even in line with what the Roman Catholic Church taught for most of its history, either.

Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531)

The Protestant Reformation was fueled in part by a return to the Holy Scriptures as possessing greater authority than the Roman Catholic Church. One such early Reformer who exalted the Scriptures was Ulrich Zwingli.24 Before Martin Luther wrote his 95 Theses, Zwingli, a young Catholic priest, in 1516 was preaching through the Holy Scriptures in Glarus, Switzerland. He became the “people’s priest” in Zurich, Switzerland in 1519 and acted as a reformer from the beginning.25

Zwingli was received favorably in Zurich. He authored the first official confessional document of the Reformation in 1523. His goal was to write an “Instruction” to the city council of Zurich that would teach them why using images and statues in worship and presenting the Mass as a sacrifice are contrary to Scripture. But the council liked the document so much, they made it official and required all ministers and preachers to teach in line with it.26 While explaining the purpose of the law for Christians, Zwingli wrote,

Furthermore, if we now have the law we are not therefore righteous, for they are not recognized as godly who hear the law. Rather they are reckoned godly who do the law. What then is the law good for? The answer according to Romans 3:20 is that one recognizes sin through the law. Therefore understand that with the following example: “You should covet no one’s spouse or possessions” [Ex. 20:17] shows you without doubt that if you covet these things you sin. And you fancy that the desire would not be sin, for you think that if you were on your guard before the act that you would not have sinned. But see our cunning! We are godly only because of the outward deed, and yet inwardly the heart has already become adulterous, a thief, a usurer or a robber. For if he were permitted to do it, then he would do it. Now our God is not blind; he sees the heart of people. If God finds the coveting or plotting therein, then the person has already incurred the penalty before God. On the other hand it is not possible for us to be without temptations and lusts so long as we wear the skin of Adam. For the flesh bears its fruit forever. For the law stands firm and does not let itself fall nor bend: you shall covet the goods of no one. And if we cannot be on our own power with the desire, so also are we also transgressors and fallen into the wrath and penalty of God.27

The first official “confession” of the Reformation contended that concupiscence is morally culpable sin. Zwingli argued that sinners want their desires that are contrary to the law to not be sin; however, they are sin. The person who has a sinful desire is already guilty before God.

Zwingli then went from discussing the law to discussing the gospel:

As long as we live, that rogue, the body, because of temptation, will never let us live a godly life. However, if we have trusted in God through Christ, then the fruits of the flesh cannot throw us down into damnation. Rather, as Christ said to Peter: “See! The devil has lain in waiting for you so that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Peter, that your faith become neither unsteady nor weak” [Luke 22:31f.]. Thus we must remain firm in faith so that all our sins will be forgiven through Christ, although both the devil and the flesh will force us through the sieve and entice us with sin to despair. But, as Peter’s external denial did not bring him into damnation, so also may no sin bring us to damnation, save one: unbelief. Here, however, the true non-Christians say: “I firmly believe in Christ.” Yet they do nothing Christian. Herein one sees that they are non-Christians, for one recognizes a tree by its fruit. [Cf. Mt. 7:16, 20.] Therefore, note for better understanding: as has often been pointed out before, whoever has securely trusted in the grace of God through Christ, after recognizing his sin, cannot be without the love of God. Who would not love him who has so graciously taken away his sin and has begun first to love him, as 1 John 4:19 says, and to draw him to himself? Where, now, the love of God is, there is God; for God is love himself and whoever is in the love of God is in God and God is in him, as 1 John 4:16 says. Now if God is in the right believer and he nevertheless sins, then it follows that it is as Paul says in Romans 8:10: “If now Christ is in you, then the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit or soul lives because of justification.” This justification is nothing but a person’s placing himself in and devoting himself to the grace of God. This is true belief. So the opinion of Paul is that our body is always dead and gives birth to works of death and sin. However, the same sins cannot damn us if we are righteous through the Lord Jesus Christ.”28

Zwingli communicated eternal trust in God’s grace through Christ. To him, due to a Christian’s inability to fulfill the law in this flesh, one could only trust in Christ. It was primarily his understanding of God’s holiness and proper worship that drove Zwingli to these conclusions.29 After all, this confession was written to inoculate its hearers against using images, statues, and the theology of the Mass in worship. Since God’s law is good and Christians cannot measure up, they must continually by faith place themselves into the grace of God. According to Zwingli, God condemns those who commit sins of concupiscence, but concupiscence cannot damn Christians if they are righteous through Christ.

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Zwingli’s teachings would eventually catch the eye of the Pope and help spur the Council of Trent (1545). However, he was not the main Reformer to catch, or perhaps a better term, “poke” the eye of the Pope. Martin Luther’s teachings on concupiscence would be under condemnation as well, especially in “Canon 5, The Decree on Original Sin” at the Council of Trent.30 He argued that anyone who denied that sin remains in a baptized child went against both Paul and Christ, and that concupiscence keeps a soul from entering heaven at death even when there is no actual sin.31 As a result, Luther was condemned as a heretic by Pope Leo in 1520 in his Bull Exsurge.32

Luther was primarily driven by his doctrine of man’s total depravity. If he was to be saved, only God could save him. He had a guilty conscience that drove him to depend on God’s grace alone, which lead to his understanding of justification as he preached through the Psalms, Romans, and Galatians.33 He was converted to the Protestant gospel between 1513 and 1517.34 He understood he was forsaken by God due to his sin (Ps 22), but through faith in Christ, who was perfectly righteous and forsaken for him, God would forsake him no longer (Rom 1:17)[Eire, Reformations, 144-45.]. In 1517, due to having a pastor’s heart for defending his sheep from the wolves, Luther wrote his 95 Theses in response to Johann Tetzel’s selling of indulgences. Tetzel sold indulgences under the guise that if the laity purchased them, they would free their loved ones from purgatory. Luther’s rhetoric in his 95 Theses was cutting and opposed the Pope publicly. Yet, the laity was largely on his side, and the Reformation spread as a result.

As Luther matured in his faith, he grew more bold and public with criticism of Rome. For example, he publicly opposed the Roman Catholic teaching on concupiscence in the “Smalcald Articles” written in 1537. He gathered these articles to distinguish essential Lutheran doctrines from non-essential doctrines if the Pope summoned him to a council.35 Writing about “the false repentance of the papists,” he argued,

It was impossible that they should teach correctly concerning repentance, since they did not rightly know what sins are. For, as has been shown above, they do not believe aright concerning original sin, but say that the natural powers of man have remained unimpaired and incorrupt; that reason can teach aright, and the will can accordingly do aright [those things which are taught], that God certainly gives his grace when a man does only as much as is in him, according to his free will. 

From this dogma it follows that they must repent only for actual sins, such as wicked thoughts that are acquiesced in (for wicked emotion [concupiscence, vicious feelings and inclinations], lust and improper dispositions [according to them] are not sins), and for wicked words and deeds, which the free will could readily have omitted. And to such repentance they fix three parts, contrition, confession and satisfaction, with this consolation and promise added: If man truly repent, confess, render satisfaction, he thereby merits forgiveness, and settles for his sins with God. Thus in repentance men were instructed to repose confidence in their own works. Hence the expression originated, which was employed in the pulpit when public absolution was announced to the people: “Prolong, O God, my life, until I shall make satisfaction for my sins and amend my life.”36

Luther opposed the papal teaching that only willful actions are morally culpable sins. Instead, he contended that sinful desires are morally culpable sin that requires the sinner to solely depend upon God’s grace for forgiveness rather than depending on one’s self-reflection or papal discernment of one’s “contrition, confession, or satisfaction.” Luther believed that if one’s fleshly desires are morally culpable sin, then one cannot find help in the mirror or in the papacy but in Christ alone.

Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560)

Martin Luther was not alone in his theology against Rome, for his closest friend and most ardent supporter was Philip Melanchthon.37 He was a professor with Luther at the University of Wittenberg. In 1530, at the request of Emperor Charles V, a Lutheran document of beliefs was submitted that became known as “The Augsburg Confession.”38 When it was read publicly at the Diet of Augsburg, there arose a dispute against it.39 Therefore, Melanchthon crafted a defense known as, “The Apology of the Augsburg Confession.” Defending Luther’s understanding of sin by quoting Augustine, Melanchthon argued,

But they contend that concupiscence is a penalty, and not a sin [a burden and imposed penalty, and is not such a sin as is subject to death and condemnation]. Luther maintains that it is a sin. It has been said above that Augustine defines Original Sin as concupiscence. If there be anything disadvantageous in this opinion, let them quarrel with Augustine. Besides Paul says (Rom. 7:7, 23): “I had not known lust” (concupiscence), “except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” Likewise: “I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members!” These testimonies can be overthrown by no sophistry. For they clearly call concupiscence sin, which, nevertheless, is not imputed to those who are in Christ, although by nature it is a matter worthy of death, where it is not forgiven. Thus, beyond all controversy, the Fathers believe. For Augustine, in a long discussion, refutes the opinion of those, who thought that concupiscence in man, is not a fault, but an adiaphoron, as color or ill-health is said to be an adiaphoron of the body [as to have a black or a white body is neither good nor evil].

But if the adversaries will contend that the fomes [or evil inclination] is an adiaphoron, not only many passages of Scripture, but the entire Church also [and all the Fathers] will contradict them. For even though perfect consent were not attained [even if not entire consent, but only the inclination and desire be there], who ever dared to say that these were adiaphora, viz. to doubt concerning God’s wrath, concerning God’s grace, concerning God’s Word, to be angry at the judgments of God, to be provoked because God does not at once remove one from afflictions, to murmur because the wicked experience a better fortune than the good, to be urged on by wrath, lust, the desire for glory, wealth, etc.? And yet godly men acknowledge these in themselves, as appears in the Psalms and the prophets. But, in the schools, they transferred hither from philosophy, notions entirely different, that, because of emotions, we are neither good nor evil, we are neither praised nor blamed. Likewise, that nothing is sin, unless it be voluntary [inner desires and thoughts are not sins, if I do not altogether consent thereto]. These notions were expressed among philosophers, with respect to civil righteousness, and not with respect to God’s judgment.40

Melanchthon believed that Augustine and all the Church Fathers taught that concupiscence is sin. It is not guiltless sin in Christians, and it is not an adiaphoron, a morally neutral inclination. Rather, concupiscence, like all that is contrary to God’s law, is morally culpable sin.41 And the notion that evil inclination is not sin, did not come from Scripture, but from the philosophers, who were discussing civil righteousness, not God’s judgment, for God looks upon the heart.

John Calvin (1509-1564)

John Calvin was only eight years old when Luther nailed his 95 Theses and only fifteen when Zwingli presented his Instruction to the Zurich city council. Yet, this young man would grow to become one of the most important leaders of the Protestant Reformation. He was raised Roman Catholic, and studied to be a priest, but by 1533 he had converted to the Protestant gospel.42 When severe persecution broke out in France in 1534, he fled to Basel, Switzerland.43 While there he wrote his magnum opus, The Institutes of the Christian Religion. It was first published in Basel in 1536 and was well received.44 As a result, Calvin eventually sought to move to Strasbourg to live a scholar’s life in peace, yet the road was blocked, forcing him to stop in Geneva.

