Count it all joy when you face various trials. --James the brother of Jesus

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Original Sin, Inherited Guilt and Baptism

Here's my latest paper I've turned in on humanity. I dealt with the relationship between original sin and baptism and I argued that original sin actually provides one good argument for the believer's baptism position.

Since at least the time of Augustine of Hippo, a connection has been observed between original sin and baptism. Augustine argued for the doctrine of original sin on the basis of the fact that infants were baptized.[1] Calvin taught that through baptism the believer has assurance that “this condemnation [of original sin] has been removed and withdrawn.”[2] Charles Hodge, like Augustine, used the “universal” practice of infant baptism as an argument for original sin.[3] However, more recently this connection has been an argument used by some Baptists against original sin.

Steve Lemke, in a paper arguing against the possibility of salvation apart from conscious personal faith in Christ, argued that children under the “age of accountability” should not be considered sinners. While correct in arguing against pluralist or inclusivist notions of salvation outside of Christianity, Lemke seems to error by denying original sin. He states: “By affirming the age of accountability, Baptists deny that children are guilty upon birth, and thus deny infant baptism.”[4] It appears that Lemke claims that Baptists reject infant baptism because they reject imputed guilt. Further Lemke states, “An alternative proposal that is both more biblical and more logical considers one to be saved or lost only after the age of accountability.”[5] Here Lemke asserts that infants are not born sinners—thus it would appear from these statements that he denies original sin. Lemke’s position seems to assume that if one believes in original guilt that that logically implies the necessity of infant baptism.[6]

The argument of this paper is that the doctrine of original sin does not imply the necessity of infant baptism. Rather, only someone who holds to a sacramental view of baptism should even draw that inference. In contrast, Baptists reject the notion of baptismal regeneration—as evidenced by the Cambellite controversy.[7] If one holds that baptism is a confession of something that has already taken place rather than an efficacious act, then the doctrine of original sin cannot imply the necessity of infant baptism. If baptism has no power to wash away sin, then whether or not infants are born with guilt becomes irrelevant to the baptism question. Therefore, this paper will demonstrate 1) that the doctrine of original sin does not necessarily imply infant baptism logically, 2) that the dominant stream of Baptists has not historically rejected the doctrine of original sin, and 3) that original sin is actually more consistent with the believer baptism position.[8] These three points will sufficiently demonstrate that original sin can and should be held to by theologically consistent Baptists today.

Logical Necessity

Nothing intrinsic within the doctrine of original sin contradicts the fundamental tenants of believer baptism. In fact, neither Augustine nor Hodge framed an argument that it did. In contrast, they both argued for a different relationship between the two concepts. Both Augustine and Hodge state infant baptism as a universally accepted fact, and use that given to argue for original sin.

No Contradiction

It may be necessary at this point to define what is meant by the doctrine of original sin. Charles E. Warren does a helpful service by laying out 5 tenants of the historical doctrine:

(1) God created Adam as literally and historically the first human being in whom was the entirety of human nature and from whom the entire race descended. (2) Adam was created with original holiness, which included the potential for biological immortality. (3) Adam sinned by disobeying the commandment of God. (4) God punished Adam by afflicting him with both spiritual and biological death. (5) Adam’s altered human nature, guilty and condemned, is transmitted to every member of the human race by the process of natural generation.[9]

These doctrines contain nothing that should be a problem for the believer baptism position. The first four tenants are essentially affirmed by all Bible believing Christians and have no bearing at all on the current argument. Yet Warren’s fifth tenant is the matter of controversy which this paper will deal with.

Warren has included in his definition of original sin the concept that guilt and condemnation are now connected with human nature in such a way that all of Adam’s posterity inherits both of them by way of “natural generation.” Does this tenant imply that because of this inherited guilt and condemnation, infants must be baptized to remove their original sin? Of course, this paper will argue the negative response. Inherited guilt and corruption could only imply that infants should be baptized if a person holds that baptism has a sacramental efficacy to wash away sins.

