The Realistic View of Imputation of Sin

After reviewing the mediate view of imputation on sin and evaluating it, we now turn our attention to a more popular view on the Realistic view of Imputation of sin.

The earliest explanation for the sin of Adam and the guilt of all his descendants was the realistic theory which states that human nature constitutes both generically and numerically a single unit.[1] The same substance which acted in Adam and Eve, having been communicated to us, their act was as truly and properly our act, being the act of our reason and will, as it was their act.[2] It is imputed to us therefore not as his, but as our own. This means humanity literally sinned in Adam, and consequently the guilt of that sin is our personal guilt and the consequent corruption of nature is the effect of our own voluntary act.[3] “The total guilt of the first sin, thus committed by the entire race in Adam, is imputed to each individual of the race, because of the indivisibility of guilt.”[4]  This means that each individual nature is guilty and corrupt for the whole of the first sin or “offense” against God because even though the common nature is divisible by propagation, the offense and the guilt are not divisible.[5]

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Evaluation of Mediate Imputation

As we continue to look at the different popular models on the imputation of sin, today’s post will focus on an evaluation of the Mediate imputation model. For an intro into this model, please see the previous post.


Evaluation of Mediate Imputation

The mediate view does well at emphasizing a personal corruption, but it fails because it omits imputed guilt and original sin. The mediate view provides an inadequate explanation on Romans 5, mainly in rendering the word “sinned” as a passive creating several problems. First, this would be the only instance this verb hamartanō would have such a meaning.[1] The passive would have required a different combination of words.[2] The passive excludes Adam and Eve who were not “reckoned” to have sinned.[3] The passive would denote “God’s act of imputing sin, not man’s act of committing it. But it is the sinner’s act, not that of the judge, which is the reason for punishment.”[4] It is illogical to say that all die because all are condemned to die is to give insufficient reason for death.[5] The mediate interpretation contradicts those passages of Scripture which refer the origin of human condemnation and human depravity, to the sin of our first parents, and which represent universal death, not as a matter of divine sovereignty, but as a judicial infliction of penalty upon all men for the sin of the race in Adam (Rom 5:16, 18).[6] The doctrine of mediate imputation denies the sentence of condemnation has passed upon all men for the sin of one, and affirms that the ground of that condemnation is inherent depravity.[7] We are accounted partakers of Adam’s sin only because we derive a corrupt nature from him. However, Scriptures say the reason why we are depraved is, that we are regarded as partakers of his sin, or because the guilt of that sin is imputed to us. The guilt in the order of nature and fact precedes the spiritual death which is its disciplinary consequent.

Mediate imputation denies inherited corruption as a consequence of punishment. “Punishment supposes guilt. If the loss of righteousness and the consequent corruption of nature are punishments, they suppose the antecedent imputation of guilt and therefore imputation is immediate and not mediate; it is antecedent and not consequent to or upon inherent depravity.”[8] It denies the participation of all men in Adam’s sin and provides no explanation of man’s responsibility for his inborn depravity.[9] Man’s inheritance must be seen in light of God’s judgment, which reflects the justice of God. Man is not only condemned for a sinfulness of which God is the author, but is condemned without any real probation, either individual or collective.[10]

Finally, mediate imputation changes the method of salvation and justification. The point Paul makes in Romans is that men are justified for a righteousness which is not personally their own. The mediate view destroys the parallel between Adam and Christ. “If we are partakers of the penal consequences of Adam’s sin only because of the corrupt nature derived by a law of nature from him, then we are justified only on the ground of our own inherent holiness derived by a law of grace from Christ.”[11] This leads to a doctrine of subjective justification, that a righteousness not within believers but wrought out for believers – the righteousness of another, even the eternal Son of God, and therefore an infinitely meritorious righteousness – is the ground of our justification before God.[12] Any doctrine which tends to invalidate or to weaken the Scriptural evidence of this fundamental article of our faith is fraught with evil greater than belongs to it in itself considered.[13] “The great principle insisted upon in support of this doctrine is that one man cannot justly be punished for the sin of another. If this be so then it is unjust in God to visit the iniquities of the fathers upon their children. Then it was unjust in Christ to declare that the blood of the prophets slain from the beginning should come upon the men of his generation.”[14]


[1] Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 559.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, 560.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Strong, Systematic Theology, 618.

