SBTS and the BFM

December 11, 2012

On November 29, SBC Today posted Dr. Harwood’s essay titled, “The ETS, the AP, and the BFM.” (Read it here.). Within three days, the essay generated more than 100 online comments, including this one from Rick Warren: “Adam reveals a very important distinction that I had not noticed between BF&M and Abstract.” Also, “This article was helpful, and so are many of the comments afterward.” (http://goo.gl/Xmggg). The following post reveals Dr. Harwood’s further reflections on the subject.

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“Does Southern Seminary have an institutional commitment to a theological position which is not affirmed in the BFM and excludes many Southern Baptists?”

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is comprised of churches with a variety of theological commitments. Among those groups are Calvinists, non-Calvinists, and others who refuse either of those theological monikers. This convention of churches cooperates in Great Commission work. That cooperation involves operating six seminaries. Faculty at these institutions train pastors, missionaries, and other leaders for SBC churches. Also, some seminary faculty publish biblical and theological works for SBC churches. 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).

Thesis Question: Does Southern Seminary have an institutional commitment to a theological position which is not affirmed in the BFM and excludes many Southern Baptists?

1. Southern Seminary demonstrates an institutional commitment to a particular, published interpretation of the BFM.

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) Interpretation of the BFM is available on its website as a document entitled “An Exposition from the Faculty of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on The Baptist Faith and Message 2000” (http://goo.gl/BwuGN).

Old Testament Professor Daniel Block, who now teaches at Wheaton College, penned the interpretation of Article 3. Although Block is now employed by a non-SBC institution, it is reasonable to think that the interpretation articulated by Block and currently available on the SBTS website remains the institution’s accepted interpretation of the BFM.

One might object that the exposition is neither a binding document nor an official endorsement of the views presented. But the nature of exposition suggests explanation and interpretation of a text. Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that the document represents a current commitment by the institution to its faculty’s explanation and interpretation of the text of the BFM. (For the text of the BFM, see: http://goo.gl/07Yyo.)

2. The SBTS interpretation of the BFM:

a. omits what is affirmed in the BFM regarding our sinful nature.

b. includes what is not affirmed in the BFM regarding Adam’s guilt.

In a brief and well-written piece, Block describes “man’s noble status and man’s ignoble state.” The relevant section of Article 3 is addressed in this sentence: “In accordance with the biblical perspective of the entire human race as united in descent from Adam, the guilt of Adam’s sin falls on all, and estrangement from God in whose image we are made extends to all.”

In his essay on Article 3, Block fails to provide any direct quotations from the BFM. Instead, he includes a theological position not affirmed in Article 3 when he explains that “the guilt of Adam’s sin falls on all.” Neither those words nor that idea can be found in Article 3. Thus, SBTS has committed itself as an institution to this theological position not affirmed in Article 3 of the BFM: All people inherit Adam’s guilt.

Further, Block omits any interpretation of the theological position explicitly articulated in Article 3. The BFM explains that people “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.” Block neglects to mention these key theological concepts: inheriting a nature inclined toward sin, becoming morally capable, becoming transgressors, or the attendant condemnation.

3. Southern Baptists hold two views of our inheritance from Adam. The SBTS Interpretation, not affirmed in the BFM, is denied by many Southern Baptists.

a. Many Southern Baptists affirm that because of Adam’s sin all people inherit a sinful nature, which the SBTS Interpretation neither affirms nor denies.

b. Many Southern Baptists deny that because of Adam’s sin all people inherit Adam’s guilt.

Christians throughout history have differed on how to understand the precise nature of our inheritance from Adam. (For a biblical-historical treatment of this topic, see: http://goo.gl/4sOun). Article 3 of the BFM explicitly refers to a nature “inclined toward sin” and states that people “become transgressors.” Thus, the SBTS Interpretation of Article 3 seems obligated to articulate the position that all people inherit from Adam a sinful nature. Instead, it imports this theological position which is absent from Article 3: all people inherit Adam’s guilt.

At first glance, the BFM and the SBTS Interpretation of Article 3 may appear similar. (See the chart to compare the relevant sections.) Both documents teach that Adam’s sin falls to all people; rightly so. But the SBTS Interpretation goes further by adding Adam’s guilt. Sin and guilt are not synonymous. The Bible indicates that all people (except for Jesus) receive something because of the first man’s sin. Exactly what do we receive from Adam, a sinful nature or Adam’s guilt? The SBTS Interpretation declares that “the guilt of Adam’s sin falls on all.” (Note: The options “sinful nature” and “Adam’s guilt” are not meant to exclude other effects of the Fall, such as physical death. These two terms represent the two major views: people either become guilty of their own sin or they begin life guilty due to Adam’s sin.)

Affirming that all people inherit Adam’s guilt is not the same as affirming that all people inherit only a sinful nature. In the Adam’s guilt view, all people begin life guilty before God. From the moment of conception, they are personally under condemnation due to the guilt of the first Adam.

The affirmation that all people inherit Adam’s guilt is presupposed within the theological construct of covenantal theology. From the first moment of life, all people are considered to be guilty. The explanation is either that humanity was present and sinned with Adam in the Garden or that Adam’s sinful actions in the Garden represented humanity. The affirmation of inheriting Adam’s guilt is a theological commitment which falls squarely within Christian orthodoxy; that is not disputed. Some Southern Baptists affirm the view; that is not disputed. It doesn’t matter that some Southern Baptists affirm both inherited guilt and the BFM, claiming the former is implied in the latter. The salient question is whether one of the SBC seminaries has an institutional commitment to affirm a theological position not supported in the BFM and which many Southern Baptists deny.

4. Why does this matter?

Various interpretations are affirmed among Southern Baptists on every Christian doctrine. For that reason, it would seem necessary for the seminaries to include all interpretations which are consistent with the SBC’s only statement of faith, the BFM. If SBTS insists on an interpretation of the BFM (and, by extension, the Bible) that many Southern Baptists deny, then it could be asked: How do the faculty of Southern Seminary characterize the denial of inherited guilt? It would be contrary to their institution’s interpretation of the BFM. Would it also be contrary to orthodox Christian doctrine?

There are indications that such a view may be held among certain faculty members at SBTS. May 2012, a statement was released by Mississippi pastor Eric Hankins (MDiv, NOBTS; PhD, SWBTS) entitled “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” (Read it here.). One line in the document which generated much discussion states: “We deny that Adam’s sin … rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned.” (Disclosure: I am among the original group of Southern Baptists who provided substantive feedback for several months and offered to attach my name to the statement prior to its distribution to all SBC state executive-directors.)

Prior to the release of this statement, which explicitly rejects inherited guilt, others affirmed it with their name and reputation, including: former SBC presidents, current SBC seminary presidents, members of the BFM 2000 study committee, and a variety of SBC pastors and professors. This collection of leaders from a wide spectrum of the SBC provides an argument neither for nor against its content. Rather, the names attached to the Traditional Statement support the claim that many Southern Baptists deny that all people inherit Adam’s guilt. (Note: The claim is that “many Southern Baptists” deny inherited guilt. There is no attempt to quantify the number or percentage of Southern Baptists who affirm or deny the view. Based on the public affirmation of the Traditional Statement by that group of SBC statesmen, however, one could argue the view is widespread throughout the SBC.)

What has the Traditional Statement to do with Southern Seminary? The Traditional Statement was not warmly received by everyone at SBTS. The precise objection remains unclear. But other people (not on faculty at SBTS) cited as problematic its denial of inherited guilt. It is not the purpose of this essay to revisit the political or theological issues surrounding the Traditional Statement. But those events may reveal significant theological differences in the SBC. As with a family, differences within a convention of churches should be addressed openly and peaceably in order to resolve the issues. Ignoring those issues rarely resolves them.

If SBTS considers a denial of inherited guilt to be orthodox, then such clarification would be helpful. If SBTS considers a denial of inherited guilt to be unorthodox, then this clarification would be equally helpful. Either way, clarity is needed. An increasing number of blogging pastors and seminarians inside and outside the SBC now refer to the inherited sinful nature view (along with its corresponding denial of inheriting Adam’s guilt) as “semi-Pelagian.” The charge is both serious and baseless. Unity on Article 3 would clarify permissible theological boundaries within the BFM and foster greater unity and cooperation within the SBC.

Is it necessary that a Southern Baptist must affirm more than the BFM in order to repel charges of semi-Pelagianism? Surely not. If that were the case, then the previous study committee of the BFM left a gaping theological hole in Article 3. The current President of SBTS also served in 2000 on the BFM study committee. Article 3 and the SBTS Interpretation differ. They may not be in conflict, but the differences are causing confusion.

Some may consider this essay as misinformed because it fails to account for Southern Seminary’s other statement of faith, the Abstract of Principles (AP). The SBTS faculty are to teach consistent with the BFM and AP. Although the AP allows for a denial of inherited sinful nature, the BFM makes no such allowance. (See my recent essay on this matter: Read it here.) Because SBC seminaries train students from and for all SBC churches, any institutional pre-commitment (whether supported by the AP or the SBTS Interpretation) which promotes a theological viewpoint (in this case, inherited guilt) which differs from its convention-wide statement of faith is unacceptable. In other words, the BFM trumps the AP and SBTS Interpretation. If the SBC wants to consider amending the wording of the BFM, then there is a constitutional process for such an action. Until then, will an SBC seminary hold an institutional commitment to a theological viewpoint not affirmed in and (some argue) contrary to the BFM?

It would be problematic if any seminary faculty officially advanced a view which is both absent from the BFM and rejected by many SBC churches. But that appears to be the case at Southern Seminary. There may be times when going beyond the BFM is helpful. This is not one of those times. Do faculty teach students they must affirm that all people inherit Adam’s guilt? The view should be presented to students as one legitimate view among Southern Baptists. But it’s not the only view. Other Southern Baptists reject inherited guilt as affirmed in neither the Bible nor the BFM. SBC seminaries serve all Southern Baptists. This essay asks whether Southern Seminary has an institutional commitment which excludes many of its constituents.

5. Proposed Solution

President and CEO of the Executive Committee Dr. Frank Page recently formed a team of pastors and denominational servants to discuss Calvinism in the SBC. Open and honest dialogue is good and healthy; may God bless their effort. Even in healthy families, people sometimes differ. Southern Baptists are a family which is now discussing peaceably and openly their differences and planning steps for moving forward in taking the Gospel of Christ to every person on the planet. Baptists have been comprised of Calvinists and non-Calvinists for more than 400 years and we should continue working together. It is my hope that a member of Dr. Page’s team might find this post helpful in gaining clarity and moving forward with this important discussion within the SBC.

It seems necessary that SBTS clarify its position on Article 3 of the BFM. Why? If a denial of inherited guilt is unorthodox, then SBTS needs to be clear. If that is the case, then its interpretation of the BFM should remain and the BFM should be amended to reflect that view. If a denial of inherited guilt is orthodox, then clarity from SBTS is equally important.

Perhaps the faculty of Southern Seminary will consider revising its published interpretation of the BFM. If they regard a denial of inheriting Adam’s guilt to be fully orthodox, then amending their published interpretation would resolve this dilemma. Their view would no longer exclude certain Southern Baptists. If the faculty were unwilling to amend their published interpretation of the BFM in order to more accurately reflect Article 3, then perhaps they will suggest an amenable resolution to this dilemma.

In the inherited sinful nature view, however, people become guilty. At what age or stage of life will people become guilty? Article 3 of the BFM explains: As soon as we are capable of moral action (which implies there is a period of time in which we are not capable of moral action) then we become transgressors (which implies there is a period of time in which we are not transgressors). Upon becoming a transgressor, we fall under condemnation (which implies there is a period of time during which we were not yet under condemnation).

SBCToday editors desire to give ample time for readers to consider and thoroughly digest the content of Dr. Harwood’s essay before offering any observations. Therefore, readers are invited to post their comments beginning at 8 a.m., Wednesday, Dec. 12.

 

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Norm Miller

Thank you, Dr. Harwood, for the manner in which you have offered your thesis. Your approach has provided a commendable example for all of us with regard to matters of SBC concern. — Norm

peter lumpkins

Dr. Harwood,

While most Southern Baptists may never read this two-part piece you’ve put together, nonetheless the question you raise may very well constitute the most substantial challenge to date on what I have come to call the Calvinization of the Southern Baptists Convention. At minimum, the noetic issue surrounding whether the fallenness of sinful humankind is scripturally revealed as an undeniable universally inherited sinful nature as the Baptist Faith & Message seems to clearly affirm, or is universally imputed guilt because the human race actually sinned in Adam strikes at the heart of the contemporary contested views between those Southern Baptists more in tune with Free Church theology and those Southern Baptists more in line with the Augustinian-Magisterial Reformed theological trajectory. The former historically sought a more thorough-going biblicism while the latter a more scholastically-oriented systematic theological approach to Christian belief and behavior. From my perspective, the latter has theologically gained far too much real estate from Southern Baptists today and it is time to put a stay on issuing them any more permits to take over the town.

Some have already expressed on my site (on the post I linked to your piece here) that while the issue you raise is a worthy one and they are glad you raised it, nonetheless they see no reason at all to actually do anything about it:

What to do about it now?

Nothing.

I am not going to do anything, and I do not know any Reformed persons who plan to do anything about it

I fear while this type of passive do-nothing-but-talk response (think of how many committee meetings we’ve all sat through and “talked” about ministry and “goals” but never actually did anything about it) reflects in many ways the actual circumstances facing the question you raise, it still obligates us to speak to the issues of our day whether or not others vocally agree, vocally disagree, or non-vocally ignore. I hope you are encouraged to keep raising the issues you sense are good for Southern Baptists.

One final note: granting the commenter’s above assertion that there may be few (especially from the “Reformed” sector) who think you’ve raised an issue worth pursuing—at least pursuing with a mind to act—perhaps if the theological thorn were one which stuck through their skin to perhaps draw a little blood, they would not be so quick to dismiss your concern.