Baptists have always rejected a view of baptism that sees it as efficacious. The Baptist Encyclopedia demonstrates this point by saying, “infants are not the friends of Christ’s kingdom, and they never will be unless they are born of the Spirit of God. Baptism has no tendency to produce a new heart, and its bestowal upon unconscious infants is a senseless and unwise abuse of a blessed ordinance intended only for the Saviour’s friends.”[10] This statement can be useful in formulating a definition of baptism from a Baptist perspective.

The definition that will be used here is: baptism is an ordinance of the church, given at the beginning of the Christian life, symbolizing an event in which a person has already been born again, declaring that the old man has died and has been buried with Christ and that the new man has risen with Christ. This definition presupposes (1) that baptism is not efficacious, but demonstrates what has already happened through the efficacious work of the Spirit of God, (2) that baptism is intended for believers, and (3) that baptism is a visual demonstration of the internal working of God in a person’s heart.

A historically consistent Baptist cannot find any contradiction between original sin and believer baptism. Because of the Baptist definition of the ordinance, such an contradiction is not permitted. To argue that inherited guilt implies infant baptism is an example of the logical fallacy of non-sequiter. Two syllogisms will demonstrate this point:

From the perspective of a Roman Catholic:

Baptism has the efficacy of a sacrament to wash away original sin.

Infants are born with original sin,

Therefore, infants should be baptized.

However, from the perspective of a Baptist:

Baptism has no efficacy in the work itself to wash away any sin.

Infants are born with original sin.

Therefore, baptism will have no affect on original sin one way or the other.

The point is, from the Baptist perspective, original guilt does absolutely nothing to promote infant baptism. Only someone who accepts that baptism has any efficacy should draw the conclusion that what Lemke says is a logical inference from inherited guilt. The argument that Lemke makes can only be sustained if one throws out what Baptists have historically believed about baptism. It is hard to believe that a Baptist, such as Lemke, could even draw such a conclusion.

Historic Argument

As was stated earlier, Augustine had argued for original sin on the basis of infant baptism—not the other way around. This traditional argument continued within paedobaptist thought. Augustine’s argument with Pelagius was over original sin. Pelagius and Augustine both baptized infants—this was not a contested practice for them. Augustine also held to a sacramental view of baptism, but this was not the emphasis of the debate. Augustine argued that if Pelagius was to be consistent with his view that infants are born innocent, then he would have to reject infant baptism as well.[11] Baptism was not the issue in question, because neither Augustine nor Pelagius wanted to give up this sacrament. Elsewhere Augustine stated that the fact that infants should be baptized is what, “the authority of the universal Church everywhere cries out.”[12] He also states, “the rule of the Church indicates” that “it includes baptized infants among the faithful.”[13] The baptism of infants was an accepted fact agreed upon by Pelagius and Augustine—it was not up for debate. Augustine used this accepted agreement to argue for original sin.

Charles Hodge used the same argument. Hodge discusses the relationship between original sin and Baptism not under the topic of Baptism, but under the topic of original sin. He argues within the paedobaptist tradition that since infants are baptized, they must be guilty. If they are guilty it could not be their own actions which have made them guilty; therefore original sin must be what has tainted them. Hodge states,

Baptism is an ordinance instituted by Christ, to signify and seal the purification of the soul, by the sprinkling of his blood, and its regeneration by the Holy Ghost. It can therefore be properly administered only to those who are in a state of guilt and pollution. It is, however, administered to infants, and therefore infants are assumed to need pardon and sanctification. This is the argument which Pelagius and his followers, more than all others, found it most difficult to answer. They could not deny the import of the rite. They could not deny that it was properly administered to infants, and yet they refused to admit the unavoidable conclusion, that infants are born in sin.[14]

Here is another paedobaptist arguing from the accepted practice of infant baptism that original sin must be a necessary implication. According to Dale Moody, this method of arguing for original sin from the accepted fact of infant baptism dates back to the time of Origen.[15] In sum, the argument that original sin necessitates infant baptism turns what has been historically argued by paedobaptists on its head.

Baptist History

Original Sin has been accepted historically by Baptists. This is demonstrated by Baptist statements of faith, as well as from the writings of Baptist theologians. Each of these lines of evidence will show that the dominant stream within Baptist life has historically held to original sin—including original guilt.


