Violence in Atonement Models

Violence is a huge issue. It is something that is all around us. We run into stories about violence and killings everyday. For many who have been victims of abuse or some sort of violence, thinking about the violence in Christianity is something difficult for them. There are many whose past includes various forms of abuse and tragedies. In response, many Christians who have been victims of some sort of violence have struggled with the thought of a good Father killing His only Son. Some have seen it as some sort of divine child abuse. Some do not like the idea of penal substitution or other forms of substitutionary atonement.

Over the years, the church has had several different atonement models, something we should discuss in a future post but will bypass for now. As the problem of evil and violence has been one of the biggest issues for atheists and non-believers in believing God, this is also a struggle for many believers in how they think about atonement.

Recently, I was asked to read a paper by Denny Weaver called “Violence in Christian Theology” (which can be found here). I would suggest reading his paper to have a greater understanding of what he and other Christians are struggling with (please note, while he does touch on some of the atonement models, I do not believe they are all captured correctly as he is trying to make his own point about his model). Some will agree with his view while others will not. Some may even say it is not-essential and move on. What this prompts us to is what do we think about our salvation and in particular how does atonement work. What did Jesus really do? What was the process in accomplishing this work? And also, what is my own personal atonement model?

We must think about what we believe Jesus did, what the Father did, and though some things may be uncomfortable to think about, truly reason and conclude about the tremendous sacrifice of Christ, the punishment he endured and paid for us, and the atonement that believers have. We must wrestle with what is a part of atonement and how it works. As we wrestle with these ideas and concepts, we begin to go to a place of greater appreciation for Christ. The Cross starts to get bigger. Our salvation becomes sweeter. Our love for Christ grows. Our love for the Father, His plan, His sovereignty increases.

As we discuss atonement and the many violent aspects of it, it is important to remember our audience. We can’t hide or distort what Christ did or His sacrifice, but when we talk to victims of violence and abuse, we must be sensitive. We must tell of the substitution and the satisfaction and the victory. But as with all things, we must know our audience.

As we read Denny Weaver’s article, we were asked to reflect on it and think about certain questions. I would encourage you as well to reflect on your beliefs and what you believe about atonement. Here are my responses to the questions:

  • According to Weaver, why is violence such a major part of most evangelical atonement models? Who is the source/cause of the violence?
    • According to Weaver, violence is a part of divine retribution. Since sin creates an imbalance, the violence in the atonement models assumes that the imbalance is corrected by the punishment of death. Weaver uses the analogy of the criminal justice system to show that doing justice means to inflict punishment, which is understood as violence. Weaver points to other models where Jesus, in passive submission, endures unjust suffering for the sake of others. All forms of atonement assume the violence of retribution or justice based on punishment, God’s law or honor receives the necessary death that it demands for justice and to pay that debt. Since sinners cannot pay their own debt, Weaver says these atonement models depend on God-induced and God-directed violence. God is seen as the divine avenger or punisher and as a child abuser, who arranged the death of one Child for the benefit of the others.
  • Do you agree with Weaver’s answer to that question?  Why or why not?
    • The sacrifice and death of Jesus was a violent act. I would tend to agree that violence found in atonement models is a major part of the language and story. What Jesus did and accomplished for believers by His substitution, representation, and identification will cause one to think of the suffering He endured and is a major theme of the atonement models. The death of Christ cleansed us from sin and satisfied the wrath of the Father. Redemption for sins was accomplished through the blood of Christ. Jesus’ sacrifice is a part of the story of atonement. In addition, much of our language about atonement uses warfare or violent language, including a number of violent metaphors. Violence is deeply embedded in our psyche and world.
  • Granted that you might not agree with Weaver’s model of the atonement, does he point out anything you should consider in your own theology?
    • We are to care for all people and show courtesy, respect and charity. We are all created in the image of God and people for whom Christ died. Christians should seek justice for the oppressed and marginalized.
    • While we cannot conform to the way of the world or change the Gospel message, Weaver brings up a good point to consider when presenting the Gospel, especially to those who have experienced violence and abuse. We need to be mindful of the language that we use when presenting the Gospel message. If we are not careful, the way the Gospel is presented could sound like an endorsement of violence or abuse to certain audiences.
    • Weaver mentions that what sinners need is the resurrection of Jesus because that is where the victory of the reign of God is. As we also saw in class, many atonement models focus on the death and sacrifice of Jesus and do not mention the resurrection to the degree that it deserves. For me, the death and burial of Jesus is not the only thing to be mentioned in discussing atonement, but His resurrection and victory over death should be brought up or thought about more to help speak of the atonement.
  • Is it possible to move away from the violence in the atonement while remaining faithful to the biblical text?
    • Yes, I think it is possible. First and foremost, we must remain faithful to the biblical text and story. At the same time, it is good to be aware of the audience and think about their background. It is good to be intentional and careful of the metaphors and descriptions that are commonly used in describing the events. Substitutionary atonement cannot be discarded for the satisfaction of God’s wrath as they are essential components of the story. It is important to be careful of the language and expressions.
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Salvation in the Old Testament – Was faith in Christ necessary?

