Friday, November 12, 2010

Imputation and Covenant Theology

Just a few moments ago, I read this section of Walter Chantry's booklet, Imputation of Righteouness & Covenant Theology (which may be read in full here). It explains the nature of the covenants and how God works our "collective bargaining". Now to be fair, Roman Catholics do believe in a doctrine called Original Sin. However, I think they miss the depth of the problem that Adam and his posterity have been plunged into, which is why they vehemently deny Sola Fide. Here is the relevant section:
V. The Histories of Adam & Jesus

In God’s world there is representation or collective bargaining. When the Holy One made the human race, He appointed Adam as our head. The Lord assigned Adam a test that was more than personal. It was a test for Adam and for all whom he represented. Adam was in collective bargaining for himself and for all who would be born of him by natural generation. The consequences of that test would have the most wide-ranging effect and profound impact upon everyone of his posterity, everyone who was in Adam, everyone whom he represented. It was God who set up the mechanism of representation and who appointed the representative. Adam took the test for us all.

In Romans 5:12 the Scriptures speak of this governmental arrangement: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men because all sinned.” This is an astounding statement that one man has brought sin and death upon us all. That is not the common thought people have as to how God is going to deal with us.

When it says in verse 12, “and in this way death came to all men because all sinned,” it is not saying that all sinned because all did the same thing that Adam did. The proof that the verse is not saying that is found in verse 14, where we read, “Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam.” Some never sinned personally as Adam did, but they were in him, represented by him. He acted for them and they die as the consequence of Adam’s first foul deed. Because of one man’s one sinful deed, all are sinners. All are constituted sinners, all are condemned and all are destined to die. Verse 18: “the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men.” Verse 19, “through the disobedience of the one man the many were constituted sinners.” The entire passage is repetitious for emphasis that one act of the one man made many sinners and brought to the many condemnation and death.

What the passage is teaching is that the most horrible realities of our human existence are all the consequences of the one act of one man, our representative, Adam. “In sin your mother conceived you,” (Psalm 51:5) and “from the womb you have been wayward speaking lies,” (Psalm 58:3). Your sinful constitution is the direct result of the one act of the one man in his failure of the representative test. From the first instant of your existence, you have been condemned by God because of the one act of the one man. From the time of your conception, death began to stalk you with the assurance that you were his as a consequence of the one act of the one man.

To be very blunt, God holds you responsible for another man’s act. The Lord is not arbitrary about his. It does not mean that, when you stand before God and the books are opened, you will be credited with the sin of some unknown, distant relative. This mechanism of being credited with another man’s act is only employed in the case of divinely appointed representatives. Adam was such a person.

There is only one other individual who has served in a similar capacity as representative for vast numbers of the human race in God’s scheme of government. Only one other was appointed by God for collective bargaining with heaven on behalf of members of the human race. That other person is Jesus Christ. To show that He is the only man beside Adam to serve as a federal representative, Jesus is called the second Adam, (I Corinthians 15:45).

Romans 5:18, 19 clearly draws the parallel function of Christ and Adam. “Just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all. For just as through the disobedience of the one man, the many were constituted sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be constituted righteous.” Because of the one righteous act of the one man, Jesus Christ, multitudes will be justified before God (declared to have the righteousness of God).

All who were in Adam were constituted sinners, were condemned, and were sentenced to die. All who were in Christ will be constituted righteous, will be justified, and will have eternal life. How can God credit the account of a sinner, like Abraham or like me, with the righteousness of God (Romans 4)? The answer: on the basis of God’s great representative principle, of His governing the human race in a federal manner, of His administering humanity under a covenantal arrangement (Romans 5).

This is a great fact of our world. God governs the human race on a collective basis, under heads whom He appoints. Actions and decisions of the two federal heads are imputed or credited to those whom they represent. In other words, we bear the responsibility for what these representatives have done. In one case, the act of one man led to condemnation and death for a vast multitude. In the other case, the one act of one man led to justification and life for a vast multitude. Our lives are profoundly determined in time and in eternity by representatives. The histories of Adam and Jesus are not merely interesting curiosities of the past. They determine one’s destiny. These two acted for us as representatives.


Anonymous said...

"It is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous." Rom. 2:13
Maybe the best way to get at what you're trying to get at is starting at the beginning. A law has been added to the law by Jesus' crucifixion.
Theodore A. Jones

Howard Fisher said...

Thanks for the comment Theodore.

To be honest, I am not certain what you mean by your statement. Is this the law of faith idea and whatever that may mean? Perhaps the argument that RCs often offer that works done by faith are what justify (even then Protestant could use that terminology but mean something radically different)?

Whatever the case is, I think the article is clear in itself of what Covenant Theology is saying. In other words, Paul's thought in Romans 5.

As for Romans 2:13, this text has been interpreted in one of two ways by Protestants. Either a) no one actually obeys the law and therefore, no one is justified in God's sight as Romans 1-3 explain with the utmost force, or b) the text is descriptive rather than prescrptive, leading to the understanding that those who are truly justified by Christ alone through faith alone by God's grace alone (covenantally speaking) do obey the law (though with abiding sin).

If you are not referring to any of this, then I guessed wrong.

God Bless