For example, your thesis reveals your basic concern to be over what can reasonably be viewed as the “official” interpretation of Southern seminary’s view of of fallen sinful humans as having imputed sinful Adamic guilt contra the BF&M’s bare affirmation of inherited sinful nature. You state succinctly your concern:

2. The SBTS interpretation of the BFM:

a. omits what is affirmed in the BFM regarding our sinful nature.

b. includes what is not affirmed in the BFM regarding Adam’s guilt.

Southern’s position omits what the SBC affirms on inherited sinful nature and instead affirms what the SBC omits on imputed sinful guilt.

Suppose we take another confessional affirmation from the BF&M and see if it potentially would raise the ante that something may be quite wrong and needs to be addressed.

Consider: the BF&M2K says in Article II C.God the Holy Spirit, “He baptizes every believer into the Body of Christ.” Historically, it would be very difficult to deny that what we and other evangelicals call “Spirit-baptism” our confession states happens when one is justified by Christ and experiences union with Christ he or she is “baptized into the Body of Christ.” Nothing else is recorded in the BF&M about Spirit-baptism.

Now, suppose we discover one of our seminary’s contemporary documents was an “official” interpretation of the BF&M. And, suppose further that in the “official” interpretation of the BF&M, the professor speaks about “Spirit-baptism.” However, while he doesn’t outright deny that the believer is “baptized into the Body of Christ” he doesn’t affirm it either. Instead, he affirms being baptized by the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. The BF&M does not outright deny the classical Pentecostal understanding; instead it only affirms believers are “baptized into the Body of Christ.”  The professor omitted what the BF&M affirmed about the Holy Spirit and instead affirmed what the BF&M omitted about the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

If I were a betting man, I’d bet a week’s worth of Starbucks, the ceiling would blow off and people would get to work trying to amend this horrifying discrepancy. And, for the most part, Calvinists and non-Calvinists would walk hand-hand doing so.

With that, I am…

Peter

    Adam Harwood

    Peter,

    Thanks for your comment, which is both well reasoned and nicely stated.

    In Him,
    Adam

Ron F. Hale

Dr. Harwood,
Thank you for your interesting work and making us aware of Dr. Block’s interpretation of Article 3 of the BFM2000.

He does a great job in his writing until he comes to the end of his interpretation (next to last paragraph) and says, “In accordance with the biblical perspective of the entire human race as united in descent from Adam, the guilt of Adam’s sin falls on all, and estrangement from God in whose image we are made extends to all.”

The BFM2000 does not imply “inherited guilt” on all … but shares of our “inherited sinful nature” in Article III on Man, “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.”

This seems to be the point of deliberation, also, since SBTS’s interpretation of the BFM2000 is the only interpretation on the convention’s Baptist2Baptist website – then there needs to be some clarification.

Blessings!

    Adam Harwood

    Ron,

    Thanks for your note, which highlights the points of difference between the BFM and the SBTS Faculty Interpretation of the BFM.

    I was unaware that I am also funding (through CP dollars) Baptist 2 Baptist, which provides the SBTS Interpretation on the B2B site. In that way, I suppose the interpretation is provided for all Southern Baptists to consider. Fair enough.

    Perhaps if another seminary faculty (whether GGBTS, SWBTS, MBTS, SEBTS or NOBTS) wrote its own interpretation of the BFM, it would also be posted on the B2B site. Interesting. But what if those various published interpretations of the BFM made different claims at particular points? Wouldn’t that be confusing? Whose interpretation would be the “correct” interpretation? Maybe those differences would simply reflect the diversity of thought within the SBC on certain issues (within the parameters of the BFM).

    Perhaps it is better if we simply let the BFM, which is a summary of what we believe about the Bible, speak for itself. Perhaps our SBC institutions should drop this idea of explaining an explanation, and simply agree to affirm the BFM itself.

    Blessings, brother.

    In Him,
    Adam

Rick Patrick

Thank you, Dr. Harwood, for bringing such clarity to the discussion. Southern’s official BFM interpretation, by omitting inherited sinful nature and affirming Adamic guilt, fails to legitimize as orthodox my position and yours, even though our interpretation is fully consistent with the BFM 2000. This clearly narrows the doctrinal parameters, affirming both LESS and MORE than the BFM 2K.

To my brothers who believe there is no reason at all to address this concern, I would simply offer one reason for doing so–grace. Why would you seek to marginalize and exclude from your official interpretation a view held by so many faithful Southern Baptists who love Jesus and contribute generously to the support of Southern Seminary through the Cooperative Program? In the interest of fostering unity, why not make room at the table for our commonly held and BFM consistent view?

    Adam Harwood

    Rick,

    Thanks for your note. I attended a sister seminary (SWBTS), but I have met several of the SBTS faculty. From personal interactions and from reading their books, I regard them to be godly and wise men who desire to deal with others in grace–especially others in the SBC.

    I am confident that the SBTS faculty will make every effort in the coming days to communicate openly on this subject either on this site or through another forum in order to clarify:

    1. The denial of inherited guilt *is* an orthodox option among Southern Baptists and
    2. Does its faculty exposition of the BFM only *describe* a view shared by some of the faculty (or all the faculty) or does it *prescribe* a view for all the faculty? Perhaps there is another option.

    I look forward to reading the SBTS clarification.

    Blessings, brother.

    In Him,
    Adam

Scott Moneyham

Although a very thoughtful article, it appears to be like an interviewer parsing words and attempting to get someone in a “gotcha” moment. Such splitting of hairs can go on forever. One does not have to affirm everything about a dead man to believe that a man is dead. Nor does affirming that a man no longer has life, make him more dead nor does it mean that to state such adds to the official death certificate. By one man (Adam) sin entered the world and death by sin passed upon all men. Is this statement by Paul now in need of clarification because he did not affirm everything about sin and death and failed to affirm all that could be said about the world? Paul, the BF&M, and SBTS are all stating how sin got here and that all are sinners. The statements do not have to be identical to be in agreement. Must every statement by every seminary, every church be identical to be in agreement, I think not. That’s why we are Southern Baptists.

    Adam Harwood

    Scott,

    Thanks for your note. My claim isn’t that we’re not sinners. My claim is that we’re only guilty after we knowingly sin. Further, my claim is that denying this view is a denial of Article 3 of the BFM. That may seem to you like splitting hairs but to some people it’s a very big deal. It could mean the difference between Calvinistic and non-Calvinistic interpretations by one of our institutions of a convention-wide statement of faith. It’s not necessary that everyone engage in this conversation but I plan to stick it out.

    Blessings, brother.

    In Him,
    Adam

      Scott Moneyham

      Adam,

      Thanks for the reply, I did not intend to imply that you did not think we are sinners. But have you considered that if I am caught trespassing on another mans property while out hunting, not having seen a no trespassing sign and not knowing or intending to trespass, that I still am in fact guilty of trespassing. It seems that both statements, the BF&M and SBTS’s are stressing the same thing but not identically, and the later in more detail. I think we should expect so from a seminary document. I usually do not respond to articles, if fact this is the first time I have. I have done so because the last thing we need is any movement to revise the BF&M again or demand that every seminary document state things in the way we might like. As we both know 10 baptists can come up with 12 ways of saying the same thing. I know my two cents aren’t worth much, but I have shared them.

      Thanks,
      Scott

John Mark Yeats

Dr. Harwood,

Are you arguing that Southern (and Southeastern) should not use the Abstract of Principles as a document that further clarifies their hiring and firing because it stipulates something other than the BF&M?

Isn’t this the same issue that the convention voted on in 2007 in San Antonio? At stake that time was Private Prayer Languages in agencies like the IMB. The convention overwhelmingly approved the Garner Motion which stated, “The Baptist Faith and Message is neither a creed nor a complete statement of our faith nor final or infallible. Nevertheless we further acknowledge that it is the only consensus statement of doctrinal beliefs approved by the Southern Baptist Convention and as such is sufficient in its current form to guide trustees in their establishment of policies and practices of entities of the Convention.”

This goes back to the issue of whether the BF&M is a “minimalist” document (you must believe at least this much…) or a “maximalist” document (you must believe only this). Following the 2007 vote, Frank Page was quoted in CT as saying, “It will be an object of discussion for years to come. By and large, the messengers were saying, ‘Let’s be careful not to become too narrow, too legalistic.'”

We can have the debate about the soteriology between the documents. That is one issue. At hand here is another, though, that references how our ecclesial structure is formed and what is the base by which we agree to work together. To conflate the two discussions is to fail to be productive in either debate.

    Adam Harwood

    Dr. Yeats,

    Thanks for your note. I’m not sure we’ve had a conversation but I was working on my PhD at SWBTS when you began teaching on campus. In the 1990’s, I read and enjoyed your dad’s writings in the OK Baptist Messenger during the years I served in church staff positions in that great state.

    I appreciate your question which seeks to clarify my goal and apologize for my delay in replying. I haven’t looked at this site since early this morning. I spent most of the day grading papers and submitting final course grades. I only exceeded my deadline by 8 hours. ;-)

    Although my Nov. 29 article deals with the relationship between the AP and the BFM, my Dec. 11 article limits my inquiry to the relationship between the SBTS Faculty Exposition of the BFM and the BFM itself.

    My thesis is as follows: “Does Southern Seminary have an institutional commitment to a theological position which is not affirmed in the BFM
    and excludes many Southern Baptists?”

    Again, I am not dealing with the AP and the BFM. I’m dealing with the document which SBTS posts on their website which represents the faculty’s interpretation of the BFM.

    Does this answer your question? I’d be happy to visit with you by Facebook (we’re already friends) or through this comment stream if I can answer any other questions or field any other comments you might have on this topic.

    Blessings, brother.

    In Him,
    Adam

      Adam Harwood

      Oops. I just read further down the comment stream and realized I did peek my head in at one point and posted a comment. I had forgotten about that. Sorry. Today has been a blur.

      John Mark Yeats

      Adam,

      I do remember you from SWBTS! Glad you are serving churches in Georgia and beyond as you teach.

      I do think my question is valid to your thesis. You stated “Does Southern Seminary have an institutional commitment to a theological position which is not affirmed in the BFM and excludes many Southern Baptists?”

      The struggle over the Garner Motion was exactly that – Can agencies of the SBC have a narrower definition theologically than what the SBC affirms in the BF&M. In 2007, the concern by some was that trustees at the IMB were imposing narrower theological limitations than the churches were willing to impose. Some argued that the IMB was imposing narrower limitations than the BF&M allowed.

      If you believe that the BF&M is a maximalist document (which I think you are arguing), then your point stands that a differing interpretation should be troubling for those not in agreement. In other words, the agency, (in this case Southern), steps beyond the BF&M and should be forced by the convention to adhere. Of course, this argument could deal with much more than just soteriology.

      Alternatively, if the BF&M is a minimalist document, we should expect our agencies – especially the seminaries – to create unique identities that hold to our shared common foundation.

      This underlying issue matters as Frank Page noted back in 2007. Our understanding of how the BF&M is utilized as a convention allows it to be a document of foundation with institutional freedom within its wide boundaries or a much narrower box that restricts and excludes.

      For our conversations to move forward, clarity in this particular area could go much further in determining how we deal with other aspects of the broader debate.

        Adam Harwood

        Yes.

        I am embarrassed to admit this but I was previously unfamiliar with the Garner Motion. I now realized that I didn’t track with your explanation on my first reading of your previous comment. After you “put the cookies on the bottom shelf” for me (which I appreciate), I say:

        Yes. That’s exactly what I’m saying.

        Thank you.
        —–
        On an unrelated topic: Upon its release, I read and thoroughly enjoyed the book by you and Dr. White, _Franchising McChurch_. It’s both readable and helpful. A favorite quote: “Congregations, and to a large degree pulpit committees, do not understand what type of preaching they need” (122). As the young people say today: Bam!

        In Him,
        Adam

          John Mark Yeats

          Glad you enjoyed Franchising McChurch! The phenomena we wrote about is quickly becoming a norm and has huge potential to reshape the landscape of church life in America.

          Have you thought of revisiting the debate over how the BF&M is utilized by our agencies? While the soteriology issue is interesting and needs to be discussed, I find that we miss a few steps and move to apply our conclusions within our arguments instead of having the discussion, and then finding structural solutions.

            Adam Harwood

            Regarding church “franchising,” I agree that the landscape has already changed. Your book described the situation and anticipated trends which have already been (in some cases) uncritically accepted as standard practice since its publication.

            Regarding the use of the BFM in SBC agencies, you identified the goal I have in mind. The reason I am attempting to raise awareness on this theological issue is because of its significance for the SBC.

            It’s *not* necessary to divide over this issue. But it’s possible we will.

            The differences between the two “sides” are significant. If, however, we can agree to disagree over inherited guilt, then much of the tension over Calvinism can be diffused. We can return to the harmony we enjoyed in previous generations. *That* is my hope.

            I have no desire to engage in SBC political discussions involving money, trustees, etc. I was advised last summer by a friend against addressing an SBC leader in an open letter. Despite the counsel, I chose to post the letter.

            I was counseled privately to preserve my position. Theology professors, I was told, should remain neutral on political questions in order to be heard by all “sides” in the SBC. I appreciate that perspective. While I don’t want to alienate myself from any “side” in the SBC, I consider certain theological questions (namely, inherited guilt) to be inextricably entangled in SBC “political” issues. Sometimes, you can’t separate theology from denominational politics.

            My plan is to continue to peaceably raise questions about the theological fault lines that I consider a threat to unity, such as inherited guilt.

            Any value I might add to this discussion ends with theology. The structural issues can be addressed by SBC leaders if/when these differences (and the implications) are “on the table.”

            Thanks for your willingness to comment on this site. Do you have any other thoughts on the matter that you are comfortable posting?

            In Him,
            Adam

            John Mark Yeats

            Adam,

            I am simply positing that you may be on to something. My suggestion is that this bears fruit in an ecclesial fashion.

