Southern Baptists have historically been people of the book. We have consistently stated that the Bible is 'authoritative and sufficient in all matters of faith and practice.'
In the last five years there has been a push for trustees, employees and administrators of Southern Baptist agencies to sign the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 to affirm their agreement with this modern confession of Southern Baptists or be removed from service.
It is my understanding that employees of Southern Seminary and Southeastern Seminary are asked to sign both the BFM 2000 and The Abstract of Principles which governs both institutions.
The charter of both seminaries contains the following statement that continues to be a part of the 'fundamental laws.' "Every professor of the institution shall be a member of a regular Baptist Church; and all persons accepting professorships in this Seminary shall be considered, by such acceptance, as engaging to teach in accordance with, and not contrary to, the Abstract of Principles hereinafter laid down, a departure from which principles on his part shall be grounds for his resignation or removal by the Trustees."
I have four questions:
(1). Would you be surprised to know that the Abstract of Principles and the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 contradict each other on a point of doctrine?
(2). Would integrity demand that professors, who by contract and charter must affirm and teach according to the Abstract of Principles, simply refuse to sign the BFM 2000 because it contradicts what the professors believe on just one or two points of doctrine that are not essentials of the faith?
(3). Is it reasonable, and should it be expected, that seminary professors might be allowed to sign the BFM 2000, expressing general affirmation, but write down their disagreement on a couple of points of doctrine that are not essentials of the faith?
(4). If it is considered reasonable for number (3) to happen, would it not be logical and consistent to allow all signers of the BFM 2000 to do the same?
Let me give you an example:
The Abstract of Principles, which every professor and employee at Southern Southern and Southeastern Seminary must sign, has an excellent statement on the fall of man.
VI. The Fall of Man (The Abstract of Principles)
God originally created man in His own image, and free from sin; but, through the temptation of Satan, he transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original holiness and righteousness; whereby his posterity inherit a nature corrupt and wholly opposed to God and His law, are under condemnation, and as soon as they are capable of moral action, become actual transgressors.
The abstract teaches that every descendent of Adam is 'under condemnation' even though they are not 'actual transgressors.'
In other words, infants are under 'condemnation' by God because of Adam's sin, even though they have not yet personally sinned.
This seems to be very consistent with the teaching of the Apostle Paul who said, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Romans 5:12).
However, the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message clearly teaches something different:
III. Man (The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message)
Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin. Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation. Only the grace of God can bring man into His holy fellowship and enable man to fulfill the creative purpose of God. The sacredness of human personality is evident in that God created man in His own image, and in that Christ died for man; therefore, every person of every race possesses full dignity and is worthy of respect and Christian love.
The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 teaches that the descendents of Adam are not under condemnation 'until' they are capable of moral action.
In other words, according to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 nobody is actually condemned for the sin of Adam, but rather, condemnation comes as a result of one's own personal, actual sin.
In other words, infants are 'innocent' before God and not under condemnation until they are capable of moral action and 'choose' to sin, and are then placed 'under condemnation.'
Now, I frankly believe that there is room for Southern Baptists who believe both interpretations. Some Southern Baptists believe condemnation is because of Adam's one sin, and others believe that no condemnation comes until there is personal, actual sin. I think the 'tent' is big enough for people who hold to these two different interpretations on this point of doctrine which is not an essential of the faith.
What really puzzles me is the inconsistency by some Southern Baptists.
The inconsistency of at least one seminary professor who is very vocal about the 'integrity' of the signers of the BFM 2000 when he himself believes and teaches a doctrine that is contradicted by the BFM 2000 (or at least in his contract of employment has 'signed' that he believed something different than what is written in the BFM 2000).
The inconsistency of those who label as 'moderate,' 'liberal,' or 'neo-conservative' anyone who questions anything in the BFM 2000, but then fail to realize that the charter for Southern Baptists' mother seminary teaches a doctrine contradicted by the BFM 2000.
The inconsistency of those who belong to a convention that has historically affirmed the Bible the sole and sufficient authority for faith and practice, but then act as if a confessional document is on par with the Bible itself.
I believe in the inerrant and infallible Word of God. I treasure it as the authoritative and sufficient expression of God's revealed will for man. I study it. I memorize it. I preach it. I live it.
My conscience is bound to it.
When I am asked to affirm a human document, I will. But I will not hesitate to show where I believe it is not in line with the Word of God.
By the way, when it comes to the consequences of Adam's sin I affirm the Abstract of Principles and believe the BFM 2000 to be in error on this point of doctrine.
Only the Bible is without error. Man's interpretation of the Bible is fallible.
The man who can't admit he may at times be wrong in his interpretation of the sacred text is the man undeserving of leadership in the SBC. He won't know how to be humble and gracious with those who disagree with him.
In His Grace,