Realism & The Fall: A Response to Steve Farish

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By Ken Hamrick

The Winter 2017 issue of The Founders Journal contains a brief, informative article on Original Sin, by Steve Farish, entitled, “The Fall Brought Condemnation and Corruption.”[1] To his credit, he does not present only the representationist “party line,” but also tries to present the realist side and its problems. This is commendable. But as a realist, I would like to engage Mr. Farish on some of his points. The realist perspective has much more to offer than he has presented.

From the start, Mr. Farish defines the realistic view in a way that no realist would: “The Realistic View […] understands Paul in Romans 5:12 to mean that all human beings were physically present seminally in Adam at the time of his sin […], so that when Adam sinned, all human beings literally and physically sinned in him.” The terms, “physically present,” and, “physically sinned,” utterly miss the point of the realistic view. All sides agree that our physical nature came from Adam. The hallmark of the realistic view is that the immaterial, moral nature of all men was propagated out of the substance of Adam in such a way as to deservedly implicate us in his sin; and this due to that nature having a real, participative presence in Adam. In short, that part of us that chooses whether or not to sin was not created “brand new” at our conception, but was created as a part of Adam and passed down to us. [2] This is also called the participative or Augustinian view.

Mr. Farish states, “Many Reformed theologians have recognized validity in some aspects of the Realistic View, but have seen the Representational view as the lead idea on these issues. They have historically found far more persuasive the Representative View.” The use of the term, historically, ought to carry with it an obligation to at least mention the historical change: how the Reformed Church began with a realistic understanding, and transitionedover two centuriesinto the representational view (or, federal headship) as it is today.  Louis Berkhof states:

In the scholastic literature and in the writings of the Reformers, too, all the elements which later on went into the construction of the doctrine of the covenant of works were already present, but the doctrine itself was not yet developed. Though they contain some expressions which point to the imputation of Adam’s sin to his descendants, it is clear that on the whole the transmission of sin was conceived realistically rather than federally. Says Thornwell in his analysis of Calvin’s Institutes: “Federal representation was not seized as it should be, but a mystic realism in place of it.”[3]

George P. Fisher states, regarding the influence of realism:

That the realistic mode of thought extensively influenced Protestant theology at the Reformation and afterwards, admits of no question. But since it is far from being true that all Augustinians have been avowed, much less, self-consistent, realists, it is better when we speak of them as a class, to say that they are swayed by a realistic mode of thought than that they are the advocates of explicit realism.[4]

Federal headship (the representative view) did not arise until Cocceius, a century after Calvin; however, Augustine’s principle of realism was not abandoned until much later, with the two theories being combined at first. Fisher sets out the three main theories of Original Sin (referring to the realistic as the Augustinian):

The fundamental idea of the Augustinian theory is that of a participation on the part of the descendants of Adam in his first sin; in consequence of which they are born both guilty and morally depraved. The fundamental idea of the federal theory is that of a vicarious representation on the part of Adam, in virtue of a covenant between God and him, whereby the legal responsibility for his first sinful act is entailed upon all his descendants; participation being excluded, but the propriety of his appointment to this vicarious office being founded on our relation to him as the common father of men. The Augustino-federal or semi-federal theory is a combination of the two, the covenant relation of Adam being prominent, but participation being also, with more or less emphasis, asserted.

[…] The federal doctrine is the offspring of the seventeenth century. In fact it may also be said of it, in the form in which it is now held, that it is the offspring of the eighteenth century; since, in the preceding age, the great majority of the theologians who adopted the theory of a covenant coupled with it the Augustinian principle. That is to say, they maintained the Augustino-federal or semi-federal doctrine as above defined.[5]

This has, at times, been a matter of protracted controversy among the Reformed (and Protestants in general). Did we participate in Adam’s sin, or does God merely view us as if we sinned in Adam? Although the representative view has been accepted by the majority and is often taught without even a mention of the realistic view, a significant minority of noteworthy theologians who are realists remains even today.[6]

As late as the nineteenth century, this debate raged once again, in American seminaries and theological circles. Mr. Farish mentions that J. P. Boyce had studied under Charles Hodge. Interestingly, Hodge played a pivotal role in this debate, taking the representative view to its logical end by stripping it completely away from the older “realistic mode of thought.” In response, the realistic theologians of his own Presbyterian denomination rose to challenge him, in what George P. Hutchinson calls “this most fascinating debate in American theological history.”[7] Hutchinson states, “Nowhere in the history of theology has this question been given more serious attention than among Reformed theologians in America, especially among the Presbyterians.”[8]

William G. T. Shedd[9] was Hodge’s counterpart as leader of the explicit realists. Robert W. Landis[10] defended the implicit realism as it was historically held by the Reformed Church. In the end, the view of Hodge and the Princeton school gained the majority. However, the issue is far from settled.[11]