When the leader of the Reformation in Geneva, Guillaume Farel, heard the author of the Institutes was there, he barged into his room and demanded that he stay in Geneva and serve as his assistant. Calvin resisted but Farel would not take “no” for an answer. He even threatened Calvin with curses from God if he did not stay.45 Calvin stayed and within a year, 1537, he wrote a catechism for children and the uneducated based on the Institutes.46 About the Tenth Commandment forbidding coveting, he confessed,

With these words the Lord curbs, as it were, all our cupidities which go beyond the limits set by charity. This commandment indeed forbids conceiving in the heart all that which the other commandments prohibit committing in act against the rule of love. Hence this command condemns hatred, envy, ill will, just as murder was condemned above. Lascivious sentiment and inner impurity of heart are here prohibited just as are acts of fornication. Just as, before, rapacity and cunning were forbidden, so now is avarice. Whereas, before, slander was banned, so now malignity itself is repressed.47

Calvin confessed the command, “you shall not covet,” forbade any desire contrary to God’s law. The sinful desire is always morally culpable sin. Calvin continued, “This therefore is the sum of this commandment: we must be so affectionate that we are no longer even solicited by any cupidity contrary to the law of love, and ready to render most willingly to each one that which is his. And we must hold toward each as his own that which the duty of our office binds us to render to him.”48 The goal for the Christian is not mere outward obedience but inward obedience. The goal is perfection, not anything less, according to Calvin.

Unfortunately for Calvin and Farel, the Geneva city council forced them out in May 1538. The issue was over their magisterial emphasis. The city had recently been freed from the Pope and they were not eager to replace him with new leaders. Calvin went to Strasbourg and enjoyed himself from 1538 to 1541.49 Yet, in 1541, the election in Geneva changed the composition of the city council and they invited him back. He returned with more authority than he ever had before.50

While there he finished his most important work, possibly the most important book of the Reformation and the most important systematic theology of all time, his Institutes of the Christian Religion. He published the first edition in 1536 and published the final edition in 1559, after much editing and expansion. The final edition is the only one Calvin was satisfied with, and it ended up being about the size of the Old Testament plus the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.51 In the Institutes, Calvin wrote extensively on the sin of wicked desire:

…we are bidden to “love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our faculties” [Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37]. Since all the capacities of our soul ought to be so filled with the love of God, it is certain that this precept is not fulfilled by those who can either retain in the heart a slight inclination or admit to the mind any thought at all that would lead them away from the love of God into vanity. What then? To be stirred by sudden emotions, to grasp in sense perception, to conceive in the mind—are not these powers of the soul? Therefore, when these lay themselves open to vain and depraved thoughts, do they not show themselves to be in such degree empty of the love of God? For this reason, he who does not admit that all desires of the flesh are sins, but that that disease of inordinately desiring which they call “tinder” is a wellspring of sin, must of necessity deny that the transgression of the law is sin.52

Any opposition to God’s law is sin according to Calvin. He interpreted the apostle Paul in Romans 7 with Augustine, arguing that Paul was a believer speaking of the battle of all Christians between their flesh and spirit.

Furthermore, Calvin argued that God desires perfection from his people. That is why they are commanded to love him with all their hearts, souls, and minds. And any inclination contrary to God’s law is a movement of the soul whereby Christians transgress the law, and thus, commit sin. He even went so far to argue that, if someone claims that all desires of the flesh are not sin but are the wellspring of sin, they must necessarily deny that transgressing the law is sin, since even a wellspring of sin is empty of the love of God and transgresses Christ’s command for us to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds (Matt 22:37).

Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556)

The same year that Calvin converted to the Protestant gospel, 1533, Thomas Cranmer became Archbishop of Canterbury, England. He battled Roman influence for fifteen plus years under Henry VIII, until Henry died, and his ten-year-old son, Edward VI, took the throne. Then much authority fell to Cranmer.53 He brought in John à Lasco, Martin Bucer, and Peter Martyr Vermigli to teach at Lambert, Oxford, and Cambridge, which helped to turn the Church of England decidedly Protestant. He also used part of that influence to write and implement “The Forty-two Articles of the Church of England” of 1552-1553.54 This confession is the basis for the “39 Articles” that the Church of England still affirms today. In “Article 8, of Original, or Birth Sin,” Cranmer wrote,

Original sin stands not in the following of Adam, as the Pelagians do vainly talk, which also the Anabaptists do nowadays renew: but it is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam: whereby man is very far gone from his former righteousness, which he had at his creation, and is of his own nature given to evil; so that the flesh desires always contrary to the spirit: and, therefore, in every person, born into this world, it deserves God’s wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature does remain, yes, in them that are baptized: whereby the lust of the flesh, called in Greek φρονημα σαρκος (which some do expound, the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire of the flesh), is not subject to the law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe, and are baptized: yet the apostle does confess that concupiscence and lust have of itself the nature of sin.55

Contrary to the Roman Catholic Church, Cranmer and the Church of England confessed that the apostle Paul taught that concupiscence is morally culpable sin, even in Christians. Unfortunately, Mary Tudor came to power and had Cranmer, after a trial, executed in 1556.56 However, once she lost power, the “Forty-two Articles” were used again, and served as the basis of the “Thirty-nine Articles” adopted by the Church of England in 1563.57 To this day, the statement on “Original Sin” remains the same; only the number has been changed since a statement on the Holy Spirit was added as number 5.58

Theodore Beza (1519-1605)

While Cranmer was working for reformation in England, Theodore Beza was laboring for reformation under John Calvin. Beza was raised a Roman Catholic, but gradually became disenchanted with Roman Catholicism until he was converted to the Protestant gospel, condemned as a heretic, and fled to Geneva in 1548. John Calvin welcomed him. At the request of Pierre Viret, he became a professor of Greek for 10 years at Lausanne before he moved to Geneva in 1559 to become the first professor of Greek at the Academy of Geneva.

Beza’s embrace of the Protestant gospel was not well received by his Roman Catholic father. As a result, he wrote a confession for his father in 1546 as a defense of his own Christianity. Originally written in French, it was later published in Latin in 1560, and it became a popular summary of the Reformed faith.59 Writing directly against the Roman Catholic Church concerning sin, Beza argued,

It is no marvel though that such people do not understand the office of Christ, our only Savior. For they do not know how deadly their sickness is, nor by what means Jesus Christ our only medicine is applied and united to us. For first, instead of declaring that man is altogether dead by original sin (otherwise called natural corruption), they teach that the understanding and will of man is hurt sorely so that the first grace only eases and comforts us in our infirmity. If this doctrine is true, our regeneration proceeds not only from grace, but there is participation or concurrence between grace and what they call free will (which has been discussed in points 13–15 of the third point). Moreover, to join and heap together error upon error, they have a certain disposition proceeding from the nature of man to receive the first grace so that God may be provoked by our merits to give us the second grace.

Likewise, they say that the concupiscence which continues after baptism is not sin of itself before God. Likewise, that all sins do not deserve eternal death because there are some which they call venial sins. Likewise, if our salvation is grounded upon our good works, in all or in part, to what end does grace serve us then, except as an instrument to help our free will to save ourselves? All of these are execrable errors, wholly abolishing the benefits of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Ghost in us.60

As an apologetic written for his Roman Catholic father, it makes sense that Beza would be direct in defending his faith as distinct from Roman Catholic teaching. He contended that the papists were wrong in their understanding of sin and total depravity, and its effect on mankind. They were also wrong in their lack of understanding of concupiscence as truly sin, even in the baptized. Beza argued that man continually needs God’s grace and the benefits of Christ applied to hi by the Holy Spirit in order to be in Christ and stay in Christ. 

Henry Bullinger (1504-1575)

When Beza was teaching at the Academy of Geneva, Henry Bullinger was serving as Zwingli’s successor in Zurich. Bullinger was converted to the Protestant gospel in the early 1520s through reading the Church Fathers and Martin Luther’s early works. He grew to be the successor of Zwingli beginning in 1531 and served until his death in 1575.61 One of his most popular works was The Decades, which consisted of ten sermons.62 In the Fifth Decade, about baptism cleansing eternally, he preached,

Neither is there any doubt, that Abraham in his whole life had continually in his mind the mystery of circumcision, and rested in God and the seed promised unto him. Yet I think that that ought diligently to be marked, which St Augustine pithily and plainly hath often cited: “That our sins are forgiven, or purged, in baptism, not that they are no more in us, (for as long as we live concupiscence beareth sway, and always breedeth and bringeth forth in us somewhat like itself;) but that they should not be imputed unto us: neither that we may not sin, but that it should not be hurtful for us to have or had sinned, that our sins may be remitted when they are committed, and not suffered to be continued.”63

Bullinger quoted Augustine from “The Punishment and Forgiveness of Sins and the Baptism of Little Ones” to defend his notion that being grafted into Christ cleanses Christians of all sin eternally, not one’s nature or will. Concupiscence is still morally culpable sin in Christians, but it is counted against Christ and not imputed to us.

Furthermore, the most important confession Bullinger was involved in was “The Second Helvetic Confession” of 1566. It was the most widely received Reformed confession of the 1500s.64 Defining sin, Bullinger wrote, “We, therefore, acknowledge that original sin is in all men; we acknowledge that all other sins which spring therefrom, are both called and are indeed sins, by what name so ever they are termed, whether mortal or venial, or also that which is called sin against the Holy Ghost, which is never forgiven (Mark 3:29; 1 John 5:16–17).”65 He taught that original sin and everything that springs from it is truly sin. Sin by any name is truly sin, and sin can only produce sin, which is why concupiscence is morally culpable sin. Concupiscence or sinful desire springs forth from original sin, not from the inherent good of God’s creating work in making mankind in His image.

