Posted tagged ‘original sin’

The Imputation of Adam’s First Sin as Our Guilt

November 26, 2013

The imputation of Adam’s guilt to us is not based on anything that is in us, but is something legally applied to us by God from the outside and not based on any sinful thought or action on our part. Not all Reformed are agreed on this. Calvin himself followed Augustine in putting the emphasis on inherited corruption as foundational. But I myself would stand with the “federal theology” of John Murray, Hodge, Turretin, which talks about “original sin” in terms of legal representation. (as for contemporaries, both Mike Horton and John Piper speak of legal representation from Adam, but there are “realists” who are more in the tradition of Jonathan Edwards and Shedd–people like Schreiner and Blocher)

This imputation from Adam to humans, is about the legal transfer of the guilt of Adam’s one action, his first sin. The guilt of Adam is “external” to Adam–it’s the value, the demerit of his action, as judged by God, and that guilt is transferred to every human (Christ, the God human, the second Adam, excepted). This guilt is not simply the liability or punishment for sin, but is the sin itself.

That which is transferred from Adam to us is first of all EXTERNAL.

1. When Christ “bears sins” or is “made sin”, this does NOT mean that Christ himself ever became corrupt. Christ had no need of regeneration, which is why Romans 6 is not about regeneration, not about water, but about legal placing into the death of Christ. Why was the legal death of Christ necessary—because of the guilt of the elect imputed to Christ, this guilt demanded his death, and his death demanded the remission of this guilt. Justice has been done, and those in Christ legally must have their guilt forgiven. This is good news indeed!

2. The guilt of the elect imputed by God to Christ is not the same as the guilt of Adam imputed by God to all humans, but the nature of the imputation of guilt is the same in both cases. We must teach an external (judicial) imputation. The more basic solution is not a regeneration of our insides (though that is necessary for other reasons, so that we believe), because the most basic problem we have is that apart from the cross (the death of Christ) God counts everyone’s sins against them.

3. Emphasis on the external is very important when we consider II Corinthians 5:21. I won’t extend the discussion here to talk about who died with Christ (5:14-15) or to whom the appeal to be reconciled is made (II Cor 6;1), but I will point out that “become the righteousness of God in Christ” is about having an external righteousness imputed to us. Because that is so, the “made sin” of the first part of the verse must be seen as about external guilt being imputed to Christ.

In other words, if the first part (made sin) is about some “inner corruption”, then 1. that says that Christ needed to be born again. God forbid! but 2. it would say that our righteousness is something found in us, or something in our faith, or something in Christ in us, or something indwelling. When the gospel is first of all about LOOKING OUT to Christ outside us, to Christ external to us. To become the righteousness of God in Christ is to be imputed with Christ’s righteousness, the external “merits” of the obedience of Christ for the elect.

This is not denying that the “in us” or the “new birth” is important, but it’s saying that those miracles are a result of the legal imputation of the EXTERNAL. Romans 8: 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,

A Lutheran tells me—one must not attribute to the Lutherans the Calvinist idea that God imputes Adam’s sin to us, for we are all responsible for our actions that do not derive from full fear, love, and trust in God

mark: I am hoping that not all Lutherans would agree with this, because it seems to be a rejection of any notion of “original sin”. If we are only responsible for our own sins, then what is left of original sin? If we find the imputation of Adam’s sin not just, why should we find the imputation of Christ’s finished work to be acceptable? If we can’t be condemned for Adam’s sake alone , how could we be justified for Christ’s sake alone?

Most people in our day do reject both imputations. Certainly the “new perspective on Paul” does. But it seems that many others reject it as well. Are Lutherans saying that the only effect in our life from Adam’s sin is death and being a sinner? Are they rejecting any idea that we are sinners because of Adam’s guilt? If you deny that you can be legally judged because of Adam’s sin, must you not also deny that you can be legally justified because of Christ’s righteous death?

Conditional Promises, by W J Berry

October 31, 2011

God is not Obligated to Man by Conditional Promises

Religious teachers for hundreds of years have been putting forth the idea that God made a conditional covenant with Adam, thereby leaving the eternal destiny in the hands of the creature, the man Adam. This was not true.

