Arminian Presuppostion #10 Refuted

Arminian Presuppostion #10. Some of these who press the “free will” doctrine seem to believe, along with the Pelagians, sinners do not have Adam’s guilt imputed, or even his nature transmitted to them.

Perhaps it would be helpful to explain the primary differences between Calvinists, Arminians and Pelagians. At the risk of oversimplification, the basic differences are these: Though both traditional Arminians and Calvinists agree that sinners are born totally depraved due to Adam’s transgression and that prevenient [preceding] grace is necessary to grant them ability to believe, they disagree on two points relative to this grace. 1. Arminians believe this preceding grace is granted to every sinner; Calvinists believe it is granted only to those whom the Father has chosen. 2. “Prevenient grace” as conceived by the Arminians is necessarily ineffectual in and of itself. Otherwise, all who received it would come to faith in Christ. It can only be effectual if sinners cooperate. If they choose to remain intransigent in their rebellion against God, this “grace” will always be ineffectual. For the Calvinists, preceding grace is always effectual.
Pelagians believe the only effect Adam’s sin has had on the race is from his bad example. In their view, every person is born in the same condition as that in which Adam and Eve were created. In their view, sinners are sinners because they sin. Calvinists believe we sin because we are sinners.
Some of those we have identified as “Arminians” seem to have joined the ranks of the Pelagians. Apparently, they have decided it is unfair of God to impute Adam’s guilt or transmit his nature to his posterity. After all, why should God hold us accountable for something Adam did?

At the outset let me state as gently as possible that the issue is not whether this seems fair to people but whether it is taught in the Word of God. What Augustine and Calvin thought about this subject is of no greater importance than the opinions of the “Church Fathers.” It is always better to find out what the “Grandfathers” taught. The following are some issues we need to consider in seeking to discover the relationship between Adam and his offspring:
1. Do the Scriptures address the issue of imputation?
2. Is there any evidence that Adam’s sin has been imputed to his offspring?
3. If his sin has been imputed, how has this occurred? This question concerns whether Adam was the “seminal” head of the race or the “federal” or “representative” head of the race.
Let’s try to answer these questions one by one.

1. Do the Scriptures address the issue of imputation?

There is no question the concept of imputation is firmly grounded in the Scriptures. The locus classicus regarding imputation is Romans 5:12-19. In that passage it is important that we pay attention to the words “the one man” and “the many.” It is not one acting for “many” but one acting for “the many.” This is the language of representation. Let me illustrate. When one high school is competing with another in a basketball game, every student in the school does not go onto the court and actually participate in the contest. Instead, the best players in the school who wish to participate are chosen to represent the entire student body. They act as the representatives of “the many.” If they win the game, every student in the school can go home and honestly say to their parents, “We Won!!!” If their representatives lose the game, though they may be tempted to say, “They lost,” the reality they must report is that the entire school lost because their carefully chosen and eminently qualified representatives, acting in their place, lost the game. In this case, the five acted for “the many.”
The word in Scripture translated “imputed” is an accounting term. It is used of putting something to another’s account whether the thing accounted is reality or not. When God declares ungodly people just, he is putting something to their account that does not truly belong to them. When he charged Jesus with the sins of his people, he accounted or imputed something to him that did not belong to him. God accounts believers to have died with Christ to the reigning power of sin.
The reality is, there could be no good news about salvation apart from imputation. If we were called to judgment before our infinitely holy and unwaveringly righteous God and were required to stand there on the basis of our own merits, the only thing God could put to our account is our miserable failure and stubborn rebellion against him.

2. Is there any evidence Adam’s sin has been imputed to his offspring?

It is impossible to understand the teaching of the New Testament Scriptures apart from understanding the concept of representation and imputation. One of the most prominent unifying themes in the New Testament Scriptures is the believer’s union with Christ. As a result of this union, believers are complete in him. All the spiritual benefits and blessings of the New Covenant belong to us by imputation. God has credited to believers all the accomplishments and virtues of our head and representative. Our final salvation does not depend on what we have done, are doing or shall ever do. It depends on our union with Christ, our head and representative. It was to emphasize this essential truth that the Apostle Paul wrote Romans 5:12-19.
In Romans 5:1, he had begun an entirely new section in this great epistle. In chapters one through three, he had demonstrated every sinner’s need for justification before God. Then he had very clearly explained the nature, basis and results of that divine declaration. In chapter four, he illustrated God’s method of justification from the experiences of David and Abraham. Now in 5:1 he begins to show that all whom God has declared righteous in his sight are certain to be glorified.
As an aside, one reason people sometimes misunderstand the New Testament’s teaching about election unto salvation is their misunderstanding of the nature of salvation itself. Someone recently asked me if it bothered me that the Bible never states that God chose anyone to go to heaven. I answered that it didn’t bother me at all, since heaven and hell are not the main issues in salvation. Please understand that justification is not salvation. It is only one part of salvation. Salvation is not primarily about forgiveness but about being restored to the image of him who created us.

