"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Believing Like Paul: Behaving Like Saul

Probably the most discouraging aspect of involvement in the blog world these past fourteen months has been the mean-spiritedness of those who disagree with what I and others write. Our convention thrives when diverse people dialogue and interact over differences, but it is difficult for me to understand how people who profess to follow after Christ can avoid the greatest commandment He has ever given and refuse to ‘love one another.’

Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd Jones (1899-1981), minister of Westminster Chapel in London for over twenty-five years, once wrote:

“Holiness and love must go together . . . To be holy does not just mean the mere avoidance of certain things, or even not thinking certain things; it means the ultimate attitude of the heart of man toward that holy, loving God , and secondly, our attitude towards our fellow men and women."

Recently I came across a Southern Baptist author who helped me work through some of my puzzlement over the tone and spirit of a few Southern Baptists in the blog world. Charles Knowles, Ph.D. is a Southern Baptist deacon from Missouri, and a retired science professor from the University of Missouri. He is the author of several scientific publications and one theological book. In his theological work, entitled "Let Her Be", Charles cautions that in some Southern Baptist circles,

“The Lordship of Jesus (is) treacherously truncated, and the biblical command to believers to walk in love is given short shrift.”

Dr. Charles Knowles points out that there is always the possiblity for problems in interpersonal relationships among Southern Baptists simply because of our diversity. However, he argues that there is . . .

“An enormous difference between a lifestyle in which mean-spirited interpersonal interactions are frequent, intentional, and believed to be right and a lifestyle in which they are infrequent, unintentional, and believed to be wrong.”

How can any Southern Baptist justify a persistent mean-spiritedness toward other Southern Baptists with whom they disagree? Charles Knowles suggests that there is a separation of personal holiness and the command to walk in love in interpersonal relationships in the minds of some. In other words, a flawed theology leads some Southern Baptists to believe that one can be holy yet not be loving toward those brothers who disagree doctrinally. Dr. Knowles explains it this way:

“One zealous expression of this flawed theology in Southern Baptist life is the proclivity of some individuals to fight believers whose convictions even appear to differ from theirs. Using vituperative language, attempts are made to assassinate the character of those whom they cannot control. Professing to be the paragon of right belief and the guardian of biblical authority while behaving toward others in ways that lack the validating quality of love raises the question of whether one has yet to come under the influence of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The wrong practice signifies a defect in one’s belief system. Claiming to think rightly about God and thinking rightly about God are not the same; in contrast to the former, the latter is characterized by right practice. Is it ‘Christian’ to profess to believe like Paul, the apostle, and to behave like Saul, the militant religious extremist?

Charles Kimball, in his book “When Religion Becomes Evil” writes:

“Whatever religious people may say about their love of God or the mandates of their religion (doctrine), when their behavior toward others is violent and destructive, when it causes suffering among their neighbors, you can be sure the religion has been corrupted and reform is desperately needed.”

My prayer is that all of us who blog will remember our higher calling is to love one another. Let’s disagree, but let’s do it with respect. Let’s point out the perceived weaknesses in the theology of others, but let’s not denigrate the character, intelligence or abilities of our brothers and sisters who disagree. In other words, let’s believe like Paul and refuse to behave like Saul.

In His Grace,



Ken Colson said...

Thanks, Wade. Keep on saying it.

Kevin Bussey said...


I've been saying this for months. I have no problem disagreeing with others. In fact I learn from those with opposing views. But what I can't stand is Christians dragging other believers names through the mud.

That is what I appreciate about you Wade, you talk issues, not personalities.

jasonk said...

There is a proclivity among pastors to do to their colleagues exactly what their church members sometimes do to them. One would think that as difficult as it is to live the life of a pastor, those who have accepted the call to ministry would be most compassionate and understanding of one another.
My experience is that this is a Southern Baptist issue. In other denominations, this is not as big an issue.
I have learned that SBC pastors often have a tendency to turn on those who stray from what they believe to be the straight and narrow path, whether it is a sinful choice made by their colleague, as was the case with me, or it is a relatively minor difference in doctrine or practice. You would think these men would be smart enough, experienced enough, or compassionate enough to know that either way, it is wrong.
Repentence is the answer.

Bill Scott said...

I preached a message about the contrast between Paul and Saul a few years ago. This is another wonderful contrast to add to the message.

It is difficult for people to argue a point effectively without being argumentative. Simply said, we invest so much emotional capital in our personal positions that we view any counter point as an outright personal attack.

It is a true sign of maturity to be able to listen first and then respond with love. It is also a true sign of maturity to communicate a message in such a way as not to cause division and strife.

You do well on both accounts Brother!

Bill Scott

Anonymous said...

I think the conservative resurgence needs a resurgence of love. The devil is smart. If he can't destroy Christianity with liberal theology, he is very happy to destroy it with loveless practice. Destruction is the devil's game, and he doesn't care how it happens so long as it does.

I would like to suggest that the full text of 1 Cor. 13 be added to the preface of the BF&M.

East Texas Pastor

Anonymous said...

That is an excellent article. I appreciate your spirit. We ought to love and discuss our difference with each other in a Christian way. Personally, I do not belive that the Bible teaches nor do I hold to the 5 points of Calvinism. Yet, I have been called a heretic by those who do. My views are similar to those of the late Dr. Rogers. Today, many SBC will call anyone a heretic if they disagree with them. Sometimes I think I am seeing the SBC breaking apart before my very eyes. As one person of a previous blog said, in every county in America over 50% of the people are unchurched. It seems the devil is sidetracking us on issues that really do not matter. Wade, thanks for the wonderful spirit that you have. May more Southern Baptist be like you!

TruthOfActs said...

Did Patterson behave like Saul in firing Sheri because he believed like Paul?
Yea, I know, I have a one track mind.
Rex Ray

A 10-40 Window Missionary said...


