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Re: [Covenanted Reformation] Re: Federal view of imputation

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  • Ben Hart
    Bob, Not sure who ee cummings is, so I don t know what to say there. But for scriptural reason, how about the oft-quoted Ezekiel 18:20: The soul that
    Message 1 of 34 , Jun 2, 2009

      Not sure who ee cummings is, so I don't know what to say there.  But for scriptural reason, how about the oft-quoted Ezekiel 18:20:  The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him."?  Whether there is an answer from federalists as to the scope of this passage seems beside the point as it seems to suggest that a constraint on justice is that a person who sins will be punished for his own act and it won't be laid to others.  This is, of course, controversial, but I think it's sufficient to answer whether there is any Scriptural reason to wrestle over this issue.

      Why should anyone respond to this stuff?  1.  It's inherently interesting.  2.  Some of us have/have had struggles with our faith on account of these kinds of problems.  3.  The scripture is not a text in systematic theology and is in many ways underdetermined so it will take some human analysis to appreciate some of these nicities.  4.  Reformed Theology has developed its own technical vocabulary that may make sense to some insiders, but having it explained in the vernacular is usually helpful.  That's just a few reasons off the top of my head though I'm sure I could come up with more. 

      I'm not sure what the "spirit of rationalism" is, but it isn't vanity to ask how God can hold us accountable for something we didn't ostensibly do, consent to, authorize, or warrant.  I struggle with feeling like I'm of two minds about a lot of things.  For instance, if I killed someone, and my friend, John, offered himself as a substitute for my crimes and moral failures, we (yes, even we Christians) would cry out that this is a travesty of justice.  And note that the reason wouldn't be because we thought John wasn't innocent enough--it would be because it was perverse--the innocent was being punished for the guilty!  But in the case of Christ, it's OK.  So we seem to be of two minds about substitutionary atonement and the same thing seems to go for Adam and us--we normally view moral responsibility as essentially involving the person's rational faculties in some way but the federal view wants us to make an exception for that.  Why?  Just because God willed it?  That seems implausible for the following reason: 

      "In saying, therefore, that things are not good according to any standard of goodness, but simply by the will of God, it seems to me that one destroys, without realizing it, all the love of God and all of his glory; for why praise him for what he has done, if he would be equally praiseworthy in doing the contrary?  Where will be his justice and his wisdom if he has only a certain despotic power, if arbitrary will takes the place of reasonableness, and if in accord with the definition of tyrants, justice consists in that which is pleasing to the most powerful?  Besides it seems that every act of willing supposes some reason for the willing and this reason, of course, must precede the act.  This is why, accordingly, I find so strange these expressions of certain philosophers who say that hte eternal truths of metaphysics and Geometry, and consequently the principles of goodness, of justice, and of perfection, are effects only of the will of God.  To me it seems that all these follow from his understanding, which does not depend upon his ill any more than does his essence."  Liebniz, Discourse on Metaphysics, II. 

      Is it the spirit of rationalism to attempt to find a way not to be of two minds about fundamental issues in morality, especially where they touch the Gospel?

      For what it's worth, both Edwards and Dabney take the objection I've raised as being THE BIG ONE against the Reformed view of imputation.  The irony is that Edwards had to make personal identity an arbitrary relation grounded in God's free will so that we could literally share our personal identity with Adam to make the view work.  (I've not finished reading Dabney's discussion on this so I can't say what he says other than that it's "the grand objection".)

      And my "light dismissal" of certain phrases is more than anything a way of trying to get away from metaphors and talk about the reality of what's going on in the moral domain.  I apologize if it came across as flippant, and I accept the rebuke.

      I'm just curious, does the Bible say anywhere that the GUILT of Adam's sin was laid to our account?  Does it come right out and say those words?  As far as I can see, it doesn't (and I've got Romans 5:12-19 open in front of me here with the Greek as well)--so it is an open question as to how this stuff works out.  I like the way John put it--nobody is doubting the truth of the doctrine of original sin.  History and our own experience are sufficient proof that it is, in fact, true.  But explaining how it could work, such that our moral intuitions aren't completely overhauled is the big mystery. 

      Finally, if this conversation is offensive or causes you to stumble in some way, then I will gladly shut up if it's the desire of the group.  Otherwise, it may be best for you to ignore these posts for now. 

      It's always a pleasure...


      On Sun, May 31, 2009 at 11:21 PM, bob_suden <bsuden@...> wrote:


      To be sure, yours has not degenerated to the slap dash evangelical eloquence of ee cummings, but can you give me one good scriptural reason, other than perhaps stopping the mouth of the gainsayer, why anyone should reply to your assertions masquerading as questions,which go on to become non sequiturs?

      Further, is it not both true and elementary that the Cov. Of Works was a one time deal and that what Adam did after he failed the test, is entirely immaterial to it? Then why bring  it up at all?

      Two, is it not the spirit of rationalism, if not unbelief, to think God such a one as ourselves  and that he cannot justly make Adam our federal head if  we don't get to democratically vote on it? Is not  the question rather, "Who art thou O man?"

