This is what Wayne Grudem has to say to that question in Systematic Theology (and for anyone frightened by the title of the book, the definition of "systematic theology" is: Any study that answers the question, "What does the whole Bible teach us today?" about any given topic). This is from the chapter on Sin, wherein sin is defined as: Any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature:
When we first confront the idea that we have been counted guilty because of Adam’s sin, our tendency is to protest because it seems unfair. We did not actually decide to sin, did we? Then how can we be counted guilty? Is it just for God to act this way?
In response, three things may be said:
(1) Everyone who protests that this is unfair has also voluntarily
committed many actual sins for which God also holds us guilty. These
will constitute the primary basis of our judgment on the last day, for
God "will render to every man according to his works" (Rom. 2:6), and
"the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done" (Col.
3:25). (2) Moreover, some have argued, "If any one of us were in Adam’s
place, we also would have sinned as he did, and our subsequent
rebellion against God demonstrates that." I think this is probably
true, but it does not seem to be a conclusive argument, for it assumes
too much about what would or would not happen. Such uncertainty may not
help very much to lessen someone’s sense of unfairness.
(3) The most persuasive answer to the objection is to point out
that if we think it is unfair for us to be represented by Adam, then we
should also think it is unfair for us to be represented by Christ and
to have his righteousness imputed to us by God. For the procedure that
God used was just the same, and that is exactly Paul’s point in Romans
5:12-21: "As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by
one man’s obedience many will be made righteous" (Rom. 5:19). Adam, our
first representative sinned–and God counted us guilty. But Christ, the
representative of all who believe in him, obeyed God perfectly–and God
counted us righteous. That is simply the way in which God set up the
human race to work. God regards the human race as an organic whole, a
unity, represented by Adam as its head. And God also thinks of the new
race of Christians, those who are redeemed by Christ, as an organic
whole, a unity represented by Christ as head of his people.
I am currently studying Bible Doctrine (see sidebar under Books I’m Reading for a link to Amazon.com), the condensed version of the above referenced book. Bible Doctrine was created for use by students in one semester classes in Christian doctrine, but it is often used in small groups and Sunday school classes. I highly recommend that every Christian who has never done a systematic theology study (and I venture to guess that is 99% of us) read this book (or the much larger volume). I wish I’d done so early in my Christian walk.
One of my first pastors when I was a new Christian taught that all Scripture should be interpreted with Scripture. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was systematic theology. There is always a danger when we take one passage out of the Bible and make it "the" truth or turn it into a doctrine. The Bible is God’s word, and we must see it in its entire scope to understand what God is telling us on any given subject.
I have been a follower of Christ for just shy of 29 years. There have been great peaks and deep, dark valleys. I have come to accept that I will never completely understand God because I have a finite mind. To think I could or should understand completely is prideful. Only in the past few years, coming through a time of great trial, have I finally (I hope) learned the joy of total surrender to His sovereignty. I don’t know why He chose this path for me, but I trust He did. Nothing enters my life that wasn’t first filtered through His loving fingers. And why does it enter my life? To conform me to the image of Jesus.
I want to be more like Jesus, and I’d just as soon have a lot of that transformation take place this side of heaven. So I surrender to His will. Again.
In the grip of His grace,