I have been reading this theme for some time, and appreciate how you and a few others practice this. While others seem to go out of their way to tear down a brother or sister. Thank you for taking the high road, while others (who many of us could name), cause me to question their belief in scripture.

Tommy said...

I've always found it interesting the behavior some exhibit at church league basketball and softball games, whether they're players, coaches, or spectators. Not exactly related to the same issue at hand, but similar principles should be applied whether it's sports or dialogue and debate among Christ followers.

Anonymous said...

Love (agape): "to pursue always and unconditionally—despite all personal costs to myself—the total wellbeing of another simply for the prize that one has become to me"
(cf. John 3:16; Romans 8:31-39; Ephesians 2:1-10; etc.)

1 Corinthians 13:4-8: A Faithful Paraphrase

Agape can restrain itself when being provoked by people, and even can be kind toward folks instead.

Agape is emotionally-mature; it is other-focused, not self-centered (it doesn’t get unduly jealous, and doesn’t need to point-out itself by selfishly misbehaving).

Agape acts nobly; it isn’t at all self-seeking, but the opposite of selfishness and sinful pride.

Agape isn’t on the verge of explosion, and it doesn’t keep track of the evil it experiences or observes and who did it.

Agape doesn’t feel entitled to receive, but to give.

Agape isn’t appealed to by unrighteousness, but it celebrates with the truth (if the truth is denied, and moral considerations are minimized, agape can’t be happy—it always offers protection, but points to the truth).

Agape always keeps faith and hope alive—it sees reality for what it is, but continues to give the benefit of the doubt and to look to a better future.

Agape doesn’t take failure as final—other things, including some exciting spiritual things—will cease to be, but agape never will suffer collapse.

Agape’s character is unfailing—God infinitely has agape, and even is agape.

With God's help: let's do it, folks.

David Troublefield
Wichita Falls, TX

Bob Cleveland said...

Someone said we need more often to be reminded, than informed.

Amen. Thanks for this reminder.

Anonymous said...

Wade, It seems that you have been living in another world for the last years. The love for each other went out the door as positions were taken and truth, love, and kindness were ignored. I enjoy your willingness to share. You must note that you confronted those in charge, and they did not get those positions thru love Alone! Blessings in your efforts. But, expecting love at this point in your journey is expecting too much. I hope you will love more and more as the journey unfolds. It will be hard! Blessings...Wayne, from Alabama

Anonymous said...


If you haven't seen it before, you might be interested to read John Frame's essay "Machen's Warrior Children." He describes a phenomenon among conservative Presbyterian groups that parallels what you are experiencing in the SBC. There is apparently an aberant gene in the DNA of fundamentalism. Denominational affiliation has little to do with the problem.


Anonymous said...

One of my hero's is Francis Schaeffer and I believe he was a one time student of Machens? He had similar struggles.
Jeram Barrs wirtes:
"Francis and Edith were bothered by the lack of love shown between Christians, especially where there was any disagreement. The denomination of which they were a part had been formed by the split from the Northern Presbyterian Church over the influx of Liberalism and the defrocking of J. Gresham Machen when he started an Independent Mission Board to ensure that the missionaries sent overseas were Bible believing Christians."

Here is where I think we are today in SBC life;

"He saw so much that was negative, so much that defined itself primarily in terms of what it was ‘against.’ He saw so much infighting within the circles of which he was a part, in his own denomination and across large segments of the evangelical community. He saw men struggling for power and using unscrupulous methods to gain or to maintain control and positions of influence. He saw church courts which were so governed by secret meetings, by prior agreements, and so manipulated in underhanded ways by men who were so absolutely confident that they were right and were serving the Lord better than anyone else – that presbytery and synod gatherings seemed sometimes more like the worst of political shady dealings and movements to wrest control by any means at hand that he began to despair of whether Christianity could indeed be true."

For me I am not sure what frustrates me most. Those who continue to seek to control our boards and to manipulate things their way, or those who blindly deny it is happening.
We do not need a conservative resurgence. We need a Biblical resurgence where biblical inerrancy is not only something we profess with our mouth but something we seek to live in our lives.

You can find the full statement here: http://www.reformation21.com/Past_Issues/2006_Issues_1_16_/2006_Issues_1_16_Articles/Schaeffer_Man_and_Message/261/

Stephen Pruett said...

Wade, On target as usual. It occurred to me recently that one problem that will be very difficult to overcome is that the policy changes and the removal of Dr. Klouda (and even the BF&M 2000) have already resulted in the exclusion of believers from service, loss of careers and life long dreams, disruption of lives, financial hardships, etc. If those responsible give even an inch on the arguments offered against their positions, they know they will have to admit to themselves and to those who have been wronged that they have not just overstated the certainty that is possible for some doctrinal issues but that they have wronged people who did not deserve such treatment.

It is only human to try to avoid such a conclusion, and most of us would instinctively behave the same way. Hopefully, we will all eventually allow the Spirit of God to overcome our instincts.

In any case, I think part of the reason that some prefer personal attacks is that if they engage in serious discussion on the issues, they may find that there are objections to their position that they cannot answer. I have seen this in correspondence with one of our SBC leaders. We exchanged 3 or 4 letters that focused on discussion of an issue, which was generally constructive and on target. However, as I continued to raise objections to his view that he apparently could not answer, I received a letter referring to my "twisted and harmful exegesis" and informing me that the correspondence was over. I am by nature an optimist (how can a Christian be anything else!), but I do not expect a sudden turn around. Perhaps if more who have not been involved become involved it will not matter.

Wade Burleson said...


If people responsible would acknowledge that boundaries were overstepped, people were wrongly excluded, and in humility and love concrete steps were then taken to correct the problems, this Southern Baptist would put his arm around those leaders, thank them for their godly display of leadership and do everything in his power to help them keep their positions of leadership in the SBC.