Peter Martyr Vermigli (1500-1562)

Several years after Bullinger succeeded Zwingli, Peter Martyr Vermigli was converted to the Protestant gospel. He was an Italian Reformer. He began as an Augustinian priest and labored for reform in the Roman Catholic Church until he was converted to the Protestant gospel between 1537 and 1540. He fled for his life in 1542, eventually landing at Strasbourg, where he taught with Martin Bucer from 1542 to 1547, with his teaching reputation eventually surpassing Bucer. Thomas Cranmer pursued him to help train Anglican priests in Protestant Theology at Oxford University, where he served from 1547 to 1553.66 His most popular work was a collection of his writings put into a systematic theology, posthumously called Common Places. The book went through fourteen editions from 1576 to 1656, and even outsold Calvin’s Institutes for decades.67 In Common Places, while discussing Augustine’s understanding of concupiscence remaining after baptism, Vermigli taught,

But Augustine says, that in any wise they be sin before baptism, yea, the Holy Ghost also by Paul calls them sins: and the nature of sin is agreeable onto them. For we have defined sin in such sort, as it pertains to all things, whatsoever does strive against the law of God; for as John says, “Sin is unrighteousness,” and who perceives it not to be a thing unjust, that the flesh should make the spirit subject unto it, and that our soul will not repose itself in the word of God. Seeing therefore all these things do stir us up, to transgress and rebel against the word of God, both they are unrighteous, and must be called sins. Besides this, the words of David are against Pighius; “Behold, I am conceived in iniquity; and in sin my mother has conceived me.” If naughty desire, and these vices were the works of nature, surely the man of God would not complain of them. And what did Paul the Apostle otherwise mean, when he wrote these words to the Ephesians, “We are by nature children of wrath,” but that sin is in every one of us.68

Vermigli believed he was continuing the teaching of Augustine on concupiscence. He defined sin as “whatsoever strives against the law of God.” Since concupiscence prods Christians to transgress and rebel against God’s word, these evil desires must be defined as “unrighteous,” “sins,” and “vices” that are in all Christians. They are not a result of the creating work of God, not according to nature, but according to the sinful flesh. Vermigli continued a few pages later,

And therefore Augustine calls Julian the Pelagian, A shameless praiser of concupiscence; for he commended it, even as Pighius does, to be a notable work of God. Moreover, Pighius is against Augustine, for the same very cause, that he says concupiscence is sin before baptism, and denies it [so to be] after baptism; whereas (faith be) concupiscence is all one, God all one, and his laws all one: wherefore he concludes; that either sin must be in both, or else in neither of them. But here Pighius greatly errs in two respects; here, because he thinks that in regeneration, there is become not change: especially seeing he cannot deny, but that Christ’s remedy is added, his righteousness applied, and our guiltiness taken away; for God does not impute that concupiscence, which remains after regeneration.

Moreover, the spirit is given, where with the strength of concupiscence may be broken; that although it do stitch within us, yet that it shall not reign [over us;] for to this end Paul exhorts us, when he says; “Let not sin reign in your mortal bodies.” Again on the other part he is deceived, in that he thinks Augustine to judge, if the sin be considered alone, [as it is] by itself: for in most plain words he declares it in his own nature to be sin; because it is disobedience, against the which we must continually wrestle. And where he denies the same to be sin, it must be understood as concerning guiltiness; for that out of all doubt, is taken away in regeneration. For by that means it comes to pass, that although it be very sin indeed; yet God does not impute it for sin.69

For Vermigli, those who denied that concupiscence is sin had to argue that it was a good part of man’s nature that God created. But Vermigli defended the teachings of David, Paul, and Augustine that any disobedience to God is sin, even in Christians. The difference between Christians and the pagans is not the nature of concupiscence, but that God no longer imputes the concupiscence, the sin, to Christians; rather he imputes them to Christ.

Council of Trent (1545-1563)

By the 1540s, the Reformation was exploding in growth and influence. As a result, leaders in the Roman Catholic Church gathered at the Council of Trent in 1545 to officially answer Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. There were many theological issues discussed; the council took 18 years after all to conclude, but the item from Trent pertinent to this article is Canon 5, “The Decree on Original Sin.” The discussion that led to the formation of the decree centered around Martin Luther’s and the Protestants’ understanding of original sin and concupiscence in sinners and Christians. They agreed on the nature of sin in sinners but disagreed on the nature of sin in Christians.70

In framing “The Decree on Original Sin,” The Roman Catholics pointedly rejected Augustine’s understanding of original sin and concupiscence. There were two forms of the Decree, Form I and Form II. Form I was finished on June 8, 1546. On concupiscence, Form I read,

Baptism takes away not only the guilt of original sin but likewise whatever is sin in the true and proper sense of the word (totum id auferri quod veram et propriam rationem peccati habet), so that nothing remains in the baptized that is hateful in God’s sight. However, there remain in the baptized “concupiscence”, or a “tinder”, “and a weakness or sickness of nature” (manere in baptizatis concupiscentiam vel formitem, naturae infirmitatem ac morbum). These “relics of sin”, St Paul describes by the term “sin”, but the Catholic Church has at no time regarded them as sin in the proper sense of the word, but only in so far as they stem from sin and incline to sin (quia ex peccato sunt et ad peccatum inclinant). For this view of concupiscence the decree appeals to St Augustine and declares the Thomistic formula according to which the formal element of sin is removed by baptism while the material element remains, to be not unacceptable (non improbat).71

Most at the Council disagreed with the wording in Form I. Particularly, they rejected the phrasing from the Augustinians that concupiscence is a “relic of sin” in the baptized. Those who opposed could not understand how a “relic of sin” could exist in the saints and God not hate it, for it is still somehow a sin.72 In other words, they saw it as self-contradictory to say with Augustine that baptism cleanses concupiscence of guilt but the “relic of sin,” concupiscence, remains without any harm to the baptized. A “relic of sin” implies moral culpability, since relics of sin must be sin for even a part of sin is still sin. Thus, they left out the phrase from Form II of the Decree. And to make their rejection of Augustine on concupiscence even more clear, the clause, “for this view of concupiscence the decree appeals to St. Augustine,” was left out of Form II as well.73 The Council of Trent deliberately departed from Augustine’s teachings on concupiscence.

Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566)

At their twenty-fifth and final session on December 23, 1563, The Council of Trent instructed the Pope to finish a catechism that went along with the teachings of Trent.74 The catechism was finished in July 1566.75 Unlike the Council of Trent that deliberately left Augustine out of Canon 5 in “The Decree on Original Sin,” “The Catechism of the Council of Trent” included Augustine’s understanding of concupiscence from his earlier writings. 

Consider how “The Catechism of the Council of Trent” answered, “Whether concupiscence in baptized persons be a sin,”

That concupiscence, however, or an innate predisposition to sin (fomes), remains, as has been decreed by the authority of the Council itself in the same place, we must confess; but it does not really constitute sin; for, as St. Augustine also holds: “In baptized children the guilt of concupiscence is remitted; [concupiscence itself] is left for probation;” and the same testifies in another place: “In baptism the guilt of concupiscence is pardoned, but the infirmity remains;” for concupiscence, which is an effect of sin, is nothing else than an appetite of the soul, in its own nature repugnant to reason; which motion, however, if not accompanied by the consent of the will, or by neglect, differs widely from the real nature of sin. And when St. Paul says: “I had not known concupiscence, if the law did not say, ‘thou shalt not covet’” (Rom. Vii, 7), from these words he wished to be understood, not the force itself of concupiscence, but the fault of the will.76

The Council of Trent left Augustine out of their “Decree on Original Sin,” but those working on the catechism were more favorable to Augustine.77 Therefore, what the Council of Trent removed from their decree was put back into the catechism, while contending that concupiscence is not the real nature of sin. Yet, they still rejected Augustine, albeit a lesser rejection than the Council of Trent, when they argued that concupiscence and coveting are distinguished in Paul. That is not what Augustine taught. He wrote in “Letter 196” to Asellicus, a bishop in Byzacena,

Now, then, when the apostle says, It is now not I who do that, but the sin that dwells in me (Rom 7:17, 20), he speaks of the concupiscence of the flesh that produces in us its impulses, even when we do not obey them, provided that sin does not reign in our mortal body so that we obey its desires and provided that we do not offer our members to sin as weapons of iniquity. By making progress perseveringly in righteousness that has not yet been brought to perfection, we shall at some time come to its perfection when sinful concupiscence does not have to be held in check and reined in but when it does not exist at all. By saying, You shall not desire (Ex 20:17), the law did not set forth something we can achieve in this life but something toward which we should tend by making progress.78

Augustine did not separate coveting and concupiscence. Coveting is a form of concupiscence according to Augustine.

Post-Reformation Confessions, Catechisms, and Important Figures and Writings:

Early Orthodoxy (1565-1640)

The Sandomierz Consensus (1570)

The Council of Trent assured that there would be no reconciliation between the Protestants and the Roman Catholic Church. Trent essentially declared that all Protestants were heretics. The Protestants continued teaching and confessing that Roman Catholicism was wrong on concupiscence. The Counter-Reformation of the Roman Catholics proved to be a formidable opponent to Protestantism. As a result, Lutherans, Zwinglians/Reformed, and Czech/Bohemian Brethren from Poland to Lithuania sought to unite with a statement they could confess together. It started from the thinking of John à Lasco, but took over a decade to come to an agreement resulting in the “Sandomierz Consensus” of 1570.79 Concerning concupiscence, the document stated that “original sin is present in all people,” and all sins that come from original sin are “true sins.”80 Since concupiscence is what is left of original sin in Christians, the three groups of Protestants confessed together that concupiscence is morally culpable sin, even in Christians. Disagreement over the Lord’s Supper was the primary issue of contention, not views on original sin or that concupiscence is always true sin.81

John Craig (1512-1600)

Another laborer in the Reformation to consider is John Craig. Craig was a Dominican monk who was converted to the Protestant gospel by reading Calvin’s Institutes. While preaching in Italy, he was arrested and condemned to be burned at the stake in Rome as a heretic in 1559, but he was released by the mobs who rioted after Pope Paul IV died. Craig made his way back to his home country, Scotland, and became John Knox’s assistant in 1562. After being appointed as chaplain to King James VI, he wrote the “King’s Confession” and a catechism in 1581. This catechism became a staple in Scotland until the Westminster catechisms were released in 1647.82 On concupiscence, Craig contended,

7. Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery

Q. What is forbidden in the seventh commandment? 

A. All filthy lusts in our heart, word or deed, or gestures.

Q. What is the end of this commandment? 

A. That we keep both our bodies and hearts pure and clean.83

He continued,

10. Thou Shalt Not Covet, etc.

Q. What is forbidden in this last commandment? 

A. All light and sudden motions to evil. 

Q. Were not those motions forbidden before? 

A. No, but the consent and deed only were forbidden.

Q. Then what degrees of sin are forbidden? 

A. The lust, the consent, and the deed. 

Q. What is this lust? 

A. Original infection, the mother of the rest of our sins. 

Q. What thing is commanded here? 

A. The perfect love of our neighbor with its fruits.84

Craig, like Calvin before him, viewed the Seventh and Tenth Commandments as forbidding, not only the sinful action, but the desire (concupiscence) that lead to the action. He even succinctly defined sin as “lust, consent, and the deed.” But what did he mean by “lust”? He argued that lust is the “original infection, the mother of the rest of our sins.” With this definition, Craig encouraged repentance and faith, the rejection of concupiscence and the practice of perfect love for our neighbors, through faith.85 restrain these things, so that they remain and do what they ought; yes, that we guard ourselves against all evil desires, longings, and thoughts against our neighbor and keep the commandments of the Lord.” They argued that the tenth commandment taught that a Christian’s cannot go against the law towards one’s neighbor. “Hessian Catechism (1607),” in 1600-1693, vol. 4 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed. James T. Dennison, trans. Tom and Kirsten DeVries (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 18.]

