Dr. Adam Harwood, 2013 John 3:16 Presentation, Part 4/4

May 23, 2013

Below is a portion of a March 21-22, 2013 John 3:16 Conference presentation.

Read the Baptist Press article about the conference here: http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=39992

A free e-book containing the 2013 John 3:16 Conference presentations is scheduled to be released at SBC Today on May 30, 2013.

For audio CDs of the 2013 John 3:16 Conference, click the banner below/right.


Objection: What about the Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness?

            Calvinistic brothers in the SBC sometimes object: Isn’t the imputation of Christ’s righteousness a response to the imputation of Adam’s guilt? My reply: No. What does the Bible teach us about the righteousness of God? Romans 3:21-22 states: “The righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it–the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” 3:28: “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” Consider 4:5: “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness…”

Abraham believed God was able to do what He promised. Consider Rom 4:22-25: “That is why his faith was counted to him as righteousness. But the words ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” Paul’s point in Romans 3 and 4 is that others are made righteous in the same way as Abraham, by faith.

In the Bible, being counted by God as righteous doesn’t require an imputation of Adam’s guilt–it requires believing in Jesus.


Why This Matters for Southern Baptists

            Some of you still don’t see a problem. You say, “Southern Baptists have always differed on Calvinism.” True. But in recent years, those differences have turned into division. I’ll give you two examples of this division. Both examples center on one of our institutions, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

We’ve already established that some Christians teach that Adam alone is guilty of Adam’s sin. Others teach that the guilt of Adam’s sin falls on everyone. Consider the differences between Article 3 of the Baptist Faith and Message and a document entitled “An Exposition from the Faculty of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on The Baptist Faith and Message 2000.”[1]


What do we inherit from Adam? According to the BFM, all people (Adam’s “posterity”) “inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin.” When are people under condemnation? “As soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and under condemnation.”

But the SBTS Faculty Exposition of the BFM affirms a different view–one not found in the BFM. The Faculty Exposition makes no mention of: a nature inclined toward sin, becoming capable of moral action, or becoming transgressors. Instead, the SBTS Faculty Exposition of the BFM inserts a view not found in the BFM: “…the guilt of Adam’s sin falls on all…”

I don’t mean to imply that the SBTS Faculty don’t affirm the BFM. They do so as part of the hiring process. Rightly so. But the Faculty Exposition omits concepts found in the BFM and replaces them with a theological viewpoint not found in the BFM, namely that people all people are guilty of Adam’s sin.

Southern Baptists who affirm different views on Adam’s guilt can and should cooperate in the work of the Great Commission. I am addressing this issue publicly to foster greater understanding within the SBC and to suggest these are orthodox but differing views. Both views of guilt are permissible within evangelical theology. But if an SBC Seminary publishes an interpretation of the BFM, this is interpretation should accurately reflect the BFM.

A primary–but not universal–commitment among Calvinistic brothers is that all people begin life guilty and condemned, accountable to God due to the sin and guilt of Adam. Historically, Calvinists become unsettled when inherited guilt is denied. I have no desire to unsettle my brothers in Christ. But, inherited guilt is not affirmed in the BFM. I regard inherited guilt to be both unnecessary and unhelpful for interpreting the Bible. Even so, I have said repeatedly the view is orthodox. Yet I have been accused of wanting to “push” people out of the SBC and my view has been labeled by some as dangerous and heretical. That brings us to our second example of a difference resulting in division.

I need to preface my closing remarks. Monday night, Dr. Al Mohler’s father stepped into eternity. Dr. Mohler is a brother in Christ and co-laborer in Great Commission ministry. I join the SBC family in grieving with the Mohler family. Even so, this convention-wide doctrinal discussion requires a comment regarding his input. My differences with Dr. Mohler are family differences. Family members sometimes disagree but they love and support one another–even in troubling times.

On June 6, 2012, Dr. Mohler penned an article titled, “Southern Baptists and Salvation: It’s Time to Talk.”[2] In the article, Dr. Mohler wrote this about the Traditional Statement described earlier in this presentation: “Some portions of the statement actually go beyond Arminianism and appear to affirm semi-Pelagian understandings of sin, human nature, and the human will — understandings that virtually all Southern Baptists have denied.”

Dr. Mohler’s use of the semi-Pelagian label was unsupported, inaccurate, and divisive. First, he assigned a theological label but failed to support his claim. Until he points out a specific line in the Traditional Statement which affirms semi-Pelagianism, then his claim remains unsupported.

Second, Mohler’s charge is inaccurate. Consider this chart, prepared for a forthcoming book. In the chart, you can read the definitions of semi-Pelagianism drawn from standard theological reference works. Contrast these definitions against the words of the Traditional Statement. Clearly, the charge of semi-Pelagianism is inaccurate.


Third, the charge is divisive. Providing no evidence to support his claim, Mohler incorrectly labeled the Traditional Statement as semi-Pelagian. He did so after the Statement had been affirmed by former SBC Presidents Morris Chapman, Jimmy Draper, Paige Patterson, Bailey Smith, Jerry Vines, and Bobby Welch. The Statement had also been affirmed by current SBC Seminary Presidents, members of the BFM 2000 Study Committee, SBC state executive-directors, and a band of SBC pastors and Seminary professors.

“Why is Harwood making such a fuss about inherited guilt? Either we’re guilty of our own sin or Adam’s sin. In either case, we’re all sinners in need of a savior. Why does this matter?” This is why it matters:

  1. Romans 5:12-21 does not say we’re guilty of Adam’s sin. No Bible verse states that other people are guilty of Adam’s sin.
  2. Sound theology doesn’t require an affirmation of inherited guilt.
  3. There is no consensus on inherited guilt in church history.
  4. Inherited guilt is not found in the BFM. Even more, inherited guilt seems to contradict Article 3 of the BFM.

Yet Southern Seminary–which receives Cooperative Program dollars and trains pastors for all Southern Baptists–publishes an interpretation of the BFM which advocates for the view. And when a collection of Southern Baptist statesmen affirmed a document which denied inherited guilt, their position was labeled by Southern Seminary’s President as semi-Pelagian. This situation is problematic and needs to be resolved.

In closing, unity in the SBC may depend on the answer to two questions:

  1. Will Southern Seminary revise its Faculty Exposition of the BFM so that it more accurately reflects the BFM?
  2. Will Dr. Mohler retract his charge of semi-Pelagianism?
Adam Harwood, PhD
Assistant Professor of Christian Studies
Truett-McConnell College
Cleveland, Georgia

                  [2]See http://www.albertmohler.com/2012/06/06/southern-baptists-and-salvation-its-time-to-talk/ (Accessed March 18, 2013).