Immediate Imputation

The late E.W. Johnson preached a series of messages at Calvary Baptist Church in Pine Bluff, AR in the late 50’s, which were published by Baptist Reformation Review in 1972

Johnson’s article was an attack on “federalism”. It opposed the primacy of the legal transfer and makes imputation depend on corruption or regeneration. It took sides with Andrew Fuller against Abraham Booth. It sided with Augustine and Calvin against  John Murray .

Of course we baptists are not bound to what any of those guys said, not even John Gill. But I bring up the name John Murray, since he did not believe in a covenant of works, and yet he still taught the immediate imputation of guilt from Adam to all humans (Jesus Himself excepted.)

So teaching an immediate imputation of the death of Christ (ie, logically before regeneration, and not because of regeneration) is not a result of having a covenant of works. Nor is it a result of denying that all God’s elect understand and believe the gospel.

But EW Johnson lumped all who taught immediate imputation into his “Primitive Baptist category”. And Johnson always pontificated more against what he called hypers than against the Arminians. There is very little theology on the Searching Together site, but this terrible imputation essay is one still there.

Interesting that those who are so indifferent to the true and false  are nevertheless so certain about a less important place for imputation. And thus they proclaim, and do not explain.
Wheaton’s Henri Blocher’s view of original sin is that Adam’s sin opened the door so that the rest of us other sinners COULD BE imputed with our own sins, and thus condemened. Thus a mediate imputation.

Andrew Fuller taught that this “door” has been opened for all sinners, including the non-elect. But even some who affirm substitutionary atonement seem think that a door has been opened for the elect that allows God then to do some other (more real) stuff for the elect.They seem to believe that any “imputation” by God is based on what God knows He will do (or has done) in the elect. They call imputation “judicial role-play”.

I do not.

Hebrews 10:10 We have been set apart through the offering of the body of Christ once for all.
Hebrews 10:14 By a single offering He has perfected for all TIME those who are being sanctified.

The justified elect are sanctified by the imputation of Christ’s bloody death. This is parallel to the direct imputation of Adam’s sin. Romans 5:18 “as one trespass led to condemnation” does not mean “opened the door for the possibility of condemnation” . John 3:18″ the one who does not believe is condemned already.”

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5 Comments on “Immediate Imputation”

  1. Richard Bacon Says:

    The newest Protestant Reformed Theological Journal has a couple of articles you may be interested in reading, Mark. One is by Nathan Langerak titled “A Critique of the Covenant of Works in Contemporary Controversy” and the other is a good explanation by Devid Engelsma of Bavink’s Covenant Theology. You may not agree with most of what you read, but I think you will find it interesting.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    I do receive the PR journal. I have read the two essays; I agreed with them much more than you might think. I don’t think “federalism” depends on a covenant of works with Adam.

  3. markmcculley Says:

    Charles Hodge— If that assertion is, ‘all men are regarded as sinners on account of Adam,’ the meaning and pertinency of these verses are clear. But if Romns 5: 12 asserts merely that all men are sinners, then verses. 13, 14 must be regarded as proving that men were sinners before the time of Moses – a point which no one denied, and no one doubted, and which is here entirely foreign to the apostle’s object

    Of course it is not denied that men are subject to death for their own sins; but that is nothing to the point which the apostle has in hand. His design is to show that there is penal evil to which men are subject, anterior to any personal transgression or inherent corruption.


    In other words, it was “by the offense of one man that judgment came on all men to condemnation.” It is of course not implied in this statement or argument, that men are not now, or were not from Adam to Moses, punishable for their own sins, but simply that they are subject to penal evils which cannot be accounted for on the ground of their personal transgressions

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Sam Storms–Reformed theologians have not always agreed on what this imputation entails. Charles Hodge (Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970], 2:149-256) defines imputed sin as consisting simply of the obligation to satisfy justice, i.e., the exposure to punishment on account of Adam’s sin (the reatus poenae). John Murray (Imputation), in contrast to Hodge, argues that the reatus poenae, or obligation to satisfy justice, may be imputed only on the grounds of a logically antecedent culpa or demeritum. He concludes his response to Hodge by noting that “Reformed and Lutheran theologians [historically] did not conceive of the reatus of Adam’s sin as imputed to posterity apart from the culpa of the same sin. And this is simply to say that the relation of posterity to the sin of Adam could not be construed or defined merely in terms of the obligation to satisfy justice (reatus poenae) but must also include, as the antecedent and ground of thatreatus, involvement in the culpa of Adam’s transgression” (p. 84).

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Fesko— Oliver Crisp’s essay on sin, for example, has much to commend it. He thoughtfully engages the subject and challenges the common Reformed doctrine of immediate imputation for original sin. He promotes a Zwinglian realist view. At one level, this is fine. But when he rejects immediate imputation, Oliver Crisp does so apart from any exegesis. To claim that immediate imputation promotes an arbitrary view of God or that no one ever authorized Adam to represent humanity are expected common objections, but to fail to provide substantive counter-exegesis to the exegetical support for immediate imputation renders the objections unconvincing.

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