Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Point Is Being Missed Yet Again

It is interesting that a select group of IMB trustee are now attempting to deliver a written justification for the new policies on tongues and baptism. I would encourage you to read both the rationalization for the policy on tongues and the rationalization for the policy on baptism very carefully.

I'm sure there will be plenty of debate on these two white papers, but frankly, I am delighted that they have finally been issued to allow a platform for public, doctrinal debate.

Rather than breaking down the new policies, and critiquing them both, I would like to make three observations.

(1). The issue is the exclusion of good, solid conservative Southern Baptists from participation and cooperation on the mission through the IMB simply because they disagree with interpretations of Scripture that the BF&M does not address.

The basis for the new tongues policy is the classic cessationist position. I'm sure there are many Southern Baptists who hold to this view. But there are other Southern Baptist professors, teachers, pastors, administrators, agency heads, laymen and others who hold to the continuationist interpretation. What is the difference?

The cessationist says, "Two things characterized tongues in the New Testament: Jews and evangelism. Tongues were given to be addressed to men (Israel), not to God.”

If someone objects to this interpretation by saying that Paul said, "Do not forbid the speaking in tongues," the cessationist will say, "We would not forbid to speak in “languages” in a supernatural fashion (I Cor. 14:39)".

We pay good money to teach people how to speak a different "language" on the mission field. I can assure you that not one person on the Board of Trustees would ever forbid somebody from speaking in a "language" they supernaturally learned. The mental gymnastics required to explain aways Paul's admonition "do not forbid the speaking in tongues" (I Cor. 14:29) to refer to a known language among men, rather than a supernatural language spoken to God, would be funny to the coninuationist were it were not so sad to him. He is left wondering, "What does the cessationist think I am doing? Does he think my gift is from God or Satan?"

For the record, I do not have the gift of tongues. I never have had it and I don't desire it, but I sure don't mind going to Africa and serving on the mission field with someone who prays in tongues in their prayer closet. The old policy already forbad tongues to be spoken publicly on the field (by the way, if "tongues" were truly "languages" understood by men, then why in the world would the old policy forbid "tongues" to be spoken "publicly"? Were missionaries supposed to share the gospel in sign language?).

The continuationist says that tongues remains a gift of the Holy Spirit today and there are places in Scripture where tongues was used in prayer to God, and not a known language to men. A wonderful, evangelical scholar named Dr. Sam Storms, a close friend of Baptist theologian John Piper and one of the finest Southern Baptists Oklahoma has ever produced, has written two excellent essays that show the continuationist perspective. Both articles can be found here and here.

The old policies of the IMB forbad the public expression of tongues on the mission field, but left the private prayer closet of the believer as sacred ground. The new policy disqualifies the Southern Baptist who is a continuationist from serving on the mission field. The Southern Baptist Convention is large and broad enough to have both groups of people cooperate around the Great Commission.

The disqualification of good, solid, conservative Southern Baptists men and women from serving on the mission field BECAUSE they are continuationists and not cessationists IS THE ISSUE.

The new policy on baptism also excludes Southern Baptists from serving who do not believe the administrator of baptism is of Scriptural importance.

Nobody disagrees with the first three points of the baptism paper. But I predict that point four in the baptism white paper will cause an uproar. I am frankly very grateful that it is now in print. Please read the paper in full, but allow me to excerpt the disturbing conclusion of point four while leaving the questionable paragraphs under point four alone for the time being . . .

The concluding paragraph on the defense of the proper authority of the administrator of baptism states "Yet, would being baptized by just anyone have made His (Jesus) baptism legitimate? Of course not. Jesus was baptized by the last Old Testament Prophet. Having the right authority was so important that John was the product of a miraculous birth, a special calling, and a proven ministry. Authority in baptism mattered to Jesus and should, therefore, matter to us. After our Lord took such great care to submit to proper baptismal authority are we to now have no need for the same?"

This conclusion will be torn apart by Southern Baptist scholars. I am withholding comment on it at this time simply to make, again, the point that seems to be missed in this debate!!

We ought to be able to fellowship and cooperate with those Southern Baptists who are cessationists and Landmark, but we also ought to be able to fellowship with those Southern Baptists who are not!


(2). When each board and agency begins to establish different doctrinal parameters that EXCEED the Baptist Faith and Message, and then demands adherance to those interpretations among all employees, we move very, very close to allowing just a few people to establish what is "orthodox," and we move away from our convention wide confessional heritage..

All of our Baptist Confessions of Faith throughout history have been broad enough to encompass people who disagreed on the non-essentials of the faith. The Baptist Faith and Message is broad enough to include people who take opposite views of the interpretation of those doctrinal issues upon which the Baptist Faith and Message remains silent?

I believe once we start down this creedal path it becomes a very, very slippery slope. We end up violating every historic Baptist principle upon which our denomination has been built, and eventually seek to squelch conscientious dissent.

(3). Finally, it is worth remembering that the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention can pass any policy it desires. We could pass a policy that says ladies with blond hair and blue eyes are disqualified from serving if we so desired.

Who holds the board accountable? The Southern Baptist Convention as a whole.

If you don't believe we ought to continue to narrow the doctrinal parameters for participation and cooperation in our missionary and evangelistic endeavors, then you better participate in the process immediately.

Do what Chairman Hatley has suggested. Let your voice be heard in print by writing to trustees at imbtrustees@imb.org and telling us what you think.

Silence is approval.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson


Anonymous said...

Dear Wade, I completely agree with the stand you have taken.

JUSTAMOE said...

1. Four years ago in a state Baptist convention annual meeting, only about 5 minutes were required for a speaker standing at a floor microphone to explain away clear Scriptural teaching to the total satisfaction of the messengers present, whom he and others then led to choose a wrong path (IMO)--costing the convention tens of thousands of dollars (if not hundreds of thousands of dollars by now), much heartache, and only God knows how many souls. In the annual meeting of another state convention even earlier, I can recall the messengers essentially being called upon to give God a chance about a matter--by their vote, they indicated that they declined that invitation.