            I believe that many in the SBC leadership do interpret the BF&M in a minimalist fashion. Because of that, the issues you are raising theologically over the nature of imputed guilt are part of a minor shouting match between two sides of a debate that, at the end of the day, have chosen to come back together for the broader work at hand.

            Yes, there are those who do not promote civil discussion about theological ideas in their actions or words, but could it be that for most (and I do mean most) SBCers, the discussion at hand is moot.

            That said, I am not trying to dissuade the conversation. It is healthy! It is good! But the BF&M is intentionally broad on areas just like this on purpose. It is a tacit acknowledgement that our Baptist Zion is full of passionate followers of Jesus Christ on a mission to save souls. We can therefore debate, discuss and argue, but at the end of the day, live with the healthy tension.

            Robin Foster

            Drs. Harwood and Yeats

            I appreciate the cordial tone of both you men and have enjoyed reading your thoughts. This is good.

            I may be seeing this on a simpler level than others, but I don’t believe the minimalist/maximalist debate can shed some light on this. I don’t believe that is the main point of the matter. It is a question of two contradictory theologies. Whether minimalist or maximalist, the question is:

            1. Does SBTS on their commentary on the BFM contradict the BFM concerning when someone is declared guilty and by what or who?

            One cannot state that we inherit guilt from Adam at conception and then sign a document affirming that we come under condemnation (become guilty) only after we become transgressors. It’s like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. The two beliefs are not synonymous. Of course I am always willing to listen and hear if in fact that I am wrong in my assessment on the commentary by SBTS concerning guilt, but maybe this can be fleshed out when Dr. Frank Page gets everyone back together again. I am praying for resolution over this matter.

            John Mark Yeats

            Robin,

            I agree that the debate is worth having. What I am simply suggesting is that the extent of application is a moot point unless you come to a broader agreement in the SBC over how the BF&M functions.

            If it is the case that it is a minimalist document, then one should expect organizations like a seminary to take the BF&M as a unifying, foundational document but then create further clarifications that may actually go beyond the document itself to provide further clarity. It’s not a question of conflict at that point. It’s a question of application within an organizational structure.

            Dr. Harwood’s concerns, in other words, would have more gravitas if we had either:
            1) only one seminary with one board, or
            2) the convention’s clear instructions that the BF&M is to be treated as a maximalist document.

            Neither is the case.

            So when we debate the theological ramifications of imputed guilt, why are we lumping in a criticism of an agency with historic documents present since their founding and, as of yet, not revoked by the convention at large? Would we not expect them to hold to the prior definition? In fact would we not praise this?

            All of our SBC agencies have documents that further refine the BF&M so they are able to conduct the tasks they are charged to complete by the convention at large.

            That an interpretation at one of our seminaries maintains a position that has traditionally been understood as acceptable under the BF&M should not surprise us. It also confuses the debate at hand over the nature of imputed guilt because we are lumping in organizations. Let’s come to a semblance of agreement here on the issue of imputed guilt as theologians, and only then take umbrage with our organizations with a positive view of how change may bring a solution.

            Robin Foster

            Dr. Yeats,

            Thanks for the response. I believe there is and has been a broad agreement concerning how the BFM functions. If one cannot affirm it, then they do not work in one of our seminaries as a professor or function as an IMB or NAMB missionary. That issue, I believe you will agree with, is settled.
            But, I still posit that the min/max argument has no bearing in what Dr. Harwood is stating here. In full disclosure, I am a minimalist on the BFM question. Back in 2007 when the debate was over tongues, I supported the IMB trustees over their decision concerning the so-called private prayer language. The issue at that time was whether an agency could make boundaries over doctrinal issues not in the BFM. But this issue is different and let me clarify:

            1. Again, there was no declarative statement on tongues addressed by the SBC. Each agency had to deal with that issue on how it affected them.

            2. The issue concerning guilt/condemnation IS discussed in the BFM and makes two clear points on the result of the fall of man of man: what they inherit (his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin) and when (as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation)

            3. My comment was not directed towards any historical comment from the founding of that institution (I assume you mean the Abstract). It is directed towards the commentary that SBTS put out concerning the BFM back in 2001. There needs to be further clarification on the commentary in the areas of whether we inherit a sinful nature (which the BFM affirms and the SBTS Commentary does not affirm) or Adam’s guilt (which the BFM does not affirm and the SBTS commentary affirms). More importantly, further clarification is needed on when we stand guilty and under condemnation before God: at conception which follows inheriting Adam’s guilt (which the BFM does not affirm but the SBTS commentary does affirm) or when we become transgressors of the Law which follows inheriting a sin nature (which the BFM affirms and the SBTS commentary does not affirm). That is the apparent contradiction.

            I thank you for your time Dr. Yeats. I do believe we disagree on this concerning whether this is a minimalist/maximalist debate. I appreciate your service to the Kingdom. You are well regarded among our mutual friends. The rest of my day and tomorrow is booked, so if you decide to respond, it may be a while for me to do so, or I may just let you have the last word. I did this blogging thing for over three years and was burned out over it. I feel like Michael Corleone in this, “Just when I thought I was out . . . they pull me back in.” ?

            Bart Barber

            Drs. Yeats and Harwood,

            While you guys were having this conversation here, I was having it on Twitter with Harwood and other interlocutors.

            I am a minimalist regarding the BF&M. I was so in 2006. I am still advocating that perspective. Different seminaries can have different emphases WITHIN the parameters of the BF&M. We can go beyond the BF&M, but we must not drop below it.

            I’m convinced that the Abstract of Principles lies within the BF&M on this question. Indeed, I suspect that the committees in 1963 and 2000 were careful to guarantee that it did so.

            Robin Foster

            Bart

            I am in full agreement with you. Drs. Patterson and Mohler were both instrumental in the 2000 revision. If there was any need for a change in Article three in light of the AP, I believe it would have happened then. The issue for me is not the AP, but the commentary put out by SBTS concerning the BFM.

            The question that Dr. Harwood is presenting to us is whether a Seminary (in their commentary on the BFM) can hold to a belief that does not affirm what the BFM states and yet affirms what it does not state.

            I believe there should be further clarification when what is affirmed (inherited sin nature) and not affirmed (inherited guilt of Adam) by Southern Baptists is not affirmed (inherited sin nature) and affirmed (inherited guilt of Adam) by an institution accountable to Southern Baptists. I am not saying they have done anything wrong, I am asking for clarification. It is SBTS commentary on the BFM that needs to be addressed.

            Blessings my friend!

volfan007

Well, today is my birthday. Yep, 12-12-12. I turned 51 years old, today. I was born at 12, as well!! 12:05 to be precise…lunch time. I was born weighing 32 lbs, and with a full set of teeth…and I’ve been enjoying lunch ever since!!!

David

    Lydia

    Happy B’day, Buddy. With stats like that,I am feeling sorry for your mama on that historic day. :o)

      volfan007

      Lydia,

      Thanks and :)

      David

Joe Blackmon

Hey, I’m a Calvinist and I really appreciate this article. This is how the debate should be had–with a reasoned discussion about what scripture says. I like the tone of the article as much as the substance. The good doctor said what he meant without disparaging anyones character or accusing them of preaching a different gospel.

Thank you very much.

    Stephen

    I echo this comment. I appreciate Dr. Harwood’s tone and care in approaching this subject, though I disagree with some of his conclusions.

Stephen

Could it be that Block’s interpretation assumed an affirmation of inherited Adamic sinful nature and moved onto what he believed was the conclusion of such nature, an inherited guilt? He only had a rather short page and a half to discuss the creation of man in the image of God and man’s fall. There are 9 sentences in Article 3 of BF&M, that Block did not quote or sufficiently allude to all 9 is not a lack of affirmation. It is not surprising that a seminary professor affirms what many other theologians deny but I find it disingenuous to say he does not affirm one statement out of an article that he otherwise faithfully and helpfully interprets and expounds.

    Norm Miller

    With all due respect, Stephen, I’m not sure that Dr. Block could both affirm and not affirm inherited guilt.
    In my view, Dr. Harwood has not been ‘disingenuous’ by calling for clarity. — Norm

      Stephen

      I am not sure what you mean, Norm. I was not talking about inherited guilt but rather inherited sinful nature. Dr. Harwood states that the SBTS interpretation neither affirms nor denies inherited sinful nature, but I contend that just because the short paper did not quote every line of the BFM does not mean Dr. Block did “not affirm” each part.

      I don’t have a contention with Harwood’s interpretation of Block’s interpretation (!!) that Block affirms inherited guilt which is not affirmed by the BFM and apparently denied by many in the SBC (though it’s unhelpful for Harwood to create a chart where the 3 categories are BFM, SBTS, and “Many SBCers”, where “many” in this case means agreeing with Harwood, without another column for “Many other SBCers” who agree with Block). I think Harwood is unnecessarily piling on with the “neither affirms nor denies” bit when any logically consistent theology that argued Adam’s guilt was passed on would assume also that Adam’s sinful nature is passed on.

        Adam Harwood

        Stephen,

        Thanks for your interaction with my essay.

        I agree that many (perhaps all) Southern Baptists who affirm inherited guilt (Seminary Professor X, for example) also affirm an inherited sinful nature. But when another person (me, for example) affirms inherited sinful but denies inherited guilt, then the views held by the two people are now incompatible in this sense: Prof. X affirms what I deny. Stated another way, I deny what he affirms (namely, all people inherit Adam’s guilt).

        Is it possible that both views are permissible within the BFM? Yes.

        Is it possible that both views are permissible within the SBTS Faculty Exposition of the BFM? I don’t see how that is possible.

        Our seminaries train students for and for _all_ Southern Baptist churches. The convention doesn’t determine what statement of faith the churches affirm but they operate under one (or two, in certain cases).

        The view I advocate is consistent with our convention-wide statement of faith, the BFM. Does SBTS have an institutional commitment (via the faculty exposition of the BFM) to a theological viewpoint which excludes a large group of Southern Baptists who deny inherited guilt? That’s my question.

        Thanks, brother.

        In Him,
        Adam

          Robert

          Hello Adam,

          Thank you for a well written and clear description of the issue. If I interpret you correctly it seems that the SBC seminaries are to represent **all** Southern Baptists. And that means that if there are differing views among Southern Baptists with both views falling within the pale of orthodoxy (both Christian and Southern Baptist orthodoxy): both of those views must be taught in an even handed and fair way in those seminaries.

          The main issue here appears to be the teaching that Adam’s guilt is imputed to all of his descendents (with the calvinists, those who hold to covenant theology or are influenced by covenant theology and calvinist theology believing in imputed guilt: and other Southern Baptists including yourself and others denying this imputation of guilt doctrine). You have made it clear both that the BFM does not affirm imputation of guilt and that Southern Seminary which appears to be highly calvinist or controlled by calvinist teaching and professors and administrators is explicitly teaching the imputation of guilt doctrine. So there is potential conflict and confusion and divison over this doctrine.

          It seems to me that **if both views** are held by Southern Baptists and neither view is unorthodox, the faith statements of Southern Baptists should be worded in such a way as to leave room for both views. This also means that both views ought to be taught in the seminaries as acceptable positions for Southern Baptists to take. You seem to be suggesting that neither view is heretical, both views are held by Southern Baptists, so the practical issue become the necessity of allowing both to be taught as alternatives that Southern Baptists subscribe to. I believe this is both fair and reasonable.

          I predict the problem will come from the calvinist side as they seem to equate their view with orthodoxy so that any view deviating from theirs is unacceptable, unscriptural, not to be taught and even in the minds of some heretical.

          The calvinists that I know would never tolerate or give “equal time” to the view that you are espousing. Hence I see a real division occurring over this kind of thing. Can it be avoided? Sure, if Calvinists could see alternatives views and interpretations as equal to and just as orthodox and acceptable as their own. The problem is that I don’t see this happening with them.

          A hypothetical might illustrate this. Suppose that N. T. Wright were a Southern Baptist and he applied for a job as a New Testament Professor at a newly created Southern Baptist Seminary (a seventh seminary). And say John Piper also was both a Southern Baptist and desired to teach at this seminary. Wright is a top level New Testament scholar and he ought to be welcome to teach at any seminary. Wright also denies the imputed guilt doctrine proposed by Calvinists like Piper. Now ideally the statements of faith of the SBC should make room for both Wright and Piper to teach at the new seminary. Each should be able to freely and openly teach their view, though they take opposite views on imputation of guilt.

          My thought however is that dedicated and committed calvinists such as Piper would find Wright and his view on imputed guilt unacceptable and if they had the choice he would never be hired for that position.

          My thought is that you and others who hold Wright’s view on imputation of guilt would allow for both Piper and Wright to be teachers at the new school. And that is the problem, it is asymetrical. Traditionalists would have no problem allowing both Wright and Piper to teach at the new seminary: dedicated calvinists however would oppose Wright’s hiring and his teaching.

          So you can talk about the differing statements of faith all you want, but practically I don’t see dedicated calvinists ever allowing for what you would like to see. They view imputaton of Christ’s righteousness/imputation of Adam’s guilt as essential doctrines as “doctrines of the Reformation” that they would never give up and never allow competing views to be seen as just as orthodox as their view (and even possibly true). No, for them the contrary of their doctrine is impossible, unacceptable, unbiblical, and even heretical. That is also why Southern is a real problem at this point: they are Calvinists who teach their view of imputation and find any other alternative unacceptable.

          If we go by what ought to be taught at Southern Baptist seminaries both Wright and Piper ought to be able to teach there (since Southern Baptists differ on this doctrine of imputation): but I would wager the farm that Wright even if he were a Southern Baptist could never be a teacher at Southern (with the current administration and ethos that is present there). And that is a shame as Wright even if you disagree with him, is thought provoking and a top notch scholar.

          Robert

            holdon

            “even if he were a Southern Baptist could never be a teacher at Southern”

            For sure the guys from Galilee who had no Seminary or Academic degree, “unlettered” as they were, wouldn’t be allowed to teach at SBTS either.
            And Paul (the apostle), no Southern Baptist either, but who regarded his own credentials “but dung”, would probably bust up the Seminary pyramid scheme in a heart beat.