Steve A said...

You would think that if the prominent men of today's SBC honestly felt sure of the strength of their words and arguments and acts of leadership, and that the positions of trust they held were righteously attained, that they would honor challenges and forthright discussion of any topics dear to our hearts.

The fact that so often "the turtle's head gets pulled back into the shell" spurs me to think half of what they're doing and saying is pretension and fog, put into place to shelter political success and pursuit of influence. Then, when they misbehave and slash and burn others they should be cooperating with, I become more convinced of it.

If something is built on solid rock, it will withstand criticism and questioning. If men build on sand, don't they feel they must guard it night and day, knowing it cannot stand the test of time?

frostburgpreacher said...


Thanks for the post. I greatly enjoyed this and believe that a lack of love for others is a major problem within the Christian community as a whole. We have become so enamored with being right that we have forgotten how to love. Last Wednesday I did our Bible Study and Prayer Meeting on the subject of love. In research I found this rephrase of 1 Corinthians 13 from Jerry Bridges' book, “The Practice of Godliness.” Personally I think it fits well with what you have written.
•I am patient with you because I love you and want to forgive you,
•I am kind to you because I love you and want to forgive you.
•I do not envy your possessions or your gifts because I love you and want you to have the best.
•I do not boast about my attainment because I love you and want to hear about yours.
•I am not proud because I love you and want to esteem you before myself.
•I am not rude because I love you and care about your feelings.
•I am not self-seeking because I love you and want to meet your needs.
•I am not easily angered by you because I love you and want to overlook your offenses.
•I do not keep a record of your wrongs because I love you, and “love covers a multitude of sins.”

Robert Hutchinson said...

many of us are probably familiar with the church covenant written by john newton brown in 1853 that found its way in the baptist hymnal beginning in 1956. many sbc affiliated churches adopted it as their own.

after stating in the introductory paragraph, “…we do now, in the presence of God, angels, and this assembly, most solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with one another, as one body in Christ”, does anybody know what the first thing the church agreed upon together?

“We engage, therefore, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, to walk together in Christian love.”

If we do not first covenant or agree to love one another we may as well not bother cooperating together.

and what is love...

Love is patient,
love is kind.
It does not envy,
it does not boast,
it is not proud.
It is not rude,
it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil
but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects,
always trusts,
always hopes,
always perseveres.
1 Cor 13:4-7 (NIV)

what did Paul have to say to the know-it-alls…

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
1 Cor 13:2 (NIV)

the sbc can be the largest baptist convention in america, and we can send missionaries around the world, but if we don't love one another...we are nothing!

TruthOfActs said...

On the subject of acting like Saul, pastors should heed what happened to a preacher who holds the record of getting his Drs. Degree in the least time from SWBTS.

The Colleyville Courier By Staff Writer, Scott Price
Posted on Sat, Feb. 03, 2007

Colleyville Citizen of Year
After a Bitter Battle for the Soul of a Church, Community Recognizes Joe Deupree

Longtime Colleyville resident Joe Deupree was named Colleyville Citizen of the Year this week in the annual Colleyville Area Chamber of Commerce awards banquet Thursday.
Deupree, former Grapevine-Colleyville School Board president, led the effort over the past year in which many church members questioned the leadership at the First Baptist Church of Colleyville. [Texas]
Deupree was removed as a member of the church in February 2006 along with three of his fellow Bible study group members who questioned plans to move the church out of Colleyville as well as church spending and the re-organization of the church’s decision-making process. In August, the church’s pastor, Dr. Frank Harber, was asked to leave the church after information surfaced in the Courier about a questionable land deal with local developers. Earlier in the summer, Harber had sparked controversy by playing in a golf tournament sponsored by Hooters and a casino.
Rex Ray

TruthOfActs said...

Another lesson of fighting for the “Soul of the church” or the soul of the SBC, you can expect the ax from the powers that be. But sometimes the good guy wins.

May that also be your outcome, Wade.
Rex Ray

johnMark said...

Some words from Francis Schaeffer’s _The Mark of the Christian_

“A very important question arises at this point: How can we exhibit the oneness Christ commands without sharing in the other man's mistakes? I would suggest a few ways by which we can practice and show this oneness even across the lines where we must differ.


First, we should never come to such difference with true Christians without regret and without tears. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Believe me, evangelicals often have not shown it. We rush in, being very, very pleased, it would seem at times, to find other men's mistakes. We build ourselves up by tearing other men down. This can never show a real oneness among Christians.

There is only one kind of man who can fight the Lord's battles in anywhere near the proper way, and that is the man who by nature is unbelligerent. A belligerent man tends to do it because he is belligerent; at least it looks that way. The world must observe that, when we must differ with each other as true Christians, we do it not because we love the smell of blood, the smell of the arena, the smell of the bullfight, but because we must for God's sake. If there are tears when we must speak, then something beautiful can be observed.”

Taken from: http://www.ccel.us/schaeffer.html

Some things to think on….

Bob Cleveland said...


It occurs to me that the world's philosophy of the end justifying the means, has crept into the church. including leadership, and related institutions. That's the kindest face I can put on some of the stuff I've seen in the SBC in the last year (since I've been paying attention).

My take on the Bible is that God tells us to be concerned ONLY with the means. The end is 100% up to Him, and beyond our control.

Bill Scott said...

That is a wonderful illustration of what faith really is. We are His instruments (the means) and He will provide the end.

After all, He got things started. He will also finish things. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He is also the author and finisher of our faith. I think that what we do between the authoring and finishing is where He expects us to model His attributes.

docjoc said...

