Today’s Discussion Topic: Article Two of “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”

June 3, 2012

The posting of ”A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of the Plan of Salvation,” authored by Eric Hankins and others, has predictably drawn strong interest. It has been referenced in a recent Baptist Press article, multiple blog posts, and many dozens of posts in Facebook and other social media. SBC Today had over 12,000 visits the last few days, the original comments thread on this statement are now over 500 comments, and over 290 signees (including some key leaders from every level of Southern Baptist life). Because it has drawn such a high readership, we will leave it up for several more days.

The discussion comments thread has offered a good opportunity for discussing this document, but has become so big that it is unwieldy and difficult to follow. Therefore, we will archive the current posts (you can still read them here), and we will try to provide a little more structure for the continuing discussion. We will focus the discussion on each article of the statement, one by one, allowing comments on each article of the statement in order day by day.

Yesterday’s discussion thread was on the affirmation and denial in Article 1. You can continue commenting on it here. Today we are opening the discussion on the affirmation and denial in Article 2.  Please confine your comments to the article being discussed that day, not general comments about the statement. Keep in mind that each of the affirmations and denials in the articles complement each other, just as they do in the Together for the Gospel statement signed and/or affirmed by some Southern Baptist leaders who embrace Reformed views, and in the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy affirmed by most conservative evangelicals.

We look forward to your comments on these theological issues!

The Editors of SBC Today


Click this link to see the full statement of “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”
Click this link to see the list of signers of “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”
Email sbctoday@gmail.com to join the movement and sign “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” as follows:Name, Position, Organization/Church, City, State

For example: John Doe, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Anytown, LA or
Jane Doe, member, First Baptist Church, Anytown, LA or
Jamie Doe, Professor, Some Seminary, Anytown, LA

Read A Commentary on Article 2 by Dr. Adam Harwood

Discussion of Article Two of “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”

Note: Today’s comments should focus on the affirmation and denial in Article 2. If you would like to comment on the statement as a whole, you may do so here. To comment on Article 1, do so here. To address another specific article, we’ll be focusing on each of the ten articles day by day in the next ten days, and you can make your comments at that time. Again, please limit your comments here to Article 2.

 

Article Two: The Sinfulness of Man

We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin. Each person’s sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God, broken fellowship with Him, ever-worsening selfishness and destructiveness, death, and condemnation to an eternity in hell.

We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned. While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.

Genesis 3:15-24; 6:5; Deuteronomy 1:39; Isaiah 6:5, 7:15-16;53:6; Jeremiah 17:5,9, 31:29-30; Ezekiel 18:19-20; Romans 1:18-32; 3:9-18, 5:12, 6:23; 7:9; Matthew 7:21-23; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 6:9-10;15:22; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 9:27-28; Revelation 20:11-15

 

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Daniel

“While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.”

It is possible that there is someone somewhere who disagrees with this statement and would call himself a “Calvinist,” but I have never met such a person. If you can find anyone who fits that description, I seriously doubt he is a Southern Baptist.

Can you point to any writings or statements by any Southern Baptist Calvinists (old or new) advancing the idea that someone can be saved without responding to the Holy Spirit’s drawing?

As a clarification of the beliefs of Southern Baptist Calvinists on “irresistible grace” (which I infer is the doctrine in question in this second sentence of the denial), here is a quote from the catechism of the Charleston Baptist Association:
“Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ freely offered to us in the gospel.”

    Tim G

    Daniel,
    Is that offered to all or just some. Is it not Gods desire for to come to faith in Jesus Christ?

      Tim G

      “…for all to come…”. My iPad typing stinks :)!

      Daniel

      Tim,

      God’s desire for everyone to be saved versus the reality that he does not save everyone is a conundrum for all evangelical theologies, not just Calvinism. But since that is not the topic of this thread, I won’t comment on it.

      What seems to be your difficulty with the doctrine of effectual calling is different than what is implied in the “denial” in this document. I have no problem with someone disagreeing with the concept of effectual calling, which I myself rejected for many years. What bothers me are attacks against straw men. The second sentence of the denial in article two seems to be arguing against a position which no one in the SBC actually holds.

        Tim Rogers

        Daniel,

        What bothers me are attacks against straw men.

        What straw man? This denial goes with the affirmation. We do not separate the denial from the affirmation.

        For example Article XI in the Together for the Gospel documents states:

        We further affirm a basic distinction between law and grace, and that the true Gospel exalts Christ’s atoning work as the consummate and perfect fulfillment of the law.

        I could take that statement and say that T4G was promoting salvation by works. But, I cannot say that if I read the full affirmation statement along with the denial.

        It is the same with our statement. One can pull out anything they want and make it say whatever they want. This statement is tied together with the Affirmations and the Denial. You cannot separate them.

          Steve Doyle

          That’s funny. How on earth can you make that statement say anything about salvation by works. The straw men were set up in the preamble. And the denials are aimed at who the preamble says they are aimed at. So the uninformed reader is left to assume that this “new calvinist” breed must believe everything that the document denies.

          Many SBC folks including non-calvinist are starting to see the foolishness of this document.

          Answer one question Tim. Why is the BFM not enough. And why does this document (particularly article 5) contradict the BFM?

          Daniel

          Tim R,

          This document explains in its preamble that its purpose is to respond to SBC Calvinists. This is not merely a general set of affirmations and denials, but a statement that is intended to set its adherents apart from a specific group of people, namely SBC Calvinists. Therefore, I take the whole document in that context.

          Thanks to the two Tims here for making me think! I have made the decision to exit the conversation now for two reasons: 1) I love my non-Calvinist SBC brothers and sisters, I owe more to them than I can express here, and I do not want to lose all of the spiritual benefits I receive from their fellowship; and 2) I have a lot of real ministry work to do. I hope the remainder of the conversation will sharpen iron with iron.

    adam

    Daniel,
    I hear your fear that this is directed against straw men, be that as it may, I would think it is a line of common agreement that both “sides” could claim to work together from.

    selahV-hariette

    Hello Daniel, don’t want to butt into your conversation with Tim but I am having a hard time following what you are saying. You say that no Calvinist would disagree with

    “While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.”

    Then does that mean Calvinists could affirm this article, too?

      Daniel

      I can’t speak for all Calvinists, but all I have ever known would affirm that sentence.

      I recommend that anyone who is interested in understanding the kind of Calvinism that is growing in the SBC should read Andrew Fuller’s book The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation (free online in several places).

      I really am jumping out of the conversation now. You guys have fun in New Orleans!

    J.R.

    Daniel,

    You said, “If you can find anyone who fits that description, I seriously doubt he is a Southern Baptist.”

    Below is an excerpt from the the program CTN Live introducing a new book from Dr. Tony Evans entitled “Totally Saved.” I could not find a better documented instance of Dr. Evans theology fitting the description of Article 2’s denial statement, but I am confident they exist. When I first read your comment I immediately thought of Dr. Evans. I think this is an example of someone (who is a Dallas graduate) teaching the doctrine of a sinner “saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.”

    Just for context I will mention that they were discussing someone who had never heard the Gospel.
    From the transcript:
    “I’m painting a scenario where a person wants to know the true God and desires to know the true God. That gives God three options: 1) God can send him a missionary, the traditional way; 2) God can give him a direct revelation of Himself like he did Paul on the Damascus Road; or 3) and here it is, God can transdispensationalize him. That is, relate to him out of another dispensation because dispensations are based on information given. So that all throughout the Bible all people had to do was believe what God had revealed and they were saved. If a person believes somebody is up there that created this, somebody created me, I don’t know who he is but I want to know him. If that person were to have a heart attack at that moment, God could not condemn him and be just because God says, “He who seeks shall find.” Since God makes that promise, if God doesn’t give him the Gospel or give him a direct revelation, then he has to judge him out of another dispensation.”

Matt Redmond

Please complete this phrase for me: “The wages of sin is ______.” Why do babies die?
Also, if someone is spiritually dead (as the Bible says) how can they respond to anything? God has to do something in the spiritually dead person before they can even respond, correct?

    adam

    Matt, the bible does not say anyone is spiritually dead, just dead, we read that metaphorically to mean spiritually dead (rightly so I would argue) but we must own up to the fact that spiritually dead is not clearly defined in the scripture. If one determines spiritually dead requires they cannot “even respond” then so be it, but the scriptures don’t make that inference, we interpreters do. So I ask you what scripture would you use to qualify dead in such away that we are still up walking around (literally alive) but cannot believe in the gospel without some sort of external help?
    Thx, adam

      T. R.

      Of course men are born spiritually dead. Otherwise the Serpant would have been telling the truth and God would have been the liar. The fact that God promised Adam that “the day you eat of it you will surely die.” and Satan says “you will surely not die.” Then what happens? They eat of the fruit and don’t die that day as God promised! …or did they? They must have died that day spiritually or else God would be a liar. Men (all men, including babies) are born spiritually dead into this world.

    Tim Rogers

    Matt,

    We have debated this “dead” issue ad nauseum. As Dr. Allen presented very eloquently in his session in the John 3:16 conference “dead” does not mean what you are making it mean here.

    “The wages of sin is death.” So are you saying that God kills babies because of Adams sin?

      Steve Doyle

      Help Tim. What does Paul mean by “death”?

      volfan007

      babies, animals, teens, old people….all die due to Adam’s sin…his sin affected mankind and all of creation….

      David

        David R. Brumbelow

        Spiritually dead means to be separated from God.
        Physically dead means to be separated from the physical body (James 2:26).
        Biblically death means separation.

        Spiritually dead people can still walk, move, sin, hear God when He speaks. Spiritually dead people can respond to God as the Holy Spirit calls them. Spiritually dead people can resist the Holy Spirit.

        By the way, Jesus referred to unbelievers as sick (Matthew 9:12), rather than dead. Doesn’t this kind of blow the Strict Calvinist view that a dead person can’t do anything?
        David R. Brumbelow

          David N

          David,

          I think your interpretation is the correct one. Surely no one would argue that Cain was regenerated and yet he heard from and spoke to God both before and after he murdered Abel.

    Matthew B Redmond

    I would like to make it clear that I am not the Matt Redmond above. The Matt Redmond above is not the one who blogs at “Echoes and Stars.” Thanks.

Christiane

“And may you have the power to understand,
as all God’s people should,
how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love really is.”
(Ephesians 3:18)

Tim G

Daniel,
Is that offered to all or just some. Is it not Gods desire for to come to faith in Jesus Christ?

john C

Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.
Sin had left a CRIMSON STAIN, He washed it white as snow.

So, here I am send me out, let me shine for your Glory. I will read, live out, and proclaim your Word. I need to live not for me, but for you and your Glory.

john C.

Jesus paid it all. All to him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow.

So, here I am, send me out, let me shine for your Glory. I will read, live out, and proclaim your Word. I need to live not for me, but for you and your Glory.

And I know that Your love never fails, never gives up, and never runs out on me.

Tim Rogers

Jeph,

So you believe that we have two current seminary presidents along with many denominational leaders being paid to promote Pelagianism something that Orthodox Christianity has affirmed as heresy? Are you really charging Jimmy Draper, Paige Patterson, Chuck Kelley, David Allen, Malcolm Yarnell, Jerry Vines, and many others with heresy?

    Jeph

    Are you telling me that these people are the infallible counterpart of the Roman Catholic magisterium within the SBC?

      volfan007

      Jeph,

      So, are you calling for the firing of all of these seminary Presidents and profs? Are you calling for the removal of all these Pastors and Churches from the SBC? I mean, if you think that we’re Pelagian, then you’re calling everyone of them heretics. And, it really sounds like you’re comparing us to Roman Catholics. Seriously? Wow.

      So, are you gonna lead the charge to have everyone of us put out of the SBC?

      David

      PS. This is an example of what’s been going on for years, of which some people deny is happening…they YRR calling anyone who’s not a Calvinist a heretic. Incredible.

        Jeph

        Volfan,

        If you’ve read my article carefully, I never said that something is automatically heretical if it disagrees with Calvinism. That’s not what I said, so please be kind enough to refrain from putting words in my mouth.

        I believe one can be non-Calvinist and remain orthodox, just like the historical Arminians who firmly believe as Calvinists do that fallen sinners cannot and will not accept and believe the Gospel unless God first enables them. The TSBUGP-document, however, denied this fundamental tenet of our Christian religion when it stated that Adam’s sin did not result in the incapacitation of any person’s free will, making any prevenient enablement from God completely unnecessary. Tell me, is this not outright semi-Pelagianism? Is not semi-Pelagianism heresy?

        Now I’m not calling for the firing or removal of all of the seminary Presidents and profs who supported the heretical document from the SBC. In the first place, I’m not sure if they’ve read the document CAREFULLY enough before they signed it, or they signed it merely because it is campaign against the rise of the new Calvinism (something like a “the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend” response). Nevertheless I want them, and I pray they would (if they believe the vital importance of doctrinal purity at all), to withdraw their support from this campaign; NOT because it is a campaign against Calvinist (yeah, campaign all you want), but because this campaign includes a deviation from the orthodox position on biblical anthropology.

        I speak this in love for my SB brethren, for God, and for His truth.

        -Jeph

          Jim G.

          Hi Jeph,

          It is NOT semi-Pelagianism because the document (for the third time now) clearly excludes it by saying this:

          “While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort”

          Semi-pelagianism has bigger issues than just free will. Semi-pelagianism says that God will supply the grace necessary for salvation if the person will take the first step on their own. The document has eliminated the possibility of semi- or full Pelagianism with the above-quoted clause.

          I willed to be saved before I was saved. My problem was not with willing. It was with my lack of ability to make my will come true. We can “will” all sorts of things. My “will” is relatively free. I just can’t always do what I will. Even pagans will to do right and please God a lot of the time, they just can’t do it.

          Jim G.

          Jeph

          Jim,

          Works-salvation is NOT the distinguishing mark of a semi-Pelagian. Denial of total depravity (which is equal to affirming that we can make the first step of faith unto Salvation without the divine enablement) is. If you read your history book, you should know what I’m talking about.

          -Jeph

          Jim G.

          Help me, Jeph. Which book?

          Do you mean Kyle’s article on Semi-Pelagianism is Elwell’s Dictionary (pp. 1089-90) where he explicitly discusses Faustus of Ruiz? Or do you mean JND Kelly (pp. 369-71) and his discussion of John Cassian and Vincent of Lerins? These are a couple of examples that outline SP as I stated.

          Jim G.

        Jim G.

        Hi David,

        This was pretty much my critique of Jeph on SBC Voices yesterday, but Dave Miller deleted my post. He said the discussion was unproductive. Oh well.

        Turns out Jeph is a 21-year-old Psych major who has been reading some Reformed theology. He hopes to one day study theology formally. With such an impressive resume, he feels he is imminently qualified to slander men who were serving Christ decades before he was born, all the while suggesting they are heretics outside the faith because their beliefs “could lead” to semi-Pelagianism. Never mind that the Traditionalist document clearly states that it is impossible for people to come to salvation on their own (which eliminates both Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism as possibilities), these faithful men (including you!) are now heretics because Jeph only has one string on his guitar.

        Jim G.

          Jeph

          Jim,

          After degrading me as a person, despising me of my youth, do you know feel better?

          -Jeph

          Jeph

          Or have you proven anything when you resorted to those ad hominem remarks?

          Jim G.

          I don’t despise your youth, Jeph. I really do want to encourage you. But you are making a youthful mistake. I know I came across strong and for that i do apologize.

          You are jumping to a conclusion that you ought not. The very words of the statement exclude the possibility of the charge you are making. You are thus saying that these men are espousing a heresy they explicitly deny.