The 2nd London Confession was the most enduringly popular confession used among Baptists in the 18th and 19th centuries. New confessions during this period were usually considered based upon this one.[16] In the statement on the “Fall of Man, of sin, and the Punishment thereof” it states, “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.”[17] This Baptist confession explicitly states that guilt is imputed, along with corruption. Clearly the British Particular Baptists (as well as American Baptists subscribing to the Philadelphia Confession of Faith which was essentially the same confession) must have had no problem reconciling the doctrine of original sin with believer Baptism.

The Abstract of Principles was the first Southern Baptist confession of faith and was part of the charter for the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. All professors of the institution, even to this day, are required to pledge to “teach in accordance with, and not contrary to the Abstract of Principles.”[18] In this document, the article on the Fall states that man “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.”[19] Here again, this Baptist confession does not shy away from the doctrine of original sin. The Abstract of Principles affirms both original corruption and original guilt. Its language affirms that infants are born under condemnation even before they become “actual transgressors.”

While the Abstract of Principles was the first confession for a Southern Baptist institution, the Baptist Faith and Message was the first to be adopted by the convention as a whole. This confession was basically the adoption of the New Hampshire Confession of Faith, which in turn was a revision based upon the 2nd London Confession. The Baptist Faith and Message was originally adopted in 1925 in the midst of the controversy between the fundamentalists and the modernists—the same year as the “Scopes Monkey Trial.” The confession adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention stated almost exactly the same words as the Abstract of Principles regarding original sin. It states in the article on the “Fall of Man,” that man “fell from his original holiness and righteousness; whereby his 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.”[20] Here again, this Southern Baptist confession of faith clearly accepts original corruption and original guilt. Liability to condemnation precedes a person’s “actual transgressions.”

In 1963 there was a significant change.[21] In the midst of controversy again, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted another revision of the Baptist Faith and Message. Here one can begin to see a difference simply by the article title. It no longer said “The Fall of Man,” but rather just “Man.” The language of this article significantly weakened the position held on original sin. It now reads that man “fell from his original innocence; whereby his posterity inherit a nature and environment inclined toward sin, and as soon as they are capable of moral action become transgressors and are under condemnation.” [22] This change no longer says that man is born with a corrupt nature, but instead a “nature and environment inclined toward sin.” This change no longer asserts that man is born corrupt, but only that he has the odds stacked against him. Finally, in this revision liability to condemnation no longer precedes transgression. As the Baptist Faith and Message now reads, there is nothing clearly stating that infants are born guilty.

Though it must also be noted that though this statement is weaker in regard to this doctrine, it does not entirely contradict the older statements. Professors at Southern Seminary still have to sign the Abstract of Principles as well as affirm the Baptist Faith and Message. If these statements were in contradiction, then no one could logically subscribe to both of them—and Southern Seminary would either have to close its doors or make the signing of the Abstract of Principles a mere formal “hoop” to jump through. It would be completely out of character for a group of Baptists, with a tradition of affirming original sin (including original guilt) for nearly 300 years, to suddenly change their minds on the subject and contradict the main stream of all previous confessions. The new statement is merely more ambiguous, but it does not explicitly deny either original sin or original guilt.

Baptist confessions have traditionally affirmed the doctrine of original sin, and until recently have not hesitated to affirm original guilt. From the 2nd London Confession in Britain, to the original Baptist Faith and Message in America, Baptists have affirmed this doctrine in their confessions. It should; therefore, not be suggested that Baptists have historically seen any contradiction between affirming original sin as well as believer baptism.

Baptist Theologians

Baptist theologians also have a long tradition of affirming the doctrine of original sin. One can begin to see this even with the Arminian, Thomas Helwys. Under influences from the Anabaptists, Helwys rejected his earlier Calvinism. Though Helwys was otherwise an Arminian, Tom Nettles argues that he retained the doctrine of total depravity based on the following: he still affirmed that “‘men are by nature Children off [sic] wrath’ are born in ‘iniquitie [sic] and in sin conceived.’”[23] Also, the confession adopted by his church while in Amsterdam states that man “fel [sic] by disobedience. Through whose disobedience, all men sinned. His sinn [sic] being imputed vnto [sic] all.”[24] These statements also show that Helwys did not reject the doctrine of original sin.

