Do you know how long the Jews have not believed in Adamic sin being imputed? How modern is that notion?
You ask an interesting question on the Jewish rejection of the imputation of Adam’s sin. I don’t think there was ever a time when rabbinic Judaism has not rejected the doctrine of original sin, and hence, the imputation of Adam’s sin. The imputation of Adam’s sin in Ro 5 is in keeping with the doctrine of original sin, which is strongly suggested in many scriptures in both testaments, but particularly required for our understanding of the necessity of Jesus’s virgin birth, since in this way the Messiah would circumvent the the fallen nature of Adam, as passed down through the seed of man. Jewish theology is particularly vocal and passionate in its rejection of the doctrine of original sin, strongly affirming instead the innate ability of man to achieve salvation, but not, of course, without the necessity of forgiveness and mercy through self-initiated repentance, nothing of the special drawing of the Spirit required.
Instead of original sin, Judaism teaches the notion of the two inclinations, with the free will of man being the arbiter as to which wins out in the struggle. They reject the Christian view that a deep root of corruption, received in the fall, pervades all our nature, rendering us incapable of a true and acceptable holiness apart from the special quickening of the Spirit. They believe that the only thing we inherit from Adam is the two inclinations inherent in human nature. With every new entry into the world, it is a fresh start of innocence that is progressively broken down or built up through free choices. No one enters into the world without the full right and ability to gain (earn?) eternal life through the wisdom and discipline of right choices (Ro 4:4). In Judaism, man is not inherently incapacitated for righteousness as in Christian theology (which is taken mostly, but not entirely from the scriptures of the NT that profoundly deny natural, unaided capacity for an acceptable righteousness (e.g., Ps 51:5; Jer 13:23; 17:9; Eze 16:5-6; Mt 19:17; Ro 7:14, 18, 23; 1Cor 2:14, Eph 2:1).
Although I believe that we do inherit the imputation of Adam’s particular sin, as he acted representatively in our nature, as in him all die; it is the fallen nature inherited from Adam that incapacitates us for true repentance, faith, and holiness, since this has rendered us as dead and inert apart from the special intervention of the Spirit. Hence, even the best that the unregenerate person is capable of producing, even in sincere obedience to divine commands, this cannot count for salvation, or even contribute towards eternal life. The way is barred from even the best of human will and noble intention (Ro 9:16, 31-32; 10:2-3). Of course, this is the offense of the cross, namely, the rejection of all that stands under the power of the first creation, not as always completely worthless in and of itself, but as necessarily rejected where the gift of eternal life is concerned.
Since this is getting at the heart of the mystery of the faith, that salvation comes only through a transforming revelation that creates a new union with the divine nature, it is to be expected that the natural man, and of course Jewish theology, would categorically reject such a foreign thesis. That “in man is nothing good” (MK 10:18; Ro 3:10; 7:18; Rev 15:4) is a consummate offense to reason, since it shatters hope in man. This is the hue and cry of humanism and the protest of every man centered theology.
This is not to say (though some have said) that all that pertains to the unsaved is worthless and evil. Even Calvin would speak of “the remnant of the image of God” in fallen man. All can see that the unregenerate are by no means incapable of a measure of goodness, but this cannot count for, or take the place of salvation. Lest any flesh should boast, this must be wholly the work of God by the Spirit. That’s the crucial difference. Man in the image of God, like the law written on stone, has a kind of glory; that is true, but it is fatally short of the glory of God. This is the problem.