          If you think that their views logically move toward the heresy you state, that is another matter. But the same can be turned on you. So, to avoid the possibility, read them charitably. Do not put words in their mouth. And tone down the rhetoric. The “h” word is as bad as it gets.

          Jim G.

    Steve Doyle

    Perhaps not intentionally. But at least an Arminian need prevenient grace in order to explain how the spiritually dead can “choose” God. The Pelagian just denies spiritual deadness. I’d rather you guys admit to your Arminianism than to embrace a heresy. Read up Pelagianism and semi-pelagianism please. You will see that it squares will with the Traditionalist document. “Don’t call us names.” I’m just seeking clarity here. If you don’t want to called Pelagian, then tell me how your belief differs. I do think all who signed this should be openly rebuked at the convention and called to public repentance.

      Jeph

      Jim G. will tell you that unless you are a Southern Baptist leader with a master’s degree in divinity AND as popular as those big-names who signed in the document, you don’t have any right to tell them what’s orthodox or not.

      I’m telling you this for Jim’s convenience, so he would save a minute in typing this non-sense.

        Jim G.

        Sarcasm noted, Jeph. I just don’t think you understand the difference between semi- and full Pelagianism. And I still don’t think you have read the statement that denies both in the document. That is my beef.

        Jim G.

          adam

          Jeph,
          Thx for your thoughts. I would contend that it is important that we do not wrongly define what semi-pelagian means when it is called a heresy. That is to say, what of SP is heretical? If you contend that SP is heretical because it allows for unimpaired free-will then yes the signers of this document would be heretics (I too read through the canons of the council of orange and would point out that it does not clearly define P or SP but rather gives a list of things which must be believed). If your point is to say the current document violates the canons of the council of orange and thereby is heretical, then I would submit that every baptist I have ever met (and probably every baptist in the world) disagrees with canon 13 (that our free will is restored by baptism) and are thereby heretics.

          My point being that the council of orange (while a treasure from our tradition) is not in and of itself binding, nor does it clearly spell out what it means to be Pelagian or semiP.

          Believing in the free will of man is not heretical.
          Nor is it Arminian (as Arminians require a previenient grace to allow one to freely choose).

          Thx, for your thoughts and your youth.
          And Jim, I typically frown upon comment moderation, but yours above are unworthy of this discussion.
          Adam

          Jim G.

          You are right, Adam. See below.

          Jim G.

john C.

“We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned.”…… This is not what scriptural and definitely Southern Baptist. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. ALL, period!

john C.

“We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned.”…… This is not scriptural and definitely NOT Southern Baptist, nor in alignment with the BAPTIST FAITH & MESSAGE. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. ALL,period!

    Ron

    John,
    Did you not read the affirming statement …”we affirm that , because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin.”

    “every person” …means ALL. We inherit a sin nature. We can’t save ourselves. All need God’s grace. Every person needs Jesus.

    Ezekiel 18:4 says, “the soul that sins will die.” Are you saying that we don’t believe in sin?

john c.

“We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned.” All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. ALL, PERIOD!

Rhology

We deny that Adam’s sin… rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned

You have denied the doctrine of original sin in order to rip Calvinism. Well played.

    Tim Rogers

    Rhology,

    No, we have only stated what the BF&M clearly articulates.

    From the BF&M Article III Man. “…as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation.”

    Thus, you have maligned the entire SBC with your statement.

      Debbie Kaufman

      But if a person is lost without Christ, they have to commit a sin first in order to be considered lost? My point is that a person without Christ who sins, what does it matter? The person could be the most moral person on earth and without Christ he will head straight for hell. So if he is not a sinner until the first act of sin, he doesn’t need Christ until that first act?

Robert Vaughn

Article two affirms that “every person who is capable of moral action will sin.” This structure likely intends to exclude infants, small childrean and the mentally challenged as not capable of moral action and therefore not guilty of sin. Could someone who wrote or signed the document confirm or deny whether this assumption is correct?

The article goes on to affirm that “each person’s sin alone brings…death…” Where does physical death fit in this equation, and how is the physical death of those not capable of moral action explained? Why do infants die if they do not sin (or are not sinners)? The article claims that no person is rendered “guilty before he has personally sinned.” If infants not capable of moral action have not personally sinned, why do infants die?

Thanks.

Adam Harwood

Greetings, brothers. May I attempt to weigh in on this excellent but difficult issue raised by Matt Redmond and Robert Vaughn? Pastor Vaughn’s last question sums up the dilemma succinctly when he asks, “If infants not capable of moral action have not personally sinned, why do infants die?”

(Full disclosure: I signed this statement and teach theology at a Georgia Baptist college.)

Article 2 of Dr. Hankins’ statement attempts to distinguish between inherited sin (which we affirm) and imputed guilt (which we deny). Our view is allowed within, but not required by, Article 3 of the BFM 2000.

Calvinistic Baptists typically affirm some variation of the imputed guilt view, which teaches that the guilt of Adam is passed (or imputed) to all people–with the exception of Jesus. Imputed guilt is their explanation why infants sometimes die. Many of our Southern Baptist theologians have affirmed this viewpoint. John Murray was not a Southern Baptist but a well-respected professor of theology at Princeton Seminary and Westminster Seminary. In his classic work, The Imputation of Adam’s Sin, Murray asks and answers your question with imputed guilt. He states that infants sometimes die because Adam’s guilt is imputed to all people.

But some Southern Baptists (like the signers of the statement) reject imputed guilt. We understand the Bible to teach in Romans 5 and other biblical texts that Adam’s sin had devastating consequences for humanity but we are only held accountable by God for our own sin and guilt.

Millard Erickson is a professor of theology whose book, Christian Theology, is commonly used in the classrooms of Southern Baptist colleges and seminaries. He is profiled among the statesmen and thinkers in a chapter of Timothy George and Dockery’s book, Baptist Theologians. Erickson’s many teaching posts include Southwestern Seminary in the 1990’s and (I believe) recently a course at Southern Seminary. I mention those things in order to establish his credentials for readers who may not be familiar with Dr. Erickson.

In Christian Theology, Erickson argues for a view known as conditional imputation. In this view, Adam’s guilt is only imputed to a person after he knowingly sins. For this reason, infants are free from Adam’s guilt and God’s judgment. At the point that a person first knowingly sins, he becomes accountable to God. This is the justification for an age or stage of moral accountability. Pointing to Romans 5, Erickson explains that just as the work of Christ is not universally imputed but must be individually ratified (or received), so the work of Adam is not universally imputed but must be individually ratified (or received).

Death is a result of sin. True. But not every death is the result of a person’s individual guilt. Is there any other biblical support for our view that death isn’t always the result of the guilt of our own sin? Yes.

Consider the tragic story of the first son of David and Bathsheba. Their infant son did not die because of his own guilt. The text of 2 Samuel 12 is clear that the infant died as a result of David’s sinful actions. Our view is not that infants are sinless; they have inherited a sinful nature. Our view is that infants are not guilty before God because they have not yet knowingly acted in sinful ways. Why do they sometimes die? As was the case with David’s first son, infants are sometimes subject to the sweeping consequences of God’s judgment against the sinful behavior of other people.

To sum up: We affirm that all people inherit a sinful nature. But we deny that we inherit Adam’s guilt. Because infants have not yet knowingly sinned, they are not under God’s condemnation. But because infants live in a body and world stained by sin, this sometimes results in the death of infants. This view is consistent with, but not required by, both the BFM and, of course, the Bible.

I hope this answers your question. Blessings on your life and ministry, brothers.

In Him,

Adam

    Jim G.

    Adam,

    I would also add that infants are subject to the law of sin and death alluded to in both Romans 7 and the beginning of Romans 8. Whereas in Adam, sin brought forth death. In his posterity, death brings forth sin. Infants are born under the law of sin and death that has (already/not yet) been defeated by Christ in his death and resurrection. Infants die because they are subject to this law, as all of this creation presently is. In the new creation, when the victory is complete, the law of sin and death will have no power.

    I like this explanation because it relieves some christological tension in saying humans have a sinful nature. I do not believe sin to be part of human nature. It is a parasite attached to human nature, like a tick on a dog’s ear, but not fundamentally a part of it. That is why I think “original death” has more explanatory power. But all else I agree.

    Jim G.

      Adam Harwood

      Excellent contribution, Jim. Thank you.

    Tim Rogers

    Dr. Harwood,

    You summed this up the exact way I taught you. :) Excellent response.

      Ben Simpson

      This explains everything! :o)

    Max

    Thank you, Dr. Harwood. You offer clear, concise … truth.

    Robert Vaughn

    Adam, thanks for your response detailing your answers to the question of sin and infant death, especially as one who agrees with and has signed the statement. As you note, it is a difficult issue however you approach it. It is difficult to understand the intersection of inherited sin, imputed guilt (or not), and the reason for physical death. We must try to put together “all have sinned,” “the wages of sin is death,” and “the soul that sinneth, it shall die,” while trying to sort through spiritual & physical death, moral culpability, Adam’s role, and the realities we observe.

    I agree that Calvinistic Baptists typically affirm an imputed guilt view. In my own life experience I have found many who deny the three middle points of Calvinism nevertheless embrace total depravity and some variation of imputed guilt. I was raised in that way of thinking. I engaged in a written debate with a Church of Christ preacher several years ago and took the affirmative on the inherited sin question. So I’ve had reason to look at it from a polemic angle. Let me hasten to say that his position is not the same as the “traditional Southern Baptist” position of article two. Nevertheless, I have been surprised to awaken to the fact that perhaps for a number of years “non-Calvinist” Baptists have been purging “total depravity” and “imputed sin” from their vocabulary. Is this a correct observation? If so, is this a reaction against and distancing from the “New Calvinism”? Or is it bigger than that?

    Millard Erickson’s view is an interesting one, though I can’t fully agree. I also find the example of the son of David and Bathsheba to be a confusing one. On the one hand it is used to deny that Adam’s guilt is imputed to the infant, while on the other hand it seems to assert David’s guilt was imputed to the infant. You write, “Their infant son did not die because of his own guilt,” and that “The text of 2 Samuel 12 is clear that the infant died as a result of David’s sinful actions.” I would fully agree. We could almost reach across the aisle and shake hands in having reached agreement, were it not for the fact that we evidently don’t mean exactly the same things when we say this.

    Ultimately I don’t know what all I know about infants. I know they die. I know that if they are saved (and I believe they are) then they are saved apart from the general way men come to faith in Christ. Whether they are not guilty, covered by Christ’s atonement for Adamic sin, regenerated without their (or our) knowledge, or something else, they are saved “outside of a faith response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” I also know that “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” gave both me and the CofC debater problems, though for different reasons.

    So, Adam, though I remain unconvinced, I found your response helpful toward understanding the viewpoint of those articulating a “traditional” Southern Baptist understanding of salvation. Thanks.

Ron

Robert,
Would you like this phrase “more” or “less” …”….and as soon as they are capable of moral action, become actual transgressors.”

    Robert Vaughn

    Ron, my initial reaction is “more”, though I’m not sure that accounts for much.

Kyle Thomas

Of interest to this discussion is Roger Olson’s take as an Arminian theologian.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2012/06/thoughts-about-“a-statement-of-the-traditional-southern-baptist-understanding-of-gods-plan-of-salvation-”/

A classical Arminian would never deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will. Classical Arminianism (as I have demonstrated in Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities) strongly affirms the bondage of the will to sin before and apart from prevenient grace’s liberating work.

Now, perhaps this is the point of the statement’s mention of “the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.” But that, too, can be interpreted in a semi-Pelagian way. Semi-Pelagians such as Philip Limborch and (at least in some of his writings) Charles Finney affirmed the necessity of the gospel and the Holy Spirit’s enlightening work through it for salvation. What made them semi-Pelagian was their denial or neglect of the divine initiative in salvation (except the gospel message).

The problem with this Southern Baptist statement is its neglect of emphasis on the necessity of the prevenience of supernatural grace for the exercise of a good will toward God (including acceptance of the gospel by faith). If the authors believe in that cardinal biblical truth, they need to spell it out more clearly. And they need to delete the sentence that denies the incapacitation of free will due to Adam’s sin.

Leaving the statement as it stands, without a clear affirmation of the bondage of the will to sin apart from supernatural grace, inevitably hands the Calvinists ammunition to use against non-Calvinist Baptists.

    Jeph

    Exactly what I’m always saying here.

      Kyle Thomas

      Jeph,

      I didn’t say that I agreed with Olson.

      And Olson is not saying that the signers are semi-Pelagian, only that they need to be careful to guard against that heresy in their zeal to maintain distance from Calvinism.

        Tim Rogers

        Kyle,

        Because this comment refers to an article placed here by Roger Olson, I will direct you my comment below as I do not want you to think I have not given your position any consideration.

    Tim Rogers

    Kyle,

    Once again, you have to take the entire statement. You are trying to separate the statement then espousing that we are Classical Arminians and “leaning” toward Semi-Pelagianism. Let’s examine your “Classical Arminian” charge. Would you agree that the “Classical Arminian” view came, not from Arminius himself, but from his followers who framed the five points of disagreement? Also, would you agree that the five points of Calvinism came, not from John Calvin himself, but from his followers at the Synod of Dort? Would you also agree that those at the Synod of Dort were all Calvinists, some were a little more and some a little less?

    Here is where I am heading. Your charge of “Classical Arminianism” is a red herring designed to throw the debate into a quandary and possibly embarrass others into not signing the document for fear of being labeled an Arminian and a Semi-Pelagiast. Thus, if you would read the articles in their intended purpose you will notice that the denial goes with the affirmation. To separate the two would be tantamount to calling the followers of Jacob Arminius a bunch of mad Calvinist that wanted to control the church of that time.

      Tim Rogers

      Kyle,

      Disregard my comment to you. I need to re-read your response. With your response to Jepth I think I may have misunderstood what you were saying.

      However, I would like to state again that we need to read the entire article together and not separate the Affirmation from the Denial. This is one of the issues of this debate that cannot be stated too often.

wingedfooted1

While I would think those going by the label “Arminian” would love the notion of the SBC putting together this statement, even they would disapprove of doing away with calvinism completely because they too hold to total depravity (which is uniquely Augustinianism).

If one is going to reject calvinism (at least completely), then by default, one has to reject arminianism as well.

Brad Reynolds

Greetings all and great discussion. I think by in large Dr. Harwood has addressed this issue clearly but please allow me to add my two cents.

1. Wording is important and was carefully chosen so please try to read what is written. Notice the wording was not “we deny that Adam’s sin resulted in influencing man’s free will…” The wording was “we deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any persons free will…”

2. For those who would argue a person is guilty before he has sinned the burden of the eternity of infants falls on that position (the logical extension of Dr. Harwood’s point). The position we hold obviously allows for infants to be in heaven, but if one were to argue a person is guilty because of Adam’s sin (imputed guilt) before he/she has committed cognizant personal sin than one either has to claim all infants must therefore go to hell, or explain how (from Scripture) this concept (imputed guilt on all mankind) is rendered invalid for infants.

Brad Reynolds

PS
If one were to argue all mankind is imputed with Adam’s guilt but that guilt is rendered invalid for infants then is that not exactly what we are saying. One may run quickly away from the terminology that “we are not imputed with Adam’s guilt until we knowingly sin” but even if you don’t use that terminology but claim some special dispensation of grace for those who die before knowingly sinning is the concept not the same. Thus, I would argue whether one uses the terminology or not if one argues infants are in heaven then one arrives at the same place we are. I know that doesn’t make a Calvinist very happy because of his/her emphasis on mankind’s imputed guilt but I think that is the very point this affirmation and denial makes. Call it what you want but you either have to say all infants go to hell or there is something that nullifies their imputed guilt (which is the same as saying they do not have imputed guilt). Hence the affirmation and denial.