            Adam Harwood

            Robert,

            Thanks for your comment. You have accurately represented my concern.

            If I were to offer a minor edit, I would replace this phrase: “Southern is a real problem at this point” with this something like this: “It is problematic if SBTS holds an institutional commitment which is not affirmed in the BFM and excludes many Southern Baptists.”

            I appreciate your work in restating my argument and also creating a scenario to illustrate its outworkings.

            Blessings, brother.

            In Him,
            Adam

          Bob Hadley

          Robert,

          Very well written statement. Very well indeed.

          ><>”

    Bob Hadley

    Stephen,

    You wrote, “Could it be that Block’s interpretation assumed an affirmation of inherited Adamic sinful nature and moved onto what he believed was the conclusion of such nature, an inherited guilt?”

    I think there is a flaw in the logic in the statement you made that I referenced above. Would sin not be the result of an inherited nature and that sin would result in its own guilt or condemnation as opposed to an “inherited guilt that is the result of an inherited nature” as you suggest?

    The BF&M as Dr. Harwood points out clearly says that men “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.” It is clear that there is no reference either implied or inferred that even hints of inherited guilt. The reference to an “environment inclined to sin” further amplifies the position that there is no hint of inherited guilt in the article mentioned.

    Men “become transgressors and are under condemnation”; they are not born under condemnation as inherited guilt contends. I believe Dr. Harwood has brought a very good point to light that needs to be addressed.

    ><>”

      Bart Barber

      “become transgressors”

      This is clearly inceptual. They were not transgressors before, but they became transgressors at this point.

      “and are under condemnation”

      This is clearly not inceptual. It states that they are under condemnation, but (very carefully, I think) makes no statement about when that condemnation began.

      It is at the point of actual transgression that we all agree that all men are under condemnation. The article states rather precisely just what it is that is the shared agreement of Southern Baptists, Calvinistic and other.

Randall Cofield

Brothers, it should be pointed out that this parsing of sin-nature/sin/guilt is an attempt to divide that which is indivisible.

That which possesses a sin-nature acts in accordance with that nature (Jer. 13:23).

All who sin are guilty/condemned before Holy God (Ro. 3:19).

All sin (Ga. 3:22).

The only reason this issue is being raised is that some, contra scripture, are contending that our infants are without sin.

Only when we stand before God in His unveiled perfection of holiness will every mouth be stopped.

NOTE: I do not believe God casts infants into hell, and I will not respond to anyone who accuses me of such.

    Bob Hadley

    Randall,

    For the record I have NEVER engaged in ANY discussion dealing with infants and their sin. Imputed or inherited guilt is a MAJOR theological issue as I see it and here is why.

    Inherited guilt is really necessary to establish the validity of total depravity and inability as posited by the tenets of calvinism. If total depravity and inability fail to stand THEN calvinism as a system fails. The article noted in the BF&M does not make ANY allowance for inherited guilt as I see it and for me that is very problematic for proponents of calvinism and its continued influence in the entities of the SBC.

    For the RECORD… those are MY WORDS and not the words of anyone else speaking on this forum, including Dr. Harwood. I am simply speaking to your comment with respect to infants and the underlying purpose that you claimed is behind the post in the first place.

    The statement I made is mine and I am suggesting that it is the reason serious dialogue needs to continue to take place between proponents of and those like me who are against the continued influence of calvinism in the entites of the SBC. There is a decided difference in the theological positions posited by calvinism and those differences need to be discussed and debated and some resolution needs to be found. This is not the position of the SBC person in the pew today and I do not want it to be the theology in the SBC pew tomorrow.

    ><>”

      Randall Cofield

      Hi Bob,

      I think you just made my case for me. It seems that you are trying to separate the issue of guilt from the issue of the sin-nature. Can’t be done.

      Clearly, the issue here for you is your disdain for Calvinism. I appreciate your honesty.

        Rick Patrick

        Hi Randall,

        I wish you would not dismiss with a “can’t be done” attitude something a thousand of us have, in fact, done.

        We can and do maintain that humans are not condemned for the sinful natures we inherit from Adam, but rather for the actual sinful deeds we ourselves commit.

        This view is found in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000: “Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation.”

        Thus, condemnation (guilt) comes after transgression, and is based not on our natures, but on our actions.

        It can be done. It has been done. It has been done by our current confessional statement.

          Randall Cofield

          Hi Rick,

          Sorry for the comprehensive statement. I should have said I don’t think it can be done scripturally. Better?

          We can and do maintain that humans are not condemned for the sinful natures we inherit from Adam, but rather for the actual sinful deeds we ourselves commit.

          Again, this tries to separate that which cannot be separated by scripture:

          That which possesses a sin-nature acts in accordance with that nature (Jer. 13:23).

          All who sin are guilty/condemned before Holy God (Ro. 3:19).

          All sin (Ga. 3:22).

          This view is found in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000: “Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation.”

          I know, Rick. A biased parsing of an ambiguously worded statement. Kinda like the Traditional parsing of Article IV to dismiss regeneration preceding repentance and faith. ;)

          Interestingly, every argument that is being offered here concerning Article III can be turned back on the Traditionalist treatment of Article IV with equal force.

          This is why we didn’t discard our Bibles post-BF&M 2000.

          Grace and Peace, brother.

      lydia

      “Inherited guilt is really necessary to establish the validity of total depravity and inability as posited by the tenets of calvinism. If total depravity and inability fail to stand THEN calvinism as a system fails. ”

      Bingo

        Randall Cofield

        …and if total depravity fails salvation becomes a synergistic work and God must share His glory with His creatures…

        …Yahtzee…

        Bob Hadley

        Randall,

        Care to comment on the significance of inherited guilt and its significance to total depravity and inability?

        Is TD/TI even possible without inherited guilt? Just curious on your thoughts.

        …Yahtzee… Gesundheit.

        ><>”

          Randall Cofield

          Hey Bob,

          Is TD/TI even possible without inherited guilt?

          I don’t see where inherited guilt affects it either way. TD is grounded in the inherited sin nature, which doesn’t seem to be in dispute here.

          ….Geronimo….

Robin Foster

Dr. Harwood

Thank you for this reasoned approach concerning an apparent discrepancy between what SBTS may state and what they affirm in writing. When I finally realized that we are not guilty because of Adam’s sin, but because of our own individual sin, the TULIP fell like a deck of cards. I appreciate your work in this especially in your book. It has helped clear a difficult subject. I highly recommend it to everyone.

http://www.amazon.com/Spiritual-Condition-Infants-Biblical-Historical-Systematic/dp/1608998444/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1355349534&sr=1-1&keywords=adam+harwood

    Adam Harwood

    Robin,

    Thanks for your kind endorsement of the book. The implication of this recent biblical-historical investigation is that Southern Baptists now have a defense for what many (not all) of them *already affirm.* They already understood the Bible to teach that all people inherit from Adam a sinful nature (or death and condemnation), but *not* Adam’s guilt.

    I would suggest that this view of inherited sinful nature (no guilt) has been widely assumed for generations in the SBC. But it was not previously articulated in a book. There are many fine volumes on original sin or infant salvation, but I am aware of no other book which approaches key biblical texts with this question: “What does this Bible passage teach us, if anything, about the spiritual condition of living infants?” That is the first half of the book.

    The second half surveys the writings of over a dozen Christian thinkers from various theological traditions (Eastern/Western Fathers, Magisterial/Anabaptist Reformers, several Southern Baptists), asking, “What exactly did this person affirm in his writings about the spiritual condition of infants?”

    The “Traditional” Southern Baptists don’t need an academic work to defend their view because they already see it in the pages of the Bible. But the book has proven to be a helpful resource for pastors to sharpen their thinking on the doctrines of man, sin and salvation in light of infants (and, by extension, the mentally incompetent). Also, the book can aid pastors in replying to certain brothers (inside and outside the SBC) who regard a denial of inherited guilt as outside of the bounds of orthodoxy. That’s simply not the case.

    Blessings, brother.

    In Him,
    Adam

Mary

You say that the BFM trumps the Abstract of Principles and SBTS Interpretation, and yet you exalt the “Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.” (a statement that is anything but “traditional”) Actually, that flawed statement should justly be “trumped” by the Abstract of Principles and SBTS Interpretation!

Abstract of Principles

BFM trumps the AP and SBTS Interpretation.

    Adam Harwood

    Mary,

    Thanks for your comment. I am unaware of any advocate of the Traditional Statement who suggested the TS should be considered a convention-wide statement of faith.

    The TS doesn’t “trump” anything. To be clear, it’s not a statement of faith. Why not? It makes no attempt to address the major Christian doctrines, as does the BFM.

    The TS was simply an attempt by an SBC pastor to articulate a Traditional Southern Baptist view of Soteriology. There are many fine and godly Southern Baptists who do not affirm the TS. That’s okay. Anyone is free to either affirm it or ignore it.

    In our view, it’s neither helpful nor compelling to explain our view as follows: “We’re non-Calvinist Southern Baptists. We differ with Calvinists on certain doctrines.” Who explains their beliefs on a topic by listing only how they disagree with someone else?

    The TS was intended to fill that gap.

    And it resonated with many Southern Baptist statesmen and leaders. If my memory is correct, 5 former SBC Presidents affirmed it prior to its public release last summer. The TS allows many SB’s to say, “Yes. THAT is what I believe the Bible to teach about salvation.” But it doesn’t trump anything.

    Many of the “Trads” think it reflects the “majority view” in the SBC. (But I’m not interested in getting side-tracked in this comment stream with people speaking for or against the TS. The TS isn’t the focus of the original essay.)

    Which historical document takes precedence if there arises a point of conflict between the AP and the BFM is an interesting question. But whatever position a Southern Baptist takes on the Abstract, surely we can all affirm this view:

    The BFM trumps all Faculty Expositions of the BFM.

    In Him,
    Adam

Mary

I am blown away by the doctrines that many at this site affirm:

Infants are sinless beings who don’t need Christ to go to Heaven.

Total depravity is denied.

I can’t think who in history holds your views. Certainly not Southern Baptist founders. Certainly not Calvin, Luther or any of the Reformers. Certainly not Spurgeon, Whitefield or Carey. Certainly not even Arminius and Wesley. And certainly not the Apostle Paul.

    Adam Harwood

    “Infants are sinless beings who don’t need Christ to go to Heaven.”

    Mary, Who makes that claim? Not me. Not Rick Patrick. We are the only two men in recent months I can recall having written essays on this site which affirm a BFM-permissible view known as inherited sinful nature. We never claim that infants are sinless; they live in a fallen world, stained by and inclined toward sin. And they DO need Christ to go to heaven. We basically offer the same solution of passive application of the atonement as your view. The difference is that the atonement, in our view, cleanses a sinful nature. In your view, it cleanses an infant who bears a sinful nature AND the guilt of Adam. In neither view is it argued that the infants must place faith in Christ. Rather, in both cases the orthodox solution is a passive application of the atoning work of Christ on the Cross.
    —-
    “Total depravity is denied.”

    If by that statement you are referring to the doctrine as defined by Dort, then yes. It’s not necessary to be a Calvinist in order to be an orthodox Christian.
    —-
    Your appeal to history is partially accurate. Calvin would NOT affirm our view. But keep in mind: He wasn’t a Baptist.

    Some of the Reformers DID accept this view. Magisterial Reformers were one type of Reformer. There was another important group known as Anabaptist Reformers. Pilgram Marpeck explicitly denied inherited guilt. Based on his writings, it is safe to guess that he would have affirmed the essays written by Rick Patrick and myself on this topic.
    —-
    Of course, all of us in this discussion trace our view all the way back to Paul. And Jesus. And Moses. And David.

    Blessings, sister.

    In Him,
    Adam

      Mary

      Adam, I am SO VERY THANKFUL for your explanation above: “We never claim that infants are sinless; they live in a fallen world, stained by and inclined toward sin. And they DO need Christ to go to heaven.”

      This has been my complaint all along. Perhaps I am too dense, but I just could not see how that was not denied by this teaching. I guess I have just misunderstood all along. It hasn’t been my goal to push a Calvinist agenda nor to try and insist that that position is better. I felt like I was protecting something sacred. But now it sounds like you are protecting the same sacred thing. That was the main important thing to me in this debate. I’m sorry that I have been misunderstanding your position. You believe babies need Christ to go to Heaven. So do I. That is what has been important to me all along. We’re on the same team.

        Adam Harwood

        (Insert picture of Adam and Mary shaking hands and smiling.)

Tim Rogers

Mary,

Infants are sinless beings who don’t need Christ to go to Heaven.

Total depravity is denied.

I do not see any place where anyone has said that Infants \”don\’t need Christ to go to Heaven\”. No one has ever said that. Total depravity, interpreted in the way that an Augustinian system that assigns imputed guilt to the infant is denied. Please, from Scripture, show me where any infant was guilty and sentenced to hell based on Adams sin.

John Mark Yeats

While we are using dangerous terms like “most,” perhaps Lifeway Research could do some studies over basic theological concepts like this.

The problem with terms like “most” in this article is that it is based within our perceptions and not within any solid sociological data. Since theological “birds of a feather” will tend to “flock together”, does our own understanding of support for our particular perspective become skewed?

For what it’s worth, I do not believe the lay person in the pew has ever truly parsed the details of whether we have imputed sin or choose to sin. They do know that we are sinners which is evidence of the SBC’s consistent Gospel preaching. Most – here’s that dangerous word again – of the SBC churches I served in Texas, Indiana, and Illinois had members who believed in original sin. It was a very basic understanding of this doctrine, but this is where they leaned.

    Adam Harwood

    I agree.

    A LifeWay survey which clearly distinguishes the various views of our inheritance from Adam would be very helpful.

    Tim Rogers

    Dr. Yeats,

    For what it’s worth, I do not believe the lay person in the pew has ever truly parsed the details of whether we have imputed sin or choose to sin.

