Recently, I have been participating in a debate with a hard-core Calvinist at However it happened, we got onto the issue of Christ's sinlessness. As the discussion progressed, we delved into an exploration of the nature of Christ's sinlessness.

Indefatigably, my detractor maintained that Christ was sinless because of the nature of his birth. In other words, this individual claimed that because Christ is born "from above" and not of the seed of "Adam," Christ avoids inheriting the sinfulness which demarcates the whole of humanity. In no soft words, I blasted this view, noting that it leads to the following consequences:

1. It denies the Incarnation. If Christ's sinlessness is based upon his genetic makeup, Christ is not actually human. Another way, if Christ has to somehow avoid inheriting certain portions of human biology, how can Christ be considered truly human? Obviously, he cannot. The major implication of this, of course, is that such a "Messiah" cannot really save anyone, for as the Fathers maintained, "That which is not assumed [by Christ] is not redeemed."

2. Not only does it associate sinfulness with human biology, but more specifically it locates it within the male biology. This is a necessary conclusion, for if Christ has come from Mary, who is human and sinful (as all humans are), and yet Christ is sinless, it must be concluded that sin is passed through the sperm of the male. Obviously, this creates additional problems for speaking about human biology, not the least of which is speculations about the potential sinlessness of persons that reproductive technologies (which do not require sperm) are currently creating. In other words, if Christ is sinless precisely because "sin" was not passed to him from a human father through male biological reproductive material, then one must naturally assume that all persons currently being created in similar ways (without sperm) are equally sinless because of the nature of their biological origin.

3. Obviously, the only way out of this predicament while still maintaining a conception of sinfulness as being biologically heritable is to do precisely that which the Roman Catholic Church has done with the Immaculate Conception. While such a doctrine does not overcome many other objections to such a conception of sin, it is at least a consistent account of how sin is inherited biologically while concomitantly affirming the sinlessness and fully Incarnate nature of Christ. Of course, given that Calvinists are catechetically infused with a near-jerk revulsion to anything papist, my friend would hear nothing of such an option, nor would he concede that this was the only possible out.

4. However, even if one goes the Immaculate Conception route (or similar routes that attain to the same end), one is faced with another problem: The Virgin Birth of Christ becomes necessary. While I do not wish to discuss the actuality of the Virgin Birth here, it is relevant to speak about the concept, in general, for a moment. As I pressed my debater further, he–and rightly so, given his position–insisted that the Virgin Birth is necessary for Christ to be sinless. After all, as sinfulness is, he insisted, inherited biologically, Mary must have been a virgin in order to avoid passing on her biological sinfulness to Christ (here, since he will not acquiesce to the logic of the Immaculate Conception, his argument is reduced to locating sinfulness–at least the kind that is heritable–in the copulation of two human persons–quite a curious idea, IMO). Again, though, such a conception fails on the basis of No. 1 above. If Christ "must" come through a certain biological process that is entirely different than the way in which all other humans enter the world, Christ is not truly human. While he may have the form, his genesis is entirely "other than." Sure, one might suggest this genesis makes Christ sinless. However, if Christ wishes to accomplish anything on the merits of such, it cannot be for humans, but rather must be expended upon whatever race shares a similar origin.