    Lydia

    “Call it what you want but you either have to say all infants go to hell or there is something that nullifies their imputed guilt (which is the same as saying they do not have imputed guilt).”

    Well said.

    Robert Vaughn

    Brad, I can see that one could say there is no practical difference. Perhaps I’m being too much a stickler for words, but it seems there is a difference in nullified imputed guilt and no imputed guilt at all. The difference between one being either guilty and pardoned or not guilty.

      Bob Hadley

      Robert,

      Imputed guilt; nullified imputed guilt… too much of a stickler of words is indeed enough to make a normal person go nuts! (No one has ever accused me of being normal while I have been accused of being nuts… so not sure where that leaves me!)

      Here is a question and I am simply thinking out loud… or at least trying to do so anyway… if all have a sinful nature and all sin because of this sinful nature, why the need for imputed guilt? The whole concept of imputed guilt seems to me to be overkill… If i am guilty of MY own sin then what is the significance of being condemned because of Adam’s sin?

      It would appear to me the only issue of imputed sin would be to apply to those who have not yet sinned because of age and mental capability. To claim the imputation of Adam’s sin and then argue its nullification for its only real application seems to me to like running in a circle trying to find the end…

      If the imputation of Adam’s sin is to justify death of infants, I think I would prefer to argue physical death can be the result of sin in a physical world. So as in the case of David’s son, the child did not have to die because of ANYONE’S imputed sin; it was sin that caused the death but to me the child died because God said the child would die. Seems to me that might be one tiny detail that was omitted from the discussion a little earlier?

      It is early and I could not sleep so…

      ><>”

        Robert Vaughn

        Bob: “…if all have a sinful nature and all sin because of this sinful nature, why the need for imputed guilt?”

        I don’t think it is a question of determining why we need imputed guilt, but whether or not the Scriptures teach the concept. On that latter thought I’m sure we agree.

        Bob: “…I think I would prefer to argue physical death can be the result of sin in a physical world.”
        For a moment I’ll play devil’s advocate against my own position. In discussing why infants die, I’ve heard arguments similar to yours. One thing I’ve never heard anyone mention (not to me, not that no one has) is that the death of infants could be parallel to the death of animals. Maybe they are afraid it proved too much, but I wouldn’t, and suppose no one would, argue that Adam’s guilt is imputed to animals. Yet animals die.

        Bob: “…in the case of David’s son, the child did not have to die because of ANYONE’S imputed sin; it was sin that caused the death but to me the child died because God said the child would die. Seems to me that might be one tiny detail that was omitted from the discussion a little earlier?”
        I don’t think anyone would argue against the child dying because God said he would die. That is correct. I don’t think there is any contradiction with infants dying generally because of imputed guilt and David’s son specifically dying “because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme.” (II Sam. 12:14) But then we both have to reconcile this with Ezek. 18:20.

Tim Rogers

To all,

Kyle Thomas has directed us to an article by Dr. Roger Olson. It appears the SBC bubble has burst into the Evangelical world. Dr. Roger Olson, a leading thinker in the Evangelical world and noted scholar and Arminian theologically has weighed in on our statement. Please note Dr. Olson’s caution to our statement is the same caution that noted Calvinists have charged. While Dr. Olson has not charged us with Semi-Pelagianism he has noted that we “lean” in that direction. I encourage you to read his article here

As one reads Dr. Olson one will note that his main concern really is not a move toward Semi-Pelagianism but our refusal to call ourselves Arminian. Of course he notes we cannot be an Arminian with our statement. But neither can we be a Calvinist. Dr. Olson has only one position that he, wrongly, deduces that we are heading–Semi-Pelagianism. However, what Dr. Olson fails to note is what we have been addressing all along. While we may have Calvinists in the SBC we are not Calvinists. I honestly do not know of anyone in the SBC that would consider themselves an Arminian. There was on some time ago but he left his position and leaned heavily toward Calvinism. However, my point is this. We are not Arminian, neither are we Calvinists. We are Baptists!!!

    Joshua

    Tim,

    The first several presidents of the SBC were Calvinists…were they not Baptists?

    We can be Calvinists and still be Baptists. Your last sentence does not allow for Baptists to be Calvinists. I urge you to rethink that statement.

      Tim Rogers

      Josh,

      No we cannot. Calvinist adhere to the theology of John Calvin. John Calvin’s theology included pedo baptism and also advocated a church-state. We as Baptists reject infant baptism and we also affirm the separation of church and state. I know that Spurgeon advocated “Calvinism is the gospel” but I do not believe you would agree with that. But I do not want to place words in your mouth.

      Now, do we as Baptists admire the Theology of John Calvin and even affirm certain aspects of it? Certainly we do. But do we as Baptists affirm infant baptism and a state church? No we do not!!! Thus, we are not Calvinists.

        Lydia

        “Now, do we as Baptists admire the Theology of John Calvin and even affirm certain aspects of it? Certainly we do. But do we as Baptists affirm infant baptism and a state church? No we do not!!! Thus, we are not Calvinists”

        Semi-Calvinists, then? :o)

    Bob Hadley

    Joshua,

    There is no question that you can be calvinist and be Baptist. Absolutely. I can agree with Tim’s statement that you refer to that says, “However, my point is this. We are not Arminian, neither are we Calvinists. We are Baptists!!!” I am neither A or C but am Baptist. This statement as I read it, does not say anything about either an A or C being Baptist… it simply says I who am apart of the We am neither but Baptist.

    So, in my opinion, your assertion that his statement does not allow Baptists to be Calvinists or for Calvinists to be Baptists, would be an incorrect one. This would be my response with reference to your objection to Tim’s statement.

    So, without a doubt, you are as Baptist as anyone!

    ><>”

Mary

It’s interesting that Calvinists believe that it’s possible for men being in a place that not even God can reach until he perfoms a work on them.

Me, I believe that when God speaks even the dead can hear.

Brad Reynolds

I think Tim makes a valid point worth repeating but in my own words. Dr. Olsen verges on confessing his desire that we would be Arminian. I can understand Dr. Olsen’s desire to broaden his camp by pressuring us to run to Arminian because we don’t want to be labeled Pelagian or Calvinistic (as if there were only three choices).

But for SB to argue this is a semi-Pelagian statement where there is no place in the statement where we affirm man does not need God’s grace for salvation seems to beg the question as to the motives behind the accusation. If we don’t state, “we do not need God’s grace for salvation” then why accuse us of stating that? What would be the motive of accusing us of saying something we have not said? In fact, article 4 addresses the semi-Pelagian accusation. God initiates salvation – He gives us grace. Article 7 also addresses it (God is Sovereign over man’s salvation), and article 8 references it (God’s GRACIOUS CALL to salvation).

Honestly, I think a semi-Pelagian accusation regarding this document is more difficult to defend than a fatalistic accusation regarding some of the current Calvinist documents. To accuse us of such begs the question. If everyone signing denies he/she is semi-Pelagian and denies man initiates his salvation and if the document itself does not state man initiates salvation, but states just the opposite, then why would one keep accusing us unless one wants to marginalize us?

Jim G.

To Jeph,

I owe you an apology. I was disrespectful to you. I repent and ask your forgiveness. Please forgive me.

Jim G.

Ben Simpson

Roger Olsen has leveled a very serious charge against this statement, particularly this article. It’s one that opponents of the statement have been making since Thursday but has a louder ring to it since Olsen is an Arminian and not a Calvinist.

As most know well, the main debate concerning Augustine and Pelagius was over the effect of the Fall on Adam’s posterity. Pelagius argued that Adam’s posterity only inherited the consequence of Adam’s sin, which is death, and did not inherit Adam’s culpability or corruption, leaving them fully able to merit God’s favor through sinless living. When the righteous person did fall into sin, he, according to Pelagius, could naturally without the enabling grace of God exercise faith unto salvation.

Augustine argued that Adam’s posterity inherited it all from Adam: the consequence of death, corruption, and culpability. He saw the fallen mankind’s will as free (indeed, he was the champion of free will against the Manichees) and not incapacitated, but sin had so corrupted man’s will (total corruption) that he freely chooses only sin, leaving him unable to naturally exercise faith in Christ unto salvation. Faith, according to Augustine, is a gift from God and enabled by God.

Semi-Pelagianism is a mediating position between Pelagianism and Augustinianism. Semi-Pelagians historically argue that Adam’s posterity inherited his consequence and his corruption but not his guilt. The corruption will certainly lead to sin, however, it is not total in that the person could still naturally without the enabling grace of God exercise faith unto salvation. God was seen as being able to draw the sinner to faith, but not enable him in any way.

Article 2 is certainly not Pelagian given that it says “because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin.” A Pelagian would say “because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits death but not a nature inclined toward sin, making them fully capable of completely righteous living.”

Article 2 is actually inconclusive concerning Augustinianism and the will. Augustine, like today’s Calvinists, upheld man’s free will and would also “deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will.” Incapacitate means to disable. Man’s will is not disabled and is in full operation, but he always freely wills to sin.

Certainly article 2 is not Augustinian concerning inherited culpability in that it says “each person’s sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God, broken fellowship with Him, ever-worsening selfishness and destructiveness, death, and condemnation to an eternity in hell. We deny that Adam’s sin… rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned.” An Augustinian would say “Adam’s sin and the person’s own sin brings the wrath of a holy God such that person is born guilty of sin and becomes more guilty throughout life.”

So, this article is not Pelagian, and it’s not Augustinian. Is it Semi-Pelagian? Obviously, the authors and supporters say “no” because they know the historical condemnation of Semi-Pelagianism, particularly at the Council of Orange, but their denial withstanding, is it nevertheless Semi-Pelagian?

Again, keep in mind Semi-Pelagianism entails the inheritance of Adam’s consequence and corruption but denies the inheritance of Adam’s guilt. Furthermore, it sees the sinner still having the natural ability without the enabling grace of God to exercise faith unto salvation. While God may draw the sinner to faith, He does nothing to the will to enable or better enable faith (Drawing is not equal to enabling).

Certainly, article 2 upholds that mankind inherited Adam’s consequence and corruption: “every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin.” It furthermore denies that mankind inherited Adam’s culpability: “We deny that Adam’s sin… rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned.” The will of man is seen as corrupted, but not totally corrupted in that it can still of its own natural power exercise faith: “We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will… [and] deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.” What last phrase means is that God draws unto faith but does not enable faith precisely because God doesn’t have. Faith is a natural ability.

Given the evidence, I stand with Olsen on this. Actually, I think I’d go farther than Olsen. This article is Semi-Pelagian. Perhaps I misunderstand Semi-Pelagianism, but to the best of my understanding, if the framers and signers of article 2 are not Semi-Pelagian, they unwittingly wrote as one and need to clear up this article.

    Tim Rogers

    Ben,

    You need to interact with Dr. Adam Harwood’s statement here. When you interact with his response to the objections you raise then we can move further in this discusson.

    Debbie Kaufman

    Ben: I got the same thing you did when reading Dr. Olsen’s article. In fact he wrote:
    A classical Arminian would never deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will. Classical Arminianism (as I have demonstrated in Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities) strongly affirms the bondage of the will to sin before and apart from prevenient grace’s liberating work.

    Now, perhaps this is the point of the statement’s mention of “the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.” But that, too, can be interpreted in a semi-Pelagian way. Semi-Pelagians such as Philip Limborch and (at least in some of his writings) Charles Finney affirmed the necessity of the gospel and the Holy Spirit’s enlightening work through it for salvation. What made them semi-Pelagian was their denial or neglect of the divine initiative in salvation (except the gospel message).

    The problem with this Southern Baptist statement is its neglect of emphasis on the necessity of the prevenience of supernatural grace for the exercise of a good will toward God (including acceptance of the gospel by faith). If the authors believe in that cardinal biblical truth, they need to spell it out more clearly. And they need to delete the sentence that denies the incapacitation of free will due to Adam’s sin.

    Leaving the statement as it stands, without a clear affirmation of the bondage of the will to sin apart from supernatural grace, inevitably hands the Calvinists ammunition to use against non-Calvinist Baptists.

    It doesn’t matter what “most Baptists” believe or what is the “traditional Southern Baptist understanding.” For a long time I’ve been stating that most American Christians, including most Baptists, are semi-Pelagian, not Arminian and not merely non-Calvinist.

dave

Am I overlooking the list of signers or is Steve Lemke’s name not on it? It has been awhile since I read his article in the “Whosoever Will” book but didn’t he hold to some form of prevenient grace overcoming the effects of Original Sin? I could have him mixed up with something else

Ron Hale

Ben,

You said:
“As most know well, the main debate concerning Augustine and Pelagius was over the effect of the Fall on Adam’s posterity. Pelagius argued that Adam’s posterity only inherited the consequence of Adam’s sin, which is death, and did not inherit Adam’s culpability or corruption, leaving them fully able to merit God’s favor through sinless living. When the righteous person did fall into sin, he, according to Pelagius, could naturally without the enabling grace of God exercise faith unto salvation.”

Dr. Paul Enns, in the Moody Handbook of Theology, says:
“Pelagius taught that God created every soul directly, and that every soul therefore was innocent and unstained. No created soul had any direct relation to the sin of Adam; the only significance of Adam’s sin upon humanity was the bad example” (p.323).

Now … my Brother Ben, do you really, really think we are approaching this kind of belief?

BTW … if you happen to believe in Limited Atonement; can I call you a Semi-Atonementist?

Blessings

    Ben Simpson

    Ron, as I said above, this article is certainly not Pelagian. Semi-Pelagian, yes, but Pelagian, no. Pelagianism is certainly heretical. Semi-Pelagianism as I understand it, although condemned by the Council of Orange, doesn’t rise to that level.

    As for your strange question concerning calling a person who believes in limited atonement a “semi-atonementist,” the label is nothing. The content to which the label corresponds is what matters. History has labeled the position I described above and am convinced is being espoused now by this article as Semi-Pelagian. Take it up with our forefathers!

Mike Davis

While Article Two rejects Federal Headship (the imputation of Adam’s guilt) and is thus in error, I think many signers assume it affirms Natural Headship (the inheritance of a sin nature from Adam) but it does not. The author of the Statement chose his words carefully, and note the verbage:

We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin …

To inherit a nature inclined toward sin is not entirely the same as inheriting a sin nature. One who inherits a sin nature is a sinner from the get-go; one who is inclined to sin does not become a sinner until he gives in to the inclination.

Also, the Article is ambiguous in its description of the Sprit’s drawing the sinner toward grace. It does not specifically affirm one can only respond to the gospel by the Holy Spirit’s drawing through direct conviction upon the heart, which is no doubt what most Baptists, and probably most signers of the document believe even if they disagree about whether the drawing can be resisted. The Article Two denial states:

…we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.

While the Spirit certainly draws through the Gospel message, He also works directly on the heart and will, as both the Calvinists and Arminians affirm. Then the question becomes how “free” the will was in responding.

    Adam Harwood

    Mike,

    It is good to meet you, brother.

    You have raised some excellent concerns about Article 2 of the Statement. I will do my best to address two of them.

    First:

    If by federal headship you mean Calvin’s view that all people are guilty of sin because Adam acted in the Garden as our corporate or federal head…

    and if by natural headship you mean Augustine’s view that all people are guilty of sin because we were seminally (physically) present with him in the Garden…

    then I reject both.

    The Statement denies imputed guilt but affirms an inherited sinful nature, as does the BFM 2000. For more on that claim, see the next section of this reply.

    Second:

    You cite this phrase from the Statement, “We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin” and seem to issue a caution that the author “chose his words carefully.” Surprisingly, I can tell you exactly who chose those words.

    Those words (almost verbatim) were chosen by Dr. Albert Mohler, the President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

    And Fred Luter, our presumptive next SBC convention president.