Lack of information about these IMB circumstances and the basis for them, and outright fear, can result in 5000+ SBC messengers voting in a similar incorrect manner regarding these issues in June--we'd like to believe differently, but it's happened before. Other people, it also still appears, will control the platform. At this point, there seems no reason to believe that what will transpire in Greensboro will be based on complete information or be fair.

2. The SBC has been sliding at an accelerating rate down a slippery slope for at least 2 decades--organizationally, if not theologically (can we say that we hold sound theology in the midst of a situation like this?). We only now are noticing the increase in our speed along that downward route. There are few turning-back points along this way; when God provides one, the convention should avail itself of it! This blog seems to point to one.

3. This matter still can be resolved, but it probably will take face-to-face, rather than computer-to-computer, conversations to make that happen. As state Baptist conventions have come apart during recent years, personal conversations ceased--if they ever took place at all.

A mediated conversation regarding the issues--facilitated by someone as well-respected as Dr. Jimmy Draper (I assume this is so) and with no personal stake in the matter--during March, April, or May might result in a final resolution.

Other suggestions?

Anonymous said...

Question. Given the fact that the 'old policy' regarding tongues went beyond the BF&M 2000, why have you stated your support for it? Or, put another way, is it inconsistent to oppose one policy on the grounds that it goes beyond the BF&M 2000 while supporting another policy which similarly goes beyond the BF&M 2000? Just wondering.

wadeburleson.org said...


The Apostle Paul by his very pen said he would rather speak five words of understanding than 10,000 in an unknown tongue. This is the same Apostle Paul who elsewhere said he was grateful that he spoke in tongues more than them all.

It would seem to me that to the prohibition or restriction of PUBLIC tongues speaking can be justified due to the fact that Scripture highly restricts it and we PAYING the missionaries to share the gospel INTELLIGENTLY publicly.

How a "church" practices the corporate use of tongues is a position of the pastors/elders. I would say that ninety-five percent or more of the public speaking in tongues in corporate worship services in the United States seems to be a perversion of what Scripture teaches. Charismatic Churches do not seem to be practicing the gift in corporate settings decently and in order, with interpretation, and there is not a spirit of desiring wanting people to understand what is being said.

The public abuses of the gift and lack of following Biblical guidelines in churches in the United States is evident. The SBC should rightfully avoid this extreme.

However, in the prayer closet the person in prayer is speaking to God. The new policy says this is not a legitimate use of tongues. This is the cessationist interpretation, but the Southern Baptist continuationist would balk at that interpretation, but a continuationist who is paid to be a missionary should not have one problem with the prohibition of public tongues speaking in corporate settings on the field.

Why? Scripture makes the practice of public tongues speaking publicly so rare t to the point of prohibiting it as well - 5 compared to 10,000.

BTW, those Southern Baptist missionaries I know who have a prayer language in their prayer closet do not object to the old policy either.

By the way, the old policy forbad any overemphasis on ANY gift publicly (healing, , prophecy, etc . . .), not just tongues.

Anonymous said...

"The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?" Matthew 21:25

This is a good question for all Southern Baptist pastors and churches to ask when looking at another's group baptism. How to you determine if it is of heaven or of heaven. By looking at the doctrine of the group that preformed it. (Romans 16:17, II Thess. 3:6, II John 1:10, Titus 3:10) If the group teaches false doctrine on salvation (including eternal security) or baptism, their baptism should be rejected.

Anonymous said...

As much as I would love to be free to express my disagreement with the trustees on these policies, we are in the early stages of candidacy for being FT IMB missionaries as a second career. Sending the trustees an email would flag us negatively no matter what the final decisions are on these non-Biblical, non-BF&M policies. The other question is whether the policy will migrate to career missionaries in the future? For us, we would not be able to serve with the IMB under this cessationist policy as we believe such a policy places the active working of the Holy Spirit in a "Box" and grieves God! Mr and Mrs Anonymous

Anonymous said...

Bro. Wade,

I posted this on Bro. Jerry's blog, and with your permission would like to place it here as well. WE, as a denomination, need the Living Christ so much. I am in so much pain over this episode....please put up with me preaching for a moment....

"If ya'll have noticed, when I have posted on this and other blogs, I have rarely ventured into the political or doctrinal depths being discussed. I'm trying to simply point to Jesus each time, not our petty bickering or disagreements. Such things are pointless. Instead of trying to prove your own opinion right, why not go to the Author of scripture....unless your Jesus is dead, and thus your opinion must take presidence.

"Much of our problem here is personal egos and power struggles...neither of which is a fruit of the Spirit, I might add. We wear 'Rev.' and 'Dr.' in front of our names like the bells on the tassels of the Pharasee's prayer shawls of the first century AD. We have to draw attention to ourselves, and how holy and educated we are. Bah! The scriptural preparation for a minister of Christ is to be equipped for the task by the Holy Spirit, not a 'Dr.' or 'Rev.' by our name with a flurry of letters behind. Get off your egos and get back to Christ--the Living One.

"My 'day job' is to run a police department for a small university. I deal with adolescents on a regular basis. 'Wade was mean to me' and 'I'm going to get him back for that' are what I have come to expect from teenagers, not 'Dr.s' and 'Rev.s' charged with managing the funds sent by each autonomous SB church for reaching the lost world.

I'm not mad at you guys. I'm ashamed of you. Your own words show that you are judging by the world's standards, not Christ's. I'm not just aiming this reprimand at the BOT, but at all on both sides of this issue to whom 'baptism' and 'private prayer language' has become more important than spreading the gospel of Christ.

We need revival in our denomination---bad. Pray, and seek forgiveness and the Lord's guidance in this. He is not the author of confusion, so don't tell me with high 'Dr.' sounding words that you have and do. "You shall know them by their fruits". This fruit stinks.

