Dr. Harwood rightly advises,
We don’t want to build a theological system on a single text. Also, we want to avoid eisegesis (reading our theological pre-commitments into the text). So, we’ll broaden the investigation by examining the inherited sinful nature view through the lenses of biblical theology, systematic theology, and historical theology.
I would caution that neither do we want to build a theological system on a single, narrow question, such as whether or not God holds each man guilty for Adam’s sin. Unfortunately, this seems to be what he is doing. Broadening the investigation sounds good; but he provides little depth as he follows through. Dr. Harwood challenges us, “Let’s affirm what the Bible affirms and resist any theological system—even our own—which demands we affirm more than the Bible clearly reveals.” Is it not just as important to discover all that the Bible reveals? To affirm what the Bible affirms about any doctrine requires that we note everything that the Bible has to say regarding the issue in question. The Witness of Scripture ought not to be treated like a witness in court, and forced to answer only “Yes,” or, “No,” to a question framed in such a narrow way that the full truth of the matter is obscured.
The full Biblical truth of the relation of mankind to the sin of Adam remains obscured if one only asks about individual accountability and guilt. The Witness of Scripture should be allowed to tell the whole truth, and this requires that we also ask what relation has mankind to Adam himself.—What is the nature of our solidarity with him and his sin? Unfortunately, Dr. Harwood does not address that question in this paper, and so his investigation is left wanting.
Dr. Harwood provides twenty-one passages of Scripture in support of his contention that God holds men accountable only for their sins as individuals. He frequently repeats the phrase, “no mention of Adam’s guilt.” But one has to wonder whose guilt God had in mind in some of these examples he listed. Whose guilt justified God in destroying all the children of Sodom and Gomorrah, in Gen. 19? Whose guilt justified God in killing the firstborn of Egypt, in Ex. 12? Whose guilt justified God in killing Achan’s children, in Josh. 7? Whose guilt justified God in killing David’s baby son, in 2 Sam. 12? Why is it that God told Abraham that if He finds only ten righteous people in Sodom, He will spare the city—and then He killed all those children? I repeat Dr. Harwood’s challenge to embrace the Reformers’ cry of Sola Scriptura… and look to the words of these men I cite:
Heb. 7:9 And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham. 10For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him.
If it had been only Levi’s body that was said to be in Abraham, then Levi could not have done anything. Scripture
consistently presents the parental relation of the father in this manner.
Gen. 35:11 And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins;
Gen. 46:26 All the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt, which came out of his loins, besides Jacob’s sons’ wives, all the souls were threescore and six;
2 Kings 5:27 The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.
In this passage, Gehazi is cursed with leprosy—and all his descendants forever. Such a curse parallels the depravity that fell upon Adam and all his descendants. The fact that every descendant of Gehazi, no matter how many generations removed, bears the full curse of his leprosy, implies that every descendant was “in the loins of” Gehazi in a responsible, participative, real way.
In Deut. 5:9, God makes a startling statement about such generational consequences: “…I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me…” Much the same is found in Ex. 20:5; 34:7; Jer. 32:18.
The reason that God was justified in killing the children of Sodom and Gomorrah (and of David, Achan, etc.) was that all men sinned while still in the loins of Adam. While I agree that the Bible does indeed affirm that God holds individuals personally accountable before His Judgment Seat for only their own sins as individuals, it also is clear from Scripture that God held the nature of mankind accountable while it was still within Adam, and brought down several temporal judgments upon that human nature—judgments that are not personal to any individual (except Adam and Eve) but are impersonal, natural consequences upon all members of the race. One of those natural consequences is the fact that we are mortal and are not promised any length of days—God has a right to decide when and how each of us dies, and none who sinned in Adam has any grounds for complaint.
In Part 2, the Realistic alternative was set out in order to demonstrate how well the realist position can illuminate the Adam-Christ parallel found in Rom. 5:12-19. However, adopting the Augustinian principle of a real participation in Adam’s sin does not require one to adopt the full realist view. If you would prefer to leave the explanation of how we could have been in Adam in such a real way as to participate in his sin to mystery, and simply affirm the bare Biblical fact that all were in Adam in that real, participative way, you have much in common with most of the Church from the Reformation to the nineteenth century. There is an important difference between affirming that the nature of all men participated in Adam’s sin and explaining the metaphysics of how such a real union occurred. While the affirmation was nearly universal in the early churches of the Reformation, only a minority of explicit realists attempted to explain it. The Church was satisfied without an explanation, but nonetheless stood firmly on the revealed truth of Scripture. Robert W. Landis (who was neither a traducianist nor an explicit realist), The Doctrine of Original Sin, (Richmond: Whittet & Shepperson, 1884), pp. 11-13, states:
The doctrine… which had been plainly announced by Augustine, and always entertained by the Calvinistic church, affirms (1), The natural and federal headship of Adam; (2), That the threatening in Genesis 2:17, included not only the loss of original righteousness, but spiritual and eternal death; and (3), That in this threatening both Adam and his posterity were included; and consequently, that all the evils which his posterity suffer result from the first transgression, since in that transgression (as Paul affirms) they “all sinned,” and were thus constituted… veritable sinners. In other words, they, by participating in that offense, became culpable; and hence from that first sin, wherein “all sinned,” originated the hereditary corruption in which we all are born. This was and is our position, and the doctrine thus defined has always been the faith of our Church…
…The Protestant Church, as we have stated, held and taught that the posterity of Adam participated in the first offense, and that therefore it was justly imputed to them, as well as to our first parents themselves, who were guilty of its formal perpetration…
…[The Church] has always disclaimed every attempt at philosophical solution, and is, therefore… quite as unwilling to sanction the solution which philosophical realism proposes as to sanction the solution proffered by nominalism. She has always accepted the inspired statement (that “all sinned” ) as a fact; and in that fact, though of itself wholly inexplicable, her inner consciousness has ever recognized an explanatory principle, which furnishes an intelligible and all-sufficient basis for the solution of all the great problems which have been started respecting the calamities of the race, and their reconcilableness with the holiness, justice and goodness of God.
Not only would affirming the Augustinian principle bring Calvinists and Traditionalists closer together on this issue, it would also strengthen both positions right where they are. Those who hold to an imputed condemnation would not have to compromise that position, but would instead find much stronger ground for justifying such a doctrine. And those who deny inherited condemnation but affirm an inherited sin nature (as well as acknowledging that many temporal consequences result from Adam’s sin) would not have to compromise that position, but would instead find a much stronger reason for inheriting the consequences of what someone else perpetrated.
I want to echo Dr. Harwood’s sentiments by saying that “these are family differences.. Family members sometimes disagree but they love and support one another—even in troubling times.” I admire Dr. Harwood and agree with much of what he teaches. I sincerely hope that he receives this critique as it was intended: as a means by which iron may sharpen iron, and not as in any way against him personally.