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Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople, Part 5

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March 23, 2012 Tags: Pastoral Voices

Today's entry was written by Tim Keller. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople, Part 5

This is the fifth of a six-part series considering questions lay people raise with their pastors when introduced to the teaching that biological evolution and biblical orthodoxy can be compatible. In the first three posts (see sidebar), Dr. Keller gave an overview of the tension between biblical and scientific accounts on origins from a pastoral perspective, addressed the conflict between evolution and a literal reading of Genesis, and argued that an evolutionary account of origins does not necessarily diminish human dignity. In the fourth post, Dr. Keller turned to the origins of sin and suffering in light of the trustworthiness of Scripture, and he continues that theme today in addressing Paul’s view of Christ’s work of salvation.

Sin and Salvation

Some may respond, “Even though we don’t think there was a literal Adam, we can accept the teaching of Genesis 2 and Romans 5, namely that all human beings have sinned and that through Christ we can be saved. So the basic Biblical teaching is intact, even if we do not accept the historicity of the story of Adam and Eve.” I think that assertion is too simplistic.

The Christian gospel is not good advice, but good news. It is not directions on what we should do to save ourselves but rather an announcement of what has been done to save us. The gospel is that Jesus has done something in history so that, when we are united to him by faith, we get the benefits of his accomplishment, and so we are saved. As a pastor, I often get asked how we can get credit for something that Christ did. The answer does not make much sense to modern people, but it makes perfect sense to ancient people. It is the idea of being in ‘federation’ with someone, in a legal and historical solidarity with a father, or an ancestor, or another family member or a member of your tribe. You are held responsible (or you get credit) for what that other person does. Another way to put it is that you are in a covenant relationship with the person. An example is Achan, whose entire family is punished when he sins (Joshua 7.) The ancient and Biblical understanding is that a person is not ‘what he is’ simply through his personal choices. He becomes ‘what he is’ through his communal and family environment. So if he does a terrible crime—or does a great and noble deed—others who are in federation (or in solidarity, or in covenant with him) are treated as if they had done what he had done.

This is how the gospel salvation of Christ works, according to Paul. When we believe in Jesus, we are ‘in Christ’ (one of Paul’s favorite expressions, and a deeply Biblical one.) We are in covenant with him, not because we are related biologically but through faith. So what he has done in history comes to us.

What has all this to do with Adam? A lot. Paul makes the same point in 1 Corinthians 15 about Adam and Christ that he does in Romans 5:

For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Cor 15:21-22)

When Paul says we are saved ‘in Christ’ he means that Christians have a covenantal, federal relationship with Christ. What he did in history is laid to our account. But in the same sentence Paul says that all human beings are similarly (he adds the word ‘as’ for emphasis) “in Adam.” In other words, Adam was a covenantal representative for the whole human race. We are in a covenant relationship with him, so what he did in history is laid to our account.

When Paul speaks of being ‘in’ someone he means to be covenantally linked to them so their historical actions are credited to you. It is impossible to be ‘in’ someone who doesn’t historically exist. If Adam doesn’t exist, Paul’s whole argument—that both sin and grace work ‘covenantally’—falls apart. You can’t say that ‘Paul was a man of his time’, but we can accept his basic teaching about Adam. If you don’t believe what he believes about Adam, you are denying the core of Paul’s teaching.

If you don’t believe in the fall of humanity as a single historical event, what is your alternative? You may posit that some human beings began to slowly turn away from God, all exercising their free wills. But then how did sin spread? Was it only by bad example? That has never been the classic teaching of the Christian doctrine of original sin. We do not learn sin from others; we inherit a sin nature. Alan Jacobs’ great book on Original Sin: A Cultural History says that anyone who holds to the classic Augustinian view of original sin must believe that we are ‘hard-wired’ for sin; we didn’t just learn sin from bad examples. The doctrine also teaches that it was not originally in our nature to sin, but that we have fallen from primal innocence.1 Another problem arises if you deny the historicity of the fall. If some human beings began to turn away from God, why couldn’t some human beings resist so that some groupings would be less sinful than others? Alan Jacobs in his book on original sin insists that the equal sinfulness of the entire human race is foundational to the traditional view.

Next week, in part 6 of the series, Dr. Keller proposes one of several ‘models’ that can accord with both the evolutionary account of biological origins, and the Scriptural account that focus on our broken relationships with God and each other.

