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

Reformation the Goal of Every True Child of God

Reformation Day. That is what I call today. I know others call it Halloween, but this day, October 31, will always be known by me as Reformation Day.

It was on this day 490 years ago that a Catholic priest named Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses Against the Sale of Indulgences on the Door of Wittenberg (pronounced Vittenberg) Castle. Indulgences were those pieces of paper you purchased at your local parrish when you were promised protection against divine wrath for your future sin. So, if you knew you were going to sin (or 'indulge' yourself), you bought an indulgence from the church and you could sin without guilt. Other indulgences were purchased for family members who had already died with an abundance of sin in their lives, and you paid the church to in essence bribe God to remove your loved one from 'purgatory' where your loved one was being 'purged' by God for his sins on earth. The money you gave to the church in the purchase of indulgences for your loved ones, according to the Catholic priests of the day, would not only be used to finish the magnificent St Peter's Basilica in Rome, it would remove your loved one from Purgatory. As the monk Tetsel used to sing in his little village ditty (translated from German):

"As soon the coin in the coffer does ring,
the soul from Purgatory it shall spring."

Luther's 95 Theses explained why the Roman Catholic doctrine of indulgences contained no real power or efficacy. Luther explained patiently that the very concept of indulgences was a denial of the gospel of the atonement of Jesus Christ. He urged his fellow Catholics to return to the gospel, the love for the truth of God's Word, and to work together for the advancement of the kingdom. He nailed his Theses on the community internet bulletin board of his day (the door of the castle church), and the Reformation began. Western Civilization, including the United States, is composed of hundreds of vibrant evangelical denominations and tens of thousands of evangelical (gospel or 'good news') churches because of the Reformation. Martin Luther was eventually put on trial by the Pope at the Diet (German word for 'meeting) of Worms (pronounced Vurms; a city in Germany) and convicted as a heretic. It was at this meeting at Worms (January 28 - May 25, 1521) that Luther concluded his defense of his actions by making this famous statement:

Unless I am convinced by Scripture and by plain reason and not by Popes and councils who have so often contradicted themselves, my conscience is captive to the word of God. To go against conscience is neither right nor safe. I cannot and I will not recant. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me.

People forget that Luther had no intention of leaving the Roman Catholic Church. He considered himself a reformer, and thus the title of his movement was known as 'The Reformation' of the Roman Catholic Church.

Of course, those who were in control and held the power considered Luther a heretic, a liberal, a trouble-maker - nothing but a 'Protestor.' Thus, the word 'Protestants' was coined by the Roman Catholic church to label Luther's followers and they were eventually banished. I wonder what would have happened had Luther not been thrown out - 'ex-communicated' - from the Roman Catholic Church? What would the world look like today had his reforms actually worked during the end of the Middle Ages? We will never know, and in God's Providence it was not meant to be, but Luther's attempt at Reform were noble - even if not successful. Reformation toward a more gospel oriented belief that the Scripture is sufficient in themselves for Christian doctrine and practice should be the goal of every true child of God.

Have a great Reformation Day, and may you and I work toward reform in our churches and our convention that leads to our collective conscience held captive to the word of God - and nothing else. Man's rules, religious regulations or denominational traditions that pretend to be on par with Scripture and lead anyone away from faith in Christ alone, trust in Scripture alone, and rest in God's grace alone are to be resisted with as much energy as Luther resisted indulgences. Here we stand, we can do no other.

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

61 comments:

Neil Newcomb said...

It wasn't until I spend 8 years in Stuttgart Gemany as a Missionary that I fully understood what this day truly mean. In the US it's all about candy, dress up, parting where in Germany for Christians is a day of services held to worship what God did so many years ago thru one man devoted to Him. As you study about Martin Luther, it naturally leads to other Reformer like John Hus in Czech Republic, William Tyndale in England as well as others.

So to all Happy Reformation Day

Neil Newcomb

irreverend fox said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
irreverend fox said...

do we still get candy on reformation day?

semper reformanda!

Monte said...

Thus the reason why so many of us as missionaries could not, and would not sign the BF&M as a "creedal" statement. As a statement of faith it holds validity. When signatures are applied to it, it is weighed along with the authority of Scripture. We could not accept this.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Amen Wade.

Monty: That is a good point that I confess I had not thought of before.

greg.w.h said...

Add to that thought, Monte & Debbie, the leaders of entities that chose to be fired rather than force employees to sign the BF&M for precisely the same reason--it was a violation of conscience--and additionally because there wasn't a plan for grandfathering long-term missionaries, professors, and other employees. Sounds like the courage of Martin Luther to me.

The hope of the phrase "sola scriptura" is that God in his infinite wisdom really is able to contain the sufficient revelation about Himself to the contents of the Bible. Not only is it sufficient, but ANY addition to it should be very carefully weighed.