    Certainly we are in agreement that we cannot identify the “most” people. However, your statement brings about somethings that cause me to take caution. Your position of “imputed sin” or “choose to sin” seems to move us away from the argument Dr. Harwood has presented. Dr. Harwood would agree that one cannot help to choose but to sin upon arriving at a point to make a decision. The reason is we affirm that we have an imputed sin nature and an environment derived through our progeny in Adam. What we have stated, and I believe Dr. Harwood has presented it with clarity, is we are not guilty of Adam’s sin but we are guilty of our sin at the time that we make a choice and that choice is a sinful one because of our inherited nature and environment. If we accept “imputed sin” that means we are guilty of sin we have not done. Now, only you can answer for the “most” in the churches that you have served and I can only answer for the “most” in the churches that I have served. But I can assure you that the “most” in the churches that I have served would be very straight forward, without parsing every jot and tittle, by telling one that a baby conceived is not guilty of sin because he/she has not made a conscious decision.

    This issue is an issue that is very similar to the issue that was facing the conservatives in 1970. We have a philosophical/theological issue “imputed guilt” that the majority (see I didn’t use most) of the people in the pew would say that the Bible does not teach.

Adam Harwood

Dr. Yeats,

As I re-read our conversation in this comment stream from last night and today, I now see that we are making *different* arguments.

My position is this:

1. Southern Baptists should **unify** under the BFM. SB’s hold many views on various doctrines permissible under the BFM.
2. SBC institutions should **interpret** the BFM in a way that **includes** the major views among Southern Baptists.
3. My essay demonstrates that SBTS (an SBC institution) takes a view which necessarily **excludes** a common SB interpretation permissible under the BFM.
4. These two interpretations of the BFM are incompatible.
5. For the sake of **unity** in the SBC, SBTS **must include** this common view of inherited sinful nature in their Faculty Interpretation.

Another point on which I have apparently been unclear in both my essay and in my comments to you is this:

My question is ***not about the Abstract.***

My question concerns a document which was written **by SBTS faculty** to interpret the BFM 2000. In that document, SBTS advocates one interpretation of the BFM which **necessarily excludes** the view of many Southern Baptists.

I apologize for my lack of clarity and trust that my use of “**” was a help rather than a hindrance.

Thanks, brother.

In Him,
Adam

Randall Cofield

Dr. Harwood,

You stated:

We never claim that infants are sinless; they live in a fallen world, stained by and inclined toward sin. And they DO need Christ to go to heaven.

If infants sin (“we never claim that infants are sinless”):

1) How are they not under condemnation?

If they “DO need Christ to go to heaven”:

2) In what sense do they need Christ to go to heaven?

Thanks, brother.

    Bob Hadley

    Randall,

    Help me out a little bit here. I have not really given much thought to this issue of the state of infants with respect to sin and condemnation etc… you wrote the following response to a question that I asked dealing with the necessity of inherited guilt to substantiate total depravity and inability…

    I don’t see where inherited guilt affects it either way. TD is grounded in the inherited sin nature, which doesn’t seem to be in dispute here.

    After thinking about it, I considered that a fair answer.

    However, in reading the question you posed to Dr. Harwood it seems to me that the thrust of what I am reading between the lines here is that infants are guilty of Adam’s sin and therefore under condemnation. This would seem to me to be necessary because an inherited nature does not by itself demand condemnation until that nature manifests itself in one’s actions which then brings its own condemnation.

    Please know that I am not trying to put words in your mouth but really just trying to understand exactly what you are saying here.

    ><>”

      Randall Cofield

      Hi Bob,

      That’s a reasonable question. If you don’t mind, I’d like to wait until Dr. Harwood responds before I answer.

      Thanks for engaging me, brother.

    Adam Harwood

    Randall,

    Thanks for your questions. I offer the following explanation:

    There is only one way to heaven, through Christ. No one gets to heaven without the Cross. GUILTY people are forgiven of their sin by repenting of sin and believing in Jesus. If infants are NOT YET guilty, then they are not obligated to repent and believe. But the Bible never calls infants sinless.

    This may not provide a clean, crisp answer but we tread carefully in order to say as much as the Bible says and no more. From page 154 of The Spiritual Condition of Infants: “For those readers who have been reading through this book waiting for a declarative statement on the spiritual condition of infants, here it is: Infants are sin-stained, not guilty. Infants are not sinless because they inherit a sinful nature. But infants are not guilty because God judges our thoughts, attitudes, and actions, not our nature. If I were pressed to speculate how God might deal with people who die in their infancy, I would offer this suggestion: All people who die in their infancy will be included in God’s restoration of his fallen creation through Christ’s work at the cross. Perhaps this is the time Jesus mentioned as ‘the renewal of all things’ (Matt 19:28). Paul said that creation would be set free from its bondage to decay (Rom 8:19–23). Although infants are not guilty of sin, they have been stained by it. Even though they have not knowingly acted in ways that would incur God’s judgment, they may be in need of God’s redemptive and renewing work. And it is Jesus who promises, ‘Behold, I make all things new’ (Rev 21:5).”

    Blessings, brother.

    In Him,
    Adam

John Mark Yeats

Adam,

We are making different arguments. I am not nor have I taken up any portion of the soteriological debate surrounding imputed sin. In fact, I have tried to separate your two claims by dealing only with the agency equation.

I wanted to know if you were arguing for a maximal understanding of the BF&M to which you agree. In fact, you stated as much.

However, when you broke down your argument into four main points, that is not necessarily what you are claiming. See as follows:

1. Southern Baptists should **unify** under the BFM. SB’s hold many views on various doctrines permissible under the BFM.

This is a form of the minimalist argument. The BF&M is broad and allows for multiple interpretations. Thus, \”SBs hold many views on various doctrines permissible under the BFM\”

2. SBC institutions should **interpret** the BFM in a way that **includes** the major views among Southern Baptists.

I can agree to this claim as well – but to a point. SBC institutions should be reflective of our convention. But here\’s the rub. How do we define what the \”major views\” are? As we discuss broad issues like imputation of sin, how do we determine what the majority of SBCers views are? Do we need to commission studies on these issues? Simply claiming a majority stance does not make it defacto true. This is the danger of terms like \”most\”. When we use these terms without good evidence, we are simply stating something that relates to our experience where our tribal commitments may skew our perspective.

3. My essay demonstrates that SBTS (an SBC institution) takes a view which necessarily **excludes** a common SB interpretation permissible under the BFM.

This is the issue where you and I departed fully, I think. Your central question was: \”Does Southern Seminary have an institutional commitment to a theological position which is not affirmed in the BFM and excludes many Southern Baptists?\” and then you quoted from an article written by Block that offered a faculty interpretation of the BFM.

Where I may have been unclear is that I kept pointing to the Abstract of Principles, and not to Block. Here\’s why: I do not think that SBTS structures their decisions based upon Block\’s interpretation. I DO, however, think that they base their interpretive decisions on imputation on the Abstract of Principles. Why does this matter?

The Abstract of Principles states in article 6, \”God originally created Man in His own image, and free from sin; but, through the temptation of Satan, he transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original holiness and righteousness; whereby his posterity inherit a nature corrupt and wholly opposed to God and His law, are under condemnation, and as soon as they are capable of moral action, become actual transgressors.\”

I humbly submit that this is no different than Block\’s claim. The issue ACTUALLY IS whether the Abstract of Principles, the defining document for both SBTS and SEBTS, is acceptable as a form of interpretation of the BF&M. You seem to be implying that this view should be modified to allow for another interpretation due to an \”incompatibility\”.

Thus, your next point:

4. These two interpretations of the BFM are incompatible.

This is true. But is it allowable for tension on this issue or should one interpretation trump another?

5. For the sake of **unity** in the SBC, SBTS **must include** this common view of inherited sinful nature in their Faculty Interpretation.

It may go a long way to aid in unity if SBTS were to add such an interpretation. But if their foundational documents which have never been revoked by the convention AND the faculty interpretation is completely consistent, why should this be expected or required? It is at this point I wondered if you were taking a maximalist approach that took one perspective of the BF&M and argued that only that perspective is allowed.

I appreciate the dialogue and I still think you guys should take up the maximalist vs. the minimalist approaches to the BF&M sits behind this debate on some level. After all, we are Baptists and ecclesiology matters! Perhaps you should take this up in a future article!

    Bob Hadley

    Dr. Yeats,

    I have taken the wording of the BF&M2K and the wording you provided from the AP and have highlighted the differences in the wording and phrasing.

    “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.” BF&M2K

    “Through the temptation of Satan, he transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original holiness and righteousness; whereby his posterity inherit a nature corrupt and wholly opposed to God and His law, are under condemnation, and as soon as they are capable of moral action, become actual transgressors.” AP

    I am not really interested in the thesis that Dr. Harwood presents but I do believe his argument does set the stage for an interesting issue that you yourself raise. You wrote,

    The issue ACTUALLY IS whether the Abstract of Principles, the defining document for both SBTS and SEBTS, is acceptable as a form of interpretation of the BF&M.

    What is additionally interesting is a comment you made in reference to one of Dr. Harwood’s conclusions: He made the following statement:

    4. These two interpretations of the BFM are incompatible.

    To which you responded:

    This is true. But is it allowable for tension on this issue or should one interpretation trump another?

    Your last question I believe demands an answer. If as Dr. Harwood concludes and you concur, these two theological positions accurately reflect their respective confessional statements, then the two statements must be incompatible as well and since the BF&M2K is the latest statement of the larger body, would it not take precedence over the AP where the two stand in conflict and are in fact clearly incompatible?

    I believe the answer to that question is clearly, “YES.”

    ><>”

    Bob Hadley

    I accidentally left out a sentence in my last paragraph… I am reposting the last paragraph with the addition in bold print:

    Your last question I believe demands an answer. If as Dr. Harwood concludes and you concur, these two theological positions are incompatible and they accurately reflect their respective confessional statements, then the two statements must be incompatible as well and since the BF&M2K is the latest statement of the larger body, would it not take precedence over the AP where the two stand in conflict and are in fact clearly incompatible?

    ><>”

    Adam Harwood

    John,

    Sorry for the length of my reply. I blame your comments. ;-)

    I agree that we are making different arguments, but happily acknowledge there are many points of agreement between us.

    I did not mean to imply that you had advocated a particular view on the doctrine of salvation. I did not get that idea from your comments and did not intent to leave you with that impression.

    You write: “I wanted to know if you were arguing for a maximal understanding of the BF&M to which you agree. In fact, you stated as much.”

    When you sought clarification regarding the minimal/maximal view, I misunderstood your argument regarding the Garner Motion. As previously stated, I was unfamiliar with the 2007 motion. I followed the private prayer language debate closely in 2007 but somehow missed that motion. I was clear in the essay and in further comments that I am attempting to articulate a minimalist view of the BFM. Consider my statement in section 4 of the essay above:

    “Various interpretations are affirmed among Southern Baptists on every Christian doctrine. For that reason, it would seem necessary for the seminaries to include all interpretations which are consistent with the SBC’s only statement of faith, the BFM.”

    Do we both agree that this expresses a minimalist view? I want all views consistent with the BFM to be included by our institutions, not excluded. That is what I said yesterday in the essay and that is what I have said all day—even when I misunderstood your point about the Garner Motion, I was attempting to affirm a minimalist view. I apologize for being unclear in that single comment in the stream. But in light of my previous essay, the context of my comments, and my repeated explanations that I misunderstood your point about the Garner, I’m unsure why you continue to claim that I affirmed a view which I deny. In other words, please don’t say I affirm the max view of the BFM. That misrepresents my view of the BFM.

    On point 2 in your comments: I did not claim that SBC institutions should be reflective of its convention. That is **your claim.** My claim is this: SBC institutions should reflect their agreed-upon convention-wide statement of faith. In other words, **SBS institutions should reflect the BFM.**

    As helpful as their surveys can be, it is NOT necessary to poll Southern Baptists for their beliefs on our inheritance from Adam in order to clarify this issue. Why not? The BFM already states our consensus on the matter. Our seminaries don’t need a LifeWay survey for guidance on what to teach related to our inheritance from Adam. Our seminaries should teach according to the BFM 2000. All of our seminaries—even the ones that also affirm the AP.

    We should assume that our seminaries (all of them) have no problem understanding that “inherited sinful nature” is a major viewpoint among Southern Baptists. Why not? We should assume that the plain language of Article 3 of the BFM (“a nature and environment inclined toward sin”) constitutes one of our major views!

    On point 3 of the comments, you write: “I do not think that SBTS structures their decisions based upon Block’s interpretation. I DO, however, think that they base their interpretive decisions on imputation on the Abstract of Principles.”

    Is it your claim that the SBTS Faculty Interpretation of the **BFM** should be re-titled the SBTS Faculty Interpretation of the **Abstract**?

    When SBTS asks, “How do we interpret Article 3 of the BFM?” does it:
    1. Explain the words of the BFM?
    2. Explain the words of the BFM, but choose the wording of the AP when they conflict?

    If the answer is #2, then you have just illustrated the problem I raised in my Nov. 29 essay on this site. It seems problematic for any of our institutions to affirm TWO statements of faith. How does one resolve the conflict? Perhaps that’s a question for our convention to answer.

    Several people outside this comment stream have been very frustrated that I would suggest there is a conflict between the two documents. Why is this so hard to imagine? We see the conflict in Article 3.

    Many people have signed both documents (AP and BFM) without seeing a conflict. That’s not my point. My point is that it is possible (not necessary) to read the AP in such a way that it conflicts with Article 3 of the BFM. Specifically, the AP places “condemnation” before we become transgressors.

    On point #4 from your comment: I agree that both views of inheritance should be allowed. That is why I wrote the Dec. 11 essay. SBTS is necessarily **excluding** one view (inherited sinful nature) by teaching ONLY that all people inherit Adam’s GUILT.

    On point #5: Please clarify. Are you saying:
    1. if the SBTS Faculty Interpretation is consistent with the AP and
    2. if there is a difference at Article 3 between the documents,
    3. then it is permissible for the Faculty Interpretation of the BFM to be consistent with the AP, regardless of the BFM?

