Re: [asa] Theological Perspectives Without a Literal Adam

From: <philtill@aol.com>
Date: Mon Aug 20 2007 - 14:33:39 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).

I'm not sure that Bocher's notion (as I see it summarized above) provides an adequate explanation for the Fall.? I think it always comes back to the problem that George highlighted:? when Adam fell, man actually became sinful in character, and we shouldn't attribute the creation of our sinful character?to God in any way.? It seems that this problem is like a balloon that we are trying to compress in our hands:? we squeeze it in at one place and it pops out in another.? While Blocher is trying to avoid this problem, I think his weakened view of imputation fails to explain why mankind is universally sinful, and wasn't that the whole point of the Fall doctrine to begin with???So we end up with some other explanation for the universality of our sinfulness and it still ends up making our sinfulness God's fault.? That is why the imputation of guilt for Adam's first sin (not only our own sins) is important to people who hold the Federal view.? If we are truly guilty for Adam's sin,
 then it is not wrong for us to suffer the consequences of guilt (by becoming sinful in character).? Thus, in the Federal view it is not wrong for God to have put us into a system where we universally become sinful.

I am not saying that I can necessarily disagree with the Federal view as argued by Sproul or disagree with it as argumed by George.? But I have certainly wondered about it!? So over the years I have toyed with the "Augustinian" or "Realist" idea that somehow all humanity was spiritually present "in" Adam, so that Adam's first sin was in reality a communal act of all mankind,?not merely the act of one person.? Thus, God didn't need?to impute Adam's guilt to us judicially; it was already ours.? I'm not even sure what this idea of being spiritually "there" in Adam would mean to a?positivist, however!!!? As I said, I have only toyed with this idea.

The reason I brought up this discussion of the Realist view (as opposed to the Federal view) is that it is relevant to David O's question, because a communal Fall reduces the role of the literal Adam.? There are two issues in the idea of a non-literal Adam:? how to interpret Genesis 1-3 as God's inspired word, and how to understand the Fall theologically.? So I was addressing the second of these. ?I was merely stating that there has indeed been a small stream of thought within Reformed theology that is relevant to David O's question.? (My purpose in bringing this up was in no way to argue or discuss the adequacy of the Federal view, which I hope everybody will understand from the above clarification.)

Ultimately, I believe that a true understanding of original sin has to begin and end experimentally.? If we know it in our hearts, and truly see how we really deserve hell not just for what we've done but for our deeply ingrained willingness to sin again, then our mouths are shut and we don't need to understand all the mysteries.? Those who argue against God on the basis of "original sin is unfair" carry no weight with me because I have already seen my sin and I know that God's judgement of it is fair.? I think it was Spurgeon who said a man with an argument can never defeat a man with an experience, and it was meant in this sort of context.

Phil

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Received on Mon Aug 20 14:35:38 2007

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