My Naive Theological Question . . .
Yesterday, I reported that the Southern Baptists are engaged in theological debates over the issue of free will, and I quoted a passage from "A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation":
We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin. Each person's sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God, broken fellowship with Him, ever-worsening selfishness and destructiveness, death, and condemnation to an eternity in hell.
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. While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit's drawing through the Gospel.
That raised some questions for me:
Every person purportedly inherits a sinful nature and invariably commits sinful acts, yet the free will of each person is not in any way incapacitated by this sinful nature. How do these two positions fit together, exactly? If a fallen person's free will is not incapacitated, then why couldn't the person be saved through correct moral choices? In other words, why would one need a savior?
An anonymous commentator responded:
Come on, that's not a deep theological puzzle. The world just needs to be stuctured in such a way that at certain inevitable junctions you get no morally sound option, only several sinful acts to freely choose among.
It is [a deep theological puzzle] for me, but I'm not so "theologically sophisticated" as you are.
Readers will recall that I admitted as much in my post:
I'm not theologically sophisticated enough to know the finer points of these dogmas . . .
So, don't expect much from me in the way of answers. I have mostly questions. My questions, unfortunately, are not always clear. My anonymous commentator focused on my query as to "why . . . the person [with incapacitated free will couldn't] be saved through correct moral choices" and answered that our world confronts us with tragic choices in which we are forced to choose among various alternatives, each of which requires us to sin in some way or another. That describes the world that we live in, so even a person with a nature not inclined toward sin would be forced into tragic choices and therefore forced to sin.
Except for Jesus, of course, who did not face any tragic choices because his path through the world brought him to confront only morally sound options, such that he was not in all points tested as we are, and was therefore without sin, allowing him to fulfill his soteriological purpose in the world.
But that's a different issue, so let's drop it for now. My real question was this:
Every person purportedly inherits a sinful nature and invariably commits sinful acts, yet the free will of each person is not in any way incapacitated by this sinful nature. How do these two positions fit together, exactly?
I confused the issue with other questions. Let me put it another way. Suppose the world were structured in such a way that we didn't confront tragic choices. The Baptist statement affirms that we would sin anyway because of our sinful nature despite our perfectly free will. Hence my real question, when not conflated with other questions, is this:
How do these two positions fit together, exactly?
I don't know the answer, so I am interested in what others think.