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

The 2000 BFM: A Confession, Creed, Or A Club?

At Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Oklahoma we have a wonderful group of conservative evangelical men and women who are doctrinally sound and able to articulate various theological positions in soteriology, ecclessiology, eschatology and pneumatology. We have Calvinists and Arminians, proponents of elder rule and advocates of congregationalism, dispensationalists and preterists, and cessationists and continuationists. But yet we all get along in fellowship, cooperate with each other in missions, and love each other without conditions. Our basis of fellowship is around Jesus Christ and the essentials of the gospel. Our unofficial motto: "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity."

Allow me to give an example. Recently I gave a series of messages on the end times. Since this was a departure from my usual expositional manner of teaching, I resolved to not spoon feed people a particular viewpoint, but rather, I taught all four major positions held by evangelicals: (1). The historic premillenial view, (2). The dispensational view, (3). The amillenial view, and (4). The preterist and/or postmillenial view(s) -- and only at the end of teaching the entire series did I give my opinion, but I tell people that they must come to a conviction on their own as to what Scripture teaches. Every time I teach a series that allows me to articulate various opinions or viewpoints of people regarding the same doctrine, I will always emphasize that evangelicals who hold to those various viewpoints often also hold to a high view of the authoritative, sufficient and inerrant Word of God. When asked how conservative Christians can arrive at different interpretations I remind people that all of us sometimes slip into frail, insufficient and fallible interpretations of the infallible Word. Only Bible teachers filled with pride will never question whether or not they may be wrong in their interpretations.

This is where Al Mohler's brilliant proposal to establish a theological triage system whereby people may know the difference between first tier (primary), second tier (secondary), and third tier (tertiary) doctrines would be healthy for our SBC. There are some who say that everything in the BFM 2000 is PRIMARY DOCTRINE, and if a Southern Baptist expresses any disagreement with any portion of the BFM 2000, he is not a true Southern Baptist and is not worthy of leadership in the SBC.

This kind of thinking is very, very dangerous. Why? It is more 'cultic' than it is Baptist. If a Southern Baptist cannot point out where he/she believes the BFM 2000 is in contradiction with Scripture we are in trouble. In fact, if a Southern Baptist voices a disagreement with some of the interpretations of tertiary doctrines found within the BFM 2000, and we then begin to 'question' that Southern Baptist's conservative credentials, we have prostituted our heritage as Baptists. Why? We will have placed ourselves in the very bizarre place of having people in the SBC being called 'liberal' when they champion their belief of the authority of the Bible over a man-made confession. Think about it -- in 2007 it is possible for Southern Baptists to call 'a liberal' someone within the convention whose conscience is bound to the Word of God, and not the BFM 2000!

Even worse, we now have people in the SBC who are attempting to move the entire convention to an acceptance of interpretations of tertiary doctrines that go far BEYOND those contained in the BFM 2000. Those who are demanding conformity to policies and guidelines that are based upon specific interpretations of tertiary doctrines, without giving room for disagreement, will ultimately destroy our cooperating convention.

Southern Baptists have fallen asleep at the wheel. We had better wake up and speak up. Someone needs to have the prophetic courage and fortitude to show, RIGHT NOW, that to publicly disagree over tertiary doctrines, even those tertiary doctrines found in the BFM 2000, is NOT A REASON to disfellowship, end cooperation, or remove people from leadership in the SBC.

By the way, one might advocate the following as a possible definition of Fundamentalism -- any philosophy that adds to the sacred Word of God. Liberalism takes away from the sacred Word of God; Fundamentalism adds to it. Both ideologies are dangerous, and whereas it seems we successfully resisted the dangers of liberalism in the latter portion of the 20th Century, we must now resist the dangers of fundamentalism in the 21st Century

Allow me to illustrate. It is possible for me to point out at least five tertiary doctrines in the BFM 2000 where solid, conservative evangelical Southern Baptists disagree. Unlike fundamentalists who wish to exclude those who disagree with tertiary doctrines in the BFM 2000, I believe it is a healthy thing for people to discuss and debate various interpretative views on those doctrines that are not essential to the faith, but contained in the BFM 2000. Some wish to remove people who publicly disagree with ANYTHING in the BFM, even if it is a TERTIARY doctrine. Bart Barber recently suggested that I make a list of those places in the BFM 2000 where there are differing interpretations on tertiary doctrines. Dr. Barber believes everything in the BFM is a PRIMARY doctrine, and I'm sure he wishes to prove I can't point to disagreements among Baptists on tertiary issues in the BFM 2000.

I can, and I will.

Listen carefully: Even though I am pointing out five differing interpretations of non-essentials doctrines below, I am not saying these doctrines are not important. They are. And we should debate them, discuss them, and try to come to some consensus. However, I am saying as clearly as I know how that differing interpretations of the doctrines below should not be a reason to cease cooperation in SBC missions, or exclude from SBC missionary service or leadership.

EXAMPLE ONE: The BFM 2000 Teaches Infants Are Innocent And NOT Under God's Condemnation Until They Personally Sin

My blog has contained an interesting discussion about the point at which people are condemned by God.

The BFM 2000 in Article III says infants come under God's judgment 'as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation.'

Dr. Greg Welty and Dr. Bart Barber of Southwestern Seminary have both publicaly agreed that BFM 2000 does not teach infants are condemned for the sin of Adam.

However, The Abstract of Principles, the institutional confession of Southern Seminary and Southeastern Seminary teaches:

"Adam 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 . . ."

This 'condemnation,' according to the Abstract is BEFORE anyone has committed 'actual transgressions' or even are capable of 'moral action.' It is interesting to note that the Abstract of Principles is consistent with the 1925 Baptist Faith and Message on this point of condemnation. We are all condemned, according to the Abstract of Principles, for the sin of ONE man (and of course I would say this is very consistent with Romans 5).

The fact that the Abstract says people become 'actual transgressors' when they are capable of 'moral judgment' only compounds the judgment those without moral judgment (infants) ARE ALREADY UNDER due to the sin of Adam.

These two statements on the fall of Adam, one in the Abstract and the the other in the BFM 2000, are NOT compatible.

However, read carefully -- there is room for both interpretations in the SBC regarding the point at which people actually fall under the just condemnation of God, either, (1). At the impartation of the soul (the Reformed view), or (2). When that soul grows to maturity and is capable of moral action (the 'age of accountability,' the Semi-palagian view).

For the purpose of missions cooperation this particular doctrine is tertiary and not essential. Nobody, neither the Calvinist nor the semi-palagian better DEMAND conformity to his viewpoint in the SBC or there will be an irreversible rip in the fabric of our cooperation.

EXAMPLE TWO: The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 Teaches Closed Communion

Article VII states: Being a church ordinance, (baptism) is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper.

Baptism has already been defined in Article VII as baptism by immersion, and since the very word 'baptism' (Gk. 'baptizo') means 'to immerse,' one would be hard-pressed to call himself Baptist without believing in baptism by immersion.

However, there has been disagreement for years among Baptists over whether or not Baptists could share communion with believers who have not been 'properly' baptized. There is no question that baptism is a prerequisite to the Lord's Supper (or fellowship/communion) with other believers, but the question becomes, if someone is not baptized by immersion, can they still be a partaker of 'communion' with the family of Christ?

Spurgeon said, yes, absolutely! His church welcomed at the table of communion all Christians, whether properly baptized (by immersion) or not. Why? There was the belief that the Kingdom of Christ transcends the 'local' church, and if we will all share the 'Marriage Supper of the Lamb" together in heaven, even with Christians not 'properly' baptized - as we Baptists define it - then why would we withhold the cup of fellowship and communion from believers here? Like Spurgeon's Metropolitan Tabernacle, our church invites all Christians, regardless of the 'mode' of their baptism, to the Lord's Table. Our local church 'membership' is strict (only believers who have been baptized by immersion), but our table of 'communion' is open.

Nathan Finn, a professional historian and an employee of Southeastern Seminary, has written that he believes a large majority of Southern Baptist Churches practice the same form of modified open communion our church practices. I believe there is room in the SBC for both views and if there are attempts by either side on this view to DEMAND that the other side do it their way, then a rip in our fabric of cooperation takes place. I can't sign the BFM 2000 without expressing my disagreement to this article, and if there are people who believe that I should not serve as a trustee because of my disagreement with closed communion, then we have lost our moorings. Closed communion is a legitimate interpretation of the Scripture -- but it is not the only, conservative Southern Baptist view.

EXAMPLE THREE: The Baptist Faith and Message Teaches Justification Is Simply 'Acquittal' and Makes NO Mention of Christ's Righteousness Received.

The BFM 2000, in Article IV B, states, "Justification is God's gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ."

Dr. Sam Storms has done an excellent job in pointing out the weakness of this statement in his post entitled Two Theological Concerns With the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

(Justification) is defined/explained in the BFM 2000 as "God's gracious and full acquittal . . ." But justification is not simply acquittal; it is not simply God saying "Not Guilty." It is the positive and forensic declaration that the believer in Christ is righteous. Acquittal alone won't get anyone into heaven. We need the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. Protestant theologians in the tradition of the Reformation have traditionally defined justification in terms of forensic or legal declaration of righteousness because of the active and passive obedience of Christ imputed to our account.

Now certainly it is true that justification includes the notion of "acquittal" or the declaration: Not guilty. But acquittal is not itself justification. Justification is the declaration by God that we are reckoned righteous through faith in Christ.

Now, in my opinion, there is room in our convention for people who have the defective view of justification as defined in the BFM 2000. I would never seek to remove those who hold to it; though I would hope they could be taught better, and in accordance with the Scripture. In addition, even though The Abstract of Principles is different from the BFM 2000 and correctly states that justification includes receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith, I don't believe we should demand SWBTS and other agencies of the SBC to sign the Abstract. There is room for both interpretations on justification for the purpose of missionary cooperation.

Let me say it again -- if there are demands for TOTAL CONFORMITY to what the BFM 2000 teaches, without allowing for disagreements on issues like this, then anyone who believes justification is more than just simple acquittal will have to step down from SBC leadership or missionary service because he can't 'endorse' such a low view of justification. (By the way, I just noticed this discrepancy between the BFM and the Abstract today through Dr. Storm's blog).

EXAMPLE FOUR: The BFM 2000 States, Contrary to Scripture, That The Holy Spirit Baptizes Every Believer Into the Body of Christ

In Article II C, on 'God the Holy Spirit,' the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 states, "At the moment of regeneration He [i.e., the Holy Spirit] baptizes every believer into the Body of Christ."

Again, read carefully Dr. Sam Storms on this subject . . .

I agree with the BFM that Spirit baptism occurs at the moment of regeneration for all believers. The classical Pentecostal doctrine of Spirit baptism as separate from and subsequent to conversion lacks biblical warrant.

But this statement asserts that the Holy Spirit baptizes every believer into the Body of Christ. The problem is that there isn't a single, solitary biblical text which says that the Spirit baptizes anyone into anything. It is always and in every text Jesus Christ who baptizes believers in the Holy Spirit, the result of which is that we are incorporated into the Body of Christ.

Some have argued from 1 Corinthians 12:13 that Paul is describing a baptism "by" the Holy Spirit into Christ or into his body. Part of the motivation for this is the seemingly awkward phrase, "in one Spirit into one body," hence the rendering, "by one Spirit into one body." But what sounds harsh in English is not at all so in Greek. Indeed, as D. A. Carson points out, "the combination of Greek phrases nicely stresses exactly the point that Paul is trying to make: all Christians have been baptized in one Spirit; all Christians have been baptized into one body" (Showing the Spirit, 47).

The translation of the ESV is certainly the most accurate in 1 Cor. 12:13. It reads:

"For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body - Jews or Greeks, slaves or free - and all were made to drink of one Spirit" (emphasis mine).

Much the same terminology appears in 1 Corinthians 10:2 where Paul says that "all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea." Here the cloud and the sea are the "elements" that surrounded or overwhelmed the people and Moses points to the new life of participation in the Mosaic Covenant and the fellowship of God's people of which he was the leader (see Grudem, Systematic Theology, 768).

In the other texts referring to Spirit-baptism (Mt. 3:11; Mk. 1:8; Lk. 3:16; Jn. 1:33; Acts 1:5; 11:16), the preposition en means "in", describing the element in which one is, as it were, immersed. In no text is the Holy Spirit ever said to be the agent by which one is baptized. Jesus is the baptizer. The Holy Spirit is he in whom we are engulfed or the "element" with which we are saturated and deluged, resulting in our participation in the spiritual organism of the church, the body of Christ.

If the biblical authors had intended to teach that the believer is baptized "by" the Spirit they would most likely have used another preposition, probably hupo followed by the genitive, not en with the dative. This is what we see in such texts as Matthew 3:6, Mark 1:5, and Luke 3:7 where people were baptized "by" John the Baptist; or texts such as Matthew 3:13 and Mark 1:9 where Jesus was baptized "by" John; or Luke 7:30 where the Pharisees had not been baptized "by" John.

I can only conclude that those responsible for writing the BFM 2000 were misled by a mistranslation of 1 Cor. 12:13. As I said, the Holy Spirit doesn't baptize anyone in anything. I encourage all to read again the prophecy of John the Baptist that Jesus "will baptize you with [lit., "in", the Gk. Preposition en] the Holy Spirit and with fire" (Mt. 3:11; Mk. 1:8; Lk. 3:16; Jn. 1:33; Acts 1:5; 11:16).

Dan Wallace, noted Greek scholar, disagrees and argues that the preposition en is an example of "means". He writes: "the Holy Spirit is the instrument that Christ uses to baptize, even though he is a person" (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 374). However, Wallace is also clear that it is still Christ himself who is the agent of the baptism, i.e., he baptizes, not the Spirit. So, even if one accepts Wallace's understanding (which I don't), the point is still the same: Jesus Christ baptizes either "by means of" or "in" the Spirit, but the Spirit himself, contrary to the BFM, never baptizes anyone.

I have yet to fully digest this statement by Sam Storms, but I can assure you, I am sharper theologically after having read it. Were we to exclude a man from SBC leadership like Dr. Sam Storms, simply because he points out his disagreement with the BFM 2000 on this particular doctrine, we would be like the blind man who doesn't see his own medicine bottle lying on the counter. We put people in leadership who can't even articulate the issues, and ignore the very person who can help us get a better understanding of the Bible. Championing free and open debate on doctrinal issues allows the cream to rise to the top.

EXAMPLE FIVE: The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 Says That All Southern Baptists Should Do All IN Their Power to Put An End To War

Article XVI on 'Peace and War' states, "It is the duty of Christians to seek peace with all men on principles of righteousness. In accordance with the spirit and teachings of Christ they should do all in their power to put an end to war.

The true remedy for the war spirit is the gospel of our Lord.


All I will say about this is to give a simple anecdote: If we applauded more at the 2006 SBC when Dr. Condoleezza Rice when she said that we will obliterate the terrorists with our bombs than we did when Dr. Jerry Rankin stated we should do more to win the world for Christ through our mission efforts, are we actually in fulfillment of the BFM 2000?

Now a time for confession. I am a George Bush fan. I am, frankly, in agreement with the Iraqi War. I have never wavered on this, and believe if we do not militarily move preemptively against Islamic extremists, we will find ourselves attacked by them.

My point, however, is this -- I would never seek to promote my political ideology upon our convention. There is room enough in our convention for people with differing views on the Iraqi War -- and if and when our convention is identified too closely with any political party -- either Democratic or Republican, we are in violation of the BFM 2000. Let's keep our focus on the gospel.

I do believe this post is probably the longest one I have ever written. I hope you read it carefully. If you did, you will then understand my closing three thoughts.

Conclusions:

(1). Demands to 'sign' the BFM 2000 and 'remove' from leadership anyone who expresses disagreement with the BFM 2000 on the tertiary issues mentioned above is evidence of a seismic shift in the historic understanding of what it means to be a Baptist. Many of us were silent when 'liberals' were attacked, but now, some of us who are 'conservative' are being attacked because we dare express disagreement with a handful of tertiary doctrines in the BFM 2000. Friend, the BFM 2000 is NOT the Bible -- and nobody should pretend it is. The BFM 2000 is fallible and mutable. God's Word is infallible and unchangeable.

(2). Among the reasons scholar J. Gresham Machen opposed Fundamentalism in his day, according to John Piper, were these: (a). The absence of historical perspective; (b). The lack of appreciation of scholarship; (c). The substitution of brief, skeletal creeds for the historic confessions; (d). The lack of concern with precise formulation of Christian doctrine.

My concern is similar to Machen's: If we close our eyes and let people act as if 'orthodoxy' is 'signing a creed' and forget that Baptists have historically debated quite vigorously different and various tertiary doctrines, while at the same time working together for the furtherance of the kingdom at large, we will eventually lose our spirit of cooperation. Let's work toward better, more doctrinally precise confessions of faith -- but let us never succumb to the temptation of believing 'signing' something is 'evidence of orthodoxy.' Confessions are a consensus of belief, but majority views are not necessarily orthodox views. That's why we never sign confessions without the ability to express dissent on those interpretations of tertiary doctrines with which we disagree.

(3). It is time that Southern Baptists realized that doctrine is important -- but so is debate. You never really get more precise doctrinally unless you champion free and vigorous dissent. We should NEVER seek to remove from missionary or ministry any Southern Baptist who affirms the primary doctrines of the faith, but believes differently on tertiary doctrines from those who are 'in charge.' Frankly, if we let 'those in charge' demand conformity to their particular interpretations of tertiary doctrinal issues -- letting them convince us that to agree with them is synonymous with 'Baptist' orthodoxy -- we wind up losing the very Baptist orthodoxy we seek to protect.

I affirm wholeheartedly the major doctrinal and gospel tenets of the BFM 2000, but unless we begin to realize that debate of tertiary doctrines is not harmful to the gospel and come to the place where our convention is characterized by unity in the essentials; liberty in the non-essentials; and charity in all things, we will be unable to figure out how to keep the main thing (the glory of God in the proclamation of the gospel) the main thing.

All of us should approach any resolution or recommendation that demands Southern Baptists to treat the BFM 2000 like a cultic creed and refrain from 'public' disagreement as a huge caution flag. We are a confessional people who champion the freedom of dissent and debate. I for one do not believe doctrinal preciseness is a bad thing -- it's the growing demand that SBC'rs sign faulty, skeletal creeds that contain interpretative 'fiats' regarding tertiary doctrines that will get us in trouble. Soon, leadership may very well begin to issue interpretative fiats they wish to worm into the BFM 2000 (i.e. 'A cessationist's view of the gifts' or Landmark view of ecclesiology' etc . . .).

The restoration of a cooperative spirit among Southern Baptists around the gospel of Jesus Christ and the freedom to express conscientious dissent on interpretations of tertiary Biblical doctrines is essential to the expansion of His kingdom through the sharing of the gospel and our own growth in understanding Biblical doctrine.

The stifling of public dissent on doctrinal matters, and the inability to base our cooperation in missions on agreement over the fundamentals of the gospel alone, ultimately dumbs down the entire convention to the point of real Biblical illiteracy.

Let's work toward a more doctrinal preciseness as a convention, but let us be crystal clear that confessions that form the basis of our cooperation in missions and ministry should be as broad as possible, for until we see Christ face to face, all of us see in a glass darkly and will struggle with fallible interpretations of tertiary doctrines of the infallible.

Unity in the essentials, liberty in the non-essentials, charity in all things.

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

201 comments:

1 – 200 of 201   Newer›   Newest»
Jeff said...

Excellent idea to have doctrinal triage. I would whole-heartedly support it.

Jeff

Anonymous said...

Wade,
Excellent post. I think you meant to say "fallible" instead of "infallible", early in the post.

Danny Cabaniss

volfan007 said...

wade,

i will not pretend to speak for bart barber, but i think you are wrong in stating that bart believes that these issues are first tier doctrines. for example, i cant imagine bart saying that someone who does not believe in your example one or example two as being lost, unregenerate people. to me, from all i've been reading about these "tiers" is that first tier would mean that we dont believe that you are even saved if you dont hold to first tier, or the essentials, of the faith.

now, would bart believe that these are what you would call "second tier" doctrines? again, i'm not bart. but, you would call baptism a second tier doctrine. in other words, it's that important to us as sb's to believe that baptism is by immersion....only. and, even though i dont look upon a saved methodist, or a saved presbyterian, as being lost because they sprinkle; still, it's important enough for us to divide over. right? that's what secondary tiers do. they're not essentials of the faith, but they are important to us in how we do church as sb's. they are important to us so much that we're willing to separate from the presbyterians, or the methodists, or the e-free denominations over. even though we consider them christian if they believe the essentials.

so, i think it's really unfair for you to say that bart, or me, or others like us, would say that someone who doesnt believe in the bfm2k is not a christian. thats not true. we would state that they are secondary doctrines...enough to divide us in how we do church.

again, bart can speak for himself, and far more smart and articulate than i can. but, this is my humble opinion.

david

Lee said...

