Monday, May 01, 2006

From My Heart: THE Issue Within the SBC

Rachelle and I have four wonderful children. Charis is a freshman at Baylor. Kade will be entering his senior year of high school this fall. Boe will be a junior in high school and our youngest, Logan, will enter junior high this fall.

Rachelle is one year from graduating with a BSN. She will proceed to graduate school to become an anestheiologist, then she and I will both be in the mutual business of putting people to sleep! :).

Our church is wonderful. Emmanuel was a great church before we arrived, having former pastors like Dr. Mack Roark, Professor of Greek at Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Seminary, Dr. Hayes Wicker, currently the pastor of First Baptist Church, Naples, Florida, Dr. Jim Reimer, former pastor of Second Baptist Church, Springfield, Missouri and now with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, and my immediate predecessor, Dr. Gary Smith, Pastor of Fielder Road Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. These men are not only friends, but they all laid for me a foundation upon which any pastor can easily build.

Though Enid is the regional hub of Northwestern Oklahoma and considered a smaller "metropolitan" area, many of our members are farmers and ranchers. However, our rural stature does not prevent us from having a heart for the world. All nine of our current pastors at Emmanuel are gifted men who not only share the load of ministry, but teach others how to minister to further the Kingdom. We will begin our fifth weekly service on Saturday night, July 1st, 2006 as we seek to reach even more people within our community with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I will celebrate fifteen years of ministry at Emmanuel in March of 2007. My passion is preaching and writing. I also love church history and all types of athletics. My relationship with Christ comes first, my family comes next, my ministry is a distant third, and my involvement in denominational comes in dead last.

I, frankly, am too busy for convention work. I don't want it, need it, or seek it.

I have never pursued a position of service within the association, state convention, or national convention. I have served in various capacities within the Southern Baptist Convention and state convention, but only when asked, or in some instances, elected. I was a member of the Nominating Committee of the SBC in the early 90's, served as the Chairman of the SBC Denominational Calendar Committee in 1994, and as you know, I am currently serving as a trustees of the International Mission Board.

In addition, I have held positions within the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma including President, Parlimentarian, and other statewide offices. Having pastored churches within the BGCO the past twenty five years, I have had the privilege of serving with three Executive Directors (Drs. Joe Ingram, Bill Tanner, and Anthony Jordan), and quite frankly, due to their leadership, we have one of the sweetest state conventions in the SBC.

You need to know all the above for three reasons:
(1). I am NOT a younger leader or an emerging church pastor.
(2). Many of you would consider me part of "the establishment."
(3). I am loyal to the Southern Baptist Convention.

Therefore, what I am about to say is not from a frustrated outsider. It is from a hopeful insider. It's a little bit like saying, "Look, don't criticize my family unless you are a family member." Well, I'm a member of the SBC and if I criticize her, it is done for the good of the family of the SBC as a whole.

THE issue within the SBC as I see it ---

Unless we stop shrinking the parameters of what it means to be a Southern Baptist, we will end up being a narrow, isolated sect within Christendom and lose our ability to reach the world for Christ.

It used to be that a Southern Baptist was someone "who believed the Bible and cooperated in missions." Because we believed the Book, we fellowshipped, cooperated, and loved each other, even though our interpretations of minor doctrines in the Bible were sometimes differing.

Nobody can believe the Bible and mock substitutionary atonement. Nobody can believe the Bible and reject the deity of Christ. Nobody can believe the Bible and deny salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Nobody can truly believe the Bible and not be a Christian.

Our Baptist confessions of faith were written to systemetize the great doctrines of the Scripture. However, we get into trouble when we began to either place in our confessions specific interpretations of doctrines not essential for salvation, or when we demand as a convention conformity in the interpretation of doctrines that are not addressed by our Baptist confessions of faith.

How do we stop the narrowing of these parameters of identification and cooperation within the SBC?

I suggest three ways:

(1). Express our love and support in tangible ways for all our Southern Baptist brethren and other conservative evangelicals who believe the Bible.

(2). Make a concerted attempt to cooperate with all our Southern Baptist churches and brethren in the area of missions and evangelism by refusing to exclude conservative, evangelical Southern Baptists over issues that are non-essential to salvation and unaddressed by the BF&M (i.e. charismaticism, Calvinism, etc . . . ).

(3). Follow the example of Christ in treating all Southern Baptists with love and respect, for by this love shall all know that we are His disciples.

I want my four children to grow up in a convention that is known for her grace, love and cooperation. Yes, doctrine is very important, but once we agree on the essentials, to demand conformity on every other area of doctrine, to the neglect of love and cooperation, will be the death knell of our convention.

If I believed a nomination to a position of service in the SBC would be detrimental to providing solutions to the above issue, I would decline that nomination without hesitation. I will do what I believe is best for the convention -- period.

Never lose sight of THE issue. No matter what others attempt to do or say to cause distractions, THE issue in the SBC must be addressed.

More later.

In His Grace,



GeneMBridges said...

However, we get into trouble when we began to either place in our confessions specific interpretations of doctrines not essential for salvation, or when we demand as a convention conformity in the interpretation of doctrines that are not addressed by our Baptist confessions of faith.

