The case for representative immediate imputation of sin pt 2

This post will finish the case for the representative immediate imputation of sin that was started in the previous post. This post will further review Adam, his sin, and our relationship with him.


Adam is ancestrally our representative and our source both biologically and constitutionally. Adam was the first recipient of any human nature and Eve was the second. Yet, Eve was the first one to disobey the command of God which is a problem for the realistic view. A person cannot be condemned in Adam because Eve sinned first and thus our condemnation is not traceable to Adam. The representative view says that sin came to all men through our representative, Adam, who is the ancestral head. In the same way, righteousness came through a representative in Jesus Christ. Humans participate in death because Adam, our representative, chose that path. However, Jesus acted as a representative and substitute and brought life. If a person acted in Adam which brought about death, then the parallelism suggests that a believing person acted in Christ and that brought life. Romans does not appear to argue that a person act brought life. The inheritance of sin is conveyed to humans by their very nature, since it dwells in our very being; but in order to participate in the righteousness of Christ it is necessary to be a believer and that is attained by faith.[1] When it is said that our sins were imputed to Christ, or that He bore our sins, this does not mean that he actually committed our sins, but that He assumed our place to answer the demands of justice for the sins of men, or to be made a curse for them.[2] Likewise, the righteousness of Christ imputed to believers does not mean what they did or their merits, but that “His righteousness, wrought out for the benefit of His people, in their name, by Him as their representative, it is laid to their account, so that God can be just in justifying the ungodly.”[3]

There are several other examples of representation throughout Scripture including the curse pronounced on Canaan fell upon his descendants. The exclusion of Esau’s descendants from the covenant of promise. “The children of Moab and Ammon were excluded from the congregation of the Lord forever, because their ancestors opposed the Israelites when they came out of Egypt. In the case of Dathan and Abiram, as in that of Achan, ‘their wives, and their sons, and their little children’ perished for the sins of their parents.”[4] Eli’s descendants were cursed because of Hophni and Phineas. The whole plan of redemption rests on this same principle of representation. Christ is the representative of his people, and on this ground their sins are imputed to Him and his righteousness to them.[5] The representative principle pervades the whole Scriptures. The imputation of Adam’s sin to his posterity is not an isolated fact. It is only an illustration of a general principle which characterizes the dispensations of God from the beginning of the world.[6]


[1] Calvin and Owen, Commentary, 210.

[2] Hodge, Systematic Theology, 194-95.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, 198.

[5] Ibid, 199.

[6] Ibid, 198.

The Case for the Representative View

Over the past few posts, we have looked at the three major views/models on the imputation of sin. We have looked at what this idea is, how it affects us, and how sin has been imputed to us. Each model has been evaluated for their strengths and weaknesses and now it is time to identify which view I think answers the question of how sin is imputed to us.  This final section is fairly lengthy and will be broken into two parts. Over the next few posts as we close out our discussion on anthropology, reflect on your own sin. Reflect on the work of Christ and His salvation. Reflect on your own humanity and how He became fully human yet still fully divine and paid an ultimate price for you.


It is incorrect to construe our involvement in Adam’s sin as actual, voluntary participation or the transfer of moral character; yet it is just as incorrect to reduce it to a level of judicial liability.[1] The representative view is best able to handle our involvement in Adam’s sin by considering the sin of another (peccatum alienum) and my sin (peccatum proprium). The representative model most capably handles Romans 5. It shows Christ’s obedience and representation takes our condemnation and turns it into an organ of grace.[2] By Adam’s sin we are not condemned through imputation alone, but we suffer his punishment, because we are also guilty; for as our nature is corrupted by him, it is regarded by God as having committed sin.[3] “But through the righteousness of Christ we are restored in a different way to salvation; for it is not said to be accepted for us, because it is in us, but because we possess Christ himself with all his blessings, as given to us through the bountiful kindness of the Father.”[4] Union with Adam is the cause of death; union with Christ is the cause of life.[5]

While it may not seem fair to be held responsible for something that Adam did, we must remember that while we did not choose Adam to represent us, God did choose him since Adam was the perfect candidate for mankind’s representation.[6] If we were to question God or suppose that His decision was foolish or fallible, then we reveal what we think about God and also reveal our own fallenness.[7] If the objection is based on the principles of representation and imputation, then the very foundation of our salvation is taken away. “If it is right for God to save a man on the basis of another man’s work, it is also all right for God to punish us on the basis of another man’s work.”[8] It is not right to infer that because a course of action is wrong to humans, that it must be unjust in God. No man could rightfully send pestilence or famine through a land, but God does send such visitations not only righteously, but to the manifestation of his own glory and to the good of his creatures.[9]


[1] Murray, The Imputation of Adam’s Sin, 86.