Notes

1. Alan Jacobs, Original Sin: A Cultural History (Harper Collins, 2008), p. 280.


Timothy Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. The “Influentials” issue of New York magazine featured Keller as “the most successful Christian evangelist in the city” for his engagement with the young professional and artist demographics. He received his bachelor’s degree from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Penn., his Master of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hampton, Mass., and his Doctor of Ministry from Westminster Theological Seminary. He is the author of such New York Times bestselling books as The Reason for God and Prayer. He is also Chairman of Redeemer City to City, which has helped start over 250 churches in global cities worldwide. He lives in New York City with his wife Kathy.

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beaglelady - #68674

March 23rd 2012

“If you don’t believe what he believes about Adam, you are denying the core of Paul’s teaching.”

Maybe we should believe also in the 3-tier universe of Paul.

“But then how did sin spread? Was it only by bad example? That has never been the classic teaching of the Christian doctrine of original sin. We do not learn sin from others; we inherit a sin nature.”

So it spreads via sex, like an STD?


D.U. Litz - #68708

March 26th 2012

Isn’t there a big difference between what Paul understood about the structure of the universe and what he is confirming in scripture? I guess you could say this is just Paul’s “understanding” of Adam, but it seems different. Keller seems to be saying this is more than understand, but Paul’s inspired confirmation of a historical Adam.

For instance in the Old Testament Joshua says that the sun stood still in the sky, a miraculous event by God. Supposing we take this as rooted in history, does Joshua’s misunderstanding of how the universe is structured (sun around the earth, under a solid dome) mean that something did not in fact happen?

It’s as if someone were rather saying in this example, “we can’t reject Joshua’s teaching,” and then you reply, “Should we also hold Joshua’s view of a three tiered universe?” as a rebuttal. This wouldn’t be a rebuttal of what the book of Joshua says was rooted in history.

I’m not trying to argue, but I want to wrap my head around all this. It doesn’t seem Keller’s stance on a historical Adam is an issue, but people are certainly entitled to reject his stance for one they find accounts for more evidence.

Just wondering, thanks.


beaglelady - #68710

March 26th 2012

“I guess you could say this is just Paul’s “understanding” of Adam, but it seems different. Keller seems to be saying this is more than understand, but Paul’s inspired confirmation of a historical Adam.”

 

Yeah, but you could also turn that around and say that Paul is inspired in confirming the 3-tier structure of the universe  found in scripture.  For me the bottom line is that all of humanity fell from grace and is in need of redemption.


D.U. Litz - #68801

March 31st 2012

I guess you could turn around and argue that depending on how you hermeneutically apply it, but for me I still think there is a fundamental difference between the two. Through proper exegesis, even the most strict concordists (of which I am not), can determine what the passage is and is not talking about. We can practice bad hermeneutics, but that is a different problem. Just because it could be argued the other way doesn’t mean the other way is right, at the end of the day a passage is still confirming something and the rest may be reflective of time, culture, etc. I think Christians may need to have a dialogue about proper hermeneutical approaches, because it seems many disagreements come down to that.

To address this particular issue: Paul is making a point in certain passages something that necessitates a historical Adam (allegedly). As far as I know, which I am not a New Testament Scholar, there is nothing Paul ever says that reflects, say, a three tiered universe view that is a necessity to the point he is making, but perhaps I’m wrong.

When Acts says to take the gospel to the “ends of the earth,” I don’t think it can really be said that the text is meant to confirm anything about this view of the physical world, but rather it reflects this ancient understanding to tell people to spread the gospel.

It could be argued, I guess, that a historical Adam is not necessary. For me it’s just easier to accept what the bible is saying. Some may see that as “lazy” or putting “strain” on the text (twisting it around to “concord” to science-which I could care less about because I’m more accommodationist), but that not why I accept a historical Adam, I just haven’t seen enough reason yet to even need to reject the teaching. I think Keller makes sense here, and people are free to disagree with his view, I just don’t see why they would need to personally.

Maybe I’m wrong, I’m still trying to think through this stuff. I respect your view though, and I agree with your “bottom line,” thanks for commenting back.


Loren Haas - #68684

March 24th 2012

     My pastor just finished a teaching series on the Keller’s book, “The Prodigal God”. Loved Keller’s insights with this material and highly recommend it.

