I call upon You, Lord, God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob and Israel, You who are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who, through the abundance of your mercy, was well-pleased towards us so that we may know You, who made heaven and earth, who rules over all, You who are the one and the true God, above whom there is no other God; You who, by our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, give to every one who reads this writing to know You, that You alone are God, to be strengthened in You, and to avoid every heretical and godless and impious teaching.

St Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the Heresies 3:6:4

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Discussion with Kyle Butt (Pt. 3 of 3)

Here is the third and final part of my discussion with Kyle Butt at www.ApologeticsPress.org. Part two can be read here, and part one here.

Hello Kevin,

Back to our discussion. I hate to disappoint you in regard to the rigor of my arguments. But it seems very simple to me, Romans 5:18 applies the same scope to Jesus blood as to Adam’s sin. With all due respect, you refused to answer this and claimed is was an “Uh uh!”. Now, I think the reason you may be missing the point is due to a failure to understand what happened when Adam sinned. His nature, or his ability to live forever, was not altered. The simple reason that he did not continue to live forever is that he was separated from the Tree of Life. Notice that Genesis 3:22 explains that even after he sinned, if he would have eaten from the Tree of Life he would have lived forever. The reason we die (and Adam died) is not because of a a corrupted nature, it is simple because we do not have access to the Tree of Life.

Now, let’s look at the “strawman” you are suggesting I have concocted. From where do you think a baby gets its “sinful nature?” It must be from their parents, and they must have gotten it from their parents, etc. So, eventually, you must suggest that someone (I assume Adam’s direct descendants) got it directly from their parents. The Bible just doesn’t teach that.

Furthermore, your dealing with Eze 18:20 does not take into account the “soul” who sins and the “guilt” associated with the sin. It is not saying that everyone who dies sinned. It is saying that those who sin will die. There is a logical fallacy involved in rolling it backwards. For instance, all redbirds that eat worms will live does not mean all redbirds that live eat worms. Or all people that drink acid will die does not mean all those who are dead drink acid. We can see this to be the case with Jesus, who never sinned and yet physically died. Also, Enoch would be a good example of someone who sinned, but it does not look like he died in any kind of traditional since.

And finally, to say that “the wages of sin is death” is right, but don’t miss the next part of the verse “but the gift of God is eternal life.” If you are going to contend that “death” means physical death then you are going to have a hard time explaining “eternal life” meaning spiritual life. The way you are presenting the case, that should mean that people who obey God do not physically die. The Bible explains that sin is lawlessness, ie. The breaking of a law. To contend that babies sin is to go against the meaning of the word “missing the mark.” There just is no Scriptural justification to suggest that babies are born sinful.

Kyle Butt

Kyle, it is good to hear from you again.  I really appreciate the time you put into the last response.  Really, though, it raises more questions than it answers.  However, you make some substantial statements that deserve addressing. 

First, you said, “So, eventually, you must suggest that someone (I assume Adam’s direct descendants) got it directly from their parents. The Bible just doesn’t teach that.”  Thankfully, you have attempted to teach me what the Bible actually does teach.  So, let’s work from that. 

You have explained the results of Adam’s sin as having only a spatial or geographical consequence; that is, his (and our) being separated from the tree of life.  It is this, supposedly, that causes death.  Thus, how we get there may differ dramatically; nevertheless, we both come to the same conclusion.  I think this purely biotic interpretation of the fall is absurd and has no reputable exegetical or theological precedents.  Still, we can actually more forward from it.  Let me explain.

According to what you have told me, death is the punitive consequence of our separation from the tree of life.  Adam’s fall is the proximate cause of his (and his progeny’s) separation from the tree of life; Adam’s sin denies access to the tree of life.  Therefore, where we find death, we find the punitive consequence of Adam’s fall.  Hence, the death of infants is the punitive consequence of Adam’s fall.  We both agree, then, that the death of infants is the result of Adam’s sin.  Again, how the two of us arrive at this conclusion is divergent to be sure, but we both end up here nonetheless.  For discussion’s sake, I’ll grant you that infants don’t commit personal, volitional sins (particular sins).  However, they are suffering death because of sin, namely Adam’s sin, which is all I have been contending in our talk. 

