Iseoluwa’s Unresolved Theological Question
By: Deji Yesufu
I began to teach my children the reformed children catechism when they were very little but I quickly understood that they will require a level of maturity to be able to grasp its message so we only started concentrated learning and memorizing of the catechism last year March. We ensure that we learn, at least one question, every week. We reached question 50 last Sunday: What is Justification? It is God forgiving sinners, and treating them as if they had never sinned. Adesola, the older one, our girl, is 11 years old and has a better grasp of the lessons behind the catechism; so she does not ask too many questions. My trouble is with Iseoluwa, the boy and the younger one, who has this unresolved theological challenge. The problem began when we started to look at the origin of sin, particularly question 34: Did Adam act for himself alone in the covenant of works? No; he represented all his posterity. Now, the way we learn the catechism is that I ask the question, they learn the answer and then perfect saying it off memory. Then I teach them the theological lesson in it all. In spite of this, Iseoluwa still has questions.
His question goes something like this: Daddy, if Adam sinned, why does God then blame the rest of us for his sin? This follows the natural conclusions from the concept of original sin. Last Sunday, he asked the question again and I gave him the usual answer in a modified format. I asked him: What is your name? He said Iseoluwa Yesufu. So, I asked him where did the “Yesufu” come from. As he struggled to answer, I told him that it was a name he inherited from me. Just as I inherited it from my father, etc. I told him that there is such a thing as representation in our world. Today, in the committee of nations, President Buhari will often represent Nigeria. I told him that representation often carries consequences. For example, the mere fact that President Zelensky of Ukraine have refused to submit to the autocracy of President Putin, means that many Ukrainian will have to die in a war that they know almost nothing about. That Adam, as the first man, is the federal head of all human kind. When Adam fell into sin, he became a sinner and he passed this sinful representation to every person that is born a human being in our world. My son is 9 years old and from the expression on his face, I can tell he has not understood the answer. But I trust God that one day he will and with understanding will come his own personal grasp of a Savior.
Iseoluwa will often stop me during a teaching session and say something like this: But is it fair for God to blame us for the sin of another? Then I will tell him: alas, therein lies the blessing and the miracles of redemption. Here is a scripture I once pointed out to him and his sister:
“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound…” (Romans 5:19-20)
The idea of “fairness” in the whole story of redemption is made null and void when you realize that it is also on this same concept that the story of salvation is premised. If God is not fair in placing the sin of Adam on all mankind, then God will not extend grace to sinners because humanity’s falling into sin and redemption from sin must follow the same logic. The same God who chose to place the sin of Adam on all mankind, who never partook of Adam’s original sin; is the same God who chooses to put the righteousness of his Son on sinners, who never partook of his Son’s good deeds. Theologians call it imputation. Because we are born of Adam, we must partake of the sin of Adam. So that when we are born of Christ, we then partake in the righteousness of Christ. Our original sin is not the result of our personal disobedience but an inheritance from our father Adam; in the same manner, our righteousness before God cannot be the consequences of our good deeds but the result of the obedience of Christ. If God will be fair to all humanity, he will send us all to hell for our sin in Adam. But God has chosen to show grace to a few: by grace have we been saved.
Somebody might question the relevance of bringing little children into the world of theological debates. Is it not enough for them to learn the stories of how David killed Goliath and how Jesus Christ walked on the sea? While those stories are relevant, the question of how man fell, the origin of sin and the redemption in Christ, are the central themes of the Bible. And if we do not offer our children relevant answers to these questions, cults will do it for them. The human mind is so incredibly vast such that it can possess large amount of data and process those data for greater good in future. At my son’s age, my mind was filled with Fela’s songs – which my Dad played every Saturday morning. If it pleases God that my children possess these theological data at heart and then combine it with secular education, God alone knows where those information will come to prove relevant in the future. One thing is sure, God’s word will not fall to the ground. The scripture that teaches to train a child in the way that he should go and when he is grown, he will not depart from the path, shows that a child properly catechized will possess sufficient godly data within his mind that will quite naturally and effortlessly keep him from the path that drown many in perdition.
The question: How can a man be saved? Is the theological question that the 16th century reformers battled. The answer they gave us, and which they carefully enunciated in the catechisms, is that a man saved is through the grace of God alone. Grace will not be grace if men work to earn it. The story of Adam’s fall magnifies the grace of God that saves sinners. If Adam will pass sin to all his posterity, we rejoice that Jesus passes his righteousness to all those born of Him. Amen.