"I have been harsh here, I know, but out of love. Jesus Christ makes a difference in people’s lives, and He must in ours also for our message to be believable."

Wade, in reading your blogs I have seen you to be fair, and have not seen you write anything scandalous or worthy of censure. I have not met you in person, but I can see that you stick to your guns, and I imagine you can be taken as blunt--and have been. I and the church King Jesus has placed me as watchman over will continue to pray that you will be led by the Holy Spirit in all you do, and how you meet this challenge placed before you. We also have the rest of the BOT in our prayers.

As God wills...let there be revival.

Greg Cloud
VBC, Muldrow, OK

J. Guy Muse said...

On the baptism policy, Wade writes:

Nobody disagrees with the first three points of the baptism paper. But I predict that point four in the baptism white paper will cause an uproar. I am frankly very grateful that it is now in print.

When the IMB "New Directions" went into effect on the field, we went through a long process of rediscovering afresh just what it is the Bible has to say about many eccelesiological issues--baptism in particular.

As we studied what the WORD says, it really sounded pretty simple and straight forward. Where one begins to muddy the waters is when you add in 2000 years of what theologians have said, what books say, what bloggers say, what the official position of the organization says--you get my point...

It seems that what the BoT is going through now is what we on the field got started on back in 1997-present. What does the Scripture really say on these issues? In particular about authorized administrators being the only acceptable ones to impart the ordinances?

Anyone caring to read one IMB missionary team's perspective on the whole baptism-authority issue click HERE.

Believe me, as a M team we have spent hours and days examining closely this very issue in the light of what is revealed in the Word of God. I feel strongly about our conclusions, but am certainly open to working with those who differ, we do so everyday!

Anonymous said...

Hey Wade...your response to Barry King was your best article yet.

I agree with much of what you have to say. I don't think we need to go beyond the BFM of 2000. People need to have freedom to disagree in minor matters.

Yet what keeps me from joining you is that it seems that your supporters are by and large a bunch of pro-Charismatics. Frankly, I don't want to hang with that crowd any more than I want to be around a ligalistic crowd.

We send missionaries to the field to spread the gospel...not to spread the their view of tongues. My experience has been that it's hard for these people to keep it in the prayer-closet. They insist on shoving it onto others.

Just my opinion. You're more than free to disagree with me.

Stephen Brittain

Bill said...


I have been lurking on your blog the last few weeks and following this situation. You are doing an outstanding job graciously framing the critical issues that face the SBC. (BTW I am not SBC but grew up in a "fundamentalist" Baptist church so I'm quite familiar with the harm to the Kingdom that can result from separatist tendencies.)

Regarding your statement that "ninety-five percent or more of the public speaking in tongues in corporate worship services in the United States seems to be a perversion of what Scripture teaches," I suspect you are right when referring to the United States. For some reason this issue causes great division in our country.

I have personal experience that the same is not always true overseas. In the early 1990's I worked three years at an energy research institute at a small town in Norway. My wife and I became part of a Baptist church in our community - not an SBC church but under the Norwegian Baptist affiliation.

A couple weeks after we began attending an older lady stood during a pause in the worship segment and began speaking in a language that my wife and I immediately recognized as not being Norwegian. (We understood essentially zero Norwegian at the time, but could recognize it by it's cadence and intonation.)

When the woman finished speaking she sat down and an older man rose and began speaking in Norwegian. It was apparent that he was translating the "tongue" that the woman had spoken.

Fast forward - during our three years in that congregation we observed many times the use of tongues "decently and in order." It was always done without show or extravagance, during a quiet time during the service, and it was always interpreted so the rest could understand. Our pastor was formerly a pentecostal song evangelist but he never spoke publically in tongues nor did he advocate their use. Although he was a native Swedish speaker he chose to preach in Norwegian for the benefit of the four Americans (my family) in the congregation, even though the remainder of the Norwegians could have easily understood if he preached in Swedish.

As an aside, my wife's and my skill in understanding spoken Norwegian and speaking it with reasonably correct intonation is largely due to his clearly spoken Biblical preaching! So to me the subject of "tongues" has a very different meaning than it might to someone who has spent their life in a Baptist church in the US.

Bottom line - we enjoyed three wonderful years of fellowship in this small Baptist congregation. We learned far more from them than they learned from us, and our fellowship and learning were immeasurably enhanced because we communicated in their language as much as possible, both in speech and culturally.

I am not a cessationist because Paul told us not to forbid speaking in tongues, and because I've experienced them being used properly.

I think that we need to be very cautious about limiting the Spirit's working because of our own limited understanding, especially when working in a foreign culture. Frankly, while I've never exercised a private prayer language, I can imagine that the Spirit might use it as a communication language for a missionary experiencing the incredible stresses of bringing God's word to a foreign culture.

Please excuse my long post.

Evangelical Orthodoxy said...

As always, I am grateful for the opportunity to post on this blog and engage in conversation with those of you who are good enough to read my posts. I am not hard-wired into the SBC, so much of the protocol is foreign to me to nonetheless important.

I have a couple of general comments that relates not only to this topic but also to the greater sea of Baptist life.

First, it seems like the SBC has a real problem with selective biblical interpretation. Those in power seem to adopt rigid, literal hermeneutic when the issue Bible aligns with their political position; but as Mr. Burleson noted, when Scripture supports an opposing position people often engage in "mental gymnasitcs" to explain away contextually. The Context Card is played sometimes but not always. Does anyone not some uncomfort in this position. I am aware of and comfortable with the tenses of Scripture, but I am uncomfortable with on some issues placing the literal stake in the ground and refusing to budge; and on others - in the same tense - simply explaining away in context. I could very easily apply the tongues white paper to women to support women as pastors, for example.