It is either true or false. If it is true, then the eternal destiny of the Adamic race rested entirely on the conditional act of Adam. If it is false, then the popular religious teaching, including that of Christendom, is guilty of teaching and preaching a far-reaching error.

Referring to the creation of Adam, the word says, “the creature was made…by reason of him [God] who has subjected the same in hope.” (Rom. 8:20) When God created and formed the first man he was made upright and without sin, but he did not possess immortal life; nor is it intimated anywhere in Scripture that by his first disobedience he would lose immortality or eternal life, as he had neither.

When God placed Adam in the garden, He subjected him to the fall, and informed him that when, or in the day he committed this offense of the divine command, he would die; that was the death of the Adamic man which “passed upon all men.” (Rom. 5:12)

It is prevalent teaching, based on the first error, that when Adam fell he disobeyed a conditional commandment and lost the immortal life he regains in Christ. This is not true. Christ, the Son of God said: “I am come that they would have life, and that they would have it more abundantly.” (John. 10:10)

Speaking of His sheep (v. 28) He said: “I give to them eternal life.” Referring to this same life Paul wrote: “To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life.” (Rom. 2:7) This word means deathless, incorruptible LIFE. Adam in his best estate did not possess this
kind of life.

God the Creator did not make any such conditional covenant with Adam with a promise of life—either temporal or eternal FOR his obeying a command. Neither did God ever promise any of Adam’s posterity any life, blessings eternal FOR his obeying a commandment or law given since Adam’s fall. It was then, and remains God’s absolute sovereign right to both command and punish His creatures in consequence of any failure. He is never obligated any time or in any sense to His creatures.

Religious work-mongers continually quote as conditional such scriptures as Isaiah 1:19: “If you be willing and obedient ye shall eat the good of the land.” This gracious promise was given to a sinful, rebellious, unworthy people, to be bestowed out of pure grace, and not in payment for any service
to God the Giver. So with all of God’s promises, commands, blessings, mercies and savings.

It must and should therefore be clearly understood and freely acknowledged by every sin-convicted redeemed (no others can) that from Adam to the end, there are none in nature or grace—that could ever, by word or deed, be able to earn the very least favor of Almighty God. Our Lord Himself made all this plain when He said: “Does he thank the servant because he did the things that were commanded him? Likewise ye, when ye shall have done all these things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10)

How presumptuous then, is it for depraved sinners of Adam’s race to believe and teach others to expect they will or can receive any favor of God—either in providence or in grace—apart from His own good will and unconditional right to bestow it. This being so, how utterly pharisaical and confusing, is the whole present work-monger system of men. It is difficult to believe those who teach this error, have yet to see themselves for what they are before a holy sovereign Almighty God.

Justification: Five Views, IVP, 2011

October 11, 2011

The rejection of the biblical view of God’s justification of the ungodly is one result of the rejection of the imputation of the guilt of Adam to sinners. Michael Bird, in his “progressive Reformed view”, writes: “For some commentators, Adam’s disobedience is imputed to sinners and then believers have Jesus’ obedience imputed to them for justification…No matter how much people may try, kathistemi does not mean logizomai. The word kathistemi refers to an actual state of affairs and not to transactions. To say that believers will be made righteous is to posit a rectification in both their legal status and in their moral status.” p113

My point is not simply for you to see that justification has been defined to include transformation. My point is that this argument is based on the rejection of the legal transfer of guilt from Adam to sinners. This debate is not only about the “new perspective” (NT Wright) saying that only the status and not the legal record of Christ’s obedience is transferred to the justified elect. The debate is also about penal substitution. The debate is about a denial that the guilt of the elect was transferred to Christ. Representative “union” will be allowed, but legal substitution is rejected.

The “new perspective” wants to say that it’s not denying anything but trying to include more metaphors. Thus it defines justification as both forensic and transformative. But the new perspective does indeed have its own antithesis. The forensic can be included but it CANNOT be “hegemonic”. This is the new antithesis: legal categories cannot be controlling. It cannot be grace vs works, but grace and works. It cannot be faith in Christ vs works, but Christ’s faith which we share in also. It cannot be justification now vs justification by works then, or we will end up being “couch potatoes” (p155).