    I am finding this series to not have the creative insights I expected from him. He writes as if he is trying to protect his job from charges he is violating some dusty old creed. Don’t we need to re-examine the theological straight jackets written in pre-scientific eras?


beaglelady - #68692

March 24th 2012

“Don’t we need to re-examine the theological straight jackets written in pre-scientific eras?”

Yes, I believe we do, Loren.  Our theology will be all the better if we take this step.


Darach - #68687

March 24th 2012

“This is how the gospel salvation of Christ works, according to Paul. When we believe in Jesus, we are ‘in Christ’ (one of Paul’s favorite expressions, and a deeply Biblical one.) We are in covenant with him, not because we are related biologically but through faith. So what he has done in history comes to us.
What has all this to do with Adam? A lot. Paul makes the same point in 1 Corinthians 15 about Adam and Christ that he does in Romans 5:
For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Cor 15:21-22)
When Paul says we are saved ‘in Christ’ he means that Christians have a covenantal, federal relationship with Christ. What he did in history is laid to our account. But in the same sentence Paul says that all human beings are similarly (he adds the word ‘as’ for emphasis) “in Adam.” In other words, Adam was a covenantal representative for the whole human race. We are in a covenant relationship with him, so what he did in history is laid to our account.”

I agree that the idea of Adam as a covenantal head is a really good way to reconcile traditional doctrines like original sin with the understanding of human evolution. Even handier in that the theology predates Darwin. But is it the only way to read what Paul says? ‘In Christ’ is certainly one of Paul’s favourite expressions and as you say a deeply biblical one, but can you simply substitute it for in covenant with Christ? ‘In Christ’ means way more than that. Yes you can describe all we have in Christ as coming through the New Covenant, but that does not mean Paul was talking Covenant when he uses the term in Christ.

Paul never says Adam was covenantal head of the human race or that sin spread through the human because Adam as Covenantal head broke the covenant. That is something theologians came up with later to explain why everyone sins. But the bible doesn’t say anything like it, simply that all men do sin, and that human nature isn’t able to follow God.

Does “in Adam all die” mean in covenant with Adam, a covenant Paul never mentions, or is Paul taking Adam, whose name means man or mankind, as a picture of the human race? Is Paul speaking of Adam figuratively, as he was in Romans 5:14? Certainly if Adam means the human race, then “in Adam all die” makes perfect sense, because we are all part of the human race and all humans sin. As Paul says in Romans 5:12 death spread to all men because all sinned.

Personally I think the imagery here is apocalyptic, like the church being referred to in the symbolic figure of the bride of Christ. Look at 1Cor 15:45-47 Christ is not just the last Adam, but Adam and Christ are called the first man and the second man. No sign of Eve the second human being (literally speaking) or Cain the second man, no sign of anyone else in the whole human race between Adam and the second man, just Adam and Christ. That is because in this imagery everyone in the human race is summed up in them, everyone is in Adam or in Christ. Paul isn’t talking about Adam as covenental head of the human race, but Adam as symbolic picture of the human race.

“Another problem arises if you deny the historicity of the fall. If some human beings began to turn away from God, why couldn’t some human beings resist so that some groupings would be less sinful than others?”

Or Genesis 3 shows us it is impossible for human beings to follow God in their own strength, that even in the most idyllic situation we will follow our natural desires rather than God.

James 1:14  But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.
15  Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
James seem to be echoing the description of the fall when he describes how each one of use is led astray by our own desires, sins and dies.
Genesis 3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate.
But if Eve was led atray by her natural desires just as we are, what is the basis for the doctrine that Adam and Eve were different, that human nature was changed by the fall?


beaglelady - #68691

March 24th 2012

Thanks for the thoughtful discussion, Darach.


Scott Jorgenson - #68703

March 25th 2012

What beaglelady said.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68696

March 24th 2012

Darach,

I think that I am in agreement with you and Dr. Keller, but I would add another concept here which is a covenental relationship.  When Christians are born again of the Holy Spirit they enter into a new relationship with God the Father through forgiveness based on the sacrificial death of the Son and the indwelling of the Spirit. 