In the previous post we introduced the question about what did salvation in the Old Testament look like and was faith in Jesus needed to be saved. We introduced the topic in that post and will further clarify the response in this one.

Individuals in the Old Testament period were saved by grace through faith. Salvation has always been by grace through faith in Christ (Eph 2:8-9); it has always been in Christ and is based on His sacrifice. “The basis of salvation in every age is the death of Christ. The sacrifices pointed forward to the death of Christ in the future. The requirement for salvation in every age is faith. The object of faith in every age is God. It’s the content of faith that changes in the various dispensations.”[1] Throughout the Old Testament we see God’s promise of a Messiah (Gen 3:15; Isa 9; 53), but it was historically impossible to have Jesus as the content of their faith. The concept of faith has always been important because “without faith it is impossible to please” God (Heb 11:6), and it is displayed in the lives of both Old and New Testament believers. It seems that Old Testament individuals did not understand the “redemptive significance” of the prophecies concerning Christ and His suffering, nor is it apparent that they understood that the sacrifices depicted the person and work of Jesus Christ as the church age believers do.[2] The sacrifices of the Old Testament pointed toward the sacrifice of Christ and those done in faith brought temporary forgiveness (Ps 32:1-2; 103:12) because of the sacrifice of Christ that was to come.

“Those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (cf Gal 3:8-9 with Gen 12:3). In Galatians 3:11, Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4 saying “the righteous shall live by faith.” Hebrews 11 displays the faith of the Old Testament believers was evident as Scripture says their faith was “counted to them as righteousness,” (Gen 15:6; Rom 4:3, 5-8; Heb 11:7). The Old Testament people had the promise of the coming Savior and that He would “save His people from their sins” (Matt 1:21; cf. Isa 53:5-6). The people of the Old Testament were saved in the same way we are today, by faith in the Savior. For the Old Testament believer it was the promise of the Messiah because God had only revealed a certain amount to the people of the Old Testament period.

The difference between the faith of the Old Testament believer and a New Testament believer is the content of faith. Thus, God’s requirements for what must be believed is different based on the amount of revelation He has given. Since Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise, He has given us a more complete revelation of the Messiah in the life, work, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Salvation has always been by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Therefore, did individuals in the Old Testament period did need to know about Jesus to be saved? Yes, individuals were saved by grace through faith in Christ based on what God had revealed about the promised Messiah, Jesus, who would bring complete atonement. Since we have the complete picture, our salvation is based on the death of Christ, our faith is the requirement, and the object of faith is God. The content of our faith is different than Old Testament believers because we know that Jesus came to this world, died for our sins, was buried, resurrected, and will return one day.


[1] Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), 115.

[2] Dallas Theological Seminary, “Full Doctrinal Statement, Article V, The Dispensations,” internet, 2015, accessed Sep 6, 2015, http://www.dts.edu/about/doctrinalstatement/.


Bibliography

Dallas Theological Seminary. “Full Doctrinal Statement, Article V, The Dispensations.” Internet. 2015. Accessed September 6, 2015. http://www.dts.edu/about/doctrinalstatement/.

Ryrie, Charles C. Dispensationalism. Chicago: Moody Press, 1995.

Salvation in the Old Testament

We now turn our attention to the overarching theme of soteriology, or the study of salvation. We will journey through this topic by taking a few critical stops along the way to look at some key ideas and themes. Again, I am just a student and not a professor or an expert. I do not have all the answers or even a majority. I am thinking about this and struggling with some of the ideas associated with soteriology like many have done in the past (see all the various denominations with various differing thoughts on salvation) and continue to do today. These are some of the ideas and thoughts that I am thinking about and wrestling with.

