Imputed Injustice

It is my empirically justified belief that modern Protestant Evangelicalism, and particularly its seminarian elite, have little comprehension of the nature and principles of Justice, including that of due process. In this, the seminarians have seriously failed to uphold the triumvirate of concerns that Christ Jesus deemed primary: judgment/justice, faith, and compassion (Matt 23:23). And if one does not comprehend the nature and principles of Justice, one cannot comprehend the Justice in the Justification in the Atonement.

I am not keen on citing myself as an authoritative source. I would rather leave such quasi-divine pretentions to Canadian Supreme Court Madam Justice Claire L’Heureux-Dubé in one of those “No Means No” sexual consent cases. However, in the absence of someone else who shares my conclusions, the observations and arguments contained within the citation, rather than the credentials and merits of its author, must do.

One of those many grievous ecclesiastical follies to which God, in his superior wisdom and knowledge of my psychological constitution (Ps 139: 1–18), shielded me from knowing through long Bunyanesque ordeal and psychosis, was the theological and judicial travesty of the imputation of Adam’s sin guilt upon all of his descendants. I would have been like this gorgeous lad, (although less gorgeous), which Faith Today deployed to model those Millennials who reject the faith of their parents.

Rejecter of the Faith

I recall gratingly resenting being “punished” by dimwitted primary school teachers who thought it prudent to keep a whole classroom after school until a perpetrator of mischief fessed up to his trifling infraction. From upon such trivial personal incidents, whole philosophical frameworks can and have been formulated.[1]

Therefore, I would have rejected the Christian faith outright and probably never give it another thought except in virulent hostility, if I had first heard of the doctrine of the imputed sin of Adam. Of course, such pompous charlatans like R.C. Sproul would have clamored that my rejection falls under the Sovereign Will of God. However, such dogmatic insensitivity neglects the biblical maxim that there will be some damned, not because of the unreceptivity of the Gospel in their hearts, but in the disobedience and incompetence of the messengers (Rom 10:14–5). May the doctrine of the Sovereignty of God remain intact, but the secondary means of unbelief can differ.

On the basis of a single passage (Romans 5:12–21), which has been conveniently massaged by English translators from the original Greek, most Reformed Evangelicals claim that humanity is collectively guilty in Adam through their genus participation (Tertullian’s traducianism) or most often as having been federally represented by Adam. The first notion of collective justice is a derivative from the ancestral religion of ancient Roman, whereby the genius of the whole family (of humanity) resides in the patriarchal head of that family, Adam. The federal head representative derives, I would contend, from Philistine and/or Greek justice.

Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us. (1 Sam 17:8–9)

Shepherd boy David met the challenge of Goliath. But it was Goliath, the Philistine, who had proposed these federal representative terms of future status. The notion of judicial champions (Adam and Christ) of their respective teams derives from Philistine justice. Or one can also cite the Greeks.

Hear me, Trojans and Achaeans, that I may speak even as I am minded; Zeus on his high throne has brought our oaths and covenants to nothing, and foreshadows ill for both of us, till you either take the towers of Troy, or are yourselves vanquished at your ships. The princes of the Achaeans are here present in the midst of you; let him, then, that will fight me stand forward as your champion against Hektor. Thus I say, and may Zeus be witness between us. If your champion slay me, let him strip me of my armor and take it to your ships, but let him send my body home that the Trojans and their wives may give me my dues of fire when I am dead. In like manner, if Apollo grant me glory and I slay your champion, I will strip him of his armor and take it to the city of Ilion, where I will hang it in the temple of Apollo, but I will give up his body, that the Achaeans may bury him at their ships, and the build him a tomb by the wide waters of the Hellespont. Then will one say hereafter as he sails his ship over the sea, ‘This is the marker of one who died long since a champion who was slain by mighty Hektor.’ Thus will one say, and my fame shall not be lost.[2]

However, Hebrew Scriptures condemns the concept of collective guilt, although allowing for the consequences of sin to be visited upon the descendants of the perpetrator of trespass and sin.

Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin. (Deut 24:16)

But he did not put to death the children of the murderers, according to what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, where the Lord commanded, “Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. But each one shall die for his own sin.” (2 Kings 14:6; cf. 2 Chron 25:4)

The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. (Ezek 18:20)

But while R.C. Sproul, John Piper, and pretty much the whole Reformed Magisterium (Edwards, Warfield, Pink, Murray, Boyce, etc.) will acknowledge that the judicial principle found in Hebrew Scriptures is a “grand principle of God’s justice,” apparently God is not so beholden to His own grand principles.

