Hamartiology: The Doctrine of Sin – Part 2

by Jonathan Hamilton

<– Part 1

I won’t spend much time, if any, revisiting the previous articles as I post new ones in this series. Let’s dive right in to new material:

Sin and the Fall had multiple effects. First, death enters the picture. Second, there are relational consequences between humans. Thirdly, environmentally the created order is fundamentally changed (curse of the ground and laborious toil; fear of man on animals; and animals put in position to kill humans, at least after the Flood). Let’s define some sin-related concepts:

  • GUILT: just liability to punishment
  • DEPRAVITY: inward moral corruption (Both guilt and depravity are part of Original Sin)
  • ORIGINAL SIN: the sin that Adam committed, or the sin that was charged to us in Adam
  • IMPUTE: to charge guilt or to credit righteousness (in other words, this is not just a negative term as is often thought)

Original sin is charged to us in Adam, depravity is inherited. No, it is not a part of the human genome, as if you could find the depravity gene. Nevertheless, it is inherited.

How can God justly charge Adam’s guilt to me? Two answers have been developed:

FEDERAL HEADSHIP: Adam acted as our representative, so that whatever Adam did with respect to the first temptation was charged against all of his descendants. Problem: How can this be fair? How can God blame me for something I didn’t do? Answers:

  1. It is commonly accepted that there are times when people who stand in a better position to make decisions, make decisions for people who stand in a worse position to make the decision, even when it’s the wrong decision (parent choosing to have their child receive or not receive a shot at the doctor’s office). Your child lacks the maturity to make the right choice. The choice you make should be the choice the child would make if they were mature enough to do so. You will at times make the wrong decision, and your child will have to suffer the consequences. It may not be fair, but it’s just the way it has to be. And we accept that. So who was in a better position to make the right decision in the original temptation, Adam or us? It is pretty obviously Adam.
  2. If it is wrong to impute guilt, than it is also wrong to impute righteousness. This means we are sunk. So, I don’t have a bit of sympathy for the argument that Federal Headship isn’t fair. It’s as fair as reality can be. [Bauder is pointing out the inconsistency of people who cry “unfair” at bearing the imputed guilt of Adam, yet are perfectly willing to accept the imputed righteousness of Christ. If you reject one you have to reject both. If you reject both, you are left with the man-made path to righteousness: good old-fashioned works salvation.]

NATURAL HEADSHIP (SEMINAL HEADSHIP): We were actually (physically) in Adam, participating in the sin that he was committing.

Problem 1: I sure don’t remember making that choice! How can anybody claim I was in Adam? Where was I in Adam?

Answer: I think there’s a better way to look at it. Look at the human race: seven billion people or so, and one race. A century ago there was less than one billion people. Was this a different race? No. If you go back far enough, you get into the tens of millions, hundreds of thousands, thousands, two, one. So Adam was in a unique position. He was, at one and the same time, the individual man, Adam, while also being the entire human race. He was the whole race. So when he sinned, he wasn’t sinning as a solitary individual, he sinned as the whole human race. It wasn’t just a man who sinned, it was a race who sinned. And every single individual born in Adam since then, has been born into a race that sinned.

Problem 2: Hasn’t Christ descended for Adam? Isn’t Christ part of the human race?

Answer: Christ is a unique Person. Yes, He descended from Adam according to His human nature. But His Person did not originate with Adam. He is an eternal Person, and the Person is divine. So He is two natures, but only one person, and only one of His natures is connected with Adam. Christ has never been “in Adam” in the way that other humans are. Sin is a matter of inclusion in the race (a better view than sin is only imputed through males, i.e. human fathers), but it is impossible to categorize Jesus Christ as merely human (though He is fully human He is also Divine and He is undivided). His humanity is not all that He is, and it’s the rest that leads us to defy categorization when it comes to Christ. We bump up against things we cannot understand, and we accept what Scripture tells us: He was without sin.

Which is true, Federal or Natural Headship?

I’m not prepared to rule either of them as false. I don’t think there is anything in Federal Headship that has to be ruled out. But I believe Romans 5:12 leans to Natural Headship because the text is saying that all men actually sinned in Adam (it is simple past tense, Greek aorist), not just that sin was imputed to us.

In Part 3, we will move from the discussion of guilt to the discussion of depravity.