Denial of Original Guilt: Benefits, Problems, and a Call for Exposition
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.
We deny that Adam’s sin... rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned.
Rick Patrick stressed that the document does not deny original sin, but "what is being denied here is more properly understood as original guilt" [emphasis added]. Laying aside the question of whether a denial of "original guilt" is sufficient to merit the charge of semi-Pelagianism, I would like to point out that this denial of "original guilt"-- without a denial original sin-- is what I've attempted to explore in my theoretical proposal in my personal inquiry regarding original sin.
My theoretical proposal was stated as follows:
IT IS PROPOSED THAT just as the elect person is not counted as righteous on the basis of Christ's righteous work until he or she actually believes in Jesus Christ as Lord, that the unbeliever is not condemned on the basis of Adam's unrighteous deed until he or she acts in accordance with this unbelief through a personal sin against God. IN OTHER WORDS, that as personal faith in Christ is the means through which the righteousness of Christ is appropriated, in a similar way, personal sin is the means through which the condemnation of Adam is appropriated.
Benefits of Denying Original Guilt
The benefits of denying original guilt are [at least] twofold: first, a denial of original guilt aids in dealing with some 'problem passages' for original sin, such as: "everyone will die for his own iniquity" (Jer 31:30) and "the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father" (Eze 18:20); second, a denial of original guilt solves some theological problems, such as how infants-- incapable of personal faith-- can yet be saved if they die.
Problems With Denying Original Guilt
At the time of my theoretical proposal, I noted a possible objection, namely:
Does the truth of Ephesians 2:3- that we are, by nature, under wrath- suggest that no personal act of sin is necessary, but that each individual is under God's wrath from the moment of conception due to Original Sin?
The more I have meditated upon this objection, the more I have seen how serious it is in relation to the question at hand. Especially when one considers the death of infants. Death is seen in Scripture as a judicial sentence against sin. If infants do not share in original guilt, then why do they ever die?
Call for Exposition
Those who signed A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation-- those within Southern Baptist life who have gone on record firmly asserting a denial of original guilt-- MUST do MORE than assert this denial as a "traditional Southern Baptist understanding." They MUST show Southern Baptists HOW Scripture teaches original sin and how this sin is uniquely divorced from guilt. They MUST show how Ephesians 2:3-- teaching that we "were by nature the children of wrath, even as others"-- does not teach original guilt, if possible.
Labels: Reformation Theology