Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Purifying the SBC

Marty Duren wrote an excellent blog where he quoted extensively from Judge Paul Pressler's book, "A Hill on Which to Die."

The following two paragraphs are a stunning confirmation to me of all I have been saying these last few months:

The Judge says of the Conservative Resurgence within the Southern Baptist Convention:

The liberals had said that after the conservatives finished with those who held different views of the nature of the Bible, they would begin attaching the charismatics...They also alleged that conservatives would later attack various other groups until they "purified" every aspect of convention life. They said conservatives wanted to make everybody think just as they do. Such a charge was ludicrous.

[Conservatives leaders] would not turn on charismatics after the battle over biblical authority was won...Charismatic worship and understanding of spiritual gifts is an interpretation of Scripture. That was not our concern. Our concern was the nature of Scripture. (pages 128, 154, 158)

Judge Pressler says that an attack on various groups within the convention by conservatives in order to "purify" the convention in every aspect of convention life would not happen.

Judge Pressler was wrong.

It is happening.

Today it is the charismatics, tomorrow it is the Calvinists.

Today it is "women in ministry," tomorrow it is "elder" rule.

Today it is "eternal security," tomorrow it is "regeneration preceeding faith."

All groups will be purged unless somebody says, "ENOUGH!"

I would suggest that we need to come up with a list of "essential" and "non-essential" doctrines.

We as a convention can agree on the essentials, but we give freedom in the area of "non-essentials."

It's sad when we have to keep lists, but unless something is done we will find the convention no larger than the independent, fundamentalist Baptist church down the street which has a sign in front that says, "An Independent, Fundamental, Premillenial, Landmark, King James Version Only Baptist Church --- All Welcome."


In His Grace,



Paul said...

Wade, I've always thought the BF&M was pretty good on the essentials. However, I'm afraid that if we make that our standard we will only open ourselves to another revision in which things get defined more sharply. Lists can always be added to.

Yet, I don't have a better answer, other than, "In essentials, unity, in non-essentials, liberty, in all things, charity." said...

Amen, Paul.

I don't like lists either.

I'm just trying to stop the slide downward.

In His Grace,


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin Bussey said...

Our essential should be a relationship with Jesus Christ and He is the only way to God. Everything else we should be Pan-Christians because it will all Pan out in the end!

Anonymous said...

A very ironic entry title given the Lonnie Latham situation.

GeneMBridges said...

The problem with the BFM is that what was one day "essential" and "definition" is no longer "essential" and "definitional," when the BFM is not drafted to be clear. If synergists and monergists, for example, can read Article 4 and both see their own version of regeneration supported, something is wrong. Both synergism and monergism can't be correct within a confession. Such would make the confession meaningless.

Can synergists and monergists cooperate? Yes, certainly, but why does that require a confession acceptable to both? I will say, however, that I find it rather ironic that, in my neck of the woods at least, I see more cooperation in evangelism, discipleships, and apologetics from Wesleyans and AoGod (5 Point Arminians) and the solidly Reformed than between those two groups and those who try to saddle themselves in the middle through holding on to, how shall we say, historically innovative soteriological approaches that attempt to play both sides against the other. My Wesleyan friends who understand Reformed theology see more of the gospel they preach in Reformed theology than they do in the easy believism, pray a prayer, fire insurance soteriology preached in many of our SBC churches, and vice versa for that matter, so much so that I have become convinced that we could, in theory exist as one denomination if we agreed on baptism and order.

How you ask? One way is by bifurcating the sections on soteriology within a denominational confessional document, spelling out exactly what each side believes, why they believe it, why they differ with the other, and why they agree to cooperate with each other despite those differences. Contrast this with the BFM which has generally tried to please everybody without being sufficiently clear on some issues when closely examined. Moreover, I listened to the debate over the BFM 2000 when it was first adopted, and all the discussion was over Article 1. There was virtually none over the remaining text. I heard one question about communion being closed or open entertained from the Floor, but it was passed over and debate was timed out and terminated. IMO, this is an unacceptable way to draft a Convention Confession, and is indicative of the kinds of problems we have.