Secondly, I am perfectly perplexed by all this.  If Adam’s sin and fall resulted in no substantial or essential change to our nature but was merely a deprivation of the tree of life, then we must conclude that the human condition is right where God created and left it.  All the maladies we suffer must then be attributed directly to God’s account.  Would not God be directly accountable for the little one with Leukemia?  Twins conjoined, sharing vital organs, must be part of God’s originally “very good” creative work?  You have God driving an ambulance, my friend.  If nothing in man’s nature changed in the fall, then our nature is as God created it and gave the attribution of “very good.”  Look, I’m no physiologist, but I wished God would have consulted someone on design tips; or, at least mention to him that Mitochondrial Myopathy isn’t the best idea for babies.  “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies” (Ps. 58:3), and this is “very good”?!?.  

Thirdly, I would like to take one more stab at your symmetrical view of Romans 5:18 again.  Look at Romans 5:17.  The condemnation to all men in v. 18 comes to “all men,” meaning those in whom death reigned (v. 17).  The justification that comes to “all men” in v. 18 comes to “those who receive…the free gift of righteousness.”  Romans 5:18 does not apply to the same scope simply because it uses the same words.  Consider this example: “Just as the Declaration of Independence tells us that God has created all people with certain unalienable rights, so too the U.S. Bill of Rights guarantees the rights of all people without respect to race, creed, or religion.”  In this example, “all people” who are created with unalienable rights includes every person who is part of the class of humanity.  The U.S. Bill of Rights only guarantees the rights of U.S. citizens.  So this example demonstrates that the two are not necessarily the same class of people.  The question now becomes, who is Paul talking about?  Paul is talking about “all men” in whom death reigned and “all men” who receive the free gift.  The whole point is not to emphasize the “allness,” but to emphasize the coming of the condemnation and justification, respectively.  The “all” simply underscores the certainty of the coming justification to anyone and everyone who receives Christ.  Moreover, verse 18 is a conclusion to a fuller argument (hence, the “wherefore”).  As such, it is altogether conditioned by the premises in the preceding verses.  And as for the asymmetrical interpretation, please stop avoiding Paul’s emphatic language: αλλ ουχ ως (“but not like,” v. 15); και ουχ ως (“and not like,” v. 16); πολλω μαλλον (“much more,” v. 17); υπερεπερισσευσεν (“did much more abound,” v. 20).  All of these stress the asymmetry of the correspondence between Adam’s and Christ’s work. 

Thank you for reconsidering the problems with your perspective on this crux issue.

Blessings and light to you,


Hello Kevin,

Good to hear from you. After reconsidering my perspective, I still fail to see the “problems” you mention. My suggestion that Adam was separated from the Tree of Life and that is the cause of death was met by you with the statement: “I think this purely biotic interpretation of the fall is absurd...” but I noticed you did not do anything with God’s statement that if Adam could still eat of the Tree of Life, then he would have still lived forever. While it is true that something fundamentally changed in Adam’s spiritual condition with God due to his choice to sin, it is not true that something fundamentally changed in the spiritual condition of his descendants due to his sin. So, yes, we both agree that the death of infants is due to Adam’s sin, but we greatly differ as to the reason for that death. You are suggesting that there is a fundamental spiritual nature that was altered in such as way that sin marred not only Adam’s spiritual nature, but also the spiritual nature of his descendants. I am suggesting that if his descendants could have eaten from the Tree of Life, they would have lived forever, and there was nothing fundamentally different about their spiritual nature than there was from Adam’s when he was created. Now, I’m sorry that all this is perplexing you. That certainly was never my intent. In answer to your statement that “we must conclude that the human condition is right where God left it,” that simply is not the case. Adam’s sin caused physical consequences that were felt by his descendants for the rest of human history, just as a father who beats his son can cause physical consequences to the child but not spiritual consequences. While separation from the Tree of Life resulted in physical death, disease, etc, it had no effect on the purity or innocence of the spiritual condition of Adam’s descendants. Notice that the maladies you mentioned are all physical. Sure, Adam’s sin brought in harmful physical effects. But you can no more blame God for these effects than you can blame God for the harmful physical effects of an abusive father. While it is true that negative physical effects were not part of God’s original “very good” creation, it is not true that such effects have any bearing on the spiritual nature of Adam’s descendants.  Also, your statement: “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies” (Ps. 58:3), and this is “very good”?!?. Is a statement taken from Old Testament poetry and was never meant to be taken literally. The wicked certainly are not born “speaking lies” any more than they are born quoting Shakespeare. And if we wanted to quote poetry like that, we could see that the righteous man trusts in God “from his mother’s womb” (Psalm 22:9-10).

