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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
in the O.T. םחָשִׁב in the N.T. λογίζομαι , is employed in the Scriptures to designate any action, word, or thing, as accounted or reckoned to a person; and in all these it is unquestionably used with reference to one's own doings, words, or actions, and not with reference to those of a second person (comp. Genesis 15:6; Psalms 105:31; Numbers 25:6; Numbers 18:27; 2 Samuel 19:19; Psalms 31:2; Leviticus 7:18; Leviticus 17:4; Proverbs 27:14; 2 Corinthians 5:19; 2 Timothy 4:16; Romans 4:3-23; Galatians 3:6; James 2:23). The word imputation is, however, used for a certain theological theory, which teaches that
(1) the sin of Adam is so attributed to man as to be considered, in the divine counsels, as his own, and to render him guilty of it;
(2) that, in the Christian- plan of salvation, the righteousness of Christ is so attributed to man as to be considered his own, and that he is therefore justified by it. (See FALL OF MAN).
I. "Whatever diversity there may exist in the opinions of theologians respecting imputation, when they come to express their own views definitely. they will yet, for the most part, agree that the phrase God imputes the sin of our progenitors to their posterity, means that for the sins committed by our progenitors God punishes their descendants. The term to impute is used in different senses.
(a.) It is said of a creditor, who charges something to his debtor as debt, e.g. Philemon 1:18.
(b.) It is transferred to human judgment when any one is punished, or declared deserving of punishment. Crime is regarded as a debt, which must be cancelled partly by actual restitution and partly by punishment.
(c.) This now is applied to God, who imputes sin when he pronounces men guilty, and treats them accordingly, i.e. when he actually punishes the sin of men (Ο᾿φι β - ωφξ, λογίζεσθαι ἁμαρτίαν, Psalms 32:2).
The one punished is called נָשָׂא עָוֹן, in opposition to one to whom חָשִׁב לַצְדָּקָח, who is rewarded (Psalms 106:31; Romans 4:3)" (Knapp, Theology, § 76).
1. The stronghold of the doctrine of imputation, with those who maintain the high Calvinistic sense of that tenet, is Romans 5:12-19. "The greatest difficulties with respect to this doctrine have arisen from the fact that many have treated what is said by Paul in the fifth of Romans-a passage wholly popular, and anything but formally exact and didactic-in a learned and philosophical manner, and have defined terms used by him in a loose and popular way by logical and scholastic distinctions. Paul shows, in substance, that all men are regarded and punished by God as sinners, and that the ground of this lies in the act of one man; as, on the contrary, deliverance from punishment depends also upon one man, Jesus Christ. If the words of Paul are not perverted, it must be allowed that in Romans 5, 12-14 he thus reasons: The cause of the universal mortality of the human race lies in Adam's transgression. He sinned, and so became mortal. Other men are regarded and treated by God as punishable, because they are the posterity of Adam, the first transgressor, and consequently they too are mortal. Should it now be objected, that the men who lived from Adam to Moses might themselves have personally sinned, and so have been punished with death on their own account, it might be answered that those who lived before the time of Moses had no express and positive law which threatened the punishment of sin, like those who lived after Moses. The positive law of Moses was not as yet given; they could not, consequently, be punished on account of their own transgressions, as no law was as yet given to them (Romans 5:12 to Romans 14:14). Still they must die, like Adam, who transgressed a positive law. Hence their mortality must have another cause, and this is to be sought in the imputation of Adam's transgression. In the same way, the ground of the justification of man lies not in himself, but in Christ, the second Adam.
"We find that the passage in Romans 5 was never understood in the ancient Grecian Church, down to the 4th century, to teach imputations in a strictly philosophical and judicial sense; certainly. Origen, and the writers immediately succeeding him, exhibit nothing of this opinion. They regard bodily death as a consequence of the sin of Adam, and not as a punishment, in the strict and proper sense of this term. Thus Chrysostom says, upon Romans 5:12,Ε᾿κείνου πεσόντος (Ἀδάμ ), καὶ οὑ μὴ φαγόντες ἀπὸ τοῦ ξύλου, γεγόνασιν ἐξ ἐκείνου θνητοί . Cyril (Adv. Anthropom. c. 8) says, Οἱ γεγονότες ἐξ αὐ τοῦ (Ἀδάμ ), ὡς ἀπὸ φθαρτοὶ γεγόναμεν .