Second, I have gently tweaked Mr. Burleson before on comments like this: "All of our Baptist Confessions of Faith throughout history have been broad enough to encompass people who disagreed on the non-essentials of the faith. ... I believe once we start down this creedal path it becomes a very, very slippery slope. We end up violating every historic Baptist principle upon which our denomination has been built, and eventually seek to squelch conscientious dissent."

Can anyone deny this slippery slope began in the 1970s? Who gets to decide what are the non-essentials? Is it fair to call for unity and charity only when we find ourselves outside of the sanctioned doctrinal box, or do we have a responsibility acknowledge that this creedal path began decades ago and we just now noticed? Or is the reality that we're comfortable narrowing the parameters as long as they are not too narrow for me.

While I suspect most of you will disagree with me, I think the conversation is important. Grace and peace to you.

Bob Cleveland said...

Wade: You are generous in your assessments. You are to be commended for that.

I'm not as generous. I have seen, for 40 years, churches formulating rules to try to guarantee that which they do not trust God to do. That's the most beneficial interpretation I can give to what's happening. By their own actions, I firmly believe the Board is setting up its own failure.

Much of life is deciding what to interpret literally and what to interpret figuratively. I surmise that the IMB Board does that with references to those who speak in a tongue, speaking only to God. Likewise for passages which state those who do, edify themselves.

As to Baptism: on the one hand, we preach that the "church" is not an organization, but rather then Body of Christ. If that's true, and the ordinance of baptism is a "church" function, then the obvious meaning is it's only to be administered by born-again Christians.

Committees are OK in some roles, but it was a committee that decided not to take the Promised Land. By their actions, the IMB Board may be doing the same thing.

Hang in there, Brother.

Anonymous said...

This is the same issue that many reformed and Calvinist brothers are facing in the Convention today. Some Southern Baptist would believe that it is heresy to hold to a reformed theology. The Baptist Faith and Message is a confessional statement, an umbrella of sorts, that guides our denomination but also allows a certain amount of freedom to disagree on biblical positions and still be Southern Baptist. Maybe at he very heart of these challenges is a need for education, historically as to who Southern Baptist are as a confessional people and biblically as to what Scripture says.

Anonymous said...


After posting earlier, I just had the time and opportunity to read the position papers from BOT. I'm really stunned by the spirit in which these papal bulls are delivered. And yes, you read me right. We give lip service to "priesthood of the believer" and yet these white papers from BOT seem to claim that the BOT are the only authorized interpretor of scripture. I thought the Author was. Does nobody understand that Christianity is a relationship with a RISEN, LIVING Lord, not a phariseeical (pardon the invention of a word)interpretation of some man's ideas of past books and documents on scripture? I don't get it. Christ is not dead! Once again, go back to the fruits. How does this fruit smell? Does this ease burdens, or impose them?

I second my previous post.

Den Mother said...

If we are going to quote our Baptist forebears (as did the postion papers), let us not proof text their writings. Dr. Hershel Hobbs wrote the expostion for the January-March 1989 Sunday School lesson study guide "Studying Adult Life and Work Lessons." The theme for the quarter was "Being the Church," a study of I Corinthians. The three units were "Finding the Basis for Unity," "Facing Difficult Questions," and "Following the Way of Love," topics so appropriate to the current situation.

In the discussion of the tongues issue, Hobbs states that "interpreters differ as to the meaning of tongues." He goes on to describe the two viewpoints of tongues being either "...an ecstatic utterance, a heavenly or prayer language" or "the Spirit's gift which enabled the apostles, possibly others, to speak a language other than their own without having studied it." He says his own view is that tongues in Corinth "was the same gift as at Pentecost," (an actual language) but he concludes by saying, "One cannot be dogmatic about either of these two views. Each person will interpret chapter 14 from his or her own viewpoint. But one thing is clear. Paul regarded prophecy as a more important gift than tongues." Let it be noted with irony that Dr. Hobbs dedicated this volume to "My Colleagues on the Peace Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention."

And "Miss Bertha," in her book "How the Holy Spirit Filled My Life," (quoted in the position paper) displayed no love for the modern American charismatic movement. But what was her experience on the field to some phenomena that she encountered? In Chapter 10: "Beware of Special Experiences Calling Attention to Self" (in which she does lament the charismatic movement in the US) p. 116, she writes:
"Twice I heard something in prayer which may have been called praying in tongues. It was not in a meeting, just in prayer with two or three.
A devout Chinese woman and I were praying together over a serious situation in the church where we worked in North China. We were sorely burdened and crying for the Lord to undertake in the matter. Suddenly the woman went off into utterances which I did not understand, but my heart kept crying to the Lord in perfect harmony with hers. I never let her know but that I thought she was speaking perfect Mandarin. I feared the devil would make her proud of having done something special. The next Sunday morning the man causing the trouble arose and humbly confessed his wrong to the church. I still kept the woman’s prayer secret. I thought that the Lord wanted only the two of us to know about it.
The second instance was when a Chinese Christian worker and I were praying with a Chinese Bible teacher whom we recognized as a Spirit-filled woman. As we humbled ourselves under the mighty hand of God, he opened the windows of heaven and filled our souls with joy unspeakable.
All that I could do was kneel at my chair and laugh, knowing that I could not put into words my praise. I did not try. The Bible teacher, in her effort to express her praise, went into sounds which I did not understand, but my heart was one with her praising the Lord.
It seems wise to share in public those blessings that are given publicly and to keep secret those received in private. If some are given ability to speak in an "unknown tongue" in private, as Paul enjoyed, would it to be safer to keep them in private?
Could the first case have been the Holy Spirit praying through the woman with groanings which could not be expressed in human language (Rom 8:26)? If he prays with groans, could he not also praise with inexpressible ecstasy?
Or, could it have been in both experiences that the women were trying to talk to the Lord when they could not control their vocal organs to do so?
(p.123) My tongue is the Lord’s. He can take hold of it anytime that it will please him and produce any kind of sounds that he wants to for his own glory, but I surely do not want to give place to the devil, to excel, or try to prove that I am spiritual."