As a physician, I think of love as one of my spiritual vital signs. If I observe that I have not love towards everyone foe and frind alike...then I understand that I have not let God's spirit do his work in my life since the God type of love is a fruit of the spirit.
This love is not of myself, it is from God. In fact I love in spite of natural self..and often find that it just springs forth and surprises me that I have that love who often are unlovely.

As the song says: "They will know we are Christians by our love"

Charles said...

The difference between Saul the persecuter of Christians and Paul, an Apostle of Christ is the difference between a propositional religion and a relational faith.

We needn't be surprised that Saul often drowns out Paul when the language of the BF&M 2000 elevates the religion of Saul above the faith of Paul.

The 1963 BFM identifies this foundation as Jesus Christ.

"Baptists are a people who profess a living faith. This faith is rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ who is 'the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.'"

The 2000 BFM identifies this foundation as eternal truths.

"The 1963 committee rightly sought to identify and affirm 'certain definite doctrines that Baptists believe, cherish, and
with which they have been and are now closely identified.' Our living faith is established upon eternal truths."

The 2000 foundation is a set of truths which we believe. The 1963 foundation is a person in whom we believe. Saul of Tarsus had a life changing experience on the road to Damascus and the laws and propositions of and about God came alive in the person of Jesus Christ.

When propositional thinking is elevated above relational thinking, the only result that can be expected is what we are witnessing and mourning today. Why are we surprised that we are reaping what has been sown?

Dr. Robin H. Cowin said...

Wade, as a pastor I have often had to preach on the subject. Too often Christians want the benefits of Christ without realizing that we should also act like Him. I have puzzled long over why Christians cannot act like Christians. I have come to the conclusion that many have never had a life changing experience with Christ to affect their behavior and do not have His Spirit to guide them. Others simply refuse to see the light that guides them until He disciplines His own. Either condition needs a touch from Jesus.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Wade, for reminding us that "the greatest of these is love."

Florence in KY

docjoc said...

Dr. Robin H. Cowin I have wondered the same thing...and have come to believe that either they are not Christian or they are unwilling to let the Holy Spirit transform their life...According to Scripture I can see no other answer.

IMBLITS said...


What are the other "spiritual vital signs?" Sounds interesting. Thanks. I. M.

Anonymous said...

As a teenager, I was honored to be messenger from my church to the Southern Baptist Convention. I was 15 years old and excited about the call to missions I was feeling. As I walked through the exhibit hall while my mother attended a WMU executive board meeting, I was approached by a man with a piece of paper. He said, "I see you're a messenger, Son. I think you should know that a vote for anyone who is not on this list is a vote for Satan himself! You see Son, we've let these folks who don't believe the Bible take over this Convention and the time has come to clean house. Remember, this list is God's list. Any other vote is a vote to allow Satan to regain control of this Convention."

The year was 1980 and the city was St. Louis. I have revisited this conversation in my mind for years. Was this the language of love? I think not! Yet this was the groundwork being done by a Pastor dealing with a 15-year-old. He was not alone on the floor and in the hallways that day. Literally thousands of individuals were handing out "voting guides" and I was given similar "pep talks" by many different men. Is this what the "resurgency" was built on?

27 years later I am on staff at a Southern Baptist Church. However, it took me 17 years to come back to the calling I felt so strongly when I was 15. I work daily with fellow servants from many denominations to help teach the youth we work with the importance of living God's word: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is the first and most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like this one: Love others as much as you love yourself."

My prayer is that love will win out in the SBC. I must admit that my confidence that this will happen is low. As long as pride and power rule the day, love can't win in the SBC. But- Love never fails in the Kingdom of God. I thank Him that I know where my true allegiances lie.

docjoc said...

IMBLITS the other "Spiritual Vital Signs" are listed along with love in Gal. 5,22. But to me the God type of love is most easy fruit to see or not see in my own life. When I don't see it in my life, I know I am not letting God's Spirit do his will and work in my life. Its not God's fault, its mine. Its then time to tell God of my sin...and ask forgiveness.

Just like physicians take vital signs to check for illness, Christians need to check their "Spiritual Vital Signs" regularly.

Bob Cleveland said...


Thanks for pointing out that change in the 2000 BF&M. That may be the most damaging change of all.

As I read the 1963 version, I get the idea that I can have a personal relationship with Jesus. I can know Him. In light of what He said in Matthew 7:23, I think that's all-important.

Then I read the 2000 version, and I see it's "certain definite doctrines" and "eternal truths" I'm supposed to know.

The subtle hint seems to be that I cannot KNOW Jesus. In a close personal way.

Wow. I wonder who thought of THAT?

As it happens, I spoke of other subtle changes in the BF&M, to my SS class, yesterday. Looks like I'll be revisiting the topic next Sunday.

Anonymous said...

Wade asks, “How can any Southern Baptist justify a persistent mean-spiritedness toward other Southern Baptists with whom they disagree?”

Let’s be blunt -- Why just Southern Baptists? How about Roman Catholics, muslims, liberal Episcopalian bishops? How about homosexuals?

Directly on point is the comment above of East Texas Pastor who said, “The devil is smart. If he can't destroy Christianity with liberal theology . . . “

So liberal theologians are doing the devils work now?

I say to East Texas Pastor: Consider perhaps that it is a hateful act to place the devil’s label on liberal theologians because you disagree with them about the message of Christ. But such labeling seems to be automatic for some South Baptist folk. Examples you are all too familiar with abound.

The intellectual forebears of those liberal theologians you obviously despise were men and women who opposed slavery and drove your intellectual forebears into the establishment of a denomination which embraced and defended slavery. Who was doing the devil’s work then, East Texas Pastor?

I respectfully suggest that the implication that Southern Baptists are somehow specially entitled to the love of other Southern Baptists sets a pernicious precedent -- if you are framing this discussion within the context of Love as taught by Christ in the New Testament. Are Southern Baptists a special people deserving of the love of others because of the church to which they belong? Where in the Bible are Southern Baptists named? In whose eyes are Southern Baptists special?