James Ussher (1581-1656)

The same year Craig’s Catechism was published, James Ussher was born. Ussher was a well-respected scholar who had far-reaching influence over Protestantism in the 1600s.86 He heavily influenced “The Irish Articles” confession that later influenced the Reformed confession that would become the most influential in history, “The Westminster Confession.”87 Concerning original sin in Christians, “The Irish Articles” stated,

This corruption of nature remains even in those that are regenerated, whereby the flesh always lusts against the Spirit, and cannot be made subject to the law of God. And howsoever, for Christ’s sake, there is no condemnation to such as are regenerate and do believe, yet the apostle acknowledges that in itself this concupiscence has the nature of sin.88

Like the Reformers who came before him, Ussher confessed that concupiscence remains in the regenerate and continually lusts against the Spirit. Therefore, the nature of sin does not change in Christians, rather their sins are imputed to Christ.

The Canons of Dort (1618-1619)

In 1610, the Remonstrants codified the teachings of Jacob Arminius against the teachings of John Calvin. Arminius was a former student of Theodore Beza who took issue with total depravity, predestination, and the substitutionary atonement. Due to the Remonstrants, Holland became embroiled in controversy. Maurice of Orange called a national synod at Dordrecht (Dort) to settle the matter. James Dennison writes, “Fifty-six delegates, five professors, eighteen political advisors, and twenty-six delegates from foreign churches (England, Germany, Switzerland, and others) gathered at Dort in 1618.”89 Against the Remonstrants’ errors, they wrote “The Canons of Dort.”90 Under the “Fifth Head of Doctrine: The Perseverance of the Saints,” they wrote,

Article 1

Those whom God, according to His purpose, calls to the communion of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and regenerates by the Holy Spirit, He also delivers from the dominion and slavery of sin, though in this life He does not deliver them altogether from the body of sin and from the infirmities of the flesh.

Article 2

Hence spring forth the daily sins of infirmity, and blemishes cleave even to the best works of the saints. These are to them a perpetual reason to humiliate themselves before God and to flee for refuge to Christ crucified; to mortify the flesh more and more by the spirit of prayer and by holy exercises of piety; and to press forward to the goal of perfection, until at length, delivered from this body of death, they shall reign with the Lamb of God in heaven.

Article 3

By reason of these remains of indwelling sin, and also because of the temptations of the world and of Satan, those who are converted could not persevere in that grace if left to their own strength. But God is faithful, who, having conferred grace, mercifully confirms and powerfully preserves them therein, even to the end. 

Article 4

Although the weakness of the flesh cannot prevail against the power of God, who confirms and preserves true believers in a state of grace, yet converts are not always so influenced and actuated by the Spirit of God as not in some particular instances sinfully to deviate from the guidance of divine grace, so as to be seduced by and to comply with the lusts of the flesh; they must, therefore, be constant in watching and prayer, that they may not be led into temptation. When these are neglected, they are not only liable to be drawn into great and heinous sins by the flesh, the world, and Satan, but sometimes by the righteous permission of God actually are drawn into these evils. This, the lamentable fall of David, Peter, and other saints described in Holy Scripture, demonstrates.91

The language used is precise. In Article 1, the body of the regenerate is the “body of sin.” In Article 2, Christians battle “daily sins of infirmity” and should press ahead to “perfection” which indicates that indwelling sin keeps Christians imperfect. Christians should trust God to one day deliver them “from this body of death.” Furthermore, in Article 3, there remains “indwelling sin” in Christians, making them constantly dependent upon God’s grace for initial, present, and final salvation. Moreover, in Article 4, the flesh is described as a tempter to “great and heinous sins” that must be resisted through constant “watching and prayer.”

Finally, on April 23, 1619, each member of the synod signed the canons. Some of the most influential Reformed theologians of their day participated–Antonius Walaeus, Johann Polyander, Sibrandus Lubbertus, Franciscus Gomarus, John Davenant, William Ames, and Gisbertus Voetius.92 Additionally, to make an even greater statement that concupiscence is always morally culpable sin, the entire synod affirmed “The Heidelberg Catechism” and “The Belgic Confession” as well in addition to their own canons.93

Post Reformation Confessions, Catechisms, and Important Figures and Writings:

High Orthodoxy (1640-1725)

The London Baptist Confession (1644)

The Reformed, Lutherans, and the Church of England were not the only Protestants that taught that concupiscence is morally culpable sin. The Particular Baptists did as well. In 1644, William Kiffin left the church of England and established a Particular Baptist church in London. Their first confession, written in 1643, was published in 1644.94 Under Article 31, they confessed that Christians in this life “are in a continual warfare, combat, and opposition against sin, self, the world, and the devil.”95 The language they confessed and the word-order they chose pointed to their understanding that concupiscence is morally culpable sin, even in Christians. Instead of saying, “Christians battle against temptation,” they confessed that Christians battle “against sin” and “self,” and then, “the world, and the devil.” By moving from “sin” and “self” to “the world” and “the devil,” they moved from describing the Christian’s continual warfare with the sin within to the sin without, with no moral distinction between the two.

The Colloquy of Thorn (1645)

Additionally, in 1645, King Vladislaus IV, Vasa of Poland, sought to unite all Christians, both Protestant and Roman Catholic. Representatives from the Roman Catholics, The Bohemian and Reformed, the Lutherans, and Dutch Arminians all gathered. Each group was supposed to read their own concise confession, but only the Roman Catholics and Reformed were permitted to because arguments broke out and the gathering dissolved before a united statement could be reached.96 In the Reformed confession, under heading 3 on sin, they summarized,

Although in the regenerated, original sin, that which concerns the debt is abolished through the gracious remission, and concerning the depravity is more and more put to death through the grace of Christ, yet there remains in them (as long as they are in the flesh) the remnants of that depravity, particularly the evil inclinations and the stirrings of concupiscence which are therefore called in truth real sins, not only insofar as they are the punishment and origin of sin but also insofar as they strive against the law of God was well as against the Spirit of grace. This doctrine, because it is taught by the apostle himself, cannot be rejected as in error, much less condemned by anathema as heretical.97

One can see quickly in the wording used that the Reformed took shots at the Roman Catholics in their statement due to their theological error, quoting directly from the Council of Trent, “Canon 5” on original sin. The Reformed of Poland and Lithuania confessed that the regenerate still have the features of concupiscence, which are the remnants of depravity like “evil inclinations” and various “stirrings.” These are “in truth real sins” because they strive against the law of God and the Spirit of grace. They argued that the goal of a desire determined if it is sin, not the will or discernment of man.

The Westminster Confession (1646), Larger and Shorter Catechisms (1647)

In 1646 and 1647, maybe the most important and most influential Reformed confessions and catechisms ever were written, “The Westminster Confession of Faith” and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. They were composed to reform the Church of England to be more Calvinistic and to unite the church in Scotland, Ireland, and Britain.98 The 135 Westminster divines confessed that all motions from original sin in believers are sin.99 Furthermore, the “Westminster Shorter Catechism” in Question 72 said the seventh commandment forbade “all unchaste thoughts.”100 Additionally, again in question 81, it taught that all inordinate motions and affections for one’s neighbor’s possessions was forbidden by God.101

Similarly, the “Larger Catechism” in Question 99, explained which rules to follow in order to properly understand the Ten Commandments: 

1. That the law is perfect, and bindeth every one to full conformity in the whole man unto the righteousness thereof, and unto entire obedience for ever; so as to require the utmost perfection of every duty, and to forbid the least degree of every sin (Ps. 19:7; James 2:10; Matt. 5:21–22).

2. That it is spiritual, and so reacheth the understanding, will, affections, and all other powers of the soul; as well as words, works, and gestures (Rom. 7:14; Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37–39; 5:21–22, 27–28, 33–34, 37–39, 43–44).

4. That as, where a duty is commanded, the contrary sin is forbidden (Isa. 58:13; Deut. 6:13; Matt. 4:9–10; 15:4–6); and, where a sin is forbidden, the contrary duty is commanded (Matt. 5:21–25; Eph. 4:28): so, where a promise is annexed, the contrary threatening is included (Ex. 20:12; Prov. 30:17); and, where a threatening is annexed, the contrary promise is included (Jer. 18:7–8; Ex. 20:7; Ps. 15:1, 4–5; 24:4–5).

6. That under one sin or duty, all of the same kind are forbidden or commanded; together with all the causes, means, occasions, and appearances thereof, and provocations thereunto (Matt. 5:21–22, 27–28; 15:4–6; Heb. 10:24–25; 1 Thess. 5:22; Jude 23; Gal. 5:26; Col. 3:21).102

The Westminster theologians confessed that the entire human person is commanded by God’s law to conform perfectly. God’s requirement is not mere outward obedience, but inward obedience as well. Moreover, they contended that the Ten Commandments not only forbid certain sinful actions but also the “causes, means, occasions, and appearances thereof, and provocations thereunto.” Those words are all-encompassing. There is no possibility left for nuance. Everything under the sun that leads to sin is sin because the smallest opposition to the law of God is sin. Again, as those great Reformers before them, the Westminster theologians taught that the law, not man’s will, determined what is sin. Also, concupiscence is said to be sin in answers to questions 138, 139, 147, 148, and 149 in the “Larger Catechism”103 and question 71 in the “Shorter Catechism.”104

The Savoy Declaration (1658)

In 1658, several Puritans gathered to draft a confession that affirmed their independent view of church government. British Parliament had not approved “The Westminster Confession” in its entirety, and the group as a result opted to write a new confession that Parliament would find favorable. They only met for 12 days, probably because their document gleaned heavily from “The Westminster Confession.” John Owen, Thomas Goodwin, Philip Nye, William Bridge, Joseph Caryl, and William Greenhill were present to craft the document.105 They declared, concerning original sin,

V. This corruption of nature during this life doth remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be through Christ pardoned and mortified, yet both itself and all the motions thereof are truly and properly sin.

VI. Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, doth in its own nature bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the Law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal.106

The Puritans were concerned primarily with the authority of the Church of England being greater than Scripture’s authority. However, the Reformed understanding of concupiscence was not in question. As seen above, the Puritans confessed that concupiscence remains in the regenerate and is morally culpable since it is “truly and properly sin.” God’s law is presented as the standard, and everything else that does not measure up to this standard is considered sin. To the Puritans, God’s law and not man’s will determined the definition of sin.