[2] H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., The Pulpit Commentary: Romans (New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 154.

[3] John Calvin and John Owen, Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 210.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Hodge, Systematic Theology, 203.

[6] R. C. Sproul, The Gospel of God: An Exposition of Romans (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1994), 104.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Hodge, Systematic Theology, 200.

Evaluation of Representative Imputation

Bringing our examination of the various models/views on the imputation of sin to a close, this post will evaluate the Representative Imputation model looking at the positives and negatives. The previous post will provide context on this model in case you missed it, and the next post will show which model I prefer after examining the various views.


Evaluation of Representative Imputation

The positives of the representative model will be further explored in the next section, but the negatives must first be examined. The great objection to the representative view is that it is manifestly unjust that one man should be punished and condemned for the sin of another. Although, representative view proponent Charles Hodge argues, “Wherein is the injustice that one man should, on the ground of the union between them, be punished for the sin of another? If there be injustice in the case it must be in the infliction of suffering anterior to or irrespective of personal ill-desert.”[1] The representative view is seen as questioning the justice of God because God is holding men responsible for the violation of a covenant which they had no part in establishing.[2] “That, after accounting men to be sinners who are not sinners, God makes them sinners by immediately creating each human soul with a corrupt nature such as will correspond to his decree. This is not only to assume a false view of the origin of the soul, but also to make God directly the author of sin.”[3] The realistic view says corruption must precede and account for imputation, contrary to imputation preceding and accounting for corruption.

Some object to this view on the basis of Ezekiel 18:20. However, that text is about divine government and not about imputation. Also, Ezekiel is not denying the principle of ancestral representation. In regards to ancestral sin, Shedd argues, “There is a similar fallacy in citing the biblical instances in which innocent individuals suffer for the sins of guilty individuals in proof that Adam’s posterity though innocent of his sin are punishable for it. To suffer in consequence of the sin of another is not the same as to be punished for it.”[4]

The realist object to the representative saying it is extra-Scriptural and there is no mention of such a covenant with Adam in the account. Strong suggests that the use of the word “covenant” in Hosea 6:7 and Hebrews 8:8 refers to other ideas and not a covenant with Adam.[5] Realists also object to this view declaring that it contradicts Scripture by making the first result of Adam’s sin to be God’s “regarding and treating” the race as sinners.[6] We are not sinners because God regarded and treated us that way, but because Adam’s offense constituted us sinners (Rom 5:19).[7]


[1] Hodge, Systematic Theology, 204.

[2] Strong, Systematic Theology, 615.

[3] Ibid, 616.

[4] Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 561.

[5] Strong, Systematic Theology, 614.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

The Representative View of Imputation of Sin

Continuing our series by looking at the different views on the imputation of sin, this post will focus on the final view that will be examined, the representative view (also called the federal view). The mediate and realistic views have already been examined and evaluated. 


 

The Representative View of Imputation of Sin

Adam was constituted by God the representative and federal head of his posterity, so that the transgression of Adam became all of humanities sin, in a legal and judicial sense, and without any injustice to them, so that they were fairly involved in its proper consequences.[1] God constituted our first parent the federal head and representative of his race, and placed him on probation not only for himself, but also for all his posterity. Had he retained his integrity, he and all his descendants would have been placed in a state of holiness and happiness forever. As he fell from the estate in which he was created, they fell with him in his first transgression, so that the penalty of that sin came upon them as well as upon him.[2] “As he sinned, his posterity comes into the world in a state of sin and condemnation. They are by nature the children of wrath.”[3] The reason why the penalty of Adam’s sin, or his imputation, has come upon humanity is the union between Adam and humanity. The Scriptures never speak of the imputation of the sins of angels either to men or to Christ, or of his righteousness to them; because there is no such relation between men and angels, or between angels and Christ, as to involve the one in the judicial consequences of the sin or righteousness of the other.[4] The union between Adam and his descendants is both natural and representative. Many who favor this view see the main reason Adam is the head of the whole race, beyond the constitution of our nature, is that there was a special divine constitution and that is what the Scriptures present Adam as.[5] Genesis points to everything that is said to Adam was said to him in a representative capacity.[6] This is further illustrated in the parallel drawn by Paul between Adam and Christ. Adam was the representative of his race, his sin is the judicial ground of their condemnation, while Christ is the representative of His people, His righteousness is the judicial ground of the justification of believers.[7]

Since Adam sinned, God accounts all his descendants as sinners, and condemns them because of Adam’s transgression. Consequently, God executes the condemnation by creating each soul of Adam’s posterity with a corrupt and depraved nature, which infallibly leads to sin, and which is itself sin.[8] The corrupt nature is thus not the cause of the imputation, but the effect of it. Romans 5:12 is then signified as saying, “physical, spiritual, and eternal death came to all, because all were regarded and treated as sinners.”[9]


 

[1] William Cunningham, Historical Theology, vol. 1 (Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1864), 337-38.