--Historically, Baptists in general did quite well when the FWB's had their own confessions and the rest used the 1689, Charleston, or Philadelphia Confession. They were often quite specific and elaborate, but folks knew their confessions and what was meant. They also had some give in the Associations as to who they would allow to join if they didn't use that precise language but got the gist of the matter correct. The churches that formed the SBC in 1845 all held to the Philadelphia or Charleston Confessions (which were basically identical). The Abstract of Principles is fairly simple, but the explanation (Boyce's Abstract of Systematic Theology) explains the Abstract of Principles in detail for us. The SBC functioned quite well on these confessions.

The problem, in my opinion, is not really in placing specific interpretations of doctrrnes not essential for salvation into a confession. I think that's the immediate , but not the long term cause. The latter problem is using confessional language that is intentionally vague in the hopes it will be "inclusive." While that is a nice sentiment, I think it creates more problems than it solves, because two groups see different doctrines in one statement. Take monergistic regeneration. That alone assumes a particular ordu salutis that is not at all compatible with synergistic regeneration. These two sides are thus mutually exclusive at the conceptual level. They can't therefore, really coexist in a single propositional statement on paper. If they do, people read their conceptual scheme into the document. Currently, with both sides appealing to the BFM, we have a growing controversy brewing in the Convention.

Allow me to explain and illustrate:

The purpose of human language is, first and foremost, to communicate truth about God and His truth. This includes confessional documents. Our confessions should not be so broad that two different groups can come to one or more sections and both see their own doctrines in them. They should be clear and articulate the boundaries of what is acceptable and unacceptable. This is the way to write an inclusive confession. On the controversial portions, if the SBC wishes to be a big tent, spell out x,y, and z in no uncertain terms. I've said it once, I'll say it again, I believe the SBC needs to revisit the BFM and come up with a better, more clear confession. For example something like:

On Salvation: Southern Baptists affirm that all people must believe on Jesus Christ to be saved, repenting from their sins and turning to Christ alone by faith alone for their salvation, to receive forgiveness of sins and obtain a righteous standing before God. This is a standard affirmation of Sola Fide, justification by faith, and, by implication, imputation.

Spell out the classic definitions of Justification, sanctification. glorification, and regeneration with no mention of the place of election, calling, and regeneration in the ordu salutis or their definitions.

Then say something like:

Southern Baptists recognize there to be a diversity of opinions regarding the ordu salutis and, at the conceptual level, the soteriological framework within the greater body of Southern Baptists, we affirm the following to be wholly acceptable within the confessional structure of the Convention and its member bodies:

Monergist (define monergism)

1. Spell out the Calvinist doctrine, any historic clearly Calvinist Baptist confession will do for the words; I knowTom Nettles could write this section anew to make the old confessions more concise but more precise than the NHC and BFM's.

2. Spell out the Amyraldian doctrine, identical to the above with atonement excepted (if a mention of the atonement is in a separate header in the confession, see below. If atonement is not placed here, then, because the Amyraldian and Calvinist agree on the state of man, election, effacious grace, and perseverance of the saints, one need not include this as a section).

Synergist (define synergism)

3. Spell out the Arminian doctrine, emphasizing penal substitution, not the moral govt' theory.

4. Spell out what the current BFM says and be sure it is couched in clearly synergistic terms.

--Here is where you discuss calling, election, regeneration and/or perseverance of the saints/eternal security, maybe the sinful condition of man and its effects on the will, if that is part of the framework presented.

Each of these is acceptable in the SBC now, except perhaps the Arminian scheme, since it denies eternal security. If 3 is thus eliminated, then graft the first 4 articles of that scheme unto the doctrine of eternal security (since that is the gist of the scheme most prevalent in the SBC) and then eliminate the last header based on the current BFM, though redefined and have either two, three or four division headers with the requiste number of sections and paragraph headers as needed for each one. One could even include a statement that allows for diversity among these points, e.g. "or any combination of the above positions" as long as it is supportable from Scripture. IMO, in the SBC, when it comes to election, regeneration, and effacious grace we are really only dealing with 2 positions anyway, 3 if you count the real Amyraldians, and they agree with the Calvinists on these 3 points, only differing over the atonement.

You could also spell out what is "disorderly'" in a final section that denies particular doctrines, though it is rare to find confessions that anathematize doctrines in Protestantism. One could say something like:

Errors and Excesses to be Avoided.

1. Spell out clearly the definiton of hyper-Calvinism and its differentiation from traditional 5 Point Calvinism and Amyraldianism.

2. Define the moral government theory of atonement and other theories deemed dubious.

3. If classic Arminianism is left out, define the denial of eternal security as an error to make this rejection certain.

4. Works salvation (any position which makes salvation a work). If this article appears, it should define what it means by "works" (baptism, good works, circumcision, etc.)

For Spiritual Gifts- Affirm the current BFM's statement. Add: Southern Baptists recognize there to be a diversity of opinions regarding the distribution of spiritual gifts within the greater body of Southern Baptists, we affirm the following to be wholly acceptable within the confessional structure of the Convention and its member bodies:

1. Spell out the cessationist doctrine.

2. Spell out the semi-cessationist doctrine and its bounds.

3. Spell out the charismatic doctrine and its bounds.

4. Spell out what is "disorderly" (a, b, c. etc.)

For the Atonement. Clearly state the doctrine of penal substitution. Then: Add: Southern Baptists recognize there to be a diversity of opinions regarding the scope of the atonement, within the greater body of Southern Baptists, we affirm the following to be wholly acceptable within the confessional structure of the Convention and its member bodies:

1. Spell out the Calvinist doctrine (particular atonement).
2. Spell out the non-Calvinist doctrine (general atonement)

--The language should be clear and non-polemic and can even simply refer to other works on the atonement for further study.