I present these quotes not as a defense of the charismatic movement; I saw too much discord among churches in the late 60s and early 70s to have any fond feelings for what I perceive as excesses. But the sanctity of the prayer closet should not be invaded. What part of "private" do we not understand?

Anonymous said...

Why not check with what the early fathers thought about these issues. It seems to me that this thing is like a dog chasing its tail, going round and round for many years. The players come and go but the issues remain. There is a role for history and drawing on what the early generations of church leaders taught, some having been disciples of Apostles. Unless we're supposed believe that nothing that happened before the 17th century is relevant.

Kevin said...

I took a little more time to read and re-read all the information in your post today I hope that is the reason that you don’t have as many comments as of this afternoon. To be honest on the most part the 2 articles on baptism and tongues I agree with, but it seems vague to me when I compare the policy on the 2 issues. For instance in my opinion all but that last point on baptism I completely agree with. The issue is inside the church and who can “legally” baptize. If that is the case I know that two of my daughter’s according to my understanding of the policy would not be allowed to be a missionary. (Since I baptized my youngest as an elder and not an ordained Pastor. And if I am reading the policy right also my oldest daughter was baptized by my dad who is an ordained pastor but not the pastor of the church we were members of.) If I am reading it wrong what would prevent others from doing the same? According to the article on tongues it simply placed the personal prayer languages with that of the “Unknown Tongues”. I don’t agree with that opinion of scripture does that make me unfit to be a pastor of a southern Baptist church? I believe that will be the direction this will eventually take then as has been said the non-essential doctrine will now be right there with salvation. My question then is this what can be done? I agree that going to Greensboro is a start but at the same time to effectively make changes we will and must as the Young Baptist get involved with the SBC and also become leaders.(Which in my opinion is the reason many of the older leaders a saying we are just after the power.) You can’t make a change with out getting involved. My biggest issue is that the IMB is trying to be some kind of prayer and baptism police. When will that kind of thinking end? I like the explanation given by Dr. Storm on the tongues issue

But wait a minute,” responds the cessationist. “The crucial issue with Paul isn’t whether he speaks in tongues, but what is appropriate in the public assembly of the church. Paul is determined only to do what is cognitively rational and thus edifying to others in the meeting of the church.”
So, how do we resolve this problem? It’s really not that difficult. Paul has said that tongues-speech in the public gathering of the church is prohibited, unless there is an interpretation. Since the purpose of such meetings is the edification of other believers, Paul prefers to speak in a language all can understand. Consequently, he rarely speaks in tongues in a public setting.
However, if Paul speaks in tongues more frequently and fervently than anyone else, yet in church almost never does (preferring there to speak in a way all can understand), where does he speak in tongues? In what context would the affirmation of v. 18 take shape? The only possible answer is that Paul exercised his remarkable gift in private, in the context of his personal, devotional intimacy with God. Again, the only grounds I can see for objecting to this scenario is the reluctance that many cessationists (such as the majority on the IMB board) have for spiritual experiences that bypass or transcend the mind.

If I am off base on these Questions I would love to be corrected. I believe as Wade does that I can work with men who disagree in these matters as long as the Salvation doctrine is not add to or taken away from.


Anonymous said...

Starting with John Wycliff many men risk their lives and sometimes died to translate and interpret the Bible so that the common man could read and interpret it for themselves.

The Catholic Church held that only church authorities had the God given right to translate and interpret scripture.

Now Baptist authorities now seem to agree with the Catholics.

Anonymous said...

I think I hit the wrong key and deleted my post. If this is a duplicate please forgive.
I find your comment "once we start down this creedal path" very interesting. It is said that the late Foy Valentine commented in 1963 that the "new" BFM was a begining toward a creed that Southern Baptists would come to regret. Then the 2000 BFM came along and employees and others were required to sign, what if not a creed, was certainly a formal statement of religious belief. Is it possible that some of the leadership of the "resurgance" are coming to understand some of the reasons many of us have warned against most of the changes of the last 20+ years?

Bry M. said...

I have been interested in all sides of this issue. I really can see both sides, which makes me somewhat wishy-washy I suppose. In my opinion, the issue will never be settled. The debate, on baptism has been going on since the birth of the church. Let’s face it, the scriptures are not entirely clear or there wouldn’t be this debate to start with. The early Church used councils to work out major differences as we see in the book of Acts and later in the fourth through the eighth centuries. Were they always right? Probably not but the church came together, debated the issues at hand and then for the most part abided by what was decided. Is this a precedent that should be followed today? I guess it would not be so easy with the number of leaders we have today. The debate is taking place but there is no formal way to decide by whose decision we will follow. Maybe the convention is a counsel of sorts. It is my prayer that it can be worked out and the decision will be observed and followed by all involved. I don’t think the followers of the Judaizers were happy with the counsel in Jerusalem but for the most part the church has abided by those guidelines.

Alan Cross said...

My grief at these statements by the BOT is overwhelming. Good, sincere, brilliant, Christians who hold the Word of God to be inerrant and infallible, are as conservative as is possible, and are experts in the original languages, theology, and church history have come to different conclusions on what we could all say are disputable matters. The beauty of the BF&M is that it allows for cooperation with those who disagree on nonessentials. The BOT is, in effect saying, that these issues are not disputable matters and are at the core of our faith. The door to missions is being closed to some incredible people and therefore we lose our reason to cooperate at all. Without missions, we have no real reason to be together. I pray that they are acting in ignorance because the damage that is about to be done will rip our convention to shreds, or show exactly how given to man's traditions we have actually become when these resolutions are accepted by baptists who refuse to think for themselves. This is a very sad day.

Bob Cleveland said...

I feel the need to add one point. In Acts 2, it is stated that, as the disciples were speaking in the unknown language, that each (one) standing outside heard them (plural) speaking in his (singular) language. Even stronger, the word is dialektos. There may have been more dialects than languages, too. But the big point is that the folks outside heard all them inside speaking the same language, one which the listener heard as his own dialect.