We start this journey by looking at salvation in the Old Testament, in particular two questions:

  • Did individuals in the Old Testament period need to know about Jesus to be saved?
  • If not, why do so many Christians today say one must have explicit faith in Jesus to be saved?

How one reads and interprets this question can cause a different response. The question itself is not the clearest because it can depend on how deep or theological one wants to go. The answers to these two questions will be provided in two posts. First, a cursory overview post that will lead into the next post which gives more background and detail. However, the point of answering these two questions is not to write a book on it or even a lengthy paper, but it is to answer them in a short and succinct manner. There are numerous books out there that dissect this at length if you want to know more information but we just want to keep it high level for this exercise.


I believe this is a very interesting and intriguing reflective question. After doing some research, I could definitely see different sides of the argument and how interpreting the question differently could cause some confusion or different answers.

The answer to the question is “no” they did not need to know about Jesus because it was impossible for them to know about Him since Jesus had not been revealed or accomplished His work. However, if the question is “was the promised Messiah a part of their faith?” then I think the answer is yes. From the protoevangelium of Gen 3:15 to the sacrificial system pointing to an ultimate sacrifice to the prophecies in books like Isaiah and Micah, there is a progressive revelation about the coming Messiah. Their faith was not specifically in Jesus since that is impossible and He was not yet revealed, but their faith would include the coming of God’s promised Messiah. This latter way is the way I interpreted the question and wrote my response.

Conclusion to Representative Imputation of Sin

Today we close this topic on the imputation of sin and summarize the past few posts. In the previous post, it was determined that the representative model was the best model for me because it provided the best answers on the imputation of sin.  I have included a bibliography of all the sources I used for this paper in case that helps and anyone wants to do further research. This post will close our discussion on anthropology and will help us move forward to the next theological topic.


We die for the sins of one man, yet grace abounds through one man. From one sin the sentence of condemnation was passed, but free justification from many sins is offered. We have been condemned for a sin which we had no personal or voluntary participation in, so how much more shall a person live on account of a righteousness that is cordially given. If all are united in Adam and condemned for his offense, so also are all who are in union with Christ be justified on the basis of His righteousness. As one man’s disobedience constituted humans as sinners, so the obedience of one man constitutes believers as righteous (Rom 5:18-19).[1]

The sin of Adam is imputed to his posterity from the fact that he was their natural head and representative. It is also shown by the principle of representation pervading the Scriptures and the principle of imputation involved in other doctrines of the Bible. The evil consequences on the apostasy of Adam are expressly declared in Scripture to be a penal infliction.[2] Finally, it is shown on the ground on which the providence of God is administered. This is shown on the basis that the sins of one man can be justly imputed to another, which is also seen in the concept of justification. Justification is a declaration that the demands of justice have been satisfied.[3] It proceeds on the assumption that the required righteousness belongs personally, inherently or by imputation to the person who is justified or declared to be just.[4] The person and work of the second Adam are the one glorious solution of the problem of the first Adam, and the triumphant vindication of Divine justice and mercy. This is the main point for all practical purposes, and in this all Christians can agree.


[1] Ibid, 203.

[2] Ibid, 201.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.


Bibliography

Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1938.

Calvin, John, and John Owen. Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010.

Chafer, Lewis Sperry. Systematic Theology. Vol. 2. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1993.

Cunningham, William. Historical Theology. Vol. 1. Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1864.

Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology. Vol. 2. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1997.

Lange, J. P., P. Schaff, F. R. Fay, J. F. Hurst, and M. B. Riddle. A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Romans. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008.

Miley, J. Systematic Theology. Vol. 1. New York: Hunt & Eaton, 1892.

Murray, John. The Imputation of Adam’s Sin. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1959.

Reid, D. G., R. D. Linder, B. L. Shelley, and H. S. Stout. “Sin.” In Dictionary of Christianity in America, section “S.” Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1990. Logos Bible Software.

Shedd, William G.T. Dogmatic Theology. Edited by A. W. Gomes. 3rd ed. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Pub, 2003.

Spence-Jones, H. D. M., ed. The Pulpit Commentary: Romans. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909.

Sproul, R. C. The Gospel of God: An Exposition of Romans. Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1994.

Strong, A.H. Systematic Theology. Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1907.

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.

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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