The OT covenant was based on the covenant YHWH made through Abraham and Moses.  YHWH’s faithfulness was to result in Israel’s obedience to the covenantal law.  Obedience was to be the result of salvation, not the other way around, but the idea get lost and corrupted as it is today when many believe that salvation is the reward for obedience, rather than acceptance God’s love for humanity.

The New Covenant is based on Jesus Christ alone.  He is our Model/Example of the covenant.  It is clear that humans are saved by grace, God’s forgiveness as found in the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and not in works.  We choose to live and are empowered to live for God, through God, and in God through the Holy Spirit.   Thus it is a covenant, but one based on a positive relationship to God based on God’s actions, not human actions.

In my opinion sin does spread like a disease.  It is easier to do evil than to do good.  It is like following the leader.  Doing good requires the power of God.  It is not for the faint of heart, but for humans who seek real courage and stamina which comes from the Holy Spirit. 

Adam and Eve were okay, but weak and easily misled.  Jesus and Paul were not.  


Darach - #68698

March 25th 2012

Not sure how you are paralleling Jesus, who knew no sin, with Paul, who called himself the worst of sinners Could you rephrase it?


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68718

March 26th 2012

Darach,

Jesus certainly knew what sin was and what sin did.  He was not naive like Adam and Eve.  He was able to overcome the power of hatred, bigotry, fear, disease, etc through the power of God or the Holy Spirit, andf of course He paid the price of sin, not His wn, but the sin of all including you and me.

Paul clearly was a sinner.  He could never forget that he persecute the Savior and God’s people.  Howqever Jesus through unmerited grace saved Paul from his sin.  He knew he did not deserve it and did everything to avoid it. 

The issue therefore is not sin, but the Holy Spirit.  Paul and Jesus both were in the Spirit.  We can be too if we stop being preoccupied about sin, that we should not do, and start cultivating our love relationship to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit concerning that which Jesus would have us do.           


Darach - #68727

March 27th 2012

I certainly agree the issue for our lives is letting the Holy Spirit transform us into the image of Christ, but that is a different question from where did sin come from and why do people sin.

The comparison there isn’t between Adam and Eve’s naivety and a mature Paul’s walk in Christ, but between Adam and Eve’s fall and the young Saul’s own first sin.

Rom 7:8 Shall we say, then, that the Law itself is sinful? Of course not! But it was the Law that made me know what sin is. If the Law had not said, “Do not desire what belongs to someone else,” I would not have known such a desire. 8 But by means of that commandment sin found its chance to stir up all kinds of selfish desires in me. Apart from law, sin is a dead thing. 9 I myself was once alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life, 10 and I died. And the commandment which was meant to bring life, in my case brought death.

It makes an interesting parallel with both the Genesis story, Adam given a command and warned that if he broke it he would die, and Romans 5:12 death spread to all men because all sinned. Death spread to young Saul too when he understood the commandment and disobeyed. The use of the word death is interesting too, Paul says he died, but obviously he was a young lad when he sinned and was still physically alive when he wrote the epistle, while Adam was warned he would die on the day he ate of the tree, which didn’t happen physically.

So we see in both Genesis and Romans 7 that what you have is people coming to an understanding of right and wrong, disobeying, and dying spiritually. This worked the same for Adam and Eve as it has for Paul and the rest of the human race.

 


Chris Massey - #68700

March 25th 2012

Much of this post seems to come from an article Tim Keller wrote on the Gospel Coalition blog on June 6, 2011.

I thought there were significant problems with his argument and blogged about it here: http://cognitivediscopants.wordpress.com/2011/06/19/tim-keller-on-adam-eve-part-ii/


beaglelady - #68701

March 25th 2012

Excellent article, Chris.  Tim Keller’s understanding of scripture just doesn’t stand up.  If BioLogos doesn’t take a stand on the historicity of Adam, then why do we not see any articles whatsoever that reject historical Adam?


Scott Jorgenson - #68704

March 25th 2012

Chris, well put.  I too thought of how Ezekiel 18 reforms earlier teaching (not just from the story of Achan but also from Deuteronomy 5:9 and Exodus 20:5) and widens God’s mercy by limiting guilt to the individual.  Besides correcting Keller’s interpretation, I think Ezekiel 18 provides a further example of the arc of progressive revelation in the Bible, from cultural accommodation toward a creeping-outward revolution of grace that culminates in Jesus.


beaglelady - #68705

March 26th 2012

Another example of the “arc of progressive revelation” would be the treatment of those who commit adultery.  In OT times, such a person was to be stoned.  In the NT, Jesus forgives the woman taken in adultery and charges her to sin no more. 