If there are variations within the Convention, then the Convention's confession should, at a minimum, stipulate to what they are and how acceptable they are or unacceptable they are.

In centuries past, these stipulations took the form of anathemas (in the Church Councils) or the enumeration of errors (as in the WCR and LCBF which address Roman errors) and their repudiation. That is what the BFM lacks, and that would go a long way in helping further this discussion.

For example, under the section on Scripture, the words, "Certain attempts to deny the inerrancy of the Bible have been attempted in the past by those we hold to be in error. While recognizing that there is a range of agreement and disagreement on the exact meaning of biblical inerrancy, we disaffirm any view of sacred Scripture that denies its inspiration, authority, infallibility, or inerrancy."

Under Article 4 on Salvation.

After the article we could add:

We affirm there are godly men who have for generations affirmed what has come to be known as evangelical Arminianism, while others have adhered to Reformed Theology. We disaffirm any soteriology that undermines the free offer of the gospel, while at the same time we affirm the right of local churches, pastors, seminary faculty, and individual church members to affirm evangelical Arminianism, traditional evangelical Calvinism, or a blend of the two, as long as they do not deny the propitiatory nature of the cross and do not affirm salvation or assurance of salvation through baptism or participation in the Lord's Supper, or disaffirm the necessity of actively engaging and cooperating in evangelism and missions.---This would effectively affirm the right of individuals and churches to hold to 5 Point Arminianism and 5 Point Calvinism, while denying genuine hyper-Calvinism, the New Perspective on Paul, the governmental view of the atonement, and Lutheran and Roman Catholic sacramentalism (getting assurance from baptism or participation inthe Lord's Supper).

These are general ideas, and not the best wording, but I think you get the idea. A confession can state a general principle and then stipulate variations on that principle.

Hardly any SBC church has ever reviewed the SBC Charter itself has it? How long has it been since we've essentially closely examined the way our Convention is constituted? We've concentrated on confessions, but what about the very fabric of the bureaucracy of the Convention itself? Reform includes much more than Confessional reform. Orthodoxy is not a guarantee that everything will be done on the up-and-up, particularly when the power structure is oligarchic, because, at that point "orthodoxy" can mean the "orthodoxy" of those in control, who are interpreting the BFM in a manner contrary to others...but who can complain since the BFM is largely a compromise document on certain issues and can thus be used in such a manner? This is what happens when you have a confession that tries to play both sides of the fence in certain spots and doesn't come with some detailed explanations and stipulations.

Jim Shaver said...

In 1984 in the beginning year of the Conservative Resurgence in the SBC, Dr. Jimmy Draper wrote a book entitled "Authority: The Critical Issue for Southern Baptists".

In the 7th Chapter he put forth a list of basic fundamentals or irreducible minimums that a person must subscribe to in order to be acceptable as a professor, a missionary, a writer, or a policymaker in one of our entities.

1. Full Deity and Full Humanity of Jesus Christ.
2. Substitutionary Atonement.
3. Literal bodily resurrection, ascension and Return of the Lord Jesus.
4. Justification by God's Grace through Faith.

He altered this list just a little in the appendix when he listed the deep historical beliefs of the SBC.

1. Full Deity and Full Humanity of Christ.
2. The Lostness of Mankind
3. Substitutionary Atonement
4. Justification by God's Grace through faith.
5. Holiness of Life
6. The Urgency of Mission

Of course the first 3/4 of the book was dedicated to the Bible as the Sole Authority for Doctrine and Practice.

Dr. Herschel Hobbs said that "President Draper has charted a course which all of us can follow."

Seems to me the SBC would have been wise to listen to Dr. Draper's suggestion because we've gone a lot further than he recommended.

Marty Duren said...

You forgot pre-trib and no women wearing pants.

Savage Baptist said...

If it wasn't for you and Tom Ascol, I'd have very little idea what was going on in the SBC. It certainly doesn't get covered in the Baptist Messenger.

In some ways, this discussion reminds me of one I had on my blog, wherein my strongly-held opinion was that Christians--real, genuine Christians--should be preferred for government office. For no reason that I could find, several people took issue with me on the grounds that we shouldn't coerce people into believing as we do.