To be sure, that general principle is set forth in Ezekiel. It is a grand principle of God’s justice. Yet we dare not make it an absolute principle. If we do, then the text of Ezekiel would prove too much. It would prove away the atonement of Christ. If it is never possible for one person to be punished for the sins of another, then we have no Savior. Jesus was punished for our sins. That is the very essence of the gospel. Not only was Jesus punished for our sins, but his righteousness is the meritorious basis for our justification. We are justified by an alien righteousness, a righteousness that is not our own. If we press Ezekiel’s statement to the absolute limit when we read, “The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself,” then we are left as sinners who must justify themselves.[3]

Hereby, rigorous rational consistency, and the universal and ahistorical immutability of the principles of justice (“Until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” – Matt 5:18), and of the character of God (“For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed” – Mal 3:6), surrender to situational ethics, relativism, and caprice.

Oh yes, such muse. A foundational principle of Justice, explicitly, clearly, and repeatedly published by God (Matt 16:27, Job 34:11, Rev 22:12), is indeed a grand principle. But let us not be too inerrant in interpreting His inerrant Word, lest we undermine our own hope.

In this, the god of the Reformed is apparently above His own principles and any immutable fidelity to them, whenever the spirit moves him. The god of the Reformed has a Napoleonic complex, to cite Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment (1866). Or a Nixonian complex – “When the [Sovereign God] does it, that means that it is not [unjust],” to paraphrase Richard Nixon (1977). Whatever God deems Good in the moment is indeed Good, to modernize Euthyphro’s assertion.

But hereby, the biblical declaration that “righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne” (Ps 97:2; cf. Ps 89:14) becomes but Soviet-style propagandist sham. There can be neither genuine security nor sound peace of mind for any sensible and conscious subject under such tyrannical caprice. Nor can there be genuine communion between God and man, when there lacks a common and consistent modus operandi by which we both interrelate.

This incoherence is oft wrapped in a defecated tissue of Mystery. If patriotism be the last refuge of a scoundrel, appeals to Mystery are oft the last refuge of religious charlatans to dupe the gullible into ignoring the evident absurdity of their theological speculations. And like Romanist priests of old, many of these Reformed dogmatists arrogantly insist upon conformity to their incoherence, casting moralistic aspersions upon they who would dare to dissent.

Yet we still quarrel. We still contend with the Almighty. We still assume that somehow God did us wrong and that we suffer as innocent victims of God’s judgment. Such sentiments only confirm the radical degree of our fallenness. When we think like this, we are thinking like Adam’s children. Such blasphemous thoughts only underline in red how accurately we were represented by Adam.[4]

Be it true that “the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them” (1 Cor 2:14). But any religious charlatan can and has likewise claimed that same argument and aspersion. It is one thing for the Gospel to be rejected for that which it is. It is another for that which it is not (Ezek 33:8). Unwillingness to accept a doctrine can be less a matter of epistemological inability and moral incorrigibility of the hearers than that the doctrine itself is puerile sheep shit. In light of acknowledged incoherence, surely humble circumspection should have prevailed.

If we are to be imitators of God (Eph 5:1), I should never want to have a Reformed theologian as a judge/ruler of any ecclesiastical or sociopolitical jurisdiction, if such can legislate principles to which they themselves are not bound.

The doctrine of Original Guilt proves to be an impediment to faith and a reason for the name of God to be blasphemed among the nations (Rom 2:24), perhaps even more so than the Joel Osteens of the world. The serious and fair minded outsider, having long been familiar with television evangelists and their dupes, can easily dismiss the obvious snake oil salesmen with perfect teeth smile, and the little oysters who march joyously into the mouth of those salesmen. But a long standing heterodoxy, promoted by a long standing ecclesiastical orthodoxy, gives greater justification to disdain and despise Christianity for its evident absurdity and injustice. I know with absolute certainty that upon this theological and judicial travesty alone, I would have had rejected the Gospel.

See Next: Imputed Injustice – Calvin Against the Calvinists

[1] Friedrich Nietzsche, “Prejudices of Philosophers,” in Beyond Good and Evil, 1886, Translated by Helen Zimmern, 1906, reprinted in Courier Dover Publications, New York, 1997, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/4363/4363-h/4363-h.htm#link2HCH0001.

[2] Homer, The Iliad, ca. 750 BC., Trans. by Samuel Butler, (London, Longmans, Green and Co., 1898), 7.67 – 91. Also a challenge between Paris and Menelaus 3.85 – 94.

[3] R.C. Sproul, Chosen by God, (Wheaton, Il:Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1994 (1986)), “Adam's Fall and Mine”, (Electronic Version), Accessed http://www.the-highway.com/fall_Sproul.html on June 15, 2014.

[4] Sproul, Chosen by God, “Adam's Fall and Mine”.
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