Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Original sin and imputed guilt

In the book edited by Michael Allen and Scott R. Swain, Christian Dogmatics, an author Oliver D. Crisp wrote the chapter on the topic of sin. In his chapter, he defended what he took to be a "Zwinglian" model of original sin. As opposed to the federal model of the transmission of sin, Crisp took the realist model, which Zwingli supposedly taught, that sin is transmitted by a real union between Adam and his progeny (p. 216). Needless to say, such a model would require holding to traducianism, the belief that the souls of human beings are transmitted to their descendants, in order for it to work. Without dealing with traducianism here, let us look at Crisp's objections to the federal model of the transmission of sin, that sin is transmitted to all humans because of covenantal identification with Adam, and answer them.

Crisp raised three distinct objections to the federal model of the transmission of sin. First, the "arbitrary divine will objection" states that the act of God in ordaining that original sin is transmitted is unfair and arbitrary. Second, the "authorization objection," which states that Adam's progeny did not authorize Adam to be their representative. Third, the "fiction objection," that the imputation of sin to Adam's progeny because of federal identification is a moral and legal fiction. Due to these three objections, which Crisp deemed insurmountable. Crisp rejected the federal model for a realist model of the transmission of sin.

In response to the first objection, the answer is that God is sovereign and this is how the world he had created is. The objection is basically reduced to "Why did God make the world in such and such a way?." Why did God make the world such that Adam sinned in the first place? Why did God make the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? This objection fails because the whole idea of God being God is that He is God and we are not. God does all things according to His good pleasure, and there is simply no reason or right why He must explain anything to us.

The second objection is similar to the first, and the answer is similar to the first answer. Who authorized Adam to be our federal head? Well, God did! When you were a little child, who authorized your parents to sign as a parent on your behalf for camps and other activities? Did you as a three year old authorize your parents to be your parents? Or how about nations and war? If a country goes to war, which individual citizen authorized the war? What if the citizen does not want to fight in the war when mandatory draft is instituted?

Therefore, the second objection fails as well. Such an objection smacks of radical individualism, and fail to recognize the corporate nature of human societies. It is true that we did not authorize Adam and Eve to be our head in the first test of the Covenant of Works, but who is better to face such a test? It almost seem like the objectors think that they, as fallen creatures, would easily pass the test that our sinless parents failed, an exercise in hubris.

The last is essentially the same objection as the argument against justification by faith alone, which has also been called a "legal fiction." But that is to ignore that the imputing of Adam's guilt actually changes something, i.e. that all Man are sinful from birth. It is not a "legal fiction" because the imputation of Adam's guilt actually make fallen men sinners, just as the imputation of Christ's righteousness actually make believers righteous in the eyes of God. If imputation of sin is unfair, then so is imputation of Christ's righteousness to us. Grace is "unfair," but few seems to be complaining about that! The "legal fiction" objection is therefore void, and the federalist model stands.

The first man Adam sinned, and this sin is imputed to his posterity by virtue of federal headship. But we can thank God, for in the "unfairness" of this system is the exact same federal system that brings us God's grace in the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation is free, and all of grace, to set us free from our bondage to sin and give us eternal life.

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