By C Michael Patton @ http://www.reclaimingthemind.org
In the last post we discussed the problem of Original Sin, especially from an Evangelical Reformed perspective. Are we condemned for the sin of another. Let’s get some basic terminology down so that we can surf this wave with more balance.
Proposed three types of sin:
Inherited Sin: The physical and spiritual corruption which produces a bent and inclination toward sin and a natural enmity toward God (Eph. 2:3; John 8:44; Jer. 13:23; Ps. 51:5). This sin is mediated (inherited) directly from our parents.
Imputed Sin: God’s immediate declaration of guilt to every individual for the sin of Adam. This sin is “imputed” (or credited) to all people as if they had committed the sin.
Here is where the traditions fall with regards to these three.
Reformed Evangelicals: We are totally corrupted physically and spiritually for Adam’s sin through a mediate transferal from our parents (inherited sin). Because of this, we all have personal sin. We are also condemned (pronounced guilty) immediately by God for Adam’s sin (imputed sin). This guilt is only resolved through God’s sovereign redemptive action in our lives.
Arminians: We are corrupted (the degree of this corruption varies among Arminians) physically and spiritually for Adam’s sin through a mediate transferal from our parents (inherited sin). Because of this, we all have personal sin. We are also condemned (pronounced guilty) immediately by God for Adam’s sin (imputed sin) after we sin in a like manner as Adam. This guilt is only resolved through God’s redemptive action in our lives as we respond to Him in faith.
Catholics: We are corrupted physically and spiritually for Adam’s sin through a mediate transferal from our parents (inherited sin). Because of this, we all have personal sin. We are also condemned (pronounced guilty) immediately by God for Adam’s sin (imputed sin). This guilt is only resolved through baptism.
Orthodox: We are corrupted physically and spiritually for Adam’s sin through a mediate transferal from our parents (inherited sin). Because of this, we all have personal sin. We do not, however, have Adam’s guilt imputed to us.
Short History of Original Sin
The doctrine of Original Sin was not adequately dealt with among the early Church Fathers. This is not surprising as issues were only dealt with as problems arose. Once controversy challenged “orthodoxy,” orthodoxy had to define itself. Before the challenge and theological articulation, as with many issues, simple biblical language was used without interpretation (e.g. see Nicene Creed on the church and the Holy Spirit).
The first time substantial discussion arose was at the time of Augustine (354-430). Augustine held that man is unable to do any good because man is inherently depraved. Augustine believed that all men are born with a predisposition to sin. This is what led him to his strong promotion of the necessity of predestination. “Give what thou command,” said Augustine, “and command what thou wilt.” At this time, believing Augustine’s position to be unfair and extreme, a British monk named Pelagius (c. 354- after 418) denied that sin was passed on from Adam to the human race. As to his interpretation of Romans 5:12, Pelagius believed that, “As Adam sinned and therefore died so in a like manner all men die because they sin.” According to Pelagius, we inherit Adam’s sin neither by imputation of guilt nor by nature. The only effect that Adam had on the human race is the example he set. In the view of Pelagius, all men are born neutral in a like manner to Adam with no predisposition to evil. Pelagius was eventually condemned by two African councils in 416 and by the council of Ephesus in 431 which affirmed both inherited and imputed sin. In spite of his condemnation, the Pelagian doctrine of sin is still prominent in the Church today. It is the “default” position of sin for all people.
Jacob Arminius believed that all men are considered guilty only when they partake in sin by their own free will in the same manner as Adam did. As Enns put it, “When people would voluntarily and purposefully choose to sin even though they had power to live righteously—then, and only then, would God impute sin to them and count them guilty.” Therefore, the sinful state is transmitted by natural generation, while the condemnation for the actual sin is only transmitted by partaking of sin in a like manner.
Many theologians have proposed a theory called Augustinianism (also called “realism,” or “seminalism”). This theory has traditionally been linked with Augustine and has most recently been staunchly defended by Shedd. According to an Augustinian interpretation of Romans 5:12, “all sinned” in that all humanity was physically present in Adam when he sinned. “[Those who hold to the Augustinian view of Original Sin] insist that we can be held accountable only for what we have actually done. As Shedd puts it, “The first sin of Adam, being a common, not an individual sin, is deservedly and justly imputed to the posterity of Adam upon the same principle which all sin is deservingly and justly imputed: Namely, that it was committed by those to whom it is imputed.” This view is attractive in that it takes literally Paul’s statement that “all sinned.”
The federal view of humanity’s relationship to Adam proposes that Adam was selected by God to be humanity’s federal representative. This view was first proposed by Cocceius (1603-1669) and is the standard belief of Reformed theology. As Achan’s family was held responsible for his sin (Joshua 7:16-26), so it is with Adam’s family. By this view, the “all sinned” of Romans 5:12 would not be taken literally. As Ryrie puts it, “No one but Adam actually committed that first sin, but since Adam represented all people, God viewed all as involved and thus condemned.” The reason that Adam’s sin is imputed to his posterity according to the federalist is because God imputes the guilt of Adam, whom He chose to represent mankind, to mankind.
Next we will look at Romans 5, then we will deal with the problems.