John Murray, in the twentieth century, restated the representationist view in a way that strongly disagreed with Hodge’s separation of culpability (reatus culpae) from liability to punishment (reatus poenae). Reacting to the realists’ insistence that there can be no just punishment without culpability, and no culpability without real participation, Hodge denied that culpability is necessary to punishment, citing the righteousness of Christ as being imputed to us without any merit on our part—an alien righteousness and, by strict parallel, an alien sin imputed to the race. But in resorting to this strict parallel, as Murray points out, Hodge contradicts the historical view of the Reformed. Murray’s solution, however, is not realistic, but the opposite, and amounts to imputing culpability with the sin.[12]

Although these men were Presbyterians, they earned great respect even among Baptists; and we owe them much for their work on many important doctrines. One noteworthy Baptist theologian who became a leader of the realistic view in the early twentieth century was Augustus H. Strong.[13]

Objections to the Realistic View

The oddest and yet, most common, objection to realism is that, “If the realistic view is correct, then why was only Adam’s first sin imputed to the race and not his subsequent sins?” This strikes against common sense and simplicity. The question fails to comprehend the finality and ruin that took place at the first sin. What makes the first sin different from subsequent sins is not some change in representative capacity, but merely and simply the fall itself—changing both mankind and the world from unfallen and holy to corrupt and condemned. Dwell on that catastrophe and you may find the embarrassment that ought to attend any question regarding imputation of subsequent sins. If Adam’s second sin had been imputed to us, would we be doubly condemned?—doubly depraved?—doubly mortal? No subsequent sins bring about the changes that only the first could cause.

Looking to the Adam-Christ analogy, would Mr. Farish want to restrict the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to only His final act of obedience? Is not His every act of righteousness imputed to us? Just as Christ’s final act stood as the sum of the righteousness of His life, Adam’s every subsequent sin was encompassed in his first. When we speak of Christ’s one act of obedience, we speak of the righteousness of His whole life; and, when we speak of Adam’s one act of disobedience, we speak of the sin of his whole life—and ours. “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—”

One misunderstanding of the realistic view has been caused by some realistic theologians who leaned too heavily on philosophical language. It is not necessary to describe our union in Adam in terms of, “specific unity,” etc. By describing the union in terms that only apply to descent from our common parent, we miss the parallel to our union in Christ—and this is precisely the objection. We do not descend from Jesus. We were never “in His loins” or in “seminal union” in Him. There was not in Him an entity of “unindividualized” human nature, “specifically and numerically one,” that is passed down to us. Therefore, it is objected, the necessary analogy of Rom. 5:12-19 disqualifies the realistic view as inadequate. Two things are wrong with this objection.

First, the immaterial nature that is ours from Adam does indeed have something in common with the immaterial nature that we gain in Christ. Hutchinson perceptively asks, “Now we know that whereas the vital union with Adam is natural, the vital union with Christ is supernatural; but may we not ask whether there is perhaps a divinely intended analogy between these two relationships, and, if so, what is the precise nature of such an analogy?”[14] As a realistic opponent of Hodge, Samuel Baird expounds this analogy:

We have seen the zeal with which the position is maintained, that the doctrine of imputation “does not include the idea of a mysterious identity of Adam and his race.” By parity of reason it should not include the idea of a mysterious identity between Christ and his people. And accordingly, in the system presented in the review [by Charles Hodge, of Baird’s book, The Elohim Revealed], the relation which in the Scriptures and our standards, the mystical union sustains to justification is ignored, and the doctrine represented as complete without it, and to the exclusion of it. “Christ in the covenant of redemption, is constituted the head and representative of his people; and, in virtue of this federal union, and agreeably to the terms of the eternal covenant, they are regarded and treated as having done what he did and suffered what he suffered in their name and in their behalf.” According to our understanding of the Scriptures, it was provided in the eternal covenant that the elect should be actually ingrafted into Christ by his Spirit, and their acceptance and justification is by virtue of this their actual union to him. “[… The] union, which is constituted by virtue of the transmission of the nature, itself conveys a proprietary title in the moral and legal relations of the head; whilst the efficient principle which thus unites, is also fruitful in effects appropriate to the nature whence it flows. Thus, the sin of Adam, and the righteousness of Christ are severally imputed to their seed, by virtue of the union, constituted in the one case by the principle of natural generation, and in the other, by ‘the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus,’ the Holy Spirit, the principle of regeneration […]” [The Elohim Revealed, p. 317].[15]

Baird, continuing, refers to a real inbeing:

[…]If the imputation of Christ’s righteousness be founded in a real inbeing in him, wrought by the uniting power of his Spirit in regeneration,—if it is thus that we are brought within the provisions of the covenant of grace to our justification, it follows, (we will venture the word,) incontestably, that the imputation to us of Adam’s sin, is founded in a real inbeing in him, by natural generation, by virtue of which we come under the provisions of the covenant of works, to our condemnation. But this, according to our reviewer [Hodge], is “simply a physiological theory,” involving “a mysterious identity,” which he cannot admit. Hence the necessity of ignoring the doctrine, in its relation to justification<.[16]

It is this “real inbeing” that we have in both Adam and Christ that is the heart and soul of Biblical realism, and is an area with great potential for developmental gains. Our old nature was propagated out of Adam, but our new nature is gained in Christ. Both involve a community of nature: one old and in Adam when he sinned, and one new and in us now. This brings us to the second thing wrong with the objection.

