Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | December 2, 2007

Lord’s Day Quote: Francis Turretin

For the bond between Adam and his posterity is twofold: (1) natural, as he is the father and we are his children; (2) political and forensic, as he was the prince and representative head of the whole human race.  Therefore the foundation of imputation is not only the natural connection which exists between us and Adam (since, in that case, all his sins might be imputed to us), but mainly the moral and federal (in virtue of which God entered into covenant with him as our head).  Hence Adam stood in that sin not as a private person, but as a public and representative person – representing all his posterity in that action and whose demerit equally pertains to all.

For Adam to be a public and representative person, it was not necessary that that office should be committed to him by us, so that be might act as much in our name as in his own.  It is sufficient that there intervened the most just ordination of God according to which he willed Adam to be the root and head of the whole human race, who therefore not only for himself only but also for his (posterity) should receive or lose the goods.  Hence all are said to have been one man.  “How many soever,” says Augustine, “were to spring from that one, were one man in that one”….

Many arguments prove this to have been the ordination of God. (1)  The covenant made with Adam (discussed before) was not particular with Adam alone, but general and public – entered into with the whole human race (which accordingly, having been broken by that first parent, involved his whole of spring in the same calamity).  Otherwise God ought to have covnenanted with ths individuals.  (2) The relation of the divine image and of original righteousness (which Adam received for himself and his, not as a personal good and peculiar to himself, but as common good to be transmitted to his posterity, if he had stood in his integrity; but of which his posterity was also to be deprived as soon as he fell); so that Adam here was like a beneficiary who, receiving a gift from his master receives it both for himself and his posterity on this condition – that if he rebels against his master, he loses the benefit not only for himself but also for his posterity….(3)  The communion of punishments (general as well as special) spreading abroad among his posterity no less than in Adam (which could not justly be inflicted, except on the supposition of a common law and a common guilt).  For if punishment of the broken covenant is extended to all, the covenant also and the law ought to be extended to all.  (4)  The comparison between Adam and Christ instituted by Paul (Rom 5; 1 Cor 15).  This cannot be sufficiently carried out, except on the supposition of the imputation of sin answering to the imputation of righteousness, as will hereafter be proved.

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Volume I



  1. Yet, even Adam is not damned to hell by eating the fruit, but by the wrong usage of the knowledge of good and evil which he obtained therefrom. In Adam all die physically, but only through personal misuse of the knowledge of good and evil which we inherit from Adam (which he obtained via his sin) do we deserve hell.

  2. Rey,

    Sorry but I would have to seriously disagree with your comment. Maybe I am misreading it, so let me clarify:

    We are guilty in Adam and born in original sin. Even if we committed no actual sin we would still be culpable and deserving of hell. Adam was our representative just as Christ is our representative for salvation.


  3. I know that’s what you believe, but I don’t see that in Scripture. Now, the WCF says in article 4.2 that God created Adam and Eve “having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfil it” which I think is the root of the error here. The Calvinist conception is that God enjoined the moral law on Adam and Eve, and they could have earned eternal life by keeping the moral law perfectly. We find, however, that they did not yet have knowledge of good and evil. They received this knowledge by eating the fruit which was forbidden. One cannot have the moral law in his heart without the knowledge of good and evil, since the moral law essentially is the knowledge of good and evil. Therefore, in eating the fruit, Adam brought the moral law on himself and by extension on us. This is how we are damned by his sin, not by inheriting the guilt of breaking the command not to eat the fruit, but by inheriting the knowledge of good and evil, that is, being born under dominion to the moral law. Since we are born in dominion to the moral law and subsequently break it, we are damned, and it is said that Adam’s sin causes our damnation in this sense, that through his sin in eating the fruit the moral law was placed on us.

  4. Rey,

    That is an interesting observation, which sounds well reasoned and logical. Despite the sound reasoning, it lacks Scriptural support as well and is placing a lot of stock in an assumed interpretation of knowing good and evil.

    Explain how your point of view deals with Romans 5:14, which identifies Adam as “a type of Him who was to come” (e.g. a representative).

    Moreover, if original sin is not something that we are born with and condemns us how come every person inevitably sins. Are you saying that all humanity is born into this world with a clean slate and our first sin is what condemns us?


  5. As far as a lack of Scriptural support goes, nothing lacks Scriptural support more than inherited guilt. An entire chapter is spent against it in the OT, where God Himself gives a lengthy example of its wrongness. And the Israelites reply “the way of the Lord is unequal” since he rejects their doctrine of inherited guilt, to which he responds “is not my way equal? and are not your ways unequal?”