So while I'm a reformed believer agreeing with the doctrines of grace, because those doctrines aren't clearly presented in the Bible IN THAT FORM, I don't teach them. There is enough in the Bible to teach in order to disciple to maturity every believer, especially since discipleship includes putting faith into action.

It is human pride that demands that we find more meaning and nuance. We have to recognize that Luther's Reformation called into question the weight of all of the tradition that had accumulated from 30 AD to 1517 AD. We should stand together in calling into question the additional traditions and extra-biblical stances and positions that have accrued from 1517 to today.

Greg Harvey

Chad Kaminski said...

"Man's rules, religious regulations or denominational traditions that pretend to be on par with Scripture"

Forgive me for my ignorance of denominational issues, (that of which I'm trying to rememdy) but what doctrines or traditions are we talking about specifically?

volfan007 said...

monte,

luther signed the 95 thesis. i gladly affirm the bfm2k. it's scriptural.

to all,
what luther did is exactly what some of us out here are trying to do.....make sure that our sbc is true to the Word of God only. even though some would try to lead us down the road of man made reasoning and depart from scripture, there are some who say no...we do protest....we wish to stay true to the bible and let every man who disagrees be a liar. we must hold to the clear teachings of the book, as our beloved conservative resurgent leaders so boldly did in the 70's and 80's. thank God for men like them and for men like martin luther.

david

David R. Mills said...

Super post Wade, have a happy reformation day, and enjoy the trick or treats!!!

Chad Kaminski said...

To Anybody,

So if I've filtered thru this correctly, some believe the BF&M has validity but shouldn't be an object of one's allegiance?

greg.w.h said...

Chad,

That's a great way to ask the question. I'd offer this answer:

"With the 1963 committee, we have been guided in our work by the 1925 "statement of the historic Baptist conception of the nature and function of confessions of faith in our religious and denominational life . . . ." It is, therefore, quoted in full as a part of this report to the Convention:

(1) That they constitute a consensus of opinion of some Baptist body, large or small, for the general instruction and guidance of our own people and others concerning those articles of the Christian faith which are most surely held among us. They are not intended to add anything to the simple conditions of salvation revealed in the New Testament, viz., repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.

(2) That we do not regard them as complete statements of our faith, having any quality of finality or infallibility. As in the past so in the future, Baptists should hold themselves free to revise their statements of faith as may seem to them wise and expedient at any time.

(3) That any group of Baptists, large or small, have the inherent right to draw up for themselves and publish to the world a confession of their faith whenever they may think it advisable to do so.

(4) That the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience.

(5) That they are statements of religious convictions, drawn from the Scriptures, and are not to be used to hamper freedom of thought or investigation in other realms of life."

I think that section from the 2000 report on the BF&M pretty much says it all, myself.

Greg Harvey

Chad Kaminski said...

Greg,

Thank you, I appreciate that.

(4) That the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience.

So is it that some don't believe having a guide for sensible hermeneutics is necessary?

greg.w.h said...

Again, I think that's a great question. When someone guides you, do they determine your every step?

Greg Harvey

Chad Kaminski said...

Thanks Greg, you've been helpful.

Wade Burleson said...

Greg W.H.

You are one sharp Baptist with a good memory, a logical mind, and a sense of history.

May your tribe increase.

wade

Monte said...

Volfan,

1. Luther wrote the 95 thesis. I didn't write the BF&M. Luther did not require the signatures of others on this document.
2. Affirming the BF&M can be done in more ways than adding a signature. Jesus said, "Let your yes be yes, and your no be no." We were not living contrary to our convictions and interpretations of Scripture on the field, nor were we living contrary to what is outlined in this confession. Our lives affirmed what we believed.
3. The BF&M is a Baptist interpretation of Scripture. It is not Scripture.
4. The information that Greg has added from the BF&M very aptly speaks for itself.

The Catholic Church once believed that what they did and what they enforced was right also. They also believed that they had the authority to enforce their teachings. That is what Luther stood against in favor of Scripture alone. Lest we think this is all so innocent then we have only to remember the reformation and understand that it was for this abuse by the reasoning of men that Luther nailed the 95 thesis to the door.

Bob Cleveland said...

Why don't we sign the bible? Would the SBC rather have folks sign something else?

RKSOKC66 said...

Wade:

I agree we should not get hung up with man's rules.

Looking back, we can clearly see that Luther's 95 thesis was a wake up call to point out the abuses in the Catholic Church at the time.

Luther's "protest" was right on.

However, the thing that makes Luther "correct" was not that he protested but what is was that he was protesting.

