Here is the situation: We are born with a propensity, bent, inclination to sin. Therefore, we cannot help but sin - it is our nature. Yet when we do act according to our nature and sin, we are held guilty by God and ultimately condemned to eternal punishment. Not only this, but we are already condemned for the sin of another - namely Adam - before we commit any personal sins. We are held guilty for something someone else did. Umm . . . Check please. I did not vote for this. I did not ask to be this way. I did not even have a chance. This seems unjust.
It is not hard to see why unbelievers scoff at such a foreign and seemingly cruel proposal. As well, it is not difficult to see why believers would decide to either remain agnostic concerning these issues or change their theology to look more Pelagian. Seriously. This is not an easy subject. It is absolutely shocking!
As Pascal put it, the flow of guilt seems unjust. Seeing as how the most difficult interpretation presented during this series has been adopted and defended, how do we dodge the obvious stumbling blocks? How do we avoid the unjust conclusion that we are held guilty for the sin of another? Or do we just bite our tongue, hold our nose, and swallow it? Certainly, no one would complain about the fairness of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, but the idea that condemnation is first imputed to all people with no distinction is difficult to grasp.
Before I propose a resolution, I would like to say something important. You and I do not have a vote in truth. Whether or not something is palatable does not determine whether or not it is true. We do not create God in our image. God could have been an evil God and He would still be God. He has never asked for a raise of hands on anything. He did not create a democracy which determines His attributes or actions. If He were to create each person and send them directly to Hell just for fun, then the truth of such circumstances, while grotesque, would still be true. In short, there is nothing you or I can do to change anything.
Having said this, I am thankful that God is not such a God. I am thankful that without my vote, He is a loving, gracious, and merciful Father.
Now, I would like to propose a possible resolution to our current subject of imputed sin by using St. Thomas Aquinas’ hierarchy of angels as an illustration. Just hang with me. Aquinas developed a system of angels in which every angel is created with a distinct nature. According to Aquinas, there is no distinct species named “angels.” What we refer to collectively as angels are all actually individual distinct creations of God. Because they do not reproduce of themselves there is no spiritual or physical relation to one another. This is why Aquinas believed that there is no redemption for angels (Heb 2:16). According to Aquinas, if Christ were to redeem the angels, He would have to identify with the angels in every way. Seeing as how each angel is a distinct species, He could not become one single species called “angels” in order to redeem the entire group. In order to redeem them, in theory, He would have to become each individual angel and die for them one at a time. Why? Because there is no solidarity found in angels for there to be a representation.
Whether or not Aquinas’ proposal about angels has any truth to it makes no difference for our present discussion; it is simply being used as a illustration. What is important is that Christ could become the species “man.” Since man’s being is linked with that of Adam in both physicality and spirituality, Christ could represent mankind all at once. Because we are vitally linked to the first Adam, we can be vitally linked to the second Adam, Jesus Christ.
At this point some may say that it is unfair because the proportions are different in those related to Adam and those related to Christ. While all men are related to the condemnation of Adam, not all men are related to the justification in Christ.
While this may be true, it might still be understood as a gracious act of God that we were all linked together with the first Adam. I propose that it was not a necessary act of God to link us with the first Adam. Nor do I believe that it was the natural outcome for Adam’s posterity to be linked with him in death, sin, or condemnation. God, in theory, could have let each individual person have the same chance in the Garden as he did with Adam. He could have caused each person to be born without any connection to Adam. Each would have been an individual creation who, if and when they sinned, would not be connected to anyone before or after. In this manner, the fall would come on an individual basis. Each person would be linked to only one person—himself or herself. Each person’s condemnation would be his or her own. There would be no linkage to the rest of humanity. Each person would be spiritually and physically autonomous. This being the case, Christ could not represent “mankind” because there would be no “mankind.” There would be no solidarity to make any representation functional. We would be like the angels of Aquinas’ hierarchy—without a redeemer.
I believe that God, in his grace, knowing that when given the chance, each individual would follow Adam in his sin, declared all people guilty of Adam’s sin, thereby creating a solidarity. This solidarity made humanity redeemable by a representative. Christ could only redeem mankind all at once, because mankind fell in Adam all at once. Therefore, God caused all men to sin “in and with” Adam (federal headship view) by an act of grace, knowing that all would choose the same as Adam. The “all sinned” in Romans 5:12 is as if Adam was in the Garden and held up the piece of fruit to a crowd which consisted of all mankind and shouted, “Should I eat it?” and the entire crowed shouted back, “Go for it!” In this, “all sinned.” God, then, in his grace, declared all guilty. The link was graciously made initially in Adam so that it might be made the second time in Christ.
If this is the case, we see that there was a unique solidarity that is found in Adam that cannot be parallel to any other. It is true, as the Bible says, that the son will not suffer for the sins of his father:
Ezekiel 18:20 20 “The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.
Yet this passage has no application to our present issues since it is dealing with individual sins, not corporate sins from a representative of the entire human race. Adam was humanity. Humanity fell. Humanity was condemned for this sin. Humanity was punished with spiritual and physical death. Humanity inherited the sinful inclination and humanity is held guilty for the fall. This is why the sins of another cannot be imputed to us the same way. But this is why Christ, being fully God and fully man, could represent the new race of humanity. This is why Christ is called the “second Adam.”
1 Corinthians 15:45 So also it is written, “The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
I believe very strongly that we are born with a sinful nature within a condemned race. We are guilty with Adam and God had every right to turn His back on humanity and leave us in our state of death. Yet God, in mercy and grace, intervened and sent a second representative who imputes righteousness instead of condemnation, hope instead of dread, life instead of death.
Two side notes that I will not expand upon at this time:
1. This has major implications on the New Perspective on Paul which denies imputation of Christ’s righteousness.
2. This necessitates a traducian view of the creation of the soul.
3. This strongly supports a Calvinistic view of predestination.