The London Baptist Confession (1677)

Moreover, in 1677, Particular Baptists sought to join the various Calvinist dissenters who were opposed to the Anglican state church’s pressure on their congregations. In response, they slightly critiqued “The Westminster Confession of Faith” to reflect their Baptist distinctives. William Collins and Nehemiah Cox were the editors.107 Concerning concupiscence, the Baptists confessed that concupiscence is “truly and properly sin.”108 There were doctrinal differences between the groups, of course, and the confession was changed; however, the truth that concupiscence is always truly sin was not in question.

The Baptist Catechism (1693)

Additionally, in 1693, William Collins and Benjamin Keach sought to show their agreement with and difference from other Calvinist Christians by producing a catechism.109 At the end of the catechism, they mentioned their dependence upon the “Declaration of Savoy” and the “Westminster Shorter Catechism.”110 They quoted the “Westminster Shorter Catechism” verbatim in “Q. 86” as forbidding in the Tenth Commandment “all inordinate motions and affections” to anything that belongs to one’s neighbor.111 Also, they summarized the distinct motions of man in “Q. 87,” when they argued that men daily break God’s law in “thought, word, and deed.”112 Not merely do words and deeds break the law, but sinful thoughts (concupiscence) break God’s law as well.

1700s to the 1900s

Not only did the Reformed tradition argue that concupiscence is morally culpable sin even in Christians in the 1500s and 1600s, many of the most influential Reformed professors and pastors carried this doctrine forward through the 1700s, 1800s, and 1900s. The most influential in the 1700s was Jonathan Edwards. For the 1800s, some of the most influential were Archibald Alexander, Charles Hodge, James P. Boyce, and Charles Spurgeon. For the 1900s, Herman Bavinck’s teachings were some of the most influential, as they were made popular in the United States by Louis Berkhof.

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)

In the history of America, Jonathan Edwards may be her greatest theologian. Mark Noll, retired Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana, calls Jonathan Edwards, “the greatest evangelical mind in American history and one of the truly seminal thinkers in Christian history of the past few centuries.”113 God used Edwards, along with George Whitefield, to spur the First Great Awakening. He was also the third President of Princeton University.114 Edwards affirmed “The Westminster Confession,”115 as his teaching on concupiscence showed:

Not only are our best duties defiled, in being attended with the exercises of sin and corruption, that precede them and follow them, and are intermingled with holy acts; but even the holy acts themselves, and the gracious exercises of the godly, though the act most simply considered is good, yet take the acts in their measure, and dimensions, and the manner in which they are exerted, and they are corrupt acts; that is, they are defectively corrupt, or sinfully defective; there is that defect in them, that may well be called the corruption of them; that defect is properly sin, an expression of a vile sinfulness of heart, and what tends to provoke the just anger of God; not because the exercise of love and other grace, is not equal to God’s loveliness; for ’tis impossible the love of creatures (men or angels) should be so; but because the act is so very disproportionate to the occasion given for love or other grace, considering God’s loveliness, and the manifestation that is made of it, and the exercises of kindness, and the capacity of human nature, and our advantages (and the like) together. A negative expression of corruption may be as truly sin, and as just cause of provocation, as a positive.116

Christians in this life, in and of themselves, have no being, desire, thought or act that is not tainted by sin. They must find help outside themselves in God if He is to accept them. Concupiscence has tainted them and all that flows from them. Yet, Edwards continued, “Hence, though it be true that the saints are rewarded for their good works, yet it is for Christ’s sake only, and not for the excellency of their works in themselves considered, or beheld separately from Christ; for so they have no excellency in God’s sight, or acceptableness to him, as has now been shown.”117 Even though the saints are tainted by indwelling sin, God rewards them based on their good works. This reward, however, is not due to them, but due to the work of Christ alone. Apart from Christ, there would be no saints and no reward for the saints, according to Edwards.

Archibald Alexander (1772-1851)

In the 1800s, one of the most influential Reformed theologians was Archibald Alexander. He was the first Professor of Princeton Theological Seminary, beginning in 1812. Alexander’s influence at the seminary lasted over one hundred years.118 Concerning concupiscence, he taught, 

It is again disputed, whether concupiscence, or that disease of our nature which renders us prone to sin, is itself of the nature of sin. This the papists deny; we affirm.

They allege, that whatever exists in us necessarily, and is not from ourselves, but from another, cannot be of the nature of sin; but this is the fact in regard to concupiscence, ergo, &c.

Answer. In a merely political judgment this may be correct, but not in that which is divine. And if the principle here asserted was sound, it would prove too much: it would prove that even the acts of concupiscence are not sinful: for there is a sort of necessity for these, supposing the principle of concupiscence to exist in the soul.119

In the 1830s, like today, people questioned whether concupiscence is morally culpable sin. Alexander clearly articulated the Reformed position over against the Roman Catholic position. He argued that moral culpability in human terms is based on one’s capability, but in divine terms, sin is based on God’s standard not sinful man’s capability to fulfill God’s standard. 

Furthermore, he argued that if it is true that morally culpable sin is based on one’s capability, since both Roman Catholics and the Reformed argue that man cannot be sinless in this life, it necessarily follows that even sinful actions are not morally culpable sin since they are necessary due to the existence of concupiscence in one’s soul. If capability defines moral culpability, and no human is capable of being sinless in this life, then no human is morally culpable for one’s lack of sinlessness, even in their actions.

Charles Hodge (1797-1878)

In the 1800s, the most influential American Presbyterian Theologian was Charles Hodge. He taught at Princeton Theological Seminary for over 55 years, from 1822 to 1878.120 Concerning the truth that concupiscence is morally culpable sin, even in Christians, he wrote, “All true Christians are convinced of sin; they are convinced not only of individual transgressions, but also of the depravity of their heart and nature. They recognize this depravity as innate and controlling. They groan under it as a grievous burden. They know that they are by nature children of wrath.”121 All true Christians, according to Hodge, understood that they are children of wrath, not merely due to their actual transgressions but also due to their wicked hearts and very nature.

James P. Boyce (1827-1888)

Another influential Reformed theologian in the 1800s was James Pettigrew Boyce. He was the first President of SBTS. Greg Wills, Professor of Church History and Director of Research Doctoral Studies at SBTS, writes, “Boyce’s leadership so characterized the seminary that one critic objected that the school belonged to Boyce more than to the denomination. The critic was in an important sense correct. Boyce’s imprint made the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Boyce’s seminary.”122 In his Abstract of Systematic Theology, Boyce wrote, “That the justified are not declared in Scripture to be free from sin or possessed of holy natures, but are represented as still struggling against sin, and not only sin which arises from outward temptations, but that proceeding from the motions of sin within.”123 This statement agreed with the “Philadelphia Confession,” which Boyce affirmed, that mirrored the “Second London Confession.”124 In his Abstract of Systematic Theology, he argued the Reformed position that Christians struggle against the “motions of sin within” in addition to outward temptations.

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)

Boyce was not the only influential Reformed Baptist that taught that concupiscence is always morally culpable sin, Charles Spurgeon did as well. Spurgeon was one of the most influential Baptists in church history. He was referred to by many as “the last of the puritans” and the “prince of preachers.”125 Spurgeon affirmed the “Second London Confession,” as was evident in his preaching and writing.126 In a sermon expositing Micah 7:19, “He will subdue our iniquities,” Spurgeon preached,

Sin poisons the wellhead! Sin is in our brain—we think wrongly. Sin is in our heart—we love that which is evil. Sin bribes the judgment, intoxicates the will and perverts the memory! We recollect a bad word when we forget a holy sentence. Like a sea which comes up and floods a continent, penetrating every valley, deluging every plain and invading every mountain, so has sin penetrated our entire nature! How shall this flood be stopped? This enemy so universally dominant, so strongly entrenched—how shall it be dislodged? It has to be driven out somehow, every particle of it, and we shall never rest until it is. But by whom shall iniquity be subdued? How satisfactory the assurance of our text, “He will subdue our iniquities”!127

Christians are so poisoned by sin that Spurgeon argued there is no way to escape unless God subdues their iniquities. Yet, he also argued that Christians must not rest until sin in its entirety is driven out from them. Following the Reformed believers before him, he taught that rejecting one’s sinfulness is the responsibility of Christians, while also teaching that God is the only One who can and will deliver them.

Herman Bavinck (1854-1921)

Finally, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, one of the most influential Reformed theologians was Herman Bavinck. He was a theology professor at Kampen Theological School (1883-1902) and the Free University of Amsterdam (1902-1921) in The Netherlands. John Bolt, Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, called him “the real theologian of the nineteenth-century Dutch Calvinist revival.”128 In agreement with the great Reformers who came before him, Bavinck argued,

There is not only an antecedent but also a concomitant, a consequent, and an approving will. Later, to a greater or lesser degree, the will approves of the sinfulness of our nature and takes delight in it. And also when later the will, illumined by reason, fights against it, or the born-again person can testify with Paul that he does not will the evil that he does [cf. Rom. 7:7–25], then this certainly decreases the degree of sin but does not define the nature of the sin. For sin has its standard only in God’s law. Paul definitely denominates as sin the evil he does not will but nevertheless commits and so agrees that the law is good. But even then the sin that is done without having been willed does not occur totally apart from the will. For, certainly, Paul can say: “It is no longer I that do it but sin that dwells within me” [Rom. 7:17], thus drawing a contrast between his regenerate “I” and unregenerate flesh, but Augustine already rightly explained these words as follows: “Even though I do not consent to lust (concupiscence) and even if I do not pursue my desires, nevertheless, I still feel desire and am personally present in that very part of me. For I am not one person in my mind and another in my flesh. But then what am I? For I exist both in my mind and in my flesh. For the two natures are not contrary but the one human being is composed of both, inasmuch as God, the God by whom the person was made, is one.” Certainly, it is not one person who does this sin in the flesh and another who does not want this sin. In both instances it is the same person who, on the one hand, impurely pursues what is forbidden (concupiscence) and who nevertheless in the deepest part of his will turns away from it and fights it. And since a human being, also the born-again person for as long as he or she is in the flesh, always to some degree desires what is forbidden, even though he or she fights it in the restricted sense, it can be said that at the most fundamental level all sin is voluntary. There is nobody or nothing that compels the sinner to serve sin. Sin is enthroned not outside the sinner but in the sinner and guides the sinner’s thinking and desiring in its own direction. It is the sinner’s sin insofar as the sinner has made it his or her own by means of his or her various faculties and powers.129

Agreeing with Augustine and the Reformed theologians before him, Bavinck taught that the law defines sin, and the will is involved in everything a person does. All sin is voluntary. The same Christians desire both what is forbidden and what is holy. Christians may choose to repent of and fight their sinful desires as simultaneously their wills are connected to their concupiscence. Even though Paul does not will his concupiscence per se, he still commits it, which indicates that his will is complicit in some form even as he, through his will, fights against his flesh.