We can't extrapolate from what Luther did and determine that "protest" is good. It depends. Some protests are "good" and others are an unnecessary diversion that do more harm than good.

The the major "protests" in the SBC over the last 50 years (that I am aware of) have been (#1) arguments over various versions of the BF&M and (#2) arguments about third order issues.

I don't think either of these are of sufficient import to justify polarizing the SBC to the extent that they have.

As regulars of my comments on this blog will remember, I am an adherent of the "Rodney King" theology.

About the only thing that was worth fighting for was "inerrancy". And paradoxically many people who did not (and still don't) adhere to the term "inerrancy" may be in fact hold to something "functionally equivalent" to inerrancy but using different terminology. [Rex Ray seems to be one example]

Judge Pressler in his book mentions people in the SBC who were "conservative" but they wouldn't help him during the CR. Personally I have supported the CR.

However, the CR does not map one-on-one with being conservative. Some conservatives chose not to join the CR.

Lin said...

"what luther did is exactly what some of us out here are trying to do.....make sure that our sbc is true to the Word of God only. "

I am very thankful for what Luther did but let us not forget that he still supported a 'state' protestant church even though he did write that he longed for a church of 'true believers' along side the 'state' church.

So while he was right in 'Sola Fide' he still retained many 'traditions' that were exta biblical.

This is the danger of following/signing anything that is man originated. Even after Luther, we had quite a bit of reforming left to do and still do.

While Luther did not require anyone else to sign (how could he?) still the reformation led to magistrates, perecution of those who did not want their babies baptized and forced membership of the state church.


I believe the missionaries who refused to sign showed much discernment and courage.

Dave Miller said...

We do not have the right to set up creeds or confessions (beyond the fundamentals of the gospel) to judge whether someone is a faithful or true Christian.

However, a denomination has the right to set out its distinctive doctrinal parameters (ie. BF&M 2K) that define the terms of cooperation within that denomination.

If the SBC says that the BF&M is the standard for participation in the denomination, that is its prerogative (as long as it is done through proper channels, not just by a self-appoihted Baptist pope).

The problem comes only when people forget that you can be a good Christian and not be Southern Baptist.

I am in (almost) full agreement with the BF&M 2000. If the denomination voted a new set of guidelines that I could not support, I would still consider myself a Christian, but no longer a part of the SBC.

A denomination has the right to define what it considers to be its parameters of participation. I don't have a problem with that.

I object to the IMB and certain seminaries setting their own parameters without convention approval.

Denominations determine the criterion by which you participate in the denomination. They cannot determine the criterion for being part of the kingdom of God.

Chad Kaminski said...

Dave,

"I object to the IMB and certain seminaries setting their own parameters without convention approval."

Is this something that happened when missionaries (and others I suspect) were asked to sign off on the BF&M?

Tom Parker said...

Volfann:

I think if you could have your way the SBC would only consist of a small fraction of the number of people in it right now. Very few would meet the standards you believe exist. I will give you the benefit of the doubt that you do not realize how intolerant you sound in your writings.

Tom Parker

Dave Miller said...

Chad,

No, it is different. the BF&M was properly adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention and is a legitimate document. That does not mean that it is right in all things. But it is an official document approved properly by the SBC.

As someone who attended a Southern Baptist school in which professors denied every major doctrine of the faith, while being paid by the gifts of SBC churches, I have no trouble with demanding that employees of the SBC agree to the doctrinal standards adopted by that agency.

It is when the IMB or Paige or someone goes beyond that to force their personal views, not approved by the SBC, that I object.

The BF&M was approved by the SBC. It is the doctrinal standard of our denomination.

Dave Miller said...

I have a question. What is it about the BF&M 2000 that bothers people?

It is a pretty generic document.

Stephen Pruett said...

Volfan, You wrote, "what luther did is exactly what some of us out here are trying to do.....make sure that our sbc is true to the Word of God only."

I have tried to tell you in the past and so have many others that this is simply not the basis of the disagreement. You and many who think as you do don't simply want to keep the SBC true to the Word of God only. You want to keep the SBC true to your favorite interpretations of very carefully selected parts Word of God, whether the majority of Southern Baptists agree or not, and whether you can provide the most convincing exegesis or not.

Certainly any denomination has the prerogative to set its own parameters of inclusion and cooperation. However, in 1963 Southern Baptists wisely recognized that "That the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience." I believe the intent of this statement and the practice associated with this statement until recently is that no one would be forced to agree with every jot and tittle of the confession of faith as a condition for service. It might be reasonable to require people to not speak in oposition to the confession while in the course of their work as missionaries, professors, etc. However, that is very different from requiring people to believe it is all completely correct. The only document about which we should require Baptists to make such a statement is the Bible.