Scott Jorgenson - #68714

March 26th 2012

And speaking of the Bible’s trajectory toward grace and mercy: it is not only seen looking forward from Deuteronomy to the prophets, but even to a certain extent looking backwards to the older book of Exodus.  Exodus in chapter 21 provides for the manumission of only male slaves and is silent on any recompense for them; Deuteronomy, the later text, in chapter 15 extends manumission to women and commands the freedman to be furnished with goods in recognition of his service.

And of course let us not forget that even the oldest legal code in the Bible is itself a step toward grace from what was practiced in the surrounding culture.  “An eye for an eye” sounds harsh - until we think of the alternative in the culture of the time, which was “Your and your family’s lives for my eye”.

But I digress.  I guess the point is that the Bible, to me, makes far more sense as human witness guided by God on a trajectory towards grace that culminates in Jesus, rather than a flat and equal-throughout book in which the text of Joshua is as much the word of God as are the teachings of Jesus.  Besides making better internal sense of the Bible, this view also conflicts less with science and history because, by accepting the accommodated and human nature of the biblical witness, it needs concordance less.


beaglelady - #68715

March 26th 2012

I agree, Scott.  Who needs OT genocides?


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68719

March 26th 2012

Yes and No.

Clearly everyone is responsible for their own sins.  On the other hand what we do affects others.  That is an important reason not to sin, because our selfishness not only hurts us, it hurts others also.

One does not have to believe in corporate responsibility to know that group membership and identity are important.  I am an American citizen.  That means I have certain rights and responsibilities.  I have the right to vote, but that means that I have a certain responsility for the government that I have elected. 

George Wahington is the Father of the USA.  He and others of his generation shaped the institutions that give this country its distinctive form.  Most think that this is good, but he was also a slave owner which represents the negative side of the American experiment.  Still GW was who he was and the USA is what it is. 

You cannot separate the positive from the negative without destroying the whole.  People can be amazingly good and amazingly evil.  Because we are people we must accept both sides of human nature.  Our task is not to destroy the evil in order to preserve the good, but to maximize the good to minimize the evil by directing our attention away from ourselves to God.           


Scott Jorgenson - #68720

March 26th 2012

Shared responsibility, yes.  Shared culpability, no.

For example, what slaveowning America did to Africans resulted in systemic poverty and injustice lasting for generations beyond the abolition of slavery.  As an American today, it is rightly my responsibility to continue to help society redress those wrongs in ways reasonable (ie, ways which do not themselves constitute another wrong), because those historic wrongs require equally lasting justice in response, and if we don’t do it, who will?  But this does not mean I am actually culpable for those original crimes, done without my knowledge, participation or consent generations before I was born.  Responsibility to cleanup the mess does not equal guilt for the mess in the first place.

But this isn’t how the earliest parts of the Hebrew Bible see it.  They teach not shared responsibility, but shared culpability.  Achan’s family are not put to death because they refuse to shoulder their responsibility in helping make right  Achan’s disobedience; they are put to death because his guilt matter-of-factly condemns them too.  This is because his family are his property, his stuff, along with the rest of his belongings.  And just as we sometimes punish today by confiscating an offender’s stuff - ie through the forced payment of fines - Achan is punished by having not only his life taken from him, but his stuff taken from him as well.  This view of shared culpability, tied to a property/ownership model for familial relations, is a view that Ezekiel challenges and reforms, as the biblical witness continues along its arc toward Jesus.


Scott Jorgenson - #68721

March 26th 2012

To tie this back to Keller’s blog article, though: that is what makes it a little dismaying.  Keller bases much of his point on the collectivist view of culpability demonstrated in the earliest parts of the Hebrew Bible, while apparently disregarding how that view is superseded in later revelation.  I suppose if he is an inerrantist who requires a “flat”, plenary and verbally inspired Bible, though, he has little choice; he cannot admit to seeing later teaching superseding and correcting earlier teaching in scripture.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68763

March 28th 2012

A quick lookat my Thesaurus defines culpability as responsible, which suggests that there is no bright line between these two words.  Certainly we cannot say that members of a group are criminally responsible for the actions of some members of the group and certainly we must treat everyone as individuals responsible for their own actions. 