The parallel is not exact, but inverse, involving opposites. We were born out of Adam, but we are reborn into Christ. The sinful, spiritual nature of one man was propagated into the many; but the many are justified by being spiritually brought into One, Christ. The nature of one (Adam) became dispersed into the many separate individuals, the sin of one leading to the condemnation of the many; but, now the many are being collected into the One (Christ), and the sins of the many are justified through union with the One.

Adam is not merely the physical progenitor, but also the spiritual progenitor of his race of people. Christ is the spiritual progenitor of His new race of people. The old race is propagated naturally because the immaterial nature is propagated along with the material nature. The new race is propagated supernaturally because the Holy Spirit unites the believer with the immaterial nature of Christ. The parallel holds.

Another objection is that if Christ represented us prior to our mystical [realistic] union with Him, then by analogy, no realistic union with Adam is needed for representation. There is some truth to the idea of representation: both Christ and Adam did represent us. But that representation is like the shell of an egg: without the inner substance, we have only a shell of truth. It fits well as far as it goes, but it is a shallow understanding of what is really involved.

Having been propagated out of Adam, we were in him in a real, participative way. All who were “in the loins” of Adam shared identity with him. Therefore, we have a corporate ownership in what he did. With Christ, the parallel is opposite. His defining act took place long before we are joined to Him. And here is the key: when Adam’s nature is propagated into a child of Adam, the person of Adam is not propagated; however, when the nature of Christ is propagated, the Person of Christ is “propagated” (given) to that new child of God. When we were in Adam, we were united to the person of Adam and his moral actions. But when we were propagated out of Adam, we were no longer “in his loins,” so to speak, and no longer shared identity with him.

We were one with Adam long ago, but have since been propagated out of himthough we still have his nature; and now, when we believe, we are made one with Christ. Because His Person and nature are inseparable (just as His humanity and Divinity are inseparable), we gain a real, participative ownership in all of his human accomplishments. We did not need to share Christ’s identity when He suffered, died and rose again, because we share His identity nowand the Christ in us now was certainly one with the Christ who did all these things.

Only by a vital union within substantial reality can two people share identity in such a way as to justify a shared ownership of moral actions. The God of truth does not close His eyes to reality, and declare as just that which is unjust. Rather, He makes changes within reality to satisfy justice and then declares it so. One man cannot justly die for another unless the two can somehow become one man in realityand this is what God accomplishes! It is not enough for my salvation that God sees Christ on the cross; for me to be saved, God must see the Christ of the cross actually in me. This is the necessary substance that fills the shell of true representation.


[1] Found at http://founders.org/2017/02/22/the-fall-brought-condemnation-and-corruption/, Founders Ministries, accessed 03/23/2017. Note that The Founders Journal misspelled the author’s name as “Steve Farrish.”

[2] There are pitfalls in terminology to be careful of here. Many terms and even ideas that were realistic in origin seem to have been coopted (and redefined) by representationists. Other terms are defined differently by the different sides. Thus, confusion abounds. George P. Hutchinson, The Problem of Original Sin in American Presbyterian Theology, (Toccoa: Sola Fide, 1972), p. 106, observes, “Another observation which pertains to the subject matter of the debate is simply this: the immense and often overwhelming complexity of the issue under discussion. This fact is particularly demonstrated by the maddening confusion of terms as they are used by the various disputants. For instance, one term may mean one thing in the theological expression of one man, and quite another in the terminology of another.” For example, John Murray,  in The Imputation of Adam’s Sin, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959), pp. 26-27, asserts what seems to be agreement with the realists, claiming that representationists do not deny “community of nature” in Adam, that “natural union is involved in natural headship,” that “[…] this human nature which became corrupt in Adam is transmitted to posterity by natural generation.” However, what he means by natural generation involves the whole of human propagation, which, to representationists, incorporates the divine creation ex nihilo of the immaterial side of that nature. So then, his ostensible agreement with the realists that human nature (with only the immaterial side in dispute) “is transmitted to posterity by natural generation,” sounds well and good, but it is really no agreement at all, since that aspect of the human nature that is at issue is not, in the representative scheme, naturally generated, but is supernaturally generated as a subsumed part of the “natural generation” process. Furthermore, the supposed “community of nature,” as it respects the immaterial side, exists (in the representative view) nowhere other than in the mind of God, even though it is called a union “in Adam.” On the other hand, the realists locate the union of nature literally within the man, Adamthe terms, “in Adam,” mean exactly that. And as for transmission of a corrupt nature to posterity, through what medium is it “transmitted?” If God creates the immaterial nature out of nothing, then there is no unbroken medium between generations through which to “transmit.” Such an idea would entail transmitting through the mind of God as if divine creation ex nihilo were an involuntary reflex. Again, the representationists have agreed to a realistic-sounding proposition only by depleting the proper substance from the meaning of its terms.