Surely, the wisdom of this is obvious. Baptists have been spectacularly wrong in their interpretation of the Bible in the relatively recent past (does anyone recall segregation). So why have we fired a goodly number of dedicated missionaries and forced many others out because they had a disagreement with a document that is admittedly fallible and that we have now started using as a weapon of the culture wars as well as a confession of faith?

Stephen Pruett said...

I think Dave Miller makes a good point. There was a problem in the past with seminary professors (I don't know that from experience, but it is repeated so often without challenge that I figure there must be at least some truth to it). However, as I understand it, these were on BIG issues such as the literal truth of the virgin birth and other miracles, the reliability of the Bible (which was of course, the central issue of the resurgence), and such things. Sure there should be a way to keep that from happening. I just don't believe that requiring TOTAL agreement with a fallible, man-made document is the best option. I think Wade's approach to sign but openly declare those minor issues on which he disagrees would be OK, providing the detemination of how much disagreement about what issues would be sufficient to disqualify someone was done fairly and uniformly.

It is clear from discussion on this and other blogs, that we have trouble even agreeing on what the B F & M actually says about some things, not to mention whether we agree with each point or not.

Anonymous said...

David Miller ask what is wrong with the BF&M 2000? Take a look at the Holy Bible I

The Lordship of Jesus (the Living Word) is supplanted by making Him secondary to the Bible (the written Word). The statement, “The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ,” in the 1963 BF&M is removed from the 2000 BF&M.

Dave Miller said...

Anonymous,

That is not the intent of that statement change. As a product of liberal schools, I can tell you how the former statement was used.

I saw people deny clear scriptural teachings based on their understanding of the "spirit of Christ." They used that statement to justify denying the authority of scripture, or reinterpreting it based on their subjective understanding of who Jesus was.

No doctrinal statement is infallible, but the intent of changing that statement was to clarify that we must submit our minds to the scriptures, not twist them to our subjective understanding of the spirit of Christ.

We do not worship scripture, but we believe that scripture is the only reliable revelation of Christ, who is Lord.

jasonk said...

ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!

Bob Cleveland, that may be the funniest thing I have read in a long time, and brother, I just laugh every time I think about it: "Why don't we just have everybody sign the Bible?" That was classic! Thanks for the chuckle.

I guess the reason we don't have everybody just sign the Bible is because some people don't trust that you, or I, as priests, have the ability to interpret it for ourselves. We say Scripture is sufficient, but we don't believe it. We need more than that, according to some. I'm with you, Bob. Let's just sign the Bible.

Now, on Luther: Thanks Wade, for a great post. I love ML, and his courage. I don't remember the exact quotes from seminary, but two of the most memorable things Martin Luther said were, 'Beer is a gift from God,' and 'a good windy will chase the demons away.'

Darby Livingston said...

Let's not forget that the man who said, "Unless persuaded by Scripture and plain reason," also wrote a great little book on Christian Liberty and wonderful commentaries on Romans and Galatians in which he was careful to not hinder one's conscience beyond what was plain in Scripture.

Irreverend Fox,

No candy on Reformation Day. Only Lottie Moon Baptist cookies with little Hebrew verses scrolled in the top by male Hebrew professors.

Chad Kaminski said...

Stephen,

"I think Wade's approach to sign but openly declare those minor issues on which he disagrees would be OK, providing the detemination of how much disagreement about what issues would be sufficient to disqualify someone was done fairly and uniformly."

Am I correct in believing that some doctrines are essential for orthodoxy, while others only divide us into smaller subgroups? Wouldn't the cardinal doctrines of orthodoxy be the litmus test for SBC employment? Are those receiving paychecks from the SBC being asked to affirm more than what is essential?

I thank you in advance.

irreverend fox said...

darby,

no candy? Baptists are no fun...wait...are Baptists reformed? should we even be celebrating reformation day? didn't the reformers hate the Anabaptists? are we landmark? didn't Luther believe in baptismal regeneration?

wait...I'm so confused...

Rex Ray said...

Volfan007,
We haven’t disagreed in a long time, but I knew it couldn’t last. You wrote: “I gladly affirm the BFM2k. It’s scriptural.”

Webster—scriptural: according to Scriptures.

So, if the BFM 2000 is according to Scripture, how close do you believe it is Scripture?
Do you believe its close enough to be “our doctrinal guideline” as written in our SS literature?

If you don’t know what something means, will you agree a guideline is more important than what that something says?

If a Scripture can be interpreted/translated/ understood two ways, will you agree a guideline is more important than what the Scripture says?

If you agree, then you’re saying the guideline is more important than the Bible. That would be agreeing with John Kemp who wrote in 1413,
“I thank God I never knew what the Old and New Testament was. I will know nothing but my portuese and my pontifical.” (Foxe’s Book of Martyrs)
At the rate things are going, in another 1,000 years the BFM will be thicker than the Bible. Already, the IMB has revised one subject of the BFM that contains more words than the original.