Long, yes, but worth reading.

I think one of the biggest mistakes we have made as Southern Baptists is allowing the convention, rather than the 45,000 independent, autonomous churches, to define what it means to be a true "Southern Baptist." Historically, cooperation was based around what we could agree upon, and not what we disagreed upon. Think about it. If your church has groups of people that hold all of those various views within one congregation, what kind of diversity exists within 45,000 churches scattered all over the country? How many people would be left in your church if the majority determined the church's sole doctrinal position on any one of those subjects you mentioned?

The SBC will take your church's money, but it won't let your church's members serve as missionaries or teach in the seminary. That's absurd.

Robert Hutchinson said...

BF&M Preamble

"Confessions are only guides in interpretation,...

"...having no authority over the conscience."

"...having NO authority over the conscience."

"...having NO AUTHORITY over the conscience."

"...HAVING NO AUTHORITY OVER THE CONSCIENCE."

Bart Barber said...

Wade,

You know, I find that I never like the taste of your words crammed into my mouth.

Bart Barber said...

BTW, Hi Danny. Long time, no see.

Larry Hamblen said...

Wade,

Well said, and your blog reflects my sentiments precisely. I left a Landmark association to become a Southern Baptist pastor back in 1977. I left because there was no room in that group for honest disagreement on doctrines that you have listed.

I came to the SBC because there was a latitude allowed for honest, open discussion and disagreement. Here in California the debate was over "anti-alien immersion and open communion" section of the California SBC constitution: Article III, section 3, if memory serves me correctly.

Since that time that the Constitution was amended and you no longer have that kind of language in that document. I don't know of any churches that left the CSBC over that change. No one talks about it anymore. I have pastor friends who practice close and closed communion in their churches. I practice open communion. It is not an issue here! Cooperative evangelism and missions are the front-burnner concerns on the Convention! Open or closed communion issues are not even on the stove anymore.

So, I agree with you. If the BFM cannot allow honest open discussion and disagreement in non-essential areas that you've listed, then it is creedal and no longer a consensus. Such a position will destroy our cooperative work.

Pastor Tony said...

Bro Wade,

I have to say I think you have missed the point of Dr. Mohler's spiritual triage. You have been talking like there are only two levels, when Dr. Mohler clearly defined three. I agree with David. Dr. Mohler defined first tier (i.e., primary) as those things that make us Christian, second tier (i.e., secondary) as those things that makes us Southern Baptist, and third tier (i.e., tertiary) those things that are debatable.

The move to have doctrinal unity in the SBC through our confession is important. As I ask elderly members to give sacrificially to the Cooperative Program or the annual offerings, I want to be assured that the message we are advancing is the same message we advance as a church. It makes sense to me. We can disagree over the truly tertiary, but I think we have failed to accurately define secondary and tertiary statements.

Does the BF&M2000 contain tertiary issues? Or does it speak to the secondary issues that make us SB? I ask questions that I do not have the answers for. So, until those issues are clearly defined, how can we even argue? It doesn't make sense. It is like saying Washington D.C. is in Virginia, no it is in Maryland. Until it was established as a separate District, the arguments were constant. Thus we come to our current confession of faith, the BF&M 2000. What are the secondary issues that would be the very definition of SB and what are the tertiary issues where freedom to disagree should abound?

I think this requires much study and more scholarship than I am capable of.

Thanks for this post. It is exactly the kind of thought-provoking post that is needed in the SBC.

Anonymous said...

Wade, I read your comments almost every day and I am always uplifted by them. As a former SBC pastor for 20 plus yrs and now a United Methodist pastor, I applaud your calls for unity while holding to your convictions about scripture. having been out of the Baptist church for three years now, I see that Baptists take themselves a lot more seriously than anybody else does.
Gerald J
Criswell College grad

blackhaw66 said...

Wade,

I agree with Al Mohler. However I would make the 1st tier those doctrines that make us Christians. The second tier would be those doctrines that make us Baptist. While the third tier would be ones that most maybe agree upon in the SBC but we can still agree to disagree. I might allow one more tier in between the 2nd and 3rd. That one would be what makes us Southern Baptists. Taht would be doctrines that we need to hold in order to be Southern Baptists but I do not know of any that I would put in that tier as compared to the 2nd or 3rd tier. But I think that would help people understand what the tiers are and what they mean better. And it would allow the SBC to make statements of what the SBC is without disfellowshipping with other denominations and groups of Christians who love the Lord.

Tripp said...

I am going to agree with what Pastor Tony said above.

I really believe that Wade abuses Dr. Mohler's theological triage viewpoint. As Tony mentioned above, Dr. Mohler gives forth three tiers of theological doctrine.

The first tier is that doctrine that is central to Christianity and essential to the faith. THE SECOND TIER IS THAT DOCTRINE THAT WILL CREATE A SEPERATION BETWEEN BELIEVERS; i.e. creation of denominations. The third tier are those doctrines that may be disagreed upon and yet Christians can remain together in the same denomination and/or church.

Wade seems to completely ignore the second tier. He implys that doctrinal issues fall into either the first tier (what he terms essentials) and the third level (what he terms non-essentials).

For example, many would see charismatic gifts as a second tier issue. Also, others would see eternal security as a second tier issue.

It is key though to note that Mohler is advocating THREE tiers...not just two, as Wade seems to advocate.

IMO...Wade is erring just like liberals and radical fundamentalists do. As Mohler pointed out, liberals deny the existence of essential truths and fundamentalists insist that all doctrines are essential. In my opinion, it seems Wade is either denying or ignoring that there is a second tier involved in theological triage.

He loves to talk about essential and non-essential doctrines, yet he ignores the existence of secondary doctrines.

Mark said...

I fail to see where Bro. Wade has completely ignored the idea of a second tier (in an effort to dismiss every non-essential). But maybe I'm not as perceptive as some. I would ask this: How would you who express dissent (openly and freely!) from Wade's views categorize his five examples? And this: Exactly at what point did Wade dismiss all non-essential matters into File 13?

PS - Danny, how's OK these days?

Mark Sims
FBC, Perrin
"the greatest church in Texas!"

Anonymous said...

Wade,

The problem is not that there is no agreement on some type of teired doctrinal system. The problem is finding agreement as to whether or not a particular doctrine deserves primary, secondary, or tertiary levels. For some, a PPL would be secondary, which would lead to a denominational separation. For others, it would be viewed as tertiary, which is great for debate, but not necessarily an issue of separation. In my opinion, primary doctrines are definitely in the BFM [all would agree, I think]. However, secondary issues need to be in there as well, because it shows what it means to be distinctively baptist. The real question is whether PPL and meaning of baptism is a secondary issue or a tertiary issue. I would say it is secondary, leading to denominational separation. You [and others] would say it is tertiary, meaning it is a great subject to debate, but does not necessarily lead to separation. Thus the problem remains, if having adopted a level of doctrine, who will decide the levels? As far as the BFM, It does appear that it contains primary and secondary issues, in my reading.

As far as the supposed disagreements between BFM and Abstracts, the BFM is not contradictory to the Abstracts, as Dr. Welty well proved yesterday. Instead, it does the very same thing that you are accusing it of not doing, it takes the broader path of inviting both the Reformed and the non-Reformed to have agreement on the issue of soteriology.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous above regarding BFM and A of P should have been signed,

John B.

Les Puryear said...

Wade,

I understand your disagreement with BFM2K on what you consider to be non-essentials. However, allow me to reproduce a statement from the BFM2K Introduction.

"Baptist churches, associations, and general bodies have adopted confessions of faith as a witness to the world, and as instruments of doctrinal accountability. We are not embarrassed to state before the world that these are doctrines we hold precious and as essential to the Baptist tradition of faith and practice.

The word "essential" is used in regard to the doctrines as stated in BFM2K. It seems to me that the framers of BFM2K consider all of BFM2K to be "essential" (1st tier) doctrine. If they don't believe that, then they need to amend the introduction.

I don't know that I agree with the statement however, I thought it was important to point this out.

Les

blackhaw66 said...

Les,

You said: "The word "essential" is used in regard to the doctrines as stated in BFM2K. It seems to me that the framers of BFM2K consider all of BFM2K to be "essential" (1st tier) doctrine. If they don't believe that, then they need to amend the introduction."

Actually it would make some 1st and some 2nd. The 2nd tier are doctrines that Christians can debate between one another but not Baptists. An example of this would be believers only baptism. That doctrine would define what it would mean to be a Baptist and thus be essential for that purpose but not essential in regard for one to be a Christian. 1st tier are doctrines like the Trinity which all Christians must believe.

volfan007 said...

les,

the doctrines of bfm2k are essential to being baptist, not a christian.

david

Les Puryear said...

Blackhaw66,

Thanks for the explanation. In either case, BFM2K says these are essential doctrines to the SBC. I'm not saying I agree or disagree. I'm just stating what the Introduction says. :)

David,

You are correct sir. I agree. Aren't you a baptist? :)

Les

Wade Burleson said...

Les,

You raise a good point.

It is my argument.

If people believe that in order to be a Southern Baptist it is 'essential' that you believe infants are not condemned for the sin of Adam, then you are calling Al Mohler, Tom Nettles, yourself, and me something other than Southern Baptist!

:)

Anonymous said...

Great post, thanks.

I don't wish to throw gas on the fire, but haven't we blended two groups in our discussion that shouldn't be blended?

Specifically, isn't there a difference between those who belong to the SBC (members of cooperating churches) and those who represent the SBC (Convention leadership, missionaries, seminary profs, etc.)? For example, in a church a member can hold some fairly wacky views and still be accepted in the fellowship on his essentials; but the pastor cannot entertain publicly wacky views (even if he has them) for the sake of the body.

Don't you think that asking folks to agree with the BFM2K is something all should do while sitting in office for the sake of the convention? They represent the SBC, therefore they should do it without undue controversy.

Thanks for the forum for this discussion. It's a good one.

Jim

Anonymous said...

Not that anything you brought up was wacky. Sorry for the unintended slight.:)

Jim

Bill Scott said...

Tony and Tripp..(that kind of sounds like a soft rock band from the seventies)

You both might be new to this blog. A simple search of Wade's blog will reveal that he does understand the three tiers that Mohler advocates.

You may review this post:

HERE

Greg Welty said...

Because Wade has in this post referenced my views on the compatibility between the Abstract and the BFM, I might as well direct readers to my side of that conversation, which is found in the links here: [1 2 3 4 5 6 7].

Nothing Wade says in this present post adds anything of substance to that discussion, as far as I can tell. He continues to impose an "either-or" dichotomy on the two documents, and he does so without argument.

Four comments on the present post.

First, Wade's comments on the BFM's doctrine of justification are subject to a critique similar to that referenced above. He seems to think that there is a "discrepancy between the BFM and the Abstract" on the matter of justification. No, there's not. The BFM doesn't say *everything that could be said* on the subject of justification. The Abstract *includes* elements in its own account that the BFM leaves out. So what? Where's the *contradiction*? As I've already pointed out, the preamble to the BFM is quite clear that confessions like the BFM are not to be regarded as "as complete statements of our faith." It's ironic that someone sensitive to the issue of "skeletal confessions" could miss the fact that the BFM is in fact "skeletal" on this issue.

Second, Wade claims that there are "tertiary doctrines" *within* the BFM. In the first link above, I rebutted his claim, by appealing to the very preamble of that document. Wade has yet to interact with the substance of that argument. "Tertiary doctrines" are *not* "the things most surely believed among us." The problem here is that Wade, for whatever reason, doesn't want to take the document on its own terms. The committee members were not idiots when they described the document as they did. Rather, they were following quite a bit of historical precedent. In the last five paragraphs of the second link above, I rebutted Wade's alternative view. Again, there was no engagement with the substance of the argument.

Third, Wade represents Machen thusly:

[[[
(2). Among the reasons scholar J. Gresham Machen opposed fundamentalism in his day were these: (a). The absence of historical perspective; (b). The lack of appreciation of scholarship; (c). The substitution of brief, skeletal creeds for the historic confessions; (d). The lack of concern with precise formulation of Christian doctrine.
]]]

Wade, is there a reason why you are plagiarizing a 1993 presentation from John Piper, word-for-word, with no attribution? (Cf. the section "Machen's Response to Modernism and to Fundamentalism".) Just wondering. Perhaps you'd like to clarify.

Fourth, the reference to Machen could be construed as disingenuous, but I'll just mark it down as ignorant. The whole reason Machen left Princeton to form Westminster Theological Seminary and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church was because the liberals in Northern Presbyterian Church weren't letting the conservatives require of their church officers and professors full subscription to the Westminster Confession of Faith. As D.G. Hart and John Muether put it in their celebrated narrative of the founding of the OPC (_Fighting the Good Fight_):

[[[
"As opposition to the Philadelphia Plan for church union indicates, conservatives like Machen argued for strict subscription to the Westminster Confession, refusing to treat Calvinism as a mere difference of opinion."
]]]

Hmm, is Machen's vision your vision, Wade? If not, does it bother you that you are misrepresenting him in this post?

I'm a graduate of Westminster's sister campus in California, and Machen's revolt was taught to us in detail. You've simply gotten it wrong here, Wade. If you had been in the Northern Presbyterian Church at the time, Machen would have opposed you if you wanted to make various paragraphs of the WCF "tertiary" for officers and professors. You had better believe Machen was into "signing" documents, and endorsing their entirety as a condition for leadership! Perhaps you've forgotten that Fosdick's sermon, "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?", was directed at *Machen's* camp.

Greg Welty said...

Wade says:

[[[
If people believe that in order to be a Southern Baptist it is 'essential' that you believe infants are not condemned for the sin of Adam, then you are calling Al Mohler, Tom Nettles, yourself, and me something other than Southern Baptist!
]]]

Once again, you don't get it. The BFM nowhere says that "infants are not condemned for the sin of Adam." Can you please show me where it says this? Can you please show me where it requires this belief of its adherents?

Do you understand the difference between "The BFM does not affirm X" and "The BFM denies X"? Why do you persist in confusing these extraordinarily different claims?

Tripp said...

bill scott,

Your link does not work. Could you give us that again?

btw...I have a question. I am new to all of this...and I am wondering how you link to another webpage by using a word such as "here". For example, if I want to link to www.founders.org by just saying... "you will find the document "here"...how do I do that? Some help would be appreciated. Thanks

Wade Burleson said...

Dr. Welty,

An accusation of plagarism is very serious. My year old and month old posts on Machen are found here and here respectfully -- John Piper is credited fully. Thanks for the heads up about credit in this post, and I trust the Piper credit is to your satisfaction, though your comment falls short of mine.

:)

ml said...

Greg, so if the BFM is skeletal, as you state and as I agree, can you explain the insistence that it even remotely, accurately defines the Southern Baptist ethos? Can a skeletal document clarify a people and be used as a means to determine who is in and who is not? I believe there are certain disclaimers and pleasantries present in the preamble, but there was a certain cultural, time-sensitive rationale for much of the BFM—chief of which was the woman in ministry clause [of which I am in agreement but will refrain from any discussion in this thread as it has already been discussed weeks ago]. I agree with you that Wade is missing this as a key element to his argument and you are arguing rather persuasively in his stead on this particular point.

Wade, I would point out that fundamentalist by strict definition is someone on either extreme. I.e one can be a fundamentalist liberal or a fundamentalist conservative. Either side demonstrates a closed-mindedness or myopic indifference toward the other side. Each are fraught by a lack of humility.

All, for those who are arguing about the total adherence to the BFM why have we not seen a convention resolution calling for Bush to end the war on terrorism? [This may have happened and if so I cannot remember it being passed] I appreciate Piper's thoughts on war and peace in Let the Nations Be Glad! I think he is right and our recent allegiance to the political right may hinder our perception as proponents of the gospel of peace (Psalm 20:7). At any rate, that there are articles that are not given more attention and are seemingly overlooked demonstrates that the BFM in its totality is not seen as completely Primary or Secondary issues. This is much like the strange omission of preaching on 3 John. Every seminary class I have ever taught when challenging students about the fallacy of a canon within a canon, few--if any--had ever heard or preached even one sermon from 2 or 3 John. If we are going to hold the BFM to a high standard, in spite of its skeletal make-up, then let's be consistent and ask those pastors who have eliminated congregational rule and democratic practices to step aside from leadership positions in the convention. Let’s use the entire document and not portions of the document as our Southern Baptist standard for eliminating people or embracing people.

I think Wade's bottom line reasoning is that this kind of mentality over a document that is not all sufficient is equivalent to biting of our SBC nose in spite of our SBC face to the extreme that to others we are/have lost all face. Am I articulating your passion correctly, Wade?

volfan007 said...

tripp,

i think that i have met you before. my ancestors settled new madrid, mo. they were the first white people in that area, and they set up a trading post there.

but anyway, my mom's family are all from that area. are you going to san antonio?

david

ps. come over to my blog, and we can talk about it instead of hi jacking wade's. my address is...
fromthehillsandhollers.blogspot.com

Wade Burleson said...

ml,

B I N G O, and Bingo was his name-0

:)

Greg Welty said...

BTW, Les Puryear's comment above is, in my estimation the most important comment in this thread (surely more important than mine :-). Everyone should read it again.

In other words, all of the committee members for the BFM 2000:

Adrian Rogers, Chairman
Max Barnett
Steve Gaines
Susie Hawkins
Rudy A. Hernandez
Charles S. Kelley, Jr.
Heather King
Richard D. Land
Fred Luter
R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
T. C. Pinckney
Nelson Price
Roger Spradlin
Simon Tsoi
Jerry Vines

...expressed their conviction in the following words:

"We are not embarrassed to state before the world that these are doctrines we hold precious and as *essential* to the Baptist tradition of faith and practice" (emphasis mine).

They regarded the above conviction as compatible with saying (in the same preamble) that the BFM is "not intended to add anything to the simple conditions of salvation revealed in the New Testament," and is not to be regarded as "complete statements of our faith, having any quality of finality or infallibility." Rather, "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."

Despite all this, they regarded the entirety of the BFM 2000 as a publication of doctrines which are "essential to the Baptist tradition of faith and practice."

Wade somehow thinks this phenomenon *supports* his stance against Bart Barber's resolution, but for the life of me, I can't see it. Could someone explain?

Sure, the committee's claim here about the BFM and its contents is a fallible claim. We could soften and otherwise revise their claim at a future convention if we so wish. That is our right as Baptists. Nevertheless, the document *was* received by the messengers as it stands. Given this, what could possibly be wrong with asking trustees and employees of the convention to endorse what our own committee said was "essential to the Baptist tradition of life and practice"?

Greg Welty said...

Wade, thanks for pointing me to these previous posts. It would have helped matters greatly to at least have *acknowledged* Piper in this present post, since you were quoting him verbatim without attribution. I wasn't aware that an attribution in the past automatically covered any future citations of material in completely different contexts. I'll have to consult my copy of Turabian; since "rules for blog entries" isn't in the index, you may have an edge here :-)

Thanks also for letting the substance of my posts remain unchallenged, as usual. It brings a smile to my day ;-)

Robert Hutchinson said...

"A confession is voluntary and serves to inform, educate, and inspire; a creed is required and serves to discipline and exclude. A confession offers guidelines under the authority of Scripture; a creed tends to become binding authority, in subtle ways displacing the Bible."
H. Leon McBeth

why don't those who contend for absolute agreement with the bf&m just say...

"the bf&m is a confession for the laypeople but a creed for the leaderpeople."

in all honesty and sincerity, that's the impression i keep getting.

Where's Dr. W.B. Johnson when you need him?
"We have constructed for our basis no new creed; acting in this matter upon a Baptist aversion for all creeds but the Bible."
First President, SBC

Wade Burleson said...

Greg Welty,

Ah, you shall not divert the issue so easily.

There are doctrines in the BFM 2000 as shown by me, where there is disagreement among conservatives. Only Fundamentalists would seek to stifle dissent and squelch dialogue.

Dr. Welty, you have not responded to my five points except to say, "Trust me, there is no disagreement between the Abstract or the Bible."