    God says in Ezekiel 18:20 that the soul that sins is the one who will die, for the son will not bear the guilt of the father nor will the father bear the guilt of the son, he says. Yet we know that some temporal punishments are born by the son for the father’s guilt, as Achin whose entire family was burnt (presumably alive) for his stealing of the accursed thing. Also the Law says that God will visit the iniquity (i.e. guilt) of the father onto the 3rd and 4th generations of them that hate him. But in the context of Ezekiel 18 he is not talking about physical death or temporal punishments, but the death of the soul. He even clarifies by saying that if the righteous depart from righteousness and does wickedness and dies without repenting, he will die again, thus clarifying that by “the soul that sins shall die” he means the second death, the death of the soul in hell, not just physical death. That the death of the soul is a thing brought on by personal sin alone is made explicitly clear, as well as that God has made a way to avoid this death. God opposes the notion of the Jews that eternal punishment can ever be on the basis of another’s sins as if it were the same as temporal punishments, and makes a clear distinction between the two. So, indeed we inherit unavoidable physical death from Adam’s sin alone (although its timing may be hastened by personal sins), but cannot inherit hell from his sin without our personal sins.

    Paul also shows that he was not born in spiritual death and inability, when he says in Romans 7:9 that “I was alive apart from the law once, but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life, and I died.” He was born spiritually alive, but when the law began to apply to him, when the knowledge of good and evil that he had inherited asserted itself on his conscious mind, then he sinned and died.

    Isaiah 51:5 does not prove the Calvinist concept of ‘original sin’, i.e. inherited guilt, as it says plainly “in sin my mother conceived me.” Calvinism holds that original sin is passed by fathers, not by mothers, and that Jesus was spared from it only by being conceived of a mother alone without a father. Yet the passage says “in sin my mother conceived me.” If this passage truly teaches an inheritance of guilt, then Jesus inherited it too since he was conceived by a mother. Yet, the passage is plainly David lamenting that he was born a bastard, from a union of fornication. My understanding of this is that David’s mother was Jesse’s second wife (polygamy was prevalent then), and that David was conceived before any actual marriage took place (a thing not looked down on in those polygamous times, but sin nonetheless).

    As to Romans 5, there is nothing there that demands or implies the doctrine of inherited guilt. It is simply saying that Adam brought us condemnation and death, and Christ brought justification and life. This is true if one accepts the doctrine of inherited guilt, and yet is also true if one believes that our personal sin condemns us but that this personal sin results from the knowledge of good and evil that Adam brought us.

    Now, I know that Calvinist want to draw an exact parallel between Adam and Christ, and say that Adam condemned us with no input from us and so Christ saves us with no input from us. But this clearly spits in the face of God who said in Ezekiel 18 that he would never kill the soul (i.e. impose the 2nd death) on a person for their father’s sin. Not only that, but this is not how people are saved by Christ. Faith is required, as well as repentance. Christ does not save in an automatic fashion and it should therefore an automatic means of damnation from Adam should not be back-propagated to the system via this flawed analogy. Christ only saves those who believe and repent (and I dare add, are baptized into his death) and therefore his salvation of men is not automatic. Is it then a fair analogy to make condemnation by Adam automatic if salvation by Christ is not automatic? No, of course not! The Calvinist makes condemnation by Adam automatic only because he seek to (illogically and unscriptually) make salvation by Christ automatic. It is called building one lie on another more pernicious lie.

    Romans 5:18 says “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.”

    Now, how did this offense result in judgment coming upon all? This offense brought all the knowledge of good and evil, which they misused. And how did this one righteousness bring justification to all? It brought the gospel, which if men will believe and obey they will have life. “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?” (Romans 10:16)

    The gospel is not “Good news! You were damned by Adam with zero input from you, and now you have been saved by Christ with zero input from you, because you won a lottery in eternity past.”

    The gospel is “Adam brought us all the knowledge of good and evil, and we misused it and were justly condemned. Christ died on the cross and brought us the gospel, and now if you will accept it on his terms, you will be forgiven of your sins.”