    I understand that the AP was approved many years ago by the convention for use by SBTS. May I pose a historical-hypothetical question? Suppose the state constitution of Virginia pre-dated the constitution of the US. (Virginia was a colony before it became a state, so it could have happened; this is only hypothetical.) Now suppose there is a single point of conflict between the two documents. Which constitution wins and why? That is similar to our situation with the AP and BFM in the SBC.

    If “Joe the Baptist” (similar to but different than the 2008 election’s “Joe the Plumber”) were asked which document wins in a conflict, the SBTS original statement of faith or the convention-wide statement of faith, then I think the BFM would win. Of course, we can only guess. But I would answer in this way and think I have good reasons for holding the view. Perhaps this question will be put to the test. Perhaps an SBC messenger will raise this issue by submitting a resolution at the next meeting in Houston. Would such a resolution make it to the floor? If so, what type of discussion might it generate? Would there be a vote? Would it be close? Would it matter, since resolutions are non-binding?

    Thanks for your time, brother. Interacting with you on this issue has further stimulate my thinking on this topic. And thanks for the suggestion. I’ll probably continue to write essays on topics like this which have convention-wide implications. (At 1,100 words, does this reply count as another essay?)

    Blessings.

    In Him,
    Adam

      John Mark Yeats

      Adam,

      Thanks for engaging me so thoroughly! I am so blessed to pastor full time these days, but there are times when I miss the collegial meeting of the minds in the faculty lounge!

      Bart,

      Thanks for weighing in!

      Apologies to both of you for waiting until this evening to post. Friday is my day off and I have had an incredible day with my family. As much as I love this interaction, it pales in comparison to the gifts God has given me in my children and my wife.
      ——–
      Bart,
      I am complete agreement with your statement. I do think we may be mistaken, though, to think that theology profs at SBTS fail to teach all of the views. I am unfamiliar with any faculty member who would fail to address this particular issue in either a course dealing with Baptist Heritage or Theology proper. Of course, I am basing this on the realities of how my former colleagues at SWBTS were very careful to address these ideas. When I used to teach through the BF&M in Baptist Heritage, we would look at some of these variances between the AP, 1925, 1963 and 2k.

      Adam,

      I agree that the statement that has preference is the BF&M. I would also claim that we are foolish not to use prior statements to help us understand and interpret a current document – especially when the current document is consistent with the teaching of the prior. In other words, the AP is not the faith statement nor should it be the primary faith document of Southern Seminary. The BF&M is. But the AP can sure help us stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.

      Let’s assume for a moment your point that ***SBTS is necessarily **excluding** one view (inherited sinful nature) by teaching ONLY that all people inherit Adam’s GUILT.*** For that it is worth, in my opinion, I believe this claim is false because it assumes that faculty do not raise genuine theological issues in class and are more interested in a form of indoctrination instead of education.

      But back to the question based on your assumption:

      Since you are a minimalist and since we do not have an uber-seminary, but six seminaries with unique emphases and identities, AND since the AP is consistent with at least one of the possible interpretations of the BFM article 3, even if SBTS chose not to ever teach a viewpoint contrary to the AP, would they be truly guilty of violating their mandate from the convention and need further guidance from the convention?

      You also asked: Is it your claim that the SBTS Faculty Interpretation of the **BFM** should be re-titled the SBTS Faculty Interpretation of the **Abstract**?

      Answer: NO – I simply stated that Block’s interpretation of the BFM is very consistent with the AP. In other words, if Southern holds to the AP as an authoritative document and makes its faculty sign it, then we should expect the faculty interpretation to look nearly identical to the AP on this issue because the faculty have claimed they believe the statements of the AP.

    Bart Barber

    Dr. Yeats,

    I do believe that Dr. Harwood has a point with regard to the exposition of the BF&M that does not necessarily pertain to the Abstract of Principles. I shall attempt to describe that point.

    1. As a committed minimalist, I have no problem with SBTS affirming and teaching according to the Abstract of Principles so long as it does not lie outside the doctrinal parameters defined by the BF&M. I am convinced that it does not lie outside the BF&M, but lies within it. And therefore, I have no problem with SBTS’s employing the Abstract of Principles.

    2. For this reason, when a professor at SBTS is teaching anthropology (in the theological sense), should he teach in a manner that promotes inherited guilt, I have no problem with that.

    3. However, when the subject matter is not “this is the nature of humankind” but is instead “this is what the Baptist Faith & Message says,” then every entity’s depiction of the BF&M should accurately and faithfully adhere to the actual text of the BF&M. Even at Southern, such discussions should clearly indicate that the inherited-guilt view is one of the included positions but is only one among others.

    4. Block’s essay does not seem to make that point as clearly as perhaps it should. We are, perhaps, engaging in a bit of anachronism if we think that he should have, at that time, anticipated our debates today. Stone-throwing is not in order. But we can acknowledge this failure as a flaw in the document.

    5. Handling the BF&M accurately in this way would not require that Southern teach contrary to the concept of inherited guilt. Rather, it would simply require them to make clear that, following the BF&M alone, they could be teaching other views, and that it is the Abstract of Principles, and not the BF&M, that pushes them toward the position if inherited guilt.

      Robin Foster

      “We are, perhaps, engaging in a bit of anachronism if we think that he should have, at that time, anticipated our debates today. Stone-throwing is not in order. But we can acknowledge this failure as a flaw in the document.”

      Bart, that is exactly what is in order. A clarification or revision of the SBTS document would help in the matter. Nothing wrong with new challenges when they are presented to dated documents. I believe that is why the BFM has been revised twice? :) Great point!

Dell Russell

I think that because many believe this and other believe that and then even still some believe neither, the whole thing should be brought and be put back on the table to see what should be approved and or discarded.

I would be in the “some believe neither” group. I am not a Calvinist, although I do think of them as brothers and sisters in Christ. I think I would fall under the semi-pelegian for many, although I would not consider myself one.

I don’t believe we inherit Adam’s guilt no more than I did my own dad’s guilt. I also do not believe we inherit a “sinful nature”. However I do believe we inherited an environment filled with sin. And because we are born estranged from the fellowship God created man to exist in, our spirits are out of proportion to our flesh, world and Satan. Our spirit was only meant to overcome with God in the driver seat. We are lead away by the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Same was true for Eve – same for us, no different.

Adam (the first man, not Harwood;-) did NOT have a sinful nature, but yet he still sinned.

Why are we to believe we must have a sinful nature and or guilt of Adam to cause us to sin.

For those like Mary and others that think I am saying,”Then we don’t need Christ in order to get to heaven” or “We can live above sin”, that is not what I nor others that believe as I do are saying.

In Christ,
Dell

    Adam Harwood

    Dell,

    Thanks for your note. As surprising (and possibly offensive) as it may be to some of my more-Calvinistic friends who might peek into this comment stream, I will agree that you have described a view which is consistent with the Bible as summarized by the BFM Article 3.

    The statement explains that we inherit “a nature and environment INCLINED toward sin.” I prefer to think of my inheritance from Adam as a sinful nature. Thus I use the term “inherited sinful nature.” Also, Paul refers to “sin in me” (Romans 7:17-18). But you are correct when you state that it is not necessary to that claim that our **nature** is sinful. It is only necessary to claim, to be consistent with the BFM, an *inherited inclination* toward sin and that we inherit death–perhaps only a reference to physical death prior to individual guilt.

    (This point about human nature and “original sin” was first made to me via e-mail by a theology professor at one of our SBC seminaries which affirms the Abstract! He read my book and did not object to my denial of inheriting Adam’s guilt but to my view that we inherit a sinful nature. He was only comfortable affirming an inherited sinful inclination and inherited physical death.)

    You note that Adam was human and was not created by God with a sinful nature. True. This is a point at which certain non-Calvinist explanations are much stronger than Calvinist explanations, in my opinion. Rather than appealing to a covenant of law between God and Adam not explicitly mentioned in the Bible, we explain the Fall somthing like this:

    After exercising his choice to either obey or disobey God, Adam disobeyed. As a result of his disobedience, all of creation is fallen. That is part of the biblical-historical storyline. We live in a fallen world and we begin life as broken, fallen people in need of God and His grace in Christ. Is it our fault? Not entirely. Is it Adam’s fault? Well, he was the first to disobey God. Does it matter who first sinned? We have all disobeyed God. Even so, God demonstrates His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). O, God, Thank you for the grace you show us in Christ!

    I understand Paul to teach in Romans 5:12-21 that all humans after Adam (with the exception of Jesus) inherit from Adam sin, condemnation, and death–NOT his guilt, as I’ve argued on this site in recent months.

    Consider Jesus. He was fully God and fully man. Is the human nature sinful? Jesus was fully human yet sinless. It is possible to argue that Jesus was sinless by virute of His obedience to the Father and having no human father descended from Adam. However, a fully-developed view of the incarnation requires an understanding that He became flesh, a genuine human. Jesus was and is the prototype of humanity. But He was not and is not sinful, even in His nature.

    All that to say: I prefer “inherited sinful nature,” but I will acknowledge your view that Adam sinned because He made a choice to disobey God, not because of a sinful nature. But we don’t have that choice because we all live after Adam. We must affirm that sin, death and condemnation come to all because all sinned (Romans 5:12-21). Anything beyond this particular claim regarding our inheritance from Adam–especially the notion that we bear Adam’s guilt–is theological speculation.

    Blessings, brother.

    In Him,
    Adam

      Dell Russell

      Adam Harwood wrote:
      “We live in a fallen world and we begin life as broken, fallen people in need of God and His grace in Christ.”

      “I understand Paul to teach in Romans 5:12-21 that all humans after Adam (with the exception of Jesus) inherit from Adam sin, condemnation, and death–NOT his guilt, as I’ve argued on this site in recent months.”

      ” I prefer “inherited sinful nature,” but I will acknowledge your view that Adam sinned because He made a choice to disobey God, not because of a sinful nature. But we don’t have that choice because we all live after Adam. We must affirm that sin, death and condemnation come to all because all sinned (Romans 5:12-21). Anything beyond this particular claim regarding our inheritance from Adam–especially the notion that we bear Adam’s guilt–is theological speculation.”

      Hello Dr. Harwood,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment on my post. I wood like to add a few thoughts here, to perhaps clarify some of my thinking.
      I do believe we are born in a fallen world, but I do not believe we are born broken, as in born sinners. It’s not that we are born broken, however, we are born incomplete. We are born with something missing and that something is the fellowship and communion of God. That completion comes when our relationship with God is restored through Christ.

      If it were true that we inherit sin from Adam then the Calvinist would be correct to say we inherit guilt as well. You can’t have one without the other, as guilt is the result of sin. But I do not believe scripture teaches we inherit sin or guilt or a nature to sin.

      Romans 5:12-21 does teach death passed to all men, but it does not teach we inherit sin. And it’s not that we are born with death, spiritual or physical, within us. Death here is what hangs over us all, as in we are subject to it. It will take us all to the grave, some sooner than others.
      I believe this is a physical death spoken of here. “Death reigned” from Adam to Moses, Even over those that did not sin after the similitude of Adam’s transgression. The cure for that death is ever lasting life through Christ.

      5:19 tells us many were “made” sinners by the act of one, Adam. This word “made”, as you know, is not that we are formed sinners, but that we are placed into that position. If it was saying we are “made” (formed) sinners then we would also have to say, We are “made” (formed) righteous when we are born again. And to say we sinned when Adam sinned we would have to say we did everything right when we are placed in Christ. And to say that, we would have to say it wasn’t really the righteousness of Christ that saved us, but ours when we believed. Neither you, I or anyone else would agree with that.

      It is true the world came under condemnation, but that does not automatically make all born sinners. It is the result of the condemnation of all the world and death that separated man from God and being separated from God causes man to rely on his carnal, earthy flesh. In other words our flesh becomes our main focus and God does not. For that all will sin.

      5:12 is a progression of events, not that it all happened in one fell swoop. Adam sinned, so death came into the world. Death was also the result of not having access to the fruit of the tree of life, according to Genesis. When Adam was put out of the garden, we were all put out because we were all in his loins. Being born estranged from God, we all sin.

      My bottom line is, we are born innocent just like Adam was created. (Thats not to say we are born righteous, but neither does that mean we are born sinners.) One by one we all had the same opportunity to overcome and one by one we all fall short. Christ came just as we all do, but He overcame where everyone else failed.

      Thanks for your time,
      Dell

    Mary

    Dell wrote: “Adam (the first man, not Harwood;-) did NOT have a sinful nature, but yet he still sinned. Why are we to believe we must have a sinful nature and or guilt of Adam to cause us to sin.”

    I think I can answer that. Adam had a choice. He could sin. He could also not sin. We (before being born again at least) are not like Adam, we cannot not sin. There is a difference.

      Dell Russell

      Hello Mary,
      The law was weak through the flesh.

      I think you are putting the cart before the horse.

      So when you were told by your parents to do as you are told or else, you ALWAYS disobeyed?
      It’s not that we can’t make right choices, it’s just that we don’t “always” make right choices. That’s not the result of a nature to sin, it’s because we give into temptation and follow the lusts of our flesh.

Michael staton

Dr. Harwood ,
I appreciate your love for Gods Word and your tireless pursuit of the truth. I know your desire is to love The Lord with all your heart AND mind. As always, your essay is clear, thought-provoking and fair. Theological debate and rigorous conversation is essential. Sadly, in many forums, these kinds of conversations far too often lack a spirit of grace even while discussing things very directly related to the grace of God poured upon us. That is unfortunate. However, you continually find a way to deal with complex issues with clarity, theological ideas with passion and best of all, you offer intelligent conversation with much grace and humility. As I read your work, I am always driven to Scripture with an engaged mind. I am also challenged by your words, tone and attitude, to grow in humility, patience and kindness. Thank you for your work and the spirit with which you challenge your readers.

    Adam Harwood

    Thanks for your words of encouragement, Michael.