My point to you is this:

There is disagreement between conservatives on these tertiary doctrines and there are variances between the Abstract and the BFM 2000 regarding these tertiary doctrines --- regardless of what you allege. But, to me, it is no big deal because we are talking about CONFESSIONS!

It only becomes a big deal when people attempt to treat the confession like a creed.

And we shall not let you.

:)

Anonymous said...

For all of those who continue to say wade misses the boat on 2nd tier (what it means to be a southern baptist) simply answer this question. which is the "real" answer for comunnion? Open? Closed? If you say it does not matter or it can be both- then you prove wade correct.
John Daniels

Wade Burleson said...

Robert Hutchinson,

You receive the apple of the day for the best quote.

A tip of the hat to the late W.B. Johnson, President of the SBC and doctrinal scholar extraordinaire.

ml said...

Greg, I am not opposed to affirming the BFM and have done so on several occasions. What I am opposed to is changing the rules in the middle of the game or as a reaction attempting to go beyond this document. But based on your own observations that this is a skeletal document are we asking this document to operate in a manner in which it cannot in spite of the emphatic claims put forth by its writers?

BTW your logic about the infancy side of Wade's post and from yesterday's discussion is the perfect logic for those who hold to ppl of which the BFM is completely silent. The difference of its plausibility appears to be completely a matter of the theological acceptability by those in "power".

Again I think this is part of the "problem" Wade is attempting to highlight in our convention?

Greg Welty said...

ML asked:

[[[
Greg, so if the BFM is skeletal, as you state and as I agree, can you explain the insistence that it even remotely, accurately defines the Southern Baptist ethos?
]]]

Uh, wasn't that the insistence of the BFM 2000 committee? I'm not saying anything new here. *As far as it goes*, they were saying it contains the essentials for Baptist faith and practice. Thus your argument, in the end, is not really with me.

It's precisely the fact that the document *isn't* very detailed, that it can represent those who disagree on matters which were not included in it.

You ask, "Can a skeletal document clarify a people and be used as a means to determine who is in and who is not?"

Sure, as a *minimum theological standard*. This goes hand-in-hand with its incompleteness and "skeletal" nature. What, really, is the problem here? Are you saying there should be *no* theological standards for service? If not, then I'm sure you can come up with a list of what *you* deem to be the theological essentials. And if you write it down, it will instantly become a "document" ("skeletal" or not). And you will have answered your own question above, in the affirmative.

Wade Burleson said...

Dr. Welty,

One final comment and I shall voluntarily cease being the thorn in your flesh. :)

You said,

The BFM Committee regarded the entirety of the BFM 2000 as a publication of doctrines which are "essential to the Baptist tradition of faith and practice. . . "

Sure, the committee's claim here about the BFM and its contents is a fallible claim. We could soften and otherwise revise their claim at a future convention if we so wish. That is our right as Baptists. Nevertheless, the document *was* received by the messengers as it stands."


Now, then, sir, you take me to task for affirming the BFM 2000 in her fundamental gospel truths, but pointing out five differences among evangelical conservatives over tertiary doctrines.

You, yourself admit the claim committee is fallible. They could be wrong.

I am simply affirming my agreement with the esentials of the BFM and pointing out where the authors of said confession are either short of, or contradictory to, the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God . . .

Before you ask anyone to 'sign' the BFM 2000 and 'pledge' to not publicly disagree with ANY point within it, you better understand what you are doing ---

You are establishing the BFM 2000 above the Word of God.

Shame on us if we allow it.

blackhaw66 said...

Dr. Welty,

I agree with you that as the BF&M 2000 stands there is nothing wrong with "with asking trustees and employees of the convention to endorse what our own committee said was "essential to the Baptist tradition of life and practice"?

The 2000 BF%M does state that it reflects essential beliefs of the SBC. However I think it is flawed document and that it hs some nonessentials parading as essentials. I like a tiered version because it would better reflect what doctrines are essential for what reason and some that we can agree to disagree upon. So I would resolve that we (the SBC) start over and make a new and improved document that contains " doctrines we hold precious and as *essential* to the Baptist tradition of faith and practice."

but I do not place much faith in the SBC convention or the leaders of the SBC in general. Even though I agree in theory with what the leaders of the Conservative Reassurgence did I can't accept much of their methods. And I feel that they sometimes do go too far. For instance at SWBTS there is a Christian Home class that was taught in an almost if not truly Fundamentalist way. Contraception was wrong. Pastors should never marry anyone who has ever been divorced. Also in order to marry someone this prof. would ask the groom to promise that his wife would never work in a job whose salary was depended upon for a substantive part of the home income. And I could go on. But my point is I just do not see much hope in the leadership of the SBC ever changing the BF&M into a well balanced document. And I do not believe that a grass roots program from the churches will really ever work unless there is some political dealings behind the scenes as in the conservative reassurgence.

Alan Cross said...

I have a serious question for everyone in this debate:

I have been a Baptist since I was a kid. I was licensed to preach, I have an M.Div. from an SBC seminary, and was ordained in an SBC church. I am an SBC pastor. I have followed this debate and studied this for 18 months now, in depth. I researched a resolution that I wrote defending the sufficiency of the BF&M in guiding our Baptist institutions. I have studied this as much as a non-expert possible could. And, I have no idea how to understand this. If I have no idea how to make heads or tails of the nuances of this, then how in the world are we actually dealing with a sufficient statment of faith that could be understandable by the common person? If it is not understandable by the common person, then what good is it?

Here is the issue: On one hand, you say it is skeletal. On the other hand, they said that it is "essential to the Baptist tradition of faith and practice." Then, we find out from Jerry Corbaley, Bart Barber, and others that there are a whole host of other doctrines that make up "Clear Baptist Identity" that are not listed in the BF&M2000. Why not? If the writers of the BF&M were detailing doctrines that were essential but skeletal, and there happen to be other hidden or secret doctrines that are essential to a clear Baptist identity, then what good is the BF&M2000? Is it worth the paper it is printed on?

I wrote a resolution asking our entities to not go beyond the BF&M2000 in creating doctrinal guidelines. It appears that some want to use the BF&M2000 as a rule of doctinal accountability, which I actually have no problem with (at least if it is up front), but they also want to introduce a host of other doctrines through trustee boards without putting them in the BF&M2000, just because the trustee boards have that right because the BF&M2000 is supposedly skeletal.

This makes no sense to me. It seems like there are people who want to use it to declare the "essentials" of the Baptist faith, but they seem to have purposely left out a bunch of "essentials" that they are trying to introduce through another way.

Which is it? If the BF&M2000 is all about "essentials," then why are all the "essentials", according to some, not listed in it?

I am really not trying to be partisian. Can someone answer my question?

Paul said...

Dr. Welty,

I agree with much of what you have written here, but I think a part of the problem is that the BF&M includes phraseology that at least seems or can be interpreted as contradictory. It denies its own finality and infallibility yet uses the word "essential." I'm not saying you can't give a good explanation of that seeming discrepancy. I'm simply saying that the differences are significant enough that an alternative explanation can be given which emphasizes the fallibility and temporal nature of the confession as well. In other words, the BFM lacks a certain clarity.

Of course, you have stated this yourself in regards to the statement on the state of infants. Do you not see that such a condition can also be said about the state of the overall document's use and purpose. For instance, I find it hard to believe that any one of those signers you listed believe that a person doing all in their power to bring an end to war is essential, and as Wade has pointed out, it seems that at least the contingent of messengers in Greensboro would have disagreed with the statement on its face. Perhaps we could even ask those who are still around if they believe the statement on Christian Education is essential to what it means to be a Baptist or a Southern Baptist. It may be a good statement, for what it's worth, but essential to what it means to be Southern Baptist?? And if that is what they meant, can we be certain that the messengers who approved the BFM 2000 were really saying that they believe the statement that we should "contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death" (a statement that would seem to require that we oppose capital punishment because it is an unnatural means of death) is essential to what it means to be a Southern Baptist?

It seems to me that the debate between you and Wade has boiled down to a "No it doesn't," "Yes it does" sort of thing. I can see where you base your interpretation and I can see where Wade bases his, and it appears to me that the vagaries of the BFM are what allow the two competing views. And in the end, the messengers have not adopted either of your interpretations, but have left the vagaries there, for whatever reason.

Les Puryear said...

Dr. Welty,

Thanks for the plug. :)

Wade,

BTW, I don't think any document other than scripture is infallible. However, correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't we vote in 2000 that BFM2K was the current, most accurate statement of our beliefs as a convention? It may not be your essentials or even mine, but is it not the statement of essentials for the convention?

If it is not, then IMHO, someone needs to make a motion in SA that BFM2K be revisited and rewritten to reflect our true essentials.

Les

Greg Welty said...

Robert Hutchison cites McBeth: "A confession is voluntary and serves to inform, educate, and inspire..."

Indeed. And requiring adherence to a confession as a requirement of service is entirely compatible with acknowledging the voluntary nature of confessions. And this is because one only *voluntarily* enters into an employee relationship with a convention entity. No one is ever forced to become a trustee, professor, etc. And so no one is ever forced, against their will, to espouse a document they don't believe in.

Again, I assume you guys believe there *are* theological standards for service in the convention. You just think they are a slimmer set then what we find in the BFM. Fine. But they are a *set of doctrines* nevertheless. And if these get written down, you now have a theological standard for employment. So if the citation of McBeth is at all relevant, it's relevant to all parties. So if your slimmed-down set of essentials is entirely compatible with "voluntary confession," why wouldn't any other set?

The problem is that you're launching your critique entirely too broadly. If sound, it would rule out your alternative position on the matter as well. Bart is not talking about *whether* there should be a standard, but rather *what* the standard should be. As long as there *is* a standard, then the alleged problem of "voluntariness" is a problem for all, and not just some.

Wade writes: "Only Fundamentalists would seek to stifle dissent and squelch dialogue."

And where exactly do you see *me* do such a thing?

Wade writes:

[[[
Dr. Welty, you have not responded to my five points except to say, "Trust me, there is no disagreement between the Abstract or the Bible."
]]]

Come on, Wade. This is just laughable. I've merely *asserted* compatibility here? I haven't *argued* it? Surely you jest.

Wade writes:

[[[
It only becomes a big deal when people attempt to treat the confession like a creed.

And we shall not let you.

:)
]]]

Wade, let's apply your critique to you, and see if you accept it. According to McBeth, "a creed tends to become binding authority." Now, the only way I'd want the BFM to be a "binding authority" is, as Bart puts it in his resolution, as a theological standard for those who "voluntarily enter a fiduciary or employee relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention or any of its entities." It is to be, *for them and them alone*, "a minimum requirement for service."

If you want to call this turning the BFM into a "creed," so be it. But the same criticism would apply to you. I assume you have some theological standard for service within the convention. Trinity? Deity of Christ? Justification by faith alone? Amend the list as you see fit. Now apply this suitably revised standard to those who would seek service among us. Why is it a "creed" in Bart's case, but not in yours?

That's why your appeal to the confession/creed difference is a red herring. It's a distraction because it doesn't get to the central issue. As long as we have *some* standard in place, somewhere along the spectrum, for service in the convention's entities, then the issue of "binding authority" arises, does it not? What if a non-Trinitarian wanted to serve as a trustee? Would you be impressed if he squealed "no binding authorities!" as you led him to the door?

Anonymous said...

My dear Prof. Welty,

You are astute in your observation of the tactics of diversion by this particular Blog Administrator. I point you to his comment that says, he "will stop being a thorn in your flesh." The problem is, Wade knows he is outmatched by your brilliance [and humility], and therefore will not be able to "stay in the ring long" with you. It does not require intelligence to be a politician, only the gift of "evasive rhetoric."

Wade, before you so graciously allow Dr. Welty off of the hook, would you please respond to the substance of his argument?

John B.

Greg Welty said...

Wade, it's ridiculous to think that asking someone to sign a statement of theological beliefs as a condition of service somehow makes that statement "above the Word of God." Are you kidding?

Notice once again that your criticism is too broad. Assuming that you think there are *some* theological standards for service, then what you are saying is that any time that standard gets employed, it is now automatically "above the Word of God." So, what's the alternative, Wade? Are you just going to toss a Bible their way and ask, "Do you believe it?" and ask no more questions? It seems to me that we could get a lot of Jehovah's Witnesses hired that way. Is that what you want?

Your stance is absurd on its very face. It excludes the propriety of there being *any* written theological standard for service in the convention, because, according to you, the moment we implement that standard, we have placed it "above the Word of God."

Tell me it ain't so! Tell me you've thought this through more carefully than you appear to have done.

Anonymous said...

By the way, for those that are interested, Dr. Yarnell has posted his response to the Lifeway study at www.baptisttheology.org. It is well worth the time and consideration.

John B.

Paul said...

To whomever it was that asked about hyperlinks earlier you do it like this:

I want to put a link here,

Just be sure that you substitute the actual url for the "link_goes_here.com" in the above example. And you can type in whatever you want where the example has "here" and that will be the hyperlinked text that actually shows up. As an example, you can find my blog here (this is a terribly shameless plug, don't you think?).

Greg Welty said...

Blackhaw66 says:

[[[
The 2000 BFM does state that it reflects essential beliefs of the SBC. However I think it is flawed document and that it hs some nonessentials parading as essentials. I like a tiered version because it would better reflect what doctrines are essential for what reason and some that we can agree to disagree upon. So I would resolve that we (the SBC) start over and make a new and improved document that contains " doctrines we hold precious and as *essential* to the Baptist tradition of faith and practice."
]]]

This is an extraordinarily plausible position. This is *exactly* the right move. If you can get a majority of the messengers to see things your way, then all power to you. All I'm asking for from others is a bit of honesty. *Given how the committees have already characterized the BFM*, it's disingenuous to think we can *at present* just split up the BFM into essential and non-essential doctrines, when its own preamble says they're all essential.

As I already told Wade in another context, there are mechanisms in place by which this kind of change can proceed. Indeed, *the preamble of the BFM* lays out this course for us. It says:

[[[
"Thus this generation of Southern Baptists is in historic succession of intent and purpose as it endeavors to state for its time and theological climate those articles of the Christian faith which are most surely held among us."
]]]

It may be that many Southern Baptists in our own day, Wade Burleson included, believe that the BFM in its entirety does *not* represent the essentials of the Southern Baptist faith. Rather, it "stated for its time and theological climate" what the committee judged were the essentials. Maybe they were wrong. Maybe the messengers need to rise up and *restate* what we ought to confess as a convention as the essentials. To this I think the BFM 2000 committee would rise up and say, "Amen! That's your right, brother, and our privilege as a convention, in each and every generation! This is part of the glory of being a Baptist!"

I have no problem with any of this.

I don't share your pessimism about the SBC convention or what its assembled messengers can do, but perhaps that is a discussion for another day.

Michael F. Bird said...

Wade,
Excellent stuff mate. Keep up the good work!

Wade Burleson said...

No Greg,

Ask the basic, fundamental gospel questions and the basics of Baptist identity (i.e. 'baptism by immersion after faith in Christ') and demand unity on them.

In other areas grant liberty.

In all areas give charity.

Tripp said...

Maybe this has been asked and answered already...but Wade, who defines what is essential and not essential to Baptist identity? Notice...I am talking about second tier issues here, not first.

For example, where would the issue of charasmatic gifts fall? Is this a second or third tier issue? What about eternal secruity?

Greg Welty said...

Alan Cross,

You ask an interesting set of questions, and they are worthy of further reflection. However, I'm going to have to wind down my input today, and get to other things (such as preparing for another four-hour class tomorrow).

Here's an idea. This appears to be one of your chief concerns:

[[[
Here is the issue: On one hand, you say it is skeletal. On the other hand, they said that it is "essential to the Baptist tradition of faith and practice." Then, we find out from Jerry Corbaley, Bart Barber, and others that there are a whole host of other doctrines that make up "Clear Baptist Identity" that are not listed in the BF&M2000. Why not? If the writers of the BF&M were detailing doctrines that were essential but skeletal, and there happen to be other hidden or secret doctrines that are essential to a clear Baptist identity, then what good is the BF&M2000? Is it worth the paper it is printed on?
]]]

In his resolution, Bart has five "whereas" clauses. Read them over. Do you believe they represent at all accurately the history of our convention as it relates to the interplay of doctrinal standards for the various entities? If you do, is that at all helpful in responding to your concern above? Let me know.

Wade Burleson said...

Tripp,

Views on the gifts is third tier in my opinion.

Here's the interesting thing -- I don't think it will be difficult for people to know what are first tier or primary doctrines.

You rightly point out that the problem is the second and third tiers - or those who insist everything is first tier.

Greg Welty said...

Wade,

You say we should "demand unity" on "the basics of Baptist identity," such as "baptism by immersion after faith in Christ."

Demand unity? Isn't that incompatible with the voluntary nature of confessions?

BTW, the phrase "baptism by immersion after faith in Christ" is not a phrase that appears in my Bible. It appears to be a manmade phrase. Are you not exalting your own *interpretation* of the Bible above the Bible, by "demanding unity" among fellow believers with respect to it?

How does the shoe fit when it's on the other foot, Wade?

[[[
Carlo disappeared into the back room for a moment, then returned with an ordinary shoe box. He opened the lid and removed a hideous pair of black and white pumps. But these were not an ordinary pair of black and white pumps; both were left feet, one had a right angle turn with separate compartments that pointed the toes in impossible directions. The other shoe was six inches long and was curved inward like a rocking chair with a vise and razor blades to hold the foot in place.

Carlo spoke hesitantly, "... Now you see why... they're not fit for humans..."
]]]

Steve Martin, "Cruel Shoes"

;-)

Wade Burleson said...

Dr. Greg Welty,

You write, and rightly so,

Then, we find out from Jerry Corbaley, Bart Barber, and others that there are a whole host of other doctrines that make up "Clear Baptist Identity" that are not listed in the BF&M2000

I believe some 'leaders' are 'assuming' what Baptist identity is, because not enough Baptists have stood up and said, "Quit speaking for me!"

One of the scariest, most accurate statements you have ever written is the paragraph above.

Why? Because certain leaders in positions throughout the SBC are now demanding conformity on interpretations of tertiary issues NOT EVEN FOUND IN THE BFM 2000!

Have mercy.

Wade Burleson said...

Dr. Welty,

Surely, surely you know by now, that I am saying the line in the sand has been drawn WAY TOO FAR PAST THE ESSENTIALS.

I have never said we should not demand conformity on the ESSENTIALS of the gospel.

I have said we should from the beginning.

I am standing up to all those who are attempting to make EVERYTHING an ESSENTIAL.

blackhaw66 said...

Dr. Welty,

I did not think you would agree with my pessimism. I think my pessimism is somewhat guided or influenced by being part of Generation X. It definitely was part of the culture in my formative years in the 70's and early 80's.

But anyways you said:

"Are you just going to toss a Bible their way and ask, "Do you believe it?" and ask no more questions?"

Isn't this what many ask the SBC to do? And are not many who state "the only creed I have is the Bible" doing that exact samething? Many have a warped view of Sola Scriptura that limts it to scripture only period. Sure we do not want to be like Roman Catholicism (which BTW Ben Cole has argued the SBC of today is like but I do not think so) but we can't be so seperatistic that we can't affirm the use of confessions and creeds. If not then we run the risk of allowing not only JWs or Mormons into our ranks but also Arians and Pelagians also.

BH

Greg Welty said...

Wade says: "Here's the interesting thing -- I don't think it will be difficult for people to know what are first tier or primary doctrines."

Except, of course, that someone just asked you a question about them. LOL

Not to mention countless SBC blogs fighting over this precise issue. Does any of that get to count as evidence against your claim that there's no difficulty here?

Perhaps all this chaos points to the need for a unified statement at the convention level which lays out the essentials of Baptist faith and practice for us. Perhaps we could give it a catchy name, like "The Baptist Faith and Message." Just an idea ;-)

Tripp said...

Wade,

Would you also consider eternal security to be a third tier issue?

I agree with you that the problem here is defining second and third tier doctrines. Many people would say that charasmatic gifts are second tier issues. I know in my church it would be. I also know for a fact that eternal security would be a second tier issue in my church.

Greg Welty said...

Wade,

What you "cite" above as being written by me was not written by me. I didn't write anything about Jerry Corbaley, et al.

Please advise.

You've gone from citation of Piper without attribution, to attribution to Welty without genuine citation :-)

You're really citing Alan Cross, I believe.

Wade Burleson said...

Greg,

Well shoot.