[3] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1939), p. 211.

[4] George P. Fisher, Discussions in History and Theology, (New York: Scribner’s, 1880), “The Augustinian and the Federal Theories of Original Sin Compared,” pp. 359-360.

[5] Ibid., pp. 356-357.

[6] For example, see Millard Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985).

[7] Hutchinson, p. 105.

[8] Ibid., p. 4.

[9] William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2003).

[10] Robert W. Landis, The Doctrine of Original Sin, (Richmond: Whittet & Shepperson, 1884). Hutchinson (p. 66) calls this book “a goldmine of historic material on the doctrine of original sin.”

[11] Hutchinson, p. 113, states: “Hodge is the great formative theologian of traditional American Presbyterian theology, occupying a position relatively similar to that of Augustine in relation to Catholic theology, of Calvin in relation to Reformed theology, and of Edwards in relation to New England theology.” Hutchinson’s book is indispensable to understanding the history and development of this doctrine.

[12] Murray, pp. 72-95.

[13] Augustus H. Strong, Systematic Theology, (Valley Forge: Judson, 1907).

[14] Hutchinson, p. 122.

[15] Samuel J. Baird, A Rejoinder to The Princeton Review, upon The Elohim Revealed, (Phila.: Joseph M. Wilson, 1860), pp. 32-33. This was a rebuttal of Hodge’s scathing review of Baird’s magnum opus, The Elohim Revealed in the Creation and Redemption of Man, (Philadelphia: Parry & McMillan, 1860).

[16] Ibid., p. 34.


Copyright © 2017 by Ken Hamrick. All rights reserved.

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21 Responses to Realism & The Fall: A Response to Steve Farish

  1. Ryan says:

    Hi Ken, it’s been a while. I was recently reviewing a conversation you had with Drake Shelton on my blog around 5 years (!) ago, as I’ve been reading J. V. Fesko’s “Death in Adam, Life in Christ” and felt more equal to the task of understanding what the both of you were arguing about. I remain sympathetic to your understanding of the nature of imputation. It makes the most immediate sense to me. That said, Fesko raises a few points in his book which I would be interested to hear your answer to.

    1) Are we accountable for all of Adam’s sins, as well as all of the sins of our ancestral fathers?

    2) Fesko states that Achan’s and David’s (census) respective “imputed sins required no means of communication-the legal bonds of Israel’s covenant were sufficient to communicate immediately the consequences of their sins to the nation,” the implication being: does this not undercut the need for a realist position?

    Fesko himself strikes me as someone who isn’t aware of the damaging implications of nominalism, although his book is quite informative in fleshing out different views and providing stimulating lines of thought. In any case, while I have my own ideas as to how I think these questions could be answered from your perspective, I was curious as to how you would actually answer them.

  2. Ken Hamrick says:

    Hello, Ryan!

    It’s good to hear from you again. I reviewed the Shelton discussion on you blog recently myself. I think it went well, once we overcame the communication problem. I’ve retired my old blog for now (Biblical Realist). Glad you found me here.

    I’ve not read Fesko yet, but it sounds interesting.
    “1) Are we accountable for all of Adam’s sins, as well as all of the sins of our ancestral fathers?”
    Well, accountability comes in different forms. “Eternal” accountability before the Judgment Seat of God will have only to do with one’s own individual sins–“were judged according to what they had done…” There are six explicit statements in Scripture to this effect, that God will judge every man according to his deeds. But there is a form of what I call corporate responsibility that is charged to us due to the sins we committed while in the loins of our fathers (and particularly, Adam). Obviously, the greatest of all sins, the first, makes all other sins and all others consequences pale by comparison.