If they'd been speaking 15 or 20 different known languages inside, I seriously doubt anyone outside could have understood anything.

What would be more miraculous than a language all could hear as their own?

Also, what would be the purpose, today, of having an American come to a meeting and speak in French, and have someone interpret it into English? Why would God communicate that way? What would make being able to interpret French into English a "gift"?

Perhaps it's true that people are reluctant to accept the miraculous. It certainly looks like it.

That it is happening at such high levels is nothing short of tragic.

Anonymous said...

Where does the claim that the last prophet baptized Jesus come from? Is the book of Revelation not a prophetic writing? Isn't John's writing of coming times considered prophetic? Is the IMBoT saying the author of Revelation was not John the apostle but John the Baptist?
I thought I remembered that Paul prophesied about the second coming lest we be ignorant about such things. I do not understand how John the Baptist could be considered the "last prophet", but then I do not have any formal training in Biblical studies. :-)

Evangelical Orthodoxy said...

den mother, thank you for quoting Dr. Hobbs, probably the greatest Baptist theologian of at least the last half of the 20th Century if not the entire century. Had we been able to follow his wisdom, I think we would have the fastest-growing denomination in the world.

Gary Snowden said...

In your second point you write, "I believe once we start down this creedal path it becomes a very, very slippery slope. We end up violating every historic Baptist principle upon which our denomination has been built, and eventually seek to squelch conscientious dissent." You mention this specifically with relation to exceeding the BF&M 2000. I would suggest that the BF&M 2000 itself was a seismic shift toward credalism in the SBC. While the IMB officially reports that some 70 missionaries resigned or were eventually fired for refusing to agree to conduct their ministry in accordance with and not contrary to the BF&M 2000, I know from conversations with many former missionary colleagues that some who choose to resign cited reasons other than disagreement with the BF&M 2000 as the motive for their decision. In some cases, they were hedging their bets as they didn't know what their refusal to sign it might signify for future ministry opportunities in the U.S. Others of us forthrightly stated that we had serious issues with several of the changes introduced into the 2000 document. The fact that at least 2 of the largest state conventions have refused to ratify and adopt this latest confession of faith ought to indicate some serious problems with its emphatic pronouncements in certain areas of doctrine. I would suggest that those too are non-essentials and are matters best left to each individual congregation to decide, respecting that time-honored Baptist distinctive of the autonomy of the local church. As an aside, while lip service is still given to local church autonomy in the BF&M 2000, its practice is effectively denied by many of the interpretations that are espoused.

Anonymous said...

Just want to apologize to you Wade. I was the anonymous one that made the comment about Dr. Storm anf Dr. Rankin. I went to Church last night and on the way I realized there was sarcasm in my post. I really did'nt mean it to be that way. I do struggle with these mysterious things and in the future I will try to expel any sarcasm. And also if ever I have anything more to say I will sign my name. I'm blessed because I am saved by the Grace, mercy and love of God.

wadeburleson.org said...


Of all the posts I have written, of all the comments I have allowed to be posted on my blog, your last comment is worth it all to me.

The spirit exampled in your comment above is the very thing I am asking God to create in our convention.

Not only are you forgiven, you have taught me today that God is at work, one person at a time.

Thanks Jim.

Groseys messages said...

Dear Brother Wade,
Your comment on "the creedal path reminds me of something James S Stewart once said,

By: James S. Stewart

"The only saving faith", said Luther, "is that which casts itself on God for life or death"; and Paul, whose faith was of that gallant kind, whose religion was a daily risk, who had no comfortable illusions about the forces antagonistic to Jesus was the least likely of men to be seduced into the intricacies of speculations remote from the urgent realities of life.

One name by which Christianity, quite early in its career, came to be known was the simple expression "The Way". It referred primarily to a way of living, not a way of thinking. Christianity, on the mission-fields where Paul's work was done, meant first and foremost (as it still means on the Church's mission-fields, and ought indeed to mean everywhere) a new quality of life, a life in Christ, God-given, supernatural, victorious.

When Celsus at a later day parodied the Christian preachers, putting on their lips the parrot-cry "Only believe, only believe," shifting the emphasis from a life to be lived to a system to be credulously submitted to, he knew himself that it was parody, the exact reverse of the truth. The first century mission Churches in Asia and Europe made headway precisely because they confronted the world with a way of life, and not with a speculative system. The situation Paul was addressing demanded a great simplicity. And that is what the apostle offered ­ the simplicity of Christ, the life in Christ.

It was faith in Christ, not faith in any creed or articles about Christ, that was "the master-light of all his seeing." Men do not gamble with their lives, nor stake their souls, on abstract truths and systems; but a great love is different. They will do it; Paul did it, for that.

Historical data and reminiscences you can rationalize: a living Lord you can only proclaim. There must, of course, have been considerable difference, both of matter and of manner, between the apostle's preaching and the letters which he wrote; but let us not forget that he, Paul, was a preacher first and a writer second. And both spheres ­ preaching and writing ­ were ruled by one great fact ­ the fact of a living, present Lord; and by one all-decisive experience ­ the experience of union and communion with Him. This was the apostle's calling. This was his sole vocation and concern. This it was for which he had been born. He came to bring, not a system, but the living Christ.

From: A Man in Christ: The Vital Elements of Paul's Religion. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House. Pgs. 5-8.

A quick question from Grosey:

1. Can the Systematic theological expressions of Christ be separated from the Living Christ?
Yes, in the adherence to formal creeds without personal faith. For faith is the ascent of the mind to theological truths about Christ and the consent of the heart to the Christ Himself.

2.. Can the Living Christ be separated from the systematic theological expressions of His Person? No! For the ascent of the mind is necessarily in place before there can be the consent of the heart to the Living Christ.