I’ll quit here.

farmboy said...

Regarding the reference to Jesus Christ present in the 1963 BF&M that is missing from the 2000 BF&M, here's the rationale for the change as it has been explained to me: Certain theologians would find teachings in Scripture that offended their sensibilities. They sought a way to be rid of these offensive teachings. One solution was to argue that Jesus would have never taught these things. By focusing on Jesus, then, these theologians could argue that certain teachings of Scripture were not really authoritative.

What these theologians were doing was constructing a jesus (little "j" intentional) in their own images and ignoring the Jesus of Scripture. Many authors have reviewed these ill fated attempts. Three examples are as follows:

"The Real Jesus: The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospels" by Luke Timothy Johnson,

"What Have They Done with Jesus?: Beyond Strange Theories and Bad History--Why We Can Trust the Bible" and "The Jesus Quest: The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth" both by Ben Witherington III.

Whether it has worked as intended is open to question, but I can understand the logic of trying to remove any BF&M cover from the "Jesus would never teach this" approach to the (mis)interpretation of Scripture.

RefBapRob said...

Charles and Bob Cleveland,
The difference between relational and propositional truth is a false dichotomy. Its both not one or the other.
Christianity is both a relationship and a religion.
Its not the Purity boys vs the Unity boys ...it is both.
I think that was clearly explained in Al Mohlers two sermons . Dont just do something, stand there (a set of truths) and Dont just stand there,do something(relational).
Iam I wrong?
glad to here why.
Sola Deo Gloria
Robert I Masters

Anonymous said...

"Becoming Great Commandment Christians Becoming Great Commission Churches"

Try becoming a Great Commandment Christian without the aid of the Holy Spirit--it can't be done.

Try becoming a Great Commission Church without the aid of Great Commandment Christians--it can't be done, either.

1. Continue to live a life yielded to the Holy Spirit;

2. Permit the Holy Spirit to continue to produce in us the values/attitudes/actions of Jesus Chirst--who fulfilled the law because of who He is, not because He tried hard;

3. Love God (worship) and love people (ministry)--and give expression to the two great loves of our lives through evangelism, fellowship, and discipleship;

4. Don't have time for anything else;

5. Jesus comes again to get us;

6. In the meantime, the Holy Spirit doesn't permit us to mistreat each other and shame Jesus' name before the watching world by doing so.

David Troublefield
Wichita Falls, TX

Lee said...

I was around during most of the last controversy, spent most of it in college and seminary, and observed that mean-spiritedness up close, literally. I was in the student center in Southwestern one evening during the first round of stormy trustee meetings, along with other students, and saw and heard a lot more than I ever wanted to. After having grown up in a church where you could hear the crickets outside during a business meeting, it was quite a shock.

How is it that such behavior, in a Christian context, doesn't cause those who engage in it to lose credibility?

Shouldn't it at least have that effect?

Steve A said...

Anonymous, you give a good testimony of the 1980 St. Louis SBC meeting. That was the year one state Baptist editor was heard saying, "They’re booing Herschel Hobbs. Am I at the Southern Baptist Convention? They’re booing Herschel Hobbs. What is happening to us?"

I read this at

Many innocent, well-meaning followers of God were uprooted, damaged, and had their reputations destroyed by the conduct of our theological "saviors." If we as a convention are ever to look back at what that campaign brought us, this might be the time; not to go back and replace one side with that war's losing forces, but to realize what we all lost.

I remember teaching a SS class where we took Samuel's name and compared it to Saul's. I asked, could God be asking Israel a question: What are you leaving behind in pressing for a king?

Of course, left behind in the move from Prophet "Samuel" to King "Saul" were the letters M & E. "me!"

Although we "all" thought it was a great idea then, was the SBC doing the same worldly, power-focused thing in our lifetimes as old Israel did - carrying out reform in a most worldly fashion?

(Of course, most folks see Israel's motivations as much worse than the conservative resurgents.)

Perhaps we could take one simple step, of re-establishing the 1963 BF&M, which emphasized Jesus instead of doctrinal purity like the 2000 rewrite did.

Since Al Mohler seemed to lead the charge on the 20000 version, he or some other prominent leader of those days could lead the charge now to restore soul competency and the priesthood of the believer to their rightful place.

TruthOfActs said...

I may be wrong, but I think you said the wrong year in one of you paragraphs. You said:

“The 1963 BFM identifies this foundation as Jesus Christ.

"Baptists are a people who profess a living faith. This faith is rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ who is 'the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.'"

The 2000 BFM identifies this foundation as eternal truths.

"The 1963 [I think you meant 2000] committee rightly sought to identify and affirm 'certain definite doctrines that Baptists believe, cherish, and with which they have been and are now closely identified.' Our living faith is established upon eternal truths."

The 2000 foundation is a set of truths which we believe. The 1963 foundation is a person in whom we believe.”

Charles, I heard one explanation for the reason Jesus was removed from the BFM. It went like this:

We’re not going to allow anyone to say, “Jesus sat on my bed last night and told me He was going to take everyone to heaven, so there’s no reason to have missions.” We’re simple not going to stand for this kind of thinking.

Charles, their rational is not worth the time to refute it.
To me, having Jesus as our foundation in the BFM means the interpretation of Scripture should be done through the eyes of Jesus with the aid of the Holy Spirit, and not some hand picked committee by Patterson telling us truths of the Bible that churches must obey.

“It takes only one wrong person among you to infect all the others.” (Galatians 5:9)

With Mormons that person was Joseph Smith, and with the SBC could it be Patterson that gave us the BFM 2000?
Rex Ray

bryan riley said...

There's a praise song that Matt Redman sings that makes two simple statements:

If you know you're loved by the King, sing, sing sing.