But look at the two central denials. Status can be transferred, but “righteousness” is not a property which can be imputed. Thus the antithesis—we are not allowed to say anymore that the legal record of Christ’s obedience to death is a property which can be transferred. That would make Christ to be the “first Pelagian” racking up frequent flyer miles (merits, p145).

And why are we not allowed to say that the righteousness is Christ’s righteousness? We are not allowed to say that Adam’s guilt is a legal property that can be transferred to sinners. Bird argues that the “made sin” is not corruption or guilt, and that this proves that the “become the righteousness” is not allowed to mean that the justified status is a result of Christ’s obedience to the death because of the imputed guilt of the elect.

The Roman Catholic view in this book agrees with Michael Bird. “Original sin does not refer personal guilt but to the sinful condition in which and into which human beings are born.” (p128) This first denial goes along with an even worse second denial, that there is no penal substitution in Isaiah 53. “But what about ‘the Lord has handed him over to our sins…Through the discipline of such punishment, they can be turned from their evil ways and healed…In the sixth century bc, no distinction had yet been drawn between the absolute will of God and the permissive will of God. Such a distinction allows us to understand how God may allow even his totally innocent Son to be handed over to sufferings and to be punished by human beings…The meaning of this vivid poem should not be pushed beyond what it actually says or misread as if it were a precise theological treatise about the transfer of personal guilt.”

Notice that for all the claims of wanting to include everything and not be precise, these folks are always finally very precise in EXCLUDING PENAL SUBSTITUTION. We want more, they say, but they also always want less. They are motivated not only by a desire to say that Jews are saved apart from the obedience of Jesus Christ but also motivated by a hatred for the just God who cannot and will not justify the ungodly apart from the legal record of God having punished God for sins that God legally transferred to God. Don’t be so mechanical and precise, they say, but they routinely and specifically deny any legal solidarity with guilt or with Christ’s death as a legal satisfaction. Some will allow “punishment”, but none will talk about individual guilt being borne by Christ and then taken away.

In the process, the penal substitution view is caricatured. On p 175, the Roman Catholic view explains II Cor 5:21: “supporters of the penal substitution view understand Paul to state that Christ really became a sinner. Our transgressions were counted against him …How could God transform an innocent person into a sinner? What about the possibility of saying, without doing that, God associated Jesus with all sinful men and women and charged him with their sins? …Paul does not use a judicial vocabulary here. God is not said to accuse, charge, judge, or punish.”

Why am I not talking about the difference between Mike Horton and Richard Gaffin on union and justification? I have in other places, but the most important debate about justification is the idea of including transformation into the definition of justification. We cannot say that justification is both forensic and transforming, or we will end up saying that the final forensic verdict is based on works (or “according to works”, and there is no real difference between based on and according to, since condemnation is both based on and according to sins.)

Notice that the quotation above assumes that “really become a sinner” cannot mean “legally charged as a sinner because of imputed sins”. That idea is unthinkable. In the end, according to the new perspective, the verdict is NOT based on a “both-and”, because the verdict is NOT based on the “judicial” but on us not being couch-potatoes. As Michael Bird explains (and Tom Schreiner agrees), Romans 2 is not an empty set (Horton, to his credit, defends empty set, 158).

The idea is that we can share the verdict Christ got when Christ was justified, but not the righteousness Christ got. The idea is that the Holy Spirit will enable us to live so that we will get the same verdict Christ got. Never in view is the problem that we are born as guilty sinners. To quote from one of the five views I have not yet cited, hear Jimmy Dunn: (p119)

“Horton wrote—‘The sin of Adam was imputed to the human race as a covenantal entity in solidarity because it was imputed to each member.’ Not only do we seem to be back into the most offensive (and unfounded) ‘original sin” interpretations of Romans 5:12, but an important element in Paul’s argument is being ignored. Paul makes a point of restricting guilt to the conscious act of breaking the law: sin is not imputed where there is no active disobedience.”