“The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ” means: ‘The way to interpret the Bible is through the eyes of Jesus.’

This was removed from the BFM 2000, because a 15 handpicked committee decided they knew more than the “eyes of Jesus.”

They also changed “believer” to “believers”. Al Mohler explained:
“Conservatives believe in the priesthood of the believers but not the priesthood of the believer, because it leaves too much freedom for the individual.”

That repairs the curtain that was torn by Calvary.

That takes us back to Paul writing: “…came to spy on us to see what freedom we enjoyed in Christ, as to whether we obeyed the Jewish laws or not.”
[whether missionaries signed BFM or not.]

“A confession becomes a creed when others determine the beliefs one is forced to sign.”—Keith Parks

Baptists have always cried, “No creed but the Bible”, but not anymore; except the thousands of churches that have rejected the BFM 2000.

jack said...

-Since we admire Martin Luther so much, then surely the SBC has no objection to working in ecumenical Christian unity with our brethren in the Lutheran Church, yes?

Rex Ray said...

Dave Miller,
You said, “The intent of changing that statement [learning Scripture through the eyes of Jesus] was to clarify that we must submit our minds to the Scriptures.”

Oh, really? It seems what “we must submit our minds to” is a man-made paper like the golden image Nebuchadnezzar created—if you don’t sign [kneel to] the BFM 2000, you can’t be an employee, a leader, a missionary, and the list goes on.

It’s all about control and power to the extent over 100 long time missionaries were forced off the field because they would not sign, and 15 who represented over 200 years of service, were fired in one day.

The devil could not break their call from God, but the egos of their employers could. What a heartbreaking tragedy!

As some are known for sacrificing their children, the SBC is known for firing their missionaries.

Rex Ray said...

Dave Miller,
You said, “The BFM was properly adopted by the SBC and is a legitimate document.”

Was behind closed doors and secret proper?

Was “We can’t tell you, but you’re going to like it” proper?

Was churches not knowing anything proper?

Was the committee ‘picked because they agreed with Patterson’ proper?
(No women pastors agrees with his no women Hebrew teachers that has him in a lawsuit.)

In my opinion, since it was NOT proper, it is NOT a legal document.

Marty Duren said...

I prefer to call October 31 "my birthday." Luther stole my spotlight.

Happy All Saints Day, Wade.

Lindon said...

"They also changed “believer” to “believers”. Al Mohler explained:
“Conservatives believe in the priesthood of the believers but not the priesthood of the believer, because it leaves too much freedom for the individual.”

Was this in a speech or written somewhere? I sure would like to show this to some people.

NativeVermonter said...

It's my understanding that initially, Luther only disagreed that the priest's had the power to lessen indulgences, not in the practice itself. And from there, he began to question the whole system.

Also, having the kids hand out tracts as they go door-to-door is a great way to get the Gospel out and develop future soul winners in the kids. This day may mean one thing to some but can mean an opportunity to spread eternal truth for us.

Steve said...

Great post Wade! You put history to work.

The 2000 revision of the BF&M is kind of like the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (that brought in the income tax and its infernal twin, witholding.) The way that both were drawn up and made effective have never been made clear to everyone's satisfaction but we appear to be stuck with both. Changing or removing either one will have to go through bodies of fallible men who have very much to lose by such change.

apepper said...

Maybe we should have a Henry the 8th day, you know, to celebrate the birth of the Church of England from which Baptists came.

davidbmclaughlin.com said...

Btw-if you have not seen the movie "Luther" that was made a few years ago you should. It is fantastic!

Chad Kaminski said...

Rex Ray,

This is just a shot in the dark with my limited understanding of all the nuances of this issue, but since Paul said,

"Therefore I urge you, imitate me." 1 Cor 4:16 (NKJV)

"Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ." 1 Cor 11:1 (NKJV)

Wasn't Paul putting himself out there as an intermediate kind of guide to assist others in staying true to orthodoxy?

I realize that Paul was an inspired author of scripture, but is he here saying that even his behavior is inspired, because he was just a man?

Just because one is asked to affirm a man made document as a guide, are we really saying that the document is equal to scripture?

Thank you for your thoughts.

Benji Ramsaur said...

Anonymous: "The Lordship of Jesus (the Living Word) is supplanted by making Him secondary to the Bible (the written Word). The statement, “The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ,” in the 1963 BF&M is removed from the 2000 BF&M."

I think this is a well articulated statement of Moderate thought.

And I disagree with it.

