In the New Testament, Paul tells us in Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because all sinned.” But, didn’t Satan actually bring sin into the world? And then, of humans, wasn’t Eve the one who sinned first? Why is all the blame being dumped on Adam? In fact, if we continue to Romans 5:15–19, we read that condemnation resulted for everyone because Adam’s sin affected everyone. How did Adam’s sin affect everyone, especially, as we must then realize, Eve’s sin did not?
There are two steps to this answer. The first step lies in how sin translates to all of us. Let’s consider a very brief review of how original sin passes to us all. Related to this question is how our spirits come about. Two ways have been argued. The first way is called traducianism. It is the notion that our spirits—like our bodies—are somehow derived from our parents. Although our parents’ spirits don’t have parts like our parents’ bodies do, still in some unknown manner, this view sees the united spirits of parents giving birth to their child’s spirit. Since, in traducianism, the child’s spirit comes from the parents’ spirits, and the parent’s spirits are cursed by sin, so also is the child’s spirit cursed by sin as it comes into being.
However, sticking strictly to the purpose for this idea—how original sin passed to us—we find Scripture seemingly totally against this view.
Romans 2:6 (Ps 62:12; Pr 24:12)—God repays each according to personal works.
Ezekiel 18:20—The person who sins is the one who will die. A son won’t suffer punishment for the father’s iniquity.
Deuteronomy 1:39—Your little children, whom you said would be plunder, your sons, who don’t know good from evil, will enter there. (God speaking to children of Israel who, in fear, refused to enter the Promised Land.)
Ecclesiastes 12:7—And the dust returns to the earth as it once was and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
Revelation 20—In speaking of everlasting punishment for sin, no mention is made of anyone suffering for anything more than his or her own sin.
Therefore, from Scripture’s insistence, it would seem that traducianism is not the answer to how original sin is passed. Opposed to the traducian idea is the view of creationism, which argues that each spirit is created by God at conception. If we do not inherit guilt based on the passage of spirits, this option seems more realistic. However, if every spirit is newly created, we again seem to be without explanation for how original sin affects us.
To claim creationism and provide an answer for original sin’ effect in condemning us all, the idea of federal headship was developed. It argues that unlike traducianism, Adam was not the natural father of our spirits, but rather he is the federal, or representational, head of the human race. His sin is not inherited, but rather God imputes Adam’s sin to us all. The view is harsh but embraced because it seems like the only way to account for the impact of original sin on the rest of the human race. However, (1) federal headship, like traducianism, still stands opposed to the idea explicitly stressed in all those verses quoted above in which God argues that people stand on their own, (2) there is no scriptural support (other than misinterpretation of Romans 5) for the idea, and (3) there is no covenantal support that the attitude of the original covenant maker extends to all those under the covenant. (For example, Abraham’s faith established his covenant with God. But Abraham’s faith is not imputed to the nations to give them the promised covenantal blessing. Each person must have his or her own faith.)
But in rejecting both traducianism and federal headship, we are not left without an answer. The failure of traducianism and federal headship is in regard to making the curse, and thus the impact of original sin, pass through the spirit. However, the curse of original sin passes through—or rather, exists on—our physical essence. Physical creation was cursed. Our bodies, part of physical creation, carry that curse. And it is our bodies then which condemn us based on Adam’s sin.
Our second step seeks an answer to why it was Adam’s sin that cursed creation rather than Eve’s sin. Eve sinned first. But God (and Paul) point to Adam as the one whose sin reaches out to the condemnation of us all (Rom 5:15–19).
The answer very much relates to motive. Eve was deceived into thinking that eating the fruit had no ill effect for their relationship with God. The deception—the altering of reality to a lie—was getting Eve to believe that eating the fruit would be a good thing regarding their relationship with God. That was the deception, but since it was, although she certainly did do wrong by following her own ideas rather than God’s direction, she did not do so in open hostility to her relationship with God.
Adam choice, however, came along a different path. Adam was fully aware that in choosing in favor of relationship with his own essence he was rejecting relationship with God. And since humankind had been given possession/control/dominion over creation (Gen 1:26, 28, 29), that choice made by Adam’s spirit for his flesh tore creation away from God, resulting in its curse.
So, often we consider the result of Adam’s sin a punishment inflicted by God, as if God, being unhappy with Adam, decided to throw a lightning bolt at the earth in petty anger that Adam had chosen something else as his god. But the curse on physical creation was no arbitrary choice of God’s. God’s curse on the earth was a necessary result from the wedge Adam hammered between God and creation. Adam, one of the designated (by God) rulers of creation, used his rulership to divorce it from God’s blessing. And when something—anything, anyone—is removed from God’s blessing, it is cursed. Creation was cursed by God, but it was Adam who caused the curse.
And that, I believe, is what Paul’s point is in the middle of his Romans 8 redemption chapter. Here’s how Romans 8:18–21 reads in the HCSB: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. For the Creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it—in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s children.”