Still as I said we are affected directly and indirectly by being a Christian and other identities that are part of who we are. 


beaglelady - #68766

March 29th 2012

There’s another compelling reason to steer clear Keller’s collectivist mode of thinking: For centuries Christians have blamed ALL Jews for the death of Jesus, resulting in persecution,  pogroms, mass expulsions,  and other chilling expressions of anti-semitism.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68820

April 3rd 2012

BL,

Yes, we know better now.  We know that ALL sinners, that is ALL human beings including ourselves, are responsible for the death of Jesus


Norman - #68707

March 26th 2012

IMO, Adam cannot be pinned down to one precise individual historically but historically there has to be an Adam figure (just not in the way we attempt to frame it). The Jewish concept if we survey all the OT, 2T and early Christian first century literature points toward Adam as the father of Israel “covenantaly” speaking. I don’t believe the Jews had a clue who he was precisely in historical terms but they did know that their form of Mosaic Law of works was an aberration of God’s plan for human relationship with Him.  Therefore they simply identify a character they call “human” who was expected to walk with God as intended but became susceptible to a corrupt version of relationship in which human effort attempted to manage. I think they are on solid ground to anticipate their beginning  history in that manner.   Israel and their affinity for Law keeping were considered to have had a beginning in history as it didn’t just magically appear and so they constructed the Adam and Eve story to illustrate that historicity.  

 

Adam and Eve is essentially the story of Israel and also of any form of what the bible calls fleshly works that usurp God’s providential care for His faithful. Paul knows that logically speaking there had to be a beginning to Israel’s form of worshiping God via the law and the commonality of the Adam story serves that purpose well from his theological viewpoint.  Was Adam historical? Yes and No or No and Yes. Did Paul think of Adam as historical?  I would say he did but he understood it within the Jewish concept and didn’t necessarily apply all the biological trappings that western minded people are prone to apply. We can’t read our instincts into Paul’s ancient Jewish covenantal instincts because it’s clear that he doesn’t follow our patterns. We get off base when we attempt to foist our ideas upon Paul’s concepts.


Chip - #68732

March 27th 2012

Paul never says Adam was covenantal head of the human race or that sin spread through the human because Adam as Covenantal head broke the covenant.

In exactly those terms, no.  But this is the message of Romans 5, particularly vs. 12: “death spread to all men because all sinned.”  Sinned, in this instance, is in the aorist, which generally is used to refer to a single act at a single point in time.  IOW, all of us sinned with Adam, our federal head. 

Even if that’s a little too arcane, in 5:13,14 Paul is saying that people from Adam to Moses died even though they didn’t sin like Adam did. 

And again in 5:15:  (whose idea is repeated in I Cor 15:22).  According to both passages, do people die because they commit their own individual sins along the way? (even though we all clearly do do that.) No.  People die because we are all “in Adam,” and as a result have inherited a sin nature from him.

As a parenthesis, the idea of the federal head is discussed in another context in Heb 7.  The argument here in a nutshell is that the priesthood of Melchizedek is superior to that of the Levitical priesthood because Abraham was superior to Melchizedek and “because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.” (:10)

Why is Melchizedek superior to Levi?  Because Levi was “in Abraham,” his federal head.  Why are we sinners?  Because we were “in Adam,” our federal head. 

What’s the solution to our problem?  Not a mere cleanup project, but a whole new identity, starting with a new federal head:  “For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”


beaglelady - #68734

March 27th 2012

“Sinned, in this instance, is in the aorist, which generally is used to refer to a single act at a single point in time.  IOW, all of us sinned with Adam, our federal head.”

Hmm, now why didn’t we al sin with Eve?


Chip - #68742

March 28th 2012

Because the text makes no such reference.  But such would require that notions like fidelity to the text would be important to you. 


beaglelady - #68743

March 28th 2012

The text makes no such reference? Who sinned first, Adam or Eve?


Chip - #68745

March 28th 2012

Jeez…really?  OK.  The text in the scope of our current discussion makes no such reference. 

Tell you what:  You go back and re-read (carefully now, take your time) Rom 5 and I cor 15 and then come back and tell me how many references to Eve you find. 


beaglelady - #68746

March 28th 2012

My point is that Eve was the first sinner. Curious, isn’t it?


