Saturday, April 01, 2006

Oklahoman Hershel Hobbs on Baptist Liberty

Yesterday I received an email from Pastor Chris Keathly, a doctoral student at Southern, and a lifelong Southern Baptist. Chris relates an incident where he and a fellow pastor were discussing some issues related to the SBC. Remembering a book he had been given years earlier that seemed to address some of the concerns they discussed, Chris went to his library and pulled from his shelves a commentary written by Dr. Hershel Hobbs, longtime pastor of FBC Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and former President of the Southern Baptist Convention. Chris related to me what happened next:

As I reread the commentary I was given as a young man by Hershel Hobbs, I was encouraged that I had been taught correctly who we were as Southern Baptists. Hobbs stated that "in reality Baptist are the most broad-minded of all people in religion. They grant to every man the right that he shall be free to believe as he wants. But they insist upon the same right for themselves. The moment that a Baptist seeks to coerce another person - even another Baptist - in matters of religion, he violates the basic belief of Baptists." He continues to state that "in all likelihood the only thing that would divide Southern Baptists with regard to their faith would be for one group- to the right or left of center or even in the center- to attempt to force upon others a creedal faith. So long as they hold to the competency of the soul in religion they will remain as one body in the faith."

The Baptist Messenger in Oklahoma once ran a four page articles on the different soteriological views of salvation among Southern Baptists. I presented one view, Dr. Hobbs presented another. Before Dr. Hobbs died, I interviewed him for four hours in the Executive Board room of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma headquarters for an article I was writing. Dr. Hobbs and I did not see eye to eye on all things, but I respected this man immensely. He represented to me what a Baptist should be in deportment and spirit.

I think the words of this late SBC pastor, provided for me by a young SBC pastor, are well worth our convention's serious consideration in 2006.


Anonymous said...

You do well to quote one of the true statesmen of the SBC. I know that you did not always agree with him...hey, who of us agree with everyone, all the time? But Dr. Hobbs words should sound a clarion note for all of us. I think it is not only unfortunate, but blatantly un-Christian how some of our resurgent leaders have tried to sully Dr. Hobbs name.

Anonymous said...

hear hear!

Anonymous said...

Do you still have the article that you spoke of? I think you should post it for the edification of the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

Praise God! The prayers of long time Southern Baptist seem to be beginning to be answered. May I be bold and recommend your next readings be "The Way We Were"
by Fisher Humphreys and "Your God is Too Small" by J.B. Phillips.
Baptist beliefs that have been lost or suppressed in the last few years may again become a part of the Southern Baptist Convention. Maybe some of the misplaced and ostracized will even again be heard from the floor of the convention. I know many pastors and leaders have simply stopped attending the conventions because Their voices have been silenced or ignored by those in "charge".

Anonymous said...


The last two posts are excellent. I find it remarkable that you have chosen to hightlight these two particular former Southern Baptist leaders. Dr. McClellan, as previous responses indicated, was at the center of the so called liberal good old boy network that the authors of the conservative resurgence sought to overthrow. And they said of Dr. Hobbs that he was "duped" by the proponents of neo-orthodoxy into believing the sort of things for which you now applaud him.

How long will it be before Southern Baptists like you extend a hand of reconcilliation and partnership to the thousands of Baptists whose faith mirrors that of Drs. McClellan and Hobbs, but who were driven out of the convention they loved because they, like these two fine servants of the Lord Jesus, didn't fit into the SBC of the conservative resurgence?

The convention was big enough for all Southern Baptists before the resurgence and can be once again, but it will take humility, courage and grace.


Bob Cleveland said...

We've only been in the Southern Baptist Convention for about 25 years, so aren't the most experienced around. But it seems to me that the SBC is a denomination which pays a lot of attention to its heritage.

It's completely appropriate to quote Dr. Hobbs in this instance, and what he has to say is certainly cogent in these days.

We've been in several other denominations, and the SBC and its "Baptist Faith & Message" is the soundest statement of faith I know, particularly in light of Dr. Hobbs' observation that the fundamental Baptist distinctive is the competency of the soul in religious matters.