I have to take it back.

Alan cross wrote one of the most accurate statements I have read yet, not you.

I will go back looking for accurate statements in your comments.

:)

Wade Burleson said...

Greg,

You write, "Perhaps all this chaos points to the need for a unified statement at the convention level which lays out the essentials of Baptist faith and practice for us. Perhaps we could give it a catchy name, like "The Baptist Faith and Message." Just an idea ;-)

It would be a GREAT idea if people STOPPED putting in tertiary doctrines and demanded conformity on them!


Tripp, I believe eternal security is a secondary doctrine, and probably very appropriate for an official Baptist confession of a convention that considers herself Calvinistic -- so I would have no problem with it in the BFM.

:)

Wade Burleson said...

Tripp,

You put your finger on the problem.

There are those who believe one's views on the gifts is a secondary doctrinal issue -- not primary -- not tertiary -- but secondary, and as a result, should be in the BFM 2000.

That's why we are in this mess.

It's a tertiary issue -- LEAVE OUT SPECIFIC INTERPRETATIONS ON THE GIFTS FROM OUR CONVENTION'S CONFESSION.

Greg Welty said...

Wade, you say you are "standing up to all those who are attempting to make EVERYTHING an ESSENTIAL."

Does this include the BFM 2000 committee? Are you standing up to them? According to their own testimony, they saw the document as a document of essentials.

If you are "standing up to them," I think that's your right, but I also believe in truth in labeling. The fact of the matter is that Bart's resolution has the facts on his side, as articulated at the convention level, whereas you're left with your private opinions as to how these doctrines are to be categorized. Why should anyone listen to how *you* divvy all this up, as opposed to, say, the BFM 2000 committee?

In short, I don't see *anything* principled about your stance at all. You're just doing a bit of autobiography in this post, that's all.

Wade Burleson said...

But listen to this Tripp ---

IF WE PLACED A CESSATIONIST BELIEF IN THE BFM 2000 AND LET PEOPLE SERVE AS MISSIONARIES OR LEADERS IN THE SBC WHEN THEY AFFIRM THE BASICS OF THE GOSPEL, BUT WE ALLOWED THEM TO WRITE DOWN THEIR DISAGREEMENT ON THE ARTICLE ON THE GIFTS, I WOULD HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH A CESSATIONIST STATEMENT IN THE BFM 2000.

That is my point. Can anybody understand what I am saying?

We now have those in leadership who wish to exclude thsoe who don't conform to specific interpretations of tertiary doctrines -- because they wish to call everything a PRIMARY doctrine.

Shame on us.

Greg Welty said...

Wade, you say, "It would be a GREAT idea if people STOPPED putting in tertiary doctrines and demanded conformity on them!"

Interesting. Who are these people who are "putting in tertiary doctrines" in the BFM? Can you name some of them?

How are they managing to do this, exactly? I wasn't aware that there was a fully editable and revisable version of the BFM online somewhere. Is this a group community effort? Is it on Wikipedia? ;-)

Tripp said...

Thanks for answering those questions Wade.

I agree with you that, on third tier issues, there should be liberty granted. Not on secondary issues though.

Perhaps the SBC needs to claify some of these issues...whether they are secondary or third tier issues. Then perhaps we could move on from all of this conflict.

I for one would place charasmatic gifts in the secondary tier.

Wade Burleson said...

Dr. Welty,

You set yourself up on this one. Listen very, very carefully to my question.

Is it ESSENTIAL that everyone in leadership in the SBC or missionary service, or agency heads, or trustees believe that AN INFANT IS NOT CONDEMNED BY GOD FOR ADAM'S SIN?

You have publicly admitted on this blog that the BFM 2000 clearly teaches that an infant is NOT condemned by God for Adam's sin, but when that infant reaches the age of 'moral accountability' and actually transgresses, then he is condemned by God. You are correct, that is what the BFM 2000 teaches.

Now the question again!

Is it ESSENTIAL that every Southern Baptist believe this?

As Bart would say . . .

Your clock has now been cleaned.

:)

Tripp said...

Wade,

If we placed a cessationist position in the BFM...then I would not agree with allowing someone to disagree with that position and still be a missionary/leader of the Convention.

IMO...that would negate the whole point of having the position in the BFM.

Greg Welty said...

Wade writes, "Shame on us."

I have an alternative sentiment. Shame on you for daring to publicly shame others, just because they do not subscribe to *your* personal, subjective categorization of essential vs. secondary vs. tertiary doctrines in the BFM.

Can we call it even? :-)

Alan Cross said...

Greg,

Thank you so much for your response. I was hoping others could help me out as well, but . . .

I read Bart's 5 Whereas's, and while I agree that they are historically accurate, I don't know what that has to do with my question. The reason why, is that, even though those things did happen, it does not necessarily mean that we do not find ourselves in a contradiction at this point. I don't think that the contradiction came in until some groups in Baptist life began to use the BF&M2000 for more than it was perhaps intended for when the Abstracts were allowed. But, since it has been used in a way as a doctrinal standard, I am not against rethinking Southern's inclusion of the Abstracts if they contradict the BF&M2000. However, since the Abstracts predate the BF&M1925, then I am sure that all of that has been considered through due process of Southern Baptist life.

I KNOW that that has not happened with the IMB BoT's additional policies. For Bart to try and somehow make the Abstracts as a precedent for every board to add additional doctrinal requirements is ridiculous, in my opinion. When has the whole SBC, or any theological committee outside of the IMB BoT judged those policies/guidelines? Surely, since we have had TWO revisions of the BF&M since 1925, if the Abstracts had been a problem, it would have been addressed by now. It's apples and oranges.

You said,

"Perhaps all this chaos points to the need for a unified statement at the convention level which lays out the essentials of Baptist faith and practice for us. Perhaps we could give it a catchy name, like "The Baptist Faith and Message." Just an idea ;-)

I agree with you 100%!!! But, again, if the essentials of Baptist faith and practice have been listed in the BF&M2000, then how can their be other, unwritten and secret truths that are core enough to Baptist Identity to disqualify missionary candidates? If they are that core, should they not be in the BF&M?

It is almost like saying that the Bible is the full revelation of God, but there is other truth out there that is not listed but some know about it. Last I checked, that was called gnosticism. I'm not in any way equating the BF&M to Scripture, but if these things are important enough to be core essentials of baptist identity, then why are they not in our statement of the essentials of Baptist faith and practice.

I think that it would be a GREAT idea if we could at least agree to not go beyond the BF&M. That is why I think that Bart's resolution is a very bad idea.

Greg Welty said...

Wade, your persistence in avoiding the substance of my arguments has now reached a truly comical level.

You say:

[[[
Is it ESSENTIAL that everyone in leadership in the SBC or missionary service, or agency heads, or trustees believe that AN INFANT IS NOT CONDEMNED BY GOD FOR ADAM'S SIN?
]]]

Of course not. And that's because *that's not what the BFM says*.

How many times do I have to point out to you the following *non sequitur*, which you seem to endorse with the greatest of ease:

"The BFM does not say that infants are condemned for Adam's sin"

therefore:

"The BFM says that infants are not condemned for Adam's sin."

At least *once* in this thread, Wade, address the above fallacy in your reasoning. Because I assure you, it is a fallacy (in short, you're confusing the scope of a logical operator).

You are saying that:

"P does not affirm X"

is *equivalent* to:

"P denies X."

This is, obviously, ridiculous. You might as well argue:

"The BFM does not affirm particular redemption"

therefore:

"The BFM denies particular redemption."

I *know* you reject the above inference about atonement. But it is exactly parallel to an inference you apparently *accept* in the case of condemnation. In other words, you are being inconsistent.

Can you *please* address this error in your thinking?

I don't really care about "cleaning someone's clock." Theological dialogue is not bloodsport. I care very much for a little honesty from you on this issue. I have addressed your contention *numerous* times now, in this and in the earlier post on your blog, and you simply refuse to engage this issue. Why?

Bart Barber said...

Wade,

You treat the BF&M the way a Campbellite treats the New Testament.

The "silence of the BF&M" is merely that—silence. One can believe all that the BF&M says, and yet still believe much more. Agreeing with a statement of faith simply means agreeing with what it says and does not require agreeing with what it does not say.

Why do I come back and bother again, when such deliberate obtuseness prevails? For the readers, I suppose.

Les Puryear said...

Alan,

You said, "I think that it would be a GREAT idea if we could at least agree to not go beyond the BF&M."

This is what I've been saying for months now.

Les

AndyHigg said...

I realize this is going to be far down on the thread and is not in the tone of the previous comments, but I thought I might add my two cents:

I have been reading through Dallas Willard's "Renovation of the Heart" and read this post just before I read chapter 10, "Transforming the Social Dimension". I highly suggest that everyone who cares about unity in the church obtain a copy and read it.

I'm not saying I agree with Wade's assessments and I'm not saying that I don't.... I do think that amidst protestations from both sides that they still love the church and support missions and evangelism above all else in this world, "me thinks they do protest too much".

For those of you who want the quick answer, here's my assessment/summary of the chapter:

We, the church, as the Body of Christ, are called to nourish one another and joined in the power of Christ and His Resurrection, we are commanded to seek harmony in the midst of disagreement and blatant acceptance in the face of differences. We are most of all called to reject assault on and withdrawal from one another, being that these are signs of us not having the love of God in us (I John 3:11-18).

Wade Burleson said...

Dr. Welty,

Speaking of obfuscation . . .

Allow me to give you the direct quote from your keyboard yesterday on this blog . . .

"(N)o, I don't believe that the BFM 2000 teaches that infants are condemned *even though* they have not personally sinned."

The BFM 2000 teaches that condemnation comes by personal and actual sin -- you ADMIT THIS!

Now, please, sir, speaking of obfuscation, would you answer my question directly ---

"Is it ESSENTIAL that every Southern Baptist believe this?

Wade Burleson said...

Bart,

The BFM is not SILENT on the ground of condemnation -- it specifically says condemnation is due to personal and actual sins -- not the sin of Adam.

Now, Bart, to clean your clock.

"Is it essential that every Southern Baptist believe this to be true?"

Winning Truth w/Tim Guthrie said...

Wade,
Is David Rogers in disagreement on the very document produced by the committee his father chaired? If so, why and what issues.

And, why have a Pastor who's church gives it's CP money in such a way that less than 0.30 cents of every dollar gets to the mission field. David is a Missionary. This whole thing is crazy to the brain when I read all the mentioning of Fundys and their lack of support for cooperation and destruction towards M's - how does this wash or what is your spin?

Wade Burleson said...

For all those who may be wondering why I am hammering Bart and Greg - by the way, I do sincerely respect both of them and believe them to be two of the keenest minds in our convention -- I am pressing HARD on this point because I wish to show how ludicrous it is for us to call every doctrine ESSENTIAL and to demand conformity on all DOCTRINES before we will cooperate in missions and ministry.

Not every doctrinal interpretation -- even those within the BFM 2000 is an essential of the faith -- and it is unnecessary for us demand one particular interpretation for us to cooperate.

By the way, if Bart and Greg say, "Yes, belief that the ground of condemnation is personal and actual sins and not Adam's sin is an 'essential' of the Baptist faith" would mean the exclusion of Al Mohler, Tom Nettles, Les Puryer, Tom Ascol, and a host of other wonderful men and women from leadership and service in the Southern Baptist Convention.

It is unnecessary for us to agree on all tertiary doctrines in order to be Southern Baptist.

Bart Barber said...

As Dr. Welty has show clearly shown time and time again, the Abstract and the Baptist Faith & Message articulate two view of condemnation that are not mutually exclusive. Even one who asserts that infants are condemned at birth by the sin of Adam can affirm that people are also condemned when they become transgressors.

As to the "essential" question, well, essential to what? Normally, I would just answer forthrightly, but when standing in the dock for the ludicrous, offensive, unjustified charge that I believe any who differs with the BF&M to be lost and destined for Hell (viz., that all doctrines contained therein are tier-one or primary doctrines), it makes me consider carefully what I say, knowing for certain that it will be twisted without scruples.

So, I'll do something amazing and uncharacteristic for these posts—return to the actual point. Agreeing with the BF&M that there are no actual transgressors who are not condemned is indeed essential to being able to affirm the BF&M honestly.

Greg Welty said...

Alan, you say:

[[[
I think that it would be a GREAT idea if we could at least agree to not go beyond the BF&M. That is why I think that Bart's resolution is a very bad idea.
]]]

I have no dog in the fight as to whether a SBC entity should go *beyond* the BFM. Most of my comments here have simply been, in part, a defense of the appropriateness of making the entirety of the BFM a *minimum doctrinal standard* for those who have "entered a fiduciary or employee relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention or any of its entities." It's a minimal standard.

Now, Wade apparently doesn't believe it should be even *that*. He wants a canon within the canon, so to speak, when it comes to the BFM. But the issue you are raising here is quite different. It's whether the BFM should be, not merely a *minimal* standard, but a *maximal* standard as well.

I actually think that's a good question. If you want the honest, brutal truth as I see it, it *may* be the case that the IMB overstepped its bounds in its particular decision on prayer languages. I haven't thought through that particular issue in detail enough to render an informed opinion. (I've given a *lot* of thought to the BFM-as-minimal-standard issue, as you can tell from my series of comments here.)

Whether or not the IMB overstepped its bounds is an issue that the convention can speak to. This is why Bart's resolution states, in part:

[[[
RESOLVED, That we acknowledge the appropriateness of entities adopting and enforcing additional theological standards such as the Abstract of Principles as a part of the unique responsibility of the board of trustees of each entity, operating in conscientious accountability to the convention, to govern the entity in its charge in all matters theological and otherwise;
]]]

He's saying that "the board of trustees of each entity" can indeed "adopt and enforce additional theological standards," as a part of their "unique responsibility" as trustees of that entity. I believe that's the sticking point for you. But keep in mind the additional observation that they only do so as they are "operating in conscientious accountability to the convention."

What that tells me is that the decision of *any* SBC entity, IMB or otherwise, is *certainly* up for review at the convention level, in some venue or another. The messengers can render a judgment here as anywhere else, can they not? And I would certainly not be opposed to that, if that's the way the chips fall. The messengers are king, not the IMB.

So, we have reposed trust in our trustees, and rightly so, but that doesn't mean they're unaccountable.

BTW, this points up for me the great advantage of the Southern Baptist system over and against the system of strict subscriptionism as it operates in conservative Presbyterian churches (as this was taught to me by those who advocated such a system when I was in seminary). In the Presbyterian system, there's a vicious circularity: to be an elder, you have to strictly subscribe to the confession, but to revise the confession at the national assembly level, you have to be an elder. That virtually guarantees that the confession is treated as functionally equivalent to the Word of God, because it cannot be revised. The only people who could revise it are those who by definition are already in full agreement with it (church officers). I think this is a serious danger inherent in (at least some implementations of) the Presbyterian system.

By way of contrast, the SBC operates by *messengers* to the SBC. These don't have to be pastors, or employees of an SBC entity, etc. Thus, they don't have to agree with everything in the BFM in order to have a vote on various matters. So there's hope for revision, if revision is needed. Last I checked, Bart was not calling for *church members* to strictly subscribe to the BFM. Nor is he calling for the role of messenger to be restricted to those who are convention trustees and employees. Thus, the BFM can be revised, although I don't think this should be done lightly or very frequently.

So there's a balance here. For all practical purposes, we trust the trustees. That's what their title means. But they are ever and always accountable to the convention at large. To the extent that Wade is nurturing this latter impulse, I think it is a good thing. He has many refreshing insights. I'm just trying to bring a little balance here. And, truth be told, I do think Bart's resolution gets it just about right.

In my view, thinking though these issues only *enhances* for me the importance of the messengers at each and every convention. And I think even Wade would agree :-)

Greg Welty said...

Wade, you say:

[[[
The BFM 2000 teaches that condemnation comes by personal and actual sin -- you ADMIT THIS!

Now, please, sir, speaking of obfuscation, would you answer my question directly ---

"Is it ESSENTIAL that every Southern Baptist believe this?
]]]

Yes, it is essential that every Southern Baptist believe that condemnation comes by personal and actual sin.

For... this is what the BFM claims.

But... here is something the BFM does *not* claim: that "personal and actual sin" is the *only* grounds for condemnation.

Therefore... those who subscribe to the BFM do not have to believe that "personal and actual sin" is the *only* grounds for condemnation. Why should they? The BFM doesn't teach *that*. Instead, they are free to believe that there are *other* grounds for condemnation, such as Adamic sin.

Note well: by believing that there are *other* grounds for condemnation, they do not *stop* believing what the BFM says about "condemnation coming by personal and actual sin." Rather, they are believing something *in addition* to it.

Are you seeing the light yet? :-)

The idea that you can accuse me of "obfuscation" when I have striven to be extraordinarily clear on this matter, over and over again, is a bit unsettling.

Alan Cross said...

Thank you, Greg, for your thoughtful response and admitting that I might be right on this (don't worry, I will not make too much of that comment). Previous to Bart's publication of his resolution, Les Puryear and I wrote and submitted separate resolutions asking the entities to not go beyond the BF&M. Actually, as long as there is a process of review that is more accessible than having to gain enough political muscle to restack the BoT, even that is not a huge deal to me. I placed in my resolution a provision that if an issue was big enough to warrant an entity to go beyond the BF&M, then the Convention should get the chance to vote on that the next year. Basically, the entities would be bound to the BF&M, but they need to go beyond it, they could come and ask for permission from the messengers of the Convention. That seems fair to me.

Again, I appreciate your thoughtful response. I understand what Wade is arguing here, but at this point, I am just hoping that we can stick to the BF&M instead of galloping off beyond it because of secret understandings of "clear Baptist identity." The SBC needs to be for all the people, not just a few who know the secret handshakes.

Greg Welty said...

Wade says:

[[[
By the way, if Bart and Greg say, "Yes, belief that the ground of condemnation is personal and actual sins and not Adam's sin is an 'essential' of the Baptist faith" would mean the exclusion of Al Mohler, Tom Nettles, Les Puryer, Tom Ascol, and a host of other wonderful men and women from leadership and service in the Southern Baptist Convention.
]]]

Again, you clearly misrepresent my view, though I have stated it to you many times.

According to you, I think that "belief that the ground of condemnation is personal and actual sins and not Adam's sin is an 'essential' of the Baptist faith."

Where did I ever say such a thing?

The problem here is your insertion of the phrase "and not Adam's sin".

No one who holds to the BFM has to accept that phrase. Because it isn't in there.

Get it?

So while the BFM teaches that we are indeed condemned for personal and actual sins, it doesn't speak to the matter as to whether there is *another* ground of condemnation, such as Adamic sin. It doesn't affirm anything about the imputation of Adam's guilt. But it doesn't deny anything about it either.

Thus, those who affirm the BFM are free to accept *or* reject the doctrine of the imputation of Adamic guilt.

I find it ironic that one who has cultivated an expertise in asserting our doctrinal freedoms cannot see the "freedom" the BFM gives to us on this issue.

You're making the BFM deny something it doesn't actually deny. You're making it stricter than it actually is.

You're wearing some cruel shoes, Wade ;-)

Robert Hutchinson said...

brother welty,

i think a confession should remain a confession.

a fallible document that a person can voluntarily agree with with it having absolutely, positively, no authority over the conscience.

even if i were in agreement with everything in the bf&m i would not allow my conscience to be bound by it.

but if someone wants to make it a document of doctrinal accountability then they are asking that my conscience be bound to it and not...

The B-I-B-L-E
Yes that's the book for me.
I stand alone on the Word of God
The B-I-B-L-E.

everybody

The B-I-B-L-E
Yes that's the book for me.
I stand alone on the Word of God
The B-I-B-L-E.

brother welty, it's the principal of the thing. and it's the whole agree-or-leave and send your money but don't expect to serve mentality that irks me.

if honest, cp supporting, southern baptists are going to be forced to be accountable to it to serve then at least let them show from Scripture where they differ.

And lets allow for open and conscientious dissent even from those who are employees, missionaries, trustees and anybody else who has to sign the doc.

what if one of our profs. on an archaeological dig discovers new material that clearly refutes some article in the bf&m...will she have to withhold vital research and stay quiet until she resigns?

Bart Barber said...

Wade,

I'm just waiting for you to ask me if I have stopped beating my wife, so I can answer both in one fell swoop.

I do not agree that the BF&M teaches that people are NOT condemned by Adam's sin.

The BF&M teaches that people are condemned by personal sin, but it does not teach that people are not condemned by Adam's sin.