Bavinck’s development of Reformed theology was made popular in the United States through the influence of Louis Berkhof (1873-1957). Berkhof was a Professor at Calvin Theological Seminary for 38 years and was its first President. His most influential work was his Systematic Theology that became a popular textbook for Bible college and seminary students across the United States and Canada.130

Conclusion

In conclusion, not only is Preston Sprinkle wrong when he says “gay people” “can fully follow and honor God while being gay,” and, same-sex attraction “includes a virtuous desire to be intimate—in the David and Jonathan, or Jesus and John sense of the phrase—with people of the same sex,” he is heretically wrong, based on the Christian interpretation of Scripture throughout Protestant Church History. For, to say that “being gay” has virtuous elements, Sprinkle must say that homosexual desires in one’s heart, are good and are obedient to God. He must contend that the source of homosexual desire is not original sin and that a motion from original sin, a motion of homosexual desire, is not sin. Neither Protestant nor most of Roman Catholic history agrees, but the Pelagians do. And they were condemned as heretics at the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD.


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Show 130 footnotes
  1. Preston Sprinkle, “Grace//Truth 1.0: Five Conversations Every Thoughtful Christian Should Have About Faith, Sexuality, and Gender,” Accessed January 27, 2024, https://www.centerforfaith.com/sites/default/files/grace_truth_1.0_conversation_1.pdf.
  2. Preston Sprinkle, “Is Same-Sex Attraction Sinful?” December 1, 2014, https://theologyintheraw.com/is-same-sex-attraction-sinful/.
  3. Preston Sprinkle, “What is a Mixed-Orientation Marriage?” Accessed January 27, 2024, https://theologyintheraw.com/what-is-a-mixed-orientation-marriage/.
  4. Preston Sprinkle, “GUIDANCE FOR CHURCHES ON MEMBERSHIP, BAPTISM, COMMUNION, SERVICE, AND LEADERSHIP FOR TRANS* PEOPLE,” Accessed January 27, 2024, https://www.centerforfaith.com/sites/default/files/cfsg_pastoral_papers_14.pdf.
  5. Preston Sprinkle, “GUIDANCE FOR CHURCHES ON MEMBERSHIP, BAPTISM, COMMUNION, SERVICE, AND LEADERSHIP FOR TRANS* PEOPLE,” Accessed January 27, 2024, https://www.centerforfaith.com/sites/default/files/cfsg_pastoral_papers_14.pdf.
  6. Preston Sprinkle, “GUIDANCE FOR CHURCHES ON MEMBERSHIP, BAPTISM, COMMUNION, SERVICE, AND LEADERSHIP FOR TRANS* PEOPLE,” Accessed January 27, 2024, https://www.centerforfaith.com/sites/default/files/cfsg_pastoral_papers_14.pdf.
  7. Preston Sprinkle, “GUIDANCE FOR CHURCHES ON MEMBERSHIP, BAPTISM, COMMUNION, SERVICE, AND LEADERSHIP FOR TRANS* PEOPLE,” Accessed January 27, 2024, https://www.centerforfaith.com/sites/default/files/cfsg_pastoral_papers_14.pdf.
  8. Preston Sprinkle, “A Response to the Critics of My CT Article on Polyamory,” February 29, 2020, https://www.centerforfaith.com/blog/a-response-to-the-critics-of-my-ct-article-on-polyamory.
  9. All the historical reflection, quotations, and paraphrases in the rest of the article come from my dissertation. See Jared Heath Moore, “A Biblical and Historical Appraisal of Concupiscence with Special Attention to Same-Sex Attraction,” (PhD dissertation, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2019), https://repository.sbts.edu/handle/10392/5996.
  10. Augustine, “Unfinished Work in Answer to Julian,” in Answer to the Pelagians, 3, part 1Books, vol. 25 of The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century, ed. John E. Rotelle, trans. Roland J. Teske (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1999), 410-11.
  11. Scholars disagree on the date; some say 411; others say 420. The translator of this sermon, Edmund Hill, thinks it was preached in 413. Augustine, “Sermon 90,” in Sermons 51-94, part 3 – Sermons, vol. 3 of The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century, ed. John E. Rotelle, trans. Edmund Hill (Brooklyn, NY: New City Press, 1997), 456n1.
  12. Augustine, “Sermon 90,” 451.
  13. Augustine, “Unfinished Work in Answer to Julian,” 127.
  14. Augustine, “Unfinished Work in Answer to Julian,” 382.
  15. Augustine, “Unfinished Work in Answer to Julian,” 407.
  16. Ronald J. Teske, introduction to “Answer to the Two Letters of the Pelagians,” by Augustine, in Answer to the Pelagians, 2, part 1 – Books, vol. 24 of The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century, ed. John E. Rotelle (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1998), 99-100.
  17. Augustine, “Answer to the Two Letters of the Pelagians,” in Answer to the Pelagians, 2, part 1 – Books, vol. 24 of The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century, ed. John E. Rotelle (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1998), 173-74.
  18. Augustine, “Homily 3,” 77.
  19. Augustine, “Unfinished Work in Answer to Julian,” 13.
  20. Augustine, “Unfinished Work in Answer to Julian,” 427.
  21. Augustine, “Unfinished Work in Answer to Julian,” 13.
  22. Augustine, “Unfinished Work in Answer to Julian,” 436-37.
  23. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, “Concupiscence,” in Wycliffe Dictionary of Theology, ed. Everett F. Harrison, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Carl F. Henry (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999), 133.
  24. Carlos M. N. Eire, Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450-1650 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2016), 219, 224-26.
  25. Eire, Reformations, 227.
  26. James T. Dennison, Jr., ed., introduction to “Zwingli’s Short Christian Instruction (1523),” by Ulrich Zwingli, in 1523-1552, vol. 1 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2008), 9. The letter was sent out with a heading that read, “A Short Christian Instruction, Sent by the Honorable Council of the City of Zurich to the Ministers and Preachers Living in the Towns, Villages and Districts, that they Henceforth Unanimously Proclaim and Preach the Evangelical Truth to Their Subjects.” Ulrich Zwingli, “Zwingli’s Short Christian Instruction (1523),” in 1523-1552, vol. 1 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed. and trans. James T. Dennison, Jr. (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2008), 10.
  27. Zwingli, “Zwingli’s Short Christian Instruction (1523),” 15-16.
  28. Zwingli, “Zwingli’s Short Christian Instruction (1523),” 21.
  29. Eire, Reformations, 224.
  30. Hubert Jedin, The First Sessions at Trent, 1545-47, vol. 2 of A History of the Council of Trent, trans. Dom Ernest Graf (New York: Thomas Nelson, 1958), 134, 144-45.
  31. Jedin, The First Sessions at Trent, 1545-47, 144-45. Also see Robert Kolb and James A Nestingen, eds., Sources and Contexts of the Book of Concord (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2001), 34.
  32. Jedin, The First Sessions at Trent, 1545-47, 144-45.
  33. Eire, Reformations, 224.
  34. Eire, Reformations, 143.
  35. Martin Luther, “The Smalcald Articles,” in The Book of Concord: or, The Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, ed. Henry Eyster Jacobs (Philadelphia: General Council Publication Board, 1916), 307.
  36. Luther, “The Smalcald Articles,” 324-25.
  37. Eire, Reformations, 155.
  38. “The Augsburg Confession,” The Book of Concord: or, The Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, ed. Henry Eyster Jacobs (Philadelphia: General Council Publication Board, 1916), 34.
  39. Philip Melanchthon, “The Apology of the Augsburg Confession,” in The Book of Concord: or, The Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, ed. Henry Eyster Jacobs (Philadelphia: General Council Publication Board, 1916), 73.
  40. Melanchthon, “The Apology of the Augsburg Confession,” 81-82.
  41. While Luther was fighting for the Reformation against the Pope, thanks to the printing press, his writings were spreading and reformation with them! The first Swiss city to release his writings was Basel, and evangelical preaching exploded as a result. Due to the influence of men like Johannes Oecolampadius, Oswald Myconius, and Simon Gryaneus, “The First Confession of Basel” was written in 1534. Their article on original sin emphasized man’s total depravity and the bondage of man’s will. Defending these realities, they confessed, “And besides, our nature has been corrupted, and in addition reaches such a propensity of sinning (Gen. 6:5; 8:21), that unless it is restored by the Holy Spirit (John 3:5, 6), man does nothing good by himself, nor does he wish to (Rom. 3:10–12, 23; Ps. 143:2, 10; Eph. 2:1–3, 5).” Therefore, the willful actions of a man were not his only sins, but his “wishes” or desires, his concupiscence, that led to these actions were sin as well. Johannes Oecolampadius, Oswald Myconius, and Simon Gryaneus, “The First Confession of Basel (1534),” in 1523-1552, vol. 1 of  Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed. and trans. James T. Dennison, Jr. (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2008), 288.
  42. Eire, Reformations, 289-90.
  43. Eire, Reformations, 290-91.
  44. Eire, Reformations, 291-92.
  45. Eire, Reformations, 297-98.
  46. James T. Dennison, Jr., ed., introduction to “Calvin’s Catechism (1537),” by John Calvin, in 1523-1552, vol. 1 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2008), 353.
  47. John Calvin, “Calvin’s Catechism (1537),” in 1523-1552, vol. 1 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed. and trans. James T. Dennison, Jr. (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2008), 363-64.
  48. Calvin, “Calvin’s Catechism (1537),” 363-64.
  49. Eire, Reformations, 298.
  50. Eire, Reformations, 299.
  51. Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1:xxix-xxxiv.
  52. Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, vol. 1, 603-4.
  53. John Edmund Cox, ed., “Biographical Notice of Archbishop Cranmer,” in Miscellaneous Writings and Letters of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, Martyr, 1556, vol. 2 of The Works of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, Martyr, 1556 (Cambridge: The University Press, 1846), viii-x.
  54. James T. Dennison, Jr., ed., introduction to “The Forty-Two Articles of the Church of England (1552/53),” by Thomas Cranmer, in 1552-1566, vol. 2 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010), 1-2. Another confession to consider around this same time period, 1553, comes from the “Geneva of the Netherlands,” the “Emden Examination of Faith.” Their answer in Question 6 for what God requires of Christians in the Tenth Commandment was, “That in no way shall we have an evil inclination or lust against the glory of God and our neighbor (Rom. 7:17; Ex. 20:17; Deut. 5:21).” “Emden Examination of Faith (1553),” in 1552-1566, vol. 2 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., trans. Abraham Kuyper (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010), 46.
  55. Thomas Cranmer, “The Forty-Two Articles of the Church of England (1552/53),” in 1552-1566, vol. 2 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr. (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010), 3-4.
  56. Cox, “Biographical Notice of Archbishop Cranmer,” x-xii.
  57. Another document to consider is the “Anglican Catechism” for children, crafted by John Ponet in 1553. Discussing concupiscence rendering man unable to fulfill the law, this catechism reads, “And that no man is made righteous by the law, it is evident: not only that the righteous lives by faith, but also that no mortal man is able to fulfill all that the law of both the tables commands. For we have hindrances that strive against the law: as the weakness of the flesh, habitual appetite, and lust naturally engendered.” John Ponet, “Anglican Catechism (1553),”in 1552-1566, vol. 2 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr. (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010), 19.
  58. Dennison, Jr., introduction to “The Forty-Two Articles of the Church of England (1552/53),” 2. Another Reformed confession to consider is “The Waldensian Confession of 1560.” Concerning concupiscence, they confessed, “We also believe that this vice is truly sinful and sufficient to condemn the whole human race, even children in the womb of their mother, for it is so judged before God. And after baptism, it is still sinful as to the guilt; but the condemnation is abolished for the children of God, not being imputed to them out of His free goodness. Moreover, we confess that it is such a perversity which always produces the fruits of malice and rebellion so that even the holiest saints, though they resist it, are nevertheless stained with infirmities and shortcomings while they inhabit this world (Rom. 7).” “The Waldensian Confession (1560),” in 1552-1566, vol. 2 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., trans. Andrea Ferrari (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010), 221.
  59. James T. Dennison, Jr., ed., introduction to “Theodore Beza’s Confession (1560),” by Theodore Beza, in 1552-1566, vol. 2 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010), 236-37.
  60. Theodore Beza, “Theodore Beza’s Confession (1560),” in 1552-1566, vol. 2 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr. (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010), 338-39.
  61. Thomas Harding, ed., “Biographical Notice of Henry Bullinger,” in The Decades of Henry Bullinger, Minister of the Church of Zurich, trans. H. I. (Cambridge: The University Press, 1852), viii-xi.
  62. G. W. Bromiley, introduction to “Of the Holy Catholic Church,” by Henry Bullinger, in Zwingli and Bullinger, of The Library of Christian Classics, ed. and trans. G. W. Bromiley (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1953), 283.
  63. Henry Bullinger, “The Eighth Sermon,” in The Decades of Henry Bullinger, Minister of the Church of Zurich, ed. Thomas Harding, trans. H. I. (Cambridge: The University Press, 1852), 398-99.
  64. James T. Dennison, Jr., ed., introduction to “The Second Helvetic Confession (1566),” by Henry Bullinger, in 1552-1566, vol. 2 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010), 809.
  65. Henry Bullinger, “The Second Helvetic Confession (1566),” in 1552-1566, vol. 2 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr. (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010), 821.
  66. Frank James III, ed., Peter Martyr Vermigli and the European Reformations: Semper Reformanda, Studies in the History of Christian Traditions 115 (Boston: Brill, 2004), xiv-xvii.
  67. Torrance Kirby, Emidio Campi, and Frank A. James III, eds., A Companion to Peter Martyr Vermigli, vol. 16 of Brill’s Companions to the Christian Tradition (Boston: Brill, 2009), 1-2.
  68.  I have updated this quotation from Early Modern English to Modern English. For the original quote, see, Peter Martyr Vermigli, The Common Places of the Most Famous and Renowned Divine Doctor Peter Martyr, Divided into Four Principle Parts: With a Large Addition of Many Theological and Necessary Discourses, Some Never Extant Before, ed. and trans. Anthonie Marren (1583), 217-18.
  69. Vermigli, The Common Places of the Most Famous and Renowned Divine Doctor Peter Martyr, Divided into Four Principle Parts, 222.
  70. Michael C. Thomsett, Heresy in the Roman Catholic Church: A History (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2011), 167.
  71. Jedin, The First Sessions at Trent, 1545-47, 150-51.
  72. Jedin, The First Sessions at Trent, 1545-47, 152.
  73. Jedin, The First Sessions at Trent, 1545-47, 154-55. Not only did they remove affirmation of Augustine’s position on concupiscence from Canon 5, they removed affirmation of Thomas Aquinas’ position as well. The statement they removed about Thomas read, “the Thomistic formula according to which the formal element of sin is removed by baptism while the material element remains, to be not unacceptable (non improbat).” Jedin, The First Sessions at Trent, 1545-47, 151.