It is also clear that Benjamin Keach also affirmed both original sin and original guilt. He and William Collins drafted a catechism (known both as The Baptist Catechism, and Keach’s Catechism) in about 1693 in which one of the questions concerning the Fall answers as follows: “The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.”[25] Here Keach and Collins explicitly affirm original sin—including original guilt.

John Gill is another Baptist theologian who continued in this affirmation of original sin. Thomas Nettles describes Gills view in these words, “Adam fell, bringing a change in man’s nature and a verdict of condemnation on all his posterity.”[26] Nettles continues by describing Gills view of the federal headship of Adam; he states that Gill taught that the soul became corrupted at the moment when it is united to the body. Gill, one of the greatest theologians among the Baptist ranks, affirmed that corruption and condemnation come not just before actual transgressions, but before an infant leaves the womb.

Andrew Fuller, arguably the most significant figure in Baptist history, also affirmed original sin and inherited guilt. Fuller debated Dan Taylor, an Arminian Baptist, concerning this very issue. In one letter Fuller states,

Original sin, to be sure is a mysterious subject. There is a difficulty attending the existence of evil in the souls of all mankind upon every hypothesis. . . Some, with Pelagius, deny the thing itself, and maintain that human depravity comes entirely by imitation. Others admit the fact, that we “are depraved by Adam’s transgression,” but deny the guilt of such depravity on that account; this appears to be the case with Mr. T[aylor]. Others admit the fact of such depravity, yet, notwithstanding, acknowledge its guilt; this is my sentiment.[27]

Here, Fuller shows that he rejects notions of original sin that deny that Adam’s posterity is counted guilty. Fuller affirms the Augustinian formulation of original sin which affirms that humans are born guilty. Fuller follows this statement with another, “The Scriptures represent God as a just Being, who will by no means inflict punishment where there is no guilt. . . Surely then we might conclude, even though an apostle had never told us so, that death would not have passed upon all men by one man’s sin, if, in that sin, somehow or other, all had not sinned.”[28] Fuller did not hesitate to affirm the doctrine of original sin—including inherited guilt. He saw that it was demanded by the justice of God. Clearly he could not have seen this as contradictory with his own view of believer baptism.

John L. Dagg spoke vividly of original sin and the condemnation that all men deserve in Adam. He states,

There is a moral union between Adam and his descendants. His disobedience unfurled the banner of rebellion, and we all rally around it. We approve the deed of our father, and take arms in maintaining the war against heaven, which his disobedience proclaimed. He is the chief in this conspiracy of treason, but we are all accessories. As to the outward act, the eating of the forbidden fruit, we did not commit it; but, regarding it as a declaration of independence and revolt, we have made it our own, and it may be justly set to our account, as if we had personally committed the deed.[29]

Dagg’s theology was later endorsed by the Southern Baptist Convention when it resolved, “that a catechism be drawn up containing the substance of the Christian religion for the instruction of children and servants and that brother John L. Dagg be desired to draw it up.”[30] Dagg was trusted as a representative to write for the instruction of children for the entire Southern Baptist Convention. He tenaciously embraced the doctrine of original sin and thought it sinful to oppose God by denying inherited guilt.

James P. Boyce, founding president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, when dealing with the question of infants had this to say: “Certain passages of Scripture are supposed to refer to young children as though innocent of guilt. . . But these passages do not teach freedom from corruption. On the other hand, corruption in early infancy is plainly taught.”[31] Boyce follows this statement with an even more clear affirmation of infant guilt:

It follows from the facts in these last two statements, that a corrupt nature makes a condition as truly sinful, and guilty, and liable to punishment, as actual transgressions. Consequently, at the very moment of birth, the presence and possession of such a nature shows that even the infant sons of Adam are born under all the same penalties which befell their ancestor in the day of his sin. Actual transgression subsequently adds new guilt to guilt already existing, but does not substitute a state of guilt for one of innocence.[32]

Boyce’s position could be no clearer. Certainly, he held that infants inherited guilt, and were born sinners. He found no contradiction between this and the baptism of believers only.