This pattern would be repeated in the confession over other articles where there is recognized diversity in the SBC as it exists today. Notice that this isn't suggested simply because the SBC is diverse and we need to include anybody and everybody. On the contrary, certain views can be listed as errors. Rather it is suggested because these are all orthodox positions to hold and the already exist in the SBC as it is now. In our own church's confession, we have a * by articles that we consider non-negotiables. The new confession could * those statements or include: This is non-negotiable. For example, the doctrine of God, the Trinity, Scripture, Sola Fide, the plain defintions of justification, sanctification, and glorification, a repudiation of Open Theism. Either * them, or for clarity say: Unless otherwise noted these are not negotiable items. Items where we accept and affirm diversity are clealy delineated. It's long and elaborate, but note that this structure is actually clearer and still more forgiving than, say, the 1689.

Yes, this makes for some very hard work. Yes, this makes for a long confession. It surely would give the churches in the Convention teaching material for years to come, and the Convention would certainly, if the confession was taught well, have a better educated membership. No, nobody as ever made such an attempt. But...nobody else attempted a program like the CP, and look at the horsepower it has provided our missions work! would do the job and eliminate some of the tension in the SBC over these issues. The problem is in getting people to pass it.

The SBC would very likely be the first group to attempt such a confession, but somebody has to go first. The last really elaborate Baptist Confession was written in the 18th century. It modified the one in 1689, so it wasn't very original. It's about time to draft another. There hasn't been a really good new confession in a few centuries now. Southern Baptists have some of the best theological minds in the world in teaching at the seminaries and, in my opinion, our pulpits. God's people have gotten lazy when it comes to confessions and stating them well. We should repent and draw up a new one, a truly excellent one that is clear and not to be misconstrued.

Clif Cummings said...

My comment will be much, much shorter than our brother genembridges!
Wade, my dear brother in the Lord, if what you have written is not a platform from which to stand and make change, then it needs to be!
I believe that with today's technology, (internet, emails, blogs, and cell phones which provide almost instantaneous mass communication) a 20 year long "resurgence" is not necessary. I also do not believe our beloved SBC can wait that long for change.
I am praying that God will give you, your family, and your church His divine wisdom as we all look toward Albuquerque and Greensboro.
The Lord willing, I will see you at both!

Anonymous said...

You wrote, “Unless we stop shrinking the parameters of what it means to be a Southern Baptist, we will end up being a narrow, isolated sect within Christendom and lose our ability to reach the world for Christ.”
That is well said. Is it too personal to ask if you came to this conclusion slowly or was it the Damascus road?
With me, it was the 1997 letter ASKING missionaries to follow God-appointed leaders whether they understood or agreed. So my eyes were open when the BFM COMMANDED them.
This BFM specialized on shrinking parameters such as who submits to whom, who cannot be pastors, churches are governed, etc.
The best solution is not writing up a new BFM such as genebridges suggested, even though he has good ideas, but to go with a proven BFM that did not shrink parameters but covered our basic beliefs—the 1963 BFM.

genebridges said it was bad when two groups can see different doctrines in one statement. This described what happened in the Early Church’s letter to Gentiles. One group thought the letter was rules as a result of being saved and the other thought of them as requirements to be saved. One group won when they slipped in the word ‘necessary.’

Yes, I know, I have a one track mind, but we need to know history so we will not repeat the bad part.
Rex Ray

Anonymous said...

Please don't let Gene Bridges write these clarifying documents! Gene you are obviously a brilliant man, but 99.9% of Southern Baptists have no idea what you just said nor do they care too. 100% of lost people have no clue about what you said, nor do they need to. When we are talking about essentials of the faith, we sure need to put it in plain English. If that is what the missions professor meant when he said our M's are "theological novices", then I prefer to remain a novice.

Anonymous said...


You and I appear to be about the same age. I have four children as well, my oldest two are graduating high school this year.

I am, however in my first pastorate. I have no formal seminary education: I am mostly self educated when it comes to that--reading the works of such as Spurgeon, Finney, Murray, Moody, etc. and mostly just reading scripture and listening to what the Spirit says. I've learned a lot by trial and error---letting the Lord's rod and staff correct me. Smarts sometimes, to be struck by the rod of correction, but thank God for it.

I guess I said all that to say this: I am an outsider to SBC politics, not by choice (not that I care for politics, anyway). I lack the human credentials to be asked to pastor a large church or be asked to be a denominational insider. I have a great heritage in the SBC, handed down, as it were, by my grandfather. I have seen God work mightily in my church and community. But that does not count in these circles where one is judged, not by the Spirit, but by the flesh. Those out there like me, and there are a lot of us, will always be on the outside of a crony-driven, center-focused, self-exalting organization. (Ouch)

I know that those are tough words--but true ones. We boast in what we do, but not in Christ. We have a tendency to say "we are right, and all you are wrong", and "look at me (or us)and all I (we) am doing", becoming increasingly phariseeical and haughty, as though we had all the answers, instead of pointing to a Christ with all the answers. Do you see what I'm saying? This attitude is a worship of self--not of Christ. It causes us to be increasingly picky about who we associate with, and ever more condemning of others. It is nothing short of idolatry. Lord God forgive us!

