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.

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