I think it’s Dunn who is ignoring the context. Paul is explaining why those without the law between Adam and Moses died. Why did they die when there was no law they were disobeying? Paul’s answer is that Adam disobeyed the law to Adam. But Dunn simply assumes that Adam’s guilt cannot be justly transferred by God to those after Adam.

Dunn also rejects any idea that Christ’s death can be credited to the elect (Romans 6, placed in the death, before that free from righteousness). At best, Dunn thinks of Christ’s death as a gift to be kept or lost, and so he warns us to take the warnings against apostasy in the way he takes them or not “be serious”.

To Dunn, one of the added advantages of the “new perspective” is that it “undermines the law-gospel antithesis”. (p198) Though nobody in this volume points to Daniel Fuller’s work, they all (except for Horton) seem to think that we are the ones who fulfill the requirement of the law in us. What matters to them is not so much the demand of the commandments of Christ, but the idea that we begin to claim that are keeping those commands. And since what Christ did is not going to help us get that done, we need to get off our couch…and start talking about justice and…keeping the commands or else…

Calvin Denied Original Guilt, by David Engelsma

July 22, 2011

from the Protestant Reformed Seminary Journal, April 2002, by David Engelsma

Against the interpretation of Calvin that has him teaching original guilt, albeit in embryonic form, however, stands Calvin’s commentary on Romans 5:12ff. He explains our relation to Adam in terms of Adam’s extending his corruption to us, which corruption constitutes our only guilt in the matter of Adam’s sin. Calvin explicitly rejects the doctrine of original guilt in the sense of our responsibility for Adam’s deed of disobedience.

There are indeed some who contend, that we are so lost through Adam’s sin, as though we perished through no fault of our own, but only, because he had sinned for us. But Paul distinctly affirms, that sin extends to all who suffer its punishment: and this he after wards more fully declares, when subsequently he assigns a reason why all the posterity of Adam are subject to the dominion of death; and it is even this—because we have all, he says, sinned. But to sin in this case, is to become corrupt and vicious; for the natural depravity which we bring from our mother’s womb, though it brings not forth immediately its own fruits, is yet sin before God, and deserves his vengeance: and this is that sin which they call original.

Commenting on verse 17, which compares death’s reigning by Adam and our reigning in life by Jesus Christ, Calvin calls attention to a “difference between Christ and Adam”:

By Adam’s sin we are not condemned through imputation alone, as though we were punished only for the sin of another; but we suffer his punishment, because we also ourselves are guilty; for as our nature is vitiated in him, it is regarded by God as having committed sin. But through the righteousness of Christ we are restored in a different way to salvation.

For Calvin, our sinning in Adam, as taught in Romans 5:12, is strictly that “we are all imbued with natural corruption, and so are become sinful and wicked.”8 The race becomes guilty for Adam’s transgression only by sharing in Adam’s depraved nature. Adam sinned. The punishment for Adam was, in part, the immediate corruption of his nature. But this is the nature of all his posterity (Christ excepted). All of Adam’s posterity are held responsible for the corrupted nature. Not sheer legal representation by a covenant head, but involvement in a corporate nature renders the race guilty before God. I am not responsible for Adam’s disobedience of eating the forbidden fruit. But I am responsible for the sinful nature with which God punished Adam for his act of disobedience.

This view of original sin leaves Calvin with a huge problem. By what right did God inflict the punishment of a corrupt nature on Adam’s posterity? That the corruption of human nature was divine punishment on Adam, Calvin acknowledges. But it was as well punishment of Adam’s posterity. This, Calvin does not like to acknowledge. Rather, he likes to regard the depraved nature only as the guilt of Adam’s posterity. The question that exposes the weakness — serious weakness — of Calvin’s doctrine here is this: If I am not guilty for Adam’s act of disobedience, with what right does God punish me — not Adam, but me — with a totally depraved nature?