    As Drake and I discussed, person and nature are distinct, and only nature comes from our progenitors. Person is unique to us as an individual.. But what such nominalists lose sight of is being. Morally, personhood begins with individual existence; but moral being attaches to spirit, of which the immaterial nature consists. It’s the idea of spirit propagation–God making man in such a way as to be both a spiritual and physical being, and then giving him the power to propagate children who are derived in their entire nature from the parent(s), both as to the spirit and the body. If one spirit can propagate another spirit, then human spiritual existence as a spiritual being is first corporate (or, shared) in the progenitor(s) and then, finally, individual (except in Adam, who began his spiritual existence as an individual). For you and me, we existed spiritually in Adam, and in every male progenitor since Adam, and only became individuals–spiritually speaking–at our own conception. Even then, I had two children who spiritually existed in me until their conception. But this is not in any sense plurality within a progenitor, but rather, it is a perspective looking back from those who have already been propagated as individuals. In other words, there is no spiritual difference between a man who will never produce offspring and one who will father a nation. Every man is a potential race of people, but every man is merely an individual with the power to propagate in both body and spirit. Those who do propagate produce progeny who can rightly look at their spiritual origin within their progenitor and identify with his moral state of nature and possibly moral actions (such as paying tithes to Melchizedek)—the progeny can say that they were “in” their progenitor and participated morally in his being, even though he was just a normal, individual man. It is not a union of plurality but of singularity. This raises objections of “division of an immaterial substance,” but we see it as enough of a mystery that it is impossible to disprove. Multiplication is not division. Division implies that less of a substance remains in the source after division; but propagation is not division in that sense, since it leaves whole the source and creates another whole. How this can happen we don’t know. But the spirit does transcend the physical universe in a way analogous to how the Creator transcends the creation.

    Anyway, getting back to accountability…

  3. Ken Hamrick says:

    We are racially accountable for what the race committed while in Adam. Accountability for things that we did not personally do comes in the form of natural consequences–consequences that fall upon the nature. In the case of Adamic sin, these are spiritual death from conception, mortality and all that goes with it, a physically corrupt environment, and evil world, etc.. Why do Christians still die when Jesus died in our place? It is because we are still members of the human race, with the same human nature to which these natural consequences belong. Christ immediately redeems our spirit from spiritual death, but has us wait until the Last Day for the redemption of our bodies–redemption from these natural consequences of corporate sin.

    This same principle operates in much lesser way when we look at lesser progenitors and lesser sins. Take Gehazi for example (2 Kings 5: 15-27). Because of Gehazi’s greed and deception, God cursed him and his descendants “forever” with leprosy. We can see in that the picture of Adam and the leprosy of sin cursing his descendants. But the sin and the consequences are far less significant. Gehazi and his future progeny were already cursed through Adam with mortality and sin, so this is rather minor. But it does show that the principle holds true. While individuals are not eternally condemned or judged for what they corporately committed while in the loins of their father, it nonetheless remains just for them to suffer whatever natural consequences come upon them due such corporate sin. God condemns no one for Adam’s sin, but no one can claim He is unjust for cursing the race with the natural consequences of Adamic sin. There are other examples. What of the heathen in remote places who supposedly never encountered the truth about God (except in the sense of Rom. 1:18-22)? It would be terrible to be raised in a place that never heard the truth or had access to a Bible. Is that unjust? All of these people are descendants of Noah, and everyone on the ark knew the truth. But as the generations went by and humanity dispersed, some heads of some peoples turned away from the truth and, for that people, the truth died with their progenitor. We reap what have sown in our fathers before us. But, as Ezek.18 tells us, in balance, no man dies [the eternal death] for the sins of his father or his son, but every man will die [the eternal death]for his own sin. THis is the Biblical balance: each man will be judged for his own sins; but natural consequences come in some form upon all.

    “2) Fesko states that Achan’s and David’s (census) respective “imputed sins required no means of communication-the legal bonds of Israel’s covenant were sufficient to communicate immediately the consequences of their sins to the nation,” the implication being: does this not undercut the need for a realist position?”

    David’s sin was different because he was the King. He did represent the nation, and so his sin was in a sense the sin of the nation. However, his nation was a people who were already under the curse of Adamic sin, and so none of them deserve anything other than the natural consequence of death. This is prior to anything that David caused. Adamic sin made each of us deserving of the absolute worst possible natural consequences, so that anything less harsh is of the mercy and blessing of God, which He is not obligated to give. So, whether it is Achan’s children, or Sodom’s children, or Israel’s people, death and temporal destruction is what are already deserved and would be just. But also notice that in none of these cases did it say that eternal damnation was part of the judgment. Yes, the children of Sodom were destroyed, but then, each one of them stood before God, and if they had no personal sins of their own, then they were not condemned. Such cases do not undercut realism because they do not deal with personal justice or eternal consequences, but only with temporal things.

  4. Ken Hamrick says:

    “Fesko himself strikes me as someone who isn’t aware of the damaging implications of nominalism, although his book is quite informative in fleshing out different views and providing stimulating lines of thought. In any case, while I have my own ideas as to how I think these questions could be answered from your perspective, I was curious as to how you would actually answer them.”