      Which same question is to the point.

      While it is true that disputations and polemics are part of the classic education and training of well rounded theologians, the tone and attitude is key and that is precisely what is missing. Impertinent, vain, over confident  and light dismissal for example, is unacceptable.

      >. . . .(whatever that means [it. add.]--when I'm born, is God

      > like a heavenly bank-teller who opens up my moral account and puts me in the
      > inifinite debit column?Anyway...)

      It means what it says. What's so hard to understand, in at least some rudimentary fashion, that "we  have  Adams guilt and punishment "laid to our account"" ? Or is it that we don't believe it?

      --- In covenantedreformationclub@yahoogroups.com, Ben Hart <benjamin.hart1@...> wrote:
      > Here are two quick questions about how I understand the "federal view" of
      > imputation. Both the Reformed doctrines of original sin and substitutionary
      > atonement make use of this idea so our understanding of two of the most
      > fundamental Christian doctrines stand on how we view this idea of
      > imputation.
      > My question is directed specifically at how imputation works in the doctrine
      > of original sin. According to the federal view, Adam was the representative
      > of all of mankind in an analogous way that a president is a representative
      > of his country; hence the talk of Adam as a "prince" of sorts. As our
      > representative, God made a deal with Adam--the covenant of works--according
      > to which, if Adam obeyed one rule he'd live a life of eternal bliss, and if
      > he disobeyed, he'd inherit death for himself and for all of us. So when he
      > disobeyed God, he did so on behalf of all of us, and we have Adams guilt and
      > punishment "laid to our account" (whatever that means--when I'm born, is God
      > like a heavenly bank-teller who opens up my moral account and puts me in the
      > inifinite debit column? Anyway...)
      > So if that is the right way to understand things, then we have conclusive
      > evidence that Adam is in hell, and here's why--we are still condemned in
      > him. See, if Adam repented (looking forward to the future Christ, the same
      > situation we think OT believers were in) then as our representative, we
      > should have had his good act of repentance laid to our account, since he is,
      > after all, our representative.
      > So do we have evidence that Adam never repented? If so, I think we have
      > good reason to reject the federal view of imputation.
      > Here's another reason to reject the view.
      > The federal view rests on a false analogy between an elected head and a
      > "natural" or "generic" head. One reason we might think the represented
      > people have the guilt of their representor laid to their account is because
      > they've duly authorized them to be their agent. Not so with us and Adam.
      > We weren't around to do so, making him an unauthorized representor. God, no
      > doubt, could have authorized him to "represent" us in some sense, but not in
      > the sense the federal view wants to say he represented us.
      > I doubt these are new arguments, but I thought some of you have given these
      > some consideration and wanted to know what (if anything) you all thought was
      > wrong with this way of thinking.
      > -Ben

    • puritanone
      ... I reject that imputation and inheritance are foreign to our normal experience and practice. Actually, it is quite common in the parent-child relationship,
      Message 34 of 34 , Jul 6, 2009
        > 2. I posed objection two as a difficulty in squaring the whole idea of
        > imputation with how we typically understand justice. My argument was that
        > we normally don't work things like that in our everyday holdings of people
        > morally responsible. I mean how often do we allow a deal people made
        > thousands of years ago to affect our moral standing with another party? How
        > often do we allow it that the good or bad merit of others can be made over
        > to ourselves? How often do we allow an innocent to be executed for the
        > guilty? These are extremely counterintuitive and go directly against almost
        > all of our moral practices, yet they stand at the heart of the Reformed
        > understanding of the Gospel.

        I reject that imputation and inheritance are foreign to our normal experience and practice. Actually, it is quite common in the parent-child relationship, so it should not be at all surprising in the Adam-mankind and Jesus-adopted children relationships.

        Just some examples:

        1. Children who are born to rich parents are born rich; children who are born to poor parents are born poor.

        2. Children who are born to mortal parents will be mortal.

        3. Children often inherit the genetic diseases of their parents. Children of parents with healthy genes inherit those genes.

        4. The children of terrorist parents are more subject to have their house (along with themselves) blown up. (What is it like to be born the child of an Al Qaeda leader? Does the US military really have to wait until the wife and children are out before destroying the house in which a terrorist leader is residing? Do you think that the US military waits until everyone is out except the terrorist leader?)

        5. Rich parents buy their children presents which the children never worked for; penniless parents can buy their children nothing.

        6. Rich parents often open up a bank account for their children and put money in it for the children (a form of imputation), even though the children never earned it. Penniless parents do not do the same.

        7. When a rich couple walks through an orphanage and selects a child, upon adoption that child is immediately rich, even though the child did no more to earn it than the next child that never gets adopted.

        8. Parents are under no moral requirement to lay up money to the children of other parents, but they should lay up for their own children, "for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children." But their own children did not do some special work to receive this blessing.

        Imputation and inheritance are alive and well in the real world we live and act in. We are very familiar with it in our moral practices. But some people try to suppress the truth in unrighteousness.

        - J. Parnell McCarter
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