Volfan007: "what luther did is exactly what some of us out here are trying to do.....make sure that our sbc is true to the Word of God only. even though some would try to lead us down the road of man made reasoning and depart from scripture, there are some who say no...we do protest....we wish to stay true to the bible and let every man who disagrees be a liar."

I think this is representative of Fundamentalist thought.

And I disagree with it.

"There was a problem in the past with seminary professors (I don't know that from experience, but it is repeated so often without challenge that I figure there must be at least some truth to it). However, as I understand it, these were on BIG issues such as the literal truth of the virgin birth and other miracles, the reliability of the Bible (which was of course, the central issue of the resurgence), and such things. Sure there should be a way to keep that from happening. I just don't believe that requiring TOTAL agreement with a fallible, man-made document is the best option."

In the middle thought.

And I think I am somewhere around here too.

Benji Ramsaur said...

Stephen Pruett,

Sorry. I meant to put your name by your quote too:)

BCR

Russell said...

Bro. Benji is spot-on in his assessment. I used to be an SBTC/Fundy leader (Criswell/SWBTS grad) before I became Christian.
Grace to all!

apepper said...

Jasonk,

Here's another quote from Luther that's really a hoot:

"If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2 Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. It suffices that through God's glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner".

A Letter From Luther to Melanchthon
Letter no. 99, 1 August 1521.

Bob Cleveland said...

Rex Ray: If Dr. Mohler did say that, I'm assuming that Jesus died so we could have a certain amount of freedom from sin, and that the Holy Spirit was sent so we could understand some but not all truth.

I guess a little is better than none.

jasonk said...

apepper--I like that quote! Not only because the last line is funny, but because it is so true.
Thanks for sharing!

Bryan Riley said...

It would be nice if we demonstrated to the world we were the One Church Jesus called us to. We are reforming into the image of Jesus by God's grace.

Stephen Pruett said...

Chad, For what it's worth as one person's opinion, I believe SBC employees are required to agree to disputable interpretations on matters that are neither essentials of the faith nor beliefs that are distinctive for Baptist identity.

For example, the B F & M specifies that the Lord's Supper is only to be offered to persons baptized by immersion. Presumably a pastor who sensed a call to the mission field could not serve under the IMB if his church did not abide by this practice. I use this example, in part, because my pastor is one of the best evangelists both from the pulpit and one-to-one that I have ever known. He interprets scripture as permitting all Christians to participate in the Lord's Supper at our church, even if we do not believe their mode of baptism was correct. The idea that this would prohibit my pastor from serving the IMB if he felt a call in that direction just seems wrong to me.

The scriptures are not crystal clear on this issue. This is an inference based on scripture plus assumptions plus reason. The latter two components here are fallible and logically disputable. The section on salvation seems to suggest that 5-pointers are not suitable (salvation is indicated to be compatible with the free agency of man). Maybe I am wrong, but I have not been able to reconcile free agency and irresistable grace.

There are other examples of a similar nature. My preference would be that the confession of faith be limited to essentials and baptist distinctives. I don't think that there would be many universal Baptist distinctives. Baptism by immersion after salvation would certainly be one. Beyond that I am not sure that an overwhelming majority of Southern Baptists agree on other non-essentials.

One more point. The idea that the only options are to agree 100% with a fallible document that includes non-essentials or to abandon accountability or the ability for Baptists to define beliefs that are necessary for SBC employees is a false dichotomy. I believe that the written statements of each person with regard to objections to particular non-essentials in the B F & M should be judged individually. Unless the person's exegesis can be convincingly refuted, such objections such not be cause for denying the opportunity to serve. Otherwise, we really have rejected the Baptist distinctive, "no creed but the Bible".

Benji, I think you are right! Of course, I usually think that people who agree with me are right.

Stephen Pruett said...

By the way, I happen to agree with the B F & M 2000 position on Salvation. However, the free agency part is non-essential and disputable, so even though I agree with it, I don't think it should be used to exclude anyone from service.

Rex Ray said...

Lindon,
You asked for the source of my quote of Al Mohler.
I’ve spent a lot of time searching the internet for an answer, but I’m not very good at searching.

My only source was printed in a letter to the Baptist Standard on June 11, 2001 and they are noted for not allowing miss-quotes to be printed. The letter (on-line only) is as follows:

Patched veil
What is it with the fundamentalists that they are so afraid of the word ‘freedom’?
First, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Al Mohler says they believe in the ‘priesthood of the believers’ but not the ‘priesthood of the believer’, because it leaves too much freedom for the individual. Then he says the conservatives are the party of truth while the moderates are the party of freedom.
Now the trustees at SWBTS want to cut out a verse, which refers to freedom, from the school’s official hymn.
Are there those who would try to patch up the veil in the temple, so that we could not go to God directly? God help us!
I. W. Sparkman…Kopperl, Texas.


