Inherited Sinful Nature:
A View Permissible as both Biblical and Baptist
The doctrinal formulation known as inherited guilt, or imputed guilt, holds a prominent position within the history of Christianity as well as among Baptists. The claim of this paper is that inherited guilt, the view that every person inherits more than a sinful nature or inclination but also the actual guilt of the first Adam, faces the challenge of maintaining internally-consistent theological assertions when formulating a doctrine of infant salvation. In other words, there may be a better way of understanding what the Bible teaches about our inheritance from Adam and subsequent sin and death which has been answered by God in the gift of His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This view, inherited sinful nature, is presented in a basic way through seven biblical statements on the spiritual condition of infants. The paper supports this view by engaging key texts (such as 2 Samuel 12; Psalm 51:5; and Romans 5:12), major theologians (such as Augustine, Calvin, Wayne Grudem and John MacArthur), and our convention’s common doctrinal statement, the BFM 2000.
This paper is offered as a resource to benefit Southern Baptist pastors. While the professors teach students about doctrinal issues such as the nature of our inheritance from Adam or how to formulate a theologically-consistent doctrine of infant salvation, it is pastors who do the hardest work. It is pastors who prepare and deliver funeral sermons for those previous infants and minister to those hurting families in subsequent years. Reared in SBC churches across the country (moved by the military every few years), I heard a wide variety of Southern Baptist pastors and Bible study teachers advocate a view which was sometimes referred to as an age or stage of accountability. This view resonated with many people as faithful to the teachings of Scripture. But there seemed to be little-to-nothing in print which articulated a biblical-theological defense for such a view. This paper is offered as a small contribution to begin filling that theological void. It is my intuition that this view of inherited guilt will be gladly received because it is already widely affirmed throughout the SBC.
The content of this paper was drawn from the work in my 2007 PhD dissertation in Theology completed at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The dissertation was revised and published in 2011 with pastors in mind. Unless a person wants to comb through 400+ footnotes from more than 200+ sources, I recommend simply reading this paper. On a personal note, it is humbling to know that God may desire to encourage and sharpen certain pastors in their high calling through this proposal. If it blesses even one pastor and aids in his ministry, then I will thank the Lord, because it was prepared as an offering to the Him and now I am honored to offer it for consideration to the pastors who serve in His churches throughout the SBC.
Monergism.com refers to statements made by R.C. Sproul in an excerpt from his book, The Mystery of the Holy Spirit. Sproul makes the following statements concerning regeneration in salvific process.
One of the most dramatic moments in my life for the shaping of my theology took place in a seminary classroom. One of my professors went to the blackboard and wrote these words in bold letters: “Regeneration Precedes Faith”
In this scheme of things, the initiative falls with us. To be sure, God had sent Jesus to die on the cross before I ever heard the gospel. But once God had done these things external to me, I thought the initiative for appropriating salvation was my job.
These words were a shock to my system. I had entered seminary believing that the key work of man to effect rebirth was faith. I thought that we first had to believe in Christ in order to be born again. I use the words in order here for a reason. I was thinking in terms of steps that must be taken in a certain sequence. I had put faith at the beginning. The order looked something like this:
“Faith – rebirth -justification.”
The editors of SBC Today would like to take this opportunity thank all of those who have supported “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” with their signatures. Your willingness to publicly affirm the Statement in this way greatly assisted in communicating to the SBC that there is a soteriological point-of-view that needs to be heard and engaged, and this is exactly what has happened. A robust discussion of these matters has ensued, culminating in Dr. Frank Page’s commitment to create a special committee to study these issues and bring back a report to the Convention.
A Biblical Critique of Calvinism
Part 1c: The Inclusivity of the Gospel Invitation
by Dr. Michael A. Cox, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Pryor, OK
and author of Not One Little Child: A Biblical Critique of Calvinism
Paul’s second epistle to the Corinthians maintains that Christ died for all (2 Cor. 5:15). Paul believed that Christians had been given the ministry of reconciling all to Christ (2 Cor. 5:18), not just a select group. Further, Paul echoed the words of Jesus found in John 3:16 when he wrote that God was in Christ reconciling the entire world to Himself (2 Cor. 5:19).
Paul’s letter to the Colossians discloses that the apostle pleaded with everyone he could to come to Christ (Col. 1:28). If language means anything, Paul taught everyone that he or she could come to Christ (Col. 1:28), and passionately desired to present everyone complete in Christ (Col. 1:28).
The writer of the Book of Hebrews said that Christ is the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him (Heb. 5:9). In Heb. 12:15 the same writer admonished his readers to exhaust all resources to see to it that no one misses out on the grace of God. This insists that people pursue the grace of God. Evangelical Christians then must strive to see to it that nobody comes short of the grace of God, for we are our brother’s keeper. To rely on one’s own works is to come short of God’s grace. The writer to the Hebrews knew well that to become aware of God’s grace in Christ and still revert to the temple sacrifices would spell disaster. To rely on anything other than the blood of Christ is to come short of God’s grace. God’s grace is tall, man’s works are short. God’s grace is deep, man’s works are shallow. God’s grace is free, man’s works are costly. God’s grace brings cleansing, man’s works leave filthiness. We must be active evangelistically such that we do all that is within our power to see to it that every person has the opportunity to experience God’s grace. And it is plainly possible to reject God’s grace. We must allow no root of bitterness to spring up, cause trouble, and defile because bitterness rots the bones. Bitterness, like sin itself, is contagious. We are herein told to uproot bitterness in our life. When the weed of bitterness rears its ugly head it poisons everyone around it. We must prevent this. Does this verse not demonstrate that God’s grace is both resistible and accessible to all? I believe that it does.
Article Seven: The Sovereignty of God
We affirm God’s eternal knowledge of and sovereignty over every person’s salvation or condemnation.
We deny that God’s sovereignty and knowledge require Him to cause a person’s acceptance or rejection of faith in Christ.
Genesis 1:1; 6:5-8; 18:16-33; 22; 2 Samuel 24:13-14; 1 Chronicles 29:10-20; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Joel 2:32; Psalm 23; 51:4; 139:1-6; Proverbs 15:3; John 6:44; Romans 11:3; Titus 3:3-7; James 1:13-15; Hebrews 11:6, 12:28; 1 Peter 1:17
Article 7 of “A Statement of a Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” addresses summarily the issue of God’s Sovereignty juxtaposed to human responsibility. Although we do affirm God’s knowledge of and sovereignty over every person’s salvation or condemnation, we do not embrace the assertion that God’s sovereignty and knowledge requires Him to cause a person’s acceptance or rejection of faith in Christ. In short, we do not embrace the understanding of God’s sovereignty as proffered by our Calvinistic brothers.
Before you take this as an attack, please understand that many who embrace this understanding are friends. By no means should this be construed as an attack on them, but rather an attempt to reconsider and clarify the meaning of God’s self-revelation in Scripture. When the proverbial dust settles, the bigger issue is our quest to understand who God is and what He has communicated.
In every attempt to understand Scripture, we must ask “What does it say? What does it mean? And, What do I do about it?” All the while, we must keep in mind both the genre and the context.
In order to avoid the accusation that I am addressing an issue that is not really a concern, or that my understanding of the issue is not really what our Reformed-oriented brothers are saying (or believing), permit me to interact with a text I have read multiple times and actually used as a required text when I taught evangelism, Packer’s Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God.