Friday, May 29, 2015

Romans 5:12 - Part III

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


Having exhausted the options with the instantaneous explanations, let’s now put them aside and examine the explanatory power of the logical view. In this one, “death spread to all men because all sinned” isn’t an inventory of what happened at the garden but the logical progression of sin entering the world. Paul is saying something like, “Through Adam sin infected the world, and now death comes to all men because all have sinned in their past.” It does not mean that we will sin, although that’s true, but that we have sinned and so are now sinners. Sinners since conception.
Unlike the previous distinction which had four distinct mechanisms, there seems to be only three which flesh out the concept this time around.

The Divine View: God, in forming a man, instills into him sin, weaving it into his fabric and make up. Just as God bequeaths us a soul and attaches it somehow to our bodies, so too does He makes sin a unique part of our nature. In short, Adam opened the door to God making us sinful by a direct, positive action of His will.
I’m not even going to pretend this is valid enough to deserve a refutation. It’s so far removed from what Paul was driving at that it shouldn’t be taken seriously, to say nothing of the blasphemous notion of God making men sinful by a positive action which suggests that sin is something God gives out of His abundance.

Conception-as-Sin: in this view the joining of the sperm and egg is itself a sinful act, one which brings the moral guilt with it.
But seeing as how this is a simple interaction of nature by two impersonal, non-moral things, it’s hard to take this view seriously either. Sin is much more than a simple act of nature like the blowing of the wind or pollinating of a pine cone, and likewise there is nothing inherently praiseworthy or guilt-worthy about the correct number of chromosomes coming together.
While it’s one thing to be unaware of a sin, it’s another altogether to say the carbon cycle or the crystal lattice of diamond is sin. And once we’ve agreed that the natural world is inherently evil we’ve recovered the Gnosticism that so much of the New Testament preaches against, and we’re lost.

The Hereditary view: the corruption of our will and nature in Adam is passed on to us simply because he is our father, and we are his offspring. Adam fell into ruin, and then begot descendants after his image, and as a consequence we inherit a corrupted flesh from him. So I don’t share in Adams sin, nor am I counted as being sinful, but instead I begin life with a fallen will, a ruined flesh, having been handed through no fault of my own a broken disposition that is permeated, from my will to my affections, with sinfulness. This want of conformity to Gods perfect standard and Gods creation is itself a sin. We are imperfect, not as created or designed, and therefore we are sinners.
This, incidentally, perfectly explains the presence of v14. Some of us die not having committed a volitional sin like Adam did, but death still came to them; ergo they must have sinned in a non-volitional way. They are guilty of being fallen, not of embracing fallenness as did Adam.
There are two objections I can think of to this model. The first and most serious is that, similar to the point above, that isn’t what sinfulness means, sin necessarily has a volitional element to it.
But that’s problematic when we consider that we can sin unintentionally, and indeed, likely sin much of the time against God and are merely unaware of it. (Why else would hell seem so out of proportion unless we were actually racking up a number of transgressions against God while thinking we were doing nothing wrong?) Once it’s granted that we can sin while not being consciously aware of it, it’s not a big stretch to affirm this model, which has the upside of being completely consistent with how the Bible defines sin elsewhere.
The second objection is that it’s hard to draw a close parallel from Adam to Christ with this view since we are born sinful thanks to Adam, but are imputed righteous thanks to Christ. The furthest comparison we can get is a loose one: the actions of both men changed our state. But that seems to be the whole point, and it’s we who’ve taken the comparison too far. All Paul seems to be saying is that just as the fall of Adam spread outward to us and we died, so did the justification bought by Christ and given to us spread outward and we lived. That makes sense given the ways in which Adam and Christ are the same is very thin while the ways in which they are dissimilar abound.

Ways which they are alike:
  • Adam is a type of Him who was to come. (v14)
  • One action on the part of both men changed the state of many people (v19)
Ways which they are dissimilar:
  • Jesus gives us a gift (v16)
  • Adam offended God (v17)
  • Adams action brought condemnation (v16)
  • Adam’s action brought judgment (v16)
  • Christ’s actions brought potential justification to all men (v18)
  • Christ’s actions brought certain justification to many men (19)
  • Death reigned through Adam (v17)
  • Grace and righteousness reign in tremendous measure through Christ (v17)



Of these three views then I find the argument for this last one compelling, and the model to be intuitively right. It answers the questions posed by the text, does the best job of explaining the surrounding text, and avoids unnecessary speculation. 
And it's head and shoulders above the previous four explanations. The conclusion of the matter is then that by the disobedience of Adam sin has been spreading and growing throughout the whole human race, being a corruption of our nature—an inherited depravity which even infects small infants
in their mother’s womb, and is the root which produces in humanity every sort of sin.
It is so vile and enormous in God’s sight that it is enough to condemn even unborn children to death, and it is not abolished or wholly uprooted even by regeneration, but remains a sin that constantly boils forth as poisoned water from a contaminated spring. It is the original source of sin in us, not Adam, even though it was given to us by our descent from Adam.
That, it seems to me, is what Romans 5:12 is teaching.

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