It's been said that we need more often to be reminded, than informed.

Thanks for these reminders, and for giving local folks a voice.

Anonymous said...

Ditto to what Charlie Mac and others have said today. I well remember Dr. Hobbs and have always admired his writings, many of which we have in our church library. Also, every so often I read "Your God Is too Small" and am humbled by it. Two wonderful hymns that bring me to tears are "There's a Wideness in God's Mercy" and "My Faith Has Found a Resting Place." Thanks, Wade, for providing us a place to express our praise to God for His great mercy and goodness. My prayer language is different from those who use "tongues" but I can understand and love those who do.
Florence in KY

Anonymous said...

Thanks Will!
Wade, "not young" Baptists sit at their computers every day with tears of increased hope that our denomination may be rescued. Keep doing the right thing.
I remember an incident where the current most aggresive politico was berating my pastor to his face and in public for straying from the party line on an issue and my gracious pastor replied quietly, "A wart needed to be removed and you tore out the heart."
For those who didn't live it, catching up is almost impossible. Understanding the hurt caused to so many good Southern Baptists is impossible. Protect the future, change the attitude, be God's people with pure hearts.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Hobbs was a great man and Baptist spokesman. I am sure there are still voices out there such as his but they don't seem to be heard much. I think you may be starting to fill that void! I remember a time I thought Dr. Hobbs was liberal. I came down on the side of Baptist conservatives on almost every issue. Now I am much more in line with Dr. Hobbs’ views. Thanks for recognizing him and sharing his wisdom with the rest of us.


Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Dr. B,

I am very thankful for this quote being brought to our attention. Amazingly accurate.

Hear, hear!

Love in Christ,


Anonymous said...

The comments of today are most helpful for thinking and for history and who knows maybe for the future.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that some of the "comments" speak disparingly of beliefs and convictions shared by the "resurgents" and yet are very critical of that same candor when discussions have ended in a vote that didn't "carry" which encapsulates their particular "Sugar Daddy"! In a couple of decades preceding the gathering of around forty thousand messengers at the SBC in Dallas, I had taken my family vacations while pastoring in California at the Retreat Center,(in Glorieta). My family became acquainted with the McGees who managed the FBC Oklahoma City Lodge at Glorieta and through that connection became acquainted with Dr. Hobbs! In fact, at the Dallas SBC, we were in adjoining Hotel rooms and traveled to the sessions several times together. If he sensed that he had been marginalized or maligned, he never indicated it at the time. He just went on doing the Lord's business as opportunities opened! I sense the same dignified and gracious spirit in your writing, and apparently in you public character that I observed personally in his! Some of those "Gracious Good Ole Boys" we've alluded to from the '40's and 50's were just as caustic and political as what we're observing now!
I would also remind folks that when the votes were counted and it wasn't to the liking of that ENTRENCHED Leadership many departed the SBC rather than return to the Pastorate or other very honorable denominational roles. When there were efforts to address some of the very questions that you (Wade) are raising, that leadership responded much like we are observing currently! Have you noticed that times for business and discussion continues to be reduced during the annual sessions so we can "celebrate"? The reminder of Acts 15:7 "After much discussion . . ." NIV or "After there had been much debate, . . ." CSB led that deliberating body to cut to the heart of the issue....and the work continued! In the last 50 years I've had my feelings hurt several times.... and sure didn't get what I had on my agenda..... HEY! I got over it!
I think Bob Cleveland said it for me.... I've tried other groups and methods, our's (SBC) may not be perfect, but it's the most effective I've been able to find! God continues to Bless, and HE may lead some of these younger men other directions. HE did me... for a few years... BUT, I was glad to get back into SBC affiliation! Let's seek Souls, Service and then Celebration! How about recommended reading like L. R. Scarborough's "With Christ after the Lost", Oh, that's right he's one of the Ancients! Still, Wade, ". . .I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints. . . " Philemon 6-7 (NIV) ....and I hope to see some of these folks at the Crossover Triad 2006 in Greensboro! said...


The article is very long. I'm trying to find if it is online somewhere If I can find it I'll link to it.