    And Adrian Rogers, a Baptist statesmen who is presently with the Lord.

    I am, of course, naming some of the study committee members of the BFM 2000. This portion of the Statement which is raising so much concern among some of our brothers this week in the SBC is simply restating a line from Article 3 of the BFM 2000. It reads, in part, that Adam’s “posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin.”

    I understand that it is possible to affirm imputed guilt (either by federal or natural headship) and also affirm the BFM 2000. It is also important to understand, however, that such an affirmation is not required. In fact, one could argue that this particular phrase is inconsistent with both views of imputed guilt. Instead, there is a stronger case to be made for an inherited sinful nature. This explains why some of the same signers of the BFM 2000 have not been hindered by this particular phrase in Article 2 from adding their names to this Statement.

    I hope this adequately addresses your concerns.

    Blessings, brother.

    In Him,

    Adam

      Mike Davis

      Hi Dr. Harwood,

      Thanks for the interaction. I agree that the language in the BFM 2000 is written so as to accommodate those who would hold to Total Depravity (Inability) either through Federal or Natural Headship, or both, and those who view the corruption inherited from Adam as not affecting the will or capacity to respond to the Gospel. But what is deliberately ambiguous in the BFM 2000 in order to allow for a variety of viewpoints (and thus reflect the true Baptist tradition on the issue, which is not monolithic), Article Two of the Statement specifically excludes and denies Federal Headship and also the doctrine of Total Depravity as traditionally understood through Natural Headship. So in an area where the BFM 2000 is inclusive, this document is exclusive, and I think that is unfortunate. I think most Baptists, and many signers of the document believe in Total Depravity through Natural Headship (the inheritance of a sin nature) and I’m not sure the signers who hold to that doctrine realize their viewpoint is excluded by the document.

        Adam Harwood

        Mike,

        Thanks for your reply, brother.

        It appears we are defining terms in different ways. I explained above that natural headship is the Augustinian view (historically speaking) of the imputation of Adam’s _guilt_. We deny that.

        You defined natural headship above as the imputation of an inherited _sinful nature_.

        A sinful nature is not guilt.

        It is precisely this issue (defining our terms) which is causing Southern Baptists throughout the convention to talk past each other this week.

        Blessings, brother.

        In Him,

        Adam

          Mike Davis

          Greetings, Adam,

          Perhaps my writing doesn’t show it clearly enough, but I do believe I understand your definitions and I feel confident I am familiar with Augustine’s view of mediate imputation. I also understand that we disagree about Adam’s sin being imputed, whether directly or indirectly. My point, however, is that the doctrine of Total Depravity, or Total Inability, or moral inability, total helplessness, etc. flows from the idea of Natural Headship and these terms would represent what I believe most Baptists think of when they refer to a sin nature (as opposed to a nature inclined toward sin or a nature that is partially corrupt but retains volitional freedom). A sin nature does not become sinful when outward sins begin to manifest; it is sinful in its very existence. Thus, Isaiah 64: 6 “…and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags…” I believe most Baptists hold to the doctrine of Total Depravity, whether or not they hold to imputed guilt. I believe many document signers hold to Total Depravity. I know that Eric Hankins does not because he has stated he does not in previous comments at this site. I believe Article Two reflects his view and I believe it is fair to point that out.

          You mention that you think Southern Baptists are talking past each other this week. With respect, I think many of us SBC Calvinists feel that began in the Statement itself–as just one example, the implication in Article One that implies that SBC Calvinists defend double-predestination. I think our non-Calvinist brothers and sisters know we don’t hold to that, so why put it in the document?

          Anyway, thanks for considering my comments. I appreciate your gentle and patient manner of engaging in this discussion. Blessings to you, brother.

          Bogard

          Dr Harwood,

          Where can I get an elaboration on this point
          “It appears we are defining terms in different ways. I explained above that natural headship is the Augustinian view (historically speaking) of the imputation of Adam’s _guilt_. We deny that.

          You defined natural headship above as the imputation of an inherited _sinful nature_.

          A sinful nature is not guilt.”

          I am new to this (theological understanding) and want more information on the difference between having a “sin nature” and having “guilt”.

          Thanks!

Ron Hale

Mike,
Cocceius originally conceived and propounded the “Federal view.” He was born in 1603. What did the church of the Lord Jesus do before his ministry? They relied on the Scriptures. I respect and admire the early reformers and following generations, but I find it easy to jump backwards over them … to the Scriptures.

    Debbie Kaufman

    Ron: But what does the scriptures say? What does the Bible that you have argued is the final authority say? You keep naming those who agree with you, but we disagree with them. What does the Holy words of God say?

    Mike Davis

    Hi Ron,

    Actually, the Federal View originated with the Apostle Paul ;^) -(sorry, I couldn’t resist). Kidding aside, I see the Federal View in Romans 5: 12-14. But my real point was not about Federal Headship other than to note my disagreement on that point. I believe the signers of the document understood its position on Federal Headship. However, I think many of the document signers and most Baptists would not have the same modified view of Natural Headship as the one put forth in the document, and that was my point. The traditional view of Natural Headship indicates humans inherit a sin nature, not just a nature inclined to sin, from Adam. Also, I think the document seems to avoid an explicit reference to the Spirit’s work on the heart (including the will) of an individual to draw them to Christ. It only mentions the Spirit drawing “through the Gospel”, which He certainly does, but He also initiates work on the sinner’s heart. Calvinists, Arminians, and I believe most Baptists believe that, and I know you do, because you wrote a blogpost on it awhile back. I am wondering if the author of the Statement would affirm that the Spirit initiates drawing not only through the Gospel message itself, but also directly on the heart and will of the sinner.

      Mike Davis

      Also, just to clarify, Federal Headship and Natural Headship are not mutually exclusive and I hold to both. But Natural Headship entails more than just inheriting a nature inclined to sin, it indicates the inheritance of a sin nature, a Romans 8: 7-8 nature.

Tim Rogers

Mike,

While Article Two rejects Federal Headship (the imputation of Adam’s guilt) and is thus in error

Why is it in error? Please, help me understand where in Christian Orthodoxy Natural Headship has been refuted as improper theology.

Also, let us note the verbiage you have pointed us to.

We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin …

Now, let us examine the author’s verbiage in a document that we as a Convention approved in 2000–The Baptist Faith and Message

Article III 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

[Emphasis Mine]
Thus, you seem to be saying the entire SBC is in error. I don’t think you want to be saying that do you?

Also, you say;

Then the question becomes how “free” the will was in responding.

According to the Scripture “Whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Romans 10:13. Honestly, do you really want to argue over the meaning of “free”? That is like Bill Clinton arguing over the definition of “is”.

    Debbie Kaufman

    Tim: Scripture interprets scripture. Rightly dividing the word of truth. The Bible also says Christ draws, the Bible also says that God will give a heart of flesh to replace the heart of stone. Then you have other parts of Romans such as 9:16 for example among other passages that say differently. God does the work to enable us to call on the name of Christ. You have yet to deal with these passages and many, many more that have and could be given.

    It’s not select passages of the Bible, Lydia keeps saying the word prooftexts to us, when I think it is this view that uses prooftexts and a verse here and there.

      Debbie Kaufman

      Original sin says that we come to this life morally ruined. Nothing good about us or in us. This manifests throughout our lives into sinful action. It is our hearts which are morally putrid and the heart we are born with that we sin. We go with our strongest desires not caring about God at all. We have sinned in Adam. We have original guilt and condemnation. We are bound for hell. It is God’s grace by which babies do not go to hell and go to heaven. It is not any good in the babies. It is the same grace of God that saves us because of the work of Jesus Christ, not because God found some redeeming quality is us.

Debbie Kaufman

Romans 3:9-23, 1 John 8:1-10

Debbie Kaufman

If the SBC believes the same as in this Article, then the SBC is wrong, but……I am not convinced all 6 million people or how many million we have believe this and we have already heard disagreement from those who are not Calvinist on this Article.

Brad Reynolds

Ben,
1. I do think you misunderstand Semi-Pelagianism. A Semi-Pelagian would argue that man initiates his salvation. We deny this…please see articles 4, 7 and 8. A Semi-Pelagian would argue God’s grace is a response to man’s initiation, once again please see articles 4, 7 and 8.

2. And even with the misunderstanding you seem to conflate the entire theological system into one point on the denial of God’s enabling grace (you never mention anything about the Semi-Pelagian belief by perhaps the leading Semi-Pelagian (Bishop Faustus) that one could lose his salvation of his own choosing. This would be equivalent to conflating all of Calvinism into God’s Sovereignty and claiming one is a Calvinist because of his belief in God’s Sovereignty (which is sadly implied at times)).

The point is: even if a Semi-Pelagian could affirm something in this document it does not make it a Semi-Pelagian document anymore than it is a Calvinist document since a Calvinist can affirm something in it (eternal security).

3. Further, and perhaps most egregious is the attribution of things not said, i.e. the implication that this document implies a sinner “has a natural ability without the grace of God to exercise faith unto salvation.” These are the types of statements which causes one to wonder: what is the motive of accusing falsely? Why would one imply something which is an outright untruth? Perhaps it is innocent presuppositions, but as you state yourself Semi-Pelagianism is a serious accusation, which is made even more serious when unfounded. Once again I ask please read the article, and please do not read into the article things not stated.

Finally, I have responded to your statement. Please play fair and respond to mine (a few comments above). If Adam’s guilt is inherited how can any infant be in heaven? If you say Adam’s guilt is not imputed to infants than you are with us, Adam’s guilt is not imputed to all mankind. If you say there is something that nullifies it (election) in certain infants then once again it really isn’t imputed to all mankind (not imputed to the elect since God elected them from the foundation of the world (before Adam sinned)- which if true and by extension to adults, you now have the additional problem of election without accompanying cognizant faith (which opens the door for an adult to be saved without ever exercising faith)).

    W B McCarty

    Brad, I concur in your definition of Semi-Pelagianism. And I’m happy that you understand the statement as denying Semi-Pelagianism, because we can agree it’s a bad thing. But, honestly, I don’t see it as being denied in the statement. I can see that Article Four comes close to doing so. If it read something like “We affirm that grace is God’s generous decision to provide salvation for any person by taking all of the initiative in salvation” I’d agree that it does so. But, as it is, the phrases following the word “initiative” can be understood as limiting the scope of God’s initiative.

    To be sure, I’m not trying to force an interpretation on you or anyone else. If you say the statement is intended to deny Semi-Pelagianism, then I have no real quarrel at all with you. But, I’d really like to see the statement cleaned up a bit in that regard because I do think it’s very susceptible to MIS-interpretation (will my use of that word satisfy you?) on that point. I would hope that we might agree that since Semi-Pelagianism is a very bad thing, we would want any SBC statement to be crystal clear in rejecting it, even to the point of having belt AND suspenders, as the lawyers sometimes put it.

    Blessings,

    Ben Simpson

    Brad,
    I really appreciate the substantive dialogue we’re engaging in. Thank you!

    1) Certainly, you say that articles 4, 7, and 8 deny that man initiates his salvation. Let’s see. Article 4 says that the mechanism of salvation is a gift/grace from God and basically nothing more. There’s nothing un-Semi-Pelagian about that. Article 7 wants to assert God’s sovereignty over salvation but then denies any causal relationship over the person’s faith. Therefore, the cause remains in the person. That’s very Semi-Pelagian. Article 8 makes it even clearer that the cause of salvation comes from humanity. With all due respect, I don’t think your document denies what you think it denies.

    2) The point of my comment above was that the main essence of the Pelagian-Augustinian debate with Semi-Pelagianism developing in the middle was the effect of the Fall on Adam’s posterity. On this point, article 2 is Semi-Pelagian. I didn’t say the entire document was Semi-Pelagian. The historic Semi-Pelagian Faustus might have argued for the ability to be genuinely saved and then genuinely lost. I’ll take your word for it. If Faustus is illustrative of total Semi-Pelagianism, praise the Lord the document didn’t follow his example concerning the security of the believer. I only wish it would have steered clear of the Semi-Pelagian doctrine of the effects of the Fall on Adam’s posterity.

    3) You left out a very important word when you quoted me, Brad. You left out the word “enabling” before the word “grace.” Let me quote me since you didn’t, “Furthermore, it sees the sinner still having the natural ability without the enabling grace of God to exercise faith unto salvation. While God may draw the sinner to faith, He does nothing to the will to enable or better enable faith (Drawing is not equal to enabling).” Now that my full quote is in consideration, have I misrepresented the position of the statement? I think not. I never said you all denied grace or even drawing grace, but you certainly deny enabling grace.

    4) If you would like to read my full position concerning the eternal destiny of little children who die before trusting Christ, I’d point you to an article I recently wrote: http://westmainbaptist.com/broben/the-eternal-destiny-of-little-ones-who-die-before-trusting-christ. My thesis is that all children who die before their moment of accountability will go to Heaven because God does not hold them accountable for their sin due to natural inability. However, I do have to say that I’m really glad you asked this question because you have revealed what’s pushing you all to deny inherited guilt.

      Brad Reynolds

      Ben
      I read your article on infants and you write very well. However, you still failed to address the concern I bring up. Is Adam’s guilt imputed at conception or at the age of accountability? If at the age of accountability than the end is no different than what we are saying…ie – when one knowingly sins one is accountable.

      In fact your quote of Piper illustrates the point:
      “In other words, if a person lacks the natural capacity to see the revelation of God’s will or God’s glory then that person’s sin would not remain-God would not bring the person into final judgment for not believing what he had no natural capacity to see.”

      Piper says that person’s sin would not remain. He specifically made it personal sin. He did not state Adam’s sin imputed to that child would not remain. The issue you bespeak of in your own article deals with the infants personal ability not Adam’s imputed sin. Hence, making the point.

      You further state:
      “In other words, they are simply unable to fully understand such abstract things as the glory of God and the gospel, and God in response is merciful to them.” Which unless clarified implies God forgives them because of their ignorance rather than their repentance.
      But in fairness you do clarify it a little by saying “I believe that God in His mercy imputes their sin to Jesus and imputes Jesus’ righteousness to them apart from their faith because it is impossible for them to exercise faith.” To which I would ask, is not also impossible for the non-elect to exercise faith (at least from a Calvinist perspective).

      Once again the question remains if infants are imputed with Adam’s sin at conception then how can infants that die be in heaven? You have yet to answer that. Your answer is they are not held responsible to do something they are incapable of doing which means they are not held responsible for their sin until the age of accountability. Forgive me, but that sounds eerily similar to the statement to which you are opposed.

      Concerning your other statements…rather than rewording my reply to WB I think if you read it you will have an answer.

        Les

        Brad,

        You asked, “Once again the question remains if infants are imputed with Adam’s sin at conception then how can infants that die be in heaven?”

        Most Reformed folks would answer like the WCF and LBC,

        “Elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit; who worketh when, and where, and how he pleases; so also are all elect persons, who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.”

        Some, like me, go further than the confessions and believe that all infants dying in infancy as well as those unable to be outwardly called by the word are elect and go to be with Jesus at death.

        But many of us Reformed have no issue with God regenerating an infant (after all, we believe in monergistic regeneration). Therefore imputed guilt is still dealt with by Christ’s satisfaction.

        Ben Simpson

        Brad,
        I do appreciate the encouragement on the writing of my article. Thank you!

