Book Review: The Spiritual Condition of Infants by Adam Harwood

Southern Baptist Pastor and fellow blogger Chris Roberts did a very thorough book review of The Spiritual Condition of Infants: A Biblical-Historical Survey and Systematic Proposal by Dr. Adam Harwood. The review is worth a read so I wanted to highlight it.

  1. A Review of The Spiritual Condition of Infants Harwood’s stance becomes clear early in the book, though he waits until the end to give a “declarative statement on the spiritual condition of infants” and to “speculate how God might deal with people who die in their infancy”. He concludes that although people are born with a sin nature passed down from Adam, we are not born with Adam’s guilt. People are not judged and condemned on the basis of a nature inclined toward sin but on the basis of actual sins.”
  2. A Shaky Foundation: General Problems in The Spiritual Condition of InfantsThere are a few issues that keep recurring in The Spiritual Condition of Infants. These issues weren’t necessarily theological, but they degraded Harwood’s argument and effectiveness. In my next post I will address specific theological areas of appreciation and disagreement, but in this post I want to raise two of the recurring issues: he fails to build a positive case, and he makes frequent unsubstantiated appeals to authority.
  3. a. Response to The Spiritual Condition of Infants, Part 3aAt this point I will move into my main points of response. I will consider six points: the age of infancy; in Christ, in Adam; the need for Jesus; sinful nature, sinful deeds; the cause of human death; and what we inherit from Adam. The first three are in Part 3a, the last three will be in Part 3b.
    1. b. Response to The Spiritual Condition of Infants, Part 3bOne of Harwood’s recurring themes is that “judgment comes as a result of sinful actions rather than a sinful nature.” I could not find a place where Harwood offers a straightforward definition of sinful nature but I think I can offer a fair summary of his view: the sinful nature is that which we inherit from Adam as a consequence of the fall. It brings on us the corruption of sin and ensures that we will ultimately commit sins for which we will be guilty.
  4. What Is the Condition of Children and Infants?It is almost inevitable that views on the spiritual condition of infants will fall into one of three categories: (1) Engage in some degree of speculation, basing conclusions on assumptions and hypotheses rather than Scripture; (2) Presenting infants as basically good, removing the need for salvation; or (3) a position of neutrality, restraining from teaching what the Bible has not clearly revealed. This last position was held by early Anabaptist Balthasar Hubmaier who said, “I confess here publicly my ignorance. I am not ashamed not to know what God did not want to reveal to us with a clear and plain word.”
  5. Our Relationship to Adam and the SBCAdam Harwood recently wrote about the view of imputed guilt held by Tom Schreiner, a professor at Southern Seminary. Harwood’s post was not intended to interact with Schreiner’s argument but to ask whether or not there is room for such views in the entities of the Southern Baptist Convention. Following his argument that Schreiner’s view is at odds with the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, Harwood concludes his post with a question: “Do we expect SBC professors to teach according to the BFM?”I want to consider Harwood’s question from three sides. First, what is the relationship between the BF&M 2000 and other Southern Baptist confessions? Second, has an actual change taken place, and what is behind it? Third, is the BF&M 2000 incompatible with Reformed views of inherited guilt? It takes me a little while to get to the main point of this post, that Reformed theology (particularly Reformed views of inherited guilt) are not challenged by Article III. If you are only interested in my explanation for that, you can jump straight to the section A Reformed Reading of Article III.
  6. The Spiritual Condition of Infants review complete – My review of Adam Harwood’s book The Spiritual Condition of Infants has finally concluded. The full review spans six posts and runs some twenty-seven pages. Given the length, I thought I would conclude the series by posting a pdf of the complete review:

    Review and Response to Harwood’s The Spiritual Condition of Infants


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tagged as , , in books,Christianity,Southern Baptist,theology

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 D.R. Randle February 5, 2013 at 8:12 am

Thanks to Chris for writing this – a review of Harwood’s book has been long overdue. Looking forward to reading it and hope to see it published elsewhere in the future.

2 Joe Cobb August 27, 2016 at 3:22 pm

As far as Baptist Faith is concerned – If infants haven’t yet made a decision to commit sin and are innocent – to enter heaven do they have to be Born Again John3:3-7? And if infants have to be Born Again to enter heaven – are all infants Born Again?


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