Dave Miller said...

I have read your blogs with interest and enthusiasm. But here is my question: Is anyone figuring out what we can do to change things?

I am planning to be at the SBC. I have considered offering two motions:

1) That the BF&M is the only doctrinal filter that IMB and NAMB can use in approving candidates.

2) That the trustees right to dissent and speak his mind cannot be limited by any board or agency.

I don't really know if these would be in order, or how to go about it.

There are a lot of us frustrated at the direction of the SBC. What can we DO?

Dave Miller
Sioux City, Iowa said...


Plan on going to Greensboro. said...

I think you will find some possible solutions there.

Villa Rica said...

Brother Wade,

May the power of God be upon you tomorrow in the pulpit. Blessings on your family.

Villa Rica

Anonymous said...

Hershel Hobbs said a lot of good, useful, and even apparently prophetic things. Too bad he has been condemned as a heretic in more recent times. Would anyone now believe that there was a time in Southern Baptist life when different views on a topic could be published and all being considered Baptist. When we respectfully share different views we learn from each other, whether we change our opinion or refine our own belief. The old joke that if there are two Baptists in a room there are three opinions present no longer seems to be true, at least not without one being told they are no longer welcome.

Keep being open, Wade. Maybe there is hope yet that the SBC will return to true Baptist principles.


David Flick said...

Jake, I think this is the article that Wade wrote, i.e. the one you were wanting to read. Try this link:

Anonymous said...

Wade and David Flick,
Thanks for the URL. After reading the articles I found that there is/was at least one other Armenian theologian besides me in the SBC :)

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting document. Dissent is indeed vital to the heritage of Baptists. But I am surprised at how you have co-opted the theme of dissent for several movements in Baptist life that were anything but that.

The formation of the Southern Baptist Convention is one example: the Proceedings of the 1845 SBC Annual Meeting express clearly that Baptist leaders in the South sought to preserve the very essence of Southern culture: slavery. The 1861 Proceedings express this even more clearly. Until the Civil War, slavery as espoused by the South dominated U.S. government. The anti-slavery advocates were the dissenters, and the tireless efforts of the dissenters began weakening the majority view in the 1850s. Yet Baptists in the South demonized the dissenters by declaring, in no uncertain terms, that anyone who believed slavery was a sin was rejecting biblical authority. Check out this sermon which drove home the point of biblical authority being absolutely tied to the pro-slavery view:

The inerrancy controversy of the 1980s to the present is the second instance in which I question your use of the concept of dissent. The SBC was never unfriendly to those who held to biblical authority. On the other hand, many in the SBC were puzzled and concerned over the growing influence of fundamentalism in Southern Baptist ranks, and equally puzzled as to why the fundamentalists insisted that all Baptists must adhere to the new concept of "biblical inerrancy" (a perfect text in all matters whatsoever; very, very, very few Baptists prior to the 1970s had even heard of inerrancy) rather than the centuries old Baptist tradition of biblical authority as being defined as "infallible in matters of faith and practice."

Nonetheless, the dissident fundamentalists inerrantists (a tiny minority in SBC life) were more than represented in SBC life (even at the presidential level) than correlated to their numbers, even though they contributed nothing to the Cooperative Program (the SBC, of course, is living with the legacy of a takeover by fundamentalists who did not support the CP in the first place). Yet when these "dissenters" forced their way into control of a denomination which they had not previously supported, they immediately cast out all who disagreed with them (that is, anyone who would not subscribe to "inerrancy"). They did not like or tolerate dissent then ... and, as evidenced in your case, they still do not like or tolerate dissent.

To put things in perspective, by the beginning of the Civil War, it was impossible for SBC leaders to tolerate anti-slavery dissent, because by then they had completely embraced southern culture (i.e., slavery) and bathed it in the Bible, staking their very lives, being and faith upon the culture.

Today, it will be impossible for SBC leaders to tolerate any meaningful dissent, for they have completely embraced the modern (and yes, culturally-based) theory of biblical inerrancy (and attendant, and convenient, beliefs arising), bathed it in the Bible, and staked their lives, being and faith thereon.