  74. Philip Schaff, ed., “The Roman Catechism, 1566,” in The History of Creeds, vol. 1 of The Creeds of Christendom with A History and Critical Notes, 6th ed. (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1919), 100.
  75. Schaff, “The Roman Catechism, 1566,” 100-101.
  76. J. Donovan, trans., Catechism of the Council of Trent: Translated into English (Dublin: James Duffy and Co., 1908), 162-63.
  77. Schaff, “The Roman Catechism, 1566,” 101.
  78. Augustine, “Letter 196” in Letters 156-210, part 2 – Letters, vol. 3 of The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century, ed. Boniface Ramsey, trans. Roland Teske (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2004), 312-13. There are many more quotes from Augustine that could be shared as well.
  79. James T. Dennison, Jr., ed., introduction to “Sandomierz Consensus (1570),” in 1567-1599, vol. 3 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 168-69.
  80. “Sandomierz Consensus (1570),” in 1567-1599, vol. 3 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed. James T. Dennison (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 191.
  81. Another document to consider is “The Confession of LaRochelle” from 1571, adopted at the Seventh National Synod of the Reformed Churches of France. James T. Dennison, Jr., ed., introduction to “The Confession of La Rochelle (1571)” in 1567-1599, vol. 3 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 305-6. Concerning “11. The Condemnation of Sin,” they confessed, “We believe also that this blemish of original sin is sin, in the proper sense of the word, that it is sufficient for the condemnation of the whole human race, even of little children in their mother’s womb, and that God considers it as such. Likewise, we believe that even after baptism original sin is still sin with respect to the guilt, although the condemnation of it has been abolished in the children of God, God not imputing it to them by His most gratuitous kindness. We believe also that original sin is a perversion that is always producing fruits of corruption and of rebellion, so that the most holy men, although they resist it, do not cease to be tainted with many weaknesses and faults while they live in this world.” “The Confession of La Rochelle (1571),” in 1567-1599, vol. 3 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed. and trans. James T. Dennison, Jr., trans. Martin Klauber (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 311. Another Confession to consider is “The Bohemian Confession” of 1573. In “Chapter 4. Of the Knowledge of Oneself; also of Sin, the Causes and Fruits thereof; and of the Promises of God,” it stated, “Therefore, the origin and principal author of all evil is that cruel and detestable devil, the tempter, liar, and manslayer, and after that, the free will of man, which nevertheless, having been converted to evil through lust by both carnal desires and perverse concupiscence, chooses evil. From this, sins, according to these degrees and this order, may be considered and judged. The first of all, both the greatest and the most serious sin of all, is the sin of Adam, which the apostle calls disobedience, on account of which death reigns in all, even in those who did not sin in the same way with the transgression of Adam (Rom. 5:14). A second kind is original sin, inborn and hereditary, in which we are all conceived and born into this world. “Behold,” says David, “I was born in iniquity, and in sin has my mother conceived me” (Ps. 51:5). And Paul: “We are by nature the children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3). Let the force of this hereditary destruction be acknowledged and judged by our guilt and fault, inclination or propensity and also our crooked nature, by which punishment is affected.” “The Bohemian Confession (1573),” in 1567-1599, vol. 3 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr. (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 331.
  82. John Craig, “Craig’s Catechism” (1581), in 1567-1599, vol. 3 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed. James T. Dennison (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 544.
  83. Craig, “Craig’s Catechism (1581),” 575.
  84. Craig, “Craig’s Catechism (1581),” 576.
  85. Another catechism to consider on concupiscence is the “Hessian Catechism” of 1607. Commenting on the meaning of the tenth commandment, it reads, “What is that? We shall fear and love God, so that we do not stand toward our neighbor with cunning against his heritage or house, nor his wife, children, servants, or cattle, to alienate, to force away, or to entice away; rather [that we
  86. Ussher is best known for dating the beginning of creation at 4004 B.C. since it was inserted in the marginal notes of the King James Version of the Bible. R. K. Bishop, “Ussher, James (1581-1656),” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984), 1131.
  87. Jonathan D. Moore, “James Ussher’s Influence on the Synod of Dordt,” in Revisiting the Synod of Dordt (1618-1619), ed. Aza Goudriaan and Fred van Lieburg, Brill’s Series in Church History 49 (Boston: Brill, 2011), 163-65.
  88. James Ussher, “The Irish Articles (1615),” in 1600-1693, vol. 4 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr. (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 94.
  89.  James T. Dennison, Jr., ed., introduction to “The Canons of Dort (1618-1619),” in 1600-1693, vol. 4 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 120.
  90. Dennison, Jr., introduction to “The Canons of Dort (1618-1619),” 120.
  91. “The Canons of Dort (1618-1619),” in 1600-1693, vol. 4 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr. (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 144-45.
  92. Richard Muller construed these men as some of the most influential in their day in the Reformed tradition. Muller, Prolegomena to Theology, 30-31. Also, for a complete list of the delegates that attended the Synod of Dort, see Peter De Jong, ed., Crisis in the Reformed Churches: Essays in Commemoration of the Great Synod of Dort (Grandville, MI: Reformed Fellowship, 2008), 253-58.
  93. Donald Sinnema, “The Drafting of the Canons of Dordt: A Preliminary Survey of Early Drafts and Related Documents,” in Revisiting the Synod of Dordt (1618-1619), ed. Aza Goudriaan and Fred van Lieburg, Brill’s Series in Church History 49 (Boston: Brill, 2011), 326.
  94. James T. Dennison, Jr., ed., introduction to “The London Baptist Confession (1644),” in 1600-1693, vol. 4 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 182-83.
  95. “The London Baptist Confession (1644),” in 1600-1693, vol. 4 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr. (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 193.
  96. James T. Dennison, Jr., ed., introduction to “The Colloquy of Thorn (1645),” in 1600-1693, vol. 4 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 205-6.
  97. “The Colloquy of Thorn (1645),” in 1600-1693, vol. 4 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., trans. Jacob Baum and Peter VanDer Schaaf (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 211.
  98. James T. Dennison, Jr., ed., introduction to “The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646),” in 1600-1693, vol. 4 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 231-33. In “The Westminster Confession of Faith,” concerning original sin remaining in Christians, they stated, “This corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated (1 John 1:8, 10; Rom. 7:14, 17–18, 23; James 3:2; Prov. 20:9; Eccl. 7:20); and although it be, through Christ, pardoned and mortified; yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin (Rom. 7:5, 7–8, 25; Gal. 5:17).”[101. “The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646),” in 1600-1693, vol. 4 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr. (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 242.
  99. Dennison, Jr., introduction to “The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646),” 232.
  100. “Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647),” in 1600-1693, vol. 4 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr. (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 363.
  101.  “Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647),” 364.
  102. “Westminster Larger Catechism (1647),” in 1600-1693, vol. 4 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr. (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 320-21.
  103.  “Westminster Larger Catechism (1647),” 333-34, 337-38. Another confession to consider is “Benjamin Cox’s Baptist Appendix (1646).” Benjamin Cox was a minister of the Church of England until 1643 when he embraced believer’s baptism as the only biblical form of baptism. When there were questions raised against the London Baptist Confession of 1644, Cox wrote an Appendix to clarify any concerns. James T. Dennison, Jr., ed., introduction to “Benjamin Cox’s Baptist Appendix (1646),” by Benjamin Cox, in 1600-1693, vol. 4 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 290. He was clear that concupiscence is sin in point 11: “Though no sin be imputed to those that believe in Christ, nor does any sin totally or fully reign over them, or in them, yet in them ‘the flesh lusteth against the spirit’ (Gal. 5:17); and ‘in many things they all offend’ (James 3:2), where the apostle speaks of offenses that one believer may take notice of in another. Thus ‘there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not’ (Eccl. 7:20); and ‘if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us’ (1 John 1:8).” Benjamin Cox, “Benjamin Cox’s Baptist Appendix (1646),” in 1600-1693, vol. 4 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 294.
  104. “Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647),” 363.
  105. James T. Dennison, Jr., ed., introduction to “The Savoy Declaration (1658),” in 1600-1693, vol. 4 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 457-58.
  106. “The Savoy Declaration (1658),” in 1600-1693, vol. 4 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr. (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 465.
  107. James T. Dennison, Jr., ed., introduction to “The London Baptist Confession (1677),” by William Collins and Nehemiah Cox, in 1600-1693, vol. 4 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 531.
  108. William Collins and Nehemiah Cox, eds., “The London Baptist Confession (1677),” in 1600-1693, vol. 4 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr. (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 541. In a similar manner, to show their unity with the Protestant Reformed, the English General Baptists altered “The Westminster Confession” some and produced the “The Orthodox Creed” in 1678. They confessed, “And this concupiscence, or indwelling lust, remaineth even in the regenerate, that they cannot love; nor obey God perfectly in this Life, according to the tenour of the first covenant.” W. J. McGlothlin, Baptist Confessions of Faith (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1911), 123, 134.
  109. William Collins and Benjamin Keach, “The Baptist Catechism (1693),” in 1600-1693, vol. 4 of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr. (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 572-73.
  110. Collins and Keach, “The Baptist Catechism (1693),” 589.
  111.  Collins and Keach, “The Baptist Catechism (1693),” 584.
  112. Collins and Keach, “The Baptist Catechism (1693),” 584.
  113. Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994), 24.
  114.  Robert Benedetto and Donald K. McKim, Historical Dictionary of the Reformed Churches, 2nd ed., Historical Dictionaries of Religions, Philosophies, and Movements 99 (Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, 2010), 161-62.
  115. In a letter to John Erskine, Edwards said he would have no difficulty submitting to the Westminster Confession. Jonathan Edwards, Letters and Personal Writings, vol. 16 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. George S. Claghorn (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998), 355.
  116.  Jonathan Edwards, “Five Discourses on the Soul’s Eternal Salvation,” The Works of President Edwards, vol. 6 (Market Place, PA: Edward Baines, 1811), 308.
  117. Edwards, “Five Discourses on the Soul’s Eternal Salvation,”309.
  118. M. A. Noll, “Alexander, Archibald,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984), 30.
  119. Archibald Alexander, “The Doctrine of Original Sin as Held by the Church, Both Before and After the Reformation,” The Biblical Repertory and Theological Review 2, no. 4 (October 1830): 500-1.
  120. M. A. Noll, “Hodge, Charles,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984), 513-14. Interestingly, in a letter to the editor of the Witness on February 29, 1860, William Cunningham, Principal of New College, Edinburgh (today, the University of Edinburgh), wrote against an article by J. A. Wylie. Without the knowledge of the editor, Wylie included an article in the Witness that was critical of Hodge. This prompted the letter from Cunningham that read, “Most people, I presume, are aware that he is one of the ablest and most influential expounders and defenders of Calvinism in the present day, and admirably accomplished in almost every department of theological literature. There is no living man entitled to treat him in the very peculiar style in which the author of the article referred to has thought proper to indulge. When he alleges that Dr. Hodge ‘wanders in darkness, and never for five minutes on end keeps clear of contradiction,’ that ‘in his pamphlet the contradictions are more numerous than the pages,’ &c., &c., he is propounding what is simply absurd—so absurd, indeed, as to be incredible.” A. A. Hodge, The Life of Charles Hodge D. D. LL.D.: Professor in the Theological Seminary Princeton N.J. (Philadelphia: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1880), 424.
  121. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 2, ed. Anthony Uyl (Woodstock, ON: Devoted Publishing, 2016), 119.
  122. Gregory A. Wills, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1859-2009 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 1-5.
  123. James Petigru Boyce, Abstract of Systematic Theology, ed. Anthony Uyl (Woodstock, ON: Devoted Publishing, 2016), 196.
  124. Wills, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1859-2009, 19.
  125. Timothy George and David S. Dockery, eds., Baptist Theologians (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1990), 286.
  126. The Autobiography of Charles H. Spurgeon: Compiled from his Diary, Letters, and Records by his Wife and his Private Secretary, vol. 2: 1854-1860 (Chicago: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1899), 160.
  127. Charles H. Spurgeon, “Sin Subdued,” in The Metropolitan Pulpit: Sermons Preached and Revised by C. H. Spurgeon, During the Year 1881, vol. 27 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, Paternoster Buildings, 1882), 25-27. Spurgeon argued throughout this sermon that concupiscence is always morally culpable sin.
  128. John Bolt, “Bavinck, Herman,” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Theologians, ed. Patrick W. Carey and Joseph T. Lienhard (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000), 59.
  129. Bavinck, Sin and Salvation in Christ, 143-44.
  130. F. H. Klooster, “Berkhof, Louis,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984), 134-35.
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Jared Moore