    You model for me (and for others) how to engage in constructive theological dialogue. As a pastor, you field theological questions constantly–whether posed directly or answered in your preaching, pastoral care or biblical counseling. In doing so, I’ve found you to be (borrowing the words of James) “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” Thanks, brother.

    In Him,
    Adam

Dave

Dr. Harwood,

you said…”I understand Paul to teach in Romans 5:12-21 that all humans after Adam (with the exception of Jesus) inherit from Adam sin, condemnation, and death–NOT his guilt, as I’ve argued on this site in recent months.”

I really don’t understand how we inherit his “condemnation” and not his “guilt” is condemnation not law court language? how can one be “condemned” without being “guilty” ?? Further, the text says that one trespass (the sin of Adam) brought this condemnation (5:18)…

I am not trying to pick a fight I really just am having trouble understanding. Full disclosure I went to SBTS and took Schreiner’s Greek exegesis of Romans class..so I am not exactly “unbiased…

    Adam Harwood

    Dave,

    Thanks for the question. I don’t regard it as “picking a fight.” Rather, you have identified a key difference between covenantal and non-covenantal interpretations of Romans 5:12-21. If Southern Baptists will agree to disagree on this point, the current differences in the SBC can be diffused. In a word: UNITY!

    Here is the distinction:

    1. Adam sinned, thus we inherit condemnation.
    or
    2. Adam sinned, thus we inherit *Adam’s guilt and* condemnation.

    Paul (esp. Rom 5:18) obligates me to affirm statement 1, not 2.
    Statement 1 doesn’t require that Adam’s *guilt* is passed to all people; such an idea is necessary for the system known as covenantal theology. But I regard that interpretive grid to be both unhelpful and unnecessary.

    Is it **possible** that Paul was simply referring to the general condemnation which results from living in a fallen world (the created world) and a fallen body (now inclined to sin and destined to die physically)? If this is possible without including that we also inherit Adam’s guilt, then why would I do so?

    Consider other places in the Bible when God judges man for sin. Pick any passage. Does God explicitly mention that He is judging me for **Adam’s sin** or for my own sinful thoughts, attitudes, and actions? It seems that God judges people (eternally, not temporally) for **their own** sin.

    That’s what Paul writes in Romans 5:12. I’ll quote from the ESV so my more-Calvinist brothers know I’m not trying to cheat. ;-) “…and so death spread to all men because all sinned…” If the words “in Adam” appeared at the end of verse 12, then I would adopt covenantal theology. Since they don’t appear, I’m under no such obligation from the words of the Bible.

    Does this help clarify my view? (By the way, my goal at the John 3:16 Conference in March is to provide an exegetical reply to this question: What do we inherit from Adam?”)

    Blessings, brother.

    In Him,
    Adam

      holdon

      “What do we inherit from Adam?”
      A. Enmity
      1. Adam yielded to the Enemy and now we are all in Enemy territory (“fallen world”): without and against God (“ungodly”). That’s why we are all condemned: because of our position. We are weak (without strength) in that position. We need rescue (a Savior who can cut us loose from the Enemy) in order to gain strength to declare our allegiance to God and to disavow the Enemy. For the time being this will bring experientially a mixed bag: tribulations on the one hand and hope on the other, because we’re now on God’s side, standing in His favor, reconciled with Him; be it that we’re still in the Enemy territory. Romans 5: 1-11.

      B. Human nature
      2. Human nature in and of itself is weak: it can be overcome by sin. As is proven from Adam onwards.
      3. Jesus could not be overcome by sin, because He did always the will of the Father: He came into this world (Enemy territory) without any allegiance to the Enemy but solely to the Father. Jesus’ line goes back to Adam. Therefore, His human nature is from Adam. So, is ours.

      C. Sin
      4. For the rest of us sin is a principle at work in us: doing the will of the Enemy. The principle first entered the world through Adam. Sin produces sins (the sinful acts) and death. The proof that it is so, is that “death passed upon all men”. Even when there was no law and transgressions could not be positively proven, people died.
      5. But if the effects of that single and first mistake (=the original sin), extends to all humanity ever since, the effects of the single and perfect obedience (Christ doing the will of the Father on the cross: “not My will but Thine”) are also powerful enough to extend to all.
      6. By faith in that single act of Christ many will come into the right (righteousness – justification) relationship with God.
      7. Grace will therefore reign triumphantly over sin in a new kind of life: we are dead to the Enemy; he has no say over us anymore. We stand now in God’s grace.
      Romans 5:12-21

      Robert

      Hello Adam,

      You wrote:

      “Thanks for the question. I don’t regard it as “picking a fight.” Rather, you have identified a key difference between covenantal and non-covenantal interpretations of Romans 5:12-21. If Southern Baptists will agree to disagree on this point, the current differences in the SBC can be diffused. In a word: UNITY!”

      I agree with you that a key difference involves “covenantal and non-covenantal interpretations of Romans 5:12-21”. What I am not sure is possible is your next statement that “If Southern Baptists will agree to disagree on this point” there can be unity. There is room to disagree if one person proposes the imputed guilt doctrine and another rejects that doctrine. But I don’t see how there is room for covenant theology among Baptists. People who hold to covenant theology are both Reformed in their theology and also **not-Baptists**. This is why many of the Reformed who hold to covenant theology reject Reformed Baptists as Reformed because they believe that to be Reformed in your theology you have to hold to covenant theology and paedobaptism.

      You shared the following distinction:

      “Here is the distinction:
      1. Adam sinned, thus we inherit condemnation.
      or
      2. Adam sinned, thus we inherit *Adam’s guilt and* condemnation.”

      Statement 1 is the traditionalist position: that Adam’s sin resulted in spiritual death, and spiritual death inevitably leads to sin so when we are capable of it we will then sin and be under condemnation for our own sin. Statement 2 is the Reformed understanding of original sin, invented by Augustine and later held by the Reformers. It is these two understandings that we are discussing. The traditionalist understanding rejects the docttrine of Adam’s guilt being imputed to us: the Reformed understanding affirms the doctrine of Adam’s guilt being imputed to us.

      You then wrote:

      “Paul (esp. Rom 5:18) obligates me to affirm statement 1, not 2.
      Statement 1 doesn’t require that Adam’s *guilt* is passed to all people; such an idea is necessary for the system known as covenantal theology. But I regard that interpretive grid to be both unhelpful and unnecessary.”

      I would add regarding covenant theology that not only is it unhelpful and unnecessary, it is also unbiblical and *****not Baptist theology******. Covenant theology is always closely connected with paedobaptism and Baptists reject paedobaptism.

      You asked:

      “Is it **possible** that Paul was simply referring to the general condemnation which results from living in a fallen world (the created world) and a fallen body (now inclined to sin and destined to die physically)? If this is possible without including that we also inherit Adam’s guilt, then why would I do so?”

      I believe the condemnation that Paul refers to in Romans 5 is the condemnation that each individual receives for the sins they themselves commit. Paul is contrasting Adam and Jesus in Romans 5. Within Paul’s thinking though not explicitly stated because it is so obvious: is his belief that a person’s sin results in condemnation. And that this condemnation cannot be eliminated through our own efforts (such as the Jewish keeping of the law in the first century). It can only be erased through the death of Christ. That is why he can say (and does say) that Adam brings sin and death and condemnation: while Christ brings life and justification. The suggestion that we are condemned for the sin of another person is contradicted by other Bible passages (most notably Ezekiel 18 which makes it crystal clear that each person is responsible for their own sins not the sins of others).

      “Consider other places in the Bible when God judges man for sin. Pick any passage.”

      That is precisely my preceding point.

      “Does God explicitly mention that He is judging me for **Adam’s sin** or for my own sinful thoughts, attitudes, and actions?”

      Throughout the Bible each person is always and only judged for their own sins.

      “It seems that God judges people (eternally, not temporally) for **their own** sin.”

      Exactly. This is the crucial point. And if that point is true, then we are not and cannot be condemned or guilty for the sin of another person (including Adam). To affirm that we are guilty of condemned for Adam’s sin is to affirm a contradiction. The contradiction is between the Reformed misinterpretation of Romans 5:12 and other Bible passages. Rather than hold to an intractable contradiction, the more reasonable and more biblical approach is to reject Augustine’s error/the Reformed interpretation of Romans 5:12 and affirm what every other bible passage properly interpreted presents: that each is responsible and condemned for their own sins not the sins of others.

      You referred to the mistaken interpretation of Rom. 5:12:

      “That’s what Paul writes in Romans 5:12. I’ll quote from the ESV so my more-Calvinist brothers know I’m not trying to cheat. ;-) “…and so death spread to all men because all sinned…” If the words “in Adam” appeared at the end of verse 12, then I would adopt covenantal theology. Since they don’t appear, I’m under no such obligation from the words of the Bible.”

      James J. DeFrancisco wrote an excellent paper on the issue of original sin versus ancestral sin (just do a Google search type in his name and the title of the article: “Original Sin and Ancestral Sin”: if you have not already read it in your research you should read it as it is an excellent presentation on this subject though you may not agree with everything that he says). At one point DeFrancisco discusses Augustine’s error regarding Romans 5:12 and writes:

      “Augustine seems to have relied mostly on Latin translations of Greek texts. liii (Augustine, 1956a, p. 9) and this was a liability for him. His misinterpretation of a key scriptural reference, Romans 5:12, is a case in point. liv In Latin, the Greek idiom eph ho which means because of was translated as in whom. Saying that all have sinned in Adam is quite different than saying that all sinned because of him. Augustine believed and taught that all humanity has sinned in Adam lv and that the result is that guilt replaces death as the ancestral inheritance. lvi From this comes the term original sin conveying the belief that Adam and Eve’s sin is the first and universal transgression in which all humanity participates. This misinterpretation is even more evident when one views New Testament texts from a Semitic viewpoint, e.g. from a view of the Peshitta and other Syriac texts.”

      He is correct: saying that all have sinned IN ADAM (the Reformed understanding, the covenant theology interpretation) is very, very different from saying that all sinned because of him. Romans 5:12 does not say that we sinned in Adam, that is Augustine’s mistake. It says that because of Adam we all sin.

      Robert

        Mary

        Robert wrote that covenant theology is closely associated with paedobaptism. As a Baptist I reject paedobaptism. But was in the alternative to covenant theology: Dispensationalism. But historically, dispensationalism is closely associated with something even worse than paedobaptism: The belief that after this “dispensation of grace” God will save the Jews through the Law again. The Temple raised, animal sacrifices again and Jews coming to God, not through Christ but through the Law. Which is more horrible? Even as a Baptist, I would say that historic dispensationalism is much more to be abhorred.

        You will likely argue that dispensationalists today reject those historic dispensational beliefs. So what? That makes it okay? Covenant theology has also been “updated”. Have you not heard of “New Covenant Theology”? NCT includes believers’ baptism.

          Robert

          Once again Mary attempts to create controversy where there is none: implying that I suggested that we reject covenant theology and instead hold to Dispensationalism.

          As a matter of fact, I hold to neither covenent theology nor to Dispensationalism.

          I also know as a fact that while a Baptist will not hold to covenant theology and its view of paedobaptism, that many Baptists can and are Dispensationalists. I also know Dispensational theology well enough to know that Mary does not know what she is talking about regarding Dispensationalism.

          “Robert wrote that covenant theology is closely associated with paedobaptism.”

          And historically it is.

          “As a Baptist I reject paedobaptism.”

          Good, you should.

          “But was in the alternative to covenant theology: Dispensationalism.”

          This is garbled English but I take it that she meant to say something like: “what about the alternative to covenant theology Dispensationalism?”

          Just because I say we should reject covenant theology does not mean that I say that we **must** then adopt Dispensationalism instead.

          “But historically, dispensationalism is closely associated with something even worse than paedobaptism: The belief that after this “dispensation of grace” God will save the Jews through the Law again. The Temple raised, animal sacrifices again and Jews coming to God, not through Christ but through the Law. Which is more horrible? Even as a Baptist, I would say that historic dispensationalism is much more to be abhorred.”

          Mary is again misrepresenting someone’s view: when will she ever stop????

          Dispenstaionalists do not believe what she says that they believe here (“and Jews coming to God, not through Christ but through the Law”). The Dispensationalists that I know personally and have read do not believe this at all (they believe that all who are saved in the New Testament era are saved through Christ not by keeping the Law).

          “You will likely argue that dispensationalists today reject those historic dispensational beliefs. So what? That makes it okay?”

          Progressive Dispensationalists like Bock, Blaising and Saucy have modified Dispensationalism this is true. But even historic dispensationalists did not believe what Mary claims they believed (e.g. one of my earliest Christian friends was both a five point calvinist and a historic dispensationalist and he did not believe what Mary claims they believe, I think I will go with my old friend on this one rather than Mary). I also know that John MacArthur is a dispensationalist and I know his theology and he does not believe what Mary says dispensationalists believe either. The examples could be multiplied.

          “Covenant theology has also been “updated”.
          Have you not heard of “New Covenant Theology”? NCT includes believers’ baptism.”

          I am very familiar with New Covenant Theology and it is **not** covenant theology updated, it is sufficiently different that it is not any kind of version of covenant theology. The options then for Protestants include covenant theology, Dispensationalism (both classic and progressive), New Covenant Theology, none of these views, a new view proposed by Gentry and Wellum in their book KINGDOM THROUGH COVENANT, or an eclectic approach that borrows from various views.

          Robert

            Mary

            Robert, you reveal that you do not know dispensationalism’s history. And that is what I was talking about–the historic beliefs. But even nowadays, there is remnants of that errant teaching still among some dispensationalists.

            There are those who believe Jesus Christ will reinstitute animal sacrifices in the “millennial” kingdom. They look forward to the temple being rebuilt in Jerusalem and animal sacrifices being reinstituted. They back this up with Ezekiel 43:40-48.