Augustus Hopkins Strong, a Northern Baptist, also affirmed original sin as well as original guilt. Strong stated, “that no human being is finally condemned solely on account of original sin; but that all who, like infants, do not commit personal transgressions, are saved through the application of Christ’s atonement.”[33] Strong rejects any notion that infants are accepted into heaven on the basis of their innocence, or that they should not be recognized a sinners. He solidly stands in the tradition of other Baptists before him, and he stands in the Augustinian tradition concerning original sin. He could not have seen this as being at odds with his being a Baptist.

Edgar Young Mullins, former president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and contemporary of A. H. Strong, also affirmed the doctrine of original sin. However, he too made it clear that “men are not condemned therefore for hereditary or original sin. They are condemned only for their own sins.”[34] He did affirm the reality that sin is inherited and that infants dying in infancy are saved on the basis of “Christ’s atoning work extend[ed] to them.”[35] It seems that Mullins would have affirmed that people are born sinners. This was not in contradiction to his being a Baptist.

W. T. Conner, former president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, somewhat modifies earlier views of Baptists. The confessional stance of Baptist Calvinism had been eroding for some time. This was already evident with Mullins. Yet Conner seems to show more hesitancy to speak of inherited guilt than most of his predecessors. Though he continued this tradition of affirming the doctrine of original sin in Baptist life, Conner echoes his teachers, Strong and Mullins, in saying,

There is general agreement among evangelical theologians that all disability up to the point of positive transgression and deliberate rejection of moral light is provided for in the atoning work of Christ. . . No man, therefore, will be lost merely because of original sin or race sin. Up to the point of positive transgression or rejection of moral light, the individual is provided for in the grace of God without personal repentance and faith.[36]

Conner, along with Strong and Mullins, demonstrated a concern to say that original sin alone does not finally condemn an infant; however he is clear that infants are saved not because of their innocence, nor because they are not considered sinners. Conner affirms that infants who die in infancy are saved by Christ’s work on the cross. Again, apparently Conner saw nothing in this doctrine that was in contradiction with his being a Baptist.


There was some dissent in Baptist life concerning the doctrine of original sin. This is evident from the early Anabaptist and General Baptist confessions. The Waterland Confession,an Anabaptist confession from 1580, gives one example of this. It states, “The first man fell into sins (d) and became subject to divine wrath, and by God was raised up again through consolatory promises (e) and admitted to eternal life at the same time with all those who had fallen (f); so that none of his posterity, in respect of this restitution, is born guilty of sin or blame (g).”[37] This statement shows that this particular group of Anabaptists rejected the concept that any of Adam’s posterity was born guilty. However, there is no evidence that this rejection of original sin was for the purpose of being consistent Baptists. As has been shown, other Baptist groups did not see any need to reject this doctrine in order to become Baptists.

John Smyth, contemporary of Thomas Helwys, also rejected original sin. In the confession by his church, in 1609, it states, “WE BELIEVE WITH THE HEART AND WITH THE MOUTH CONFESS . . . (5.) That there is no original sin . . . but all sin is actual and voluntary . . . and therefore, infants are without sin.”[38] Here Smyth seems to be concerned about the justice of God—not about any consistency with the Baptist position. He cannot reconcile how God can count people guilty without “actual transgressions.” Smyth’s concern does not seem to be on the basis of a rejection of infant baptism.

Again, the Smyth party of early English Baptists drew up another confession between 1612 and 1614 which states as follows:

18. That original sin is an idle term, and that there is no such thing as men intend by the word (Ezek. xviii. 20), because God threatened death only to Adam (Gen. ii. 17) not to his posterity, and because God created the soul (Heb. xii. 9).

19. That if original sin might have passed from Adam to his posterity, Christ’s death, which was effectual before Cain and Abel’s birth, He being the lamb slain from the beginning of the world, stopped the issue and passage thereof (Rev. xiii. 8).

20. That infants are conceived and born in innocency without sin, and that so dying are undoubtedly saved, and that is to be understood of all infants, under heaven.[39]

Here the Smyth party gives a fairly extensive explanation for their rejection of original sin, and this explanation does not have any tie to the concept of infant baptism.

