I’ve often seen this question posed as a defense of original sin:
Wouldn’t we all have sinned just as Adam did in the garden? Doesn’t that make it justified for God to impute Adam’s guilt to us?
On the surface, this sounds like a great argument, and it’s powerful — because we are so in tune with our own sin. It only takes me a moment to consider my sinful ways, and how easily I give in to sin, and I quickly respond in the affirmative: I absolutely would have sinned if I were there in the garden instead of Adam.
But what we would have done in Adam’s place is irrelevant. God does not condemn us for sins we might have done, but for sins we actually have done. Not only that, saying, “Adam is our representative because we would have done just the same thing,” is a dangerous conclusion to reach. Here’s why.
If we should be found guilty for sins we might have done, or even sins we probably would have done, then there’s no limit to our guilt. You might have cheated on your taxes; I might have cheated on my wife. Is it right for God to judge us for these actions which never happened, but which could have happened?
How about this: if I were a German soldier during World War II, I might have pushed the button to gas the Jews at Auschwitz. If I were a Roman soldier stationed in Jerusalem in the first century, I might have mocked Jesus of Nazareth before nailing him to a cross. And it’s actually possible that I (and you) could have committed the unforgivable sin; does this mean we should be condemned for having committed it? And I’m betting you, like me, can imagine a world in which every person commits the sin of rejecting Jesus. However unlikely, it’s absolutely possible! Should God then condemn every human being to hell, leaving heaven empty?
This is the inevitable result if God were to condemn us for sins we might have committed. It seems to me that proponents of original sin don’t think this through when they make the claim that God is just to condemn us for sins we might have committed.
Playing “what if” games is a fruitless endeavor, and the Bible doesn’t indulge in it. On the contrary, its message is consistent and (dare I say) clear: we are judged for our own sins — not the sins we might have committed if we had the chance, and not for the sins which others have committed.