Tag Archives: Seminal Headship

Genesis 3 to Romans 5:12 – The Garden Exile View

Having spent some time dealing with the judgment of Adam…

  • We need to now contend with how the NT (specifically Paul) understood this judgment.
  • This view is traditionally known as Original Sin.
  • Before we do, we need to do a quick review of God’s judgment of Adam.

 

 

Judgment of Adam:

Genesis 3:17–19 (ESV) — 17 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

 

Genesis 3:23–24 (ESV) — 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

 

Over the last couple of weeks, we saw this judgment had three main aspects.

  • (1) “cursed is the ground” (vs. 17)
  • (2) “to dust you shall return” (vs. 19)
  • (3) “drove out the man” (vs. 24)

 

The first was effectively a reversal of Adam’s relationship to creation – especially food.

  •  “in pain you shall eat
  • eat plants of the field
  • sweat of your face you shall eat bread

 

The idea here is not just a physical hardship, but as we saw with Eve…

  • This reversal brings with it anxiety and mental anguish.

 

The second aspect of the judgment of Adam was his death.

  • Adam was fashioned from the dust of the ground.
  • He would return to the ground – he would die.

 

The third aspect of this judgment is the context for the other two – expulsion from the garden.

  • In other words, the cursed ground would be the ground outside of the garden.
    • No access to the food God provided – so work and mental anguish.
  • And Adam’s death would result from his being outside of the garden.
    • No access to the tree of life God provided – so death.

 

So Adam’s exile from the Garden of Eden was a severing of the access Adam had to:

  • God’s Garden Fellowship
    • Which naturally led to severing of…
  • God’s Garden blessing.
  • God’s Garden life.

 

 

Transition:

Having understood God’s judgment of Adam…

  • It is only natural to ask how the NT viewed it.

 

Douglas Moo elaborates:

“What is the relationship between Adam’s sin and ours? Or, to put it another way, why do all people, without exception, sin?…How is it that the sin of Adam led to the condemnation of all people?” – Douglas Moo.

  • The answer to these questions is located – we are told – in Romans 5:12.

 

 

Romans 5:12:

Romans 5:12 (ESV) — 12 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—

 

To get us started, Michael Bird does a great job at rephrasing our questions to show us what is at stake.

  • Concerning 5:12 and specifically the phrase “because all sinned” he says:
  • “The two main issues raised by this passage are: (1) What impact did Adam’s sin have on the sinfulness of humanity? (2) For which sin is humanity culpable—for Adam’s sin, or each for their own sins?”
  • I would add one more, “(3) For whose sin does humanity die?”

 

We are going to look, very briefly, at 4 takes on how to answer these questions.

  • Keep in mind, “The interpretation of these verses is sharply controversial and infested with difficulties” – Tom Schreiner.

 

After each take, I will ask the same three questions of each take.

  • How does Jesus maintain a sin-free human nature on this view?
  • How does in infant who dies fare salvifically on this view?
  • What are the problems with this view?

 

Why the question about Jesus’ humanity?

  • Orthodox Christianity teaches that Jesus is both 100% God and 100% human.
  • And yet in His humanity, He was without sin.
  • Given humanity’s relationship to the sin of Adam, we have to ask how Jesus was born without sin.

 

Why the question about infants?

  • “While the status of infants and those who never reach moral competence is a difficult question, it appears that our Lord did not regard them as under condemnation” – Millard Erickson.
  • King David’s baby is typically used to support this view.
  • Again, given humanity’s relationship to the sin of Adam, why aren’t infants condemned by their guilt in Adam?

 

The four takes are:

  • (1) Pelagianism
  • (2) Seminal Headship
  • (3) Federal Headship
  • (4) Garden Exile (my label for a hybrid Schreiner/Blocher/Bird view)

 

 

(1) Pelagianism:

This view answers Bird’s questions as follows:

  • “(1) What impact did Adam’s sin have on the sinfulness of humanity?” – Answer: None.
  • “(2) For which sin is humanity culpable—for Adam’s sin, or each for their own sins?” – Answer: Their own.
  • “(3) For whose sin does humanity die?” – Answer: Their own.

 

James Boice sums up this view as follows:

The Pelagian view of Romans 5:12 holds that, “each human being sins in his or her own person, entirely apart from any relationship to Adam, and that the person’s death, which follows, is a consequence of that sin only” – James Boice.

  • On this view, “Adam was merely a bad example” and humans “enter the world with a blank slate” – Michael Bird.

 

Questions –

  • How does Jesus maintain a sin-free human nature on this view? Free from sin.
  • How does in infant who dies fare salvifically on this view? Not condemned?

 

What are the problems with this view?

  • (1) It discounts both the corporate and spiritual aspects of the Fall.
  • As Douglas Moo says, “the ‘sin’ that enters the world is more than an individual sin; it is the bridgehead that paves the way for ‘sinning’ as a condition of humanity” – Douglas Moo.
  • (2) It doesn’t account for the obvious sin that does exist in small children.
  • (3) It doesn’t account for Scripture’s clear teaching that we are born in sin.
    • by nature children of wrath” – Eph. 2:3.