[7] Hodge, Systematic Theology, 210.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Strong, Systematic Theology, 618.

[10] Ibid, 618.

[11] Hodge, Systematic Theology, 212.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid, 213.

[14] Ibid.

The Mediate View of Imputation of Sin

The Mediate View of Imputation of Sin

Joshua Placaeus, perceived as the founder of mediate imputation, taught that we derive a corrupt nature, or inherent depravity, from Adam, and it is corrupt nature, and not Adam’s sin, that is the ground of mankind’s condemnation. [1] Placaeus did not deny the imputation of Adam’s sin, but simply made it dependent on our participation of Adam’s corrupted nature.[2] We are inherently depraved, and therefore we are involved in the guilt of Adam’s sin because we inherit a corrupt nature from him. It is described as an indirect or mediate imputation of sin, because it is founded on the fact that we share his moral character.[3]

The soul is immediately created by God, but it becomes actively corrupt as soon as it is united to the body. Inborn sinfulness is the consequence, though not the penalty, of Adam’s transgression.[4] This theory sees depravity as the cause of imputation. Thus, it renders Romans 5:12, “death passed unto all men, for that all sinned,” as signifying: “death physical, spiritual, and eternal passed upon all men, because all sinned by possessing a depraved nature.”[5] Advocates of this perspective have maintained that guilt is strictly personal, rising out of individual freedom, and is not reckoned apart from human participation in sin.[6] Humans are thus subject to God’s judgment for their own sinful exercises, because their corrupt capacities are not a result of God’s judgment. By participating in Adam the race is born with a bent or propensity toward sin, but with no accompanying liability. It is the actual sin that activates negative potentiality.[7]

This view sought to resolve the issue of justice, yet it does not provide an adequate answer. Placaeus viewed immediate imputation of Adam’s sin to all of his offspring that counts all humanity guilty as being a severe injustice.[8] “The inheritance of the common depravity under a law of propagation could not constitute any ground of responsibility for the sin of Adam; and its imputation simply as mediated by that depravity would as fully violate justice as immediate imputation.”[9] Native depravity and inherited corruption are the consequence of Adam’s fall, not the penalty for it. This implies the denial of original guilt.


[1] Hodge, Systematic Theology, 205.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 206.

[4] A.H. Strong, Systematic Theology (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1907), 617.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Reid et al., “Sin.”

[7] Ibid.

[8] J. Miley, Systematic Theology, vol. 1 (New York: Hunt & Eaton, 1892), 469.

[9] Ibid.

Intro: The Three Major Views on Imputed Sin

Today’s post gives a brief introduction into the three major views on imputed sin. There are a couple of views that will not be looked at because they are either deemed heretical or are no longer held. Over the next few posts, each view will be described in greater detail and an evaluation of that view will be provided.


In the mediate view, the imputation of the first sin follows hereditary corruption and is reckoned to be the effect.[1] In immediate imputation, the imputation of Adam’s first sin precedes corruption in the order of nature and is reckoned to be the cause of corruption.[2] The realistic view states, “The first sin of Adam, being a common, not an individual sin, is deservedly and justly imputed to the posterity of Adam upon the same principle upon which all sin is deservedly and justly imputed, namely, that it was committed by those to whom it is imputed.”[3] The representative view declares that since Adam was the representative of the entire human race; once he sinned, God imputed that sin to all humanity so that each person is guilty of Adam’s sin. The attention now must turn to examining each of these three views in further detail to understand the differences in belief, as well as the positive and negative aspects of each.


[1] John Murray, The Imputation of Adam’s Sin (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1959), 43.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 561.

Examination of Imputed Sin pt. 2

Today’s post will finish the brief examination on what is sin, what is imputed sin, and how does it fit into a representative model. What role did Adam have in this? How are we connected with Adam? These questions will be examined in this section. The first part of this discussion can be found here.

