Over the centuries as we would expect, sin has been discussed, examined and defined in many different ways. Most Christians, including the protestant reformers and many of the Adventist pioneers came to regard sin as being more than merely the committing of wrong actions, but as including and perhaps especially being, a ruling negative force in the nature of the carnal person. The Catholic theologian Augustine referred to this inherent evil in man by the term “Original sin,” and this term was adopted by the protestant reformers who more or less accepted the idea of this inherent evil inherited by man.
In examining the concept of “original sin,” I discovered that though the reformers accepted the concept of original sin, yet their understanding of some differed in some respects from the Roman Catholic understanding and even from the understanding of other reformers. It is a mistake to believe that the term “original sin” has the same meaning regardless of who uses it. As best as I could discover, what all those who hold, or held to it have in common, is the concept that human beings are naturally depraved as a result of Adam's sin and that this depravity makes them from the moment of birth, condemned, unacceptable to God and lost.
Some went further than this and concluded that man was not only inherently evil as a result of Adam's sin, but that he was also guilty of Adam's sin. This was especially evident in the Roman Catholic concept of original sin and is apparently the root reason for some of their strange practices and beliefs. For example, Roman Catholics baptize (sprinkle) infants and believe that in this act they remove the stain of original sin (referring to the guilt). This in their theology qualifies the child for eternal life. The doctrine of original sin has also gained notoriety because of the claim of the church of Rome that Mary, the mother of Jesus was born without the stain of original sin. When these two doctrines are associated with the term “original sin,” then it is evident why this doctrine is viewed with great suspicion by many Seventh-day Adventists and especially those who regard themselves as “reformers.” However, while the term is not specifically used by the early Adventists, the concept as it was held by many of the protestant reformers was plainly taught and believed by many of the SDA pioneers including A.T. Jones and E.J. Waggoner as well as Ellen White.
What is most interesting is the fact that Ellen White several times wrote that men are born guilty because of what Adam did. The quotations may be found in the article beginning on page 9 of this publication.
I am not qualified to say whether or not Ellen White was wrong or right when she made those statements, but it certainly should make us think. At the very least, we need to carefully re-examine what we believe on this matter of sin.