The DoubleTap of the Fall

I was recently asked about the difference, or distinction, between the Christian doctrine of inherited guilt and inherited sin. After asking a few clarifying questions I thought I knew what was being asked. Here is my (touched up) response:

Inherited guilt (also known as the doctrine of original sin) refers to the teaching that Adam was our “federal head” (i.e our covenant representative). When God placed Adam in Eden to represent us, what he did, we did (we would do no better). If he heeded, obeyed, and cherished the word of God, his victory would be our victory. But if he disobeyed and rebelled from the word of the Lord, his punishment would be ours too. Sadly, we know how Genesis tells the story. Adam’s fall is our fall. The legal guilt and judicial condemnation (if I may use that language) of his sin is reckoned to those he represented.

You find this same principle of “federal headship” in the case of Achan (Josh. 7) and David (1 Chron. 21)- both negative examples- and Christ, a positive example (Rom. 5). The apostle Paul referred to this in Rom. 5:19:

For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Adam’s “disobedience” led to the status of “sinner” for those united to him. In contrast, the Messiah’s “obedience” led to the status of “righteous” for those united to him by faith. The Westminster Confession of Faith‘s 6th chapter (“Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and the Punishment thereof”) speaks of this in paragraph III:

III. They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed; and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation.

Inherited sin isn’t about the legal/covenantal relationship with Adam but instead speaks to our moral inclinations and deepest heart gravitation since Adam’s fall. When Adam rejected the lordship of Yahweh in Eden he was then “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2, Col. 2), cut off from the tree of life and relationally from the source of all blessing (God himself). Since he was spiritually dead he had no spiritual life to pass on to his progeny. As a result, all people are usurpers, rebels, hostile to God ( Rom. 8:7-8) and his lordship in thought, word, deed, etc. Again the WCF addresses this in paragraph 2 and 3:

II. By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion, with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body.

III. They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed; and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation.

Yes, so we’ve been effectively “double-tapped” by the Fall.

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Posted on March 1, 2012, in Sin. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Wow I was just going over the same point of distinguishing inherited guilt and inherited sin with someone thinking about going to seminary…

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