"The Latin Church, on the other hand, was the proper seat of the strict doctrine of imputation. There they began to interpret the words of Paul as if he were a scholastic and logical writer. One cause of their misapprehending so entirely the spirit of this passage was, that the word imputare (a word in common use among civilians and in judicial affairs) had been employed in the Latin versions in rendering Romans 5:13 of Romans 5; and that ἐφ᾿ ῳ (Romans 5:12) had been translated in quo, and could refer, as they supposed, to nobody but Adam. This opinion was then associated with some peculiar philosophical ideas at that time prevalent in the West, and from the whole a doctrine de imputatione was formed, in sense wholly unknown to the Hebrews, to the N.T., and to the Grecian Church. This clearly proves that the Grecian teachers, e.g. those in Palestine, took sides with Pelagius against the teachers of the African Church.
2. "Many have inferred the justice of imputation from the supposition that Adam was not only the natural or seminal, but also the moral head of the human race, or even its representative and federal head. They suppose, accordingly, that the sin of Adam is imputed to us on the same principle on which the doings of the head of a family, or. of the plenipotentiary of a state, are imputed to his family or state, although they had no personal agency in his doings. In the same way they suppose Christ took the place of all men, and that what he did is imputed to them. According to this theory, God entered into a league or covenant with Adam, and so Adam represented and took the place of the whole human race. This theory was invented by some schoolmen, and has been adopted by many in the Romish and Protestant Church since the 16th century, and was defended even in the 18th century by some Lutheran theologians, as Pfaff of Tiibingen, by some of the followers of Wolf (e.g. Carpzov, in his Comm. de Imputatione facti proprii et alieni), and by Baumgarten, in his Dogmatik, and disputation ‘ de imputatione peccati Adamitici.' But it was more particularly favored by the Reformed theologians, especially by the disciples of Cocceius, at the end of the 17th and commencement of the 18th century, e.g. by Witsius, in his (Economia feaderum. They appeal to Hosea 6:7, They transgressed the covenant, like Adam, i.e. broke the divine laws. But where is it said that Adam was the federal head, and that his transgression is imputed to them? On this text Morus justly observes, ‘ Est mera comparatio Judaeorum peccantium cum Adamo peccante.' Other texts are also cited in behalf of this opinion.
"But, for various reasons, this theory cannot be correct. For
(a.) the descendants of Adam never empowered him to be their representative and to act in their name.
(b.) It cannot be shown from the Bible that Adam was informed that the fate of all his posterity was involved in his own.
(c.) If the transgression of Adam is imputed, by right of covenant, to all his posterity, then, in justice, all their transgressions should be again imputed to him as the guilty cause of all their misery and sin. What a mass of guilt, then, would come upon Adam! But of all this nothing is said in the Scriptures.
(d.) The imputation of the righteousness of Christ cannot be alleged in support of this theory; for this is imputed to men only by their own will and consent. This hypothesis has been opposed, with good reason, by John Taylor, in his work on original sin."
3. "Others endeavor to deduce the doctrine of imputation from the scientia media of God, or from his fore-knowledge of what is conditionally possible. The sin of Adam, they say, is imputed to us because God foresaw that each one of us would have committed it if he had been in Adam's stead, or placed in his circumstances. Even Augustine says that the sin of Adam is imputed to us propter consensionem, or consensum praesumptum. This theory has been advanced, in modern times, by Reusch, in his Introductio in Theologiasn revelatam, and in Bremquell's work Die gute Sache Gottes, bei Zurechnung des Falls (Jena, 1749). But it is a new sort of justice which would allow us to be punished for sins which we never: committed, or never designed to commit, but only might possibly have committed under certain circumstances. Think a moment how many sins we all should have committed if God had suffered us to come into circumstances of severe temptation. An innocent man might, by this rule, be punished as a murderer because, had he lived at Paris on St. Bartholomew's night, in 1572, he might, from mistaken zeal, have killed a heretic."
II. "Since none of these hypotheses satisfactorily explain the matter, the greater part of the moderate and Biblical theologians of the Protestant Church are content with saying, what is manifestly the doctrine of the Bible, that the imputation of Adam's sin consists in the prevailing mortality of the human race, and that this is not to be regarded as imputation in the strict judicial sense, but rather as the consequence of Adam's transgression" (Knapp, Theology, § 76).