[2] Hodge, Systematic Theology, 196.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid, 197.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid, 198.

[8] Strong, Systematic Theology, 612-13.

[9] Ibid.

Evaluation of Realistic Imputation

Following the previous post on the Realistic view of the imputation of sin, this post will provide an evaluation of this view. It will look at both the positives and negatives of it and how it deals with some of the difficulties that are a part of this topic.


 

Evaluation of Realistic Imputation

In contrast to the mediate view, the realistic view has a number of positives. The realistic view sets out to resolve the issue of injustice and protect God’s righteousness. It maintains a scriptural view of the sin nature and the severe character of death. The origin of the soul is supported by the Traducian view. It provides a way of comprehending the unity of humanity by describing all humanity in the act of Adam as a collective, undistributed, and unindividualized form of existence.[1] The realistic view provides a better explanation for understanding the story of Levi offering tithes to Melchizedek while still in the loins of Abraham (Heb 7:9-10).

The realistic view is motivated to resolve the question of justice, however, it does not actually resolve the issue or provide an adequate answer. Prominent realist William G. T. Shedd confirms that our sin was not conscious, but the conscious act of Adam and Eve. Shedd says, “Guilt is caused by self-determination, not by self-consciousness. Self-consciousness is not action, but vision; and it is action, not the sight of an action that constitutes crime. A man is wrongly inclining all the time to self and the creature, but he is not self-conscious all the time that he is wrongly inclining.”[2] Shedd argues that from a certain standpoint unconscious action can be guilty, however, even human justice can recognize a distinction between guilt in the presence of diminished capacity.

The realistic view affirms that humans acted before they existed. Hodge argues against this proposition saying, “We had no being before our existence in this world; and that we should have acted before we existed is an absolute impossibility.”[3] An act implies a responsible voluntary act which must be a person. Before the existence of that man, a man cannot perform any voluntary action. “Actual sin is an act of voluntary self-determination; and therefore before the existence of the self, such determination is an impossibility.”[4]

The realistic view is inconsistent and incompatible with Paul’s justification writing in Romans 5:12-21. Paul clearly shows that the righteousness of Christ is not our own but is imputed to us, and as people accept Christ work and are redeemed, they are declared righteous. The realist denies the sin of Adam as the sin of another is the ground of our condemnation; and in consistency it must also deny that the righteousness of Christ, as the righteousness of another, is the ground of our justification.[5] It offers an inadequate explanation of the parallelism between Adam and Christ and affirms that we are condemned for a sin not our own, and justified for a righteousness not our own.

In affirming humanities union with Adam in the participation of sin, this view struggles to explain the sinlessness of Christ. Since Christ was human, then He was also part of the human race in Adam and therefore cannot be sinless. But, if He was not fully human, then He did not participate in the humanity of Adam and thus cannot be the Redeemer. In fact, Christ should have been held responsible for the actual commission of sin in Adam, for He certainly shared the same human nature, the nature that actually sinned in Adam.[6] Realist will point out that we have different unions with Adam and Christ, but this still shows the concept of injustice and destroys the parallelism in Romans 5.

Scripture points out that the first sin was actually by Eve, thus this view misunderstands Scripture and seems to imply that the human race fell with Eve. “Generic humanity as individualized in her, apostatized from God, before Adam had offended; and therefore it was her sin rather than his, or more than his, which ruined our common nature. But such is not the representation of Scripture.”[7] This point also brings up the objection as to why humans are responsible for Adam’s first sin and not his subsequent. The genus was no more individualized and concentrated in Adam when he was in the garden, than after he was expelled from it.[8] Plus, we are said to bear the guilt of his sin, not the sin of Eve’s. As will be shown, the reason is Adam was our representative. The covenant was made with Adam, just as it was made with Abraham and not Sarah.[9] The realistic view misrepresents the biblical view on headship.


 

[1] J. P. Lange et al., A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Romans, 192.

[2] Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 563.

[3] Hodge, Systematic Theology, 224.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid, 225.

[6] Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 242.

[7] Hodge, Systematic Theology, 225.

[8] Ibid, 225.

[9] Ibid.