Of course, I'd said not a word about coercion. I believe strongly in making your case and persuading people to vote your way. It's a job that never ends, but all too frequently we tire of it, and in consequence, new generations rise up that are unfamiliar with the case for Christians in government, and the battle has to be fought and refought.

Yes, it's a battle, but a battle waged with pen, press, and microphone, and facing fellow citizens across a lunch table.

Likewise, we will never see the end of this kind of battle--the battle to, as Francis Schaeffer said, to say all that the Bible says, but not to say what it does not say--within the SBC. All that we can do is pray for the guidance of the Spirit and steadfastly, lovingly, politely (I try to be polite) educate our opponents and the undecided, and ask for their votes.

We could make any list you like, and were we to abandon this never-ceasing battle to educate and persuade, within a generation, we'd find that all the terms had been redefined and we might be worse off than ever.

Even as I wrote that, it occurred to me that such a thing has happened since Barth; people are continually holding that something can be religiously true without being factually true, and in the process, they have redefined Biblical authority in such a way that you have to start from the ground up in discussing the subject with anyone.

Educate and persuade; you've made a tremendous start with this blog--I'm flabbergasted by the traffic you're getting. said...

Pretty good suggestion Dan.

I really think something like what you have written about Calvinism vs. Arminianism would also serve us on the tongues/baptism issue.

We need more people like you making solid suggestions like this.

In His Grace,


Savage Baptist said...

...something like what you have written about Calvinism vs. Arminianism...

You actually read that? Wow--I didn't think anybody but Michael Bates would ever read that one.

I'm flattered.

Anonymous said...


As you know, the SBC's Baptist Faith & Message statement--ANY YEAR'S VERSION--is REPRESENTATIVE of the theological persuasions of ALMOST EVERY KIND OF BAPTIST ever walking on this planet (and many other evangelical believers also [capital letters for STRONG emphasis]; the bloggers at this site clearly have retained more from our seminary systematic theology classes than I have, but I still think this is correct). Only the entire Bible itself details fully the beliefs of any of us--yet, honestly, there's room for interpretation at some points and we individually will insist on it (e.g., may deacons be women? must they have been married? can they have been divorced? who says?--if denominations hadn't developed before the year 2006, they'd develop this month following a Winter Bible Study of passages on this topic alone!).

I know many Baptists. The vast, vast majority stand in the huge historic UNDECLARED (emphasis again) Baptist mainstream--as theologically-conservative as the day is long and absolutely denomino-politically independent, knowing what they believe scripturally but still willing to cooperate for the sake of evangelism and missions if others will be generally cooperative, too.

If we will, we can cooperate based on the BF&M; added policies aren't necessary, and actually hinder cooperation. However, it isn't characteristic of fundamentalism to cooperate--thus, the current situation at the IMB (is there anyone calling himself a biblical conservative who doesn't get this yet?).

People will attend a church they honestly believe to be the best of several poor choices in town--until one they perceive as better comes along; then, they're gone in a cloud of dust with their families and talents and tithes to join it, and who can blame them? The church of Jesus Christ—-anything claiming His name—-should be high-quality and life-enriching, not merely theologically orthodox. The same applies to denominations, their long histories or past successes or missions-funding strategies notwithstanding.

Anyone loving the SBC and knowing what is happening at the IMB (and understanding who is behind it) probably had better plan to stand up early during the year 2006 to insist that things be made right again (and I don't mean all that has taken place since 1979). Cooperation with some probably could be regained and with some not be lost if this happened. Again, that’s anyone who really cares (ie, stop talking; START ACTING). said...

Well said David

Alan Bandy said...

That is very thought provoking.

Gordon said...

Bro. Wade I think that you are on track with your concerns. Having several friends in the independent Baptist ranks, I have seen what the progression of legalism has done to them. Eventually they reach a point of not only independence but also isolationism. I hope that our convention leadership will keep a broad perspective: that is, that Satan is our enemy, not man, and if he cannot defeat us with persecution from without then he will most certainly try to subvert us from within with useless divisions. Let us pray for them and one another that we will all run the race looking unto Jesus.