As for the discussion of Romans 5, I guess I’m not understanding your confusion about my answer. Let me try again. Let’s look at Verse 19, which says: “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” Now, if I understand you correctly, you are contending that through Adam’s sin many “were made sinners” by no choice of their own, they were simply born that way. But notice that the verse makes Jesus’ sacrifice as efficacious as Adam’s sin. So, in order to maintain that Adam’s sin caused many to be sinners “without any thought or choice of their own” then we would be forced to conclude that Jesus’ sacrifice caused many to be made righteous “without any thought or choice of their own,” which is not the case. So, here is what is being said. Adam’s sin had spiritual consequences that were felt by all who chose to sin in the same way Adam did and Jesus’ sacrifice has spiritual consequences for all who chose to obey Jesus. The spiritual consequences of Adam’s sin are no more/less universal than the spiritual consequences of Jesus’ sacrifice.

Kyle Butt


Before we go any further, I need to ask you a related but non-textual question.  Have you lost a little one close to you, perhaps a child of your own or a younger sibling?  If so, I can better understand your tenacity to cling to your position in the teeth of evidence otherwise.  Still, I would suggest (in fact, argue) that you needn’t throw off certain (several, in fact) orthodox teachings of Scripture, such as original corruption.  It leads you headlong into various Platonic dualisms that are foreign to the text and has historically been the seedbed of heresies.  Moreover, your Pelagian convictions have been long ago condemned as heresy.  If your exegesis is driven by your personal bereavement, then I could at least understand your motives a little better.  The fact is, though, that accepting that children are born with a corrupt nature does not preclude the extension of God’s saving mercies in Christ being applied to their account.  There are a many evangelicals who maintain an orthodox anthropology yet are convinced that all infants that die enjoy the benefits of Christ and heaven.

I believe that one of the primary reasons that we continue to talk past each other stems from our differing presuppositions.  The obvious are your Pelagian convictions, which I view as heresy; mine are Calvinistic, which I’m sure you view as heretical. In your last email, your metaphysical dualist view was transparent.  I don’t believe for a second that the Bible teaches such.  Rather, the dualism is a provisional one (or an eschatological one, in several places).  The biblical view of man is, I argue, a metaphysical wholism.  That is, in his original probationary state in Adam, in Christ, and in the new creation, man is viewed as a whole being, a psychosomatic unity.  Any disconnect that exists between man’s material and immaterial, his physical and spiritual aspects is considered an abnormal condition that entered through sin.  This makes perfect sense when we consider the relational alienation that was caused by the fall: man was alienated from God, his fellows, his environment, and even himself.  This wholism, I believe, comes from Jerusalem, from Solomon’s Portico, whereas your Platonic view comes from Athens, from the Academy; the former is Hebraic (i.e., biblical), the latter is Greek (i.e., pagan).  Therefore, every passage one lobs at the other will inevitably be interpreted through the lens of his respective pre-commitment to one or the other of these fundamental anthropological presuppositions.  Interestingly, I believe this fact could be teased out even further through a discussion about the nature and properties of the tree of life. 

Your refusal to let a verse be conditioned and qualified by its surrounding context is frustrating.  Paul plainly tells us who the “all” and the “many” are; they are all of those represented by either of the two heads.  One class is all those in Adam; the other class is all those in Christ.  Yes; the effects and benefits of each head is imputed universally to each and every member of their class.  The classes, however, are exclusive.  Thus, the universal scope of each head’s effects is relative to the class represented by that head.  And, again, the asymmetrical correspondence is emphatically stated by Paul in the text.  Frankly, I don’t think that this view is difficult to grasp epistemically.  Yours seems to be more a psychological difficulty; it’s not that you can’t understand it, but won’t.  Accepting the exposition argued by myself (and orthodox historical theology) would lead you headlong into a number of blunders and contradictions, which conflict with your more fundamental commitments to a view that is foreign to the Bible as a whole. 

As an aside, I do in fact read the trust of the righteous man upon God in Ps 22 as literal, since it is a messianic psalm, speaking of Jesus’ always-present trust and reliance on the Father’s will.  Biblical poetry does often contain hyperbole, totality of polarity, and other tropes.  However, this in nowise precludes the possibility of poetry communicating literal, propositional truth through elevated language and verse. 

Thank you for your time.  I pray God give you grace to hear his voice.


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