Book Reviews

Christ and Adam. Man and Humanity in Romans 5

Karl Barth

Harper & Brothers, New York, 1957. pp. 96. $2.00

This is a translation by T. A. Smail of Karl Barth’s Christus und Adam Nach Rom. 5 published in 1952. An introduction to this edition of the translation is provided by Wilhelm Pauck in which we have a helpful summary of Barth’s view of man as found in the Church Dogmatics.

The genius of Barth appears in this brief treatise as in his larger works, and the vigor of his thought is liable to exercise such a commanding influence over the reader that the demands of detailed exegesis do not receive their due. It is, however, to these details that we must pay attention and on some of these we may reflect.

People whose thinking has been conditioned by the reformation tradition are aware of the distinction between the ground of justification and justification itself, and they have always associated ,lctual justification with faith. This is true whether justification is conceived of as logically prior to faith or faith as logically prior to justification. But it is a different conception altogether that we find in Barth. The righteousness of God Barth defines as “the final righteous decision of God” (p. 20) and faith on our part is simply the acknowledgment of it so that in believing we “are only conforming” to this divine decision already mad e in Christ (p. 24).

Now it is true that there is the once-for-all accomplishment in the blood of Christ which is antecedent to our faith, and Paul calls it the propitiation, the reconciliation, and redemption. But faith, when it comes into exercise, is not directed to the fact that we have been justified but to Christ as Savior that we may be justified (cf. Gal. 2:16). We shall have to discount the pervasive teaching of Paul if we are to adopt Barth’s construction, and we must not assume that the righteousness of God (Rom. 1:17; 3:21, 22; 10:3; II Cor. .5:21; Phil. 3:9) is to be equated with justification, any more than is the blood of Christ, once shed for sin, to be identified with justification. After all, the distinction between the once-forall historicaI accomplishment in Christ and actual justification is well established in Paul’s teaching.

In connection with Rom. 5: 12-19 and the parallel between Adam and Christ, Barth’s divergence from Paul’s teaching is quite patent. For Barth, “Adam” is not to be understood as one person who at the beginning of human history committed a particular sin which is unique in its meaning and effect as the one trespass in which all the other members of the race were involved by imputation. Adam is for Barth the typical man, the “responsible representative” of mankind, not because he regards Adam’s sin in Eden as a unique sin by reason of Adam’s unique relation to the race, but simply because Adam’s sin is repeated and other men share in his sin and they sin as Adam did. “We are what Adam was and so are all our fellow men. And the one Adam is what we and all men are” (pp. 90f.). In a word, we are all Adam.

If one thing is clear in Romans 5:12–19 it is that by the one trespass of the one man all were accounted sinners. Paul’s emphasis upon the one trespass of the one is the opposite of the idea of repetition, and the only interpretation consistent with this emphasis is that all men were involved in Adam’s trespass in a way that is absolutely distinctive, a distinctiveness arising from the unique constitution by which Adam was made the head of the race.

The most important feature of Barth’s construction of the passage in question is the primacy accorded to Christ. Thus “man’s essential and original nature is to be found…not in Adam but in Christ” (p. 29) and the relationship between Adam and us is that which “exists originally and essentially between Christ and us” (p. 30). This implies that the relation of Christ to men is as inclusive as the relation of Adam to men and therefore justification passes upon all men as surely as condemnation (cf p. 32). Unless we are to abandon exegesis this would mean that all men without exception must ultimately be the partakers of that grace that reigns through righteousness unto eternal life (Rom. 5:21). For if there is universalism in Romans 5:18, 19 there must also be the same in Romans 5:21. But this cannot agree with Paul’s teaching (cf. II Thessalonians 1:8, 9).

Furthermore, the analogy which is instituted in Romans 5:12–19 does not establish the primacy which Barth posits and particularly not the inference drawn from the parallelism, namely, that Christ sustains to men as universal a relationship in the matter of justification as Adam in the matter of sin and condemnation. All that can be established is that there is a parallelism between our relation to Adam in the realm of sin and death and our relation to Christ in the realm of righteousness and life. And, if we are to use the idea of primacy, I Corinthians 15:45–49 provides us with Paul’s own teaching in this respect: Adam was the first man and Christ the second and last Adam. Christ as the second man from heaven and as life-giving Spirit is meaningless except on the assumption of the priority of Adam bringing sin and death. Christ indeed is from above and Adam from beneath. But the kind of primacy that Barth intrudes would violate not only Paul’s express terms but also the presupposition upon which the relevance of Christ as the second and last Adam rests.

Finally, the use which Barth makes of the “how much more” of verses 15, 17 in support of his thesis exemplifies the kind of expedient to which he resorts. Barth rightly interprets “how much more” in Romans 5:9, 10 to mean that since Christ achieved our reconciliation we can be sure he will achieve our salvation as well (cf. p. 45). Here it is plain that our final salvation is a necessity arising from the fact of reconciliation in the death of Christ. But it is not by any means apparent that the same kind of causal relationship resides in the “how much more” of verses 15, 17. The commanding thought in these verses is the superabundant freeness of God’s gracious provision in the gospel in contrast with the process of punitive judgment. The argument is basically different from that in verses 9, 10. In the latter the argument is from the greater manifestation of grace to the lesser—both antecedent and consequent are within the orbit of grace and of grace alone. But in verses 15, 17 the argument is not at all to the effect that the necessity of judgment unto life through the righteousness of Christ arises from the judgment unto d eat h through the trespass of Adam. The argument is simply that, if the judgment was from one trespass unto condemnation) how much more, in view of the efficacy of grace and when grace comes into operation, must the free gift abound unto justification. It is the incomparable plenitude and efficacy of grace that is in view and not any inference from the fact of judgment to the necessity of grace.

These examples are sufficient to show that, notwithstanding the massive .architecture of Barth’s construction, there is failure to establish from Paul’s teaching the foundations upon which it rests. Deviation at such crucial points makes impossible a superstructure that will be Pauline and biblical.

John Murray, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia.



The Christmas Heart

by Gertrude Haan

Published by Grand Rapids International Publications. 62 pages. Price $1.50

For Emily, this Christmas brought more than the usual excitement of snow and colored lights, of carols and gifts, and of the Sunday School program. This year she came to know experientially the meaning of real Christmas giving. Prompted by love and compassion, she gave her most treasured possession to someone she had until then despised and avoided, a poor, lonely Hungarian orphan. But her sacrifice was abundantly compensated by the joy and understanding in her own heart and the happiness and friendship kindled in the heart of the little refugee.

This is a charming story for children from six to ten years of age, in an attractively printed and illustrated form.

“Peter” Pavitt Palmer

The Heicher Filing System

By M.K.W. Heicher

Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, price $2.00

Heicher’s Filing System, which is “simple and workable,” can certainly be recommended for use by “ministers, missionaries, church school teachers, and other church workers.” In the seminary, and perhaps also in college, it is wise to begin with some filing system. Once in the ministry, and especially in the first years, one has little time to work on a filing system. In fact, that is just when one most needs it.

One nice feature of this filing system is its inexpensiveness. Any and every student can afford to buy it. The book is at first the most expensive item. Other equipment needed almost every student already possesses. Surely every minister already has some filing cabinet and filing system. If your present filing system does not satisfy you perhaps this one has the answer. In any case, it is worth investigating. No minister can afford to be without a filing system that has “the desired illustration, the sermonic theme, the important quotation, the notes made in moments of inspiration, the pregnant facts…at hand when needed.” Reicher’s system fully answers this requirement.

Cecil W. Tuininga