    Another thing the Nominalists lose sight of is that a covenant does not provide its own moral framework, but must depend on the ultimate moral framework that is in force even without any covenant. If a covenant were to be made that said, “You will be blessed if you blaspheme God three times per day,” that covenant would be invalid. IT would violate the greater moral framework on which it must be grounded. Why then, when I object that a nominalistic covenant of works cannot condemn a nonexistent progeny who had no choice or part in the matter, do the nominalists claim that the covenant is the ground of the morality in the matter. “Of course, it’s just–God made a covenant with Adam which made it just”? In fact, when such theologians as Charles Hodge speak God condemning us for Adam’s sin, he uses the terms, “most just!” But that which would be unjust in the greater moral framework (outside the covenant) cannot be just within a covenant.

    Thanks for stopping by.
    Ken

  5. Ryan says:

    “Why do Christians still die when Jesus died in our place? It is because we are still members of the human race, with the same human nature to which these natural consequences belong.”

    Does that mean you think Christ was subject to death simply due to the incarnation?

    “…every man will die [the eternal death]for his own sin.”

    What, then, of those who die in infancy?

    My thoughts on David and Achan is that they both function as types of Christ within their respective backgrounds and contexts, so disanalogous elements need and should not be pushed too far, as with all types.

    One more question, although it’s hypothetical: let’s say Adam and Eve multiplied, as they were commanded to do, before they sinned. If Adam had sinned after they had procreated, what, if anything, would have happened to their living children at the time? Or what if Adam had sinned before Eve – what of her? Nothing in both cases?

  6. Ken Hamrick says:

    “Does that mean you think Christ was subject to death simply due to the incarnation?”
    Because we were flesh and blood, “He partook of the same…” He entered into our physically fallen humanity in order to defeat the death that belongs to us. Yes, He was, according to His physical nature, subject to death; but His supernatural power would have to allow it to happen.

    “What, then, of those who die in infancy?”
    They have died a temporal death, not an eternal (or “second”) death. Although not guilty of personal sin as individuals, they do bear the racial responsibility of having sinned in Adam; and this justifies their temporal death. Having not yet sinned individually, we have no reason not to believe that they are regenerated an saved just prior to death. There are no “loose ends” with God–no real conundrums. There will be no one in hell who is only there because of sins prior to his conception as an individual, and there will be no one in heaven who is not redeemed by Christ and regenerated through the Holy Spirit. God does not punish those who did not earn it, but He does save those who do not deserve it. When we put Rom. 9:11 and Deut. 1:39 together with all this, the most reasonable conclusion is that infants who die are saved as they are dying.

    “My thoughts on David and Achan is that they both function as types of Christ within their respective backgrounds and contexts, so disanalogous elements need and should not be pushed too far, as with all types.”
    At the least, I’ve shown that these are not the clear examples that the Nominalists make them out to be.

    “One more question, although it’s hypothetical: let’s say Adam and Eve multiplied, as they were commanded to do, before they sinned. If Adam had sinned after they had procreated, what, if anything, would have happened to their living children at the time? Or what if Adam had sinned before Eve – what of her? Nothing in both cases?”
    Because man is both a spiritual and a physical being, the first human sin had catastrophic results not only in the spirit of man but in the whole physical universe also. Adam and Eve spiritually died, and were thus depraved. But the whole physical creation was changed from perfect paradise to a world in which all things grow old and die and decay. If Adam had fathered a son before Adam sinned, then that son would have been physically fallen and born into a physically corrupted world, but he would not have been spiritually dead or depraved. He would have been in relationship with God from the earliest time in the womb–and with the capacity to father his own children some day who were in the same spiritual state. But there are other considerations. I agree with many of the Reformed who hold to a probationary status in Eden. The idea is that every moral agent must pass a probationary test. Thus, the angels did also, and one-third failed. But those who passed were “confirmed in righteousness forever,” as Hodge puts it. And this is what would have happened had Adam and Eve passed. So any holy children born to unholy Adam, in your hypothetical, would have been in Adam’s original position and put to the test.

    BTW, there is a beautiful and poignant picture of substitutionary atonement in the act of God making coats of skin for them. We must read between the lines to see it, but it is the first example of substitutionary atonement, since those skins had to come from an animal sacrificed for their sin. Putting themselves inside the skin of that animal was a stark picture of union of sacrifice and sinner.

    IF Eve had not sinned, but Adam did, then the race is ruined anyway, since human propagation is in the image of the father (and through one man sin entered into the world). If Eve had sinned but not Adam, he still could have passed the test, but Eve would have died. Anyway, all things go according to God’s plan–right?

  7. Ryan says:

    I don’t think Christ was subject to death due to the incarnation. As I understand it, Christ is His own head – not in Adam – because He wasn’t generated by a human father. “Death spread to all men because all sinned,” not because all were human.

    And this leads me to think that a son of Adam’s would not necessarily have been subject to the curse Adam was – e.g. death, both physical and exile from God’s presence in the prototypical temple of the garden – nor the earth, as for that son to fulfill the probation would presuppose him to be able to do what Adam was commanded to do. But, of course, you are right that everything that actually happened did so by God’s plan.

