Reply to Jared Moore Regarding Southern Seminary and the BFM, Part 1

January 7, 2013

Adam Harwood, PhD
Assistant Professor of Christian Studies
Truett-McConnell College
Cleveland, Georgia


Sunday morning, Dec. 23, I awoke to find this unexpected present under my Christmas tree: http://sbcvoices.com/adam-brought-sin-into-the-human-race-a-response-to-adam-harwood/. Although thankful for the opportunity to hear from an SBC pastor on a topic of theological and denominational significance, it was difficult to give the post much attention. After all, it was posted on a Sunday morning–on Christmas Eve Eve (as one of my children likes to say). Nevertheless, the post generated a great deal of interest. Within 48 hours, it garnered over 200 comments. If you had contacted me privately, I would have addressed your concerns privately. But you didn’t. Since you posted a public response to my essays, my reply will also be public.

I’ll begin with the end of your post. Like you, I desire unity in the SBC. That was the primary motivation behind my two recent essays at SBC Today. My goal is to seek clarification from SBTS regarding their view of our inheritance from Adam. Because Dr. Schreiner’s recent paper and the faculty exposition of the BFM advance a theological position not affirmed in the BFM, I am unclear on their interpretation of the BFM. My queries regarding SBTS are prompted by a desire for unity within the SBC. As I wrote in my Dec. 11 essay: “Because Southern Baptists are a theologically diverse group, all the seminaries should allow for theological differences which are permissible within the convention’s statement of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (BFM).”

To review: In my Nov. 29 essay, I explained that Schreiner’s affirmation of inherited guilt is consistent with the Abstract, not the BFM (http://sbctoday.wpengine.com/2012/11/29/the-ets-the-ap-the-bfm/). In my Dec. 11 essay, I asked whether the published SBTS faculty exposition of the BFM represents an institutional commitment to a position which is not affirmed in the BFM and rejected by many Southern Baptists (http://sbctoday.wpengine.com/2012/12/11/sbts-and-bfm/).

Moore’s Unsupported Assertions

            On Dec. 23, you replied to my essays. The primary weakness of your reply was your method. Specifically, you critiqued my two essays without bothering to offer a single quotation. (Your final sentence may have quoted two words because you set “plain reading” in quotation marks.) You inserted links to my essays, but links are not quotations. Pastor Moore, you wrote a 1,000+ word essay which amounted to a string of unsupported assertions. For example:

Harwood said (insert unsupported assertion here)

and if he means (insert another unsupported assertion),

then he must not believe (insert orthodox Christian view).

I am under no obligation to defend against views I never affirmed.

When my undergraduate students submit a theological critique without interacting with the subject’s actual words, their grades suffer. I don’t mean to imply that you are one of my students. What I mean is that you presented my position poorly. That’s no surprise because you failed to quote my actual words. The first step in developing a theological critique is to accurately summarize the person’s position. My two essays which you linked total more than 4,400 words. Your post (may have) interacted with two of those words. That’s hardly a critique.

At this point, I could simply end my reply by saying: “Please re-read my essays.” Instead, I’ll respond to some of the things you inaccurately attributed to me, then I’ll reiterate verbiage from my previous essays in hopes of providing both correction and clarity for those who have read your rejoinder at SBC Voices.

Southern Seminary, Sin, Guilt, and the BFM

            In the first sentence, you write: “Adam Harwood … recently argued that Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, because they believe in original guilt, may not be able to affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (BF&M2K).”

My claim is not that SBTS is unable to affirm the BFM. As I noted in my Nov. 29 essay, the BFM is one of SBTS’s statements of faith. My claim is that an SBTS professor recently advanced a view of guilt which is not affirmed in (and may be contrary to) the BFM.

Your objection is that Article 3 of the BFM is consistent with an affirmation that all people inherit Adam’s guilt. After quoting from Article 3, you write:

Professor Harwood argues that this statement affirms that Adam’s guilt did not spread to the rest of the human race.  The reality, however, is that the BF&M2K begins discussing man’s sin with this statement: “man [Adam] sinned against God and brought sin into the human race.”  Harwood left this statement out of his rebuttal to Dr. Schreiner and SBTS (Part 1 and Part 2).  We must understand the rest of the BF&M2K statement in light of Adam bringing sin into the human race.  This means that sin spread to the human race, otherwise, the statement means nothing about the human race, only Adam. (Emphasis in the original.)

