OBJECTION #3: “Isn’t it unfair that the human race would be judged for the decision of these two people?”

Atheist Michael Martin argues, “It is grossly unjust to punish the descendants of the first pair of human beings because this pair sinned against God. If God did this, then He must be unjust.”[1] Likewise, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong writes,

Almost everyone agrees that group punishment is barbaric. You should not be punished for what your father or your state’s governor did, especially if they did it before you were born. Why not? Because their acts were beyond your control, and it is unfair to punish people for what they cannot control. This widely accepted principle of justice would be violated by punishing babies for original sin.[2]

How should we respond to this objection?

First, this objection is based on a false assumption. The Bible teaches that we received Adam’s nature, but we did not receive his guilt. In fact, the Bible teaches that we are judged for our own sin –not the sin of our fathers (Mt. 16:27; Rom. 2:6; Ezek. 18:19-20). While we did inherit a sin nature (Eph. 2:4; Ps. 51:5), we are not judged for the sins of another person. We are affected by the sin of others (Ex. 20:5; 34:6-7; Num. 14:18; Deut. 5:9), but we are never determined by it.

Second, if God didn’t allow us to affect others, this would strip us of our personhood. Ultimate aspects of our personhood would be eliminated, if we were not allowed to affect others (e.g. meaning, purpose, morality, relationship, etc.). As image-bearers of God (Gen. 1:27), we need interaction with other persons in order to exercise our personhood. For instance, consider morality. Morality cannot exist in isolation from other persons. We see an example of this in the dystopian movie I am Legend. In the movie, Will Smith’s character steals from apartments, destroys property, and he drives his car at high speeds through the city. While these actions would normally be immoral, he is not acting immorally in the movie, because he lives in isolation. Morality cannot be exercised in the absence of persons.[3]

Third, consider solitary confinement. Many people find it inhumane to place someone in solitary confinement for too long. Being separated from personal contact is one of our most extreme tortures in the U.S. penal system. Similarly, if God put a protective bubble around each human being (not allowing us to affect one another), this would actually be a form of torture! –not love. John Wenham writes,

In this way alone is there the possibility of progress. In this way alone can there be any real history. It is just conceivable that a world could be made in which every man was his own Adam, in which every individual was insulated from his neighbor, unable to help him or harm him, unable to receive his help or suffer his injuries. But it would be a dull and lonely place.[4]

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[1] Martin is summarizing John Hick, but he agrees with Hick’s conclusion, so I’m quoting him with the thought. Martin, Michael. Atheism: a Philosophical Justification. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1990. 443.

[2] Craig, William Lane., and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. God?: a Debate between a Christian and an Atheist. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. 90.

[3] Of course, he could still sin –in the Christian understanding –because he is still in the presence of God –a personal Being. But, the analogy is given to explain the necessity of persons for morality. Also, God is an inter-personal Being, so morality existed before the creation of humans (Jn. 17:5; 24; Eph. 1:4).

[4] Wenham, John William. The Goodness of God. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1974. 76.