Gene, you make one excellent point that really stands out to me. As a group, Baptists are poorly educated when it comes to the topics you are addressing in a proposed confession. We are poorly educated because we are poorly taught...and the fault for that falls right back in the laps of us pastors. If we are led by folks with doctorates and masters in theology, why does the average christian not understand the difference between Calvinist and Arminian thought, missiology, atonement, justification, sanctification, etc. Not just in small, rural churches, but in big city churches too. What is wrong?

Christianity has been dumbed down too much. We don't teach the truths of the faith so that folks understand. Our Rev's and Dr's are too busy playing politics and self aggrandizing games to really meet people where they are at AND TEACH THEM. We seem to think that if they come forward, shake the preacher's hand, get dunked in ice cold water (my baptistry heater doesn't work.) then that is all we must do. We have sunday school for them to go to, don't we, after all? How many of our church "members" go to Sunday school? Half? Less? We do a poor job of discipling folks in Christ, but a good job of making disciples who are knowledgable in political back-stabbing tactics.

Folks mirror who thy are led by. What example are we their pastors setting? The BOT looks like a church I once knew that split over the color of carpet in their new sanctuary. Pointless bickering. More emphasis on "He hurt my feelings" than on being an example to disciple others for Christ? One would safely call a church with those symptoms dead.

Now, I know some folks are going to take offense at this. Okay. I also know that some folks are going to step back, take a look at their ministry and its fruit and repent and get things right. Truth is truth and often it hurts. Folks are dumb because teachers are poor...there is no incentive to gain more knowledge of the kingdom...we just keep setting out milk for those sorely in need of the deep meat of the word.

Now, not everyone can be a Gene. But all need to grow to the level of a knowledge of these issues. Folks need to know not only what they believe, but why they believe it. Here is where we fail them as pastors. We don't teach them to think, open their minds and hearts, and seek to understand. This leads some to different conclusions. We can't have that can we? Minor differences become issues of fellowship. Why? Folks follow what they see. How do their leaders act?

We end up in a vicious cycle...we've got to all toe the line to agree in we don't teach anything controversial, and folks don't learn...don't know why they believe what they believe...and therefore don't know how to share their faith.

And it's our fault.

I've yammered too much already.

Thanks for the time...

In Christ,


Anonymous said...

Wade, the Lord has blessed you with marvelous insight and wisdom as to what the primary focus should be in the SBC. This Okie continues to pray the Lord's richest blessings on you, your family, your church, and the ministry and role to which you are called. Remember, the battle is His. . .we are but the clay which He uses as He will. . .

In His Grace and Peace,

Anonymous said...


As someone who has deep respect for the SBC, though never any personal involvement with it as a member, I was excited and humbled by your post here. We all need this kind of grace and wisdom. Thanks!


Anonymous said...

Wade: I hear from good sources, Johnny Hunt is bowwing out and Ronnie Floyd of Springdale Arkansas, whose website suggests he is something of a chaplain to Walmart and Tyson Foods may be the new annointed one of the powers of the last 20 years in the SBC. What are you hearing.
What about STeve Gaines, is his time about to come, or say a centrist SBCer, Alabama's Atty General's pastor Jay Wolfe who has endorsed Judge Roy Moore, pretty much and sends a boat load of money through the Cooperative Program to SBC causes, in a church where he is championed by Rick Lance, Ex Dir of The Alabama St. Convention?????

Kevin Bussey said...


That post is all the more reason we need someone like you in SBC leadership!

Anonymous said...

I agree with genembridges that starting from scratch with a new confession is a good idea. I also agree that pastors and professors who are acknowledged experts should participate. In addition, the internet should be used to allow participation by all local churches that desire to participate. There clearly are some rigid positions on non-essesentials in the B F & M 2000. Perhaps we could avoid using our confession to fight culture wars or to eliminate any remaining remnant of past opponents (liberals/moderates) and base it solely on essentials and perhaps on a few non-essential Baptist distinctives on which the Bible is absolutely clear and there is no reasonable alternative interpretation (hint: IMHO that would not include stressing submission of wives to husbands over submission of all Christians to each other or the inconsistency embodied by interpreting 1 Tim. 2 as rigidly literal and 1 Corinthians 11 as culturally influenced).

Preachin Jesus said...


From a younger Baptist minister who is relatively new to the ministry, thank you. Your vision, passion, and authenticity is what we need in the SBC today and I pray that God maintains His touch on your life. I agree wholly that Baptists are a confessional people that bring together a set of beliefs to define their common shared practices but not to define their membership. Creedalism has been seeping into the edges of the SBC for years and I believe that there are many in our God-blessed denom that would seek to codify even the liturgy of our churches.

We must stayed lashed to the Cross! Likewise we must maintain Baptist distinctives.

Peace, love, and keep Jesus First

GeneMBridges said...

The best solution is not writing up a new BFM such as genebridges suggested, even though he has good ideas, but to go with a proven BFM that did not shrink parameters but covered our basic beliefs—the 1963 BFM.

It's worth noting that the main changes to the 2000 were in Article 1, and at the Convention where we voted on it, Article 1 was the topic of discussion with one question on communion, viz. closed v. open communion, but the article itself did not change.

