Different Views of Justification Defended by their Preferred Scriptural Texts

We continue our series by trying to defend each position using the preferred texts that each side uses to defend its position. For part one, please refer to the initial post on setting this brief series up.  Again, I am not a Roman Catholic and in this post I am trying to use the most widely preferred text that I found in research that support this view. I am sure there are a number of texts on justification that any Roman Catholic believer could point to in addition to the few listed here. The same argument about additional texts to support the Protestant position could be argued as well.


Defend each view using their preferred scriptural texts

Roman Catholics maintain that James 2 is basic to the Catholic denial of imputed righteousness based on faith alone. The Catholic Church attempted to reconcile Romans 3 with James 2 by declaring that faith begins the process of justification whereas works complete it. Catholics maintain that through the on-going process of justification, the righteousness of God through Christ is infused by the Holy Spirit in a believer. Romans 5:19 says, “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” Thus, a believer is made righteous and justified by obedience.[1] Both Psalm 15:2 and Matthew 25:46 speak of being righteous and doing deeds entitles a believer to enter heaven. First Corinthians 4:7 says, “What do you have that you did not receive?” meaning that God gave the believer grace and we cooperated with God to accept Jesus and the offer of salvation.[2] Romans 5:1-2 indicates that after having received the grace of justification a believer now has access to God’s grace by which they stand in Christ and can then rejoice in the hope (something that is not yet possessed) of sharing God’s glory (Rom 8:24). Ephesians 2: 10 points out that a believer must continue to work in Christ and only by the grace of God can believers do so. However, this grace can be resisted (2 Cor 6:1).

Protestants see the words of Paul in Romans 3 as referring to works of the law by which a person attempts to justify himself. James is speaking of works that demonstrate the genuineness of one’s justification. Where Catholics see works combining with faith to complete the process of justification, Protestants view works as evidence that one has actually been justified by God. A Protestant view of James 2 sees that a justified believer proves their faith by acts of obedience. In other words, faith is justified or made evident by works. Romans 5:1 says a believer is justified (made righteous) by faith. The faith that saves a person is not alone. It inevitably produces good works. Works are not a condition of salvation but a consequence of it. Someone who is truly saved will manifest good works. If there are no good works present, then there is no reason to believe that true saving faith is present either.

Roman Catholics view that a person is not justified by faith alone, but rather through works and faith together. This view contradicts Romans 3:28, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” Catholics may also argue that a person is justified by faith, and is preserved or kept in a state of grace through works. However, this too contradicts what Scripture says. Galatians 3:1-3 points out if the people received the Spirit by works of the Law or by hearing with faith. Ultimately, it is by grace through faith alone that justifies a person. Romans 11:6 says, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” This supports the Protestant theology that justification is not by works in anyway but is by grace through faith in Christ and His sacrifice alone.

The Catholic view of justification seems to contradict passages such as Romans 4:1-12 and Titus 3:3-7 among others. Both of these passages speak to be justified by faith by the mercy and grace of God, not by works or anything of man. According to the Roman Catholic view, a person must await a final justification at death to know whether they have eternal life and will not see God’s condemnation. In contrast, Protestants view the Bible guaranteeing eternal life as a present possession of those who believe (John 3:36; 5:24; 1 John 5:13). John further states the only condition for obtaining eternal life is belief (John 3:16, 36; 5:24; 20:31).


[1] See Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1991: “Justification is at the same time the acceptance of God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. Righteousness (or ‘justice’) here means the rectitude of divine love. With justification, faith, hope and charity are poured into our hearts, and obedience to divine will is granted us.”

[2] See Council of Trent: Decree on Justification, Chapter XVI: “For, whereas Jesus Christ Himself continually infuses his virtue into the said justified,-as the head into the members, and the vine into the branches,-and this virtue always precedes and accompanies and follows their good works, which without it could not in any wise be pleasing and meritorious before God.” Also see Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1993.

JUSTIFICATION IN CATHOLIC AND PROTESTANT THOUGHT

We continue to look at the concept of soteriology and what are the different parts that make up the whole of salvation. Over the next few posts, we will look at the differences between catholics and protestants on their views on justification. Many years ago now, a group of leaders from both the catholics and protestants got together to try to bring unity to the different parties. They discussed their differences but also wanted to lay out what both parties believe and share and celebrate the similarities.

One of the many splitting points during the reformation and subsequent split from the Catholic church was on salvation and in particular justification. This led to many discussions on what is sanctification, how does communion work, and what does justification mean and how is it imparted to a believer and when. These are just a few of course.

So when the catholic and protestant leaders met, they created a joint declaration where all individuals involved signed off and approved it (document can be found here). Some evangelicals had issues with what was signed and the same can be said for catholics. Essentially, this was trying to bridge a gap and create a united community.

One of the questions that we must ask is what exactly are the beliefs of both sides. Secondly, how does each side defend its position. Third and finally, which view does a person hold and why. So today’s post will focus on summarizing the Roman Catholic and Protestant understandings of justification by faith. The next two post will focus on the second and third post respectively.

We must remember it is important to understand an alternate view in order to create conversation and have greater understanding of where that person is coming from. Below is a collection of my thoughts, research, and collaborative efforts to summarize a broad doctrine into a summary statement.

Personal Note: This is not a slamming of either side or specifically of catholicism. This is researching a particular view in an effort to understand what a catholic seems to believe (in general). I am not here to condemn any views or say one side is better than the other. At the end of the day, I will present my personal view as to why I hold to the salvation and justification, but I understand the importance of a united Church and the love and grace that God has provided. I am thankful for the open dialogue between the two sides to try to bring unity.


Protestants view justification as a specific point upon which God declares the believer as righteous. It is the moment when God declares a guilty person righteous because of what Christ has done. This point is where the believer enters into the Christian life. Protestants hold to the view of sanctification as the process or development of being made more righteous throughout a believer’s life. Justification encompasses the forgiveness of sin, acceptance by God, and the imputation of Jesus’ righteousness.

In contrast, the Roman Catholics believe that Christ’s righteousness is imparted to the believer “by grace through faith,” but in itself is not sufficient to justify the believer. The believer must supplement the righteousness of Christ imparted to them with meritorious works. The Roman Catholics view justification as a point and a process, dependent on the grace that a believer receives by participating in the Church. Grace is often seen as something that can be distributed through various possibilities of change and means. Roman Catholics reject that there is an imputed righteousness of Christ to a believer at the moment of salvation; that is, that a believer is counted as fully righteous in the eyes of God. A person is prepared for justification with the help of actual grace. This disposition toward righteousness occurs through cooperation between a person’s will and the grace that assists them to move toward God. Although grace is present, a person cannot reach this justified state apart from their own efforts. Justification involves being made righteous and holy. The person believes that faith in Christ is only the beginning of salvation and that the individual must build upon that with good works because God’s grace of eternal salvation must be merited.

Roman Catholics hold to the doctrine of transubstantiation where they believe as they partake of the elements of the Eucharist, the literal body and blood of Christ becomes a part of the believer, transforming them, and making them more righteous. On the other hand, Protestant partake of the Lord’s Supper by holding to either the memorial view – the elements are seen as symbols and the believer commemorates Jesus’ death – or the consubstantiation perspective – Jesus is spiritually present in the elements but is not in the elements or are they the physical body and blood of Christ.

While both believed a person is saved by grace, the biggest difference between the Protestant and Roman Catholic view is how a person receives that grace and whether it is the point at which a person becomes a Christian or if it is the point and a process that is continually moving toward salvation.

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.

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]

Continue reading

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.