Paul’s argument is that since we have been justified and have a standing in grace, we have every reason to rejoice in the favorable and confident assurance [hope] that we will certainly be glorified “we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. In the remainder of this chapter he expands on three reasons we can thus rejoice. First, he explains that we have a new relationship with God (5:1-11), Second, we have a new representative before God (5:12-19), Third, we are under a new reign (5:20-21).

We now have a new relationship with God. Whereas, before we were the objects of his wrath, we now have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ (5:1). Because we now have this new relationship, we are assured God has intended the most painful of life’s trials and the most intense of its pressures to confirm us in this hope and conform us to his image. By his Spirit, he overflows our hearts with the knowledge of his love for us—a love that has been demonstrated beyond a doubt in the sacrifice of His Son for us while still we were still his enemies. Paul then argues if God has given us the greatest gift possible while we were still enemies, how much more will he save us [bring us to glory] now that we are his friends.

The portion of this passage that most directly concerns the question we are considering is 5:12-19. Paul does not gratuitously introduce the subject of Adam’s sin and its results. His purpose is to show that just as Adam’s sin guaranteed the condemnation of all whom he represented, Christ’s obedience guaranteed the justification of all he represented. Though the possibility exists that Paul is talking about the righteousness believers will possess when we are glorified, the contrast with “condemnation” would point us in the direction of a judicial righteousness.
Paul offers the universality of death as clear evidence that Adam’s transgression or trespass has been imputed to his posterity. His argument is as follows—The penalty for sin is death. God had said to Adam and Eve, “In the day that you eat of it, you will surely die.” Sin is not imputed, or charged to a person’s account where there is no law (5:13). That is, sin is not charged to a person and therefore there is no penalty apart from transgression of Law, or a clearly defined law. This type of sin cannot be committed in the absence of Law. The character of Adam’s sin went beyond a mere missing of the mark; it was an act of deliberate “transgression” of a clearly defined boundary. Adam’s sin was an act of deliberate disobedience to a clear command of God.

In verse fourteen, Paul writes about “those who had not sinned in a way similar to Adam’s transgression.” Please note, he uses a word for sin that refers to a deliberate stepping over of a clearly defined boundary. It has been rather common to identify these as infants and mentally challenged persons etc. who do not have the mental facility necessary to commit deliberate acts of transgression. Since they are incapable of such deliberate acts, there must be an explanation for the reign of death even over them. If death is the penalty for sin, and penalty implies guilt, why did such persons still die since they had not incurred personal guilt by deliberate acts of transgression against clearly revealed commandments? The answer would seem to be inescapable—death is universal because all sinned “in Adam.” In 1 Cor. 15: 22, Paul wrote, “as in Adam, all die. . .”
This interpretation makes good sense apart from Paul’s reference to that period “between Adam and Moses.” Between Adam and Moses [that is before God gave the Law to Israel] sin was in existence, but sin is not put to a person’s account apart from Law. If infants etc. were in view, why would Paul focus our attention on this particular time period? If his reference is to those Gentiles who lived between the fall and the giving of the Mosaic covenant, the same argument would apply as was posited of infants. The difficulty with this view, is that Paul, has elsewhere assigned personal guilt to those who had no codified expression of God’s law.

What is clear is that Paul argues that the universality of death indicates the universality of sin. Death passed through the entire race because all sinned. Additionally, it is clear that this sin resulted from the one sin of the one man, Adam. At the very least, Paul teaches us here that we have inherited a nature from Adam that insures that we all become actual sinners.

It is essential we understand the statement Paul makes concerning the “typical” relationship between Adam and Christ. He writes that Adam was the tupos of the coming one, i.e., Christ. The old fashioned typewriter got its name because of the impression it left on a piece of paper that corresponded to the image on the key that was struck. The basic idea of a biblical “type” is that it draws an intentional, necessary, theological correspondence between itself and the person, institution, place, or act that it foreshadowed. It is not necessary that a type correspond in every detail to the antitype it prefigures. Instead, types, like parables, are intended to indicate one point of necessary correspondence. The question we need to ask is on what point of correspondence between Adam and Christ does Paul wish us focus? In verses fifteen through seventeen, he focuses on the points of dissimilarity between Adam and Christ.

In verse eighteen, he continues the “just as”/”even so” comparison he began and then immediately interrupted in verse twelve. He now repeats the first part of that comparison “just as,” and moves to the second part of the comparison, “even so.” It seems inescapable that the essential point of correspondence is that of representation, “the one” acting for “the many.” It is important to understand that the term “justification for all” cannot be construed as an offer of justification any more than “condemnation for all” can be construed as an offer. One is as real as the other. How, then, are we to explain the universal terms the Apostle employs? Unless we are prepared to posit a Universalist position, i.e, that all without exception will eventually be justified, we can only explain these phrases in terms of representative headship. The “all” represented by Adam and the “all” represented by Christ are not coextensive. Douglas Moo has wisely commented concerning Paul’s point in this entire passage

This point is that there can be an assurance of justification and life, on the one side, that is just as strong and certain as the assurance of condemnation on the other. Paul wants to show, not how Christ has made available righteousness and life for all, but how Christ has secured the benefits of that righteousness for all who belong to him [Italics his] (Romans, Moo, vol 1, p. 356).

