1689: Human Nature and the 1924 Downgrade

What we believe about the work of God, particularly in salvation, depends upon our view of ourselves. If we believe ourselves capable and free, we will also believe a synergistic gospel. If we believe ourselves captive to our own natures, we will also believe that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. The BFM 2000 states: 

Man is the special creation of God, made in His own image. He created them male and female as the crowning work of His creation. The gift of gender is thus part of the goodness of God’s creation. 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. Only the grace of God can bring man into His holy fellowship and enable man to fulfill the creative purpose of God. The sacredness of human personality is evident in that God created man in His own image, and in that Christ died for man; therefore, every person of every race possesses full dignity and is worthy of respect and Christian love.

Genesis 1:26-302:5,7,18-2239:6Psalms 18:3-632:1-551:5Isaiah 6:5Jeremiah 17:5Matthew 16:26Acts 17:26-31Romans 1:19-323:10-18,235:6,12,196:67:14-258:14-18,291 Corinthians 1:21-3115:19,21-22Ephesians 2:1-22Colossians 1:21-223:9-11.

Concerning human nature:

  • The clarification identifying humankind as God’s image given the gift of gender is good. We are left asking, “Which gender(s)?”
  • The BFM majors on the freedom of choice and denigrates God’s free choice, subjecting it to human volition.
  • The BFM neglects that all people are born in sin. Instead, it claims that they are only under the condemnation of sin once they become capable of moral action—a statement that disagrees with the Bible’s explicit claims.
  • The BFM claims that God’s grace merely enables a person to fulfill the creative purpose of God rather than causing God’s good purposes to definitely be worked out—another softening of God’s sovereignty.
  • The BFM majors on racialization language. The statement about race is technically true, but the Bible identifies only two races—the holy and unholy. So, the Bible does not address “race” like modern people do. Clearer language could be employed.

The 1689, the Baptist standard prior to the downgrade to the BFM in 1924, dedicates at least two chapters to the doctrine of anthropology as stated in the BFM:

Chapter 6: Of the Fall of Man, Of Sin, And of the Punishment Thereof 

1._____ Although God created man upright and perfect, and gave him a righteous law, which had been unto life had he kept it, and threatened death upon the breach thereof, yet he did not long abide in this honour; Satan using the subtlety of the serpent to subdue Eve, then by her seducing Adam, who, without any compulsion, did willfully transgress the law of their creation, and the command given unto them, in eating the forbidden fruit, which God was pleased, according to his wise and holy counsel to permit, having purposed to order it to his own glory. ( Genesis 2:16, 17; Genesis 3:12,13; 2 Corinthians 11:3 ) 

2._____ Our first parents, by this sin, fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and we in them whereby death came upon all: all becoming dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body. ( Romans 3:23; Romans 5:12, etc; Titus 1:15; Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:10-19 ) 

3._____ 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. ( Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:21, 22, 45, 49; Psalms 51:5; Job 14:4; Ephesians 2:3; Romans 6:20 Romans 5:12; Hebrews 2:14, 15; 1 Thessalonians 1:10 ) 

4._____ From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions. ( Romans 8:7; Colossians 1:21; James 1:14, 15; Matthew 15:19 ) 

5._____ The corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be through Christ pardoned and mortified, yet both itself, and the first motions thereof, are truly and properly sin. ( Romans 7:18,23; Ecclesiastes 7:20; 1 John 1:8; Romans 7:23-25; Galatians 5:17) 

Chapter 9: Of Free Will

1._____ God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty and power of acting upon choice, that it is neither forced, nor by any necessity of nature determined to do good or evil. ( Matthew 17:12; James 1:14; Deuteronomy 30:19 ) 

2._____ Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom and power to will and to do that which was good and wellpleasing to God, but yet was unstable, so that he might fall from it. ( Ecclesiastes 7:29; Genesis 3:6 ) 

3._____ Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able by his own strength to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto. ( Romans 5:6; Romans 8:7; Ephesians 2:1, 5; Titus 3:3-5; John 6:44 ) 

4._____ When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, he freeth him from his natural bondage under sin, and by his grace alone enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so as that by reason of his remaining corruptions, he doth not perfectly, nor only will, that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil. ( Colossians 1:13; John 8:36; Philippians 2:13; Romans 7:15, 18, 19, 21, 23 ) 

5._____ This will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to good alone in the state of glory only. ( Ephesians 4:13 ) 

Contrary to the statement in the BFM (people are “inclined” toward sin), the 1689 states that people, though once free to act in a way that pleased God (though unstable so they might sin), are entirely enslaved to their sin. They are unable to come to God by their own choice or working, which is total depravity realized in the wretched condition of the degenerate population. Unlike the BFM, the 1689 recognizes that people are spiritually dead in their sin and need saving grace. Instead of introducing language of “race,” into the conversation, the 1689 presumes that all people are equally depraved by nature and equally wretched by condition. Instead of stumbling to clarify that all people are worthy of respect and Christian love, it plainly states that no human person is worthy or entitled to any degree. People are dead and must be saved by the only worthy one, Jesus Christ. Once again, the BFM has elevated people and tried to subject God to humanity. The 1689 humbles people and exalts Christ alone. The BFM’s view of humanity is in line with virtually every human religion and the false gospel preached by the serpent to Adam in the Garden. You can be good, and you are worthy of everything. The biblical view of humanity recognizes his nature as depraved and his condition prior to regeneration as wretched. People are unworthy. Downgrades are marked by the exaltation of humanity rather than Christ. Again, I hope we return to the roots of true Christian faith in the SBC—a faith the BFM does not represent.

As it is, biblical Christians can still affirm the statements of the BFM. So can many, many others because they are unclear and vague at best—loose and heretical at worst (if we over-analyze a smidge). Since the question arises about infants who are born in sin according to Scripture, I want to recognize that the 1689 answers the question while the BFM does not:

10:3._____ Elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit; who worketh when, and where, and how he pleases; so also are all elect persons, who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word. ( John 3:3, 5, 6; John 3:8 ) 

If we grant that all people are totally depraved and born in sin, being saved by grace alone, then we can grant that infants and those isolated away from gospel proclamation can be saved simply because God wills it. If we so prize “free will,” on the other hand, we must believe that neither infants nor those isolated from gospel proclamation can be saved because they are incapable of willing to accept the Gospel. Because of human depravity, salvation is by God’s will and not that of any human person. The drafters of the 1689 understood biblical doctrine. When Baptists downgraded from the 1689 to the BFM, we exalted a basically incoherent view of human nature as reflected in the BFM statement above.


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