    The Calvinist version is neither good new, nor does it make any sense. Somebody else caused the problem and somebody else fixed it (only for some certain lucky people), and no input of any sort from man is required. It is not a ‘gospel’ that can be obeyed! Certainly, the answer to Isaiah’s question “Lord, who hath believed our report?” would be “Nobody!” if Calvinism were Isaiah’s gospel!!! Since Calvinism is not obeyable–Adam and God do it all. Yet Paul’s answer to Isaiah’s question is “But they have not all obeyed the gospel,” meaning that some have obeyed. If anyone has obeyed the gospel, then the gospel must be obeyable, that is, must contain some input from man. Thus we have the following confirmed:

    The gospel is not “Good news! You were damned by Adam with zero input from you, and now you have been saved by Christ with zero input from you, because you won a lottery in eternity past.”

    The gospel is “Adam brought us all the knowledge of good and evil, and we misused it and were justly condemned. Christ died on the cross and brought us the gospel, and now if you will accept it on his terms, you will be forgiven of your sins.”

  6. Rey,

    Wow! An Arminian has found me

    First, let me say that I agree with Ezekiel that God does not condemn the righteous. However, where are all the righteous people that Ezekiel is referring to in this passage? You would think that if your view was correct and people did not have an inherited tendency to sin then there would be some people that would get through life without sinning. Unless you would do something ludicrous and appeal to Noah and/or Job (based on your views of Psalm 51, Rom 5 and 7:9 this does not seem to be beyond you). Do you really think the passage in Ezekiel is referring back to Adam here?

    The answer from Scripture is that there are no righteous people (Romans 3:9-10) and that all are “by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). Men are not born with a blank slate, which is only tainted once an actual sin occurs. According to your view there are righteous humans, at least for some period of time in the world. BTW, it is Psalm 51 not Isaiah and your explanation did not make much sense at all about this passage. Are you really serious about Romans 7:9? This is just silly as a proof text.

    All I can say about your response to Romans 5 is that you should try reading the passage again without all the theological baggage that you are carrying. How can you deny that Adam was our representative when it states in verse 14 that he was a type of Him who was to come? “Him” is further defined in the next verse as Jesus Christ who was a representative for men before the Father.

    I really have no desire to get into a debate over the doctrines of grace (i.e. Calvinist vs Arminian) with you mainly for two reasons. 1. If you are truly honest with Scripture then you would concede that your view is wrong. 2. I really don’t have time to spend on a debate that will most likely never be resolved. Nonetheless, if you insist on discussing these erroneous views I will respond with the time that I have. I will say that you have a diminished view of the Gospel (which is a more worthy topic that should be debated). Please see the following post for a more robust view of the Gospel that is also related to the topic at hand:


  7. “Wow! An Arminian has found me” – Apparently not, since I am no Arminian.

    Now, Paul indeed says in Romans 3:10 “There is none righteous, no, not one” and yet Jesus Himself says in Mat 13:17 “For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them…” This makes your bewilderment at your own question “where are all the righteous people that Ezekiel is referring to in this passage?” all the more humorous. The Bible speaks of righteousness in two ways, not only in one. This is the error of the Manichean (i.e. Augustine) and his followers, that they ignore such statements as Jesus makes in Matthew 13:17 and only look at such as Paul makes in Romans 3:10. There is positive righteousness, which as Paul says, none has (save Jesus). Yet there is also negative righteousness, which Jesus says many have. Positive is earned by works, which is why none have it save Jesus himself. Negative comes from either having nor sinned yet, or from those who have sinned believing in Christ and repenting &c. (i.e. from the cleansing of sins by his blood). Where are these men that Ezekiel speaks of? They are not those non-existent men who live sinless lives. They are rather those very real men who beleive in Christ and repent of their sins. But you say “Men are not born with a blank slate, which is only tainted once an actual sin occurs. According to your view there are righteous humans, at least for some period of time in the world.” You have no proof that men are born guilty of sin. I have proven otherwise. Your entire puny argument that you have left is simply that you set Romans 3:10 against Matthew 13:17, Paul against Jesus. Rather than accept that both statements are true, that as Paul says no man is righteous (positively) and yet at the same time as Jesus says many men are righteous (negatively)–rather than accept that fact, you would rather throw the entire Bible out with the exception of Romans 3:10 as if it could erase all the passages that speak of men being righteous in a different sense.

  8. The suspense was killing me…I was actually giving you the benefit of the doubt by calling you an Arminian. However, since that option is not available any longer and you are really serious about human beings born in righteousness and the reference to Augustine as a Manichean (of course he was redeemed from that heresy) then you must be a Pelagian. So let me say it again Wow!2 (to the second power) A Pelagian has found me.