The Pelagian doctrine is that Adam’s posterity is only affected by his bad example. Every individual is born in the same state as that in which Adam and Eve were created. This position faces what, in my view, are insurmountable objections.
A. It does nothing to explain the universality of sin and death. Why would infants who never had opportunity to sin personally and deliberately die in infancy?
B. It does not explain those texts of Scripture that clearly state we are sinners “by nature.” In want sense does Adam’s bad example convey such a nature to us? King David speaks of being “brought forth in iniquity and conceived in sin.” (see Psa. 51:5). Obviously, his prenatal fetus could not have been detrimentally affected by Adam’s bad example.
C. There are those who have never heard of Adam and are ignorant of his bad behavior. How could they be affected by his example. Yet, all without exception have sinned.
D. Given the typology we have discussed, we would have to argue, based on that correspondence, that justification that leads to life comes through following Jesus’ good example, and not by his redemptive representation of his people.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument that they are right. Let’s assume we were all born innocent, in God’s image, and because in God’s image, inclined to holiness and righteousness. In spite of this, every one of us without a single exception has chosen willfully and culpably to rebel against God. “All have sinned!” If God perfectly foresaw what we would do when confronted with the opportunity to sin, and did nothing to prevent such a fall, apart from our having the sheer pleasure of personally damning ourselves, how much different is that from imputing the sin of Adam to us in the first place?

3. If we sinned in Adam, how has this occurred? This question concerns whether Adam was the “seminal” head of the race or the “federal” or “representative” head of the race.

Even those who believe in representative headship do not deny that we were “really” in Adam when he sinned. When Adam sinned, he was the human race. Just as Levi was in the loins of Abraham when the latter paid tithes to Melchizedek, so we were all in the loins of Adam when he rebelled against God. Still, that does not mean we were actually acting with him in partaking of the forbidden fruit. The writer’s point in Hebrews seven is that Abraham, as the progenitor of the Hebrew race, was greater than Levi. Melchizedek’s superiority to Abraham is seen in the latter’s receiving blessing from Melchizedek and paying tithes to him. If Abraham is greater than Levi and Melchizedek is greater than Abraham, then Melchizedek is greater than Levi. In other words, the point is not that Levi was actually there paying tithes, but that one who was greater than he paid tithes and thus showed himself inferior to Melchizedek.

Paul also tells us we, according to divine reckoning and due to our union with Christ, died to the reigning power of sin in the death of Christ. Does that mean we were actually on the cross with him, suffering the same pains and shame he suffered? No! But it is so because God has accounted it to be so. In the same way, Adam stood as our representative because God decreed that he would stand for us and act for us. Even if we adopt the “realistic” instead of the “representative” view, we do not obviate the reality that we were not personally in the garden willfully rebelling against God.


6 Responses to “Arminian Presuppostion #10 Refuted”

  1. January 27, 2013 at 3:33 am

    Man’s desire to lift himself up keeps poking up in various ways of all false teaching.

    I have Moo’s commentary on Romans as a gift from my church. Have not yet used it, but have heard much good about it.

    • January 27, 2013 at 1:09 pm

      Moo is not the easiest to read but worth the trouble. The comment quoted here is worth the price of the commentary in my opinion. Also, his comments on Romans seven are well worth considering.

      I think this outcropping of man’s desire to lift himself up is probably one of the main noxious roots that needs to be excised. If allowed to sprout, it will give rise to numerous other errors.

      Wrong ideas about God and man are the major sources of all false teaching.

      Your critical comments on this chapter in particular would be appreciated. I have almost come to the end of this booklet. I intend to do some editing and send it along to you if you are still interested.

      By free grace alone,


      Sent from my iPad

  2. January 27, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Randy, I am in the middle of studying Rev 9 for a couple of sermons the next 2 Sundays, but would love to review the entire collection. If I can discipline myself I will come back here and review this one and post a couple relevant comments that I pray will help you.

  3. January 27, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    How we view the fallen human will and God’s sovereignty in salvation will shape our efforts in evanbelism, as a church and as individuals. “God doesn’t challenge us to volunteer for Jesus, he commands all people everywhere to repent” – Jim Wilson, Moscow Idaho

  4. February 4, 2013 at 11:46 pm


    In this sentence, the word “ever” should be “every”: “When one high school is competing with another in a basketball game, ever student in the school does not go onto the court.” For what it’s worth, I would much prefer a football example 🙂

    I think you make a very important and seldom made point about heaven. Too many think salvation is escaping hell. That is far too low a view of being reconciled to God! Besides which, heaven is not our home – the new earth is.

    Amen to your explanation of the Romans 5:13 – 14 passage and infants. How sad that Al Mohler believes the all who die n infancy inherit eternal life.

    In your last point, in this sentence, “they” should be “the”: “When Adam sinned, he was they human race.”

    I stand by my earlier comment – excellent post!

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