Adam Harwood, Assistant Professor of Christian Studies at Truett-McConnell College in Clevelend, Georgia, answers a critical question on the minds of many Christians, especially parents, about the eternal destiny of their youngest children. Dr. Harwood provides a meticulous survey of the biblical witness and the historical responses and arrives at a most biblical conclusion. The book includes a foreword by Paige Patterson and has been endorsed by Charles White (Spring Arbor University), James Leo Garrett Jr. (Southwestern Seminary), and Rustin J. Umstattd (Midwestern Seminary).
This language is clearly different from what was originally professed by Baptists, and it becomes obvious that modern Southern Baptists have rejected the doctrine of original sin along with its component of imputed guilt…
…Paul’s realism regarding the human race outside of God’s righteousness in Christ is a necessary framework to his good news that those who have been justified have life (5:18-19); the only way to properly understand what it means to live in Christ is to understand what it meant to be a part of Adam’s race and under Adam’s curse. The placement of these verses helps cement the idea that Paul believed in original guilt: those who have passed from death to life (i.e. from Adam to Christ) have passed from being guilty of Adam’s transgression to being justified (i.e. declared not guilty) in Christ…
…Underlying verse 13 is Paul’s belief that sin is not necessarily an act, but an objective condition, and he is careful to distinguish between sin as a “power” over people and specific transgressions of a known command…
…The sin-condemnation-death complex of Adam is contrasted with the righteousness-justification-life complex of Jesus to make a simple point: the solidaric relationship of humanity with Adam leads to death while the solidaric relationship of believers with Jesus leads to life.59 To dismiss the point that all humanity is condemned by the imputation of Adam’s guilt is to dismiss the truth all that believers are made righteous by the imputation of Christ’s obedience; without the former, the latter cannot make sense.
The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith and the The Philadelphia Confession of Faith (1742) both say:
They 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.
The New Hampshire Baptist Confession, 1833:
all mankind are now sinners, not by constraint, but choice; being by nature utterly void of that holiness required by the law of God, positively inclined to evil; and therefore under just condemnation to eternal ruin, without defense or excuse.
In 1925 the SBC adopted the first Baptist Faith and Message. Section three on the fall of man had this to say:
“[Adam’s] posterity inherit a nature corrupt and in bondage to sin, are under condemnation, and as soon as they are capable of moral action, become actual transgressors.”
In 1963 section three was edited subtly, but significantly. This confession does not accept that men are by nature objects of wrath and instead moves the time of man’s condemnation to after they commit their own transgressions. In 1998, the Baptist Faith and Message was amended to add a section on the family, but this statement on the fall and all other aspects remained this same:
“[Adam’s] posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin, and as soon as they are capable of moral action become transgressors and are under condemnation.”
The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 continues to convey the same doctrine:
“Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation.”
This tragedy is being foisted upon the SBC by those who loathe to call themselves Arminians but are so at least in this aspect:
The Remonstrant Opinions revealed that Classical Arminianism taught the error of Partial Depravity. In his polemic against Arminianism as it reared its ugly head in England, the Puritan scholar John Owen produced a booklet entitled A Display of Arminianism to combat this heresy. Quoting from the Classical Arminians of his day and refuting their arguments, Owen has incidentally given us a window into what these Classical Arminians taught.
In his book, Owen devoted a chapter Of Original Sin to examining the doctrine of sin and imputation held to by the Classical Arminians, where Classical Arminianism’s doctrine of the non-imputation of sin is shown.
Quoting the Arminian Venator, it was said that “Infants are simply in that estate in which Adam was before his fall, …”. Boraeus states that “Adam sinned in his own proper person, and there is no reason why God should impute that sin of his unto infants”. Corvinus affirmed that “That it is absurd, that by one man’s disobedience many should be made actually disobedient”. In the Remonstrant Apology, they have even said that “We confess that the sin of Adam may be thus far said to be imputed to his posterity, inasmuch as God would have them all born obnoxious to that punishment which Adam incurred by his sin, or permitted that evil which was inflicted on him to descend on them”, and “We account not original sin for a sin properly so called, that should make the posterity of Adam to deserve of Adam to deserve the wrath of God, nor for an evil that may properly be called a punishment, but only for an infirmity of nature”.
All of these evidences Owen collected and deduce their view of original sin. Original sin as historically defined is the imputation of Adam’s sin unto the whole human race without respect to the actual sinning of anyone – this the Classical Arminians deny. Rather, especially as seen in the case of infants, infants are born without the stain of original sin (guilt). Through the use of the concept of “prevenient grace”, all infants are stated to be born without the guilt of sin. As Owen states, the Classical Arminians redefine Original Sin to mean “a defect of nature, and not of this or that particular person”.
Therefore, in Classical Arminianism, all men are born with an “original sin nature” (thus an “infirmity of nature”), but without “original guilt”. Sin is genetic rather than federal, transmitted but not imputed. Infants therefore are said to be actually sinless but possessing a sinful nature, and it is from this errant notion that the entire Arminian notion of “an age of accountability” is derived, not to mention the teaching that infants by default go to heaven.
On the topic of sin, justification and imputation then lies a most pernicious error in Classical Arminianism, which makes it heresy. It is not simply a denial of Predestination that makes Classical Arminianism heresy, but its denial of Original Guilt, the doctrine of the imputation of Adam’s sin etc which stands behind their teaching of Partial Depravity, which makes it heresy indeed.
As is noted in the Angelfire article, the tension between Evangelical Arminianism and Classical Arminianism is too taut, the former is always in danger of snapping under the strain of explanation which results in the same heresy:
In conclusion therefore, Evangelical Arminianism is indeed orthodox, though at a very steep cost in terms of logical and theological inconsistencies. Due to its instability, Evangelical Arminianism tend to settle into either of two trajectories: towards Calvinism or some form of Liberalism (or it could remain irrationally evangelical). While we would gladly call Evangelical Arminians our brothers and sisters in Christ, we know that they are constantly on a precipice near error, and we should strive to bring them closer to the truth of Scripture, instead of toying with teachings that come, as the Canons of Dordt put it, from the “pits of hell”.
The further the SBC removes itself from its reformation roots, the fewer mooring lines remain to keep it within the safe harbor of historic orthodox Christianity. As has been noted by many, this tendency of the SBC is a drift back to Rome and wreckage upon the rocks of its semi-Pelagianism, the over-throwing of justification by faith, and the embracing of salvation by good works.