In a recent post, we looked at the doctrine of original sin as defined by the Word of God through the inspired pen of the Apostle Paul in his first epistle to the Ekklesia at Corinth. This doctrine, which asserts that “in Adam” all humanity has inherited the guilt and pollution from his original sin, are thereby born with a corrupt nature, and under the wrath and condemnation of Almighty God, has been criticized, even denied, throughout church history.
The denial of original sin is sometimes referred to as Pelaginism, after Pelagius (360-418 A.D.), though it does not find it’s origin here. Rather it can be seen in the early Gnostic heresies that the Apostles so frequently encountered and refuted.
Recently, the denial of original sin has resurfaced (though it’s never really gone away) through the publication of Adam and the Genome, where the authors Dennis Venema (genetics) and Scot McKnight (theology) systematically work to debunk the historicity of Adam and as a consequence the doctrine of original sin.
With this in mind, let’s begin our look at some of the more common objections to this foundational teaching with the appeal towards the priority of Eve.
Objection 1 – Eve sinned first, why then is it those “in Adam” who share in his guilt and pollution?
Answer – Yes, it is true that Eve sinned by eating of the forbidden tree first. Though perhaps a cogent argument could be made that Adam sinned first by not protecting the garden from serpent and defending Eve from his wiles. However, there is a needed point of clarification. Adam serves over mankind in a dual capacity, first as the natural progenitor of the human race and second as all humanity’s federal representative. Natural (seminal) headship and federal headship.
In his seed, all those who descend from him are tainted with the corruption that he incurred. The concept of seminal offspring developed so strongly in the Old Testament traces mankind back to Adam, not Eve. (See the genealogies of Genesis, 1 Chronicles, and Luke). In other words, sin has a genealogical connection and this is tied directly to the father. An important point for later. When the source point of a stream is polluted, all of the waters downstream are impacted as well. So it is with the influence of sin on the human race. But there is more.
As to his representation – in politics, particularly in the United States, we understand the role of a representative, one who is chosen to speak or act on behalf of others. Generally speaking this is the concept of Adam’s federal representation. Adam was the representative of the human race, thereby when he sinned and fell, all those whom he represented fell also. While we did not participate in the sin that he committed, we do share in the guilt and punishment.
Admittedly, and this is important, the Bible does not clearly outline the steps for the transmission of sin, so there is room for some debate between natural and federal headship, though here I am asserting the necessity of both. But we do know from the passages in 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 5, that in some sense sin is traced to Adam and that all mankind are thereby corrupted from sin’s pollution and guilty, deserving of God’s righteous judgment.
When we look at Union with Christ in a subsequent post, I hope to show why BOTH of Adam’s headships are necessary and how there is a similar dual relationship in Christ as well.