Fairly recently Dale Moody, at Southern Seminary, vehemently opposed the concept of inherited guilt. Moody may be one of Lemke’s predecessors in arguing that there is a direct link correlating original sin and infant baptism. He wrote that in the early church there was a “primitive idea of purification” which “leads to infant baptism only when perverted by the fallacious notion of original guilt.”[40] Though Moody disdained the concept of original guilt, it does seem that he recognized that if the doctrine is true that it is still not a justifiable basis for the practice of infant baptism.[41] So even though he thought that original guilt lead to the practice, he must not have thought that it was a necessary implication. He quotes the Anabaptists in their own rejection of original guilt, yet he does not demonstrate how they saw any tie between the concepts of original sin and infant baptism.

Baptists have historically not needed to deny original sin in order to remain Baptist. Baptist confessions, and the writings of Baptist theologians both testify to a long tradition of affirming this doctrine. The majority of these documents affirm inherited guilt, and it is only relatively recent that the mainstream of Baptists has weakened their statements affirming this traditionally held biblical doctrine. The exceptions within Baptist life, who have denied the doctrine of original sin, seem to reject the doctrine on the grounds of God’s justice—not because it is inconsistent with the believer baptism position. The historical record is probably the most significant evidence that holding to original sin or inherited guilt does not necessarily imply infant baptism. If original sin did imply infant baptism, one would expect that the dominant stream of Baptist life would have rejected it. But instead, the reverse is true.

Original Sin Implies Believer Baptism

In contrast to those who have claimed that infant baptism is necessary because of original sin, this doctrine might actually be used to support the believer baptism position. This argument may be akin to that of Paul K. Jewett, who argued that “covenant theology implies believer baptism.”[42] It may seem to flow against the stream of ecclesiastical history.[43] However, there is one point that can be made that refutes those who would try to reject original sin on the basis of believer baptism.

As Cathcart had maintained, “baptism has no tendency to produce a new heart, and its bestowal upon unconscious infants is a senseless and unwise abuse of a blessed ordinance intended only for the Saviour’s friends.”[44] Assuming the Baptist view of baptism is correct, and that the proper subject of baptism is a believer only, then original sin may be the very reason for rejecting infant baptism. The doctrine of original sin says that infants are born guilty and under condemnation and in need of Christ. Therefore, infants are born lost. No Baptist would want to baptize those who are by all accounts lost. By logical necessity, for the Baptist, if infants are guilty and condemned they should not be admitted into membership of the church through baptism until they have come to an age where they have expressed faith and shown evidence of regeneration.

Charles Hodge, on the other hand, stated exactly the opposite. He said that baptism can “be properly administered only to those who are in a state of guilt and pollution.”[45] This is where a fundamental disagreement between paedobaptists and Baptists can be observed. Baptists would say that it is the regenerate that needs baptism; whereas, paedobaptists would say that it is the unregenerate that needs it.

So maybe original sin does not necessarily imply believer baptism. However, for one who presupposes that believers are the proper subjects of baptism, original sin can serve as another argument for why this is the case. The whole issue revolves not necessarily around any supposed efficacy of the baptismal waters, but around the identity of the proper subjects of baptism.


There has historically been a link between the doctrine of original sin and baptism, though the link may or may not be determinative of how it is practiced. There will continue to be debate between Baptists and paedobaptists about who the proper subjects of baptism are, though much may come down to presuppositions. This paper has argued that the doctrine of original sin does not necessarily imply infant baptism. On the contrary, depending on ones presuppositions it may actually be an argument against the practice of infant baptism. Baptists throughout history have typically not had any problem affirming both original sin and believer baptism. Even when there have been exceptions, where Baptists have shied away from the concept of inherited guilt, it has not been on the basis of any contradiction with believer baptism. Original sin is simply not a problem for Baptists because they do not believe there is any efficacy in the act itself. Those who would say that “Baptists deny that children are guilty upon birth, and thus deny infant baptism,”[46] need to reexamine the historical record, as well as reexamine their logic.

