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Adam Harwood, Professor of Christian Studies at Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, GA, recently argued that Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, because they believe in original guilt, may not be able to affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (BF&M2K). You can find part 1 of his argument here and part 2 here. I’m amazed at the accusation from Dr. Harwood for many reasons:
1) Al Mohler, the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, served on the committee that crafted the BF&M2K. I don’t think he would have helped craft the BF&M2K and unashamedly affirm the BF&M2K today if he disagreed with it.
2) The BF&M2K says in “Article III. Man,”
In the beginning man was innocent of sin and was endowed by his Creator with freedom of choice. By his free choice man sinned against God and brought sin into the human race. 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.
Professor Harwood argues that this statement affirms that Adam’s guilt did not spread to the rest of the human race. The reality, however, is that the BF&M2K begins discussing man’s sin with this statement: “man [Adam] sinned against God and brought sin into the human race.” Harwood left this statement out of his rebuttal to Dr. Schreiner and SBTS (Part 1 and Part 2). We must understand the rest of the BF&M2K statement in light of Adam bringing sin into the human race. This means that sin spread to the human race, otherwise, the statement means nothing about the human race, only Adam. I assume that Harwood believes the only “sin” Adam spread to the human race is a “nature and an environment inclined toward sin.” I don’t believe that sin can be reduced to a nature and environment since Jesus died to redeem us from sin. Sin always brings condemnation, but let’s see what the BF&M2K says in Article II,
He [Jesus] honored the divine law by His personal obedience, and in His substitutionary death on the cross He made provision for the redemption of men from sin.
If we grant Harwood’s interpretation about Adam “bringing sin into the human race” referring only to man’s inclination to sin and his sinful environment, the BF&M2K calls these two elements “sin” and argues that Jesus died to redeem mankind from sin, which means that man’s sinful nature and sinful environment separate all mankind from God (requiring redemption). Otherwise, why does the BF&M2K speak of Jesus dying to redeem man from sin? Jesus actively atoned for man’s sin, which implies that man is condemned due to his sinful nature since this is how Adam’s sin passed to the human race; otherwise, what is Jesus saving these humans from? All humans need salvation from sin (including sinful nature and environment since the BF&M2K calls these “sin”). Thus, after we understand the BF&M2K on its own terms that Adam brought sin into the human race, we can understand the rest of the BF&M2K:
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.
I agree with this statement while affirming original guilt. Adam brought sin into the human race. Where there is sin, there is condemnation. The BF&M2K at least implies that all are condemned in Adam (since Adam brought sin into the human race), but face greater condemnation when they morally choose to sin. The Confession of Faith of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, The Abstract of Principles, agrees:
God originally created Man in His own image, and free from sin; but, through the temptation of Satan, he transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original holiness and righteousness; whereby his posterity inherit a nature corrupt and wholly opposed to God and His law, are under condemnation, and as soon as they are capable of moral action, become actual transgressors.
I affirm both the BF&M2K and the Abstract of Principles. Harwood, on the other hand, is arguing that Adam’s guilt did not spread to the entire human race in a manner worthy of condemnation even though the BF&M2K argues that Jesus died to redeem man from sin (including sinful nature and sinful environment if we’re to understand the BF&M2K on its own terms).
3) If Professor Harwood denies that sinners are separated from God due to their sinful natures and environments, and that Jesus died to actively redeem sinners from their sinful natures and sinful environments, then I believe he misinterprets what the BF&M2K says. The BF&M2K defines sin as, “a nature and an environment inclined toward sin,” in addition to transgressions. Yet, Harwood believes that mankind is only condemned for his own transgressions, and his sinful nature and environment are not “sin” that requires a trust in Christ for redemption. The only answer for sin in the BF&M2K is faith in Jesus Christ. Consider Article IV of the BF&M2K where sin is only forgiven based on faith in Christ:
Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.
Therefore, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is justified in arguing in favor of original guilt, since the BF&M2K argues man needs redemption due to sin (sinful nature, sinful environment, and transgressions). This redemption is only applied through saving faith in Christ Jesus according to the BF&M2K. The difference between Harwood and I is that even though I believe my interpretation of the BF&M2K is the “plain reading” of the document, I believe the BF&M2K is ambiguous enough to allow both of us to affirm it.
Let’s unite brother to reach the nations.