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.

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