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:

Personal Sin: Sins committed by the individual. All people have personal sin (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:10)

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). 

Pelagianism

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.

Arminians

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.

Augustinianism

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.”

Federalism

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.


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    17 replies to "Are we Condemned for the Sin of Another? (Part 2)"

    • Lisa R

      Thanks Michael for that clarification. I stand corrected.

    • JoanieD

      I think I go along with Jacob Arminius.

      Joanie D.

    • Sean

      Life is keeping me from keeping up with this one.

      Joanie, Arminius was far more reasonable than what he is oftened portrayed as.

      ***
      Ah, Michael, not to hijack the post too much, but I note that for Arminius, you quote from Paul Enns’s Moody Handbook of Theology. I’m sorry to be harsh, but that book is a travesty of scholarship. Enns almost never goes to actual primary sources but instead relies mostly on secondary sources he agrees with. Here he quotes (after your quote) from Strong’s Systematic Theology, which is good, but is also a reformed baptist work from 1907. The odds of that particular work coming from that particular era representing the Arminian view correctly are very slim.

      The idea and form of the handbook are great, so students are naturally attracted to it, but Enns’s misrepresentation of other theological views is truly bad. It is not at all a trustworthy source.

    • C Michael Patton

      Sean, what is incorrect about the Arminian position?

    • Sean

      The best source I have in front of me is Roger Olson’s Arminian Theology (2006). (I can’t go digging around in Arminius right now.) Olson discusses it in pages 33-35 and 142-157.

      What you (Michael) have is essentially correct, except it seems to leave out (in the second part) the Arminian affirmation of human depravity and “the loss of power to avoid sin” (p. 33). Arminians do not teach that anyone can or will avoid sin before regeneration, which is what the Enns quote seems to imply. We are not guilty of Adam’s sin (“the soul that sins will die,”) but because of it we have sins of our own, which is more than enough. Personally I view this more as a distinction than a real difference; the first point of the TULIP is the least difficult.

      I do have a problem with Enns, though. If you look at Enns again, he says that “The Arminian view is similar to semi-Pelagianism…” and then “In though similar to Pelagianism…” Olson firmly refutes this false charge in the latter section I mentioned. He (Olson, p. 143) quotes directly from Arminius:

      In his lapsed and sinful state, man is not capable, of and by himself, either to think, to will, or to do that which is really good; but it is necessary for him to be regenerated and renewed in his intellect, affections or will, and in all his powers, by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, that he may be qualified rightly to understand, esteem, consider, will, and perform whatever is truly good. When he is made a partaker of this regeneration or renovation, I consider that, since he is delivered from sin, he is capable of thinking, willing, and doing that which is good, but yet not without the continued aids of Divine grace.

      Enns errors are legion; Wikipedia is probably a more reliable source for theological information. I feel rather strongly about this because I made the mistake of recommending his work to students before checking it out thoroughly, and pedagogically I paid for that mistake.

    • Sean

      Oopsie. The next to last paragraph was meant to be in italics, not the last. (I’m sure I’ll spot another typo after I post this one.)

    • C Michael Patton

      Sean, thanks for the heads up. I will be more careful with that source. I have not referred to it in ten years. Back then I really loved it. I will have to recheck it. I just did not have any other resources available (I am at my mothers with no books!!).

      BTW: We interviewed Olson on his book a few months back on CWS. He did excellent. I really enjoy Olson. For an Arminian, he has made a great impact on my methodology.

    • Vance

      I am very undecided on this issue, even though I lean in general terms toward Arminianism in most areas. But here is a real question you guys could help me with. You may have to “go with me” on some of this, consider it a hypothetical if you like. These are, indeed, where I am coming from, but you need not agree to “play along”. 🙂

      Let’s assume that a person takes the view that Genesis was written not as strictly literal historical narrative, but, while describing actual historical events, uses figurative, typological and symbolic language. Further assume that Adam in this writing was not a single historical person, but representative of Mankind at a point in history. I know this stretches credulity for some, but consider it a mental exercise if you will.

      Now, with those assumptions in place, and assuming that there WAS a fall, which is described in figurative language in the text, and there was a point at which sin entered into the world, how could these issues we are discussing play themselves out? How might the Fall have taken place within that framework? How might our sinful nature and need for redemption come to us?

      My first thoughts are that, just as God uses two people to represent the whole, He could use a single event or “transaction” to represent a process or development.

      I really am perfectly happy saying simply that there WAS a Fall somehow and we ARE in a sinful state right now as a result, in need of redemption, and that the details of how it all happened in “real time” are not important. God has given us sufficient explanation of historical truth (even if through figurative and symbolic and typological language) for us to be going on with.

      But I am curious how a theoretical model of how it could have worked would play out. Anyone want to give me there theoretical thoughts, even without their concurrence?

    • Sean

      Like I said, the idea behind the book is great; I wish someone would do something of the same sort but with greater accuracy and objectivity. A lot of his sections are based on the EDT; sometimes it’s the only source. Great, then why not just read the EDT?

      Also, if one only relies on Enns or similar works in order to understand those librul theologians, one will not at all get an accurate picture of what they teach or believe. Go ahead and open Barth, Brunner, Bultmann, and Moltmann; the books won’t bite. (Well, Bultmann might, but you can always hit it back pretty easily.)