Wade Burleson said...

Greg and Bart, you are avoiding my question . . . AHHHHH! :) Just kidding, I'm having fun. Seriously, I do appreciate you both.

Now, back to work.

Both you gentlemen seemed to have not answered my question -- not to say I blame you.

So, I will ask it again, "Is it ESSENTIAL that a Southern Baptist believe the ground of condemnation is actual and personal sin and NOT Adam's sin?"

Contrary to your statement above, Dr. Welty, The BFM 2000 CLEARLY teaches that the 'ground' of condemnation is personal and actual sins, and NOT the sin of Adam. Both of you have admitted this fact.

Dr. Welty, you said, and Bart agreed, "I don't believe that the BFM 2000 teaches that infants are condemned even though they have not personally sinned."

Of course it doesn't -- because it teaches EXPLICITLY that the ground of condemnation is actual sin, NOT Adam's sin. The BFM 2000 teaches that the GROUND of condemnation is the personal, volition and actual sin of that one who reaches moral accountability (the age of accountability).

So I will ask for the second and final time (at least in this comment) :) -- and I request from each of you a one word, simple 'YES' or 'NO' in response.

"Is it ESSENTIAL that a Southern Baptist believe the ground of condemnation is actual and personal sin and NOT Adam's sin?"

Yes or No?

Bart Barber said...

Robert,

You believe that a confession is "a fallible document that a person can voluntarily agree with with it having absolutely, positively, no authority over the conscience."

I entirely agree (have you read the last paragraph of my resolution).

However, all people should be honest about the theological positions that their consciences require them to take. Then, people will be able to enter theological partnerships with informed consent.

Freedom of conscience also means freedom to determine conscientiously with whom you can or cannot partner in a given enterprise.

Bart Barber said...

How did my response wind up appearing above your question?

Greg Welty said...

Alan Cross wrote:

[[[
I placed in my resolution a provision that if an issue was big enough to warrant an entity to go beyond the BF&M, then the Convention should get the chance to vote on that the next year. Basically, the entities would be bound to the BF&M, but they need to go beyond it, they could come and ask for permission from the messengers of the Convention. That seems fair to me.
]]]

I have no problem identifying this as a plausible way forward. I'd have to think it through a lot more before I could manage an opinion on it. Part of the problem is that I'm still learning the ropes as to the history of the SBC on these issues: how the trustee role has been defined, what are their expectations and privileges, what is their relationship to the convention, etc. Another problem is that I don't have a political bone in my body, and am utterly naïve when it comes to ecclesiastical politics. Most of my time is devoted to theology and philosophy, not resolutions and horseraces :-)

Wade Burleson said...

Alan, trust me on this one.

It will be worth it all . . .

:)

Wade Burleson said...

Bart,

I'm honest about my opinion -- and you wish me removed, yes?

Fellow conservatives removing fellow conservatives over differing interpretations of tertiary doctrines in God's word.

Seem's like we've lost our way.

But, I believe we'll get Him back.

:)

OC Hands said...

Paul,
Thanks for the tip on posting links. I'll try it on my blog to see if I can make it work.

Greg Welty said...

Wade, you claim, "Of course it doesn't -- because it teaches EXPLICITLY that the ground of condemnation is actual sin, NOT Adam's sin."

I think we're getting down to brass tacks here.

How can you possibly believe that the BFM teaches *explicitly* that Adam's sin is not a ground of condemnation, when it doesn't, err, *explicitly* say that?

You must be giving that word "explicitly" a different definition than I am.

Can you agree with me: the denial that Adam's sin is a ground of condemnation is not explicitly in the BFM?

How could it be?

Let's look at the relevant sentence, shall we?:

"Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation."

Can you tell me where that sentence *explicitly* says that Adam's sin is not a ground of condemnation?

Now, if you were arguing that it *implies* that, you might be on safer ground (though it would still be a bogus argument, because there's no exclusionary clause, as I've already argued).

But this whole "explicitly" business is just a non-starter, at least if words have meanings that is.

So, once again you ask:

[[[
"Is it ESSENTIAL that a Southern Baptist believe the ground of condemnation is actual and personal sin and NOT Adam's sin?"

Yes or No?
]]]

I answer: no.

Reason: The denial which is buried in your question -- "the ground of condemnation is... NOT Adam's sin" -- is not a denial found in the BFM, either explicitly or implicitly. Therefore, those who follow the BFM do not have make that denial. For the BFM does not commit them to it.

OC Hands said...

Dr. Welty,
While I do appreciate your taking time out of your busy schedule to correct the faulty thinking of Wade and some of the rest of us, it still boils down to your interpretation of these documents. And in doing so, you prove Wade's point. If you can interpret it to mean what you think it says, and Wade interprets it to mean what he thinks it says, shouldn't we allow that kind of interpretation for each other? Also, is it possible for you make your comments shorter? I for one get a little weary trying to sort through what you are trying to say.
Just my opinion.

Bryan Riley said...

The support for Wade's position is found in this and so many other comment strings. God called us to relationship. To unity. He is a relational God. Personal. Where God brings eternal life - that is, relationship, Satan brings eternal damnation - that is, eternal death and separation from the source of Life.

Do any of you who love to stand for "truth" - quotes around it because it is truth that is very disputable - have multiple children? Does it grieve your heart when you have two sons who fight? Or two or three of your children refuse to speak to one another or work together as a family because of silly differences? Likewise, our arguments over high sounding words and fine distinctions in doctrine over the letter of the new covenant grieves God's heart.

If I weren't a follower of Jesus and I saw strings such as these or sat in on SBC "discussions" I am quite sure I would not be moved to believe in the God they allege to serve and love.

Wade Burleson said...

Dr. Welty,

My fellow Southern Baptist from OKC sums up my feeling of this entire string for me in his comment above me.

:)

Wade Burleson said...

By the way, just a little fun and I will leave off my little infant saga . . .

Both of you are now saying "The BF&M teaches that people are condemned by personal sin, but it does not teach that people are not condemned by Adam's sin."

I can't help but laugh. Let me show you the illogic of that statement.

"The autopsy revealed that the victim died by the gun he fired from his own hand on Tuesday, but it does not reveal that the victim was not killed by his wife firing her gun two weeks earlier."

:)

Sorry guys, you can't have it both ways

Bart Barber said...

Wade:

Am I going to have to quote Carly Simon again?

Bart Barber said...

Wade,

Nobody is asserting this as anyone's actual belief. Rather, we are merely pointing out that E. Y. Mullins, Al Mohler, and a host of other people who are just plain NOT stupid have written a confessional document that is...


DELIBERATELY VAGUE


...at this point. The confession is not written to embody one point of view; it is written deliberately to allow room for multiple points of view.

I would think that someone in favor of charity toward divergent points of view would be able to recognize the phenomenon and appreciate it. I know that I do.

smithwe said...

Dr. Greg Welty,
Did you get to know Dr. John Frame and the rest of the New Life group while you attended Westminster Seminary? We were part of that Group for 12 years. My wife was the secretary for Dr. Tim Monsma.

In His Name
Wayne Smith

Greg Welty said...

OC Hands writes:

[[[
While I do appreciate your taking time out of your busy schedule to correct the faulty thinking of Wade and some of the rest of us, it still boils down to your interpretation of these documents.
]]]

Sure. But why is that relevant? Could you not say the same thing about *any* dispute about *any* document? If so, why is that observation relevant *here*?

[[[
If you can interpret it to mean what you think it says, and Wade interprets it to mean what he thinks it says, shouldn't we allow that kind of interpretation for each other?
]]]

I'm not sure what you mean by "allow that kind of interpretation for each other". Wade is "allowed" to take the view that the documents are contradictory. No one is coercing him to think otherwise.

Do you instead mean: if any two Southern Baptists disagree on their interpretation of any paragraph in the BFM, we should -- simply in virtue of the fact that said disagreement exists -- allow both interpretations, for the purposes of service of the convention?

Surely you cannot mean that. That way lies total chaos.

So... what are you saying?

[[[
Also, is it possible for you make your comments shorter? I for one get a little weary trying to sort through what you are trying to say. Just my opinion.
]]]

Here's my opinion: you are "allowed" to skip every single one of my comments, and find perfect joy in doing so!

Also, I find the "Page Down" key on my keyboard to be particularly useful for skipping pesky and loquacious comments such as mine :-)

As for myself, I'm just not interesting in devoting myself to producing mere sound-bites. The issues deserve more than this, in my view.

Greg Welty said...

Brian Riley,

I have multiple children, three sons in fact. And yes, they fight over many very silly things.

As for your analogy, whether the differences being discussed in these and other posts are "silly differences" is precisely the position you have to prove, is it not?

I'm saddened that you think I only "allege to love and serve" God. Does not your sentiment here smack of the Pharisaical, fundamentalist, spirit that I think you would otherwise deride?

For goodness sake, you've never met me, nor I you, as far as I can tell.

Wade Burleson said...

The confession is not written to embody one point of view; it is written deliberately to allow room for multiple points of view.

Thank God, Bart, we finally agree.

:)

Greg Welty said...

Wayne Smith,

John Frame is indeed a good friend of mine. I served as his teaching assistant (and occasionally lectured in his classes) for all three years in seminary, and another beyond that. He frequently sends me pre-publication drafts of his books. I have his _Doctrine of God_ in MS Word format.

I did attend New Life church when I first started seminary. But then I realized that I was a Baptist, and so I found another church :-)

Still, I miss John's organ playing. And the fellowship we had while I was in seminary.

Alan Cross said...

Bart, you said,

have written a confessional document that is...


DELIBERATELY VAGUE


...at this point. The confession is not written to embody one point of view; it is written deliberately to allow room for multiple points of view.


Thank you, Bart. I can only surmise that is why many on your side of the argument are appealing to a "Clear Baptist Identity" that was left out of our vague confessional statement. If those guys were NOT stupid to try and make the BF&M anything less than vague on these issues because they probably saw the controversy that could erupt, then what do you call appealing to an unwritten "Clear Baptist Identity" that finds no home in our confession of faith or any other Baptist consensus?

I won't be rude and say that it is stupid, but it surely isn't very wise.

Bart Barber said...

Wade,

If we finally agree, then you are finally conceding that the deliberate vagueness of the BF&M prevents it from contradicting the Abstract; hence, one can honestly affirm both if so inclined without any inconsistency.

Yes indeed, God be praised for that agreement.

country baptist preacher said...

Awesome post Sir,

Should be in a textbook.

Can anyone tell me where in the Bible we can find even a hint of an "age" of accountability?

How about a specific age?

Is this based in Romanism?

thanks
grace
cbp

Bart Barber said...

Alan,

The very process through which we are presently moving is precisely the way that Southern Baptists determine at which points to be vague and at which points to be specific. Certainly many part of the BF&M are quite to-the-point.

Bart Barber said...

"part" should be "parts"

R. L. Vaughn said...

Wade you write, "There is no question that baptism is a prerequisite to the Lord's Supper (or fellowship/communion) with other believers, but the question becomes, if someone is not baptized by immersion, can they still be a partaker of 'communion' with the family of Christ?..."

I find this very confusing. Open communion is pretty straightforward -- salvation, but not baptism, is prerequisite to communion. But this mixed/modified communion somewhere between open and closed is unusual. You say that there is no question that baptism IS a prerequisite to the Lord's Supper. You also seem to say that baptism by immersion (which is the Baptist definition of baptism) IS NOT a prerequisite to the Lord's Supper. Is your position like that of David Rogers -- that for the purpose of communion, any kind of baptism that is acceptable to the participant is acceptable as a baptism that is prerequisite to communion? Do think that anyone invited to the Lord's table must have had some ceremony that they accept as baptism? Would an unbaptized believer be welcome?

I have been reading about this "modified open communion" on blogs (including Nathan's and David's) over the past few days, and am trying to grasp the concept. I plan to post on the various Baptist views on communion on my blog tomorrow or the next day, but this view is new to me. I guess I don't get out enough! ;-)

BTW, wasn't Spurgeon's view a simple open communion, rather than one that required some sort of requisite baptismal ceremony?

Alan Cross said...

Bart,

And I would agree with the specific points of the BF&M2000 as well. I am speaking about a "clear Baptist identity" that some claim that has never, nowhere, been defined to my knowledge. Since we have a statement on the essentials of Baptist faith and practice called the BF&M, it seems that for trustee boards to appeal to a clear baptist identity that is not in that confession of faith is somewhat confusing, don't you think?

selahV said...

Les: hi, you wrote, "...someone needs to make a motion in SA that BFM2K be revisited and rewritten to reflect our true essentials."

"true essentials"...what are they? are they essentials historically or essentials of our contemporary times which keep changing as a result of political whim? selahV

Colin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Greg Welty said...

Wade says:

[[[
Both of you are now saying "The BF&M teaches that people are condemned by personal sin, but it does not teach that people are not condemned by Adam's sin."

I can't help but laugh. Let me show you the illogic of that statement.

"The autopsy revealed that the victim died by the gun he fired from his own hand on Tuesday, but it does not reveal that the victim was not killed by his wife firing her gun two weeks earlier."

:)

Sorry guys, you can't have it both ways
]]]

This is an extremely bad analogy. The problem here is that you are likening causes of condemnation to causes of death. But these are disanalogous at precisely the point you need them to be analogous, if your rebuttal is to work.

Clearly, if someone killed himself with a gun, this precludes him being killed two weeks earlier. That's because, in cases of death by gunfire, you can only have one "grounds" of death. It makes no sense to say someone was killed by a gun, and then was killed again two weeks later.

By way of contrast, there can be *multiple* grounds for condemnation before God. You yourself already believe this. Since you believe Abstract VI, you already believe that Adam's guilt is imputed to us. But you *also* believe that we are condemned by our own sins. That's because you believe Romans 5 *and* Romans 2 as well.

Indeed, simple consideration of a court of law should have shown you the fault in your argument here. Typically, a defendant might be on trial for *multiple* charges, and he might be convicted on them all. If so, then clearly someone can be liable to punishment for, say, murder *and* theft. The fact that he is "under condemnation" for murder does not exclude his being "under condemnation" for theft as well.

By way of contrast, you only die once. So of course a claim that one has died precludes their dying by another cause two weeks earlier.

Wade cites Bart:

[[[
The confession is not written to embody one point of view; it is written deliberately to allow room for multiple points of view.
]]]

And then Wade says, "Thank God, Bart, we finally agree. :)"

There goes your original argument, I guess.

If the BFM allows multiple points of view, then *obviously* it is no longer incompatible with the Abstract.

You can't have it both ways.

Greg Welty said...

Oops, it looks like Bart already made my last point above. Looks like grating minds think alike ;-)

Greg Welty said...

Colin says:

[[[
Can they not already be condemned before their first moral transgression? The Bible teaches it-the BFM allows it- and the Abstract clearly states it.
]]]

A clearer summary of the matter cannot be found than in the above!

Anonymous said...

Goodness! I thought baseball stat-keepers argued about minutiae! Those guys are pikers neath'n to y'all!
Dona nobis pacem!

Layman Steve A.

Karen in OK said...

Dr.Welty and Bart Barber,
I very much appreciate your thoughtful interaction.
I can understand what you are saying, but not entirely.
The actual wording is "as soon as" and "becomes".
Without your explanations, I would honestly read it according to Wade's interpretation.
"As soon as" and "becomes" seems to me to imply "not until then".

Bart Barber said...

Karen,

Great observation and question. "As soon as" and "becomes" applies to "transgressors." All involved in the debate agree that people do not become transgressors until they can actually transgress for themselves. :-)

The verb applying to "condemned" is "are." When they "become" transgressors they "are" condemned. The deliberate vagueness in the BF&M lies in the fact that it says absolutely nothing about when people first "become" condemned.

Greg Welty said...

And, Karen, just in case Bart's elegance and conciseness isn't your cup of tea :-) here's some thoughts to supplement his.

Karen says:

[[[
The actual wording is "as soon as" and "becomes".
Without your explanations, I would honestly read it according to Wade's interpretation.
"As soon as" and "becomes" seems to me to imply "not until then".
]]]

I think this is an extremely important query, if only because it leads us to grapple with the actual wording of the documents.

What you say above is exactly right, but the significance is somewhat different than you might think.

The answer to your question is found in my comment on a previous post.

In short, *both* BFM III and Abstract VI affirm that we become transgressors after we are capable of moral action. That's not what is in dispute.

The Abstract doesn't deny this. What it says *in addition to this* is that by Adam's fall his posterity "are under condemnation". This condemnation is not due to their actual transgressions after they have been born. It is due to something else, namely, Adam's fall, and his subsequent guilt imputed to us.

So sure, I entirely agree with you: according to the BFM, we do not become transgressors until we are capable of moral action. (And that's what the Abstract says as well.) As you put it, it is "not until then" that we become transgressors. But that's entirely compatible with the Abstract saying we are *condemned* before then. For the "condemnation" the *Abstract* is talking about is distinct from the "condemnation" the *BFM* is talking about. What the Abstract is talking about is *not* a condemnation on the basis of our actual transgressions in this life. Rather, it is a condemnation on the basis of Adam's sin, an event which occurred long before we were even born, and thus long before we ever *could* be transgressors.

I don't think I'm *making up* two different kinds of "condemnation" here in order to effect a cynical reconciliation. I'm just reading the texts in context. Clearly, when Abstract VI says:

"... 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 "condemnation" it is talking about is, *in context*, a condemnation due to Adam's sin. How else would we interpret the kind of "condemnation" this sentence is talking about?

Just as clearly, when BFM III says:

"Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation."

... the "condemnation" it is talking about is, *in context*, a condemnation due to their own transgressions. Again, how else would we interpret the kind of "condemnation" this sentence is talking about? And, indeed, it is not "until then" (until they are transgressors) that they "are under" condemnation *for their transgressions*.

So this isn't some crafty distinction I've pulled out of thin air. It's clear that the documents themselves are talking about two different kinds of condemnation, each with its own particular grounds.

In short, to pull material from the link above, we have the following sequence of claims:

[A} Men are condemned in virtue of Adam's sin
[B] Men become capable of moral action
[C] Men become transgressors
[D] Men are condemned in virtue of their transgressions

The Abstract is affirming A-B-C. The BFM is affirming B-C-D. Clearly, there's no conflict here. You'd only get a conflict if, say, the Abstract said [A] and the BFM said not-[A]. But that is exactly what we do not have.

Notice that what the Abstract and the BFM have in common is the affirmation of B-C, in that order. That's why you're correct above. It is "not until" men become capable of moral action (B) that men become "transgressors" (C). But it's because affirming A-B-C is compatible with affirming B-C-D that there's no contradiction here.

Greg Welty said...

Bart says:

[[[
The verb applying to "condemned" is "are." When they "become" transgressors they "are" condemned. The deliberate vagueness in the BF&M lies in the fact that it says absolutely nothing about when people first "become" condemned.
]]]

Holy cow, Bart! :-) I just realized your point here is more profound than what I originally took it to be. You're right. In the crucial sentence in BFM III, there are two verbs here: "become" and "are". They "become" transgressors, and as a result they "are" under condemnation.

If the BFM really wanted to affirm that they *become* condemned for the first time, then it would have used "become" to describe the condemnation as well as the transgressors. It would have said: "they become transgressors and become condemned." But that's not what it says. By using the verb "are," it's not rendering a judgment about when people first become condemned. It just states that they are condemned, and leaves it at that. This is compatible with either affirming or denying prior condemnation via Adam's sin.

johnMark said...

Well...I've been trying to think of what this discussion on the alleged BFM/Abstracts contradiction. I figured out what it reminded me of. The theological debate from Romans 8:29.

"Romans 8:29 For those [i]whom He foreknew, He also predestined[/i] [to become] conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;" (NASB) Emphasis mine.

The non-calvinist says that "see predestination is due to foreknowledge" but the verse doesn't say that. It says He foreknew and also predestined them there is no cause-effect relationship stated.

BFM III states, "Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation."

In the same manner the BFM doesn't say they are under condemnation *because* they became transgressors. It is not an implicit cause-effect statement. I think is could be re-written, but the confession is written to be able to include more than one view.

Another point I thought of while reading the whole of Section III is it's entire context.

"In the beginning man was innocent of sin and was endowed by his Creator with freedom of choice. By his free choice man sinned against God and brought sin into the human race. 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."

This section which is prior to the sentence in question tells us that we are all ready sinners at the fall. No longer innocent which would also lead one too believe that we are under condemnation at this point. Now the confession doesn't *explicitly* say this, but no one would doubt that a sinner, one fallen from innocence, is condemned rather than saved.