    Now I tried to respond or at least question all of your points and based on your comments above you were very selective and did not exercise the same consideration. You ignored entirely Ephesians 2:3 and Romans 5, conveniently. Now, I am really struggling with how to respond to your last comment since it is apparent that you are either contradicting yourself or not articulating your view very well. Let me try to help, because I agree there is some nuance to the term righteousness and there are two uses of it in the Scriptures.

    In the first category there are only two men in history that had this righteous and could stand before God. The first was Adam (Eve also possessed this righteousness). The second was Jesus who is also known as the second Adam. This righteousness requires no grace, mediation, propitiation, mercy or forgiveness to stand before God.

    In the second category there is everyone one else who requires the righteousness of another in order to stand before God. The only righteousness that can now be applied to men is imputed from Jesus. The righteousness of Jesus is applied to His redeemed people in the past, present and future applied through faith alone in that promise. Any reference to the righteousness of human beings in the Scripture when it comes to salvation is speaking about this category of righteous. Now there is also an allusion, for example in the case of Noah, where it is also being used in a manner that points to Christ as a type, but I digress. There is also another use of the term relative to the theocratic nation of Israel whose temporary earthly blessings and curses, not salvation, were based on merit (i.e. righteousness or unrighteousness), but I digress again.

    I commend to you the link in my last comment for a more thorough discourse on how these categories relate to the Gospel.

    Jesus’ reference in Matthew 13:17 is using the term as defined in the second category. Paul’s references in his writings (not just Rom 3:9-10) are using the term as defined in the first category. Thus, there is no contradiction between Paul and Jesus’ use of the term. Now Ezekiel could be using the term in either way (probably relative to the theocratic nation of Israel). Regardless it would not conflict with Paul or Jesus’ use of the term it just need to be categorized appropriately, which would require a much more thorough exegesis of the text.

    I apologize for not being clear in my previous comment, however I was positing that Ezekiel could be using it in the way defined by the first category. And with your view that humans are born in righteousness, why don’t we see a balance between righteous and unrighteous people (relative to the first category). Moreover, if every human being is born in righteousness then, they all presumably like Adam, fall in their first actual sin. Don’t you think that out of the billions of people born in history at least a certain percentage would not repeat this horrible mistake? The point I was trying to make is not only does Scripture not support your view, reality does not support your view either. In your view it is possible for human beings to enter into heaven apart from Christ (i.e. a terminated human fetus or new born baby that does not commit an actual sin). Do you really believe that these do not need a Savior?

    Finally, I think your comments were either disingenuous or uninformed about the consistency that Scripture witnesses about the corruption of the human heart. How do you interpret Ephesians 2:3 where Paul indicates that we are “by nature children of wrath”? We are by nature bent towards evil that results in the actual sins that we commit. As Jesus said, it is within our hearts (Matt 15:19), which are deceitful and desperately sick (Jer 17:9). This innate attribute that characterizes all humanity affects all mankind (Gen 6:5), which is why we need a Savior. I beg to differ with your assessment that this is a puny argument, the burden of proof lies upon you to explain how we can be “by nature children of wrath” and still be born in righteousness (I won’t hold my breathe until you resolve this one.)

  9. Although I would love to see your responses to the issues pointed out above there is a more important one you need to address. There is a fundamental flaw with your interpretation of Ezekiel 18. You state:

    So, indeed we inherit unavoidable physical death from Adam’s sin alone (although its timing may be hastened by personal sins), but cannot inherit hell from his sin without our personal sins.

    In other words you are using Ezekiel 18 to deny the legitimacy of imputing sin from another. Yet, aren’t we saved from our sins because God imputes them to Christ?

    For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

    Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. Isaiah 53:10-12

    Certainly, our very salvation is contingent upon God applying our sin upon another who committed no actual sins. In fact Jesus took hell in our place, so that we do not need to endure it. In light of this, it stands to reason that your interpretation of the passage in Ezekiel 18 is not accurate.

    Also, another supporting proof text for differentiation of the term righteousness stated above is found in Isaiah:

    We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities Isaiah 64:6-7

    Sounds a lot like Romans 3:9-10…

  10. […] we received some positive and negative responses to last week’s quote.  We thought it would be appropriate to continue Turretin’s […]

  11. […] who seek to deny the doctrine of original sin and assert that not all humanity is subjected to total depravity.  They typically appeal to Ezekiel 18 to support their denial of this with its indication that […]

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