Calvin’s explanation of the origin of the sin of the human race also has an important implication for the headship of Adam. Adam was head of the race, to be sure. But his headship consisted only of his depraving the human nature of which all partake. His was not the headship of legal representation. Adam did not stand in such a covenantal relation to all men, that, altogether apart from the consequent corrupting of the nature, all are responsible before God for Adam’s act of disobedience.

In view of the apostle’s comparison between Adam and Christ in Romans 5:12ff. (“as by the offence of one … even so by the righteousness of one,” v. 18), Calvin’s explanation of the headship of Adam would mean that Christ’s headship also consists only of His being the source of righteousness to His people by actually infusing it into them. If Adam’s headship was not legal representation, neither is Christ’s headship legal representation. But this destroys the fundamental gospel-truth of justification as the imputation of Christ’s obedience.

Calvin recognizes the danger. Therefore, in his commentary on Romans 5:17 Calvin proposes a “difference between Christ and Adam.” “By Adam’s sin we are not condemned through imputation alone,” but “through the righteousness of Christ we are restored in a different way to salvation.”

The trouble is that Paul does not teach such a “difference between Christ and Adam.” Paul rather declares, “as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life” (Rom. 5:18).

If our guilt in Adam is not by imputation of a deed of disobedience, neither is our righteousness in Christ by imputation of a deed of obedience. This is the theology of Rome, dishonoring the God of grace. It is also the heresy that increasingly finds favor with Protestant theologians.

The “difference between Christ and Adam” that Calvin injects into Romans 5:12ff. does not exist. Verse 18 teaches that the transgression of one man — Adam, according to verse 14 — was the condemnation of all men. In verse 19, the apostle states that the disobedience of the one man rendered many people sinners. The verb translated “made” by the King James Version does not mean “made” in the sense of causing people actually to become sinful. Rather, it means “constituted” in the sense of a legal standing of guilt before God the judge.

One could translate: “By one man’s disobedience many were declared sinners.” Even so, the righteousness of one — Jesus Christ — was the justification of all whom He represented, and His obedience constitutes many people righteous.

The comparison between the two covenant heads of the human race in history consists exactly of this, that both are legal representatives of others, Adam, of the entire human race, Christ only excepted, and Christ, of the new human race of the elect church. Because Adam was covenant (federal) head of the race, his act of disobedience was imputed to the race as their guilt. Because Christ is covenant (federal) head of the elect church, His obedience is imputed to the church as our righteousness.

Union with Adam

February 10, 2011

The first sin of Adam is transferred to every human person (not when they are teenagers but when they are conceived). This transfer of guilt is not good news.

United to Adam by his guilt transferred to us, we then share Adam’s nature. To make the union something prior to sharing the guilt keeps begging several questions. Unless we know that a transfer of guilt is unjust, we have no reason to deny that our union with Adam is by legal imputation.

Transfer of guilt is union, and results in moral corruption and death. This depravity is not for the elect alone, because the guilt of Adam is not for the elect alone.

The gospel has a glorious transfer, which IS good news. Christ was not imputed with the corruption of the elect, but with their guilt. Even though corruption is part of the punishment for imputed guilt, Christ was not imputed with corruption but with guilt.

Even though many preachers focus on the supposed “spiritual death” that Jesus experienced in the three hours before He died , the emphasis of the Bible is that Christ Jesus bore the guilt of His people, the sins of the elect. The result of that was Christ’s death.

Christ did not have to be corrupt to be human. Nor did He have to be guilty to be human. This means that Christ can be and was imputed with the guilt of the elect alone, and not with the guilt of the non-elect.

The guilt transferred by God to Christ was not completely satisfied until Christ died on account of the sins of the elect.

Not only punishment for guilt, but guilt itself was transferred to Christ. The gospel talks about election, because the gospel talks about Christ bearing the sins of specific elect persons.

Isaiah 53:5 speaks of the punishment which brought us peace. But Isaiah 53:6 also tells us that “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us.” The servant Christ bore not only punishment but also iniquity.

By means of Roman and Jewish politicians, God punished Christ who was legally charged with all the sins of the elect. This is not unfair. It is good news but only for the elect.