If you know you're loved by the King, Live for Him, live for Him.

I think we get are panties all up in a wad about myriads of theologies and don't really live in the reality of the simplicity of some real truths like "Jesus loves me this I know" and "God gives." If we really lived like we believed that God loves us, what wouldn't we do for Him???? We'd be holy because we desired to please Him! It's really that simple, but instead of living in that reality we doubt it and start worshiping other things.

Think of your favorite preacher, musician, athlete, president, actor. If any of those individuals came knocking on your door, seeking you out, to be your friend, serve you, and love you, how would you react? How much more should we react knowing that THE KING who gave the talent to those favorites of yours, who holds all riches and all power, loves us???

Benji Ramsaur said...

Francis Schaeffer has already been mentioned and he is the figure who sticks out to me (in the 20th century) as a model of truth/love.

He was propositional AND relational.

Francis Schaeffer INTENSELY loved people.

I remember hearing the story about when he spoke at Dallas Theological Seminary and, I think, he was talking about how some modern movies try to protray life as not having order. But he went on to say something like "But you don't see man walking through walls, etc."

Some of the seminary students started to chuckle at that.

And Francis Schaeffer stepped away from the podium and said something like "Why are you laughing! This man is made in the image of God and he's Damned!"

Folk didn't laugh after that.

Debbie said...

Rex said: "To me, having Jesus as our foundation in the BFM means the interpretation of Scripture should be done through the eyes of Jesus with the aid of the Holy Spirit, and not some hand picked committee by Patterson telling us truths of the Bible that churches must obey."

Well said Rex. Exactly.

Bryan: Amen to your post as well. This is powerful stuff.

Roger Simpson said...

All of this parsing of the differences between the BFM 1963 vis a vis BFM 2000 is too much! To me both of these documents are the "same". And, in any case, they are light-years removed from any impact of the Gospel on the lost world. Talk about aguing about nuanced stuff! If there are third tier doctrines then the debate about various BFMs has to be forth tier.

The battle about various BFMs is obsolete -- it is over. Let's move on together in a cooperative way.

Roger Simpson
Oklahoma City OK

Jim Paslay said...

I am amazed how some can draw distinctions between the 1963 BF&M and the 2000 BF&M with everything from a short movie to the Apostle Paul.

Moderates have for years resisted the term inerrant because they embraced a neo-orthodox approach to Scripture. "The Bible contains the Word of God but the Bible is not the Word of God." Or as some others have stated, "It becomes the Word of God when it speaks to me personally." II Timothy 3:16 tells us that "all Scripture is God breathed. Every part of the whole. If God has given us His Word, then it is trustworthy. And if God has given us His Son, He will do the will of His Father. The Word will not contradict Jesus and Jesus will not contradict His Word.

As for "believing like Paul: behaving like Saul", that line would describe people on both sides of the theological spectrum within the SBC. I suggest a refresher course before we start blaming conservatives for all of our denominational troubles.

Tim Cook said...

OK, Here's the thing: not everyone who doesn't like the word "innerrant" is neo-orthodox or whatever. I believe the Bible is innerrant if you go with the long explanation of that word given in things like the Chicago Statement. If I have to use it as a "password" to work and function in the SBC then I will. But I don't like it. Here's why: any lost person with a brain in their head can see that we have 4 gospels that are not identical in all their accounts. To modern eyes that looks like an "error" along with a lot of other things like "fuzzy" numbers and scientific assertions. To modern people, those are called "errors". Now, I have taken all the appropriate classes and know that 1st century folks would have considered all of those things to be accurate and compatible with one another. They just wrote on a different level. But I am afraid that when witnessing to someone, especially a well-educated someone, my assertion that the Bible is "innerrant" will be a stumbling block to them, that to their ears it will seem such a ludicrous claim that they will stop listening to me before I can explain the nuanced way in which I mean "innerrant". It's all about lost people, and reaching them with the love of Christ. They don't have to believe "innerrant" to come to that place, so I don't want to talk about it too loudly. Let's get back to being more concerned about evangelism than about arguning an argument that only other believers will understand.

In Christ,
Tim Cook

John Fariss said...

I have to agree with Charles' well said and carefully thought-out comment that (1) there is a dichotomy between propositional truth and relational truth and (2) the BF&M2K emphasises propositional, while the '63 leans more toward relational. In fact that encapsulates my visceral reaction against the 2K version quite well.

Anon who was at the '80 SBC: I wasn't there, but thanks for sharing. I can seee that it left you with some significant pain.

Lee, I was at SEBTS apparently about the samt time you were at SWBTS. And I saw/heard the same sorts of things. And I saw a lot of good and Godly professors painted with the brush of liberalism when they did no more than try to craft a way to understand faith (in Christ Jesus) for the world we encountered when we left seminary. It wasn't, "This is what you have to believe, and the way you have to believe it, and now I'll tell you that traitional Christianity is wrong." On the contrary, it was, "Here are the tools; use them to determine where Jesus would have you go, and how He would have you fulfill your calling. Be able to defend what you claim to believe, regardless of what that is." I well remember one class, taught by a professor branded quite liberal, who instructed us to write a paper on the authorship of the Pauline epistles. One student, a strident Conservative, very active in the Resurgance, asked, "What if we disagree with you?" The prof's answer was, "So long as you adequately defend your thesis, and back up what you believe with good scholarship, that's all that matters." I don't know what that student made on his paper; but on mind, I chose a position much more traditional that the professor's, and I backed it up with facts and scholarship, and I not only made an "A" on the paper, but even received positive comments from him on it.