 

 

(2) Seminal Headship:

This view answers Bird’s questions as follows:

  • “(1) What impact did Adam’s sin have on the sinfulness of humanity?” – Answer: Everything (biology).
  • “(2) For which sin is humanity culpable—for Adam’s sin, or each for their own sins?” – Answer: Adam’s and Their Own.
  • “(3) For whose sin does humanity die?” – Answer: Adam’s and Their Own.

 

This view is that of Augustine.

  • Michael Bird sums up Augustine’s Seminal Headship view as follows:

“We inherit our sinful nature from him [Adam]. That sinful nature is transmitted seminally as we were biologically in Adam when he sinned” – Michael Bird.

  • This is the concept of Original Sin – we receive both Adam’s corruption and guilt because we were literally (somehow) biologically in Adam.

 

Questions –

  • How does Jesus maintain a sin-free human nature on this view? Not sure.
  • How does in infant who dies fare salvifically on this view? Not good?

 

What are the problems with this view?

  • How is it that we are legally held responsible for another’s sin before God?
  • How can an individual’s sin have corporate transmission through biology?
  • How is biology related to our legal standing before God?
    • Doesn’t John 9 discount this?

 

 

(3) Federal Headship:

This view answers Bird’s questions as follows:

  • “(1) What impact did Adam’s sin have on the sinfulness of humanity?” – Answer: Everything (representatively).
  • “(2) For which sin is humanity culpable—for Adam’s sin, or each for their own sins?” – Answer: Adam’s and Their Own.
  • “(3) For whose sin does humanity die?” – Answer: Adam’s and Their Own.

 

This is the view of a majority of scholars I read.

  • Essentially it means this…
  • “Adam acted on behalf of all persons. There was a sort of contract between God and Adam as our representative, so that what Adam did binds us” – Millard Erickson.

“God appointed Adam the head or representative of the race, so that he would stand for them and they would be accounted either just or sinful on the basis of his obedience to or disobedience of God’s command” – James Boice.

 

The result of this federal transmission of Adam’s sin is that:

  • “The sin of Adam is the sin of all” – John Murray.
  • “His sin is our sin, his guilt is our guilt” – John Frame.
  • “All people, therefore, stand condemned ‘in Adam,’ guilty by reason of the sin all committed ‘in him’ – Douglas Moo.

 

So it is similar to Augustine’s seminal view except for the method of transmission.

  • Adam’s sin wasn’t transmitted biologically, it was transmitted representatively.
    • A deeply covenantal view of Adam’s sin.
  • In this way, both the corporate and individual implications of the Fall are maintained.
  • And the textual/biological problems of Augustine’s view are avoided.

 

However, there is an admission of mystery with representative transmission.

  • “The sin of Adam was in some sense our own sin, and therefore God is right to judge us for it” – John Frame.
  • For some reason the one sin of the one man Adam is accounted to be the sin of all” – John Murray.

 

Interestingly, on this view the fact that infants die is counted as evidence by some that they are guilty of Adam’s sin.

  • If they die (death is result of sin) before there own sin, they must have Adam’s sin.
  • I supposed the same would apply to the seminal view.

 

Questions –

  • How does Jesus maintain a sin-free human nature on this view? Not sure.
  • How does in infant who dies fare salvifically on this view? Not good?

 

What are the problems with this view?

  • How is it that we are legally held responsible for another’s sin before God?
  • How can an individual’s sin have corporate transmission via representation?
  • Where does Genesis 3 state Adam was our representative head in such a way that we were “in” him?

 

 

(4) Garden Exile:

This view answers Bird’s questions as follows:

  • “(1) What impact did Adam’s sin have on the sinfulness of humanity?” – Answer: Made it a surety.
  • “(2) For which sin is humanity culpable—for Adam’s sin, or each for their own sins?” – Answer: Their Own*.
  • “(3) For whose sin does humanity die?” – Answer: Their Own*.

 

This view disagrees with the notion that when Adam sinned all sinned.

“When Paul says ‘all sinned,’ he indeed means that every human being has personally sinned” – Tom Schreiner.

  • As opposed to the idea that we all sinned in Adam.
  • “It seems unlikely…that Paul is arguing…that people die because of Adam’s sin” – Tom Schreiner.

 

So what is the corporate aspect of this view?

  • Our two answers above were both “Their Own”.
  • Seemingly indicating agreement with the Pelagian view.
  • How does it avoid the Pelagian view’s rejection of any corporate effects from Adam’s sin?

 

To answer this, we need to view it through the lens of Adam’s judgment we reviewed above.

  • Adam’s sin severed…
  • God’s Garden Fellowship.
    • Which naturally led to severing of…
  • God’s Garden blessing.
  • God’s Garden life.