Anyways, it's just a thought.

Mark

Ps. Dr. Welty, It's good to see you back from your leave several weeks ago. I'd forgotten how long and thorough your posts can be. :)

Mike Ruffin said...

1. You guys really know how to split hairs.
2. I'm starting to remember why I had to put some distance between myself and the SBC--obsessive compulsiveness makes me nervous.
3. Can we think some about how laughable it is to expect the messengers to any given SBC annual meeting to be willing or able to grapple with the "fine" points of theology that this discussion has engendered? And should that give us pause about putting too much weight on a document adopted by such a gathering? (By the way, I would say the same thing about a gathering of CBF Baptists, Episcopolians, Presbyterians, Hindus, or Secular Humanists.) Does not the adoption of an appropriately orthodox but appropriately nuanced statement of faith (especially if it is going to be given creed-like authority) by majority vote of the folks who happen to be able to get themselves to a particular meeting seem a little off the wall?
4. I really, truly think we would be better off viewing the BFM or any other such statement as a very loose summary of what Southern Batpists generally believe. The more you try to narrow the parameters, the sillier things start to look.

Kyle A. Roberts said...

Mike,

Thanks for that. You've said the most logical, potentially constructive thing I've seen in this entire thread.

There are moments when I miss my SBC heritage and then, well...moments that I don't.

OC Hands said...

Dr. Welty,
So what you are saying is that if there is only one interpretation, it has to be yours? That is the impression I get through your much posting.
Also, do you mean that there can be no other possible interpretation than yours on what some call "tertiary" issues?
My plea for brevity was simply a call for some courtesy for the rest of us who read this blog. The length of your posts does not authenticate the truth of what you are trying to communicate. We should not have to scroll down through post after post of yours to get to other comments. I do appreciate your scholarly essays, but some of us might be convinced with a shorter post.

Karen in OK said...

Thanks Dr. Welty and Dr. Barber for your careful explanations.
I understand much better now.

CHRIS HILLIARD said...

Wade,
I haven't read this whole string of comments (not enough time). So, I don't know if this was covered. What I struggle to figure out is, the solution. It's almost as if you have to make the BFM a creed (which we DON'T want to do) to give it any merit or substance. OR we go to the other extreme and it has no bearing on anything (and you wonder what the point of having it is). There's a tension here and I don't see how it can ever be solved. I don't want (or believe in) a manmade "creed" that dictates our every doctrine and viewpoint. The Bible is my creed. But I also believe we need accountability or all kinds of junk finds its way into our pulpits and pews.

Even if we agree that 1st tier is what makes us Christian and 2nd tier makes us Baptist, how do we come to agreement on what makes us Baptist? I'm not sure of the answers. I just have all the questions.

Baptist Theologue said...

I appreciate Dr. Welty's thorough explanation of how the Abstract and 2000 BF&M do not conflict. I understand how Dr. Mohler could sign both.

Greg Welty said...

In honor of OC Hands' continued quest for brevity, here's a comment I dashed off to Debbie over here:

I think I can put the main point pretty simply, and show how it naturally follows from the text of the two documents.

Go to Abstract VI and read the relevant sentence.

Question: what kind of "condemnation" is the Abstract talking about?

Answer: condemnation in virtue of Adam's sin.

Now go to BFM III and read the relevant sentence.

Question: what kind of "condemnation" is the BFM talking about?

Answer: condemnation in virtue of our becoming transgressors, after we are capable of moral action.

Clearly, then, the first answer is compatible with the second answer, because we're talking about two different condemnations. And it's the *text itself* which leads us to make this distinction.

Please, just go through this simple exercise. If you didn't come up with my answers, based on the actual text of the documents, could you please explain why? I'm genuinely interested.

Greg Welty said...

Mike Ruffin asked, "Can we think some about how laughable it is to expect the messengers to any given SBC annual meeting to be willing or able to grapple with the "fine" points of theology that this discussion has engendered?"

Why would the messengers have to do *any* of this stuff, Mike?

Wade's question is about the compatibility of the BFM and the Abstract of Principles. The only reason this would be relevant, according to Wade, is assessing the consistency of hiring SBTS profs who would have to subscribe to both per Bart's resolution. Well, who would have to do make that assessment, in Wade's hypothetical scenario? Not the messengers! Rather, it would be the professors themselves (as they weigh their options), and/or the trustees of the SBC entity (who are doing the hiring and firing).

God forbid if the profs and trustees of a theological seminary would have to do a bit of theologizing! :-)

So I really don't understand the significance of your point. You seem to have missed the original context of this dispute. Wade offered a *reductio* of Bart's resolution. In doing so, his central claim is one that, in point of fact, wouldn't have to be assessed by the messengers at all, practically speaking.

Of course, your comment is just one in a long line of double-standard comments in this thread. Apparently, if Wade constructs an entire post on this precise point of BFM-Abstract compatibility (as he did awhile ago, replete with numerous and lengthy comments), that's OK, but if anyone dares to *challenge* his argument by examining its cogency, they're splitting hairs and disillusioning the rank-and-file Southern Baptist! Heads I win, tails you lose!

Wade Burleson said...

Greg,

Two different condemnations?

Are you kidding?

The condemnation to which both the Abstract and the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 refer is the condemnation that comes from God. It is to be condemned by Him. It is to be the recepient of His holy and righteous judgment. This holy condemnation is a result of sin.

The question is 'whose' sin brings about God's condemnation. To say there are two 'different' condemnations is absurd.

How can you be separted twice from God? How can you be condemned twice by the Holy judge of heaven? The issue is what is the 'cause' and 'basis' of our condemnation.

It is EITHER Adam's sin -- or it is our OWN sin. The BFM declares the basis of our condemnation to be our personal, actual sins, the Abstract declares it to be Adam's sin.

Greg Welty said...

Baptist Theologue said, "I understand how Dr. Mohler could sign both."

Especially considering that, at the time Mohler served on the BFM 2000 committee, he had already been President of Southern for seven years. You know, that institution that has the Abstract of Principles as its confession!

But maybe Mohler forgot the convictions of his own school when he took to his BFM committee work. Who knows? ;-)

Kyle A. Roberts said...

Greg,

Any hermeneutics professor worth his or her salt would not let a student do with a text what you are doing with the BFM in this case. The "plain sense" and "authorial intent" of that section is that condemnation is not incurred until the inclination towards sin becomes actual in a human being--not merely possible. It says, "as soon as they are capable of moral action..." Would the "framers" of the document have assumed that a newborn baby is "capable of moral action?" Seriously?

And for the record, while I'm at it, it just struck me strange that the BFM2000, in the same paragraph in which it claims that "the gift of gender is...part of the goodness of God's creation," can only say "man is the special creation of God."

A serious question, what are the odds that the next edition of the BFM will employ gender neutral language? I'm genuinely curious what people here think about that...



I just think it's funny :)

Greg Welty said...

Wade,

Welcome to the wonderful world of systematic theology.

Tell me, Wade: do you believe Romans 2:5-8? If so, on what basis does Paul say men are under condemnation?

Answer: their own transgressions.

Now, how about Romans 5? On what basis are men under condemnation?

Answer: the sin of Adam.

Funny thing is, you already believe this. Ro 2:5-8 isn't talking about *Adam's* sin, and you know it.

So even apart from the confessional documents we have been discussing, you already accept the *concept* of what I'm talking about, biblically speaking.

If you don't like my terminology of two different condemnations, then think of it as two different *grounds* for condemnation (a formulation I have also offered in this thread).

Or, we can hew *very closely* to the text of the respective documents themselves. According to the Abstract, we are "under condemnation" in virtue of X, whereas according to the BFM, we are "under condemnation" in virtue of Y. If one were to subscribe to *both* documents, the overall situation envisioned is as consistent as saying someone is "under condemnation" for both murder and theft. In short, no contradiction. Both claims can be true.

Greg Welty said...

Kyle Roberts said:

[[[
The "plain sense" and "authorial intent" of that section is that condemnation is not incurred until the inclination towards sin becomes actual in a human being--not merely possible.
]]]

This is exactly right. Why would you think I disagree? Condemnation *for actual transgressions* is not incurred until the inclination towards sin becomes actual in a human being. This is true.

You say:

[[[
It says, "as soon as they are capable of moral action..." Would the "framers" of the document have assumed that a newborn baby is "capable of moral action?" Seriously?
]]]

No, they wouldn't have assumed it.

Why are you reading a reference to newborn babies into the document? That's just weird.

Again, one more time: according to the BFM, condemnation for transgressions does not occur *until* men become capable of moral action. This is the B-C sequence that *both* documents affirm, according to my earlier notation.

So, I'm glad I concur with what, apparently, "any hermeneutics professor worth his or her salt" would notice :-) Thanks for bucking up my confidence ;-)

Bart Barber said...

OC Hands,

Here's the quick history:
1. Wade has asserted that these two documents are ipso facto incompatible—that nobody anywhere can rightly agree with both of them because they can only be interpreted in one manner that construes them as contradictory.

2. Dr. Welty & I have asserted that the BF&M is worded in such a way that both those who agree with the Abstract and those who disagree with it can interpret the BF&M in such a way as to affirm it.

3. Wade can choose to interpret the BF&M to contradict with the Abstract all that he wishes—none of my business and no skin off my nose.

4. But for Wade to suggest that the two documents cannot reasonably be reconciled is to make of all those who have done just that—have reconciled and affirmed both documents—either unintelligent or disingenuous (unless somebody knows some other option).

5. Wade's overall point is that the two documents are necessarily and hopelessly incompatible (which they are not, after all); therefore, confessional integrity is impossible at Southern; therefore, each employee of the SBC ought to be able to pick and choose areas of disagreement with their employing entities' confessional statements without repercussion upon their employment status.

6. It is an unbelievable spilling of electrons upon minutiae, but Wade has chosen this particular set of minutiae to attack my resolution supporting the non-trivial idea that people ought to be honest when they affirm confessional statements as terms of employment.

Kyle A. Roberts said...

ok...then I just think it's weird that there are "two different grounds for condemnation." One isn't enough? God's covering all the bases here?

:)

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Dear Dr. Welty,

Again, sir, you have displayed publicly, not only your typical logical and theological acumen, but your enduring patience in having to repeat yourself ad infinitum. You and Dr. Barber play a good tagteam in the electronic classroom.

And yet, I remind you of our private email regarding such a foray. Now, the hour is late, and I believe Rose is probably saying to you what Karen is saying to me.

Good night, my friend, and let Brother Burleson recuperate from his intense educational experience for the day. There is always another day....

In Christ,
Malcolm

PS "Bryan", not "Brian"

CHRIS HILLIARD said...

As the debates heat up concerning the role of the Baptist Faith and Message for Southern Baptist, I decided to take a stab at what I perceive to be the crux of the issue using Dr. Al Mohler’s triage system to explain the different levels of doctrinal agreement amongst us,

Here’s where I think the problem lies. Really, the main thing we need to be concerned with is: What makes us Christians? After that we need to ask: As Christians, how are we to live, worship, minister, etc.? In other words, how are we to live a completely obedient Christian life? First tier doctrines are the ones that define us as Christians. The 2nd tier doctrines are ones that don’t touch salvation but shouldn’t be compromised in order to live an obedient Christian life. Second tier doctrines seem to be what define us as Baptist.

We acknowledge that there are Christians (who meet 1st tier essentials) who don’t agree on the 2nd tier doctrines. We won’t declare them unsaved but we believe these doctrines are clearly presented in the Word and should not be compromised. Thus, it’s what separates us (Baptist) from the others. Third tier doctrines are simply ones that we all acknowledge we aren’t quite sure about. We have our opinions (even convictions) but we aren’t dogmatic about them.

Personally, I believe we have allowed some 3rd tier doctrines to come into the argument and confuse us. Is baptism by immersion a 1st tier, 2nd tier, or 3rd tier? Is it necessary for salvation? No. Is it clear in Scripture? Yes. Thus it’s second tier. Is being a continuationist/cessationist a 1st tier doctrine? Is it necessary for salvation? No. Is it a second tier issue? Is it absolutely clear in Scripture? Debated, in my opinion. Thus, it’s a 3rd tier doctrine.

If the BFM is simply a confession of 1st tier doctrines, then I believe we should be held accountable to them. If the BFM is a confession of 1st and 2nd tier doctrines we must ask whether or not we should be held accountable to it as well. If 2nd tier doctrines are as I defined them, I could possibly see the merit in saying yes. But, the problem with the BFM is that it contains what I believe are 1st, 2nd, and possibly even 3rd tier doctrines. Plus, I believe many are beginning to confuse 2nd and 3rd tier doctrines. And as long as the possibility lies that 3rd tier doctrines are currently a part of the BFM or might be in the future, we must not let the BFM become a “creed”.

Here

Wade Burleson said...

Chris Hilliard,

I promise you, sir, there is no way I could have said it better.

Wade Burleson said...

Malcolm,

Thanks for the well wishes -- I'm quite well rested, thank you!

Kyle A. Roberts said...

Malcolm,

Greetings from the northland!

Perhaps you are right, and Dr. Welty has served us as the ever-patient, wise theological schoolmaster.

But, in my own teaching I've come to realize that, if I have to explain myself again and again and again, ad infinitum, the fault may not lie my students, but with the position I'm trying to delineate (or my understanding of it).

But, that's just another possible interpretation...

:)

Kyle A. Roberts said...

"with my students," that is.

Ron P. said...

Bryan Riley says

"Do any of you who love to stand for "truth" - quotes around it because it is truth that is very disputable - ..."

WOW! it is truth that is very disputable? This belief is Postmodernism at it's core.

Dr. Welty and Dr. Barber:

Double WOWs! You both are amazing and have so eloquently, logically and with finality, answered this posted blog. Being a former debater, the dropped arguments alone would win you the contest. But the clear and concise arguments you make to support the BFM as a confessional document that can (AND SHOULD) be used by anyone employed by the SBC is sound.

Ron P.

RKSOKC66 said...

Wade:

I think you are conflating whether or not the Abstract and/or BFM is correct with the notion of whether they conflict.

After looking at all arguments, it is clear to me that Dr. Welty's statement that the Abstract does not conflict with the BF&M is correct.

That argument is independent of whether either document is "correct" compared to what the Bible actually says or means.

Making the argument that a given understanding of the documents could possibly give rise to "dual condemnations" does not address the issue of the extent there is a conflict between them. This is because: (1) maybe in reality the "best" understanding of the Bible (independent of the BF&M and/or abstract) is that there really are "two classes of condemnations" and/or (2) notwithstanding the different language between the abstract and the BFM maybe only one condemnation is view -- even though the condemnation might be a result of a different cause-effect chain. For example, from the universe of possible precursors leading up to condemnation there could be several such as:
(a) Sin is present at birth due to Adamic curse that results in later condemnation and/or (b) Rebellion happens at the "age of accountability" that results in condemnation and/or (c) something else is giving rise to the condemnation.

I think logically Dr. Welty's argument is air tight.

I support your call for a "breath of fresh air" 100%. However, I think you contention that there is a conflict is not only wrong but is also has no bearing on your main argument concerning the “breath of fresh air”.

Whether or not the documents conflict is a not really the true issue. The real issue is what to do about the proposed resolution instructing the agencies to adhere to the BF&M.

Now let us that a look at the “real issue”. I don't think that it makes much difference one way or the other if the resolution passes or fails. In any case, the trustees of a given agency are in charge of that agency. They have ultimate control of the hiring and firing decisions. If the convention does like what one or more of the trustees of a given agency is doing they have a process (already in place) to remove them. If the trustees of a given agency are out of line one way or another regarding use or non-use of the BF&M for any reason – such as criterion for hiring and firing employees – then convention’s recourse is to get different trustees.

I don’t think passing these meaningless resolutions is binding on the trustees of any agency.

In short, I think this entire debate has been diverted into a narrow rat’s nest (conflict between documents) which is of academic interest only. Come to think of it – the big picture (the resolution) is also of academic interest due to the reasons I’ve stated in the two paragraphs above.

Wade, I agree that in BF&M 2K the Adamic curse is evidently not in view. However, upon reflection I say, “so what?”

All of you guys are arguing over NOTHING.

Roger K. Simpson
Oklahoma City OK

Mel said...

Dear Wade,
Congratulations! I thought I was the only person in the world who had ever pastored the type of church you described in your first paragraph! I am an IMB missionary (church planter in Russia). My only experience as pastor was with an English language Baptist church in Germany. We had folks from seven different nationalities as well as seven different denominations attending our church. We had a few differing opinions! However, never in 2 1/2 years did we experience any disruption of unity! In retrospect, I think the things that brought us together were simply greater than the differences between us. Emmanuel sounds like a wonderful place. For what it's worth, I'd lke to visit some time.
May God bless you and your ministry.
Mel Skinner

LivingDust said...

I'm thoroughly enjoying the "debate" and while Alan had the good idea to call it the Baptist Faith and Message, I suggest we name it the Baptist Faith and Dialogues.

In regards to condemnation, I believe both - Humans are a condemned race of being, because of Adam's fall, and you can confirm it by the rebellion in every human heart, evident at birth until death.

Wade Burleson said...

Mel Skinner,

You would be welcome anytime, and we would love to host you!

Blessings,

Wade

Wade Burleson said...

Roger, in rereading every comment, I must say, if Greg's logic is air tight, this comment from Steven Pruett on the post two days ago poked an air hole in it . . .

Steven wrote:

Greg, You wrote, "But once again these are easily compatible, for it can be the case that men are under condemnation on *both* grounds: for their own sin and the sin of Adam. This seems to be the united testimony of Scripture anyway; Romans 2 teaches the former, and Romans 5 teaches the latter. What about this is so difficult to grasp? I don't intend that as an insult. It's just that I'm mystified on the insistence that there is a contradiction here."

I can only repeat the exact words of the B F & M III: "Therefore, AS SOON AS they are capable of moral action, they BECOME transgressors AND ARE under condemnation". Your view of this statement is difficult for me to grasp because it requires us to ignore the clearly intended meaning, which is that we are NOT condemned BEFORE we are capable of moral action. The phrase "as soon as" would make no sense if we were already condemned by original sin (as clearly stated in the Abstracts). I cannot see how this statement allows the conclusion that, in practice, we are condemned by both original sin and personal sin (as you propose). The only loophole I can see that might get us to your interpretation is to propose that “we BECOME transgressors AND are under condemnation” really means “we BECOME transgressors, AND are under condemnation, but we were already condemned anyway by original sin”. Obviously, this is not stated, and assuming it is intended seems a real stretch to me. If you came to this text with no pre-conceptions, how would you take it? Would you assume that we were already condemned but the writer just decided to place the word condemnation after “we become transgressors” for no particular reason. I would not. I would assume that BECOMING a transgressor AND Condemnation came AS SOON AS (but not before) we were capable of moral action.

The Abstracts state, "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." I don’t know what this can mean other than, we ARE condemned BEFORE we are capable of moral action and become transgressors. This is not compatible with your interpretation of the B F & M (we are condemned by both). I suppose you could take this to mean that in practice both conditions apply to adults so we are all condemned. However, if we want to really be precise, we cannot BECOME condemned if we already were condemned. You could accurately say that everyone is condemned at birth, but even if we weren’t, we would be condemned as soon as we transgress personally. I think perhaps that is really what you mean when you write we are condemned by both. However, the phrase “even if we weren’t” cannot just be assumed. It would have to be explicit for me to conclude that this was intended.

Obviously, by belief that the B F & M most clearly means that we are not condemned by original sin, this is not in opposition to the opinion of many, many Baptist pastors (I won’t say most, because no survey has been done). There are unquestionably many who believe in the concept of an age of accountability. Therefore, I had no reason to assume that the B F & M did not mean exactly what is indicated by the most direct interpretation of the text: that we are NOT under condemnation UNTIL we are capable of moral action.

Again, you could suggest that the wording “we BECOME transgressors and ARE condemned” means that we were not transgressors before we were capable of moral action, but we were already condemned. So why say we “ARE under condemnation” just AFTER “We BECOME transgressors”, if you do not intend to indicate that the two are connected. Without reading anything into the text that is not there, I would say that the clearest intention by using this sequence is that the moment we BECOME transgressors, we ARE condemned. With this type of construction, the natural assumption is that both becoming transgressors and the state of being under condemnation happen AS SOON AS we are capable of moral action. Otherwise, the phrase ARE under condemnation should be in the previous sentence where it would mean that we are condemned by original sin.