Farmboy & others; I heard all those arguments about "liberal" Baptist theologians, scholars, and preachers using the criteria of Jesus Christ to deny this, that, or the other from the Bible. Funny thing: the excesses were always anecdotal, and never firsthand, never documented. But let's say, for sake of argument, that it did happen; after all, in agroup of hundreds and thousands of people, there are always a few who are going to misuse anything, misunderstand anything, or be just plain squirley. Does that mean you should throw out the baby with the bathwater? One thing I did learn at SEBTS was that everyone has a criteria for interpretation: it may be personal experience, it may be prejudice, it may be unarticulated, it may be a lot of things, but there is always some criteria. At least the '63 tried to make it something both objective and relational. What is it now? It certainly is not a mechanical literal inmterpretation, because not even the most staunch Fundamentalist takes everything in the Bible as literal--they agree that some things are meant to be taken alagorically (it's just that we can't agree on which is what).

Oh, well. I'll get off my soapbox now. Love to all.

Publius said...

Jim Paslay,

Wow! Your copy of II Tim has all that?!? I must have an old translation...

Tim Cook:

Preach it, brother.

Cecdaddy said...


I appreciate your response to Stephen Pruett. It is quite hard to avoid going for the kill once the right thing has been done by the other party. I have experienced this on a small scale, and it was extremely difficult to let it go. However, it was the best thing for ourselves and our church.

I hope that one day you will have the opportunity to do just what you have said, to put your arm around those who are currently causing such pain and support them in their positions of leadership. It is what we are supposed to do, even though it is hard.

Rob Ayers said...

Jim Paslay has it down. I agree with the idea that BFM1963 is more relational while BFM2000 is heavy propositional. I would be in favor of increasing the language of relational while leaving the propositional portions "as is" because it is IMHO both.

If we are going to fight over again the issues of the Conservative Resurgence, then let us "tell it like it was." As a Southern Baptist, both in the pew, and in the clergy I tired of hearing those who claimed "relational" truths affirming tortured exegesis of "first order" doctrines:

The Atonement ("When We Talk About God, ... Let's Be Honest" - Kirby Godsey)
Inclusivism, Universalism (Dr. Marshall)
The issue of Life (Abortion - if truth be told, this was the number one battle cry of the CR - and a continued weakness of the moderate position)
Sexual Identity (Homosexuality - "we take no stand" CBF)
Marriage and the Family
Holiness (Living life according to propositional truths - knowing what the standard of holiness is)

Many of these positions were held to by seminary professors on the dime of Southern Baptists. How do I know? I was in class with them. I experienced and often times had to repeat back to them their position or face circumstances in grading - and since I had to keep my GPA up, I regurgitated what they wanted (while moderates claim conservatives are ideologically narrow, my experience was that moderate teachers were just as if not more narrow in their indoctrination methods). And while I do not condemn the libertine liberality of these men and women, I just believe that they were and are plain 'ole wrong. One can hold to an inerrancy of Scripture without losing their mind, or losing one's intellect or integrity. In terms of this Tim, I hold you no ill will, and allow you the freedom to utter your "intellectual honesty." But please, allow me to hold to mine without being condescending to my position, since both of our positions are held to by faith - both yours and mine. As to sharing the gospel with the intelligent and educated, I can hold my own, thank you very much. God's Word does not come back void, and the power of the Holy Spirit cuts through every an excuse since it is the Power of God Himself that breaks down strongholds to the hearing of the gospel - not we ourselves (see Romans 1:16,17. Also see 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 and see what Paul says about the educated and wise, "...for God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.")

The statement on "relationship" alone was a mistake, for "which Jesus?" The Mormon Jesus, the Jehovah Witness Jesus, the Jesus who says that abortion is "okay", that homosexuality is a "lifestyle choice," that He (Jesus) did not really raise from the dead, etc, etc, ad nauseum? The folks from the Jesus Seminar claim an allegiance to "relational" truth. But who really is their Jesus? Something to think about.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, John Faris, for some good comments. Your post meant a lot to me.

Florence in KY

GeneMBridges said...

To me, having Jesus as our foundation in the BFM means the interpretation of Scripture should be done through the eyes of Jesus with the aid of the Holy Spirit, and not some hand picked committee by Patterson telling us truths of the Bible that churches must obey.

Apart from the exegesis of the Scriptures, pray tell, how do you know what "the eyes of Jesus" are/is or that the Holy Spirit is the one leading you? This is precisely the sort of thing argued in Geneva and elsewhere in the 18th century. It's a textbook example of Enlightenment rationalism. What invariably happens is that your apriori ideas about Jesus become the grid of your exegesis, and not vice versa. Is that an idea that the early Protestant Reformers or the early Baptists in England would even recognize?

Scripture sets itself as a principia of theology as a post-dogmatic conclusion, not a predogmatic conclusion. Ditto with the doctrine of God. However, it is a massive level confusion to use the ontological principia to define and interpret the teleological principia. The ontological cannot be known apart from the telelogical. The telelogical priniciple, the cognitive foundation for what you know is Scripture, not your ideas about Jesus, for those cannot be known apart from Scripture. This is all the BFM2K is saying.

Rob Ayers said...

Great post, Gene. Have you ever taken Judo?


Anonymous said...

Folks, there hasn't been this much discussion of the versions of the BF&M in quite some time--though it certainly has been needed (cf. the fussin'). Keep it up, everyone; no one has the market cornered on truth--and no version of the BF&M can fully present or explain it.

What kind of "conservatives" is meant by the references to them here?--and "moderates" and "liberals," and whatever?

My view: 99.5% of the SBC is "undeclared mainstream"--as conservative biblically and theologically as the day is long; they are my Christian parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles--and probably yours; they were not well-represented when the BF&M 2000 was adopted because these people don't attend annual meetings of the convention--they simply trust that "everything works the way it always has" and either BF&M statement works for them; their pastors have told them what they ought to believe about the matter.