Additionally, there were some changes to the grouping of ideas in the soteriological articles. The Sabbatarian statement in the 63 was removed. Slight modifications were made to XI. The first paragraph of XII was redone. XV was expanded to deal with more relevant issues of the day. The 1998 amendment to the Article on the Family was included.

There were far more changes between the 1925 and the 63 version, and neither of these really reflect the Philadelphia Confession, the confession under which the SBC was chartered. If they do it is by way of the New Hampshire Confession. The SBC is using a confession in its 4th iteration. It's time to redo it.

As far as church polity is concerned, the 25 included a 3 fold ministry; the 63 reduced it to 2, so do you think the 63 narrowed parameters too? The 2000 limits pastors to men, but as far as church governance is concerned, they are virtually identical.

As far as submission is concerned, Scripture says the same thing in Colossians 3:18,19, so the BFM only included a statement the Bible itself includes. It's also worth noting for those who like more theologically broad positions, the BFM's view of marriage is a view to which Karl Barth could agree, as he based his theology of marriage on the image of God and the inter-Trintarian economy of relationships, which is actually a standard Reformed model that he imported into neo-orthodoxy (N.O. being a Reformed heresy and all) so its rather difficult to see how that article is "exclusionary."

Here are the articles considered "exclusionary" by most:

1. The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God's revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.

and in 63 it read: The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is the record of God's revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. It reveals the principles by which God judges us; and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ.

How does one know Jesus Christ is the criterion apart from Scripture itself? That question has never been answered by those favoring the 63 version. Ultimately, you get to a subjective standard. That leads directly to some sort of revelatory encounter directly between you and God. Did all 1963 adherents affirm this? No. However, I come from an area where there are old SEBTS professors teaching that today, and there are several Alliance of Baptists churches here as a result. The Presbyterians following after Gordon H. Clark and Vincent Cheung have made a mistake on the other end, for they have come to deny that we can have any knowledge apart from Scripture whatsoever, but, because of a commitment to the doctrne of continuous creation, they affirm that God Himself reveals truth to us directly. They call this Scripturalism. However, it amounts to nothing more than a revelatory encounter and ultimately denies Sola Scriptura. The new BFM statement is actually much clearer given what I've seen in these groups.


The point I'm making is that a confession must also guard against particular errors. You've proven my point for me, because persons who disagree about the language in a single text divided over the issue.

The fact of the matter is that Baptist Confessions were almost always prescriptive until the last century. If you'd like examples, there is a host of them. As far as missionaries being told to sign the BFM, that would also go for seminary professors, and we have to ask why folks would have a problem with it, since the denominational agencies were asked to that well before 1979.

A new confession which clearly an unambigously delineated the boundaries of what is acceptable and unacceptable would avoid the very thing which you point out. Let the new committee hammer out exactly what is acceptable and unacceptable.

In church polity we also have a group in the SBC looking to the current document that says that the plurality of elders/congregational rule and plurality of elders/elder rule model is out of bounds. Ergo, this too needs to be revisited and spelled out.

Doing this with a view to saying, "These views exist; we are not going to agree; they are local church issues, but we recognize them and that we are needless disputing over them, therefore we are going to explicitly state what these ideas are and state they are acceptable."

Bob Cleveland said...

This is a big issue but I don't think it is the BIG issue.

Why should parameters be narrowed? Why should this "restriction" about unknown tongues and baptisms even arise, now? Why should they be passing rules about how to handle "differences" when the Bible clearly states how that is to be done?

There may be a feeling that something needs to be changed in light of the seeming indications that our numbers aren't what they should be, especially in comparison with other denominations. From what I can glean, the changes weren't instituted in response to problems in the field, so why?

One answer might be the old "I'm right so you must be wrong" syndrome. I don't speak in an unknown tongue, so you must be wrong to do that. It's not necessary for ME to have that gift, so you don't need it, either.

Another might be corporate envy, over a perception of declining effectiveness.

Since I cannot tell your heart, I'll make sure you were baptized just like I was. That way it won't matter what was in your heart when you were baptized, and I also won't have to justify what was in mine.

Where there is not vision, the people perish. That includes the ability to see what is going on now. Too bad the ones who seem to see are powerless (as of now) to effect any changes.

The problem is leadership. Enough good men dong nothing. Enough errant vocal ones doing more than they ought.

My personal feeling is that the anointing is no longer resting on "denominations", per se. As Mario Murillo put it some years ago, we've been living on the blood of our ancestors, and the jig is up.

The obligation of those who do see is to "fight the good fight". That way, we don't have to worry about the outcome.

The future of the SBC is irrelevant. God will do what He will do. We just need to do, today, what we're supposed to, today. Including letting light shine on what may well be "deeds of darkness", even when disguised as light.

Anonymous said...

The main criticism I have of the BFM 2000 is that it places human statements of doctrine above the scripture. This is displayed in the fact that the scripture references follow the humanly-derived statements of theology without even allowing the scripture to speak for itself. This is as if to say that the scripture's teaching on the subject needs our defense -- or even worse, our defense of the doctrine is worded better and more appropriate for our purposes than the Word of God itself.

