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

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  • Ben Hart
    Bob, I conceded a while back that what Adam did subsequent to the fall is irrelevant in that, ex hypothesi, it s not part of the deal he made with God. I went
    Message 1 of 34 , Jun 5, 2009

      I conceded a while back that what Adam did subsequent to the fall is irrelevant in that, ex hypothesi, it's not part of the deal he made with God.  I went on to say that I didn't hang my hat on that objection--it's just weird, that's all, and weirdness is not damning to any view (just think of quantum physics in that regard).  I then said that the one that was really difficult was the second one I raised--the justice of imputation itself; how can one man's guilt/righteousness be made out for another?  I said that this seems to directly conflict with our standard moral practice and it was prima facie unjust.  Moreover, THIS was the objection that Edwards and Dabney saw as being the big nasty one.  I think that brings all of this up to speed.

      You say:  Rationalism means it has to be something I can figure out/fair to me.
      But whether we voted for Adam to represent us or not is again
      immaterial. What does that have to do with anything? Your job is first
      to listen to what the Bible says before you start jumping to conclusions
      or objections."

      Respondeo:  I'm going to stop defending the use of philosophy on this forum and just assume I'm right.  It's naive to think interpretation takes place in a philosophical/theological vacuum, just like it's naive to think a scientist simply reads her theory off the facts; even she interprets the facts in light of her philosophy.  I'm not saying Scripture offers no help, but interpreting it requires philosophical sensitivities as well as a healthy faith and reliance on the Holy Spirit.  If that makes me a "Rationalist", so be it, but I'm not interested in justifying my methodology.  If this is not an edifying conversation, then you're more than welcome to bow out.  I can say that I've had several people privately email me saying this was an interesting and edifying exchange. 

      You say:  Romans 5:12 says what? Adam's sin, offense and disobedience is our sin,
      offense and disobedience. Do you think that might also include guilt?
      Does the Scripture have to come right out and say everything before we
      put 2 and 2 together?

      Respondeo:  This what it says, "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--"  This is what it DOES NOT say.  Adam's sin is our sin.  Adam's offense is our offence.  Adam's disobedience  is our disobedience.  None of these things are stated or necessarily entailed.  When he says "because all sinned" this is open to numerous interpretations, the federal view being one of them.  It could just be that we inhereted a nature that is bad, kind of like a moral disease.  We get a bad set of dispositions that are themselves bad.  It could also be a statement of fact--everyone sinned after the fall because they got a bad nature through Adam's misdeeds.  A third possibility: the "all" that sinned referred to all those who were presently living (i.e. Adam and Eve), and being their natural offspring, we inherited their bad nature.  But any notion of covenantal representation, federal headship, etc. is a theoretical addition--a philosophical inference (what you call putting 2 and 2 together)--that isn't in the text. 

      And I should also note that, even if the federal view is right, it's a completely fair question to ask for an explanation of how this moral arrangement can square with our standard moral practice.  From my limited reading on this issue, it's become clear that there is really no consensus amongst the Reformed Community (whatever exactly that refers to) as to how to solve this problem.  You don't find much of an agreement in guys like Edwards, Dabney, Turretin, Hodge, and Thornwell, nor in ancients like Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas. 

      Kind regards,

    • 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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