Re: [asa] Theological Perspectives Without a Literal Adam

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Mon Aug 20 2007 - 08:34:34 EDT

Janice, thanks for highlighting Henri Blocher's account of original sin. It
is from his book "Original Sin: Illuminating the Riddle," which seems to be
a creative and helpful gloss on the federal headship notion. (Essentially,
Blocher's notion is that the punishment for Adam's sin -- separation from
God ("death") -- is imputed to each of us for our own sin).

On 8/20/07, Janice Matchett < > wrote:
> At 11:59 PM 8/19/2007, D. F. Siemens, Jr. wrote:
> On Sun, 19 Aug 2007 22:17:29 -0400 writes: Here is an
> article by R.C. Sproul in which he describes this Augustinian view. He
> calls it the Realist view, meaning that all humans were "really" there in
> Adam when our Fall into sin was committed. He argues against it in favor of
> the Federal view. *~ Phil *
> *So, if you swat my behind, all the tushes of all my descendants will
> have a red patch. Matthew 16:27 and Romans 2:6 would indicate individual
> responsibility*. *~ Dave S.*
> *@ *For* the bottom line*, scroll down. ~ Janice
> Down the hallowed and unlighted halls of skepticism and nonbelief over the
> years, there have come few complaints as pointed as those directed against
> the doctrine of original sin (hereafter DOS). Skeptic Dennis McKinsey offers
> the typical bellows in EBE: The idea that all people are to be punished
> because of an act of one, a relatively innocuous act at that, borders on the
> bizarre and is a living refutation of any belief in a biblical God of
> justice and impartiality. Bound up in such objections are others as well,
> involving the sins of the fathers<>.
> But beyond that corrective, what of the complaint itself? Are we punished
> unfairly for the sin of our ancestor? Before a direct answer is made a
> caveat is required. I personally regard such objections as McKinsey's as
> guff. Even if the doctrine is such that Adam's guilt is imputed to us (which
> I will conclude, it is not), it is hardly as though any person would not
> have enough guilt of their own in the first place. This is like complaining
> about being sentenced to an extra week in prison for a crime you don't feel
> you are responsible for, when you have 3,748,983 years to serve for your own
> crimes. But since the penalty for any sin is the same (eternal judgment),
> not even this would matter. Aside from infants and the mentally disabled,
> none would have any real right or reason to complain about being saddled
> with the guilt of original sin -- and it is doubtful that such people would
> be made to pay for any sinful act after the same fashion, or that they would
> not have fallen for the same temptation.
> And now, to the text itself which is the central hub of the original sin
> wheel: Romans 5:12-19 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world,
> and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have
> sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when
> there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over
> them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who
> is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also is
> the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the
> grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath
> abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift:
> for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many
> offences unto justification. For if by one man's offence death reigned by
> one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of
> righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore 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. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the
> obedience of one shall many be made righteous. The highlighted phrases
> show Paul to be repeating the same idea in different ways -- in good,
> ancient pedagogical fashion. Now our key question to answer is, What is the
> exact cause-effect relationship between Adam's sin and our current
> condition? Are we being "punished" for his sin? If not "punished" then how
> does it affect us, exactly? And is it "fair" that we are affected thusly?
> For quite some time answers to these questions have been wrestled with by
> believers. On one hand, many have proposed (to the immense and whining
> dissatisfaction of skeptics) that Adam as a "federal head" and original
> representative of humanity, rightfully was able to impute his guilt for sin
> upon us. On the other end, it has been argued that all Paul's means here is
> that we biologically inherited Adam's tendency to sin, and so we have a
> propensity to "do" our own. The latter is a rough summary of what has been
> referred to as a the Pelagian heresy.
> Before attempting an analysis, some background is in order. As always we
> must read Paul in light of his position as an ancient writer and a member of
> an ancient collectivist society<>.
> We must not let our Western and modern individualism (which is actually a
> "mutation" from most of the rest of the historical and modern world!)
> interpret the passage directly; we must "strain" it through the filter of
> collectivist thought first.
> Several factors of collectivism have serious relevance to interpretation
> of Paul's words. As Malina and Neyrey note [Portraits of Paul, 156ff]:
> - Within such a society, individuals received their identity in
> relation to their social unit. They were "group-embedded" -- individuals
> share "a virtual identity with the group as a whole and with its other
> members."
> - As a consequence, abnormality is not seen as the result of such