Why not a statement of faith that is simply comprised of biblical statements? If the scripture is our highest authority on the subject, then why leave the highest authority when the only direction that we can go is downward? The scripture is beautifully pointed in what it says and beautifully ambiguous in other areas (e.g. the details of church polity). The problem is when we want to fill in gaps that the scripture does not, or to the opposite extreme where we choose to leave out certain clear teachings from the scripture on a subject.

I believe that a statement of biblical doctrine comprised of scripture citations (without further explanation) would be a unifying and rallying point for all Baptists. After all, it is an authority that we can all agree with!

Ken Dare said...

Thank you, Bro. Wade, for sharing
these very meaningful comments to
us and thank you for your continued
good work as a pastor and withness
for Jesus. I hope you will continue to share , in depth, about international missions and
missionaries. Your commitment , as
a trustee, will echo out in many
directions. I forward your comments
to various pastors, friends and
people concerned and who are
praying for missions to the
world for Christ.....Thanks,
Ken Dare

Arkansas Razorbaptist said...

Amen to Clif's Amen of Wade's post. Wade's leadership is clearly needed, right now -- we all know it.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous in response to your comment; "Unless we stop shrinking the parameters of what it means to be a Southern Baptist, we will end up a narrow,isolated sect within Christendom and lose our ability to reach the world for Christ". He said, 'that is well said". Well this anonymous finds that statement with many questions to be answered. What parameters? Do you speak of "tongues" or what other parameter would you relinquish to "Christendom"? Christendom in infiltrated with far too many heresies. I thought the Lord Jesus Christ indicated that road is broad where compromise and other worldly practices lead. You say "narrow" the Lord said narrow was certainly the road He would have us travel. What does it mean to be a Southern Baptist? I'd rather be in a small group standing for the truth in these perilous times than with some large crowd who already compromises and cries because they can't go deeper into it. I Won't bore you with my wonderful family, suffice it to say praise
God they all know the way to heaven. I don't feel hindered about reaching the world for
Christ. Ashamed perhaps for my own failures in witnessing to the lost of our lovely Saviour. Where are you headed? "Christendom" does not have the answers, follow them if you will but the day will come when you will regret it.

GeneMBridges said...

99.9% of Southern Baptists have no idea what you just said nor do they care too.

Considering that only one-third to one half show up to church on any given Sunday, I'm inclined to agree. This is reflective of the indolence of the people in the pew and the unregenerate state of the denomination. See:

I don't think this is a quality to be admired by any stretch, so it's difficult to see how this makes for a convincing argument. They are as sheep without a shepherd. Our forebears knew and understood their confessions extremely well. Have you ever read the Baptist catechism?

See here:

Basil Manly Sr. used to quiz the young people on this in front of the people of FBC Charleston on Sundays.

He taught the adults this confession:

Here is the one all of our members are taught prior to joining. They have to demonstrate an understanding, not simply say "I go along with this."

Here is Spurgeon's Catechism:

Here's what adult Presbyterians learn in the PCA, OPC, EPC, and BPC:

I'd add that while most Southern Baptists are muddling along in Lifeway's near useless Sunday School materials that most of the pastors I know have to rewrite so that they have any useful content whatsoever before passing them on to their congregations, the folks in the PCA churches where I am right now are teaching their adult church members historical theology on Sunday mornings, quite literally. In addition, the RTS system is broadcasting classes for audit to PCA and OPC churches during the week from all over the system. These are open for any member of the community, not to mention any church member, and they do it for free to boot.

It's rather sad to say, but, from what I have seen here in my corner of the world, our Baptist people, who govern themselves congregationally and should have better access to resources are further from those resources and less educated than those who govern in a hierarchical system. One would expect the opposite given the difference in polity.

100% of lost people have no clue about what you said, nor do they need to.

To begin with, the BFM is primarily for regenerate persons, not lost persons.

I must disagree, I know many lost people who understand systematic theology better than most Baptists. Have you ever talked to an educated atheist or person from another religion?

As far as soteriological doctrines are concerned, is it really necessary to produce the doctrinal sermons from our Baptist forbears that they used to both teach the regenerate and call the unregenerate?

How about this comment from E.T. Winkler. He stated this about the slaves of his day. Ministers who worked consistently for many years in this task noticed a profound generational difference in the slave population.

"The religious intelligence of those who have been taught in childhoold has always been found far beyond that of those who have received instruction later in life. The perceptions of the young are less obtuse than those of their elders; Their memories are more retentive; their minds less occupied with superstitious notions; their habits less perverted, and their dispositions teachable. It is an interesting fact, that inquirers are almost universally found among the young in these schools, and when they are converted and come before the church to relate their religios experiences, instead of recounting the wild fancies and absurd dreams, so common among the more adult applicants for membership, their statements of the work of grace upon their hearts are generally clear and evangelical and in many cases edifying and impressive."

Tom Nettles notes on this: "...the regular opening of the gospel from the Word of God, beginning in childhood, has a constructive and liberating effect on the intellect. Catechisms and gospel preaching, both in rationale and result, generated a foundation too broad and deep for the shabbiness of slave quarters, but it fit perfectly for a house of manumission." (The Baptists, V.2, 347)

Compare this with a comment about Sunday School in Baptist churches left by a young man yesterday:

"I attended everytime the door was opened, thanks to my parents!

However, I will forever be disappointed in the quality that I received in a standard “quarterly education.” I feel that I had my most valuable asset (time) substatially wasted in Sunday School classes."