            Not every pretrib or dispensationalist teacher believes this but there are many that do, Walvrood, J Dwight Pentecost, Tim LaHaye, as well as many others. Chuck Smith has preached this and is quoted as saying:

            “Even as we have our communion service in remembrance of what Jesus did in his death for our sins, so when sacrifices are re-instituted in the kingdom age, they will not be for the purpose of putting away sin, but they will be memorial offerings by which we will be reminded of that sacrifice by which the sins were put away and we will be looking back at the cross and the sacrifices that was made there by Jesus Christ.” (Ezekiel 40-48 (1979-82 Audio), Chuck Smith, Start: 22:40 End: 27:45)

            Going back to animal sacrifices after Christ’s once and for all, sacrifice?? As if God would accept that. This dispensationalist belief is an insult to Jesus Christ.

            holdon

            “Going back to animal sacrifices after Christ’s once and for all, sacrifice?? As if God would accept that. This dispensationalist belief is an insult to Jesus Christ.”

            This is of course the trail of huge rabbit but:
            The animal sacrifices pre-Christ pointed towards Christ. Why can’t animal sacrifices post-Christ not point back to Christ?
            Both, (if understood right) would be honoring Christ. Read Hebrews 10

            lydia

            Mary, One of the problems in this debate is that it seems many want to put us all in some systematic theology box and check it off. And the boxes are not even airtight. :o)

            “If you are not this, this you must be that”. Maybe it is a tribal thing? :o)

      Dave

      Dr. Harwood,
      Thank you for reply. This does help me to understand your position. I would like to just ask a couple of questions if I could. This subject is interesting to me because I have now moved to SEBTS and will begin Ph.D work in a couple of weeks. I really hope to write on the evolution of how SBCers have viewed the doctrine of “original sin” here are my questions

      1. In the phrase that you quoted in verse 12 “in that all sinned” (eph ho pants hemarton) do you see the relative pronoun “ho” (sorry I have no greek font) as referring back to anything?

      2. In verse 18 the word “katakrina” seems to be directly connected to the “one transgression”. BDAG defines “Katakrina” as a “judicial pronouncement upon a guilty person”. My greek is rusty but the grammar of the passage seems to indicate that this judgment came because of the one act. Do you not see “katakrina” as forensic language?

      3. Finally since they are so closely connected in the passage. Do you see the pronouncement of righteousness to those who have faith in Christ as a forensic act?

      Thanks,
      Dave

        Adam Harwood

        Dave,

        Thanks for your reply. May God richly bless your PhD studies at SEBTS.

        Your questions:

        1. In the phrase that you quoted in verse 12 “in that all sinned” (eph ho pants hemarton) do you see the relative pronoun “ho” (sorry I have no greek font) as referring back to anything?
        2. In verse 18 the word “katakrina” seems to be directly connected to the “one transgression”. BDAG defines “Katakrina” as a “judicial pronouncement upon a guilty person”. My greek is rusty but the grammar of the passage seems to indicate that this judgment came because of the one act. Do you not see “katakrina” as forensic language?
        3. Finally since they are so closely connected in the passage. Do you see the pronouncement of righteousness to those who have faith in Christ as a forensic act?

        My Replies:

        1. Like the ESV translation of the Greek phrase and like Doug Moo and JG Dunn in their commentaries (along with other exegetes), I regard “eph ho” to be best rendered into English as “because.” If that is the case, then “ho” functions within the phrase as a conjunction. Following Schreiner, I regard a decision to translate the phrase as either a result or cause to be determined by context rather than syntax.

        2. I will not attempt to dispute the definition of the word you provided, although a case could be made that a word’s **use** weighs more heavily when considering its meaning than the lexical definition provided by the editors of BDAG. Having said that, I’ll grant that definition of condemnation. This does not bind me to the covenantal reading of Romans 5 which you have presupposed. Why not? Two reasons: First, I have already made the claim (which you did not counter) that throughout the Bible, God judges people (eternally, not temporally) for **their own** sin. Second, it’s not “katakrina” which distinguishes our views but “eis pantas anthropous.” In a 1999 JETS article, Mark Rapinchuck makes the case that if that phrase is understood to mean “all men without exception,” then the work of Christ paralleled by Paul in the SAME verse requires an affirmation of Universalism. Since we agree that was not Paul’s intended meaning, we should consider another meaning for “eis pantas anthropous.” He provides solid arguments from Paul’s entire letter to the Romans that he intended to mean “all men without ethnic distinction, that is, Jews and Gentiles alike.” This argument doesn’t require a covenantal interpretation and supports my present claims.

        3. You ask: “Do you see the pronouncement of righteousness to those who have faith in Christ as a forensic act?” Yes. But this is not an imputation which must correspond to an imputation of guilt. That’s my point; and I don’t see Paul claiming that all people inherit Adam’s guilt–in this or any other biblical text.

        I hope this helps you understand my position. Blessings, brother.

        In Him,
        Adam

          Dave

          Dr. Harwood,
          Thank you for taking the time to reply…I have to be at work at 3 and I just saw this and I would like to take some time to process it…

          I will grant that the “eph ho” construction could be either a result or a cause..I also acknowledge that context and usage weighs heavily when searching for meaning (that is why BDAG shows breadth of usage) I also know the some in the “reformed” tradition (using the word in it’s broader sense) have used this passage to argue for universalism. Though that is certainly not the path any of us intend to go I don’t think.

          I still do not agree with your interpretation but I am going to step back and look at the text some more. This has been fruitful for me and I really do appreciate your time.

          Dave

            Adam Harwood

            Thanks for your gracious reply, Dave. More than one commentator has mentioned the difficulty of interpreting Romans 5:12-21. I agree.

            I don’t expect to win my covenantal brothers over to my side on this issue. But I do wish to persuade them that an orthodox interpretation is possible apart from imputed guilt.

            In Him,
            Adam

    Bob Hadley

    Would it not be fair to consider Ro 5:12 as a qualifer for verse 18…
    12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned —

    I really believe the condemnation mentioned in verse 18 is a reference BACK to verse 12… and what Paul is simply saying is that through Adam’s actions, sin entered the world and v 18 condemnation… not a condemnation of Adam’s sin but condemnation that is the result of our own sin which is the result of Adam’s sin.

    So, going back to article 3 of the BF&M it is fair to say we inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin… which is fully consistent with verse 12 and 18… but not an inherited guilt or condemnation FROM ADAM.

    ><>”

      holdon

      You’re absolutely correct that vs 13 – 17 included, are a parenthesis. Verse 18 connects back to vs 12.

      Dave

      Bob,
      The “because all sinned” phrase in verse 12 is one of the most disputed passages in all of scripture and it seems to be difficult to render it into english….I would love to hear how you answer the questions that I posed to Adam above…

      Dave

        Bob Hadley

        Dave,

        Not sure that I see ANY problem with the language of all have sinned.. it is the same tense as earlier… “death had passed on all men because all men have sinned.” The issue you raise as to what “hos” refers to… seems simple enough to me, “all men” that precedes it… as to the singular use of the greek word for condemnation… I do not believe the point that you are trying to relate to that term has any textual significance… that is just me.

        I still maintain the simple rendering of the text is set in verse 12… that Adam sinned and all who have come after him have sinned as well and death is the result of that sin.

        Been a long time since my Greek days… but as I look at the text, I do not see any reason to read too much into the words you have mentioned. To do so as I see it, is to take a preconceived notion and justify the concept as opposed to letting the text determine the concept.

        ><>”

          Dave

          Bob,
          I must not have been clear I am sorry. I was not making anything of the singular use of “Katakrina” I was simply pointing out that the “condemnation” is a legal term that is the pronouncement of a sentence on the guilt. (as defined by the best lexicons available) This condemnation has been brought about through the transgression of the one transgression (dia henos paraptomatos) if there is any doubt that this is referring to the sin of Adam bringing condemnation it seems that it is clarified by the parallel of the act of righteousness of one man bring life….

          how do you define the word translated condemnation?? for that matter provide me a good english definition of condemnation that does not included an idea of guilt

            Dave

            posted that before I read through it….sorry for my grammatical errors…

            holdon

            It is good to remember that Rom 5 uses “eis” meaning to or towards. It is “eis katakrima”, both in v16 and v18. It will lead towards katakrima: the final sentence.
            Up till then there is escape possible: see Rom 8:1 there is for us now no katakrima (condemnation) anymore.
            The one offence has happened and condemnation hangs above all. The one act of grace has now happened also, and justification is available to all. In either case, nothing is final yet. If one reasons based on v16 or v18 (“eis katakrima”) that all are already condemned, then similarly one should conclude that all are already justified (“eis dikaioma”), and neither is the case. V18 makes it even more explicit: the one offence has the power to extend towards (again: “eis”) all; and the one righteous act has the power to extend towards (“eis”) all. But no one would say that all are already justified….

          Bob Hadley

          Dave,

          I am in agreement with holdon’s comment; you asked, “how do you define the word translated condemnation?? for that matter provide me a good english definition of condemnation that does not included an idea of guilt?”

          I think that answer is really very simple. Condemnation certainly does include guilt as you suggest. The problem that I see in your statement is this text does not say that our condemnation and guilt are from Adam’s sin; our condemnation and guilt are teh result of our own sin.

          12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. the text seems clear enough to me… death which is the penalty for sin spread to all men because all have sinned… not because Adam sinned.

          Thanks for your input.

          ><>”

      Johnathan Pritchett

      Word… :)

Randall Cofield

Dave,

Well queried.

That is precisely the point I was trying to isolate further up the thread @ December 13, 2012 at 8:17 pm

Chris Twilley

It is interesting for me to see how is this article, their is an attempt to shift the focus. Al Moehler was on the committee that drafted the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. Apparently he can affirm BOTH the BFM and the abstract of principles of Southern (which was the first Southern Baptist Seminary). The issue should be that the BFM is sufficient for all Southern Baptists to embrace. The drafters of the “Traditional Statement” should be saying how their statement differs from the BFM. I agree with Frank Page, we do not need new doctrinal statements (The BFM is sufficient). This is an attempt to change the conversation. Embrace your history baptist brothers, it is rich one.

Adam Harwood

Chris,

Thanks for your input. I have no desire to shift the conversation. My essay asks about the SBTS faculty interpretation of the BFM. I am referring to the particular document drafted post-200 by the SBTS faculty; my question in this essay is not about the AP. The SBTS reply may involve an appeal to the AP, but that is not the question of my essay.

I have stated repeatedly in my recent essay and comments that I understand that people can sign both the AP and the BFM. You cite Mohler; I’ll add Patterson, who convened the 2000 study committee. Also, others have noted that some professors with whom I serve at a Georgia Baptist college have also signed both documents. Every professor employed by SEBTS and SBTS have signed both documents. That is neither the point of nor a problem for the thesis of my essay. To focus on one’s ability to sign both documents is, as you write, “an attempt to shift the focus.”

I’ll happily address the Traditional Statement. It’s not a confession of faith. That was never its claim. Where is its treatment of Theology Proper? It’s not there. Where is its treatment of Pneumatology? It’s not there. What about ecclesiology? It’s not there. Why not? The TS is not (nor was it ever intended to act as) a statement of faith. Rather, it’s a set of ten affirmations and denials clarifying what some Southern Baptists believe about the doctrine of salvation.

Thanks for your comments, Chris.

In Him,
Adam

wingedfooted1

James 1:13-15 (NKJV)….
“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”

Seems pretty simple to me.

Randall Cofield

The Yet-Unanswered Question

how can one be “condemned” without being “guilty” ??

    Adam Harwood

    Brother,

    Thanks for your persistence in asking this question. Please see my replies to Dave in the thread above.

    In Him,
    Adam

Shawn

I know I am chiming in late on this discussion, and if someone already posted this earlier in the response thread, I’m sorry for repeating it. But has anyone thought to make reference to Mohler’s own article on this subject. It is available at his blog site. He said,

“First, the Bible teaches that we are to be judged on the basis of our deeds committed “in the body.” That is, we will face the judgment seat of Christ and be judged, not on the basis of original sin, but for our sins committed during our own lifetimes. Each will answer “according to what he has done,” and not for the sin of Adam. The imputation of Adam?’s sin and guilt explains our inability to respond to God without regeneration, but the Bible does not teach that we will answer for Adam’?s sin.”

http://www.albertmohler.com/2009/07/16/the-salvation-of-the-little-ones-do-infants-who-die-go-to-heaven/

Thus, He believes in original sin and original guilt, but not condemnation until sin is committed in one’s lifetime. This helps mediate a lot of the speculation above.

I would also ask if traditionalists are willing to apply such questions and standards to themselves. It is well known that Paige Patterson believes that when the gospel is shared, Christians must/should use the phrase “Christ died for YOUR sins” when speaking to unbelievers. This, to him, is an explicit refutation of the doctrine of the limited atonement, and he has frequently been quoted in conversations as elevating this statement to a virtual test of fellowship. Such refutations of Calvinism have also become the test for remaining a professor at Southwestern. Yet the phrase does not appear in any gospel presentation in Scripture, nor does it appear in any form in the BF&M2K. So I ask, does Southwestern Seminary “have an institutional commitment to a theological position which is not affirmed in the BFM and excludes many Southern Baptists?”

    Alan Davis

    Good point there. I had read the article by Moler but had not heard that about Patterson.

    Adam Harwood

    Shawn,

    Thanks for your note. It is true that Mohler holds the view you articulated. But that does not matter for the thesis of this essay, which is that SBTS by its Faculty Exposition of the BFM advocates for a view not found in the BFM.

    Your suggestion (which is asserted but not supported) that Patterson advances a theological agenda at SWBTS also has no bearing on my thesis, because SWBTS has not published a document which advocates for a view not found in the BFM. In that way, you have demonstrated no “institutional commitment to a theological position which is not affirmed in the BFM and excludes many Southern Baptists” by SWBTS.

    Thanks, brother.

    In Him,

    Adam

    Alan Davis

    Shawn,

    I know you will probably do so but could you point me to where I can find this concerning Patterson? thanks.

Mary

You make strong, well reasoned points, Shawn. Thank you.

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