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Original Sin (Part II)

We're building off our last podcast with the various positions on the doctrine of solidarity in Romans 5.

Realistic View/Seminal Headship:

“Human nature was numerically and specifically one in Adam… In brief, the position is that human nature, in its individualized unity, existed in its entirety in Adam, that when Adam sinned, not only did he sin but also the common nature which existed in its unity in him, and that, since each person who comes into the world is an individualization of this one numan nature, each person, as an ‘individualized portion’ of that common nature, is both culpable and punishable for the sin committed by that unity.” (Murrey, The Imputation of Adam’s Sin)

A.H. Strong says, “It holds that God imputes the sin of Adam immediately to all his posterity (descendants), in virtue of that organic unity of mankind by which the whole race at the time of Adam’s transgression existed, not individually, but seminally, in him as its head. The total life was then in Adam; the race, as yet, had its being only in him. Its essence was not yet individualized; its forces were not yet distributed; the powers which now exist in separate men were then unified and localized in Adam; Adam’s will was yet the will of the species. In Adam’s free act, the will of the race revolted from God and the nature of the race corrupted itself…”

Representative View:

Now, this view does not discount the physical union and relationship of Adam with the whole of humans, as we just saw in the previous view. However, this is a common charge made by those in the realistic/seminal camp.

This view holds to the idea that instead of trying to see the whole of humanity actually sinning in Adam, it sees that Adam is the representative head of humanity and therefore God “imputes,” by divine decision, his sin upon all who are represented by him.

Paul is saying that the only sin that was imputed upon man was that “one” sin. As a result, not any other sins by Adam were imputed to us. And this is important to remember because it connects all of humanity to that one actual sin, not merely the effects of that sin.

When we consider 1 Corinthians 15, we see that there are these two Adams. One is the first Adam, and the second is Christ (or the second/last Adam).

1 Cor. 15:21-22 “For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. (22) For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”

(Vs. 22) shows something that is startling and vivid. It is essentially saying that the destiny of all people and nations rise or fall, but on the basis of their relation to these two Adams.

So the idea that we were physically present in the sufferings of Christ, or that we physically were present in Christ in His death (or resurrection) is not supported, biblically. What we have is that Christ goes to the cross on behalf of those whom the Father has given Him-- the elect. And through faith we are reckoned/imputed with His righteousness.

In the same way, we need to see that the fact that the first Adam is physically connected to all of humanity is not the central issue. What is the issue is that he also represented all of humanity. So when he rebelled against God and died, both physically, and more importantly, spiritually, this condemnation was imputed on all who are born into the human race.

Grudem gives some helpful comments here:

“The conclusion to be drawn from these verses [Rom. 5] is that all members of the human race were represented by Adam in the time of testing in the garden of Eden. As our representative, Adam sinned, and God counted us guilty as well as Adam. (A technical term that is sometimes used in this connection is ‘impute,’ meaning, ‘to think of as belonging to someone, and therefore to cause it to belong to that person.’) God counted Adam’s guilt as belonging to us, and since God is the ultimate judge of all things in the universe, and since his thoughts are always true, Adam’s guilt does in fact belong to us. God rightly imputed Adam’s guilt to us.

Sometimes the doctrine of inherited sin from Adam is termed the doctrine of ‘original sin.’... I have not used this expression. If this term is used, it should be remembered that the sin spoken of does not refer to Adam’s first sin, but to the guilt and tendency to sin with which we are born. It is ‘original’ in that it comes from Adam, and it is also original in that we have it from the beginning of our existence as persons, but it is still our sin, not Adam’s sin, that is meant. Parallel to the phrase 'original sin’ is the phrase ‘original guilt.’ This is that aspect of inherited sin from Adam that we have been discussing above, namely the idea that we inherit the guilt from Adam” (ST, Grudem).

This is the view many covenantal theologians hold to. 

We would hasten to add that holding to this position does not make one covenantal in their theology. Even if it were the case, then that would be a bad way to approach any subject. For it would mean that a person’s theology dictates their exegesis.

Mediate Imputation View:

This view says that Adam’s sin directly affected only him. But because his nature became depraved as a result of that sin, then it is the depravity (not the actual sin) that has been transmitted to all of humanity.

This view strongly emphasizes the fact that there is a physical transmission of sin from generation to generation. However, it does not find support in the exegetical date of Rom. 5:12ff.

Some initial conclusions:

We would say that it is wise to see that there are aspects involved in this whole discussion, that can’t be answered fully from the text. So we would simply say, be slow to be harsh with a person with whom you might disagree with their position.

Exegetical Data on Romans 5:12-19:

Paul uses the Genesis 2-3 account 4 times in the book of Romans to develop his theology. This is one of those times. But, what’s important to keep in mind is that it sits in the middle of a great argument that he is building.

There has been much debate over the last phrase in v. 12, “because all sinned.”

Rom. 5:12 - “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned--”

So the question is what does Paul mean by, “because all sinned.” The issue up to this point has been the sin of Adam in Gen. 3. So how can Paul now say that death has spread to all man because all sinned?

Is it Adam’s sin, or our sin that brings about our death?

There are a series of dia’s (dia, ‘through’) in this passage that help us follow the flow of the argument. They speak of the “channels” (some will call it “agency”) through which death/condemnation has come.

So if you can follow the flow, it will help make sense of this.

It would be difficult to do that in a podcast form. If we were in a class we could do this much easier because we would be able to show the words, and their flow through the passage.

But suffice it to say, that if you follow the structure of the argument, then you will see a great comparison being made between Adam and Jesus Christ:

- V.12 makes a statement.

- V.13 explains the statement.

- V. 15 shows the limits and differences between Adam and Christ.

- And v. 18 brings the conclusion with great clarity.

Again, we can’t really show this in a podcast form, but grab a bible when you have time and relisten to this section to see what we’re speaking about.

But upon examining the passage, and following the argument, our conclusion is that the Representative View has the best sense of the Romans 5 passage.

It is speaking of two heads (or representatives).

Each representative makes one act:

- Adam made one trespass [in the Garden] (vss. 12, 15, 17, 18, 19).

- Jesus Christ made one righteous act [on the cross] (v. 18).

Then, there were two results:

- For Adam, it was condemnation, guilt, and death (vss. 15, 16, 18, 19).

- For Jesus Christ, it was justification, life, and kingship (vss. 17, 18, 19).


So original sin is speaking of a realm in which all of humanity exists. Every single one of us are born “in Adam.”

This is our state.

This is our reality.

Not only was Adam our representative, but because we are considered to inhabit his realm, we also sin. So this is a both/and kind of idea.

On the one hand, the condemnation we receive for our sin is because of Adam, but on the other hand,  it is also because of us. It is hard to make a clean separation between the two, because it truly is a both/and reality.

On the flip side, this is also why we can be justified in Jesus Christ.

Once we enter his realm, we now inhabit that which defines Christ-- which is righteousness. Just as we received the consequences of Adam’s sin, so also, we receive the consequences of Christ’s obedience -- eternal life.

So this is a very full topic; and it is difficult to give justice to Adam Theology in a single podcast episode -- though, we will talk a little more about it in our next topic, which is soteriology.

But having said that, this is the end of hamartiology. All done with sin.

So next we will jump into the massive, and yet rich doctrine of salvation.


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