BOTH are necessary!

Unknown said...

Bro. Wade,

I posted this comment over on the Founders Blog, but I would like to post it here also... Thanks

In a Letter to Southern Baptist Pastors Tom Hatley, Chairman, International Mission Board trustees, Southern Baptist Convention, made the following comments concerning the new IMP policy on (baptism and tongues):

“The need to address these areas (baptism and tongues) has been discussed from time to time for more than a decade. The decisions that were recently made have been matters of review and study for more than two and a half years. Similar precedents adopted by staff in dealing with these issues have been used for years. They were not as strong as the current guideline and policy, but they were the base upon which the current statements were constructed.”

As a Southern Baptist Pastor this is news to me! And regardless if I agree with this new policy or not, I think this is the larger issue; “What else are you guys working on that we, the pastors to whom this letter is addressed, are not aware of?”

Brother Hatley went on to close his letter with; “I pray this explanation and the included material will shed some light on the process and reasoning for recent trustee action on these matters.”

Exactly Brother Hatley! We need to shed some light on what all our SBC agencies are up to… And to be quite honest, after reading each and ever document posted on the IMB website concerning this controversy I am deeply concerned about the drift within the SBC agencies towards becoming an “Ecclesiastical Church” with decisions being made in obscurity by powerful boards that have far reaching influence on the Local Baptist Church.

This attitude of exercising “Rule” (making decision that most certainly impact the local churches without their notification or consent) over the future of the Southern Baptist Convention from the national level is more in line with a Presbyterian Synod than Baptist Polity. Perhaps I am overstating the issue, but I do not think so.

We have a Theological Contract that exists within the Southern Baptist Convention, between the local Baptist churches and her various agencies; it is the BFM2000. Our Convention has three times gone through the process of writing or reviewing our statement of faith to more accurately reflect "certain definite doctrines that Baptists believe, cherish, and with which they have been and are now closely identified." And each time these changes have been presented to the messengers of the Convention, representing the local Baptist churches, for finial approval.

Now the IMB Board is asking the Pastors of the local Baptist churches to accept their new “Ruling” on matters of doctrine that will greatly impact the future of our convention, the local churches ability to accept members from other churches (without treating them as second class members), and the local churches right to send missionaries through the agency we financially support with our C.P. dollars, all without our approval?

Brother Hatley, you may ask but I do not think you will like the answer.

kanonymous said...

Specifically on the IMB policy on baptism, did anyone notice where the discussion began using less scriptural support, became much wordier, and relied more on human philosophical reasoning than on the clear teaching of God's Word?

Gleaning timeless principles from narrative accounts in scripture must be directly related to the biblical writer's intent. (Otherwise, the case could be made that a church may only have seven deacons; cf. Acts 6:3.) Was the biblical writer's intent to stress the validity of Jesus' baptism because of the qualifications of the adminstrator? If so, where is the clear biblical teaching of this fact? Do we want IMB policy based upon principles not solidly based in scripture?

Anonymous said...

Quotes from Dr. Tom Hatleys’ letter to pastors (in italics). My comments, for what they are worth, follows...
“A problem or two with the “green sheets” process became more apparent a few years ago. It was not a new problem, but it was increasing in frequency.”
What is the frequency? Are there numbers on this? I would like to know the numbers,
“Often a subcommittee reviewing “green sheets” would find the candidate consultant deferring to the committee for a ruling concerning the issue of baptism or of glossolalia in an applicant’s profile. The lack of clear guidelines and policies addressing these areas created an inconsistency between subcommittees. One subcommittee would unknowingly allow what another subcommittee would disapprove. The need for consistency was called for by staff and so the appropriate subcommittee (the Process Review Committee) began almost three years ago to work on clear guidelines that would be adopted by the personnel committee – thus making judgments more consistent.”
I’ve been through the process of appointment. With my experience with the Candidate Consultants, they know what the BoT is going to accept and what they aren’t. The consultants do their job well. They screen a lot of problems out before they get to the committee. The issue of glossolalia is determined in what you write up in your belief statement during the process. Sounds like a problem among sub-committees rather than a prayer language problem.
“At the same time we were receiving concerns from the field, from pastors and others returning from mission trips, and from trustees visiting the field.”
I have heard this from other trustees. But when I ask who, what, where, there is a blank look. I would like to know if these “concerns” are documented. If so, where, who, what specifically? If valid concerns are brought to the attention of the IMB, they are dealt with. Our policies deal with these things. There are people in place to take care of these issues and have done so in the past. There is NO need to go further. I personally think this is a generalized statement and holds no merit. It’s something that has been ‘thrown to the masses’ for easy repeating and thus ‘becomes true.”
Here are a few reasons we could be dismissed from the IMB as found in IMB policy. “Certain conditions will be considered as career threatening in that they preclude continued employment relationship to the IMB.
5. The persistent advocating of doctrinal opinions inconsistent with the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M).
6. A persistent emphasis of any specific gift of the Spirit as normative for all or to the extent such emphasis becomes disruptive to the fellowship.”
I believe if you wanted to get rid of a missionary, it wouldn’t be hard. By the way, there is no court of appeals in this. It is all up to leadership to decide if you stay or go.
“The concerns were varied, but the three greatest doctrinal concerns were the need for a consistent definition of a local church, a poor understanding of the importance of scriptural baptism...”
If there is a poor understanding on the part of the missionary, this will come out during the appointment process. This is all incorporated in the belief statement. These concerns coming from these individuals who ‘come out’ for one day or one week are not in touch with reality on the field. There is a story about a trustee who found liquor bottles in the closest of a missionary. Instead of asking him directly about it, he goes back to the good ole USA culture and ‘tattles’ on the missionary to the IMB. If you’ve ever been to West Africa, you will know that lots of stuff is sold in the market in used liquor bottles. This family happened to be buying peanuts and snacks. This is not to equate scriptural baptism with liquor bottles, just to show how things look differently when you live it and breathe it and not just get a little breath of it.