        Here’s a clarifying question for you: are you arguing that we become imputed with Adam’s sin when we sin ourselves so that then we have Adam’s sin and ours? If so, you are not in step with the “traditional” Southern Baptist understanding of salvation because article 2 clearly says that “each person’s sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God.” That means that Adam’s sin is not imputed to us at any time. Are you sure that you really want to sign that document? :o)

        You simply asked me how a guilty infant could be in heaven. I thought I answered that question when I said “all children who die before their moment of accountability will go to Heaven because God does not hold them accountable for their sin due to natural inability.” You say they all go to heaven because they are innocent. I say they go to heaven even though they are guilty of Adam’s sin and their own (I can’t count the number of times my 3-year-old sinned just today!) because they are graciously not held accountable by God due to natural inability.

        What drives me to my position is Romans 5 which I believe tells us that death means guilt. Do children die before the age of accountability? Sadly they do. Death indicates guilt. I know that you all are trying really hard to separate the inherited consequence of death from inherited guilt, but I don’t believe the Bible will let you. The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). The only way a baby has earned that is by being imputed with Adam’s wicked work. If children before the moment of accountability are innocent, then none of them would die.

        So, indeed, I do understand the Scripture to teach that we inherit Adam’s culpability (guilt) along with his consequence (death) and his corruption (sin nature) and all that takes effect at our conception. We are born guilty of sin. Thanks a lot, Adam!!!

        Fortunately for children before their moment of accountability, God does not hold them accountable for neither Adam’s guilt nor their own, guilty though they are (there’s a big difference between being innocent and being guilty but unaccountable!!!). They are not held accountable because they do not have the natural ability to understand the glory of God or the gospel, so they have an excuse and God excuses them by grace. Their sin was imputed to Jesus, and Jesus’ righteousness is imputed to them.

        While we both have the same end in that all children who die before the moment of accountability going to heaven, we are saying very different things in our means. I have them going in by God’s grace through Jesus’ sinlessness. You have them going in by their own sinlessness. I say they are guilty sinners, but God mercifully doesn’t hold them accountable because they have an excuse. You say they are innocent. You have a multitude one day in heaven who will be there because they earned it, or at least didn’t lose it by actually sinning. That’s shocking! Will they still lay their crowns at Jesus’ feet or just keep them since they earned them?

        Let me tie up two loose ends with you. First, you raised a passing question that if children before their moment of accountability have an excuse because it is impossible for them to exercise faith, then “is not also impossible for the non-elect to exercise faith (at least from a Calvinist perspective)?” I would say that it’s not impossible in the same way. Children before their moment of accountability are physically (naturally) and morally incapable of exercising faith. Their physical incapability excuses them. However, once a person reaches their moment of accountability, which is nothing more than them becoming physically capable of exercising faith, their excuse is taken away because only the moral incapability remains.

        Second loose end, you and I have been discussing round-aboutly the moment of accountability for children, but after careful reading of the “traditional” Southern Baptist understanding of salvation, the statement leaves room for the salvation of infants but does not leave room for the salvation of other children before their moment of accountability. The statement says that you “deny that Adam’s sin… rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned.” So, babies are safe since they do not personally sin. But what about preschoolers? You’d better believe they personally sin. As I said earlier, I can’t count how many times my 3-year-old sinned just today. If children go to heaven because they are personally innocent, that statute of limitations runs out by no later than 3-years-old in most cases because that’s when they usually begin to sin intentionally. What I’m getting at is that this statement has a glaring hole in it concerning these precious children who are guilty but not able yet to physically exercise faith. It needs something on the moment of accountability.

      Brad Reynolds

      Ben,
      I would ask questions concerning your assertions though – hopefully, to help you and others see that perhaps you are still reading into the document:

      1. Is denying that God causes (makes…forces…whatever term you want to use) faith the same as denying God initiates salvation? I would deny that God causes or makes a person believe…I would not deny that God initiates salvation. We are clear that the grace to be saved is God’s grace. But man has to exercise his own faith (no where in Scripture if faith called God’s faith, not even in Eph 2 (misunderstood by Calvinist) because a few verses earlier Paul says it is the Ephesians’ faith but we are always told it is God’s grace).

      2. Does an affirmation of “drawing grace” deny a belief in enabling grace?

        Ben Simpson

        1) Brad, it depends upon what you mean by “initiate.” If you mean by “initiate” all of redemptive history leading up to the person hearing the gospel, being drawn by the Holy Spirit, and believing, then no, denying that God causes faith is not the same as denying God initiates salvation. But, if you mean by “initiate” from whom does faith unto salvation come, then yes, to deny that God causes faith is the same as denying God initiates salvation. It’s the second meaning of initiate that is in play here since article 2 deals with the sinfulness of man.

        2) No, Brad, affirming “drawing grace” does not deny “enabling grace.” I affirm both. You only affirm “drawing grace.” Therefore, from your perspective, the power unto salvation lies within man, and God does nothing to the will to enable or better enable faith. That’s very Semi-Pelagian.

W B McCarty

It seems to me that there’s some misunderstanding of the term Semi-Pelagian. It does not mean simply “partly Pelagian.” Instead it has a rather specific meaning. Distilled to its essence (see the article in Elwell’s Evangelical Dictionary of Theology cited by one participant, above) Semi-Pelagianism denotes a human nature that is marred to the point of being unable to save itself but not so badly marred as to be unable to take the first step toward God. Therefore in the Semi-Pelagian view salvation is synergistically initiated by the free will of man but completed by God (or by God in cooperation with man).

Roger Olson’s analysis, as I understand it, is that the statement fails to make explicit that the first step in salvation is God’s rather than man’s and that the human nature is corrupted to a point that it is unable to take the initial step toward God. In particular, the statement lacks reference to an act of God’s initial, prevenient grace that enables man to come to God for salvation. Thus, the statement is consistent with the Semi-Pelagian position. As I understand him, Dr. Olson is not saying that the statement is Semi-Pelagian, much less that the signers are Semi-Pelagian–only that the statement can be consistently understood as Semi-Pelagian because it fails to deny the elements that comprise that position.

Personally, I think Dr. Olson is correct. I hope and presume that the failure to deny Semi-Pelagianism is inadvertent rather than deliberate. And, I hope that whatever final position is articulated does properly deny the Semi-Pelagian position. Semi-Pelagianism may or may not be rank heresy. But, it is a very weak, man-exalting position that I hope the SBC does not approve let alone embrace. If many within the SBC dislike the label “Arminian,” so be it but I hope that the quality of theology articulated in any official SBC statement might at least rise to Arminian standards in the degree of its affirmation of man’s corrupted nature. Blessings,

    volfan007

    WB,

    According to the Roman Catholics…and they should know Pelagianism and Semi Pelagianism…. Semi-Pelagianism’s basic claims are: (1) the beginning of faith (though not faith itself or its increase) could be accomplished by the human will alone, unaided by grace; (2) in a loose sense, the sanctifying grace man receives from God can be merited by natural human effort, unaided by actual grace; (3) once a man has been justified, he does not need additional grace from God in order to persevere until the end of life.

    Traditional SB are no where near this….not even close…

    So, why do yall keep saying that we’re Semi Pelagian?

    DAvid

    Bob Hadley

    WB

    You made the following statement: It seems to me that there’s some misunderstanding of the term Semi-Pelagian.

    I agree. I am no expert on either so I personally appreciate your contribution on this issue. My understanding is that basically there is no difference in the Pelagian and semi-Pelagian positions where conversion is concerned; the differences in the two come AFTER conversion and deal more specifically with God’s role in sanctification. Perhaps I am misunderstanding something here.

    So, when someone says this is NOT Pelagian but borders on being semi-Pelagian and the discussion is specifically dealing with conversion, then I tend to automatically dismiss the argument because it is automatically rendered baseless… this is one of the problems as I see it of using the term “salvation” because it is used so interchangeably and encompasses itself so much more than simple conversion. However, in salvific discussions conversion probably ought to be used more than salvation itself.

    Thanks for your input here…

    ><>”

W B McCarty

David, please re-read what I wrote: “As I understand him, Dr. Olson is not saying that the statement is Semi-Pelagian, *** much less that the signers are Semi-Pelagian ***–only that the statement can be consistently understood as Semi-Pelagian. . . .” My claim, in agreement with Dr. Olson, is that the statement admits of a Semi-Pelagian interpretation. I did not comment on the men who signed the statement or on you. That may seem like a small point but it’s very big in my mind. I don’t want to be misunderstood as accusing you or anyone else of anything. To the degree I’ve seemed to do so , I humbly apologize.

With respect to the definition of Semi-Pelagianism, I respectfully submit that you are confusing two very similar things: (1) the beliefs of the men known historically as Semi-Pelagians; and (2) the theological meaning of the term Semi-Pelagian. Theologically, the term has come to be applied to a system of belief that satisfies just the first of the several criteria you offered; namely, that the beginning of salvation can be accomplished by the human will alone, unaided by grace.

Now, if you DON’T believe this, I take you at your word and I’m both relieved and pleased. But the sole thrust of my comment is that the statement should be clarified since, as it stands, it CAN be interpreted–mis-interpreted, if you prefer, to mean that man can begin, in his own strength, the process of his salvation.

Is my position clearer? I’m very much NOT trying to pick a fight. I’m just trying to be helpful in working through these issues.

Blessings,

    Bob Hadley

    Would it not be fair to argue that Olson’s charge with respect to this statement being Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian is basically the same as the Calvinist charge, since BOTH begin in the same place, namely Total Depravity and inability? What I personally appreciate in his article is his own statement that this document is NOT Arminian. I appreciate that. Perhaps now the calvinists who continually toss out the charge that non-calvinists are arminian, just do not want to wear the label will end. I have seen a number of them jump on the bandwagon applauding part of Olson’s article with respect to the charge of P or S-P but they seemingly overlook the other part.

    Now as to the charge of semi-P… you yourself wrote, “As I understand him, Dr. Olson is not saying that the statement is Semi-Pelagian, *** much less that the signers are Semi-Pelagian ***–only that the statement can be consistently understood as Semi-Pelagian. . . .

    My point is going to be very simple. If you are suggesting that a statement must be written so that there is no possibility of ANY outside misinterpretation you have just rendered your own statement suspect and I think I can argue your own standard most certainly would render the Bible itself suspect; after all there are countless misunderstandings that men have made from its words basically since it was written!

    So, I would suggest that the basis for your argument is itself by your own admission, at the most invalid and at the least impossible!

    ><>”

    Brad Reynolds

    WB,
    First, thank you for your kind spirit. It is refreshing.

    Second, I think Bob’s point is valid. While I will not quibble over the Catholic or Elwell’s definition of Semi-Pelagian (that would be equivalent to quibbling over a Calvinist and non-Calvinist definition of Calvinism) I will point out that the most theologically dangerous concept of Semi-Pelagianism is the idea we can be saved apart from grace (by man’s free will alone). Thus, let’s address that. It seems to me Bob’s point is something demonstrated by the following:

    If I said
    1. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
    2. The wages of sin is death
    3. While we were yet sinners Christ died in our place.
    4. If you believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead and confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord you shall be saved.

    Would that be a Semi-Pelagian statement? I guess a Semi-Pelagian could certainly affirm it, but it does not make it “lean” Semi-Pelagian. The point: Just because something is not specifically stated denying Semi-Pelagianism does not make it lean that way.

    With that type of logic we could also be accused of Apollinarianism since we did not specifically affirm Christ had a human nature.

    Finally, as I have stated earlier, please read the document without reading into it…the very article we are discussing (2) states in its denial “we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing…”

    To be fair, you come very close to affirming we deny it, you just want it cleaned up (in your words). But let me ask you, has any of the writers or any signer claimed this is Semi-Pelagian? From what I have read, every single one, has stated clearly this is not Semi-Pelagian. And it is not as if we are dealing with individuals who do not know theology (Dr. Paige Patterson, Dr. Malcolm Yarnell, Dr. Steve Lemke (and the list goes on)).

    So even if one’s presuppositions causes one to think it leans Semi-Pelagian (because of what the statement does not say) and if the document is not clearly Semi-Pelagian and the writers and signers unanimously affirm it is not, then why continue on that path? What would be the motive of doing so?

      Brad Reynolds

      One additional thought:
      Which perhaps makes the distinction more clear – while a Semi-Pelagian could affirm the 4-pronged statement above (Romans 3:23; 6:23; 5:8; 10:9) he could not affirm this document (Article 2,4,7, 8).

      Thus (and please do not take this the wrong way for I do not intend to accuse but to end these false-accusations of Semi-Pelagian) if one continues to use the term Semi-Pelagian in regards to this document one reveals either 1) one’s ignorance of Semi-Pelagianism; or 2) one’s bias and presuppositions by which one is blinded (whereby reading into the document); or 3) one’s motive

        Jim G.

        Hi Brad,

        I concur. Not only do you make valid points about semi-pelagianism, but the statement in the “denial” portion of article 2,

        “While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.”

        removes any possibility of SP. A SP would not be able to affirm the above statement because for him the first step would be unaided by grace. The drawing of the Spirit is a work of the grace of God. Moreover, the first step for a SP would be human effort. I think these two sentences effectively end the SP charge.

        Jim G.

Jerry Corbaley

It is good to see Brad Reynolds back in blog conversations!

David R. Brumbelow

Brad,
Excellent point. If Romans 10:9-10, 13 were written today, would it be condemned as heresy and as being semi-Pelagian? How many other passages of Scripture would be suspect?

You need to write more. You should add these comments of yours to your old blog.

Thanks also to Adam, Ron, Tim, Bob, Jim… You guys are very helpful in explaining and defending the Traditional Statement on Salvation.
David R. Brumbelow

    Brad Reynolds

    David
    Thanks brother – it is good to be back – I would love to restart my blog but with four children ages 5 and under I am a little concerned to do so. I do appreciate all you have done and continue to do for truth.

wingedfooted1

It seems those of the SEA indeed have a problem with this Southern Baptist statement. They write….

“The problem with this Southern Baptist statement is its neglect of emphasis on the necessity of the prevenience of supernatural grace for the exercise of a good will toward God (including acceptance of the gospel by faith). If the authors believe in that cardinal biblical truth, they need to spell it out more clearly. And they need to delete the sentence that denies the incapacitation of free will due to Adam’s sin. Leaving the statement as it stands, without a clear affirmation of the bondage of the will to sin apart from supernatural grace, inevitably hands the Calvinists ammunition to use against non-Calvinist Baptists.”

For the Calvinist (including Arminians) the problem goes back to the calvinistic notion of total depravity (or total inability). For those going by “Calvinist”, this supernatural grace is regeneration. Once must first be “born again” prior to coming to faith. For those going by “Arminian”, the sinner must first be released from the bondage of sin in order to be able to choose or reject Christ.

However, neither is biblical.

Romans 6:17 (NKJV)…
But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.

Notice their being “slaves to sin” did not prevent them from obeying the message.

John 8:31-32 (NIV)…
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Notice these Jews had believed in Him, yet they were not yet “free”.

Then the SEA writes…

“It doesn’t matter what ‘most Baptists’ believe or what is the ‘traditional Southern Baptist understanding.’ For a long time I’ve been stating that most American Christians, including most Baptists, are semi-Pelagian, not Arminian and not merely non-Calvinist. Calvinists and Arminians stand together, with Scripture, against semi-Pelagianism.”

What we have here is a group of people, both Calvinists and Arminians (but I repeat myself) setting the rules and parameters. They get to define what a Calvinist, Arminian, or Semi-Pelagian is. For them, if you aren’t a Calvinist or Arminian, then you are a Semi-Pelagian (or worse) by default. There is no other option. Kind of makes you wonder what Christians were called prior to the days of Calvin or Arminius?

Consider the following regarding the TULIP….

5 pointer……staunch Calvinist
4 pointer……Amyraldist
3 pointer…….????
2 pointer…..Arminian
1 pointer…..Arminian who rejects the “P”

Ironically, Arminians are still Calvinists, just to a lesser degree. In fact, in order to be a member of the SEA, one must hold to the calvinistic notion of Total Depravity (the only difference being the solution). For them, if you reject total depravity, you are immediately labeled a Semi-Pelagian. And this is precisely why the SEA has a problem with this Southern Baptist statement.