[1]Augustine The Punishment and Forgiveness of Sins and the Baptism of Little Ones 1.28. ed. John E. Rotelle, trans. Roland J. Teske, The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century[WSA], part I, vol. 23 (Hyde Park, New York: New City Press, 1997), 49.

[2]John Calvin Institutes of the Christian Religion 4.15.10, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Fort Lewis Battles, Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006), 1311.

[3]Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 2003), 2:247.

[4]Steve W. Lemke, “Who Can be Saved? Tiessen’s Accessibilism vs. Jesus’ Exclusivism” (paper presented at the annual southwest regional meeting of the Evangelical Society, Fort Worth, Texas, 22 March 2007), 9.

[5]Ibid., 8.

[6]The main argument of Lemke’s paper was against inclusivism. His treatment of original sin was only one part of his larger argument, and he does not treat the entirety of the doctrine. However, what he did say was enough to demonstrate that at least he denies original guilt and denies that infants are born sinners.

[7]Robert G. Torbet, A History of the Baptists, 3rd ed. (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Judson Press, 2000), 274.

[8]“Believer baptism” will be used instead of “believer’s baptism.” The term is in contrast to “infant baptism” rather than “infant’s baptism.” Paul K. Jewett, Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Grace (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1980), 226.

[9]Charles E. Warren, Original Sin Explained? Revelations from Human Genetic Science (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 2002), vii.

[10]William Cathcart, “Baptism, the Scriptural Subjects of,” in The Baptist Encyclopedia: A Dictionary of the Doctrines, Ordinances, Usages, Confessions of Faith, Sufferings, Labors, and Successes, and of the General History of the Baptist Denomination in All Lands (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Louis H. Everts, 1883), 1:70.

[11] Augustine, The Punishment and Forgiveness of Sins, 1.58 (WSA, I.23:67).

[12] Ibid., 1.62 (WSA, I.23:71).

[13] Ibid., 1.28 (WSA, I.23:49).

[14] Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 2:247.

[15]Dale Moody, The Word of Truth (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1981), 462.

[16]Gregory Wills, Readings in Baptist History (classroom lecture notes, CH 26100—History of the Baptists, Spring 2003, photocopy), 2.

[17]William Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Judson Press, 1969), 258-59.

[18]James P. Boyce, Abstract of Systematic Theology (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: American Baptist Publication Society, 1887, reprint ed., North Pompano Beach, Florida: Christian Gospel Foundation), Appendix B.


[20]Committee on Statement of Baptist Faith and Message, Baptist Faith and Message, 1925 [on-line]; accessed 25 November 2007; available from http://; Internet.

[21]This change was essentially retained the 2000 revision with only changes in punctuation and a conjunction.

[22]William Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith, 394.

[23]Thomas J. Nettles, By His Grace and for His Glory: A Historical, Theological, and Practical Study of the Doctrines of Grace in Baptist Life (Lake Charles, Louisiana: Cor Meum Tibi, 2002, 57.

[24]William Lumpkin Baptist Confessions of Faith, 117.

[25]Thomas J. Nettles, Teaching Truth, Training Hearts: the Study of Catechisms in Baptist Life (Amityville, New York: Calvary Press, 1998), 62.

[26]Thomas J. Nettles, By His Grace and for His Glory, 81.

[27]Fuller, Andrew G. The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: with a Memoir of His Life, ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, Virginia: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 2:522-23.

[28]Ibid., 2:523.

[29]John L. Dagg, Manual of Theology (Harrisonburg, Virginia: Gano Books, 1990), 165.

[30] Ibid., Preface to the New Edition.

[31]James P. Boyce, Abstract of Systematic Theology, 243.

[32]Ibid., 250.

[33]Augustus Hopkins Strong, Systematic Theology (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Judson Press, 1945), 596.

[34]Edgar Young Mullins, The Christian Religion in Its Doctrinal Expression (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Judson Press, 1938), 302.

[35] Ibid., 286.

[36]W. T. Conner, Christian Doctrine (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1949, 143-44.

[37]William Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith, 45.

[38]Ibid., 100.

[39]Ibid., 127.

[40]Dale Moody, The Word of Truth, 462.


[42]Paul K. Jewett, Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Grace, 233.

[43]Ibid., 5.