Also in the April 30, 2001 Baptist Standard, Russell Dilday in his ‘Analysis of the BFM 2000’ stated: “In his conference at Southern Seminary in February, Al Mohler attempted to simplify the divisions in the SBC by saying the two camps are the ‘truth party’—the first emphasizes the authority and inerrancy of Scripture while the second emphasizes personal autonomy (Baptist Press, March 22, 2001).”

I looked that reference up and Dilday quoted the Baptist Press correctly.

BTW, Dilday’s 18 page “analysis of the BFM 2000” is interesting. It list 7 positive factors, and 12 troubling factors.

Chad Kaminski said...

Stephen,

So it seems that the sticking point for the most part is not just signing off on a man-made document, but signing off 100 percent agreement to a man-made document, which contains much that is not considered essential for orthodoxy, and perhaps some passages that over simplify complex and highly disputed doctrines.

You know, I've always been one to support leadership and give them the benefit of the doubt, but this does appear problematic.

Has there been any explanations offered as to why SBC employees must give 100% allegiance to the BFM to maintain employment?

That question is directed to anyone, who has an answer.

Thanks Stephen.

Lin said...

Rex, Thanks for taking the time to do this. I appreciate it and have noted the sources.

As to this one:

Also in the April 30, 2001 Baptist Standard, Russell Dilday in his ‘Analysis of the BFM 2000’ stated: “In his conference at Southern Seminary in February, Al Mohler attempted to simplify the divisions in the SBC by saying the two camps are the ‘truth party’—the first emphasizes the authority and inerrancy of Scripture while the second emphasizes personal autonomy (Baptist Press, March 22, 2001).”


Methinks he really meant to stop at the word 'authority'...as in papal. :o)

Rex Ray said...

Chad,
You ask an important but embarrassing question.

You may find the answer in some quotes from a letter Jerry Rankin wrote me:

“In reality the 2000 BFM has not changed any beliefs at all, because the Bible is unchanging.

Recent revisions have simply spoken to contemporary issues by confessing what the Bible has always taught about the role of pastoral leadership, the spiritual order of the home and to affirm that the entire Bible is the inspired, infallible word of God, not just that spoken by and with references to Jesus.

It is altogether appropriate that Southern Baptist churches expect those who represent them and who are entrusted with matters of faith such as missionaries, seminary professors and denominational workers hold personal beliefs and convictions consistent with what the denomination confesses to believe.

The issue is not about individuals being terminated, but it is about the credibility of the IMB being doctrinally accountable to our denomination.”

So Chad, there you have it. The IMB did not fire missionaries—the denomination did.

Chad Kaminski said...

A quote from Rex's post quoting Jerry Rankin:
"It is altogether appropriate that Southern Baptist churches expect those who represent them..."

Do we really send missionaries with the priority of representing US?

Also inherit in that statement is that the churches do indeed expect this. Did the churches indeed speak to this issue?

Thanks Rex

Rex Ray said...

Chad,
Thanks for saying thanks. I see you picked up the main point of Rankin’s letter--who missionaries should represent.
Rankin said they should represent churches, but their actual choice was the Lord or leaders that had turned into bosses.

I may have left you with the impression that Rankin was the cause of missionaries being fired but that’s the wrong conclusion. I believe it was a case of fire or be fired.

I apologize for this long comment. I’ve already written parts of his second letter of reply to me. He said I was too firmly ingrained to receive his explanations. His second letter was mostly a copy of his “Southern Baptist Struggling with Post-Modernism…Reflections on Response to Missionaries Affirming the BFM”
My second letter to him was sending his reply back with comments under some of his words.

I was the first to write on June 7, 2002 (5 page single space.)
Just received a certificate of appreciation for construction from you. That was my hardest of thirteen [volunteer] trips to Japan. I have also been to Russia once and Israel four times.

Thanks for being a friend to my son who was a missionary to Israel. He told me if I knew everything I would be on your side. Thanks for not firing my friend xxx xxx for accepting being pastor of Tokyo Baptist Church.

Since you told my son a year ago that missionaries would not have to sign the BFM 2000, do you feel you have been pushed into reversing that decision?

The background that started the mandate for missionaries to sign seems to have started from an email by Scott McIntosh, a team leader.
His complaining email indirectly made its way to Morris Chapman. He asked you to call McIntosh and find out why he had written the email. You told McIntosh, “Now we have to do some damage control, and this might cause the missionaries to have to sign the BFM.”

A year later, McIntosh said, “Jerry Rankin is an honest, fair-minded person.” From McIntosh’s perspective, the mandate for missionaries to sign is not the IMB’s fault. Rather, he believes, blame lies at the feet of other SBC leaders.