Grace

Matt

I kept reading and reading and reading and found so little Scripture. Doesn’t the BFM affirm that our theology is built upon the foundation laid by Scripture?

What this boils down to is the interpretation of Romans 5:12-21, particularly Romans 5:19 which says, “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”

It seems to me that this verse connects original/imputed sin with imputed righteousness. I don’t know who would be willing to sacrifice imputed righteousness just to give up original sin.

Brad Reynolds

Matt
Do infants have imputed guilt of Adam?

It has been argued more than once that the passage you are referencing actually argues for one’s guilt only when one knowingly sins. That is, since the righteousness of Christ is imputed by a cognizant decision and this passage implies the righteousness of Christ is applied as the guilt of Adam then the guilt of Adam must be applied by a cognizant decision which is what the article articulates.

To say that Adam’s guilt is applied to all man without a conscious decision and Adam”s guilt is applied as Christ righteousness (according to the passage) is to say Christ righteousness is applied without a conscious decision. Which is even more dangerous than the implication that all infants are in hell if we are imputed with Adam’s guilt.

    Brad Reynolds

    To rephrase your last sentence in light of the passage. I don’t know who would be willing to sacrifice a cognizant decision for salvation just to hold to imputed guilt.

      Matt

      Brad, I must say, I don’t know if I’ve considered it from that angle. My initial thoughts reference me back to David who says, depending again on how you interpret it, that his sinfulness extends back to his conception. So, are babies born having sinned? Obviously we wouldn’t say that a baby has committed a sin. But, are babies born with a sin nature? I think we have to say yes.

      We all have to agree that infant salvation is one of those issues on which we wish Scripture gave a more complete/concrete answer. Our main Scriptural evidence is David’s lament over his first son with Bathsheba, saying basically he’ll see him again in Heaven. If that is the case, it must be that in God’s grace and mercy, He has taken the salvation of infants and those mentally incapable of making a “cognizant” decision for Christ into account. In other words, I do believe they go to Heaven. But I’d be hard-pressed to prove it from Scripture, as I’m sure we all would.

      Is the argument you mentioned – about it applying only to those who knowingly sin – based on the previous verses, i.e. verse 13 “but sin is not counted where there is no law”?

      I think reading in “those who are cognizant of their choice to sin” is about as bad as the Calvinists who add “the world of the elect” to the “whole world salvation” passages.

      My 3 kids running crazy right now are preventing me from further thought/response at the moment!

Jeff White

Regarding the AFFIRMATION of Article II: We not only inherit a sin nature from Adam, and not only become sinners by choice, but we were also represented by Adam, since we were all constitutionally in the loins of Adam. In other words, Adam was the legal, federal, convenental head of the human race. As Augustine pointed out, Adam had a free will, but he forfeited that free will when he chose to rebell against God. Since we were represented by Adam, when he fell, we fell (Rom. 5:12). When Adam forfeited his free will, we forfeited our free will as well, because Adam was legally acting on our behalf. Yes, we are all responsible to God for our own individual sinful actions, but we are also responsible to God for our fall in Adam. When Adam sinned, we sinned. Yes, as humans we have a capacity for choice, but our capacity for choice is not unlimited or unbounded, especially in the spiritual realm. Before salvation, we are free to do what we “want” to do, but not what we “ought” to do. As lost people, all we want to do is sin. Before salvation every single thing we say, think, feel, or do is sin, because every single thing is done in a state of unbelief (Rom. 14:23). No man seeks after God in his fallen condition (Rom. 3:10-12). This is why Jesus must seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).

In regard to the DENIAL of Article II: We are responsibile to respond to the Gospel in order to be saved, and we do respond at salvation in saving faith and true repentance. But the issue is HOW and WHY? It is NOT because we are capable in ourselves to do so, but because God moves upon the elect sinner, enabling them to respond in faith and repentance. In other words, God causes and produces the response in and through the sinner. It is God who resurrects us spritually enabling us to repent and believe. God commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30-31) and believe (1 John 3:21-23). But just because God commands that of sinners, does not mean they are capable of that by themselves. Jesus commanded Lazarus to come forth from the grave, but that doesn’t mean Lazarus was able by himself to come forth (John 11). Jesus had to do the miraculus and enable him to rise to life. And the same thing happens when the Gospel is presented to lost sinners who are commanded to repent and believe. If they are elect, God in His timing will cause them to resurrect spiritually.

Joel Hunt

In answer to all those who have asked the question above, infants most certainly bear the imputed guilt of Adam, and as such are condemned to Hell. Should God elect an infant unto salvation, they are as readily justified as any man. I believe that the character of God revealed throughout Scripture gives strong leaning to the idea that He does elect every human who has no cognitive thought, however, were He to condemn them all based on the imputed guilt of Adam alone, with no regard to wanton sin, He would still be just in doing so.

    Brad Reynolds

    Joel,
    Since you imply infants are saved by election rather than faith (although I think Scripture would dispute that – Eph 2:8-10) and since I assume you believe their election occurred before the foundation of the world then would you not be stating their salvation occurred before Adam’s sin and if so how could they be imputed with his sin? (Which by application is true of all the elect and nullifies your point that all mankind is imputed with Adam’s sin).

    Now to another implication of your statement…since you state: “I believe that the character of God revealed throughout Scripture gives strong leaning to the idea that He does elect every human who has no cognitive thought” – do we not arrive at the same place?

    That is we both claim: infants are not punished (eternity in hell) for Adam’s sin if they die in infancy.

    You phrase it as: infants are punished (suffer eternity in hell) for Adam’s sin only when they reach the point of cognition of sin. I phrase it that infants are punished for their sin when they reach the point of cognition of sin. However we phrase it, we both have removed the personal consequences (spending eternity in hell) of Adam’s sin on infants who die in infancy. Call it what you will, but it still strikes at the heart of imputational guilt.

    Adam Harwood

    Well stated, brother.

    Although I neither know you nor affirm your view, I commend you for providing an excellent articulation of Dortian Calvinism (or the doctrines of grace) when applied to the spiritual condition of infants. My Calvinistic Baptist (or New Calvinist) brothers and sisters in the SBC should recognize that this is a consistent and faithful restatement of the consistent application of a commitment to doctrines such as eternal decrees and imputed guilt.

    Thank you.

    You have demonstrated exactly why this statement–specifically Article 2–needs to be discussed by Southern Baptists. I’m fairly certain that most Southern Baptists across our country would reject what you wrote. Please understand: What you wrote falls perfectly within the boundaries of the historic Christian tradition (see, for example, the Westminster Confession). But it’s not the only way to interpret the Scriptures.

    The signers of this recent Statement know that most Southern Baptists build a case from Scripture to address these issues in a very different way than you just articulated.

    Blessings, brother.

    In Him,

    Adam

      Adam Harwood

      To clarify: My comment above was a response to Joel Hunt, although it appears directly below the comment of Brad Reynolds. For people who regularly read blogs, this is intuitive. For other people, it may appear that I was directing my comments to Dr. Reynolds, which is not the case.

Ross

So babies don’t need Jesus?

Joel Hunt

Well, they need God. Your question is not quite clear.

    Ross

    If babies are not sinners, then they don’t need a savior.

      volfan007

      Ross,

      No one said that babies are not sinners.

      David

        Les

        But David, per the statement they are not under the wrath of God,

        “Each person’s sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God…”

        So again, why do infants need a Savior. You all are saying they are sinners but not under the wrath of God. Which is it?

        John 3…”Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

        Infants have not yet believed and obeyed. So, the wrath of God is on them, right?

          volfan007

          Les,

          Its been said over and over, again. You apparently dont want to hear it, or else you’re not reading all that’s been written about this.

          We do not believe babies are held accountable for their sins, until they reach the age of accountability….which is different for different children…depending on how fast, or how slow, they are in their development.

          Les, in the Calvinistic view, of which I’ve heard leading Calvinists state it this way, too…no one can know if babies go to Heaven, or not. And, some babies are probably elect, and some are not. I’ve even heard that that’s also the basis for infant baptism…that God will elect a Believers baby.

          David

          Les

          David, I’m reading most responses on this. My views in infant election/salvation are stated on this very post. I happen to hold that all infants dying in infancy as well as those with severe mental handicaps making them unable to be outwardly called buy the word, go to be with Jesus upon death.

          Now I also hold that all persons, including those infants and mentally handicapped, are born in sin (as I think you do) AND have had Adam’s sin and guilt imputed to them. So in my view, and in the view of many, those infants must be regenerated to go be with Jesus I believe God does that (irrespective of baptism). FYI, Spurgeon of old and MacArthur of late hold this same view.

          My whole point on this is you and the document call these infants sinners but the statement says they are not under the wrath of God. You cannot really give a good explanation of why they need a Savior. If they are not under the wrath of God, why do they need a Savior.

          To be consistent, I think the document needs to say explicitly that:

          1. All persons are innocent until they actually sin. Therefore, if they die in that state, they go to be with Jesus. (actually the essence of the statement is that they are innocent since they are not guilty and are not under wrath)

          OR

          2. Fix the document that makes explicit that all persons, incl. infants, are guilty before God from conception. Then you can affirm what Spurgeon and others have said about how babies go to be with Jesus,

          Just looking for consistency brother.

          Les

wingedfooted1

Westminster Confession….
“Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth. So also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.”

I find it odd that crib death, birth defects and deformities are reserved only for “the elect”.

    Les

    wf1,

    “I find it odd that crib death, birth defects and deformities are reserved only for “the elect”.”

    It’s called a gracious God. That’s not odd at all.

      wingedfooted1

      Les,

      Its called “inconsistency”.

      If election to salvation is unconditional, then its unconditional. Yet now we are told, by some calvinists anyway, that all those who die in infancy, or born with some kind of disability, are elect strictly because of a condition.

      Of course I am also well aware this is another highly debated topic within Calvin-land. By that I mean there are calvinists who believe that ALL those who die in infancy are elect, while other calvinists believe only SOME who die in infancy are among the elect.

      It seems to me that those calvinists who believe that only some who die in infancy are elect are being consistent with their theology.

      Les

      WF1,

      I expected nothing less than full disagreement from you. That’s consistency.

      “Yet now we are told, by some calvinists anyway, that all those who die in infancy, or born with some kind of disability, are elect strictly because of a condition.”

      Did I say that is why they are elect? Where?

      No, I said above,

      ““Elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit; who worketh when, and where, and how he pleases; so also are all elect persons, who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.”

      Some, like me, go further than the confessions and believe that all infants dying in infancy as well as those unable to be outwardly called by the word are elect and go to be with Jesus at death.

      But many of us Reformed have no issue with God regenerating an infant (after all, we believe in monergistic regeneration). Therefore imputed guilt is still dealt with by Christ’s satisfaction.”

      Now maybe someone else said that God elected infants and the disabled strictly because of their condition, but it was not I.

      If some did say that here, please point them out.

        wingedfooted1

        Les,

        You just said you believe…“that all infants dying in infancy as well as those UNABLE TO BE OUTWARDLY CALLED by the word are elect”.

        What is “unable to be outwardly called” but a condition?

        Les

        WF1,

        “What is “unable to be outwardly called” but a condition?”

        wf1, are you reading what you wrote and what I wrote?

        You earlier said, “Yet now we are told, by some calvinists anyway, that all those who die in infancy, or born with some kind of disability, are elect strictly because of a condition.”

        To which I replied with my earlier statement on the matter and then said, “Now maybe someone else said that God elected infants and the disabled strictly because of their condition, but it was not I.

        If some did say that here, please point them out.”

        Now read these words again. I have never said or indicated that infants or anyone else are elect “strictly because of their condition” or anything like that.

        Let me help you further, if you are trying to make it look like I and others are saying that the “condition” of being an infant or having a mental “condition” is WHY they are elect, well you look quite silly.

        But surely you are not trying to say that. Surely not.

          wingedfooted1

          Les,

          You said…. “Now maybe someone else said that God elected infants and the disabled strictly because of their condition, but it was not I.”

          Well, if they are not elect because of early death or disability (since, apparently, you are suggesting that is merely a coincidence) then on what basis can you claim that they are among the elect?

          Les

          wf1,

          I have no real interest in going further with you on this. In between some comments here and there, I have lots of work/ministry to do. Years ago I read an excellent treatment of this subject based on a scriptural analysis by R.A Webb. Title is “A Theology of Infant Salvation.” As well, read others such as Spurgeon’s, Sproul’s and MacArthur’s treatment of the subject. After you have gotten up to speed on the arguments for my (our) positions, then feel free to contact me and we can discuss it.

          wingedfooted1

          Les,

          “Who qualifies then, in our discussion, as an infant or a child who, dying, is saved–who dying, instantly goes to heaven? Who are we talking about? Answer: those who have not reached sufficient, mature understanding in order to comprehend convincingly the issues of law and grace, sin and salvation…… It’s not an age; IT IS A CONDITION…. That’s who we’re talking about: people in that condition where they cannot, in a mature way, understand and comprehend convincingly these issues. We’re talking about those people.” – John MacArthur – The Salvation of Babies Who Die

          Les

          wf1,

          MacArthur’s quote…Exactly!! Do you agree with him?

          Les

          wf1,

          One more comment here that I meant to make earlier. You have said,

          “If election to salvation is unconditional, then its unconditional. Yet now we are told, by some calvinists anyway, that all those who die in infancy, or born with some kind of disability, are elect strictly because of a condition.”

          Apparently you are using the word “condition” to try and poke holes in “unconditional election.”

          Nice try, but not a very biblically literate try. Unconditional election has to do with no merit in us.

          One writer states it thus:

          “The verb “to elect” simply means to choose. The doctrine of election refers to “that eternal act of God whereby He, in His sovereign good pleasure, and on account of no foreseen merit in them, chooses a certain number of men to be the recipients of special grace and of eternal salvation.”28 In order to emphasize the fact that God’s election or choice of certain sinners to be saved is not based upon anything that the sinner himself does, Reformed theologians refer to election to eternal life as unconditional election.”

          Another writer states it thus:

          “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—”
          (Romans 9:22-23 ESV)

          have a great day.

          wingedfooted1

          Les,

          Honestly? I thought MacArthur’s article “The Salvation of Babies Who Die” was very good (except for a few comments here or there). And from my understanding, MacArthur took a lot of heat for it. There were several Calvinists who took great exception to it.

          But, again, you can’t say in one breath “election to salvation is unconditional”. And then say “all babies who die in infancy are elect because of a condition”.

          That’s a contradiction and many in your camp know it. Even John Calvin questioned the salvation of all infants….

          “Moreover, infants who are to be saved (and that SOME are saved at this age is certain) must, without question, be previously regenerated by the Lord.” Institutes – book 4, chapter 16, section 17

          Les

          WF1,

          As I said,

          “Apparently you are using the word “condition” to try and poke holes in “unconditional election.”

          Nice try, but not a very biblically literate try. Unconditional election has to do with no merit in us.

          One writer states it thus:

          “The verb “to elect” simply means to choose. The doctrine of election refers to “that eternal act of God whereby He, in His sovereign good pleasure, and on account of no foreseen merit in them, chooses a certain number of men to be the recipients of special grace and of eternal salvation.”28 In order to emphasize the fact that God’s election or choice of certain sinners to be saved is not based upon anything that the sinner himself does, Reformed theologians refer to election to eternal life as unconditional election.””

          So I’m not trying to have it both ways. You are trying to impose a meaning of “condition” on what I and others believe. I’ve demonstrated clearly what unconditional in theology means. Let any who have ears to hear, hear.