How far we have fallen. The slave children, it seems were better off than many of our own children and adults.

When we are talking about essentials of the faith,
Baptist Confessions are not about "essentials" they are doctrinal statements and encompass more. If you want to boil down the essentials of the faith then here you go:

Christ died for our sins. in accordance with Scripture; He was buried, and He was raised on the third day, in accordance with Scripture. Repent from your sins and have faith in Christ alone for your salvation. This is the Gospel.

You might want to toss in a statement about the Trinity and Sola Scriptura, but not inerrancy (inerrancy is not an essential of the faith; inspiration is, they are not the same concepts) to avoid Arianism, modalism, and get some basic Christology into it as well as avoid Roman Catholic claims about Scripture. I'd include a statement on justification by faith alone too, just to be certain.

Nothing else can be included on election, regeneration, inerrancy,biblical infallibility, the attributes of God, providence, baptism, the ordinances, church polity, religious liberty, the family, etc. These are not essentials, and you only want essentials. What might be the effect? Well, if you disinclude an article on the providence of God, you may as well call Clark Pinnock and Greg Boyd and ask them to join up, since the door will be open to Open Theism. Is this really where we want to go?

The expansion of confessions is historically valid. The Apostle's Creed began as a short baptismal creed and grew over time to what it is today. My proposal is no different.

we sure need to put it in plain English.

Yes, we do, and I wrote nothing that is not in the Philadelphia Confession. The only big words I used were used to spell out an outline, not provide actual content. Do you think the Philadelphia Confession is in plain English? All the early SBC churches did. What about the Baptist Catechism used by the early SBC?

If that is what the missions professor meant when he said our M's are "theological novices", then I prefer to remain a novice.

I believe Scripture teaches the opposite. You should be desiring the meat of the word, not milk. When those who are still on milk are mentioned, it isn't praised. It's worth noting that our Baptist forefathers catechized their parishoners. They understood their confessions, which were very elaborate. In Jonathan Edwards' day, his parishoners followed his sermons reading the Greek NT, not the KJV.

Pastor Cloud is correct: We've dumbed down the membership of the churches for far too long.

He has another good point:This leads some to different conclusions. We can't have that can we?

With one confession that doesn't spell out clearly what is acceptable and unacceptable and with the attitude that everybody must tow the exact same line, it seems to me that we're making a Romanist error by demanding dogmatic acceptance on every jot and tittle. My fear is that the conservatives who are reactionaries (who almost all come from very revivalistic background) might be just a tad afraid of teaching the people for fear that knowledge is power. "We must keep this from the serfs, lest they rise up and go astray." The Bible teaches the exact opposite, and it comes with a healthy dose of His providence. He will not keep us from all error, but He will keep His people from falling away. He will honor the teaching of His Word; it will not return to Him void. If our people are ignorant, it isn't because God is unfaithful. Pastor Cloud is right again, that one lies squarely at the feet of the pastors and teachers. I sincerely hope those who are the most stridently confessional with the current BFM are making every effort to teach it to them in minute detail in their churches. In my experience, this is rare, particularly in the largest churches.

The attitude that keeps knowledge from the serfs is what kept the people ignorant in the Middle Ages and bred the ground for the Reformation. When I look at the state of what our members know, I am deeply grieved. My church is full of men and women who come and tell our elders the same story: They kept us ignorant, thank you for loving God and teaching us well.

I thank God for the pastor of my home church, Dr. C. Mark Corts through whom God built Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem, NC from expository preaching and doctrinal teaching at every level. The church wasn't organized from "Jesus loves me" sermons and Bible studies; it was organized around the Sunday School and doctrinal preaching. When I was there, we studied theology. Unfortunately, this is the exception, not the rule. Centuries ago in Baptist history, it was the rule not the exception.

Now, its true that Baptist history is littered with prescriptive uses of confessions prior to the last century. There is a healthy way to do it and an unhealthy way. Any confession can be abused.

By the same token, those in the past that have repudiated them have been the most guilty of error. Alexander Campbell is prime example. His association gave his church a pass on holding the Philadelphia Confession. From that one incident, the Campbellites were spawned. Whole SBC churches were destroyed. When RBC Howell took the pastorate at FBC Nashville, they had no building. The old one had been taken over by Campbellites! I agree with Brother Rex Ray, we need to remember our history, the good and the bad, or we are doomed to repeat it.

In the past, the prescriptive use of confessions has been glossed or minimized by our historians. I'd recommend reading Tom Nettles first 2 volumes of The Baptists for more information on the right use of confessions in Baptist life prior to the 20th century. Surely, we can come up with a happy medium. In fact, a new confession should begin with a clear statement on the healthy use of confessions. This is one of Nettles' pet ideas, actually, and he would be in a good position to write it.

I stand by my proposal, precisely because rather than one group of ideas in one vaguely worded statement over which everybody argues, a range of orthodox beliefs would be spelled out clearly and unequivocably--something no Baptist confession has ever attempted. We wouldn't be arguing over one statement, but we would have a range of statements from which to choose. It would mean that we have to listen to each other for a change, but it would keep the anti-Calvinists from attacking the Calvinists and vice versa, the cessationists from the non-cessationists, etc., because there would be no room for people to say "Cessationism" is what the BFM teaches and only that, with another saying "No, it's not mentioned, so you're wrong," and then a royal fight ensues at an agency because of it.

