Goodbye, Original Sin
June 4, 2012
A group of self-styled “traditional” Southern Baptists have issued a statement articulating their view of salvation (the “traditional” view) in contrast to the Calvinism of Southern Seminary faculty and other Calvinists in the SBC. I have my own specific set of complaints against the “new Calvinism” of Piper, Mohler, and the ever-recurring same group of people at half a dozen conferences each year. However, their classical Reformed doctrine of election is not really one of my concerns, despite significant modifications I would make. I actually agree with Mohler that Reformed theology in the SBC is nearly the only place that young evangelicals can go (in the SBC) to find depth and substance. A good example, proving Mohler correct, is this recent statement by Southern Baptist “traditionalists.” Roger Olson has rightly pinpointed this curiosity, in Article 2:
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.
Free will remains intact after the Fall? We are born without guilt? The specter of Pelagius is near. This is well-beyond anything an Arminian would say, and it demonstrates a sloppy theology that is far too common in “traditional” Baptist circles. There is nothing traditional about this, at least not for those who have broadly followed in the Augustine heritage (including Arminians). On the first point, if a person’s free will is not incapacitated, then how is it that “every person who is capable of moral action will sin,” as the previous paragraph states? If we are bound to sin, then we are not really free. On the second point, if we are not born guilty, it follows that infants (or the severely mentally handicap) do not need Christ’s atonement. If we are only guilty when we have “personally sinned,” then only at that point are we in need of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. To be clear, I do not think infants (or the mentally handicapped) are damned. I think they are saved, or at least I have good reasons to hope that they are saved, but they are saved by the atoning work of Christ because they (along with all humans) are born sinners and in need of salvation. The logic of this “traditionalist” statement is that some people are innocent and are, thereby, without any need of the Cross.
Olson is right: “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.”