    • Sean

      (I am at my mothers with no books!!).
      Ah, so you checked it out via Logos Bible Software, no? Same way I did.

      Someone at Logos really likes Dallas!

    • C Michael Patton

      LOL…did not think of that, but this reference was from a paper I did on this subject many years ago.

    • tobias

      Excuse my greenness as I’m working through a lot of these issues, but… 🙂

      Can someone explain the “imputed sin” view in more detail, or point me somewhere? I understand the what (it means), but not as much the how or why. It seems (and Sean, correct me if I’m wrong) the Arminian view would reject imputed sin (guilt by human association to Adam) while accepting Original Sin (our corrupted sin nature). This seems to make more sense to me. We’re kind of up sin creek, so to speak, so we can’t help but get wet.

      I’m not sure I see how the federal view makes sense. I suppose the biggest reason (being honest here) is that I struggle with the idea that God holds individuals responsible for the completely unrelated sins of others. But still, the Achan thing doesn’t seem to apply. Even in that passage I admit it’s tough to read without thinking, “Why the family?”, but isn’t it significant that Achan and his family were actually associated? They lived at the same time, together, and at least had direct influence on each other. Whereas with Adam, heck, I don’t know him from Adam! We are only related through humanity. If I had a great, great, great grandfather who slapped a waitress, would I be guilty? And to further expose my lack of O.T. training, is it even sure that God directed Joshua to fry the whole family and not just the offending person? The only thing I see to suggest that (in ch 7, anyway) is v15, which says, “And he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he has done an outrageous thing in Israel.’”

      Admittedly, I think, at the core, what I said above may suggest that Achan’s family actually held some responsibility for Achan’s crime, so they actually did sin themselves, and weren’t exactly held responsible for another’s sin (note the word, may 🙂 ). For example, if my teenager goes and slaps a waitress, I think I would be responsible, since I am his parent. I’m not sure how sound an example that is, however. 🙂

      Thoughts?
      -T

    • Nick N.

      Tobias,

      A large part of our problem with the idea of being held accountable for another’s actions is our societal setting. We live in an individualistic society and this colors our reading of Scripture. But the Ancient Near East was a collectivist society and the actions of one had an affect on the whole due to the communities inter-dependence upon each other.

      Let’s take as a hypothetical a wheat or barley farmer in a certain community — let’s say this farmer decided to try something new in the way they farmed and due to their decision they had a bad season and didn’t produce a large crop — if this happened then the actions of one man would have caused the entire community to suffer along with him because of their dependence on him to provide them with grain.

      Now, you said: “I’m not sure I see how the federal view makes sense. I suppose the biggest reason (being honest here) is that I struggle with the idea that God holds individuals responsible for the completely unrelated sins of others. But still, the Achan thing doesn’t seem to apply.”

      The Achan thing absolutely applies. The action of one man affected the entire community. You’ll note that the text says:

      But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel.

      So while it might not seem fair to us being held accountable for something that Adam did, it would have made perfect sense to those living in a collectivist society.

      Hope this makes some sense…

    • Lisa R

      Not to get off topic, but as the body of Christ, we are a collectivist society,
      in a sense. Not that we would be held accountable for a brother or sister’s
      sins (unless of course we presented a stumbling block) but we sure would be
      impacted by them.

    • Nick N.

      You said: “we are a collectivist society, in a sense”

      That certainly seems to be Paul’s thought in 1Corinthians 12 when he said:

      As it is, there are many parts, yet one body […] If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (1Cor. 12:20, 26)

      Likewise, we can see how the actions of the head of the body (Christ) affected the body — his atoning sacrifice affected us positively by imputing his righteousness unto us — the opposite of what Adam’s action did in crediting us with his sin.

    • Lisa R

      Which brings us back to Romans 5. It will be interesting to see the post
      tomorrow.

    • tobias

      Nick,

      Thanks for you thoughts!

      Nick said:
      A large part of our problem with the idea of being held accountable for another’s actions is our societal setting. We live in an individualistic society and this colors our reading of Scripture.

      Too true, too true. This is definitely in mind, but I’ll stay introspective about that. 🙂

      Your farmer example is good for explaining how a person’s actions affect another in this world we live in. Heck, the “life ain’t fair” phrase is just plain true, right? But I see this as different from asking if it is just for God to condemn one for the sin of another. Crops are mindless, God isn’t. God is not a fallen world, He is God, and God is just. Of course, that doesn’t mean I understand His justice, but that’s what I’m pondering. Just to be clear, I’m not pondering whether God is just, but, rather, what God’s justice is.

      Nick said:
      The Achan thing absolutely applies. The action of one man affected the entire community. You’ll note that the text says:

      But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel.

      This is a good point. I’ll think on and study this more.

      Nick said:
      So while it might not seem fair to us being held accountable for something that Adam did, it would have made perfect sense to those living in a collectivist society.

      I don’t like the word, “fair” anymore… It seems to carry that whiney connotation. I like “just” now. 🙂

      Well, making sense to a collectivist society doesn’t make it true or right; I wouldn’t think being in a collectivist society is the prerequisite for understanding God’s justice. Or is it? Hmm… Anyway, it sure is a perspective we aren’t born into in this country!

      Nick said:
      Hope this makes some sense…

      I’m chewing on it, but yeah, I get what you’re saying 🙂 Thanks!

      -T

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