It is an hard word indeed, but unless the thoughts and intent of the heart, however noble and selfless the motive, are the fruit of the indwelling Spirit of Christ received by faith, this cannot count with God where salvation and eternal reward is concerned. There may be temporary reward for wise living. A restrained and disciplined lifestyle with virtue and good works may even check and restrain the progress of sin and depravity and do some good in the world. But whatever its temporal value, it is short of the necessary miracle of the new creation and thus short of the glory God. As Paul would say, the only thing that counts is a new creation (Gal 6:15). Thus, Israel’s eschatological salvation in the present age becomes the paradigm and macrocosm of individual and corporate salvation through the transforming revelation of the gospel (Isa 45:17, 25; 54:13; 59:21; 66:8; Jer 31:34; 32:40; Eze 37:5; Dan 9:24 with Jn 3:3; 5:21; 6:45, 63; 2Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15; Eph 2:1; 1Pet 1:23)
The issue will always reduce to the issue of the Spirit. In Christ / in the Spirit is life eternal. Outside is wrath, regardless of time or dispensation, since only by the indwelling Spirit of Christ were any ever made alive to God. That is a rule that may be well inferred from a host of scriptures in both testaments (Gen 41:38; Nu 27:18; Isa 63:11; Dan 4:8-9, 18; 5:14; Mt 22:32, 43; Jn 3:3, 6, 10; 4:24; 6:63; 8:39; Ro 8:14-15; 9:8; 1Cor 2:14; 2Cor 3:17; Gal 4:29; 6:15; Eph 2:1; 1Pet 1:11). Not all receive the same reward or punishment (Lk 12:47-48), but eternal destiny is decided by the issue of life by Spirit through the imputed righteousness of Christ to true faith, which, of course, is a living, and thus a working faith.
Not even the most noble acts, however selflessly motivated, can count for salvation. Nothing of man or that stands in the will or power of man can avail. Only the imputation of Christ’s righteousness can justify before God, the evidence being the gift of the Spirit who creates the new heart of the New Covenant. It is the power and life of the new creation, born of the Spirit and the Word through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. This alone justifies before God.
I think a central and non negotiable point of our message must always be the unthinkable terror of presuming to stand before infinite, unapproachable holiness, in anything less or other than the very righteousness that was perfected in Jesus’s 33 1/2 years of tested obedience under the law as the spotless Lamb (Mat 3:15; Gal 4:4-5). To come in any other covering is an inexcusable affront (Mt 22:11-13). To present anything less, or to mix something of man with its perfection is to pollute and nullify the whole. By itself, no human work can stand in the judgment, since all other ground is sinking sand. That one sacrifice cannot brook mixture. It is all or nothing. To presume to add anything within human reach or power to the finished work of Christ is to pollute the whole. “A little leaven.” I realize that’s an hard word; but the law requires perfection. Anything short is an affront to divine holiness and to the law.
The Spirit could never have quickened the first sinner apart from the divine certainty of the Surety’s divinely guaranteed success, being already counted as a fully accomplished event in the eternal counsel and foreknowledge of God. Jews need to understand that Jesus and His sacrifice was not an afterthought, not a new plan, but the ground of all salvation past and future, even before the revelation of the mystery that brought to full light the way and means of God’s eternally predestined will to gather together all things in Christ (Eph 1:9-10). Obviously, this means that those in the OT who trusted in God for a righteousness that was not their own had imputed to them much more than they could yet understand (Ps 32:2; Ro 4:6). Just as when Jesus said, “For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them” (Matt 13:17), since now, the way into the holiest of all has been made manifest.
What points of appeal can be brought to Jews that can break into such a powerful false covering, so seemingly supported by scripture itself? (Ro 10:2-3; Phil 3:5-9). Surely it is a blindness that is especially powerful and unique to this beloved enemy “for our sakes” (Ro 11:28). Who, more than the Jew is calculated to send believers back to do their homework in order to give answer? (Prov 15:28; 16:1; Isa 50:4; 2Tim 2:15; 1Pet 3:15). By this divinely ordained encounter, believers are either deepened or devastated in their faith. The Jew is a provision to see if the believer has apprehended the revelation of the gospel by the Spirit (Isa 53:1; Mt 16:17; Ro 1:17; 1Cor 2:14; Eph 6:19). Else, this formidable challenge has the power, as nothing else, to profoundly shake the faith that one only ‘seemed’ to have (Lk 8:18).
Somehow, it has pleased God that when the foolishness of the cross is preached, the Spirit cuts through all the otherwise impossible intellectual barriers. Although the consummate offense, there is something about the concept of a crucified Messiah that breaks into the human spirit as nothing else ever could. As someone has well said, “true faith begins precisely at the point the atheist thinks it should be at an end.”