Jared Moore has served in pastoral ministry since 2000. He has a PhD in Systematic Theology from SBTS, is the author of The Lust of the Flesh: Thinking Biblically About "Sexual Orientation," Attraction, and Temptation, and a co-author of The Pop Culture Parent: Helping Kids Engage Their World for Christ. Jared and his wife Amber have four children--Caden, Ava, Ian, and Jude.

14 thoughts on “Preston Sprinkle vs The Reformation

  1. Why are we going to Protestant traditions and then only refer to the Scriptures if they are cited by those traditions? How is it that when Jesus said that to lust after a woman is adultery, do we need any other references here?

    It’s not that we should never go to the Protestant traditions at all, but shouldn’t our dependence on the Protestant traditions be secondary to our first going to the Scriptures?

    At the same time, lest we repeat the error that many of our spiritual ancestors committed when they bombastically rejected Heliocentrism, we also need to pay attention to what science has been telling us. In this case, science is citing nature in informing us that well over 1,000 species of animals exhibit same sex behavior (SSB). How can we not consider the possibility that physical attraction is, at least in part, determined by one’s own personal biology. Acknowledging that does not lend support for Sprinkle’s statements on SSA; after all, nature has fallen with man and I think that when the New Testament writers talk about our battle with the flesh, it is at least partially referring to each person’s individual physical nature. Recognizing the role that a person’s biology can play in SSA should not change our message about what the Bible says about homosexuality, but it should mitigate how we deliver that message.

    Do any individual statements made by Sprinkle have some merit while being wrong overall? Has Sprinkle made some statements with which we can fully agree? We should be able to see those things unless we have limited ourselves with all-or-nothing thinking. And it is in our recognizing where those statements have merit while being able to show why those statements are wrong overall that might enable us to better evangelize those with Sprinkle’s views.

    1. Are we to use animals in our understanding of right and wrong? Animals are not made in the image of God and cannot be used in any way to determine what is sin and what is not.

      The argument here is not whether or not biology plays a role in the desire to sin, but whether that desire to sin is inherently sinful itself, even when not acted upon. The reason the article does not simply quote Scripture is that the article is intended to reveal that there is a very broad consensus amongst protestants on this topic, that being that desire to sin is sinful.

      As far as your last paragraph goes, I don’t know Sprinkle, this is the first I’ve heard of him. But false teaching deserves a rebuttal, if not for the teacher’s good, then for the good of those he might lead astray.

      1. I went to an Ivy.

        Communication is a skill. Folks here don’t have it.

        You’re still losing.

  2. Actually, we’re losing the cultural war in large part because careful research and diligent, godly engagement with our own history is scoffed at. Our addled brains want instant gratification and whine “Why isn’t the Bible enough??” and “Too long, can’t read all that!” when scholars do good work. May God prosper your labor nonetheless, dear brother.

    1. Joshua,
      The only ones fighting a culture war are those who are looking to dominate others. In multiculturalism, there’s such a thing called cultural coexistence.

      BTW, can you give specific examples of where careful research is being scoffed at?

        1. Dylan,
          The issue isn’t whether we are animals in our understanding of, or lack thereof, right and wrong. The issue is whether there are physical causes in a person’s own biological nature for same sex attraction (SSA) and SSB. And if there are physical causes in a person’s own biological nature, that that should mitigate how we approach and preach the Gospel to such people. And the same goes for those who suffer from gender dysphoria.

          Note what I wrote in the middle of the 3rd paragraph of my first comment:

          Acknowledging that does not lend support for Sprinkle’s statements on SSA; after all, nature has fallen with man and I think that when the New Testament writers talk about our battle with the flesh, it is at least partially referring to each person’s individual physical nature. Recognizing the role that a person’s biology can play in SSA should not change our message about what the Bible says about homosexuality, but it should mitigate how we deliver that message.

          As for my final paragraph, I wrote that because if we automatically reject everything that a person says without weighing the specifics of what they say, we could very easily discredit ourselves when sharing the Gospel. The issue here is whether everything Sprinkle says on this subject is false. We are in agreement in rejecting false teaching. But prematurely rejecting everything that a person like Sprinkle says about SSA and the Christian could cost us credibility

    2. If you engage with many progressives, you will notice that a lot of their views are expressed in simplistic slogans. This is one of the reasons they are able to make headway in the culture wars, because their simplistic slogans often sound good and are filled with hidden assumptions that most people don’t see or question. Rebutting them often requires explaining in detail where they go wrong and many people simply can’t or won’t take the time to follow the details when the slogans sound good to them and are easier to swallow.

      1. Gordon,
        So Trump is a progressive:

        1. Lock her up

        2. Crooked Joe Biden

        3. Make America Great Again

        How about other Republicans?

        1. Let’s go Brandon

        2. God, Guts, and Trump

        3. Jesus is my Savior, Trump is my President

  3. I listened to a presentation in our church by Greg Coles. He gave Sunday sermon and then was given several hours in the afternoon to speak about “something”. It was a spiritual disaster. So incredibly and so very subtlety deceiving. It was devious, charming, disarming. I sat thru sermon and interview. I too researched History and medical DNA. You are right on. This Alphabet movement is a profound drift albeit so brilliantly presented, in to the Dark Side, with ramification so very deadly.

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