“[The sin of the world] resulted from a contingent historical action whose negative effects came to propagate themselves through the entire human race and all creation. However, God intervenes in Christ in such a way as to reverse these effects, a reversal that is at least in principle as universal as the effects themselves. That is to say, the act of salvation is somehow parallel to the origin of the problem it is trying to solve. I propose that for this to make sense, both the problem and the solution must be using some shared ontological “infrastructure.” Most fundamentally, human beings must be irreducibly related to one another and to all of creation. As a direct consequence of this interrelatedness, it is possible for an agent at a particular nodal point to have cascading effects, whether positive or negative, that touch on the entirety of the created reality.” –Adam Kotsko, The Politics of Redemption (New York, NY: T&T Clark International, 2010), 4-5.
The Biblical texts preceding this quote are from Romans 5:15-19 and 8:19-23 (NRSV). I would like to take up Rom. 5:15-19 in which debate around Paul’s assertion that “the free gift is not like the trespass” puts in question Kotsko’s proposal that “the act of salvation is somehow parallel to the origin of the problem it is trying to solve.” I would like to show how Kotsko’s proposal makes sense by investigating what the dissimilarity between the free gift and the trespass is.
Rom. 5:15-19 begins with the assertion that “the free gift is not like the trespass.” Paul then goes on to say how many died through the trespass, and that the free gift abounded for many. Therefore, one might think that the difference between the gift and the trespass is an ontological-infrastructural difference so that although the sin of Adam was propagated through all of creation, Christ’s gift of atonement does not have the same universal effect (because it is not like the trespass). However, the use of many for both the trespass and the gift undercuts this. The dissimilarity must be somewhere else then. I would suggest it is in vs. 16. Here Paul repeats that “the free gift is not like the effect of one mans sin.” But then immediately clarifies that by telling us what the dissimilarity is: “for the judgement following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification.” Here is the difference. Then, in case we are still confused, vs. 18 again affirms the universality of vs. 15: “Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.” So, the dissimilarity is one of the kind of effect (condemnation/ justification) rather than the pervasiveness of the effect.