"Moderates" appear to come in two versions: one whose theology and politics--honestly--are less conservative, and one whose theology is conservative but whose convention politics are less conservative (these have been mistakenly termed "moderate," in my opinion); the second group appears to have the courage of their moral convictions--they will not force others (nor be forced) to adhere to the BF&M 2000, and many of them have paid dearly for it.

"Liberals" essentially are non-existent in the SBC; can 1000 be found among the 16 million of us?

A "Conservative Continuum" (except this blog's layout doesn't permit the form of a continuum)--from least to most conservative, convention-wise (make this is a group project, fill in blanks; again, all conservative biblically--but not necessarily politically--in my view):


If you have something better, let's have a look at it. Hurry to reply--Wade's working on tonight's or tomorrow's posting!

David Troublefield
Wichita Falls, TX

Anonymous said...

That's ". . . from least to most POLITICALLY conservative, convention-wise . . ." (convention politics).

David Troublefield

Charles said...

A friendly remedial glossary for decoding Gene's post for those of us who've been out of school for a while:

teleology: explaining phenomena by their ends or purposes

ontology: the metaphysical study of the nature of being and existence

epistemology: (an issue he addressed but didn't use the fancy word for) the philosophical theory of knowledge

TruthOfActs said...

Many times I’ve appreciated your look on things. Refering to the BFM 2000, you stated: “The subtle hint seems to be that I cannot know Jesus in a close personal way. Wow, I wonder who thought of that?”
Who thought of that is a good question. When Patterson was president of the SBC, he hand picked 15 people for a committee to make changes to the 1963 BFM.

I know nothing of these people except I believe two of them were women. I believe they were all good Christians, but I doubt that any thought much different than Patterson. I believe that Patterson knew them well.

Knowing Patterson’s views that women can’t teach men, the question arises, why would he put women in a position of authority to choose the beliefs that would shape Baptist doctrine? Do you think Patterson told the committee that whatever they came up with would be fine with him? I don’t think so—I believe he had veto power over every word and comma. I believe he pushed his authority just like he has at SWTBS and his fingerprints are all over the BFM 2000—especially that only men could be pastors.
I believe he had women because it would help ‘sell’ the changes. They were only there for looks.

You say, “Pray tell, how do you know what ‘the eyes of Jesus’ are/is or that the Holy Spirit is the one leading you?”

For that answer, I can only trust what Jesus told us, “When the Holy Spirit, who is truth, comes, he shall guide you into all truth, for he will not be presenting his own ideas, but will be passing on to you what he has heard.”

Gene, if you would like to communicate with me, I’d suggest trying smaller words for I’m just a simple man that is not impressed with your big words.

My only hope is standing on the words of Jesus, and I don’t recall him saying a committee would teach us anything.
Rex Ray

Debbie said...

Gene: I believe that is why James 1 tells us to pray for wisdom. Saul prayed for this and look what happened to him. Wisdom as defined in the Bible is seeing things from God's viewpoint. Romans tells us that the Holy Spirit is the one who gives us this wisdom to understand the scriptures. Something that only born again people can do.

The Bible tells us that the Bereans checked everything Paul told them with scripture themselves.

We are to most certainly learn from others, but we must also study for ourselves and only the Holy Spirit can bring us to the point of believing personally. It must be I believe it because I see it in scripture. Not I believe it because so and so told me.

SelahV said...

Good evening Wade: I don't think I've ever commented here, but I'm not sure. I did want to say that I love this post. I do have a couple of questions, though.

Can you tell me why we must point out the perceived weaknesses in the theology of others? Is it just our own (the SBC) or are we to point out the perceived weaknesses in other faiths, too? I'm having a tough time with that one. SelahV

Anonymous said...

I can't get the blog to work so I will do it this way.

Wade, I love this post. It sounds so familiar concerning these past years in SBC life.

Please forgive (indulge) me for posting the following but it is a continuation of my favorite song and sermon.

JESUS LOVES ME (for the mature)

Jesus loves me, this I know,
Though my hair is white as snow.
Though my sight is growing dim,
Still He bids me trust in Him.


Though my steps are oh, so slow,
With my hand in His I'll go
On through life, let come what may,
He'll be there to lead the way.


Though I am no longer young,
I have much which He's begun.
Let me serve Christ with a smile,
Go with others the extra mile.


When the nights are dark and long,
In my heart He puts a song.
Telling me in words so clear,
"Have no fear, for I am near."


When my work on earth is done,
And life's victories have been won.
He will take me home above,
Then I'll understand His love


I love Jesus, does He know?
Have I ever told Him so?
Jesus loves to hear me say,
That I love Him every day.

Living in Peace
Country Baptist Preacher

TruthOfActs said...

Welcome old/young friend. How do you like the quick comments on Wade’s blog compared to where you came from? I believe it’s beneficial to be trusted to have freedom instead of being chaperoned which sometimes takes days between comments.
I’m not Wade of course, but I think of theology in terms of right or wrong, correct or incorrect, and true or false, but not in terms of weak or strong.
Wade’s blog is truth and grace. We go for truth, but sometimes we have trouble showing grace. Wade is a good example on grace.
I’m glad Wade doesn’t pound on other’s faith—we have hard enough time trying to straighten out own.

Thanks for helping to “teach” a Mormon truth on another blog. He seems to have withdrawn.
Rex Ray

Wade Burleson said...


When the weakness in another's theology hurts people, excludes people, marginalizes people, or ultimately harms people by actions that are not Christ like, then we should point them out.

Otherwise, leave them alone.

Publius said...

In the end, isn't all of our theology a little weak? Can any of it compare to the greatness of God?

The beauty of the 1963 BFM was that it recognized our utter dependence on Christ. We see but dimly, and all the -ologies it the world don't add up to squat without Him. Indeed, I might even go so far as to say it's foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved, it is the very power of God.