The Southern Baptist Convention was founded in 1845, but the first version of the Baptist Faith and Message was not adopted until 1925. Before 1925 the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, The Philadelphia Confession of Faith (1742), and the New Hampshire Baptist Confession (1833) were common statements adapted by early Southern Baptist churches. The first Southern Baptist Church adopted the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith in 1700 and this confession remained the standard for 133 years until the New Hampshire Confession was adopted in 1833. The Philadelphia Confession of Faith is identical to the 1689 London Baptist Confession with the exception of two added sections covering the singing of praises and the laying on of hands.
Proper treatment of the doctrine of original sin and the fall of man is key. When it falls, much more theology is likely to fall as well. Here we will review how these Southern Baptist Confessions treat the imputation of Adam’s guilt on his posterity.
The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith and the The Philadelphia Confession of Faith (1742) both say:
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.
The New Hampshire Baptist Confession, 1833:
all mankind are now sinners, not by constraint, but choice; being by nature utterly void of that holiness required by the law of God, positively inclined to evil; and therefore under just condemnation to eternal ruin, without defense or excuse.
In 1925 the SBC adopted the first Baptist Faith and Message. Section three on the fall of man had this to say:
“[Adam’s] 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.”
In 1963 section three was edited subtly, but significantly. This confession does not accept that men are by nature objects of wrath and instead moves the time of man’s condemnation to after they commit their own transgressions. In 1998, the Baptist Faith and Message was amended to add a section on the family, but this statement on the fall and all other aspects remained this same:
“[Adam’s] 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.”
The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 continues to convey the same doctrine:
“Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation.”