Aw yeah, when you’ve had a rough day that brought you to the end of your rope and need you a little something to cheer you right up, nothing satisfies more than a pep talk on original sin, right? Ummm, no. So what is the business with this whole “we’re all guilty from the time we’re conceived” idea that seems to be a nagging part of Christianity (e.g. see Psalm 51:5), especially when it concerns those who seem the most innocent? Do miscarried children or lifelong mentally impaired individuals really need Jesus? If they do, how and why? I’ve been embedded in Christian circles all my life, yet I have seldom heard even attempts to make sense of such an assertion, although it is readily and ubiquitously taught as a matter of fact. Fortunately, although it is certainly one of the tougher issues to unpack, God does make sense of the sinful nature of humanity to us in his own words, and the following is a brief summary of the chapter in which Healing Hereafter explores what he has to say. Check out the book itself for the most complete and helpful explanation.
Why does anyone without meaningful access to the gospel here on earth need salvation in the first place? A significant number of these individuals seem to have no opportunity during physical life to use their free will to recognizably sin, so why are they in need of perfecting? The answer is relatively simple for those who lived before Jesus and for those geographically isolated from the gospel: they are old enough, physically mature enough, and capable enough to freely choose to know and experience evil on earth. To be sure that we know this is the case, the Bible explains the concept of general revelation. This is the education about God and moral truth that arises from the universe created around us and the conscience created within us that leave both groups above—as well as ourselves—without justification to sin innocently. However, although general revelation could conceivably be directly appreciable to spirits within the bodies of children or the mentally handicapped, it cannot be physically appreciable to them. Instead, we discover that they—along with the rest of us—are still imperfect and in need of salvation because of every human’s sinful nature. So what exactly is a sinful nature, and why do they and we have one? Because our bodies are exposed to the experience of evil from conception and because our spirits can only process information through the flagrantly flawed filter of a morally imperfect environment, every human is physically and spiritually imperfect and needs that imperfection removed to exist in a perfect, unmistakable heaven. Our sinful nature is not inherited but immediately acquired, is not a part of our being but the mechanism by which it operates, and does not force us to sin but strongly predisposes us to sin. However, since we’ve already learned that the spirits of children and the mentally incapable get an adequate postmortem period of time to understand and respond to the gospel, it is all but inevitable that they will freely sin during this time too, as we do here. Therefore, both humanity’s sinful nature and free will play significant roles in our universal need for salvation. Only Jesus, who is God and whose spirit is divine and therefore untainted by an imperfect world, does not need to be spiritually perfected to enter perfection.