 

In my opinion, this is the key to this view.

  • Adam was exiled from Garden Fellowship – naked and ashamed.
  • The Garden, naked and unashamed, and the tree of life were all lost.

 

Adam sinned; was exiled from the Garden and as a result died.

  • His Garden Exile alienated him from God.

 

So because all of us were also born outside of Garden Fellowship, we too will die.

  • Because all of us were born outside of Garden Fellowship, we were born alienated from God and so will sin.
  • Because all of us were born outside of Garden Fellowship, we are “children of wrath”.

 

Tom Schreiner puts it as follows:

“As a result of Adam’s sin, death entered the world and engulfed all people; all people enter the world alienated from God and spiritually dead by virtue of Adam’s sin. By virtue of entering the world in the state of death (i.e., separated from God), all human beings sin” – Tom Schreiner.

 

Henri Blocher puts it this way:

  • “Sin entered the world through Adam.”
  • “Death is the consequence of the sin of Adam.”
  • “Death has spread to the whole human race.”
  • “Human beings, because they enter the world alienated from God, sin.”

 

For these reasons, Schreiner would paraphrase the end of 5:12 as follows:

  • Instead of the ESV’s, “and so death spread to all men because all sinned”.
  • He suggests, “On the basis of death entering the world through Adam all people sinned.”
  • He (with Fitzmyer) shows why this is linguistically valid (not my concern here).

 

So, the corporate aspect of Adam’s sin taught by Paul’s words is simply this:

  • “The sin of all is a consequence of death entering the world through Adam” – Tom Schreiner.
  • Our alienation and separation from God are due to Adam’s sin, and thus we sin as a result of being born into the world separated from God’s life” – Tom Schreiner.
  • Therefore, Paul is not referring to Adam’s sin being in us like the 2nd and 3rd views above.

 

Another way to look at this is by simply saying this:

  • Because Adam sinned and was exiled from Garden Fellowship he died.
  • Because of this, all of us are born exiled from Garden Fellowship – so we sin and we die.

 

Questions –

 

How does Jesus maintain a sin-free human nature on this view?

  • In His humanity, Jesus was not born having sinned in Adam.

 

But how does He escape the certainty of sin from being born in Garden Exile?

  • This is simple – Jesus wasn’t born in Garden Exile alienated from God.
  • As God and man, He was born in Garden Fellowship.
  • He was born naked and unashamed – not naked and ashamed.
  • So he was spiritually alive and not spiritually dead like the rest of us.

 

How does an infant who dies fare salvifically on this view?

  • Maybe, because they aren’t guilty of Adam’s sin, and haven’t reached the age of accountability, they are innocent and thus saved.
  • However, their righteousness still must come from Christ and His work.

 

What are the problems with this view?

  • I suspect James Boice’s concern would be put forward.
  • For the parallel to Christ as the new Adam to hold, “we must also be declared sinful on the basis of Adam’s sin and not merely on the fact that we sin personally”.
  • In other words, Christ’s righteousness is imputed to all of us – so Adam’s sin was also “imputed” to all of us.

 

One possible answer:

  • It can simply be said that by our Union with Christ (His death and resurrection), God brings us back into Garden Fellowship – both physically and spiritually.
  • Just as our union with Adam’s Garden Exile exiled us from the Garden physically and spiritually.
  • No to mention the Adam as historical and Jesus as historical parallel.
  • So, many parallels still hold.

 

BTW – we can also use Paul’s own words to maintain the parallel.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:21–22 (ESV) — 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

 

Moreover this view’s strengths seem to be:

  • It avoids Pelagianism.
  • Accounts for what happened in the Garden in a fuller way.
  • Provides the best answers to our questions concerning Jesus and infants.

 

 

Conclusion on Romans 5:12:

Whichever view we embrace we need to do so humbly.

  • And we must not forget some of the main points of Paul’s Romans 5 discourse.

 

Main Point:

  • “Paul plainly asserts that all people stand in a relationship to one of two men, Adam and Christ, and their relationship with them determines their eternal destiny” – Michael Bird.
  • “In Adam the race has experienced sin, leading to condemnation and death, while in Christ believers have experienced righteousness, leading to justification and eternal life” – James Boice.
  • “Believers shift from the epoch of sin, death, and condemnation associated with Adam’s transgression to the epoch of righteousness, life, and justification associated with the obedience of the new Adam” – Michael Bird.

 

Plus it answers the following question:

“Why do people so consistently turn from good to evil of all kinds? Paul affirms in this passage that human solidarity in the sin of Adam is the explanation—and whether we explain this solidarity in terms of sinning in and with Adam or because of a corrupt nature inherited from him does not matter at this point [or Garden Exile]. On any view, this, the biblical, explanation for universal human sinfulness, appears to explain the data of history and experience as well as, or better than, any rival theory” – Douglas Moo.