There are three main explanations on the word sin or “hēmarton” in this passage [Romans 5:12-19]:

(1) It is active in its meaning and denotes the first sin of Adam and his posterity as a unity: his posterity being one with him by natural union or else by representation or by both together; (2) it is active in its meaning and denotes the first sin of each individual after he is born; and (3) it is passive in its meaning, signifying, either “to be sinful” or “to be reckoned as having sinned.”[1]

Paul, unless he departed from the invariable Scripture us of the word hēmarton when he asserts that death as a just punishment, passed on to all men “because all sinned,” employs the word sinned actively.[2] But if he did depart from the usual meaning of hēmarton, he would be the only inspired writer to do so; and this would be the only instance in his writings in which he does.[3] Initially, man was created as enduring as the angels. Though some angels sinned, God did not impose the judgment of death upon them. Their judgment was of another form. The first angel to sin was not a federal head of the angels, nor is there among them any procreation with its problem of heredity.[4] Therefore, there could be no parallel experience with respect to judgments from God for sin set up between the human race and the angels. No other man, not even Abraham, stood first in the generations of humanity nor did any other receive a divine commission to this unique responsibility.[5] However, there is a perfect headship in the resurrected Christ over the New Creation. All typology in Adam respecting Christ is built on the fact of the two perfect headships. Nevertheless, the most illuminating passage (Heb 7:9-10) on the fact of federal headship concerns Abraham; which implies not only headship but that the offspring are seminally represented in the federal head and are divinely reckoned as having acted in the federal head.[6] No one would claim that Levi consciously or purposefully paid tithes to Melchizedek, yet God declares that he did pay tithes. Likewise, no one will claim that each individual in Adam’s race consciously or purposefully sinned in Adam; yet there can be no doubt that God reckons that each member of the race sinned in Adam’s transgression.[7] The same federal coaction asserted in the words “all sinned” is implied in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die.”[8] Therefore, God sees only two men and each member of the race is either in Adam (the unregenerate) or in Christ (the regenerate).[9]


[1] William G.T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, ed. A. W. Gomes, 3rd ed. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Pub, 2003), 558.

[2] Ibid, 559.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Chafer, Systematic Theology, 313.

[5] Ibid, 302.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid, 303.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

Examination of Imputed Sin pt.1

We now turn our attention to further examining imputed sin. Where does it come from? What is it? Does it differ based on different denominations? Are there different views on this? If so, what do they believe? This post and the following post will start to examine these questions and hopefully provide more information on this doctrine and offer a glimpse at the beauty of what Christ did.


Examination of Imputed Sin

In the judicial and theological sense, to impute is to attribute anything to a person or persons, upon adequate grounds, as the judicial or meritorious reason of reward or punishment.[1] “To impute sin, in Scriptural and theological language, is to impute the guilt of sin.”[2] Guilt does not mean a corruption or fault, but the legal obligation to satisfy justice. The consequence of imputation is more than merely an infliction but a punishment; an evil imposed in execution of the penalty of law and for the satisfaction of justice.[3] So far as the meaning of the word is concerned, it makes no difference whether the thing imputed is sin or righteousness; whether it is our own personally, or the sin or righteousness of another.[4] The Reformed and Lutheran theologians admit that in the imputation of Adam’s sin to humans, of human’s sins to Christ, and of Christ’s righteousness to believers, the nature of imputation is the same, each illustrating the others.[5] Continue reading

Background on Imputed Sin

This post will continue the series on the imputation of sin by providing a brief background on this topic and will foreshadow the evidence for this thinking.


Background and Evidence for Imputation

Sin is primarily divided into three main aspects: original, personal, and the imputation. Original sin, also called inherited sin or sin nature, is a bent or brokenness of constitution. This constitution is inherited from Adam and Eve and was originally broken in the fall. This brokenness means we do not measure up to the character of God, which is the standard of what is and is not sin. The second aspect of sin, personal sin, is when an individual chooses to act in a way that is not aligned to the character and nature of God. Therefore, a human is not acceptable to God because of who they are (inherited sin) and the choices they make (personal sin). The final aspect of sin is the imputation of sin which is simply the guilt that humans receive or the reckoning to someone or something that is antecedently theirs. Imputed sin is often mistaken for original sin but the two are distinct and separate. Though both arise from the initial sin of Adam and alike converge on each human, a crucial distinction must be maintained between the transmitted sin nature received mediately, and imputed sin received immediately.[1] The nature to sin is not the act of sin, and on the other hand, “though men are held individually responsible and under the penalty of physical death for their share in what was, in Adam’s experience, a personal sin, imputed sin is held in the Scriptures to be unlike personal sin.”[2] Further definition of imputed sin and biblical evidence will now be presented.

[1] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1993), 315.

[2] Ibid.