Every Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!
Can Adam be (merely) a federal head?
I recently finished reading the thought-provoking book, Adam, the Fall, and Original Sin. One area of interest was an essay examining differing views of Adam. Against the notion that Adam could be a mere federal head for humanity (among many other hominids and humans that existed at the time–a kind of theistic evolutionism), the author wrote:
Adam’s imputed sin has no ontological basis [on this view]. If only Africans and Asians, let us say, are true physical descendants of Adam, God will still impute Adam’s sin to Britons and Americans since Adam was also the federal head of all his contemporaries (among whom would have been their ancestors). This divine decree seems unfair and arbitrary since it is not grounded in an antecedent natural reality. (217, cited below)
I found this to be an argument that could trouble those who hold to Adam as mere federal head (rather than “natural head”–here being used to mean that Adam and Eve were the first of all humans and all are descended from them), but I think a few responses would be possible from the theistic evolutionist perspective. First, one could argue that there need be no grounding in a natural reality for Adam’s federal headship. After all, divine fiat should settle the question! Second, one might instead argue that God’s decree of Adam as federal headship itself just is the ontological basis. That is, there is an ontological basis for the condemnation: God’s decree. Third, one might argue that the federal headship of Adam went alongside the giving of the human soul to Adam and Eve and that the other humans were also given souls with Adam as their federal head. I think other possibilities are possible as well.
What do you think? Does this argument undermine the possibility of theistic evolutionism? Are the possible responses good rebuttals? Are there other possible responses?
Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)
Michael Reeves and Hans Madueme, “Threads in a Seamless Garment: Original Sin in Systematic Theology” in Adam, the Fall, and Original Sin edited Hans Madueme and Michael Reeves (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2014).