> things as an abusive childhood; abnormality is the result of being embedded
> in an abnormal relationship matrix. All persons are assumed to have "the
> same experiences and very similar qualities." No man is an island, and no
> man is his own master.
> - The chief group with which one was embedded was family, and beyond
> that, one's ancestry. Identity rests "ultimately in the etiological ancestor
> of the extended family". Hence Paul makes what seems much to us of being a
> Benjamite; hence the stress on Jesus' Davidic ancestry; hence it is
> important for Judaeans to refer to Abraham as their father (John 8:33, 39).
> It may now be seen what relevance this orientation may have to the
> doctrine of original sin. By Paul's thinking, and by those of his
> contemporaries who accepted the Genesis account, we are all "embedded" in
> Adam, the etiological ancestor of humanity. We have (at least) inherited his
> faults and sins, and even if the "worst case" scenario (the one the skeptics
> loathe and complain about) is right, this is something that it is only we,
> as individualists, have a problem with. No one in antiquity would have
> complained that it was "not fair" that we were being to any extent punished
> for Adam's sin, or referred to it as "bizarre" or "unjust". Indeed it would
> have been expected that we would somehow pay for Adam's sin, since whoever
> was designated etiological ancestor, that is who we reap from, good or bad.
> Therefore any objection against DOS is a matter of being out of tune with
> the time. *But there does remain the question of how exactly Adam's sin
> affects us. Most of the highlighted phrases from Rom. 5:12-19 do not
> actually establish the bones of the cause-effect relationship; in fact it is
> only verse 12 that offers and such connection: Wherefore, as by one man
> sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all
> men, for that all have sinned: This verse is understood to be the keystone
> for the doctrine of original sin. The primary issue here is in that final
> phrase -- "for that all have sinned" -- and more narrowly, the prepositional
> word of the phrase. The "federal head" idea follows from the translation of
> Augustine, who read it in terms of in whom all sinned, and is often
> paralleled to the passage in Hebrews that says that Levi paid his tithe
> through his ancestor Abraham, and justified on the grounds that one man,
> Christ, also paid for all of those sins. Other suggested meanings have been
> for this reason, because, that, and because of the one by whom. Now before
> the McKinseys of the era wag their tongue about "why isn't it clear," let us
> make the points that a) any lack of clarity is more likely our fault for
> losing it, than for Paul or God to have not made it clear; b) the Greek
> phrase itself admits to many shades of meaning; "lexicographical enquiry
> comes to the conclusion that the meaning of the phrase may vary a good deal"
> [Dubarle, The Biblical Doctrine of Original Sin, 149n].
> So what is the answer? As we have delved more deeply into the background
> data, recovering that which we have lost, an answer has come into view which
> suggests that a more subtle point is in view, and that the "federal head"
> idea needs fine-tuning, and in a way that happens to render all skeptical
> complaints irrelevant. Henri Blocher, in Original Sin: Illuminating the
> Riddle, draws upon the findings of Malina that Romans 5 is in a rabbinic
> style and uses legal terminology [76ff]. From this he concludes that Paul's
> meaning is that what Adam did was "make possible the imputation, the
> judicial treatment, of human sins." [emphasis added] Note how this fits in
> with what Paul goes on to say: (For until the law sin was in the world:
> but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from
> Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of
> Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. In other
> words, Adam's sin, and the resultant punishment of spiritual and eventually
> physical death, was a pattern-connection that was established and set the
> legal precedent for death to be inflicted as the penalty for all sins. A
> loose parallel may be found in the incidence some years ago of the crime of
> carjacking. There was no specific definition of, or remedy for, this crime
> when it first became popular. When it became more popular, it was defined
> out as a specific crime (where before, prosecutors had to select from and
> cobble together charges from existing laws) and given a specific punishment.
> The analogy breaks down because there was no previous sin with the original
> sin, but the point to be drawn is that Adam's sin and punishment was an
> original example as well as a case of original sin. We pay for, and are
> punished because of, Adam's sin, only in the same sense that present-day
> carjackers experience their specific punishment because of a precedent set
> by their criminal forebears, which engendered a more specific legal
> reaction.
> *Of course none of this affects such conclusions as are reached in our
> item on total depravity or in any way suggests that things are any easier
> for the human race in terms of a judgment basis. It merely means that one
> popular skeptical complaint -- itself based on a popular, but not precisely
> correct, understanding of this passage -- is of no relevance. *We are not
> paying for, and being punished for, Adam's sin, in a way that is unfair to
> us.* ~ James Patrick Holding
> *Originally Sinful? A Look at
> the Doctrine of Original Sin *

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Received on Mon Aug 20 08:34:57 2007

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