I anticipate there will be efforts by several different groups to add amendments to the Baptist Faith and Message by the year 2010.
Besides the fact that BFM 2010 rhymes (say it aloud and you will hear it), I think there is very little wisdom in amending, rewriting, or changing our confession of faith.
I realize Dr. McKissic has requested President Page to appoint a committee to look at adding a statement regarding private prayer languages, and I am sympathetic with Dr. McKissic's rationale --- he believes it is unconscionable to exclude Southern Baptists from denominational service based upon doctrinal criteria that go beyond the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. Dr. McKissic wishes a statement to be made by the convention, one way or the other, regarding a private prayer language.
The only way the convention would come out ahead on an issue like this is for the convention to say, "We have people and churches in the SBC who are continualists, and we have people and churches in the SBC who are cessationists. Both groups affirm the BFM 2000 and we will not exclude either from denominational service because of differences on this doctrine, or any other doctrine, not addressed in the BFM 2000."
Reasons an Amendment to the BFM is Unwise
One of the problems with changing the BFM is that, unless there are safeguards, doctrinal interpretations which are not essentials of the faith will creep into the confession. When that happens, the document that was intended for unification becomes a document of polarization.
For example, even though I believe in particular redemption, effectual grace, and that regeneration preceedes faith, I am loathe to place those doctrines in the convention's confession, simply because serving with me on the mission field and participating with me in denominational service should not depend upon you agreeing with me on these doctrines.
Again, many in the SBC are dispensationalists, including pastors on our staff, members of my church, and other leaders. However, there are several who are not dispensationalists in the SBC, including pastors on our staff, members of my church, and other leaders in the SBC. Dispensationalism is an interpretation of the events surrounding the coming of Christ. It should be left out of any confession of our convention --- in order not to polarize and exclude some Southern Baptists.
So it is with a private prayer language. Many of us don't have one, and have never sought one. Thousands of Southern Baptists, and a clear majority of our African American SBC churches do have a private prayer language. However, to say we either affirm or deny the gift of tongues in the convention's confession is beyond the purpose of the convention's confession.
What Then Is Needed?
In essence, what is needed is a clear understanding by our agencies and boards that, while the convention expects affirmation of the BFM 2000 by denominational servants, there should be no attempts to exclude Southern Baptists on the basis of doctrinal interpretations that go beyond the BFM 2000.
In a future post I will show you that one of the reasons the BFM 2000 caused some polarization in our convention is because it came close to injecting third tier doctrines (or doctrines that are not essentials of the faith) into the body of the confession. As a result, there have been several states who have continued to adopt the BFM 1963 as their state confession.
It is not my intention to reverse anything that has been done in the past. There are those who seem to want to try say that I and others do not respect the leaders of the conservative resurgence. That is simply not true. I do respect these men, as I respect every Christian brother.
However, I am greatly concerned that the battle of the 70's and 80's which was supposed to root the liberals out of the convention might now become a battle to root out anyone who disagrees on a specific interpretation of doctrine by those in leadership. In other words, instead of excluding liberals, it is now an attempt to exclude Charismatics.
Tomorrow it may be an attempt to exclude the Calvinists.
Next year it might be an attempt to exclude Amillenialists.
Next decade it might be an attempt to exclude those who are not Landmark.
I pray that we can come to the place where the SBC cooperates in missions, evangelism and denominational service even though we disagree on the above issues.
What is needed is a formal statement that we, as a convention, will NOT DIVIDE over these issues.
Wisdom from the BFM 2000 Committee
President Page Patterson appointed the BFM 2000 Committee which included: Max Barnett (OK), Steve Gaines (AL), Susie Hawkins (TX), Rudy A. Hernandez (TX), Charles S. Kelley, Jr. (LA), Heather King (IN), Richard D. Land (TN), Fred Luter (LA), R. Albert Mohler, Jr. (KY), T. C. Pinckney (VA), Nelson Price (GA), Adrian Rogers (TN), Roger Spradlin (CA), Simon Tsoi (AZ), Jerry Vines (FL). Adrian Rogers (TN) was appointed chairman.
These are fine men and women, most of whom I know personally.
Listen to their wisdom regarding the convention's confession and ask yourself what would happen if we really took these words to heart. The following is found in the preamble of the BFM 2000.
Baptists are a people of deep beliefs and cherished doctrines. Throughout our history we have been a confessional people, adopting statements of faith as a witness to our beliefs and a pledge of our faithfulness to the doctrines revealed in Holy Scripture.
Our confessions of faith are rooted in historical precedent, as the church in every age has been called upon to define and defend its beliefs. Each generation of Christians bears the responsibility of guarding the treasury of truth that has been entrusted to us [2 Timothy 1:14]. Facing a new century, Southern Baptists must meet the demands and duties of the present hour.
New challenges to faith appear in every age. A pervasive anti-supernaturalism in the culture was answered by Southern Baptists in 1925, when the Baptist Faith and Message was first adopted by this Convention. In 1963, Southern Baptists responded to assaults upon the authority and truthfulness of the Bible by adopting revisions to the Baptist Faith and Message . The Convention added an article on "The Family" in 1998, thus answering cultural confusion with the clear teachings of Scripture. Now, faced with a culture hostile to the very notion of truth, this generation of Baptists must claim anew the eternal truths of the Christian faith.
Your committee respects and celebrates the heritage of the Baptist Faith and Message, and affirms the decision of the Convention in 1925 to adopt the New Hampshire Confession of Faith, "revised at certain points and with some additional articles growing out of certain needs . . . ." We also respect the important contributions of the 1925 and 1963 editions of the Baptist Faith and Message.
With the 1963 committee, we have been guided in our work by the 1925 "statement of the historic Baptist conception of the nature and function of confessions of faith in our religious and denominational life . . . ." It is, therefore, quoted in full as a part of this report to the Convention:
(1) That they constitute a consensus of opinion of some Baptist body, large or small, for the general instruction and guidance of our own people and others concerning those articles of the Christian faith which are most surely held among us. They are not intended to add anything to the simple conditions of salvation revealed in the New Testament, viz., repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.
(2) That we do not regard them as complete statements of our faith, having any quality of finality or infallibility. As in the past so in the future, Baptists should hold themselves free to revise their statements of faith as may seem to them wise and expedient at any time.
(3) That any group of Baptists, large or small, have the inherent right to draw up for themselves and publish to the world a confession of their faith whenever they may think it advisable to do so.
(4) That the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience.
(5) That they are statements of religious convictions, drawn from the Scriptures, and are not to be used to hamper freedom of thought or investigation in other realms of life.
I will be at the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma's Board of Directors meeting and will be unable to respond to any of your comments.
I do hope you will seriously consider what has been written.
In His Grace,