How do we answer the question of the inheritance of sin from Adam (Rom 5:12) and how can God hold us responsible for sin if we are born in sin and with a sin nature. In attempting to answer such a weighty question three views, in which some have attempted to answer this difficult question, come to mind.
First is the
Myth Theory - which symbolizes much if not all of chapter 3 of Genesis and join in with a host of others who attempt to relegate the creation and fall of man in Genesis Chapter 1-3 to an exercise of the mind or symbology. This first theory seeks to explain the “symbology” of the fall as conveying a higher moral truth that “all men sin.” It does not present sin as being inherited from Adam and therefore universal but is the result of yielding to one’s “own private temptation.” This argument offers nothing in the way of an explanation as to how sin came into being. If each one of us is born without a sinful nature, how [does it] account for the universality of sin? If society is presented as the corrupting influence upon man this only moves the question to how society became completely corrupt. Statically out of the billions of people that have lived, some place in the world non-corrupt people would have come together forming a pocket civilization in society producing non-sinning individuals, yet it has not. Also, if we relegate Adam and Eve to a mythological representation of sin it would then seem since chapter 3 of Luke provides the genealogy of Jesus back to Adam, this would link Jesus to sin casting doubt upon His qualification as a sinless offering for sin.
Realist View - answers the question presented by taking the scriptures in a literal fashion and rests heavily upon the meanings of Ezek 18:2-4; 19-20 and Heb 7:9-10 but which must be first wrench from its context in order to arrive at a therefore incorrect conclusion. The realist would place everyone in the garden with Adam and fell with him and gives the soul an existence prior to being born physically. This view is an attempt to deny the imputation of sin from Adam to all man kind which is clearly taught in Rom 5:12 where we find three clear teachings; sin entered through one man, as result of his sin death entered, and all sinned. However as RC Sproul notes some object stating “We don’t mind having our guilt transferred to Jesus or having his righteousness transferred to us; it is having the guilt of Adam transferred to us that makes us howl.”
Last is the Representative View - which proposes that Adam acted as the representative of the entire, yet unborn, human race. It sees Adam as the best possible candidate for the task and trusts that God in choosing (electing) Adam did so perfectly, righteously and justly. That Adam’s sin was our sin is seen also in Rom 5:12 in the phrase “all sinned.” John McArthur in his commentary on Romans states: “Sinned translates a Greek aorist tense, indicating that at one point in time all men sinned. That, of course, was the time that Adam first sinned. His sin became mankind's sin, because all mankind were in his loins.” The entire human race was found in Adam just as the child of promise and the descendants of promise were all in Abraham (Gen 15). However, this cannot be viewed as one receiving unjust punishment for the sins of another as RC Sproul states: “What God has done for me is to redeem me from my sin. He has not redeemed me from his [Adam’s] sin.” And this is true for one man's sins accounted (or not accounted) to another; but we must allow for this exact case in that Christ in His sinless perfection received the punishment for another in that “He who knew no sin to be sin for us” (2 Cor 5:21).
It is therefore the “Federal or Representative View” which more closely aligns with the Scriptures. It, within the context of Scripture builds the case which offers the best possible explanation of how we are born in sin and from the moment we draw breath fall under condemnation.