III. "The enlightened advocates of imputation do after all disclaim the actual transfer of Adam's sin to his posterity. They are well aware that the human mind cannot be forced up to such a point as this. But they do still urgently contend for the idea that all Adam's posterity are punished for his sin, although they did not, in fact, commit it; and that in this sense, therefore, they are all guilty of it. Turretin's view is, that Adam's sin imputed is the ground or cause why men are born-with original sin inherent, i.e. with natural depravity; and this is, in his view, the punishment inflicted because of Adam's sin imputed to them. And with him many others agree. But Calvin, Edwards, Stapfer, and others, reject the doctrine of the real imputation of Adam's sin to his posterity, while they maintain that native inherent depravity is the consequence of it, which is chargeable to us as sin. This Turretin declares to be no imputation at all, i.e. a real rejection of his doctrine. Rejecting these views of Turretin, then, Edwards, in order to account for it how all men came to be born with inherent sin, labors to show that there is a physical and psychological unity between Adam and all his posterity. According to him, this would account for the commencement of native depravity, and when commenced it is imputed to us as sin, and therefore punishable, on legal ground, with temporal and eternal evil. But Turretin makes all to be punishment from the outset, and that on the ground of the sin of Adam, which is actually imputed to his descendants" (Stuart on Romans, 5, 19, p. 592). Dr. H. B. Smith, in an article in the Christian Union, takes the advanced ground that while it must be con ceded "that there is a proper interpretation," and that Adam's posterity do inherit, "by virtue of their union with him, certain penal consequences of the great apostasy." man can be "delivered" from these evils by "divine grace," and "that for original sin, without actual transgression, no one will be consigned to everlasting death" [italics are ours]. In an article in the Princeton Theological Essays (1, 138 sq.), a member of the Presbyterian Church takes even more liberal ground. "We know that it is often asserted that Augustine and his followers held the personal unity of Adam and his race ... Let it be admitted that Augustine did give this explication of the ground of imputation. Do we reject the doctrine because we reject the reason which he gives to justify and explain it? .. It is no special concern of ours what Augustine held on this point. .. Any man who holds that there is such an ascription of the sin of Adam to his posterity as to be the ground of their bearing the punishment of that sin, holds the doctrine of impatation, whether he undertakes to justify this imputation merely on the ground that we are the children' of Adam, or on the principle of representation, or of scientia media; or whether he chooses to philosophize on the nature of unity until he confounds all notions of personal identity, as President Edwards appears to have done."
IV. The question of the imputation of Christ's active obedience to believers is very skillfully treated by Watson (Theological Institutes, pt. 2, chap. 23), himself a believer in the doctrine of imputation in a modified way. We give here a summary of his statement of the subject.
There are three opinions as to imputation.
(I.) The high Calvinistic, or Antinomian scheme, which is, that "Christ's active righteousness is imputed unto us as ours" In answer to this, we say,
1. It is nowhere stated in Scripture.
2. The notion here attached to Christ's representing us is wholly gratuitous. 3. There is no weight in the argument that, "as our sins were accounted his, so his righteousness was accounted ours ‘ for our sins were never so accounted Christ's as that he did them.
4. The doctrine involves a fiction and impossibility inconsistent with the divine attributes.
5. The acts of Christ were of a loftier character than can be supposed to be capable of being the acts of mere creatures. 6. Finally, and fatally, this doctrine shifts the meritorious cause of man's justification from Christ's "obedience unto death" to Christ's active obedience to the precepts of the law.
(II.) The opinion of Calvin himself, and many of his followers, adopted also by some Armenians. It differs from the first in not separating the active from the passive righteousness of Christ, for such a distinction would have been inconsistent with Calvin's notion that justification is simply the remission of sins. This view is adopted, with certain modifications, by Armenians and Wesley. But there is a slight difference, which arises from the different senses in which the word imputation is used: the Armenian employing it in the sense of accounting to the believer the benefit of Christ's righteousness; the Calvinist, in the sense of reckoning the righteousness of Christ as ours. An examination of the following passages will show that this latter notion has no foundation in Scripture: Psalms 32 -l; Jeremiah 23:6; Isaiah 45:24; Romans 3:21-22; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 5:18-19. In connection with this last text, it is sometimes attempted to be shown that, as Adam's sin is imputed to his posterity, so Christ's obedience is imputed to those that are saved; but (Goodwin, On Justification);
(1.) The Scripture nowhere affirms either the imputation of Adam's sin to his posterity, or of the righteousness of Christ to those that believe.
(2.) To impute sin, in Scripture phrase, is to charge the guilt of sin upon a man, with a purpose to punish him for it. And
(3.) as to the imputation of Adam's sin to his posterity if by it is meant simply that the guilt of Adam's sin is charged upon his whole posterity, let it pass; but if the meaning be that all Adam's posterity are made, by this imputation, formally sinners, then the Scriptures do not justify it.