“...and charismatic problems that would intrude into some of our mission work.”
Our “charismatic problems” don’t come from IMB missionaries’ teachings or their private prayer closest. They come from nationals so hungry for God that they go to any and every thing that has “Christian” attached to it. If they can read, they ready anything that has to do with “Christianity” or they watch TBS (broadcast all over the world) on their little TV sets out in the bush with ALL kinds of teaching on it. When Benny Hinn comes through, MILLIONS go and get bad teaching. Then, we have to go back to 20 year old church plants and try to correct these problems. Yes, they should know better as these churches are being led by conservative seminary trained people, our best people. The “charismatic problems” are not because some missionary practices a private prayer language.
Some of these ‘concerns’ might be due to the fact that these individuals who come out for a breath, are not comfortable with the lame walking, the dead coming alive, tumors disappearing, sick being healed instantly, etc... I personally am not ‘comfortable’ with it either but got news for you guys, it happens and it’s real and you can’t logically explain it away. God is the same God today as he has always been. I get excited when I see Him working this way. By the way, it’s usually not missionaries who pray for these people, but national ‘babes in Christ’ full to brim of the Spirit.
“We already have policies in place to address these issues when they become problematic on the field, and no one on the board thinks we should terminate a missionary for believing something we allowed at the time of their appointment.
If the statement of “It was not a new problem, but it was increasing in frequency” is true, then our policies in place and the way we discipline missionaries should show an increase in dismissal of missionaries from the field for advocating these things. I am sure someone has the statistics of missionaries who have been dismissed for advocating one of these 3 areas of concern. I don’t think you can count the BF&M mess in this statistic.
Therefore, when the new baptism guideline and tongues policy were adopted, they only referenced those who were new applicants (even those already in process were exempt).”
At what point of the process is being referred to here. Is it to the point of those that have done their initial questionnaire OR those who have been approved for appointment. Because, we all know that sometimes it takes 2-10 years before some of those who have filled out initial questionnaire actually are appointed. For me personally, it was 5 years. I think this is a ‘sound good’ statement, sounds really good that we are being nice to those already in the process. I don’t trust you guys, you’ve said these types of things before. Sorry, I am just being honest.
“Trustees have been blamed for having the motive of trying to hurt our president. The force that pushed the issue to this higher level, however, included the president and a few others on staff and on the board.”
I don’t think you are trying to hurt him. I think you are trying to get rid of him and replace him with others who aspire to lead the IMB. Don’t have to mention any names here.


Concerned about "the Big Picture" said...


For whatever perspective it provides, it appears that the current controversy in regard to the IMB is only part of a much farther-reaching drama being played out in Southern Baptist life. And, it is eerily similar to the history of American Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism from its earliest stages through the middle part of the twentieth century.

Now, what I am about to discuss in brief overview is not a parallel that many people would immediately notice because of one huge difference: in its initial phase in the earlier twentieth century, Fundamentalism lost all its battles for the mainline denominations. However, in its initial stage in Southern Baptist life (i.e, “the Conservative Resurgence”), it was victorious, claiming back a denomination which was unquestionably down the road toward full-bore theological liberalism.

Because of this dramatic difference, little, if any, attention has been paid to how similar recent events in the SBC are to what took place in the second phase of American Fundamentalism. But, the fact that they have become increasingly similar with the recent IMB controversy is very difficult to discount.

Phase Two of American Fundamentalism was characterized by increasing doctrinal squabbling among the ranks. Doctrinal statements of denominations, seminaries and Bible colleges and other ministries in the wider movement became more and more precise and exclusive, to the point where what had been relatively minor points of disagreement only a few years earlier were elevated almost to the level of a test of “orthodoxy.” Is that not more or less what is currently unfolding in regard to the two doctrinal issues now before the IMB (following on the heels of the previous related stealth change in policy with NAMB)?

If memory serves me, it was one of Francis Schaeffer’s lesser known books, 'The Church Before the Watching World,' which described the tragic impact on Christian testimony before a lost and dying world which was brought about by zealous, but short-sighted, fellow fundamentalists splitting doctrinal hairs back in the 1930s. Has nothing been learned from the self-inflicted wounds of Fundamentalism in the twentieth century to prevent a deadly nit-picking doctrinal civil war between fellow conservatives in the SBC in the early twenty-first century?

And, there’s more to contemplate here: Phase Three. After fellow Fundamentalists had beat each other to a bloody pulp for a couple of decades over non-essentials (i.e., beyond the relatively small number of “fundamentals of the faith” which had been so well articulated in a united front in the beginning by the founders of the movement), splitting and re-splitting newer denominations and other ministries, some chose to rise above the level of the fratricide. They started new organizations (e.g., the National Association of Evangelicals, then the Evangelical Theological Society), institutions (e.g., Fuller Seminary) and organs (e.g., Christianity Today) to embody an attitude which said that evangelicals of somewhat different doctrinal stripes can work together, not simply fight until only one group is left standing after a series of increasingly nuanced doctrinal gun-fights.

Please understand: what I have just said is not to suggest at all that what I have called “Phase Three” was without its own problems for wider Evangelicalism. It is simply to note: 1) that it did happen; and 2) that levels of parallel frustration are currently mounting rapidly in some highly significant conservative Convention circles.

Therefore, the possibility must be seriously entertained that some sort of counter-movement, or even an exodus, of very gifted conservative Southern Baptists could definitely happen in SBC circles. And, if the current semi-visible (because it has mostly been waged behind closed doors, except to the extent that you, Wade, have brought things out into the light) doctrinal crusade to push well beyond what BFM 2000 affirms--and intentionally chose to remain silent about--continues on its “Sherman marching through Georgia” offensive, it will simply throw more fuel on the fire that may well ignite Phase Three.

Through the wide-angle lens,

Concerned about “the Big Picture”