Imputation, active obedience, covenant headship, and the 2 Adams

Something Doug wrote gives me a chance to ask a question that has been bothering me.

This test — that of obeying God throughout the course of my life — was a test I flunked in my first father Adam, and which I passed with flying colors in the founder of the last humanity, the Lord Jesus.

Assuming the obedience Adam was to continue in was one that would bring about a new stage for humanity, what evidence do we have that each and every individual who came from Adam was supposed to pass this test for themselves for this result–a new age? If they weren’t supposed to do so, then in what sense would it have been necessary, had Adam passed this test, for that moral work to be imputed to his posterity?

Also, if Adam had confirmed us in righteousness so that none of his posterity would ever sin, would it have been necessary to also impute his active obedience to them?

That problem has been bothering me when I read either Norman Shepherd or those who diametrically oppose him. To my mind, it is something that needs to be asked but never is.

4 thoughts on “Imputation, active obedience, covenant headship, and the 2 Adams

  1. John

    Questions like that occassionally cross my admittedly feeble mind, but then I think: “This question is a hypothetical question that really has no answer, because it didn’t happen that way. God very rarely lets us see the results of might-have-beens, and then only on mostly inconsequential things. On a matter of this magnitude I think that this question would fall in the Deut. 29:29 category.

  2. mark Post author

    But John, the covenant of works doctrine would not exist without this speculation about what would have happened to Adam and to his posterity.

  3. Eric Parker

    I think some folks run into problems here due to a legal/ontological dichotomy. Christ’s perfect obedience to the Law was necessary because disobedience is sin and sin is a corruption of the imago Dei. I think imputation is a product of union. Adam’s posterity would have been imputed everything which was his due to their blood union with him. The question is ‘would the imputation of Adam’s obedience to his posterity be necessary considering their being non passe peccare?’ If one doesn’t make a hard distinction between the legal and the ontological the answer is ‘yes.’ If we tag along with Irenaeus (that God required maturity) then the imputation of Adam’s succesful passing of the test would be needed in order for his posterity to receive a perfect nature which is non posse peccare (i.e. a mature nature).

  4. garver

    Eric’s comment seems right to me. Jesus’ bodily resurrection just was his legal declaration to be in right-standing before the divine court.

    Similarly, our being born into the world as the children of Adam, in bondage to sin and death, just is the imputation of Adam’s sin. God’s imputative verdict over us takes the form of brokenness, ruin, and death.

    So, it seems to be, had Adam obeyed and his posterity live in a transfigured world, bought to its eschatological end, and matured beyond the possibility of falling into sin, then that state of affair justwould be the imputation of Adam’s representative obedience.


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