What do you have when you have missionary signatures besides enlarging egos of those behind the BFM?

Our Sunday school quarterlies have: “The BFM 2000 is our doctrinal guideline.” I thought the Bible was our doctrinal guideline. Has the Holy Spirit revealed himself to a committee like He did the Book of Mormon?
Religious leaders put Jesus on a cross. Would they do it again for not signing the BFM?


Rankin’s reply August 8, 2002 (2 pages)
Dear Brother Rex,
I appreciate your taking the time to write about your concerns at length. It is obvious that you have been reading the Baptist Standard whose reports bear little resemblance to truth or reality behind our motives and rational.

Yes, the Bible is our only creed and sole authority of faith and practice, but do you know who coined that expression? It was Alexander Campbell who founded the Church of Christ. So what is it that distinguishes Baptists from the Church of Christ, since both claim the Bible as their creed?

[Rex said: Your reasoning about Campbell for replacing the Bible with man-made rules is disgusting and shameful. German soldiers belt buckles had “In God we trust”. Should we remove that from our money?]

Morris Chapman did not ask me to call Scott McIntosh, as reported; I did so because of my personal concern.

[Rex said: You did not deny that Chapman called you and you told McIntosh “Now we have to do some damage control, and this might cause the missionaries to have to sign the BFM.” Your damage control was putting fire out with gasoline. It anguished missionaries and only enlarged egos of your bosses.]

Our board drafted a policy that current missionaries who had already been processed for appointment in the past, would not be required to sign the revised BFM. It has not been changed requiring missionaries to sign the BFM as reported. However, to dispel growing suspicions and mistrust which were threatening to undercut the credibility and support of the IMB, I did personally ask our missionaries collectively to affirm once again to Southern Baptists that they would work in with the BFM and not contrary to it.

[Rex said: “Who had the power to hurt the IMB? It wasn’t the BGCT, so it must be your bosses, the Southern Baptist Executive Committee. You said your actions avoided 9-11 to the IMB. Was the Executive Committee going to replace IMB personnel that would control missionaries like they wanted? After your actions, the Executive Committee bragged on you, saying something like: “You wanted a leader. Now you have one.”]

Where did anyone get the idea that our missionaries are being “forced” to sign something that they may not agree with, or that anyone would be terminated if they did not respond to my request? Neither of those positions has been advocated or communicated by the IMB.

[Rex said: King Saul thought priest were disloyal and wanted them killed, and the Executive Committee thought unsigned missionaries were disloyal and wanted them fired. The army refused Saul’s request, and you delayed. Doeg killed the priest, and Avery Willis demanded signatures of missionaries on stateside assignment. You duplicated Pilate wilting to religious leaders. I think you saw your job fading and stated May 5, 2003 as the deadline or be fired. You passed the tiger’s tail to the IMB to approve firing missionaries.]

I am disappointed that you would presume to attribute motives of “enlarged Egos” to those conscientious denominational leaders who are seeking to keep the SBC anchored to the inerrant word of God.

[Rex said: Who besides inflated egos wanted missionaries fired?]

Chad, well that’s it. If you’d like the complete letters, I’ll email them.

Scott Gordon said...

jasonk,

I know I've comke to the table late here, but I must ask you a question from earlier in this comment stream:

When you and your Morman friend, and JW friend each sign your Holy Bible, what then will you do?

Sola Gratia!

Scott Gordon said...

Wow, I must first focus and not type while watching the game. comke...Morman?? Anyway Jason or anyone here...my question still stands.

sg!

Anonymous said...

Rex,
I keep telling you that you’re beating a dead horse.
Nobody wants to hear what you’re saying. They don’t want bad news.

People like you have Wade’s job on the line. He’s walking a tightrope, and your facts are shaking the rope.

Do you want to get him fired? He’s a thorn in the side of untruth and with him, missionaries have hope.

One 153 page email is determined to have that thorn removed. It hurts their pride and may cause them to lose their power and control.

Authority is from the top down. You’re attacking authority when you say some on the Executive Committee caused missionaries to be fired.

How could one little email requesting a cancellation of a certain paper, because it bad-mouthed moderates, cause all this trouble?

You indicate it didn’t start the trouble; it revealed the trouble.
It revealed that missionaries didn’t like being told “to follow their God-appointed leaders whether they understood or agreed.”
Missionaries didn’t like hearing, “Tonight I’ll pray, and tomorrow I’ll tell what God’s will is for you.”

Is the reputation of missionaries so bad they have to be held accountable to the denomination by signing a paper, or is it the teachers of religion that Jesus warned us about? (Mark 12:38)

You don’t have anything to lose, so, just keep shooting your mouth off and hope it doesn’t get Wade fired. Do you ever think about that?

Written by the conscience of Rex Ray