I warned that if we did not draw a line in the sand we would soon see efforts to bring conformity to our convention 'post de fact,' by simply changing policies and guidelines at agencies and then a few years down the road pointing to those changes and saying, "See, how can you not agree with this doctrinal interpretation of Scripture: The _____________ (insert any SBC agency's name you please) has had this as a doctrinal guideline for ten years?"
Some who initially doubted me have now seen the light. The issue before us is very clear. There are those who would, using artful and sophisticated language, make it clear that ANY AGENCY OF THE SBC can move beyond the BFM 2000 and establish any doctrinal standard it chooses. Read carefully the following section of this proposed resolution on the BFM 2000:
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; and be it further
Other than the fact the Abstract was in force at Southern long before the BFM 2000 was even conceived, there are HUGE problems with this very, very dangerous statement:
(1). If an entity of our convention establishes a policy or guideline that goes well beyond the BFM 2000 (by way of a hypothetical example: you can't pray in your closet in a language our trustees don't understand), there is no way under the sun the Southern Baptist can order, demand, or actually remove that policy or guideline. It CAN'T happen. The only thing the convention has control over is the election of trustees. But the convention cannot INSTRUCT an agency to remove an adopted policy or guideline. Our agencies are autonomous.
Likewise, the agency cannot remove a trustee. Only the Southern Baptist Convention has that authority. So, if an agency does not like the fact a trustee is questioning why a particular SBC agency is narrowing the parameters of our cooperation by establishing a doctrinal guideline that goes beyond the BFM 2000 and demanding conformity by ALL SBC churches in order to participate, then that agency just can't get rid of that trustee because they don't like his challenge -- the Southern Baptist Convention alone has that authority.
Therefore, the trustees of the SBC actually control the direction of the SBC. And the President of the SBC controls the appointment process of all our trustees. I believe we need trustees who are committed to not move our agencies, particularly those that represent the ENTIRE convention (the IMB, NAMB, Lifeway, etc . . .) BEYOND the BFM 2000 and make demands for conformity on interpretations of tertiary doctrines a standard of cooperation. We RIP the delicate fabric of cooperation in the SBC if we do that.
Personally, I don't have near as much of a problem with SEMINARIES having confessions that are narrower than the BFM 2000. If you wish to study at a Calvinistic Seminary -- go to Southern. The Abstract of Principles, the document that all professors must sign, is far more narrower doctrinally than the BFM 2000 --and, it is a Calvinistic document. If you wish to attend a semi-Pelagian seminary, attend Southwestern, for the anti-Calvinistic tendencies of the President are well known, and the policies and guidelines of that school will reflect his views. People in the SBC should have a choice on where, and how, they wish to be trained theologically.
But if we don't wake up we will find every single one of our agencies has overnight decided to be anti-Calvinistic, hyper-dispensationalist, Landmark, cessationist and non-cooperative in our work with fellow evangelicals. I have often called the above 'Fundamentalism' simply because my independent, fundamentalist Baptist brothers and sisters at Bible Baptist Church right down the street here in Enid believe exactly like the above. Some have asked me to use a different nomenclature than 'Fundamentalist', and if I could figure out another descriptive adjective to use, I promise, I would. All I know is I don't want our agencies to become like Bible Baptist Church, and only the trustees can insure we don't.
(2). I get confused. Initially the BFM 2000 was supposed to be the document for 'doctrinal accountability' and though those SBC missionaries, who were initially commissioned under the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message, were told they would not have to sign the BFM 2000, over time, leaders either forgot - or intentionally broke - their early pledge and demanded all missionaries sign the BFM 2000. In one day, more missionaries resigned from mission field service than at any other time in the history of the SBC. These men and women refused to sign what they saw was becoming a 'creed' rather than a confession.
Someone might ask, why would they not sign? Were they liberal? No, those who resigned ALL affirmed the essentials of the Christian faith and true Baptist identity(they never would have been appointed if they had not) - but they were now being told EVERYTHING in the BFM 2000 is ESSENTIAL to believe in order to be identified as a Southern Baptist. Frankly, in some regions, missionaries were rightly told they could sign the BFM 2000 and express in writing their disagreements on tertiary doctrines, and after review, they were allowed to stay in the field. THAT'S THE WAY IT SHOULD BE. There should be unity in the essentials, liberty in the non-essentials, and charity in all things. (By the way, I have shown my disagreements with the BFM 2000 on tertiary doctrines including 'closed communion,' 'the innocency of infants prior to personal transgression,' a statement that the Holy Spirit 'baptizes' us when the Bible teaches Christ baptizes us in the Holy Spirit, and the statement that 'justification' is simply acquital and not the declaration of being righteous, but of course, I wholeheartedly affirm the doctrinal essentials of the BFM 2000).
It is very, very evident that there is a growing demand that EVERY single Southern Baptist believe EXACTLY like those who 'are in charge' demand you believe. Now remember -- those in charge are those who are running the agencies -- trustees.
I am of the firm opinion that trustees should be focusing upon the business that the convention gives us and should STAY COMPLETELY AWAY from establishing doctrinal guidelines that go way beyond the BFM 2000, not to mention the Bible.
HOWEVER, if some trustee group, somewhere, gets an itch to narrow the parameters of cooperation at one of our agencies, and then issues an edict that "ninety five percent" of all Southern Baptists believe the way we have written this doctrinal guideline, and then tries to remove that trustee from service who has the gall to stand up and say, 'Wait a minute, that's not OUR JOB' to narrow the our doctrinal standards,' then maybe in the providence of God that becomes the impetus to turn the entire convention around. Maybe.
The man who wrote the BFM resolution to be submitted in San Antonio for convention approval is saying, "IT IS THE JOB OF OUR TRUSTEES TO NARROW THE DOCTRINAL STANDARDS OF OUR CONVENTION -- AND WE SHOULD TRUST THEM." I will borrow a word from my thirteen year old son to describe my feeling to that view -- 'Beans.' :) It's not our job. It's not an issue of trust, it is an issue of responsibility -- we trustees don't have it.
(3). There is a clear choice as to how people should respond to this narrowing of the parameters of cooperation and demands for conformity on interpretions of tertiary doctrines -- conscientiously vote for those resolutions, recommendations and candidates that (who) say, 'Enough is enough.'
Allow me to conclude today's post with the following comments from people who have frequented this blog:
R. Graneemann writes:
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.
T.D. Webb states,
"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!
In my opinion Chris Hilliard nails it when he write:
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”.
Chris Hillard does not agree with me on everything. He has let me know that often. :) However, he is an example of a person that I not only could be friends with, but a fellow conservative, evangelical Southern Baptist pastor with whom I and my church are honored to serve with in missionary and evangelistic cooperation. His logic is crystal clear.
There is nothing wrong with a confession containing third tier doctrines, as long as the convention acknowledges that the confession is 'a consensus of opinion,' a 'mutable (changeable) document,' and dissent and disagreement over third tier doctrines is allowed. In other words, it is a confession - not a creed.
That's the way ALL Southern Baptist confessions should be viewed.
Unity in the essentials, liberty in the non-essentials, charity in all things.
In His Grace,
P.S. Tomorrow, my most meaningful post of the year - preventing child sexual abuse in our churches and our convention.