If the word “guilt” had been used in that line of the BFM rather than “sin,” then your point would stand. But the BFM does not state: “man sinned against God and brought guilt into the human race.” Rather, the BFM states: “man sinned against God and brought sin into the human race.” Our difference on this issue is simple. I consider “sin” in that line to refer to a nature “inclined toward sin,” which is referenced later in Article 3. You consider “sin” in that line to refer to Adam’s guilt, which is not mentioned in the BFM.

I anticipated and answered your objection 24 days before your post. From my essay of Nov. 29:

“Objection #2: Harwood has either misunderstood or misrepresented the BFM 2000. Article 3 is compatible with the view that all people inherit Adam’s guilt.

Reply: In exactly what way have I either misunderstood or misrepresented the BFM 2000? It makes no mention of inherited guilt. Rather, it affirms clearly an inherited sinful nature and states that people ‘become transgressors and are under condemnation.’ In what way is that compatible with inherited guilt? Is a person under condemnation before he is a transgressor? Reformed theologians hold this view but it cannot be sustained from the language of the BFM 2000.”

Also in the Nov. 29 essay: “Article 3 of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 states clearly that people inherit something from the first man. But the BFM does not state that we inherit guilt or condemnation. Instead, we ‘inherit a nature and environment inclined toward sin.’ According to the BFM, people do not begin life under condemnation. Rather, ‘as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors.’

The pertinent section of the BFM reads as follows: ‘Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin. Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation.’ (See http://sbc.net/bfm/bfm2000.asp.)

But Schreiner’s view, which is standard fare in Reformed confessions and many systematic theologies, is that people come into the world under condemnation due to Adam’s sin. That is contrary to the BFM 2000.”

Your reply does no damage to my thesis. If the BFM states that people become transgressors but an SBTS professor teaches that people are always transgressors, then in what way is that professor’s view consistent with the words of the BFM?

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Norm Miller

Dr. Harwood: Thank you for your scholarship, even-handed forthrightness, and your commitment to theological accuracy. May your tribe increase. — Norm

Rick Patrick

In this reply, Dr. Harwood combines clarity of expression with the careful application of logic. He also benefits in this exchange in that he possesses the time-honored advantage of being right.

Ronnie W Rogers

Dr. Harwood, I greatly appreciate the way, words and spirit, in which you previously laid out your concerns. Clearly, you have done a great service to all of us by illuminating this particular point. Now, you have responded to a misunderstanding of your position, once again, with necessary precision while avoiding the bafflegab. Thank you!

    Adam Harwood

    Norm, Rick, and Ronnie –
    Thanks for taking the time to read the post and for your words of encouragement.
    In Him,
    Adam

Carl Peterson

Adam,

A good rebuttal but Moore argued that sin (in the BFM) always includes condemnation. He quotes another passage of the BFM (sorry but I do not have the time to go back and quote Moore) to support his case. Thus he is arguing that “sin” in Article 3 does include guilt. So if we inherit sin from Adam then we inherit guilt. I did not see you any mention of this argument in your rebuttal. I think it is the strongest part of Moore’s post.

I think you hit the nail on the head when you stated that the difference between Moore and yourself is the definition of “sin” in article 3 but please interact with the fullness of what Moore had to say about it.

BTW I do not agree with the traditionalist view but enjoy the conversation and a freindly debate between brothers in Christ. This debate has helped me think more clearly about my own beliefs.

CARL

    Adam Harwood

    Carl,
    Thanks for your comment. Due to the length of my reply, it was divided into multiple posts. Perhaps your concern will be addressed in parts 2 or 3.
    In Him,
    Adam

Carl Peterson

Adam,

Sorry. My bad. Did not see that this was only part one of your reply. I will wait to read the whole reply and see. Thanks.

CARL

David R. Brumbelow

Dr. Harwood,
Very good article. Thanks for the information. Look forward to reading more.
David R. Brumbelow

    Adam Harwood

    Pastor David, Thanks for your kind note.
    In Him,
    Adam

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