This brings me to your idea that we are condemned by both original sin and personal sin. At first glance that seems fine, but if think about it in terms of the sequence of events, it is not so fine. If we are already condemned by original sin, how can we also be condemned for personal sin? Are you saying that there are degrees of condemnation? If we are condemned for original sin, then we are condemned at birth, period, no matter what else happens (except salvation of course). I really don’t think this is just a semantic exercise. If you say both, I think what you really mean is that we are condemned by original sin, but if we weren’t we would be condemned anyway by our personal sin. This is at least a logically consistent sentence that conveys the sufficiency of both original and personal sin to condemn us, but this sentence is not remotely similar to the statements in either the B F & M or the Abstracts. It is however, the only construction I could devise that would include your idea that we are condemned by both that will not be derailed by the idea that once we are condemned we are condemned, so it really cannot be both because if we are already under condemnation for original sin, how can we subsequently be placed under condemnation for personal sin also? One has to propose these conditional types of statements to get around this problem, and the B F & M and the Abstracts do not. Therefore, I cannot say that the Abstracts allows for both condemnation by original sin and personal sin. It states that we are under condemnation already for original sin. I can only conclude from the Abstracts that we would be under condemnation whether we ever became capable of moral action or not. In the B F & M, condemnation is mentioned only after transgression, and the clearest inference is that condemnation does not come from original sin (which is mentioned in the previous sentence) but from personal transgression.

Which of the following interpretations of “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.” is most consistent with the text?
1) We inherit a nature and environment inclined to sin but not condemnation at birth, and we become condemned as soon as we are capable of moral action and transgress.
2) We inherit condemnation at birth, but become transgressors only after we are capable of moral action.

You may like number 2, but as I already noted, it is a real stretch to pull the first phrase of #2 out of the text of the B F & M. In contrast, #2 is exactly consistent with the Abstracts. To assume #2 can be implied by the B F & M requires one to bring that idea into the text and accept that the text may allow it. However, I don’t think anyone coming to this text without any baggage would conclude that it means “we are condemned at birth”. Either we are or we are not. The Abstracts say we are. The B F & M has to be bent, parsed, and stretched to breaking to make it say this. I guess it’s not absolutely excluded, but just saying the B F & M allows for both original and actual sin to be sufficient does not solve this. As already noted, if both are sufficient, then we are all condemned at birth and the B F & M should not say that we only “inherit a nature and environment inclined to sin” it should say that we inherit condemnation.

The B F & M indicates that personal sin but not original sin is NECESSARY AND SUFFICIENT for condemnation (we did not inherit the condemnation, but only the tendency to sin) and the Abstracts indicate actual personal sin is NOT NECESSARY (because we are already condemned by the imputing or inheritance of original sin at birth).

I am sorry for this lengthy discussion, but I want to explain my position as clearly as possible, so perhaps we can come to some resolution. If my reasoning on this is faulty, please let me know. Perhaps if you showed your friends and colleagues this comment without indicating to them that you believed something different and without explaining your opinion, they would have trouble refuting it. However, I may be wrong, and I will be interested in your response.

Wade Burleson said...

Roger,

By the way, to me this argument makes no difference, except for this one huge reason:

Those who demand 'conformity' on the BFM 2000 must insist every doctrine is 'essential' to be identified as a Southern Baptist. I continue to ask if it is essential that a Southern Baptist believe that nobody is condemned until they personall sin -- for that is what the BFM clearly states.

Michael said...

you know to clear up some of the issues maybe we should have two documents one (tentatively)"the fundamentals of the faith" which describes that which makes us christians(this would be the test of cooperation in missions)
and "the Baptist Message" which describes what baptists believe (not what they do not believe) this would be a test of church planting cooperation

Greg,
it seems you dislike chaos overly much, may I refer you to "Chaos Theory" in which you will find it is not actually meaningless.
the meaning of course is the Holy Spirit (which is something that is sorely missed in this discussion)

if Greg is similar most SBCers in his thought patterns then we should add a description to the "Clear Baptist identity" which is "people who are overly concerned with the appearance chaos"

you might say that christians are supposed to be an orderly people however that "order" springs from within not from without

RKSOKC66 said...

Chris Hilliard:

I agree with you 100% -- as does Wade. You are getting us off this meaningless agrument about "resolutions" in San Antonio and back to the real crux of what Wade has been saying for over a year.

For the sake of the future of the SBC we have to agree to disagree of "non-essential" stuff. We have to agree to cooperate.

I agree with your defintion that 1st tier stuff is defined by the fact that such doctrines are at the irreducible core of Christianity.

Second tier stuff is stuff that is part of the minimum subset of stuff that is common to Baptists.

Third tier is everything else.

If people could agree -- in principle -- that there are three (or some other number) of tiers we would be making progress.

Then we would only be left with arguing, for example, if PPL is -- in fact -- 2nd or 3rd tier.

Wade, don't get lost in the noise. Keep focused on the big picture.

Roger K. Simpson
Oklahoma City OK

Robert Dando said...

Wade

Let me get the apologies out of the way at the beginning – I’m not an SBCer, I’m a Baptist pastor of a different tradition; and that’s in part because I’m not American but actually British. To further reduce my credibility to many, I have in the recent past been very involved with the BWA and I deeply respect the leadership of and support the existence and mission of that organisation.

Now that everyone has written me off, I thought I might express my understanding for how great the struggle to be faithful to Scripture can be for people on all sides of these debates, as folk address the place of confessions and the strictures of a believer’s moral responsibilities.

I would probably be regarded by most if not all in the SBC as a liberal because I won’t use the word “inerrant”. I would hasten to add that I believe that the Bible is completely without error in the original autographs (which is what I understand “inerrant” to mean) and absolutely authoritative in ALL matters of faith and practise – just I struggle to use a word with which so many of the people I gladly call friend have been battered; but on the other hand as an evangelical in the UK the effective dismissal of the doctrine of original sin contained in BF&M2k would strike most of my evangelical friends of most traditions as scandalously liberal in the worst degree and a denial of a “first tier” doctrine to use Dr Mohler’s useful approach. So am I a liberal or are y’all (to use British humour!) or perhaps both or neither.

I would probably be regarded by many if not most in the SBC as a liberal because in contradiction to the BF&M2k, at this church we practise open communion and do so not by default or for expediency’s sake but because of deeply held conviction. On the other hand whilst believers baptism would be regarded as a pre-requisite to communion for many in the SBC, the fact that there are apparently millions of backslidden members in SBC churches who are not subject to discipline and that there are apparently many likewise who as baptised would be allowed to the table but are unregenerate, seems a scandalously liberal practise and a denial of a “second tier” doctrine – that which makes us Baptists. So am I a liberal or are y’all or perhaps both or neither.

I would be regarded as liberal by some if not most in the SBC because I (and I genuinely suspect most European Christians), whilst strongly opposing excessive drinking, and being deeply concerned both by underage drinking and alcohol abuse, do not regard the consumption of alcohol per se as a moral absolute. On the other hand I recently became aware that for many Baptists in America, membership of the Freemasons is neither here nor there. Yet in my previous church when people were interviewed by membership, they were specifically asked by the visitors if they had had any previous involvement with the cults, the occult or freemasonry and unrepentant involvement would almost certainly have been considered a moral bar to church membership, or if discovered in an existing member, a reason for undertaking church discipline. This perhaps is an example of “third tier” matters – things about which we may well feel passionately but which we should rightly struggle to avoid making the touchstone of fellowship between Christian churches. So am I a liberal or are y’all or perhaps both or neither.

Anyway, thought I’d add my two cents ☺, on the basis of the subconsciously held conviction that everybody really needs to hear from me too!

Robert

PS – and one genuine and honest but I know provocative question – why do Christians in America enjoy shouting at each other so much?

PPS – at the church I pastored for 12 years until recently, the church I was last a lay member of and the church to which I will be inducted in the next few weeks; we have elders (both ministers and lay elders) and deacons and at the same time are absolutely committed to congregational governance – how confused are we!!!!

OC Hands said...

Bart,
Thanks for the clear presentation of the arguments. In spite of the fact that I am over 70 years old, and have served as an overseas missionary for 34 of those years, my mind still works. Yet, I do appreciate your brief synthesis of the heart of the debate.
As I see it, though, you have well articulated the crux of the disagreements between you and Wade. In your statements, you say
“2. Dr. Welty & I have asserted that the BF&M is worded in such a way that both those who agree with the Abstract and those who disagree with it can interpret the BF&M in such a way as to affirm it.”

Does this mean that there can be two interpretations of the same document? That is precisely my point. You interpret that part one way, and others can interpret it another way, yet both can agree to work together.
You further state:
"4. But for Wade to suggest that the two documents cannot reasonably be reconciled is to make of all those who have done just that—have reconciled and affirmed both documents—either unintelligent or disingenuous (unless somebody knows some other option)."

Here again, you make a judgment that since you have the correct interpretation there can be no other possibility. Such dogmatic insistence on your interpretation precludes any possibility of cooperation if we do not see things exactly as you see them.

Finally, you state:
"5. Wade's overall point is that the two documents are necessarily and hopelessly incompatible (which they are not, after all);"

Once again, your insistence on your interpretation as being the only valid and logical conclusion rules out any possible meeting grounds for cooperation. As I see it, this is at the heart of what Wade is saying, and you are proving the danger of following this path. Will you continue to insist that those who disagree with you be barred from any service within our convention? That's what it sounds like to me.

Paul Burleson said...

Wade,

Kudos to you on an excellent post and defense of it's points in the following debate.

Kudos to those who have responded with comments, particularly to the two who seem most involved.

Kudos to those who've taken the time to read and think through each comment as I have tried to do.

Now, in line with my somewhat perverse nature, I'm reminded of what Jack Taylor once said to the filled chapel at SWBTS. He reminded us all that..."Baptist preachers and Seminary Professors are a lot like fertilizer...spread them out and they do a lot of good...put them all together in one place and they tend to stink a little bit."

Just kidding. :)

Dad

Mike Ruffin said...

Greg,

You said in reply to my post, "You seem to have missed the original context of this dispute." That is not correct, although, since you are not a long distance mind reader, you had no way to know that. In fact, I intentionally ignored the original context in order to say what I wanted to say about the ease with which the BFM can be misused. Get enough folks together to vote and you can make it say anything. Then, it's used to make folks in SBC agencies toe the line. I'm not interested in the differences between the BFM and the Abstract of Principles.

You also said, "your comment is just one in a long line of double-standard comments in this thread. Apparently, if Wade constructs an entire post on this precise point of BFM-Abstract compatibility (as he did awhile ago, replete with numerous and lengthy comments), that's OK, but if anyone dares to *challenge* his argument by examining its cogency, they're splitting hairs and disillusioning the rank-and-file Southern Baptist! Heads I win, tails you lose!" I must disagree with your categorizing of my remark as a "double-standard" comment. I did not specify about whom I was talking. "You guys" is pretty general.

Actually, I was taking issue with no one's position. I was rather making a comment about the entire business of Southern Baptist confessional statements and how iffy a proposition it is to do theology by majority vote. And, when the next BFM is adopted, that is what will happen, even though the folks who vote on it will not have done the heavy lifting required to understand it.

And, to quote the great philosopher Forrest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that."

Blessings to you.

CHRIS HILLIARD said...

Bryan,
I appreciate your heart in your comments. But I would also encourage you to keep in mind Acts 15. There is a time when it is necessary to gather together and wrestle with the truth.

Baptist Theologue said...

I’ll share a thought before I go to VBS.

The word “actual” used in Article 6 of 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.”

Millard Erickson using the word “actual”:

“The current form of my understanding is as follows: We all were involved in Adam’s sin, and thus receive both the corrupted nature that was his after the fall, and the guilt and condemnation that attach to his sin. With this matter of guilt, however, just as with the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, there must be some conscious and voluntary decision on our part. Until this is the case, there is only a conditional imputation of guilt. Thus, there is no condemnation until one reaches the age of responsibility. If a child dies before becoming capable of making genuine moral decisions, the contingent imputation of Adamic sin does not become actual, and the child will experience the same type of future existence with the Lord as will those who have reached the age of moral responsibility and had their sins forgiven as a result of accepting the offer of salvation based upon Christ’s atoning death. The problem of the corrupted nature of such persons is presumably dealt with in the way that the imperfectly sanctified nature of believers will be glorified.”

Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1998), 656.

dwm III said...

Wade,

You say:

"I am pressing HARD on this point because I wish to show how ludicrous it is for us to call *every* doctrine ESSENTIAL and to demand conformity on *all* DOCTRINES before we will cooperate in missions and ministry."

I am curious as to why you would say this, seeing that neither one of these men has expressed such a view. Could you please clarify what you mean by every and all?

Also, for anyone, can you point us to the article you are referring to in the BF&M concerning that which you are pressing so hard on Dr. Barber and Dr. Weitly?

I encourage all to grab a coupy of the 2000 BF&M and read, if you have not already. I'm a man of first sources and I encourage others to be as well.

Thank you for your help with this Wade!

DWMIII

dwm III said...

I believe the comment before mine has answered my question.

Also, I meant copy not coupy, though I don't think that confused anyone. :)

DWMIII

Geoff Baggett said...

Aha! I think I'm finally beginning to grasp this whole "first - second - third tier" concept with regard to theology and doctrine.

If one disagrees with it ... it gets moved to their third tier. Right?

Bryan Riley said...

Ron P, you completely misread my statement. I put quotes around truth and used a lower case "t" to demonstrate that I was not talking about Truth.

Oh that we would serve God and not our own way. Oh that we would trust God and not ourselves. Oh that we would walk in the way of David and not Jeroboam.

t. d. webb said...

Wade, this is your finest blog post to date, in this Okie's opinion. Apparently, those who want to impose their view of Baptist doctrine as a prerequisite for anyone holding a SBC leadership position, are sufficiently aroused to do their best at what they do best, especially when they can't specifically address the issues you raise . . . that is, to distract readers from the focal issues of your remarks with clever rhetorical sophistry coupled with personal attacks on the messenger!

The fact that Dr. Welty trots out with well over 30 comments (posted in this thread alone!) is testament enough to the concern that exists in the "Fundamentalist" (defined by you in this blog post) camp that their exclusionist tactics to retain and/or regain control of Southern Baptist agencies is finally exposed for the world to see. Southern Baptists are "on to them", AND THEY KNOW IT!

Make no mistake about it. For these "Fundamentalist" folks, the bottom line is that SBC doctrinal dialogue is a one-way street, "my way or the highway" conversation. For them, it's all about control! They parse terms, such as "essential", "secondary", and "tertiary", into a rhetorical spin zone. Not seemingly satisfied with merely attempting to rebut the arguments of others, they exhibit patronizing, disdainful, and condescending attitudes towards those with whom they disagree, typified with self-revealing snide remarks questioning the honesty and integrity of those on the other side of the argument. (That would be you, Wade! ;^)

To think, just a year and a half ago, these same political power players and their minions, through utilizing collusive and devious strategems in the shadows, had acquired virtually uncontested control of SBC agencies, waging their war on legitimate dissent through threats, intimidation and silencing tactics truly worthy of the Roman Catholic Church tradition.

At the least, Wade, you have shined a light into the shadows of SBC political power players for all Southern Baptists to see. At best, the rank and file Southern Baptists from across this nation can reclaim a Convention which understands the difference between confessions and creeds so that the SBC will get back to the main thing: Reaching the world for Christ.

In His Grace and Peace,

T. D. Webb

Bryan Riley said...

Thank you, Chris, it is a good word, and I agree. Therefore, I have posted on this very subject just now. WE must grapple with the Truth, but when we grapple with human doctrines rather than the Truth of Jesus and His gospel, I believe it grieves God's heart.

Dr. Welty, I didn't name you and didn't say what you do or don't stand for. You determined that for yourself. If you read my comment carefully you will see I was trying to imagine what a non-believer would think. The point being that we should be living in a way that demonstrates God's love always, and I don't see how these debates over the letter of the law accomplish that.

We are called to serve Jesus and Jesus alone. Not an organization, not a proposition, not a phrase or set of phrases. WE serve a living God who gave Himself for our salvation. That is absolutely amazing and if we live more and more in the reality of that I believe that we will crucify the things that divide us and raise up the things that unite us, demonstrating God's love to the world.

R. Grannemann said...

I'm sure any outsider would easily miss the point of this debate, since it sounds, superficially, like it's about how many angles can sit on the head of a pin.

Rather, the debate is about two SLIGHTLY different views of what Baptists are. One side glories in Baptist distinctives, the other in a broader evangelicalism. One side wants denominational power to enforce their view, the other is affronted by the attempt. One side wants to sign creeds to protect the mother denomination, the other side's conscience is offended. One side sees security in rule making, the other the very death of the denomination. Perhaps it's about two human temperaments, one authoritative and the other free-spirited.

In any case, the issue will be decided politically, not by debate. And right now, with Frank Page and the sure winner David Rogers on track, the bloggers have it won for the next three years.

Bryan Riley said...

I also want to apologize to you, Ron P., for writing in a way that wasn't clear and then for reacting to what you wrote. That was outside of the spirit of what I was trying to communicate to react in that way.

I do hope it is clear I am not trying to stand up and argue for relative truth. My heart is to have my eyes fixed on Jesus, even though I do, like Peter in the water, sometimes take my eyes off of Him, and, by so doing, be an example to others. My heart is to see unity in teh Body of Christ, not just the SBC but the Body as a whole. My desire is that followers of Jesus everywhere demonstrate the love of God working through them.

I'd be shocked if there were any people on this comment stream who would disagree with those sentiments. As a result, we hae unity in those. Now, some would be quick to say, but we must define the love of God and unity and you are probably soft on Truth and heavy on human love and touchy feely and all that. And, to that I'd say that if we keep our eyes on Jesus and not on an organization or our notions of the teachings of man, and if we would let the Holy Spirit do His work, that we wouldn't need to worry so much about those things. It might be a bit messy at times, but that is because humans are involved, not because God can't manage.

bryan riley said...

R. Granneman, since our war isn't with flesh and blood, I struggle with the underlying belief of yoru comment, even though the words sound good. This shouldn't be about sides or winning or losing.

I am not speaking to help further identify what it means to be a baptist. I believe God wants something more than that and see that as a distraction of the enemy. He wants us to identify with Him, with all of the members of His family, baptist or otherwise, to advance His kingdom. The harvest is ready. Let's go!

Anonymous said...

Chris Hilliard,

You and I have disagreed a time or two in the past; but I don't speak up only to complain, but I try to also when I hear something well spoken. Here, my hat's off to you. Well said! I could not agree with you more, re: 1st, 2nd, & 3rd tier doctrines & their present confusion in Baptist life. Blessings,

John Fariss

R. Grannemann said...

Brian Riley,

I agree with what you said. Hopefully, we can all get to that point.

Bob Cleveland said...

I don't know if anyone has articulated this, but I will anyway. 170 comments is too many for me to poke through (when I order steak well done, they make me pay for it in advance) at my age.

We need to decide if we're a denomination or a convention. If we're a top-down hierarchy, with churches serving the organization, or a bottom-up convention where the organization serves the churches.

Denominations use creeds, IMO, whereas Conventions use confessions like the BF&M.

The SBC itself seems to have decided on the former, and it'll take the churches deciding to make the latter official policy, it seems to me.

Or not. What do I know? I'm not even a typical Southern Baptist, in that I go to church every Sunday.

T. D. Webb said...

"I'm sure any outsider would easily miss the point of this debate, since it sounds, superficially, like it's about how many angles can sit on the head of a pin."

rgrannemann, are those "acute angles" or "right angles"? In any case, the entire subject is getting a little "obtuse" to this Okie. . .

Just a minute. . .my wife just whispered to me that you meant "angels" . . . er, uh . . . NEVERMIND! ! ! ;^)

In His Grace and Peace,

T. D. Webb

Anonymous said...

Again: Each year's version (1925, 1963, 2000) is REPRESENTATIVE of the personal theological persuasions of every kind of Baptist ever walking on the planet Earth, and each can be the basis for cooperation among us as SBCers if we will cooperate--which is the actual question.

Only the Holy Bible itself exhausts the personal theological persuasions of any of us. When we start trying to turn the BF&M statement into the Bible in terms of its detail, we get the kind of dialog taking place above--personal interpretations will be debated, personal feelings will be displayed, blog threads will grow very long and redundant.

