Great to have your participation @Kathryn_Applegate !
Before I answer, I just want to clarify my purpose here. I understand that people are very passionate about these theological points and that I am explaining “minority” positions on the forums. I want to emphasize that I am not actually promoting my personal position here. I am instead advocating for the empty chair, those historically excluded from this conversation. I’m explaining what I have come to understand from places like TEDS, Concordia, Multnomah and other interactions I have had with theologians outside the BioLogos tent.
Also, I want to request (from everyone) to hold off on pressing their concerns about identifying populations as sub-humans. I do not want to get into that now, and it has been dealt with on my blog and Jeff Hardin’s post last weekend. It has no relevance to this conversation.
Federal headship is a theological concept that most theologians agree too, but is not the same thing as a “representative model of Adam” or “headship model of Adam” in evolution. The reason why many people who affirm federal headship reject it in relation to Adam in evolution is because that is a fairly large innovation on the standard conception of Federal headship.
The Starting Point
The theologians I’ve talked to always identify federal headship as a feature of covenantal communities. Covenantal communities are formed in different ways and have different ways of propagating. Usually, there is some combination of:
- Adoption into the community (as is emphasized in the new covenant and at times happened in Abrahamic covenant).
- Genealogical Descent (usually consecrated by, for example, baptism or circumcision).
- Founders of the Covenant themselves.
Examples of different covenants are, Abrahamic covenant, Mosaic Covenant, the Marriage covenant, Covenantal friendships (David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi), and the new covenant in Jesus. All appear to follow some variaiton of just these three rules.
Moreover, in all these cases, the covenantal community requires some sort of positive action to maintain connection to it. That is why, for example, some of Abraham’s offspring were able to leave the covenantal community, and so we are not all considered Jewish. That positive action an dparticipation is why it is called a covenantal COMMUNITY. There is presumption that we must be part of the community to be subject to the covenant. In no case that I know of (correct me if I am wrong), nothing binds one to a covenant community. One can leave the covenant when they want.
In these contexts, we can imagine the importance of “federal heads,” and we can see naturally how the actions of the “head” can transfer blessing and punishment upon the whole community. This is how most people understand covenantal communities and headship.
The Problem with Representative Adam
In this section I am referring to Representative Adam as is usually understood within BioLogos, see Origins by @LorenHaarsma for a primer.
The problem with transposing federal headship onto Adam in evolution is that this requires a large revision of our understanding of federal headship, essentially divorcing the concept from covenantal communities.
- There is no global covenantal community that links all our ancestors across the globe when Adam lives. If they are not in a covenantal community with him, how is their head? In every other case there is a “head” there is a covenantal community. How is that possible?
- Why are all our ancestors across the globe inextricably bound to the Adamic covenant and cannot leave it? They never joined the community (which does not appear to exist), but some how they are bound to it nonetheless. How is that possible when every other covenant can be broken and left?
- It appears that God imputes original sin on all humans independent entirely of their participation and collaboration with Adam’s sin. It makes sense why Eve is bound to Adam (she participates with him), but why are people in America held equally responsible? It does not make sense unless somehow we think God wanted to make them subject to original sin, so he set up the covenant to implicate those who did no wrong. That is just too hard a lift for many theologians, though I imagine some who affirm predestination might have no problem. At the very least, it is hard to motivate from God’s nature, and seems to be therefore very ad hoc.
- It raises a substantial Christological problem, and this is a tipping point for many people (if #3 was not enough). How could Jesus have been fully human without being subject to Adam’s representative Fall. Most theologians hold Jesus as an unfallen human, and all orthodox humans hold that his fully human. Other than divine fiat, what makes him different yet fully human but not subject to Adam’s representation?
- Once again a Christological problem, the traditional way this issue of Jesus’s nature has been resolved is by way of the Virgin Birth. This is lost in the representative model. If God can just by fiat declare that Jesus was not naturally born so he was not fallen, it raises the question about why he did not by fiat just say that naturally born children of Adam/Eve are not fallen either. There does not appear to be a satisfying answer. Traditionally, the Virgin Birth is supposed to be the key hook to resolve the riddle, even though several different approaches have been put forward.
- All this extra twists (#1, #2, #3, #4, #5) all raise a great deal of concern among many theologians about the coherence of this solution. At the very least, it is a fairly large revision of federal headship that disconnects it entirely from an visible covenantal community. This disconnection undermines its continuity with historical conceptions of federal headship quite substantially.
How Genealogical Transmission Is Helpful
Now, one way to think about a representative Adam is that it is exactly right, but all its problem arise because the transmission mechanism is not specified. That failure to identify a transmission mechanism calls for too many deus ex machina jumps in how we become to Adam’s headship.
Genealogical transmission of that headship is a pretty direct way to make sense of that. All the problems identified in the prior section evaporate, and we immediately link into an immense amount of traditional theology here too. We still claim that Adam is our federal head. We say that he becomes our head as his offspring spread across the globe.
There is some important questions about why God would have set it up this way. I will say that there are some very interesting (and unpublished) solutions to this that root it directly in God’s nature and the Genesis nature. To see those, we will have to be patient. The key thing is that there are some first principles ways to understand why…
- we cannot opt out of Headship by Adam,
- God did not set it up this way per se, but i tis a natural consequence of the interaction between Adam and His nature (unpublished),
- this still allows for adoption into Adam’s line, but from our point of view it is all (at least) genealogical now, and
- Also this makes sense of the Virgin Birth in a more coherent way than before.
- we are still subject to headship by Adam in the absence of a covenantal community.
I will defer to @Jon_Garvey to fill in some of his thoughts. THough I do not think he knows of the genealogical Fall theory I am referencing.
I hope that is helpful @Kathryn_Applegate.