          Les

          wingedfooted1

          Les,

          From the same article, MacArthur writes….

          “I was on a panel at a conference, a large conference, with three other pastors and it was a question and answer panel and I was sitting up there with these other very fine pastors whom I love and respect. And one of the questions came from the audience was, ‘What happens to babies that die?’ They went down the first three and the answer in each case was ‘I don’t know’, which isn’t very comforting.”

          wingedfooted1

          Les,

          You said…. “I’ve demonstrated clearly what unconditional in theology means.”

          Then why the division within Calvin-land? Why did, according to MacArthur, 3 out of 4 pastors answer “I don’t know”?

          Why did Calvin say “some” and not “all”?

Ben Simpson

Brad Reynolds,

I’ve enjoyed the conversation with you so much that I’d hate for our conversation to get lost in the mountain of comments here. Just so you know, I replied back to you twice starting here: http://sbctoday.wpengine.com/2012/06/03/today%E2%80%99s-discussion-topicarticle-two-of-%E2%80%9Ca-statement-of-the-traditional-southern-baptist-understanding-of-god%E2%80%99s-plan-of-salvation%E2%80%9D/#comment-22373

    Brad Reynolds

    Ben (and Les – since this answers you both. Even though I will use Ben’s comments)

    Thank you and may I state up front those are excellent responses. Gracious and well-thought out. Were I of your theological persuasion I would state “Oh, yeah!” But I am not and thus would take issue concerning a few things. Normally, I would never take this kind of time but you have shown yourselves to want to sharpen and be sharpened and so I welcome it and would love to visit at the convention face to face.

    Ben, I am not saying we are imputed with Adam’s sin when we sin. I used that language to argue that you seem to be implying that in regard to infants, which at the end of the day has the same effect as saying we are not held responsible for our own sin until we knowingly sin. But thank you for giving me an opportunity to clarify that.

    Let me deal with my understanding of Adam’s sin first which will help you to understand why I have such struggles with your position.

    1. ADAM’S SIN and ITS CONSEQUENCES (WHAT IT DID and DID NOT DO in regards to this discussion)

    God told Adam if he eats of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil he would die the day he ate it. We must define death. Death is more than a temporal separation from one’s body (which is what you limited it to in your discussion on infants’ death and Romans 5). Death is separation from LIFE (God). It is the whole being separated from life.

    Second, we must also look at what Adam did: 1) he transgressed God’s law and 2) he had a knowledge of good and evil which he apparently did not have before (Gen 3:24). This is vital to our discussion. Both a cognitive knowledge of right and wrong as well as transgression.

    Third, we must consider if God kept His Word. Some theologians say he did because now Adam began dying physically. But if death is more than a temporal separation of body and spirit than this solution does not hold water. I believe God kept his Word by transferring Adam’s sin (demonstrated by the sacrifice of the innocent animal by which he “covered” Adam’s sin). It was not Adam that died on that day, but a substitute innocent animal which pointed to Christ’s substitution (just as the sacrificial system did).

    Remember, death is separation from life (God) and the animal, since it does not have a spirit, was now eternally separated from life, in that, it ceased to exist. Unlike animals however, when we are separated from our bodies we still exist (because of our spirit) which means when we are temporally separated from our bodies (physical death), if at that time we are separated from Life (i.e. not saved) then it is eternal (i.e. eternally dying). This understanding will help when it comes to infants.

    Now, what Adam’s sin did not do. It did not destroy God’s image in man (and thus could not be TOTAL Depravity). Notice God’s command in Gen 9 that man not murder because man is IN the image of God. Even after the fall the image of God is still in man. Which means, whatever the image of God is (a discussion for another time) it WAS NOT affected by Adam’s sin and thus we cannot be totally depraved.

    2. WITH THIS UNDERSTANDING OF THE FALL WE MOVE TO INFANTS
    I argue that infants (and most, if not all, 3 year-olds) do not have a knowledge of right and wrong and thus when they innocently transgress God’s law (honor your father and mother) it does not separate them from the Glory of God (using your terms). They have yet to partake of the knowledge of good and evil and are thus wonderfully enjoying the very presence of life (in ways I envy at times – I am the father of four between the ages of four months and 5 years).

    Thus, when the child reaches the age of the knowledge of good and evil (and since he is incapable of not sinning because of the Adamic nature) he is then guilty before God not for Adam’s sin (or any other forefather for that matter) but for his own. These are the exact two components involved in Adam’s sin: transgressing God’s law and the knowledge of good and evil.

    Thus, when anyone dies in the presence of LIFE he continues in that state for eternity, but when anyone dies in the absence of life he continues in that state for eternity. Infants, and young children for that matter, who die in the presence of Life because of their innocence of the knowledge of good and evil continue to be with LIFE forever.

    This understanding fits perfectly with Romans 5 and Dr. Millard Erickson’s (a modified Calvinist) understanding. Dr. Erickson argues Romans 5 on behalf of infants. His argument is: since Romans 5 unites Adam’s sin on behalf of all man with Christ’ righteousness on behalf of all man (Romans 5:18-19) and since Christ righteousness is not applied until a conscious decision then judgment and condemnation are not applied until a conscious decision to transgress. I must state I am grateful to this modified Calvinist for pointing me in this direction for a couple of reasons: 1) it seems to point to unlimited atonement; 2) it addresses the issue with infants.

    This understanding maintains God’s righteousness.

    Now if I may I would like to point out that from my perspective your view does not maintain God’s righteousness and somewhat minimizes the work of Christ.

    You argue that in the case of infants God graciously forgives them of their sins not because of repentance or faith in the work of Christ but because he chooses to “due to natural inability.” Whether you like it or not you have just opened the door for people to have their personal sins forgiven by some other means than repentance and faith (ie – God’s graciousness).

    A couple of problems here. First, this is the same argument some Universalists use only they say “spiritual inability” rather than “natural inability” (by natural I will assume you mean the physical development of the child based on the rest of your statement).

    Second the false dichotomy you have created between man’s body and his spirit is not found in Scripture. Sure Paul deals with the flesh and the spirit but when he says flesh he is not speaking of “physical” abilities. He is speaking of the sinful tendencies in man. It’s almost as if you have reversed Plato – spirit is evil (spiritual inability (the non-elect) = hell) but matter is good (physical inability = heaven).

    Honestly, this line of reasoning is extremely dangerous. What kind of God is it that makes His son suffer when he didn’t have to? If God can just graciously forgive without an individual repenting of his sins and placing faith in Christ than why doesn’t he just graciously forgive us all. Whether, you like it or not you have now allowed individuals into heaven whose sins were not repented of. That is what is shocking. A whole slew of individuals who can proudly state on the streets of gold: “I never repented of my sins.”

    PS – concerning your accusation of crowns – what crowns – they never did good anymore than they personally sinned. And you yourself admit the accusation of earned heaven was a stretch to say the least.

    Now, allow me to address a couple of ancillary issues.

    1) If all infants that die in the womb are elected because of natural inability then should we not applaud the abortion sites? For if there was a precious child that was going to be born but would never place his faith in Christ (because he couldn’t…he was non-elect) but by being destroyed in the womb we have now made him elect…should we not be grateful for abortions (I wonder how many non-elect abortionists have now made elect). Unlike the Calvinists I believe every infant in the womb that reaches the age of accountability has the capacity and ability to have faith in Christ based on the gracious initiative of God to all men for salvation.

    Please know I am not trying to be trifling but your position is somewhat scary for me because of the implications.

    2) How can you state all are imputed with Adam’s sin if the elect are saved via election and this election occurred before the foundation of the world (before Adam’s sin). If they are saved before his sin how can they be imputed with his sin?

    Finally, I will gladly admit that my position is not infallible at all. But it seems to me to fit best with the whole of Scripture.

      wingedfooted1

      Blessings, Brad.

      I enjoyed reading your comments.

      This is as I see it. Please correct me if we see it differently.

      I believe that all people are born with a sin nature. By that I mean we all inherited a sin nature from the fall and will, given time, sin. I believe we all die spiritually when we sin, just as Adam did. I believe this is what Paul was referring to when he said in Romans 7:9-11…

      “Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death.”

      I believe this is the age of accountability.

      I do not believe people are born depraved, but become depraved over time. For me, depravity is the continual rejection of the light given by God thru His word and even creation itself as shown in Romans 1:18-32.

      And, finally, I appreciate your comments on the issue of abortion. I found it odd that abortions are only reserved for the elect.

        Darryl Hill

        wingedfooted, you remind of many others I’ve met over the years in ministry. They believe something that sounds good to them. You give yourself away in several places when you say “to me” and then give your position. The truth is, it doesn’t matter what we want to believe. It only matters what the Scripture says. And here is the Apostle Paul speaking about these issues.

        12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—
        13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
        14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
        15 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.
        16 The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification.
        17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
        18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.
        19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.

        One transgression resulted in condemnation for all men. This is the reason why the earlier Baptist confessions made this clear. The Second London Baptist Confession (from 1689) stated it this way…

        “They [our first parents] being the root, and by God’s appointment, standing in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of the sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation, being now conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, the servants of sin, the subjects of death, and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal, unless the Lord Jesus set them free.”

        What has changed? Baptists have changed. Truth remains truth regardless of what we’ve come to prefer.

      Jay Beerley

      In reference to point number 2 there at the end…

      Name ONE person who believes that people are saved via election? Good grief. The misrepresentations abound on these threads. How about a little reformation solas?

      We are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone. That’s how it happens. Have you seen a Reformed ordo salutis? This is tiresome.

      Darryl Hill

      Brad, this paragraph…
      “Now, what Adam’s sin did not do. It did not destroy God’s image in man (and thus could not be TOTAL Depravity). Notice God’s command in Gen 9 that man not murder because man is IN the image of God. Even after the fall the image of God is still in man. Which means, whatever the image of God is (a discussion for another time) it WAS NOT affected by Adam’s sin and thus we cannot be totally depraved.”
      That illustrates a clear misunderstanding of Total Depravity, which leaves you slashing away at a straw man. This is what I find so often in these debates.

      I love the way RC Sproul describes Total Depravity. It might be better described as Total Inability. John MacArthur delivered an excellent sermon on this topic at T4G a few years back. It doesn’t mean that man has lost the image of God in any way or even that he is as evil as he could be. It simply means that, in regard to his salvation, his is unable to choose repentance and faith. It is as Jesus stated in John 6-

      63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.
      64 “But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him.
      65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”

      This is the crux of Total Depravity. The phrase “can come” here denotes ability to do something. On the other hand, Jesus said…

      25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me.
      26 “But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep.
      27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;
      28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.

      It’s clear that some of these people lacked the “ability” to believe. This is the crux of Total Depravity. And Jesus told them why- it’s not because some had a natural ability others lacked. It’s because some had been chosen and enabled to respond.

      Regarding article 2, it does come off as semi-pelagian, even if it is not the intent. The entire statement is reactionary, in my opinion. If God is doing a work in the SBC, who are we to stop it? I think the fear of the entire statement is unfounded. I’m a reformed Baptist serving in a non-reformed church and I have no “grand conspiracy” to change people’s minds and “convert” them to “Calvinism” (which is a poor description of what I believe to begin with). No, I intend to contend for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and God will do His work. I meet with some reformed pastors about once a quarter (all Baptists, and growing) and we have no conspiracies, either.

      This entire document will serve to divide and could ultimately harm the Kingdom. The BF&M is enough and things should be left as they are. Those reacting should take a deep breath and consider the ramifications of these actions. I would suggest this document be retracted or simply serve as a point of discussion before something worse happens.

Lydia

“2) How can you state all are imputed with Adam’s sin if the elect are saved via election and this election occurred before the foundation of the world (before Adam’s sin). If they are saved before his sin how can they be imputed with his sin?”

Excellent point. Retroactive, perhaps in Calvinism? This whole issue seems to boil down to the basic character of God.

You have no idea what a joy it has been to read your and Adam Harwood’s comments (and posts) .

Brad Reynolds

Jay,
Thank you for replying,
The reference to election was in terms of infants (context is important). According to your statement “we are saved by grace through faith alone” and the Calvinist’ insistence on the inherent guilt of Adam it appears you have confined infants to hell. Which is fine if that is your position, if not, then please see my comments from which you removed my quote.

Darryl,
Thank you also for your reply. The comments about Image of God and Total Depravity were not intended for those who affirm Total Depravity does not affect the whole of man but rather those who have affirmed it does. I apologize for any confusion.

Ben Simpson

Brad,

This is in response to your last comment to me found here.

It certainly feels like our conversation is coming to an end. Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to spend the time this week that this discussion deserves, but priorities have been the priority. I’m glad to have dialogued with you here and would be glad to meet up with you some time. We have much in common on the homefront. I have four children as well between the ages of 6yo and 5mo. Unfortunately, I won’ be at NOLA this year. Maybe we can get together at the next Together for the Gospel (just kidding!).

When you said, “Thank you and may I state up front those are excellent responses. Gracious and well-thought out. Were I of your theological persuasion I would state “Oh, yeah!” But I am not and thus would take issue concerning a few things,” you reminded me of Agrippa with Paul in Acts 26:28. Don’t let your preconceived notions hinder you. Come on over the “dark” side! ;o)

I didn’t think you were saying that we are imputed with Adam’s sin when we sin. If so, you would be out of step with “the statement.” However, I do find it strange that you point to Erickson concerning original sin since you do not believe the Bible teaches we are guilty of Adam’s sin, period. Erickson at least puts forth an understanding of becoming guilty of Adam’s sin by affirming our own sin nature (the last page of chapter 30 in Erickson’s Christian Theology). Nowhere does he go so far as saying that we are not guilty AT ALL for Adam’s sin because Romans 5 will not let you do that. I respectfully disagree with where Erickson’s lands concerning the inheritance of Adam’s guilt, but he didn’t dare go as far you guys have gone. You leave room for Erickson’s position in the ambiguity of your denial that “Adam’s sin… rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned,” but remove that room when you affirm that “each person’s sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God.”

I agree with you that “death” has multiple meanings. There’s physical death, which is cessation of biological life, and there’s spiritual death, which is cessation of fellowship with God. I limited death to physical death in my comment because I believe that that’s the primary death Paul is referring to when he said that death spread to all men. Paul is pointing to tangible evidence, and physical death is that tangible evidence of spiritual death.

Furthermore, I really like your point that although God had promised Adam that he would surely die the day he sinned, God was merciful and instead killed a substitute for him, which was a type of Christ. Very good!! But, I have to believe that the death of that animal instead of Adam simply bought him some time because Adam still physically died. Surely, the day he sinned he spiritually died, but if he had never sinned, he would still be here today walking the earth. Agreed? You don’t believe that physical death was part of God’s original order of things, do you?

I agree with you wholeheartedly, Brad, that Adam’s sin did not destroy God’s image in man. I’m not sure why you assert that Total Depravitists disagree. I respectfully say that either you do not understand the doctrine of total depravity, or you’ve been taught a doctrine of total depravity different from what I’ve been taught. The “total” in total depravity doesn’t point to the total loss of the image of God but rather to the effect of sin on the total of man’s faculties. There is no part of humanity that sin has not affected. We are not as bad as we could be, but every part is bad enough.

However, while I can agree with you that the image of God in man has not been destroyed, I cannot agree with you that Adam’s sin did not affect the image of God in man. Is that really what you meant to say? While not destroying the image of God in man, it most certainly did affect the image of God in man. It corrupted it so that we don’t perfectly reflect the image of God like Adam did pre-fall.