Let's just know who we are basically, know what we believe basically, and move forward "while it's still day" where the Lord is waiting for us (depending on your personal theology). How about it?


David Troublefield

beth said...

"Again: Each year's version (1925, 1963, 2000) is REPRESENTATIVE of the personal theological persuasions of every kind of Baptist ever walking on the planet Earth, and each can be the basis for cooperation among us as SBCers if we will cooperate--which is the actual question."
The BFM is representative of the Southern Baptist Convention. The Baptist Union in another country may choose to adopt or adapt the BFM, but they are in no way obligated to do so. The SBC is an American (and Canadian) denomination.

ml said...

T.D.

Slow down a bit. The very words you use to attack your opponent are how you describe them. When you use the word leadership do you mean employee or committee person? Personally, [and this may surprise Greg based on my comments yesterday] I do believe the employees of the convention ought to be held accountable to a doctrinal position consistent with the convention. However, I believe this ought to be: 1. clearly [if that is even possible and where the difficulty exists] articulated, 2. should not be changed in the middle of the game in reaction to something that is now important because it is talked about but was not important enough to create an impetus to include it in the framing process [this highlights another problem when the confession is periodically altered to reflect changing times--essential doctrine [first and second tier] should not be culturally driven in my opinion, otherwise it may operate more as behavioral or conformity boundary markers than actual doctrinal statements [See Ortberg, The Life You Always Wanted], and 3. it ought to be consistently adhered to as a "controlling" document for ALL people in every area it addresses.

T.D., I personally am glad we can hash out doctrine in a forum like this without having to first make a case for the source book behind our doctrine. To that I am grateful for the Resurgence and bringing a reformation to our convention. And, yes, I am one of those little leaguers whom Al and the others will have to be accountable to as I am a paying member of the cooperative program regardless of what they think about my age [ironically wasn’t this the same method Al’s opponents to his ascension to Presidency at SBTS used on him?]. That is the thing as a convention we cannot continue to live in the past or re-fight old battles. So T.D. be gracious to your adversaries in a way Jerry Falwell was to Hugh Heffner--they were actually friends by the end of Falwell's life. In spite of doctrinal and ideological differences I might have with Falwell, his example is a model we all would do well to emulate because it is clearly driven first by his love for Christ.

Paul said...

If the BFM is deliberately vague then it appears that Wade can remove his caveats and declare himself in full agreement with the document. Thus, the calls for his resignation by Wes Kenney and others seems rather moot.

Wade, perhaps the issue of open vs. closed communion is equally vague and we can now declare this whole matter settled, eh?

Of course, I'm sure the parts about doing everything in our power to put an end to war and valuing life from birth to natural death will be declared equally vague so that those who favor the bombing of terrorists and capital punishment can be in full agreement with the document as well. Heck, at this rate we may soon be able to allow Episcopalians into the SBC. ;)

Wade Burleson said...

Geoff,

That was funny. :)

Anonymous said...

I will admit that I am not a very smart man but I find it hard to follow Wade's argument about the "The BFM 2000 Teaches Infants Are Innocent And NOT Under God's Condemnation Until They Personally Sin."
It has been articulated very well by Dr. Welty that Wade is creating an argument from silence to which he can refute.
Again, I am just a hillbilly from the Ozarks, but I think the great professors have clearly shown the great value of the BFM and why it is a gift from God to the SBC.
And on one last note, Wade why do you continue to claim to be a Baptist conservative yet at every term seem to use the same arguments we have seen come from the moderate camp since the 70's? Your arguments reveal your ideology not your own personal description.

Oklahoma Joe

Anonymous said...

Beth:

You typed, "The BFM is representative of the Southern Baptist Convention. The Baptist Union in another country may choose to adopt or adapt the BFM, but they are in no way obligated to do so. The SBC is an American (and Canadian) denomination."

Though I know that the BF&M statements were adopted by SBCers for SBCers, I'm saying that the contents of each statement are REPRESENTATIVE of the theology of each kind of Baptist anywhere--and of other evangelical believers, too. Certainly, other Baptists and believers in other lands will identify themselves via their own formal theological statements--statements which would be REPRESENTATIVE (not hair-splittingly exhaustive) of your personal theological persuasions as well.

The BF&M statements are broad documents. We have behaved, though, in recent years and decades as if they are much more narrow than they are.

It would seem that I can cooperate with you--and all other bloggers here--in missions and evangelism (sharing both manpower and money), because I take an appropriately broad view. Can you cooperate with me as I hold that "broad" or "enough common ground" view as described above?--that's the question I'm posing here and elsewhere. Not an indictment against you or anyone else (unless an indictment rightfully is due); just asking--for the sake of cooperation, and because God actually may have us do it someday!

Again: "'Master,' said John, 'we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.' 'Do not stop him,' Jesus said, 'for whoever is not against you is for you.'" (Luke 9:49-50, NIV). For me, the Lord Jesus' word on the matter is the final one. Unity is not uniformity; uniformity is not unity. Unity is unity.


David Troublefield

R. L. Vaughn said...

Wade, I see that most of this conversation went in the direction of when men become trangressors, etc., and that the thread is flooded with posts. But if you find time, I would appreciate your comments on my questions on communion. If you don't, I'll understand that as well. Thanks.

Robert Hutchinson said...

brother dando,

cause people take notice...just like you did. :)

you revealed your self talk as you commented when you said...

"To further reduce my credibility to many...Now that everyone has written me off..."

BROTHER, my heart aches and i become riled when a fellow baptist truly believes that this is how they will be recieved by their brothers who continue to cooperate with the sbc.

to all who my fellow baptist brothers who cooperate with the sbc...how did we get to this place? how did we create this kind of belief amongst our fellow brethren? shall we take pride in the fact that a fellow non-sbc baptist believes that if he speaks we all will put our fingers in our ears, turn our backs and walk away?

brother dando, for the record, not everyone voted to separate from our fellow baptist brethren. maybe one day when this uncooperative spirit within our convention is crucified we will all be reunited again. that is, if our brothers from whom we have separated will receive us back.

blackhaw66 said...

Okay I am for a tierred document to replace the BF&M. I think I have made that I have made that clear before. I have argued that the BF&M is a flawed document and needs not only revision but a complete reworking.

However Dr. WElty and others are completely right that the BF&M is not a document from which one can pick and choose. If it states a particular doctrine then it is supposedly what all SBC believe. That is it is not only a guide but the BF&M represents what we as a denomination agree that leaders in the SBC have to believe in order to obtain certain positions. This is clear from the document itself.


Only if we as denomination coose to change the BF&M can it be changed. This to my knowledge must be done at the convention and we must have a majority of people behind a resolution to demand it being done. That would be the proper way to change the BF&M. It is not proper to demand that there are primary and tertiary doctrines in the BF&M when the document itself states that it only contains essential doctrines for being a Baptist.

Now does the BF&M state a different view on infant accountabilty or condemnation than the Abstracts? Well it does not given the doctrine of Welty and others. Thus one could believe both of them. However one could see them as being contradictory if one had a different theology. But they are not necessarily contradictory. One could hold to both. So one should not impose a certain theology on the documents that make them contradict when there is no reason to do so. Each of the documents, as written, do not contradict. There is nothing written in them that makes them HAVE to contradict each other. Thus to impose one's own beliefs about when Children are condemned or if there is a potential vs. actual condemnation or not is not valid. I think one should see that the BF&M could be viewed to support more than one view of when and how a Child is responsible for his Sin or sins. What I am saying is that there is room in the SBC, according to what is written in the BF&M, for more than one explanation of this issue.

However again I must explain that I am in favor of having a new document that would replace (or become the new) BF&M. I just want ot make that clear. But Dr. Welty seems to me to have proven his case.

smithwe said...

Dr. Greg Welty,

I can see a little of John Frame in your style of writing. I never heard John play the organ. New Life purchased a baby grand piano, as John was always our Worship leader.

Wade,
Sorry for using your Blog to share memories of one of GOD greatest defenders of the TRUTH.

In His Name
Wayne Smith

Wade Burleson said...

R.L Vaughn,

You write and ask "For the purpose of communion, (is) any kind of baptism that is acceptable to the participant acceptable as a baptism that is prerequisite to communion? Do think that anyone invited to the Lord's table must have had some ceremony that they accept as baptism? Would an unbaptized believer be welcome?

I have been reading about this "modified open communion" on blogs (including Nathan's and David's) over the past few days, and am trying to grasp the concept. I plan to post on the various Baptist views on communion on my blog tomorrow or the next day, but this view is new to me. I guess I don't get out enough! ;-)


BTW, wasn't Spurgeon's view a simple open communion, rather than one that required some sort of requisite baptismal ceremony?

Answers:

(1). We say to people who are with us in church that they are welcome to join as at communion if they are a Christian and have made their faith in Christ known through baptism. We don't define baptism -- so this is the modified open communion we practice (similar to Spurgeon and David Rogers).

(2). Spurgeon's view was modified as well. He believed that identification with Christ through baptism was necessary -- he just didn't reject the baptism of an infant at the Lord's table (i.e. Anglican's, Presbyterians, etc . . .) reasoning that though they may be defective in their understanding of baptism, they were still part of the family of Christ and deserving of our fellowship and communion -- as it will be in heaven.

Sorry, but I will not be able to answer any further questions at this time.

Thanks for asking.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Thanks for the reply on communion. Your mention of Spurgeon has been the occasion of my learning something about him I did not know. Vedder put it this way:

"Spurgeon’s attitude towards these questions has very often been misunderstood. He did not absolutely agree with the practice of the American Baptists regarding the communion, but he did very nearly, and it is an abuse of terms to call him an 'open communionist'. He did not advocate or practise the promiscuous invitation of all Christians to the table of the Lord. The communion service was held on Sunday afternoon in the Tabernacle, and admission was by ticket only. Members of the church, of course, were furnished with tickets. Any person not a member, desiring to attend and partake of the Supper, must satisfy the pastor or deacons that he was a member in good standing of an evangelical church, when he would receive a ticket. At the end of three months he would be quietly told that he had had an opportunity to become acquainted with the church, and they would be glad to have him present himself as a candidate for membership; otherwise he would do well to go elsewhere, where he could conscientiously unite. This is a more restricted communion than is practised by most Baptist churches in America, for in large numbers of our churches Pedobaptists occasionally partake of the communion without any such careful safeguards. Spurgeon did not believe in mixed membership; he abhorred it. No one could be a member of the Metropolitan Tabernacle church unless he was a baptized believer—credibly a believer, and certainly baptized. From our point of view, it was very unfortunate that he gave the approval of his example to even occasional communion with those whom he believed unbaptized. His practice was to this extent illogical and inconsistent, and somewhat weakened the general healthfulness of his influence. He frankly admitted this in private conversations, on many occasions, and explicitly said that were he a pastor in America he should conform to the practice of American Baptists [closed communion, rlv]." -- Vedder's Short History of the Baptists, Chapter 17

Thanks again.

T. D. Webb said...

ML said: "Slow down a bit. The very words you use to attack your opponent are how you describe them."

ML, how so? In response to your suggestion, this Okie is happy to type the following s-l-o-w-l-y to the end that you understand his position. ;^)

Firstly, premptorally disqualifying SBC agency employee candidates or potential leaders (Trustee candidates, for example) on the basis of third tier doctrines (such as private prayer language practice, and narrowed protocols relating to water baptism) finds no specific basis in Scripture or the confessions of SBC faith (1925, 1963, and 2000). Yet, said policies imposing such restrictions have been pursued by agency BoT's, culminating, in one instance, of a BoT attempting to remove a duly elected SBC Trustee from his position for the unpardonable offense of expressing dissent to the aforementioned policies.

Secondly, he is convinced that there exists incontrovertible evidence demonstrating that certain political power players in the SBC have been using their offices and positions to covertly influence and control the personnel and policies of SBC Agencies outside the realm of their purview.

Thirdly, this Okie takes exception to the "patronizing, disdainful, and condescending" remarks that have been expressed on this thread towards Wade Burleson. Calling Wade "dishonest" and pronouncing him guilty of "plagarism" are two such examples provided by the courtesy of Dr. Welty. Perhaps, Dr. Welty's comments are the prototypes of gracious remarks you had in mind, ML? In any case, would you care to demonstrate how you would have rephrased this Okie's concern to the end that his words would not offend your sense of graceful expression.


ML said, "So T.D. be gracious to your adversaries in a way Jerry Falwell was to Hugh Heffner--they were actually friends by the end of Falwell's life.

ML, how is it the case that Dr. Jerry Falwell's personal relationship to Hugh Hefner (arguably, not a Christian) equates to this Okie's critique of the words and deeds of Southern Baptist officials (who are professing Christians and Southern Baptists) in their treatment of Southern Baptist brethren?

May I assure you that this Okie has neither a personal axe to grind, nor does he have the slightest intention to pursue a personal adversarial relationship with Dr. Patterson, Dr. Welty, or anyone else for that matter. Moreover, this Christian does not doubt that these men have been used of God to do His will in the ministry which He has given them. Nevertheless, their words and deeds, as officials and/or employees of an SBC agency, matter and, are not above scrutiny.

Again, if your only objection is to the lack of graciousness in this Okie's words (and not the fact of the matter), would you, perhaps, favor him with how you would communicate said concerns?

In His Grace and Peace,

T. D. Webb

Anonymous said...

Rex Ray said...
Most of these comments remind me of a dog scratching flees when a bear is chewing his leg off.

It's like charging a murder with illigal parking because it's easier to get a conviction.

Why argue over a baby's time of accountable, when the rape of individual priesthood and autonomy of the church has taken place?

Straining at a nat and swallowing a camel...

Ron P. said...

Bryan Riley,

Please know that I was not trying to offend you either. I just got back online, and after re-reading your post, I understand that you were talking about Drs. Barber's and Welty's view, not that truth itself is relative. I apologize for not catching that at first glance. Please allow me to claim that my eyes and scroll mouse were working hard to keep up with all the interesting comments from all sides.

However, in Christian love, I still wholeheartedly affirm that both Barber and Welty clearly, succinctly, and with finality, won this debate.

God bless you my brother,

Ron P.

Greg Welty said...

FWIW, Bart's final comment earlier in this thread is perhaps the best summary of this whole exchange. Bart's fifth point is particularly relevant: "Wade's overall point is that the two documents are necessarily and hopelessly incompatible."

Thus, Bart and I are arguing for an interpretation of the BFM that is *broader* than that allowed by Wade. Wade interprets BFM III in such a narrow way that must *exclude* those who also subscribe to Abstract VI.

Thus, what has kept the discussion going is Wade's insistence on *excluding* other interpretations of BFM III. This is the larger meta-issue that has been obscured in this dust-up.

As Bart says elsewhere in that comment above, according to Wade the documents "can only be interpreted in one manner that construes them as contradictory." Who then is the champion of freedom and latitude here, and who is the one undermining it? Ironically, Wade falls into the latter category.

This is the precise point I made in my very first comment to Wade on this topic:

Your problem here, really, is your overly divisive and near-fundamentalist orientation toward these two documents. You are seeing exclusion and division when really there is no need ;-)

The more Wade insists on his exclusionary interpretation of BFM III, refusing to allow others to have a broader, more inclusive understanding of how one can accept both documents taken together, the more he will have proven my original point.

Greg Welty said...

T.D. Webb, I never said Wade was "dishonest". Ctrl-F this page, and you'll find that out. Rather, I was calling for a little honesty on various points. In addition, as I tell my students every term, "plagiarism" is a matter of result, not intent.

Throughout this exchange, I have striven to refrain from drawing conclusions about others' intentions and motivations.

t. d. webb said...

Greg Welty said:T.D. Webb, I never said Wade was "dishonest". Ctrl-F this page, and you'll find that out. Rather, I was calling for a little honesty on various points.

Dr. Welty, while you are correct that you did not expressly use the word "dishonesty", the implication is clear as to what you meant. Furthermore, to my recollection, your reference to "a little honesty" was not made in the context of "various points". To be precise, you said the following:

"Can you *please* address this error in your thinking?

I don't really care about "cleaning someone's clock." Theological dialogue is not bloodsport. I care very much for a little honesty from you on this issue."


Though this Okie is far from being a scholar in Philosophy and/or Theology, even he can see the congruity between the term "dishonesty", and the phrase "I care very much for a little honesty from you on this issue." (emphasis mine) By the way, Dr. Welty, to what "various points" did you ask for "a little honesty"?

As a regular reader of Grace and Truth to You, this Okie was familiar with Wade's previous reference to Dr. Piper's writing. Obviously, you were not. Dr. Welty, in another setting or environment you are more than likely an affable, even gracious person. However, in this case your apparent enthusiasm to blatantly accuse Burleson of "plagarism" is, in this Okie's opinion, poor form. (Hopefully, Wade corrected his oversight on this post to your satisfaction. ;^)

In His Grace and Peace,

T. D. Webb

Wade Burleson said...

Rex,

It is because some have successfully cast those who argue the point you bring up as liberal.

The issues I am bringing up are conservative issues -- and heaven bid (think the good professors), that conservatives, or conservative confessions might actually believe or state differing views -- the world will come to an end. :)

Colin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
t. d. webb said...

Colin: Obviously, Wade's post was not a formal paper submitted for publication, or to some seminary professor for a grade in an academic setting. The fact that Burleson had acknowledged Dr. Piper's work product on this same subject in a post written just a few days earlier demonstrates that Burleson did not intentionally overlook giving credit to Piper in this post. . .and the matter was immediately corrected as soon as the problem was brought to Wade's attention.

That said, sir, you surely do not need to be reminded that this informal blog is neither Dr. Welty's or any one else's seminary class. Moreover, Burleson is most assuredly not one of Dr. Welty's students. Rather, Dr. Welty, you, and the rest of us visit here at the pleasure of Wade Burleson.

Several folks have abused the privilege of posting comments here. However, Wade has generously and graciously allowed all but the most egregious posts to stand, neither edited nor censored. Some have, perhaps unwittingly, committed a faux pas in blogging. . . That is, they have flooded certain threads with posts, an act known as "hijacking the thread". Yet, Wade has patiently abided such rude practices.

In short, Wade's oversight was unintentional and promptly corrected, Colin. Notwithstanding these facts, for some inexplicable and/or curious reason, you belabor the accusation. . .go figure (eyes rolling). . .

In His Grace and Peace,

T. D. Webb

Colin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
t. d. webb said...

Colin,
Then you should have a heyday with who plagarized whom between Bart Barber and Malcolm Yarnell on the article criticizing the Lifeway Survey on Southern Baptist's views of private prayer language and tongues speaking. . .Ben Cole reported the details on his Baptist Blogger Blog this past week. This Okie can't wait to read your explanation of when "plagarism isn't plagarism". . .and so it goes.

In His Grace and Peace,

T. D. Webb

Bart Barber said...

Bro. Webb,

Even Ben would acknowledge his article to be a spoof. I assure you, Malcolm Yarnell never needed to plagiarize anything from anybody. And as for me, I posted the above-mentioned article on my blog fully attributed to Dr. Yarnell. Perhaps the reason my name was on a file is that Dr. Yarnell first submitted the article for publication on my blog???

t. d. webb said...

Bro. Barber, your explanation makes sense to this Okie. . .and yes, Ben's blog post was submitted under the category of "humor". However, we do have a "legalist" on board who steadfastly maintains that "plagarism is plagarism". ;^)

Have a great convention!

In His Grace and Peace,

T. D. Webb

Anonymous said...

Rex Ray said…
I’ll repeat what I wrote:
“Most of these comments remind me of a dog scratching flees when a bear is chewing his leg off. It's like charging a murder with illegal parking because it's easier to get a conviction. Why argue over a baby's time of accountable, when the rape of individual priesthood and autonomy of the church has taken place?”

Wade, you said, “It is because some have successfully cast those who argue the point you bring up as liberal.”

Your, “successfully cast” reminds me of those that ‘successfully cast’ Daniel into the lion’s den, but true conservatives (moderates) do not bend our knees to the BFM 2000 removing ‘interpreting the Bible through the eyes of Jesus’ (my paraphrase) which gave individual priesthood to the individual.

Al Mohler said the change to ‘priesthood of believers’ was necessary because ‘individual priesthood’ gave too much freedom to the individual.

“Successfully cast” may sew up the curtain torn by Calvary for a while, but I think the threads are starting to come apart.

When ‘fundamentalist’ get through ‘killing’ each other off with ‘proper doctrine’, moderates will still be around to pick up the pieces and the SBC will once again have the glue of MISSIONS to hold us together.

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