Chip - #68749

March 28th 2012

How many references to Eve did you find?


beaglelady - #68750

March 28th 2012

May I look in the whole Bible, including Genesis,  or am I restricted to those NT passages you mention?


Darach - #68764

March 28th 2012

“In exactly those terms, no. But this is the message of Romans 5, particularly vs. 12: “death spread to all men because all sinned.” Sinned, in this instance, is in the aorist, which generally is used to refer to a single act at a single point in time. IOW, all of us sinned with Adam, our federal head.”

That is a lot to read into the aorist when the bible never says anywhere that we sinned with Adam. Now the aorist can be used to refer to specific event, it can also mean simply that we have all sinned.

“Even if that’s a little too arcane, in 5:13,14 Paul is saying that people from Adam to Moses died even though they didn’t sin like Adam did.”

Don’t forget Paul had already covered the question of Gentiles who don’t have the law of Moses being judged by the law written on their hearts

Rom 2:12  For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law… 14  For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15  They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.

Adam broke a specific command and died, so did all the Israelites who had the Law of Moses, but Gentiles who don’t have specific command and everyone before Moses still have a law written on their hearts and death spreads to them when they sin.

See in verse 12 where Paul talk of Gentiles who sinned without the Law and the Jews who sinned under the Law? Both are aorists. But they are not talking about two communal events, one Jewish the other Gentile, but the fact that evenyone sins.

“And again in 5:15: (whose idea is repeated in I Cor 15:22). According to both passages, do people die because they commit their own individual sins along the way? (even though we all clearly do do that.) No. People die because we are all “in Adam,” and as a result have inherited a sin nature from him.”

If it means dying from a sin nature inherited from someone long dead and buried, in what meaningful sense can you say we are ‘in Adam’? The bible doesn’t say that we inherited a sin nature from Adam, it doesn’t say we sin because of him, or that we are in covenant with him. But since the bible does tell us again and again that people die because they commit their own individual sins, shouldn’t we keep this in mind when we try to understnd these verses? Look in the verse just before Rom 5:15 where Paul says that Adam is a figure of Christ, couldn’t the comparison between Adam’s sin and Christ be comparing the two figuratively? It certainly gets around the problem of Ezekiel 18 which contradict the claim we die because of the sin of seomone long ago.

“As a parenthesis, the idea of the federal head is discussed in another context in Heb 7. The argument here in a nutshell is that the priesthood of Melchizedek is superior to that of the Levitical priesthood because Melchizedek was superior to Abraham and “because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.”

Why is Melchizedek superior to Levi? Because Levi was “in Abraham,” his federal head. Why are we sinners? Because we were “in Adam,” our federal head.”

If Melchizedek was superior to Abraham then he is also going to be superior to Levi, because Levi was Abraham’s great grandson. There is no need to bring in federal headship. Remember Jesus challenging the Pharisees on why David called the Messiah ‘Lord’? It turned the normal reationship on its head. I don’t think the writer of Hebrews was teaching federal headship or that Levi was literally present on Abrahams loins, he was stretching the point, One might even say Heb 7:9, to show symbolically that Jesus priesthood was superior to the Levitial priesthood

“What’s the solution to our problem? Not a mere cleanup project, but a whole new identity, starting with a new federal head: “For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” “

It is certainly is a New Covenant, but does the bible describe Jesus or Adam as federal head?


Chip - #68733

March 27th 2012

Sorry, I got the sequence wrong in the 3rd PP from the end.  Should have said: 

“...the priesthood of Melchizedek is superior to that of the Levitical priesthood because Melchizedek was superior to Abraham and “because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.” (:10)”


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68778

March 29th 2012

People sin because they choose to live like Eve and Adam, that is, live for themselves.  People are saved because they choose to stop living for themselves and turn to Jesus Christ. 


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68821

April 3rd 2012

Chip,

It should be noted that  while Abraham refused to accept any gift from the king of Sodom, even a hard earned prize of war, lest he be obligated to the king who was not God, Abraham received a blessing from God and gave a tithe to God through Melchizedek, the King of Salem.   

Thus Melchizedek was recognized in the OT as a Messianic priest-king or a form of the Christ.


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