The Transmission of Sin

Transmission of Sin

How was our sin nature transferred from Adam to his posterity?

A myth?

Liberal theologians argue that the story of Adam and Eve is a myth, which merely points to the fact that every human being is born good; but then experiences temptation and a personal fall. But the Bible says that the wages of sin is death. If it is true that Adam and Eve were not real people then liberals have to explain infant mortality. Why would babies die if they are born good? The explanation they give is that there really is no link between sin and death.


The realists say that God would be just to visit us with a fallen nature only if we had actually fallen there in the garden with Adam. The realist position in one sense teaches that we were “really” there – thus the name “realism.” They appeal to Hebrews 7:10 which states that Levi was in Abraham’s lions when Melchizedek met him. Thus, they think this proves the pre-existence of the soul. But that is a huge stretch. Even the text offers a qualification – “one might even say.” We can say from a genetic standpoint that our great-grandchildren are already present in our bodies, but we do not mean that those actual children are present in us.


Adam, whose name means “mankind,” acted as the federal head of the human race, representing himself and his future posterity, just as officials in a federal republic represent the people; so when Adam fell, all whom he represented fell with him, which is why we are all conceived and born in sin. We share in Adam’s punishment.

This biblical truth usually prompts people (in an effort to escape the transfer of guilt) to complain that they did not choose Adam as their representative. They assume they would have acted differently than Adam if they had been in the Garden. However, Adam represented us perfectly because he was God’s chosen representative.

Romans 5:12-18 teaches that the only escape from this transfer of guilt is the righteousness of another representative: the Lord Jesus Christ, who stood in our place, and God counts us righteousness because He transferred our guilt to Christ and Christ’s righteousness to us. Adam’s sin makes us guilty, resulting in a fallen nature. Christ’s righteousness makes not guilty, resulting in a new nature.


[Adapted from Everyone’s a Theologian by R.C. Sproul]