Punctuation is not in the Greek manuscripts. It is invented by the translators based on their interpretation. Ninety-nine percent of the time, it is a no-brainer. Our translations generally make sense. In this case, however, the em dashes in this passage are misplaced—at least the first one is. Removing the parenthetical element within the em dashes (or commas in other translations) provides no sense to the meaning of the passage. God did not subject the creation to futility in order to hope for it to be set free. That is a trivial, silly idea. The first em dash should be backed up to the beginning of verse 20. By doing so, we can understand that creation “eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. . . . in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free.” Now, that makes sense, and it fits with the whole point of the chapter—creation (our physical essence) will be redeemed at Christ’s return when we, the saved, come in to our glory with God.
But notice in that parenthetical stretch in the bulk of verse 20, there is one who subjects creation to futility. Most translators imply this one who subjects is God. However, as we found in Genesis 3, it is Adam, not God, who subjects creation to its curse. Absolutely God curses—he withholds his blessing of TGB, and that is the curse. But it is Adam who caused this curse to occur. It is Adam who, by his intentional removal of creation from the blessing of God, causes the curse and the subjection.
Therefore, Adam’s sin was a conscious choice for creation over God. Eve was deceived and still believed her relationship with God would not end. Adam knew otherwise. Because of Adam’s choice (not Eve’s) creation was cursed. And it is that curse on physical creation—the one essence of us all—that, therefore, affects us all.
Now, this central idea of curse on physical essence is the point of our impossibility to overcome our estrangement from relationship with God. And it is that estrangement that must be overcome in the atonement.
Kinship theology is the theological view that God necessarily interacts with his creation on the basis of love relationship. And he does so because in his essential nature of truth, goodness, and beauty, he lives always and only in that one essence by his personal, communal activity of faith, hope, and love. Let’s take a look at the seven foundational principles of Kinship Theology. In those basic ideas, the whole idea of sin, estrangement, physical curse, redemption, and restoration take hold.
#1—God is the eternal infinite, self-conscious being. He exists as one essence of truth, goodness, and beauty. He exists as three persons operating according to his essence in faith, hope, and love, with love as his principal attribute.
Here is the definition of God, wholly entrenched in his primary attribute of love. This idea is essential for understanding how and why God interacts with his creation. The love basis is supreme.
#2—Creation is God’s conception and formation of all that is not God, generated for the purpose of supporting everlasting love relationship with the crown of that creation—human beings—made as image bearers of God.
#3—The Fall occurred when Adam chose relationship with physical creation rather than relationship with God as the more desirable means to satisfy his own passion for truth, goodness, and beauty. Adam was of the first pair of image bearers to whose spirits were given possession and rulership of physical creation. Therefore, by Adam’s choice, he effected the separation of physical creation from God, causing (1) it to be cursed by God and (2) his spirit, along with all human spirits, to become enslaved to his (and their) own cursed essence.
#4—God’s restoration goal is the return to love relationship with his image bearers. Restoration requires forgiveness: (1) extending mercy to human spirits individually guilty of sin and (2) redemption—removing the common curse of human physical essence and gaining back spirit dominion over its essence. God purchased redemption by, first, coming as human (Jesus) in cursed flesh to (1) bear God’s image perfectly, despite the influence of the cursed flesh, and (2) put that flesh to death, conquering its dominion. Second, in his resurrection, Jesus reclaimed his conquered flesh as firstfruits of the still-to-come full redemption of all physical creation.
#5—Restoration participants are those elected by faith (also called faith electionism). God does offer mercy and redemption to sinful humans to restore love relationship; however, since love relationship is the desired result, God’s absolution can be applied to only those who desire that relationship. Love is not true love if coerced. Thus, the faith of the human is necessary to receive forgiveness, which involves both the mercy absolving individual guilt and the participation in redemption (the removal of the curse of physical essence).
#6—The restoration result necessarily includes full redemption—the application of Christ’s victory in removing the curse and restoring physical creation to its initial and intended place. In this full redemption, the Christian’s hope is realized (Ro 8:23b–24a). Because all physical creation is restored together, the gaining of our new bodies, the start of the new heavens and new earth, and the judgmehnt of the wicked must all occur together at the coming of Christ (Tit 2:13).
#7—In the kingdom of the world, hierarchy and authority are used to control people to (ostensibly) prevent wrongdoing. In the kingdom of Christ, image bearers live according to God’s truth, goodness, and beauty held as a matter of the heart (Jer 31:33) and expressed through love (John 13:34). Interaction of the Christian community is characterized by relational strengthening. We uphold each other and the oneness of our essence through the submission of selfish desire in favor of the good of the whole. We do so by reciprocally using our God-given strengths for the benefit of those who are more vulnerable in those areas. By doing so, we knit our lives in mutual joy and fulfillment.