    I agree with the rest of what you said. I think Warren Gage makes an interesting point when he suggests that Christ exemplifies what Adam should have done for Eve: interceded for her as Christ intercedes for His bride. How that would have gone given that Adam had yet to pass the probationary test he was given – have dominion, subdue, multiply – I don’t know, but it’s possible.

  8. Ken Hamrick says:

    You’re still thinking in nominalistic terms. Why did early heretics, against whom Tertullian wrote, say that Christ’s body could not have been the same as ours, but must have been from “celestial flesh” (supposedly, the same kind of flesh that angels have)? They could not bring themselves to contemplate a Savior whose flesh was as sweaty and stinky and mortal as ours. And this error comes in varying degrees and forms. But against all errors that try to claim that Christ’s body could not have been the same as ours stands the unmoving fact of His death. It was neither a farce nor a divine suicide. Hebrews tells us that He partook of the same flesh and blood that we have–not similar but “the same.” In order to die as we die, he had to have a body like us that was subject to death. There are only two kinds of physical human bodies: corruptible and incorruptible. The first ages and subject to disease, injury and death and decomposition; the second CANNOT become sick or injured or die, and is our resurrection body. Which of these did He have when He died?

    Yes, Christ was His own Head. But He wanted more than to start a new race of people under His headship. He wanted to redeem people who were already under Adam’s headship and already suffering under the physical as well as spiritual curses that come upon the children of Adam. In order to do that, to redeem us out of this death and fallenness, it was necessary for Him to enter into our physical mortality and descent from Adam, in order to face our death and overcome it. This He did. He overcomes our mortality in us at our resurrection, which is ours only because of what He did and who He is (and that He is in us).

    The death that spread to all men was both spiritual and physical. All men who spiritually descend from Adam were included in “because all men sinned [the one sin of the one man].” Christ did not spiritually descend from Adam, since He is the Second (Last) Adam. But neither did the Last Adam have His body made from the dust of the ground like the first. No, the Last Adam got His physical nature from His mother, who was herself a normal Adamite. Sin passes down through the father because sin is spiritual. But sin is not physical. Jesus’ physical nature came from His mother and was no different from hers except that it was male.

  9. Ryan says:

    “Jesus’ physical nature came from His mother and was no different from hers except that it was male.”

    I agree. But I don’t see that implies He needed to die *per se.* Of course, He needed to die *for us* and, in fact, He assumed humanity with that express intent. He, like Adam in the garden, was capable of dying. But His assumption of humanity did not itself necessarily subject Him to dying; rather, His reason for assuming it did. I don’t see how this is nominalistic.

  10. Ken Hamrick says:

    The reason that it is nominalistic is because it assumes some sort of representional dynamic by which we are subject to death for reasons other than that of having mortal bodies descended from Adam. In realism, the consequences of Adam’s sin are simply passed through the physical and spiritual nature, in an impersonal way, to all who partake of that nature. Even the consequences to the physical universe are “in the nature.”

    “Needed to die?” He was God, so He could by His power live forever even in a corruptible body. But that body was by nature headed for death from the first moment of conception. Every cell in Him decayed, aged and died on time, with replacements coming ever more slowly with age–unless He chose to supernaturally intervene and cause His body to do what was against its mortal nature. The body was subject to death or it was not the fallen human body that His mother had. As God incarnate, He Himself was not subject to dying without His agreement, but His body was subject to death and required His miraculous intervention to avoid that eventuality.

    I don’t think Adam was capable of dying, per se. Sin was capable of changing both Adam and the world in such a way that death would “enter” and make dying both possible and inevitable. But unless and until Adam sinned, he was not capable of dying, since death had not yet entered into the world.

  11. Ken Hamrick says:

    Also, consider that animals die, yet do not sin and are not under Adam’s headship.

  12. Ryan says:

    “The reason that it is nominalistic is because it assumes some sort of representional dynamic by which we are subject to death for reasons other than that of having mortal bodies descended from Adam.”

    I don’t think my position does that. It just further states that for the same reason last Adam was not subject to original sin, He wasn’t subject to death.

    “I don’t think Adam was capable of dying, per se. Sin was capable of changing both Adam and the world in such a way that death would “enter” and make dying both possible and inevitable. But unless and until Adam sinned, he was not capable of dying, since death had not yet entered into the world.”

    He was capable of sin and so capable of dying.

    “Also, consider that animals die, yet do not sin and are not under Adam’s headship.”

    Yes, a kingdom falls with its king. But I don’t see how that’s relevant?

  13. Ken Hamrick says:

    Whether an animal or the Savior, simply being born in this physically corrupt world would put one in a physically mortal, corruptible body—one headed for an inevitable death.

