Friday, May 15, 2015

Romans 5:12 - Part II

"Therefore just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned…"


If we read all three phrases as happening concurrently, then Paul is saying something like, “when Adam ate the fruit, at that very instant, we fell too.” How is that possible? I can think of four options, broadly grouped under two questions, with names I completely made up. They look something like this:

Were you personally guilty of the sin of Adam?

Were you somehow present with Adam?
High Agency View
Covenantal Oneness
Lesser Agency View
Covenantal Imputation

The High Agency view
: Just as someone can be guilty for orchestrating a murder though he wasn’t there, we are guilty in Adam for instructing him to do what he did. This isn’t an exact parallel of course, the actual mechanism is something more of a mystery, but the example shows how someone can be guilty of a crime though not present. We in some sense directed Adam to do it, and therefore we are personally responsible for the result. Origen and Muller seemed to hold a view substantially similar to this.
The problem is that this explanation requires the believer to throw up his hands right off the bat, admit total ignorance of how it could all have happened, and abandoned further inquiry and discussion. As a hypothesis it’s a bad one because it doesn’t open up the text to us but instead locks the whole thing away in a tornado shelter, and posts a sign that says, “Keep out! Mystery!” It’s a totally useless answer. And since it’s not only wildly speculative but counter to reason, I’ll just go ahead and dismiss it, along with the rest of the agnostic answers to the mechanism of our guilt.

The Lesser Agency View: In this model Adam functions something more like our official spokesman, or representative. As a result of his failure God punishes me with sin because my representative did exactly what I wanted him to do in the garden. He made my choice for me. When I come into the world I’m already carrying the guilt of wanting Adam to sin.
(The argument goes like this: a perfect God appointed Adam as a representative for everyone, including you. It follows then that Adam represented you perfectly, fell as you directed, and thus you agree you’re justly guilty of sin. If you disagree God picked the perfect man for the job then you’ve just questioned the judgment of God and rebelled against Him, which is the same sin Adam committed. Thus, whichever way you answer you’ve proved you’re deserving of the condemnation of Adam.)
As convincing as this model may be, it unfortunately requires a huge number of assumptions to function properly. Where in Scripture is it declared that Adam was my representative? Assuming he was, which decisions was he appointed to make for me—all of them or just the one regarding the command not to eat? Why did that representation mechanism turn off once he sinned? I suppose you could answer that Adam was created under a covenant with God and once that covenant was broken then the further propagation of sin or righteousness collapsed, but then that begs the question, what covenant? Why is there no mention of a covenant until Noah? Why is this Edenic covenant not cut with a sacrifice like every other covenant in the Bible? Is it because or does the act of God saying “do not eat” constitute a covenant? Wouldn’t that make all His instructions covenants? How long would Adam need to go on under this covenant as my official representative? Forever until he sinned? Until he had children? Until his probationary period is up? What probationary period? Why? To salvage God’s justice? The list goes on.
So while this model should be praised for not having any show stoppers, it nonetheless requires a number of buttresses to keep from falling down.  

Covenantal Oneness: In this view Adam acts as the head for the body of humanity. We were there in him, united with him, sharing the events, even though we were unaware and not personally responsible for the sin. Still, when Adam sinned we sinned, thanks to our covenantal oneness with him. Our being in him.
On the face of it this has a lot going for it. It’s similar to how we are one with Christ, united in Him by faith. After all, did He not say that He is the vine and we are the branches? Is man not the head of woman, the head of man Christ, and the head of Christ God? From what I can tell, Edwards held to something like this view, which is a big plus since he was a smart guy.
But this model has the same problematic assumptions about covenant that the last one had, plus one that asserts covenant members share righteousness with their head rather than having it imputed to them. That aside, it’s really when the work of Christ is considered that this model unravels in a spectacular fashion, for it’s evident Christ must wipe away every sin a believer has for them to get to heaven, but since the sin of Adam is Adams sin and is only being shared with everyone, then it must be dealt with it at Adam, since it’s his sin. Therefore once Jesus pays for Adams sin and takes it off the books for him, He takes it off for everyone. In paying for any of His elect, He pays for it for every man, and the original sin goes away. The only way out of this trap is to assert that we get a copy of Adam sin, not the sin itself, which is to abandon this view entirely.

Covenantal imputation: At the time of Adams sin God counted all his descendants as guilty of breaking the covenant with God, even though they weren’t there and actually hadn’t. Unlike the covenantal oneness view however, this is more of a bare judicial reckoning. The principle reason for holding it comes from the contrast Paul is making between Adam and Christ—since Christ imputes His righteousness to us, so too Adam must have imputed his sinfulness to us. Adherents to this view reason it cannot be that Adam makes us actually sinful, because by parallel that would mean the Roman Catholic notion of infused righteousness is true.  
The problem with it is that we are not actually guilty of sin, God is merely considering us as sinful covenant breakers (for whatever reason). That is, God is counting innocent people as guilty for something they didn’t do, and putting them to death for it. Defenders will claim that this is okay because of parallel to Adam, “Do you think it’s unfair to be condemned under Adam? Then you must object to being saved under Christ?” to which the rebuttal comes, “how about those who aren’t saved by Christ?” Condemnation from an alien guilt trades on a dark legal fiction, and no matter how we try to evade it, it must be the case that we are actually guilty of sin, not merely counted as guilty, or God is not just.

At this point it’s worth noting that all four of the explanations for the chronological understanding of Romans 5 require God to have put in place a special arrangement, agreement, or mechanism with us through Adam that isn’t recorded or explained in the Scriptures. Personally, although I have a soft spot for the lesser agency view, I find that to weigh very heavily on the text of Romans. That may ultimately be necessary if they prove to be the best fit, but so the downside must be admitted up front.

Having exhausted the options with the instantaneous explanations, let’s now put them aside and examine the explanatory power of the logical view. 

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