The Ascent of Man in Southern Baptist Confessions

I was hoping to post my last article- now somewhat dated- on this year’s SBC annual meeting today, but do not have quite enough time, as it will be fairly detailed work. However, I have recently been listening to a presentation by Mark Coppenger to the 1995 Southern Baptist Founders Conference that I thought SBF readers would find interesting. Dr. Coppenger spoke on the “History of Southern Baptist Preaching,” focusing his attention on how Southen Baptist Preachers have addressed one telling topic: The sinfulness of Man. Coppenger charted a trajectory in Southern Baptist preaching wherein the majority of SBC pastors have tended to portray Man as less and less sinful in each generation of sermons.

This is reflected in Southern Baptist confessions of faith:

1. The Abstract of Principles (1858):

God originally created man in His own image, and free from sin; but, through the temptation of Satan, he transgressed the command of God, and 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.

2. Baptist Faith and Message (1925):

He was created in a state of holiness under the law of his Maker, but, through the temptation of Satan, he transgressed the command of God and 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.

3. Baptist Faith and Message (1963):

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, and as soon as they are capable of moral action become transgressors and are under condemnation.

In the highlighted sections, we see the change in Southern Baptist understanding of the effects of the Fall as expressed in our denominational confessions:

1. “corrupt and wholly opposed to God and His law” -}

2. “corrupt and in bondage to sin” -}

3. “inclined toward sin”

The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message retains the 1963, “inclined toward sin,” but takes a step in the right direction by changing the “and” following this phrase to “therefore,” thus strengthening the connection between this ‘inclination’ and the condemnation under God.

This is a serious matter and one worthy of careful consideration if the BF&M is revised in the future.

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3 Comments on “The Ascent of Man in Southern Baptist Confessions”


  1. 04ecrisacimalefezosicn…

    nice post…


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