    According to Rom 5, death did not enter the world until Adam sinned. It was a world with out the principle of death operating in any of it, including in the bodies of Adam, Eve, and the animals. For both Adam and the world, death was outside its physical parameters. Sin changed the world in order to enter it, so that it was not the same perfect world it used to be. Sin changed Adam’s body, to that it was a fundamentally different body than it used to be. His original body could not remain the same and ever die–it had to become a different kind of body in order to die. Mortality and death came only through fundamental, radical change, without which no death would ever occur.

    Unless Jesus’ body transcended the created world as it currently is, which would be a resurrection/incorruptible body, He would have had a body fully immersed in this world with its death and mortality.

  14. Ken Hamrick says:

    Ryan,

    The question, “Was it possible for Adam to die?” is the same as the question, “Is it possible for our mortal bodies to rise from the grave?” Both questions posit what is naturally impossible but supernaturally possible. By the physical natures alone, it is just as impossible for my body to rise from the dead as it was for Adam’s body to die. And just as I will be supernaturally raised from the dead and given a new nature, God supernaturally changed the nature of Adam and the world so that all things age, decay and die. When God promised Adam that if he disobeyed, he would die, it was no less a promise of a supernaturally changed nature than when God promised us that in Christ we would be raised from the dead.

  15. I will give it some more thought. The main reason for my current line of thinking is, briefly, as follows :

    “According to Rom 5, death did not enter the world until Adam sinned… Sin changed Adam’s body, to that it was a fundamentally different body than it used to be. His original body could not remain the same and ever die–it had to become a different kind of body in order to die.”

    Death entered the world through sin, but I think that’s intimately tied to Adam’s being exiled from God’s presence. Adam’s sin required that he be expelled from the garden of Eden, the primeval holy of holies. God’s holiness cannot abide sin or sinner to remain in His *life-giving* presence.

    Jesus was sent by the Father to be the last Adam and fulfill and transcend the work which was given to the first. The – or at least a part – the transcension of the original work given to Adam to complete was that Christ took our penalty for breaking this covenant of works. So He took on our sin at the cross.

    But until that time, was He not in fellowship with the Father as Adam originally was? Was not His ministry blessed by the Father? Isn’t there indication that the presence of the Father was continually with Him? And if so, does this not suggest the reason He died and could die was not only that He chose to take on human flesh – which by itself would have changed nothing – but that He also chose to take on our sin, which required He bear the Father’s wrath via withdrawal of His presence?

  16. Ken Hamrick says:

    “Death entered the world through sin, but I think that’s intimately tied to Adam’s being exiled from God’s presence. Adam’s sin required that he be expelled from the garden of Eden, the primeval holy of holies. God’s holiness cannot abide sin or sinner to remain in His *life-giving* presence.”

    We have that life-giving presence within our very being since the Spirit of the Son was sent into our hearts; and yet, we still physically die. In the end, God will judge all men, and will cast the unbelievers and even hell itself into the lake of fire–somewhere apart from the created world. Only then, after all sin has been removed from this world, can it be freed from the bondage of corruption and physical deterioration (death

    The Son Himself is as much a life-giving presence as the Father or Holy Spirit. Where one is, the others cannot be absent. Even under the wrath of the cross, Christ was at every moment the Son in whom the Father is “well-pleased.” Again, I ask, which kind of body did He have, a corruptible or incorruptible body? If the former, then it fits perfectly with the fact that He got His physical nature from His mother–and with the facts that He grew tired, He bled, and He died. But if the latter, then He either did not really die, or we are “multiplying entities unnecessarily” since his body must have changed under the weight of sin (like Adam’s) from incorruptible to corruptible while suffering the wrath of God.

  17. “Again, I ask, which kind of body did He have, a corruptible or incorruptible body?”

    Which kind of body did the first Adam have?

  18. Ken Hamrick says:

    Good question! One unfallen, uncorrupted, perfect, without disease, not susceptible to pain or injury. No sweat, no aging toward death, no deterioration, and no pain in childbirth (for females). No death/mortality. Created by God’s own hand, and “God saw that it was good.” An incorruptible body in an incorruptible world.

  19. Some of those points are interesting. Does Jesus display any of those characteristics prior to the cross?

  20. Ken Hamrick says:

    There’s at least one reference to Jesus sleeping during the storm at sea. There are not any places that I know of that tell us that Jesus was tired or sunburned or blistered or perspiring. But even more significant, we find nothing said to the effect that He was any different whatsoever from other human beings. His disciples would have noticed if He never sweated even on a hot day, never felt fatigue, or was superhuman in any other physical ways; and yet, there is no mention. One cannot read the gospels without being struck with the impression that He was a man just like any other, but with a purely righteous heart. Occam’s razor ought to apply: if He was subject to pain and death at the cross, then we have no reason to assume that He was not subject to such right from conception.

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