It is interesting that a select group of IMB trustee are now attempting to deliver a written justification for the new policies on tongues and baptism. I would encourage you to read both the rationalization for the policy on tongues and the rationalization for the policy on baptism very carefully.
I'm sure there will be plenty of debate on these two white papers, but frankly, I am delighted that they have finally been issued to allow a platform for public, doctrinal debate.
Rather than breaking down the new policies, and critiquing them both, I would like to make three observations.
(1). The issue is the exclusion of good, solid conservative Southern Baptists from participation and cooperation on the mission through the IMB simply because they disagree with interpretations of Scripture that the BF&M does not address.
The basis for the new tongues policy is the classic cessationist position. I'm sure there are many Southern Baptists who hold to this view. But there are other Southern Baptist professors, teachers, pastors, administrators, agency heads, laymen and others who hold to the continuationist interpretation. What is the difference?
The cessationist says, "Two things characterized tongues in the New Testament: Jews and evangelism. Tongues were given to be addressed to men (Israel), not to God.”
If someone objects to this interpretation by saying that Paul said, "Do not forbid the speaking in tongues," the cessationist will say, "We would not forbid to speak in “languages” in a supernatural fashion (I Cor. 14:39)".
We pay good money to teach people how to speak a different "language" on the mission field. I can assure you that not one person on the Board of Trustees would ever forbid somebody from speaking in a "language" they supernaturally learned. The mental gymnastics required to explain aways Paul's admonition "do not forbid the speaking in tongues" (I Cor. 14:29) to refer to a known language among men, rather than a supernatural language spoken to God, would be funny to the coninuationist were it were not so sad to him. He is left wondering, "What does the cessationist think I am doing? Does he think my gift is from God or Satan?"
For the record, I do not have the gift of tongues. I never have had it and I don't desire it, but I sure don't mind going to Africa and serving on the mission field with someone who prays in tongues in their prayer closet. The old policy already forbad tongues to be spoken publicly on the field (by the way, if "tongues" were truly "languages" understood by men, then why in the world would the old policy forbid "tongues" to be spoken "publicly"? Were missionaries supposed to share the gospel in sign language?).
The continuationist says that tongues remains a gift of the Holy Spirit today and there are places in Scripture where tongues was used in prayer to God, and not a known language to men. A wonderful, evangelical scholar named Dr. Sam Storms, a close friend of Baptist theologian John Piper and one of the finest Southern Baptists Oklahoma has ever produced, has written two excellent essays that show the continuationist perspective. Both articles can be found here and here.
The old policies of the IMB forbad the public expression of tongues on the mission field, but left the private prayer closet of the believer as sacred ground. The new policy disqualifies the Southern Baptist who is a continuationist from serving on the mission field. The Southern Baptist Convention is large and broad enough to have both groups of people cooperate around the Great Commission.
The disqualification of good, solid, conservative Southern Baptists men and women from serving on the mission field BECAUSE they are continuationists and not cessationists IS THE ISSUE.
The new policy on baptism also excludes Southern Baptists from serving who do not believe the administrator of baptism is of Scriptural importance.
Nobody disagrees with the first three points of the baptism paper. But I predict that point four in the baptism white paper will cause an uproar. I am frankly very grateful that it is now in print. Please read the paper in full, but allow me to excerpt the disturbing conclusion of point four while leaving the questionable paragraphs under point four alone for the time being . . .
The concluding paragraph on the defense of the proper authority of the administrator of baptism states "Yet, would being baptized by just anyone have made His (Jesus) baptism legitimate? Of course not. Jesus was baptized by the last Old Testament Prophet. Having the right authority was so important that John was the product of a miraculous birth, a special calling, and a proven ministry. Authority in baptism mattered to Jesus and should, therefore, matter to us. After our Lord took such great care to submit to proper baptismal authority are we to now have no need for the same?"
This conclusion will be torn apart by Southern Baptist scholars. I am withholding comment on it at this time simply to make, again, the point that seems to be missed in this debate!!
We ought to be able to fellowship and cooperate with those Southern Baptists who are cessationists and Landmark, but we also ought to be able to fellowship with those Southern Baptists who are not!
WHY ARE WE NARROWING THE PARAMETERS OF COOPERATION ON THE MISSION FIELD TO INCLUDE CONFORMITY TO SPECIFIC INTERPRETATIONS OF SCRIPTURE THAT ARE NOT ESSENTIAL TO THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST?
(2). When each board and agency begins to establish different doctrinal parameters that EXCEED the Baptist Faith and Message, and then demands adherance to those interpretations among all employees, we move very, very close to allowing just a few people to establish what is "orthodox," and we move away from our convention wide confessional heritage..
All of our Baptist Confessions of Faith throughout history have been broad enough to encompass people who disagreed on the non-essentials of the faith. The Baptist Faith and Message is broad enough to include people who take opposite views of the interpretation of those doctrinal issues upon which the Baptist Faith and Message remains silent?
I believe once we start down this creedal path it becomes a very, very slippery slope. We end up violating every historic Baptist principle upon which our denomination has been built, and eventually seek to squelch conscientious dissent.
(3). Finally, it is worth remembering that the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention can pass any policy it desires. We could pass a policy that says ladies with blond hair and blue eyes are disqualified from serving if we so desired.
Who holds the board accountable? The Southern Baptist Convention as a whole.
If you don't believe we ought to continue to narrow the doctrinal parameters for participation and cooperation in our missionary and evangelistic endeavors, then you better participate in the process immediately.
Do what Chairman Hatley has suggested. Let your voice be heard in print by writing to trustees at firstname.lastname@example.org and telling us what you think.
Silence is approval.
In His Grace,