(III.) The imputation of faith for righteousness.
(a.) Proof of this doctrine. —
1. It is expressly taught in Scripture (Romans 4:3-24, etc.); nor is faith used in these passages by metonymy for the object of faith, that is, the righteousness of Christ.
2. The testimony of the Church to this doctrine has been uniform from the earliest ages — Tertullian, Origen, Justin Martyr, etc., down to the 16th century.
(b.) Explanation of the terms of the proposition that "faith is imputed for righteousness."
1. Righteousness. To be accounted righteous is, in the style of the apostle Paul, to be justified, where there has been personal guilt.
2. Faith. It is not faith generally considered that is imputed to us for righteousness, but faith (trust) in an atonement offered by another in our behalf.
3. Imputation. The non-imputation of sin to a sinner is expressly called "the imputation of righteousness without works;" the imputation of righteousness is, then, the non-punishment or pardon of sin; and by imputing faith for righteousness, the apostle means precisely the same thing.
(c.) The objections to the doctrine of the imputation of faith for righteousness admit of easy answer.
1. The papists err in taking the term justification to signify the making men morally just.
2. A second objection is, that if believing is imputed for righteousness, then justification is by works, or by somewhat in ourselves. In this objection, the term works is used in an equivocal sense.
3. A third objection is, that this doctrine gives occasion to boasting. But
(1.) this objection lies with equal strength against the doctrine of imputed righteousness.
(2.) The faith itself is the gift of God.
(3.) The blessings which follow faith are given in respect to the death of Christ.
(4.) Paul says that boasting is excluded by the law of faith.
(IV.) The theologians who assert the extreme doctrine of imputation are ably answered by the closing words of an article on this subject in Chambers's Cyclopaedia, 5, 529: "To impute sin is to deal with a man as a sinner, not on account of his own act, or at least not primarily on this account, but on account of the act of another; and to impute righteousness is to deal with man as righteous, not because he is so, but on account of the righteousness of Christ reckoned as his, and received by faith alone. The act of another stands in both cases for our own act, and we are adjudged - in the one case condemned, in the other acquitted - lot for what we ourselves have done, but for what another has done for us.
"This is a fair illustration of the tyranny which technical phrases are apt to exercise in theology as in other things. When men coin an imperfect phrase to express a spiritual reality, the reality is apt to be forgotten in the phrase, and men play with the latter as a logical counter, having a force and meaning of its own. Imputation of sin and imputation of righteousness have in this way come to represent legal or pseudo-legal processes in theology, through the working out of the mere legal analogies suggested by the word. But the true spiritual reality which lies behind the phrases in both eases is simple enough. Imputation of sin is, and can be nothing else than, the expression of the spiritual unity of Adam and his race. Adam ‘ being the root of all mankind,' the stock which has grown from this root must, share in its degeneracy. The law of spiritual life, of historical continuity, implies this, and it requires no arbitrary or legal process, therefore, to account for the sinfulness of mankind as derived from a sinful source. We are sinners because Adam fell. The fountain having become polluted, the stream is polluted. We are involved in his guilt, and could not help being so by the conditions of our historical existence; but, nevertheless, his sin is not our sin, and cannot, in the strict sense, be imputed to us, for sin is essentially voluntary in every case-an act of self- will, and not a mere quality of nature; and my sin, therefore, cannot be another's, nor another's mine. In the same manner, the highest meaning of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ lies in the spiritual unity of the believer with Christ, so that he is one with Christ, and Christ one with him, and in an true sense he becomes a partaker of the divine nature. The notion of legal transference is an after-thought-the invention of polemical logic- and the fact itself is deeper and truer than the phrase that covers it. The race one with Adam, the believer one with Christ, are the ideas that are really true in the phrases imputation of sin and imputation of righteousness."
See Watson, Institutes, 2, 215, 241; Knapp, Theology. § 76, 115; Whitby, De imputatione Peccati Adamitici; Taylor, Doctrine of Original Sin; Wesley, Sermons, 1, 171-4; Edwards, On original Sins; Walch, De Obedientia Christi Activa (Gottingen, 1754, 4to); Walch,,Neueste Religionsgeschichte, 3, 311; Princeton Rev. April, 1860; Baird, The First and Second Adam (Philadelphia, 1860. 12mo); Princeton Repertory, 1830, p. 425; Whately, Difficulties of St. Paul, Essay 6; Stuart, On Romans, Excursus 5, 6. (See OBEDIENCE OF CHRIST); (See JUSTIFICATION).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Imputation'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​i/imputation.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.