[44]William Cathcart, “Baptism, the Scriptural Subjects of,” 1:70.

[45] Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 2:247.

[46]Steve W. Lemke, “Who Can be Saved? Tiessen’s Accessibilism vs. Jesus’ Exclusivism,” 9.


Timothy said...

Greetings! Enjoyed the paper and read all of it.

>" The doctrine of original sin says that infants are born guilty and under condemnation and in need of Christ. Therefore, infants are born lost."

So an infant that dies goes to hell? If not, how does that work?

>" Those who would say that “Baptists deny that children are guilty upon birth, and thus deny infant baptism,”[46] need to reexamine the historical record, as well as reexamine their logic. "

Interesting statement considering that historically most Christians have long held the efficacy of baptism and the need for baptism of children. The majority of the world's Christian still affirm the efficacy of baptism and the need to baptise children. Baptists are in the very small minority on those issues.

Personally, it seems to me that Baptists have painted themselves into a theological corner and must admit that either infants, being lost, either go to hell when the infant dies or that there is a second method of salvation for infants which differs from adult believers. Either option is contrary to historic Baptist belief.

God bless...

jfile said...

When I said to reexamine the historical record, I meant Baptist history. My argument is intended to argue within the Baptist tradition against another Baptist who claims that infants are not born sinners.

I don't think the second option that you give is outside of the Baptist tradition. I would argue that infants who die in infancy are elect sinners who have been purchased in the transaction on the cross--apart from explicit personal faith in Jesus. I came to this position after reading the late Baptist philosopher Ronald Nash's book "When a Baby Dies."

jfile said...

Steve Lemke said...

Thanks for referencing my paper on Tiessen. I found your paper interesting, and you address many important issues. You would understand, of course, that I disagree with some of your assertions. I would be interested in dialoging more about the age of accountability, although I would prefer personal email to a blog format.

However, I hope you can see the obvious contradiction in your two claims that (a) "only someone who believes in baptismal regeneration" could infer the need for infant baptism from original guilt and that (b) the main point of my Tissen paper was that I was "against the possibility of salvation apart from conscious personal faith in Christ." So, obviously, the position can be held without belief in baptismal regeneration.

Although this issue arose only tangentally in my Tiessen paper, I addressed the issue more directly in my paper on "What Is a Baptist?: Nine Marks that Distinguish Baptists from Presbyterians," (my mark 2 addresses the age of accountability or inherited guilt), at I hope you find this more thorough discussion of the issue helpful. God bless you in your pursuit of Him!
Steve Lemke

jfile said...

Wow! Dr. Lemke, I didn't expect that I would get a comment from you. I would be happy to dialogue with you about my paper through email at I didn't have an email address for you, so you can respond to mine to begin a dialogue. I just have a few things to say though just to preface:
1)This was a paper I did for class. I don't have any ax to grind and I'm not some angry blogger. I was just happy with my work and I thought I would post it for my family and friends to be able to see.
2)I understood that my reference to your paper was tangential to your argument. I stand with you in opposing inclusivism. I too believe that explicit faith in Christ is needed for salvation and that "good muslims" and "good mormans"are lost without repenting and turning to Christ--even if they have never had a chance to hear the Gospel. The only exception that I have would be in the case of infants who die in infancy or those who were born severely mentally handicap. I attended the ETS regional meeting that you read the paper and and I was present when you read it. I agreed with almost all of it, but the particular issue that I wrote about in this paper stuck out to me as something that I felt that I was in disagreement with. That is what prompted me to write the paper for class.
3)If I misrepresented your view, or misunderstood it, and claimed that you reject original sin or original guilt, but you don't, I will pledge now to remove the paper from the blog and to post an apology for misrepresenting your view. The last thing I want is to claim something that isn't true that I should have verified before I ever posted in the first place.
4)I see what you mean when you say that the two propositions that you listed contradict. I think that the contradiction could be removed if I replaced the word "could" with "should." What I man is, I don't think that there is a "valid" reason for linking original guilt with infant baptism unless you think that baptism has some power to wash away sin. "Could" was not the right word to use there. If you can show me a good warrant for the link I would be happy to consider it, but I just don't see anything.

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