Also, you have thrown me for a loop when you say, “Unlike animals however, when we are separated from our bodies we still exist (because of our spirit) which means when we are temporally separated from our bodies (physical death), if at that time we are separated from Life (i.e. not saved) then it is eternal (i.e. eternally dying).” Are you saying that spiritual death doesn’t actually happen until a lost person physically dies? That’s what I’m getting out of your statement, and if I’m understanding you correctly, that’s a new one on me. I don’t see how that squares in any way with the Bible.

Okay, so you point out that Adam first transgressed the law and then gained the knowledge of good and evil. You then make the parallel with children. First, let me point out that Adam gaining the knowledge of good and evil actually made him like God (Genesis 3:22). So, there’s nothing inherently sinful about having the knowledge of good and evil. As Kenneth Mathews points out, the problem is not that they have this knowledge but that they gained it unlawfully (NAC, volume 1A, p256). I agree. So, I encourage you to rethink what you are saying here.

You have pointed to the wrong components of Adam’s sin. The first component is the giving of the law unto someone who’s able to understand the law (Genesis 2:16-17). The second component of Adam’s sin is transgressing the law (Genesis 3:6). That’s the essence of sin, and as I argued in my article on the eternal destiny of little ones, the “moment of accountability” is not just the capacity of moral reasoning or knowing right from wrong. My then 21-month-old daughter already had inklings of that, and my 3-year-old son definitely has this capacity. So, if it’s simply about knowing right from wrong as you seem to be saying, then they are already guilty of their own sin and liable to eternal hell if they should die before trusting in Christ, especially my 3yo. Without a doubt, he knows the law and transgresses the law. He’s a transgressor and a guilty one at that. That’s why I argue that the moment of accountability is not just the capacity of moral reasoning or knowing right from wrong. Rather, I argue that it’s the capacity to see God’s glory and embrace it, which for most children comes between 8 and 12 years old as they develop the ability for true abstract thinking.

Brother, I’m not sure how you can conclude that my view minimizes the work of Christ when I say that EVERY person in heaven will be there by grace purchased through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Is it not you who minimizes the work of Christ by having a multitude in heaven who got there by their own sinlessness instead of Christ’s sinlessness?

I’m not sure why you made such absurd statements about my position leading to the applauding of abortion sites. Come on, Brad. You were staying above the belt until then. The ironic thing is that the same absurd statement could be made about your position, “Kill them while they’re innocent so that they’ll all go heaven before become guilty and reject Christ!” If my position scares you, then yours should as well.

Finally, nobody was saved before Adam’s sin. Certainly some were elected before Adam’s sin, but even when God elected the elect, He saw them as fallen. That’s true for both conditional and unconditional electionists! All who are saved are saved after Adam’s sin by grace through faith in Jesus.

Again, Brad, thank you for the conversation . I’ve appreciated your thoughtfulness, fairness, and civility. Although this conversation has come to an end, I’m sure we’ll cross paths again on another topic. Until then, blessings!

    T. R.

    God promised that “the day” Adam ate the forbidden fruit, he would surely die. Satan countered “you will not surely die.” Adam and Eve ate the fruit and they did not die. Either Satan was telling the truth and God was lying or they died spiritually that very day! This is why (I believe) that Jesus scolds Nicodemus in John 3 for not realizing that all people need to be born again. It is as if He were saying, “You call yourself the teacher of Israel, yet you don’t realize all people must be born again? Haven’t you even read the first three chapters of Genesis Nicodemus?”

Brad Reynolds

Ben
I have enjoyed this also. And I hate you won’t be in NOLA. But maybe next year in hot Houston we can meet.

There is a lot here but if you want to get to the PRIMARY ISSUE GO TO NUMBER 5.

1. First, I will address the paragraph about Adam’s death. It was the divorcing of physical death from spiritual death which was somewhat troublesome for me. Physical death is NOT necessarily separation from LIFE. In fact, it could actually usher one, more fully into the presence of LIFE.

There is no question that physical death was part of the curse of sin, but that is because man is a physical being and because of the unity between body and spirit. Thus, had man not had a physical body (say like an angel) but still sinned, the penalty would not be physical death, but it would still be TRUE DEATH (separation from LIFE forever). On the other hand, were man nothing more than a physical being the only penalty would be cessation of physical life (Once again separation from LIFE – like the animal that took Adam’s place). The issue was never the separation of the spirit from the body but the separation from LIFE.

In fact, one of the most gracious acts by God, was to ENSURE (after the fall of man) that the body WOULD be separated from the spirit (physical death) in order that both (the whole man) might be removed from this cursed “ground” (Gen 3:17) and reunited in HIS manifested presence. He did this by placing an angel at the garden of Eden (Gen 3:22-24).

Oh, how gracious of our God. Can you imagine living on this sin cursed world forever? Praise be unto God!

This is why “death has lost its sting.” That is why physical death is desired by the Christian (Phil 1:21-23), not because it is part of the curse but because it ushers us out of this cursed ground and into the manifested presence of LIFE.

2. If the Image of God is now “affected” (which I will assume you are meaning the twisting or perverting that sin brings) then is it truly still the image of God?

3. To your question “Are you saying that spiritual death doesn’t actually happen until a lost person physically dies?” – No, please reread my statement – I am saying if one dies physically WHILE one is separated from LIFE (lost) then that separation from life is eternal.

4. You are right and I think you are making my point when you say “So, there’s nothing inherently sinful about having the knowledge of good and evil. As Kenneth Mathews points out, the problem is not that they have this knowledge but that they gained it unlawfully”
My point was not that the knowledge of good and evil was evil at all. But that now Adam HAD the capacity to know right from wrong innately within him. This ability (not inherently wrong) coupled with doing wrong brought judgment. Infants do not have the capacity to know innately right from wrong.

Unlike the sin components you use (although I think we are close here) this makes those who are not under the law still guilty because they have an innate ability (when they reach the age of accountability) to grasp parts of the law (do not murder) even if no one ever told them.

My 4yo has yet to KNOW taking a toy from a store is innately wrong. He knows it is wrong because daddy says it is wrong. But if daddy said eating green beans is evil then he would think eating green beans was evil. He does not yet have the innate ability to know right and wrong. Thus, in reply to your comment about your 3yo: “Without a doubt, he knows the law and transgresses the law,” I would simply say he knows what you tell him the law is, not what the law actually is.

5. You dodged the question concerning how infants gained the GRACE of God for their personal sin. No Calvinist yet (who believes infants go to heaven) can tell me how infants gain that GRACE. If it is not by repentance and faith, then how? Would not a Universalist say God passes out Grace without repentance and faith? You say “EVERY person in heaven will be there by grace purchased through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.” A Universalist could also say that. I am not calling you one – I am asking how infants can be in heaven without repentance and faith if they are guilty sinners?

Again, thanks for sharing and I sorely wish we could have done this face to face – it would have saved a lot of time for us both – maybe:)

    Ben Simpson

    Brad,

    I’m just going to respond briefly to #2 and #4 and then answer your #5 since you say that’s the primary issue.

    2) Even though the image of God is now affected (ie, twisted, perverted) by sin, yes, we still truly bear the image of God. Praise be to God that through the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit the image of God in us is being brought back to perfection!

    4) I like what you are saying about “those who are not under the law are still guilty because they have an innate ability (when they reach the age of accountability) to grasp parts of the law (do not murder) even if no one ever told them,” but I would take out your first parenthetical statement. A child has the ability to innately know right from wrong long before he/she reaches the moment of accountability.

    5) I thought that I answered you. In fact, I know I attempted to. Whatever the case may be, I assure you I didn’t dodge you. Given the length of the posts in our exchange, forgive me for not hitting hard enough on something that you thought was major amongst all of the other major stuff I addressed with you. Perhaps you should go a few pay-grades above me for this answer, but let me give it my full attention, and I’ll do my absolute best.

    As I’ve said before, I believe the Bible to teach that all children who die before their moment of accountability will go to Heaven not because they are innocent (they have Adam’s guilt and pile on their own) but because God does not hold them accountable for their sin due to their physical inability to grasp the glory of God or the gospel, leaving them with an excuse before God. Physical inability is implied as a sufficient excuse to escape the wrath of God our sin deserves in John 9:41 and Romans 1:20.

    Every single person is born with not only a physical inability to grasp the glory of God but also a moral inability to turn from sin to God. However, as a person develops physically, their physical inability is removed and only the moral inability remains. This removal is nothing more than coming to a person’s moment of accountability.

    A person who has both physical inability and moral inability is excused by God but one who has only moral inability is not. It’s for this reason that every person BEFORE their moment of accountability will go to heaven apart from repentance and faith if they should die, and it’s for this reason that every person AFTER their moment of accountability who rejects the glory of God and the gospel in Jesus Christ until they die will go to hell.

    Again, children who die before they reach the moment of accountability had their sins imputed to Jesus, and Jesus’ righteousness is imputed to them by God’s mercy and grace. They get into heaven because of the grace of God bought through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This imputation happens apart from repentance and faith because developmentally they are not able to grasp the glory of God and the gospel which leads to repentance and faith. Repentance and faith are out of their realm of PHYSICAL ability. Therefore, God is merciful to them, and as you well know, God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy.

      Brad Reynolds

      Ben,
      I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed this! Let’s kind of wrap at least some of this up though –

      2) We will disagree:)

      4) Disagreed

      5) Also, please forgive me, you are correct you did answer how a person can be in heaven without repentance or faith (i.e. – natural inability), but I followed up with: If God can just graciously forgive an individual of his personal sin(s) without that individual repenting of his sins and placing his faith in Christ then why doesn’t He just graciously forgive us all? This was what I meant went unanswered.

      You have an additional way (other than repentance and faith) to have someone forgiven of his sins. Namely, God’s choice to graciously do so. Which is the same argument by Universalists, only they do not make the dichotomy between body and spirit you seem to be making.

      This false dichotomy between man’s body (natural inability) and his spirit (moral inability) is not found in Scripture. Sure Paul deals with the flesh and the spirit but when he says flesh he is not speaking of “physical” abilities. He is speaking of the sinful tendencies in man.

      It’s almost as if you have reversed Plato: – spirit is evil (spiritual inability (the non-elect) = hell) but matter is good (physical inability = heaven). Further, if you are correct, and there is such a dichotomy, should not God forgive the physical part of the being but not the spiritual (thereby allowing the body of infants in heaven but not their spirits) – You would probably object and argue this is absurd. Which is true and spotlights the precise problem with the dichotomy.

      But, you have, far more than any other Calvinist, given a big-league swing at this curve ball. Thank YOU

      PS – Romans 1:20 – no disagreement.

      Concerning John 9:41 I am not convinced that infants is what Jesus has in mind. But even if one applies it in such a way notice He does not say “your sins would be forgiven” but you have “no sin” – thus, if one were to use this passage in reference to what we are discussing it seems one would fall on the side of innocence not guilt for infants.

    T. R.

    I’m a Calvinist who believes infants go to Heaven. I also believe it is just as easy for God to impart faith to an infant as it is to a blind, deaf and spiritually dead adult. John the Baptist was regenerated by the Holy Spirit in his mothers womb. He rejoiced at the presence of Jesus from his mothers womb. John the Baptist is an example of faith being imparted to an infant.

      Brad Reynolds

      T.R
      I fear I would struggle a little more than you with using Jesus’ cousin’ (and the man who Jesus said there was not a greater born) coming into the physical presence of God and leaping in the womb as an example of an infant’s saving faith in God.

Lasaro Flores

Specifically, where in the Bible can one find the Doctrine of the Free Will of Man for Salvation? If man has a Free Will which is the deciding factor in salvation, does that nullify the Free Grace of God for salvation? Both CANNOT be true; for either one one is saved by the one and not the other; or to put it in another words, one has to be “sovereign” over the other. These are legitimate questions… I am not playing with words. So, who does the saving? The sinner, by allowing God to save him by a “free will decision to be saved;” or does God, by the power of His Free Grace, that not only provides ALL that the sinner needs to be saved by “drawing” and “giving” to the spiritually dead sinner the “willingness” to come to Christ Jesus to be saved by Him? The question that has to be answered is this: Are you saved by your Free Will , or are you saved by the Free Grace of God? Which is it? God WILL NOT accept both to save a sinner! Please give me Scriptures to disprove what I have asked. God’s Grace be with you in Christ Jesus. Amen.

    T. R.

    Good question Lasaro. Every signer of that document should have to respond to questions like these because the real questions that the document raises is the nullification of salvation by grace alone.

    T.R.

T. R.

There are three Imputations in the Bible:

1: Adam’s guilt has been “imputed” to the human race

2: Our guilt has been “imputed” to Christ

3: Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to us.

Each of these imputations is crucial in the Christian faith. In fact, I don’t believe there is a more important topic for us that than Christ has taken upon Himself our sin and has credited us with His righteousness. Also, the Apostle Paul inseparably links the first imputation (Original Sin) with the other two imputations.

It is perfectly plain that the whole Scriptural plan of redemption is founded on the apostasy of the whole human race from God. It assumes that men, all men—infants as well as adults—are in a state of sin and misery from which none but a divine Savior can deliver them.

This is why the doctrine of Original Sin is important in Christianity. The atonement of Christ makes no sense without it.

To deny any one of the Bible’s three imputations is heresy. Does Article Two of the above “SBC” statement deny the imputation of Adam’s guilt to the human race?? If so, it is heresy. Period.

Article two says the following “We deny that Adam’s sin… rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned.” This is a clear denial of Scripture’s first imputation, which is heresy. The statement needed to be modified or signing it is actually placing you outside of Christian orthodoxy.

T.R.

    Brad Reynolds

    TR,
    I think I could restate our objection to inherited guilt like this: as soon as an individual is CAPABLE of moral action he becomes a transgressor and is under condemnation. – Would that be acceptable?

      T. R.

      Brad: The fact that there is an objection to inherited guilt shows there is a big problem with the theology in question. Does the doctrinal position of the statement rest on inherited guilt from Adam being done away with? If not, why are they pushing for something that flirts with heresy? If it does rest on doing away with inherited guilt, then it is the document itself which should be done away with.

      T. R.

      Hello again Brad,

      If you believe that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to all believers, then you must also believe that Adam’s guilt has been imputed to the human race. Otherwise, you must reject the SBC’s Sandy Creek Confession of Faith. The new document obviously is against that confession, see for yourself below:

      Article 3
      That Adam fell from his original state of purity, and that his sin is IMPUTED to his posterity; that human nature is corrupt, and that man, of his own free will and ability, is impotent to regain the state in which he was primarily placed.

      Article 4
      We believe in election from eternity, effectual calling by the Holy Spirit of God, and justification in his sight only by the IMPUTATION of Christ’s righteousness. And we believe that they who are thus elected, effectually called, and justified, will persevere through grace to the end, that none of them be lost.

T. R.

Tom Ascol of Founders Ministries shows that part of the statement is “in violation of the plain reading of Article IV of the Baptist Faith and Message (BFM) statement of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

His post can be read here:
http://blog.founders.org/2012/06/response-to-statement-of-traditional_11.html

rhutchin

The Baptist Faith and Message states, “Only the grace of God can bring [people] into His holy fellowship and enable [people] to fulfill the creative purpose of God.” Without the grace of God acting on the sinner, there can be no salvation. The crux of the matter here is whether a person is born a sinner or only becomes a sinner after committing a sin. BF&M says that people are born sinners and consequently, acting true to their nature, they sin.

The above statement states that people are “inclined toward sin.” In other words, people are born good but the influences of sin cause them to sin. It then states, “Each person’s sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God,…and condemnation to an eternity in hell.” Again, it is not because they are born as sinners but only after they become sinners because they sin that they incur God’s wrath. To drive this point home, the statement states, “We deny that Adam’s sin…rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned.” The affirmation and denial of the character of people conditioned on their sin is a major reversal of that which has been espoused by Southern Baptists in the past.

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