Laura said...

Gene -- I'm tracking with you all the way! I think this is a great idea.

Bob Cleveland said...


A random thought that invaded my brainspace: When I first joined the Baptist church here 25 years ago (coming from a decade as Presbyterian), I asked our pastor for the Baptist equivalent of the Westminster Confession of Faith. He commented the Baptists were typified by the expression "No creed but Christ, and no book but the Bible".

He then grinned and picked two items from his bookcase and handed them to me. He said, of the 1963 BF&M "Of course, here's the creed we don't have"; of Herschell Hobbs' book about the BF&M, he said "And here's the book we don't have".

I read them, as I wanted to know what sort of belief system I was subscribing to. I noted that Mr. Hobbs stated that the fundamental Baptist distinctive was the competency of the soul in religious matters. As a sidelight, I've asked deacon candidates (and active deacons, too) countless times what Mr. Hobbs said was the fundamental Baptist distinctive. No one has ever known.

With what all is going on, it seems that distinctive is being replaced by the competency of our rules and our adherence to them.

To paraphrase Yogi Berra: If Herschell Hobbs were alive today, he'd turn over in his grave.

Anonymous said...

I am not nearly high-tech enough to fully understand the concept of "blogs". However, I do believe that when one has e-e-e-e-xtra long comments he should get his own blog. It would be a very thoughtful thing to do.
To Wade: please be assured of our prayers for you, your family and your church.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to break in on you replying to autonomous who is on a high horse about something I’m having a hard time knowing what he is trying to say. I figure I have more time to waste than you.
He starts out talking to me, but ends up bad mouthing you. Sounds like a cat that’s had its tail stepped on. He confuses the “narrow” road to heaven as the goal for Southern Baptists to be narrow. Completely out of context.
He sounds like the guy that told his wife that only she and him knew what truth was and sometimes he wondered about her.
He said, “Christendom does not have the answers, follow them if you will but the day will come when you will regret it.”
Webster: Christendom: “Christianity, The whole body of Christians; the church.”
That’s more than enough said. He better hope genebridges doesn’t jump on him.
Rex Ray

Anonymous said...

To GeneMBridges,
I have a confession. I’ve spent half a day on this May 2 blog of Wade’s and read it top to bottom except for your second post that was directed to my saying we should go back to the 1963 BFM. I skimmed your post to see how long it was and figured I had better things to do. So much of the time I use the dictionary to try to understand what you are saying. That gets tiresome. It gives the reader a feeling that you are more interested in being brilliant than them knowing what you are saying. Those preaching in Latin did the same thing. I feel this is not the case with you, but most of the thousand plus readers per day don’t have your vocabulary so why use it on us?
Now that I have that off my chest, correct me if I’m wrong about these statements.
1. Christ never did anything in secrete and Wade believes the same.
2. The 2000 BFM was conceived in secrete. Remember the words something like? “We cannot tell you what it says, but you will like it.”
3. Baptist policy was not followed. Churches had no impute to their messengers because the 2000 was secrete until it was voted on.
4. The 1963 was composed by a large group (presidents of State Conventions) and welcomed input from those interested, while the 2000 was composed by small group (15) hand-picked by the president of the SBC that met behind closed doors.

Lighting is getting close. Got to shut this computer down. Will continue tomorrow.
Rex Ray

Jason Sampler said...


I was pumped just at the thought of inviting Pinnock and Boyd to be Southern Baptists (Boyd for the first time and Pinnock again). That cracked me up. Thanks for the laugh.

Anonymous said...

Continued to GeneMBridges,
5. The 1963 was written the year before it was voted on which followed SBC rules of waiting a year before major issues were voted on. The 2000 was ‘pushed through’ in a short time.
6. The previous five statements bring about the conclusion that the BFM 2000 was passed in an illegal business meeting.

You state, “The 2000 limits pastors to men, but as far as church governance is concerned, they [1925 & 2000] are virtually identical.” You are correct, but did you ever wonder why the 1963 changed the words “GOVERNED & LAWS” to COMMITTED & TEACHINGS?”

1925 & 2000: “A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is…GOVERNED BY HIS LAWS.”
1963: “A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is…COMMITTED TO HIS TEACHINGS.”

The 1963 removed “governed” and “laws” because they were dangerous to Baptist doctrine. The 2000 committee saw the words as a gold mine to rule as a hierarchy. Churches governed by others are not autonomous and there is no longer priesthood of the individual.

The 2000 gave false security with a wonderful statement: “Baptists deny the right of any secular or religious authority to impose a confession of faith upon a church or body of churches.”

That is a great statement. It is a great confession of faith. BUT “The office of pastor is limited to men” is a confession of faith. LIAR! It did what it said it wasn’t going to do.

Gene, there is a lot more but I don’t want to make this too long because if you decide to answer, I may have to read to the moon and back. HA
Rex Ray

Anonymous said...

Man, what a great discussion.

Keep going, Gene, I'm learning a lot from you. I want to learn.

Hang in there, Rex Ray. I have to look up a lot of Gene's words, too, but I think it's good for me.

Wade, I just want to thank you, again, for this place to meet online and the powerful way you sponsor and moderate discussions. Please keep doing it!

To all the other folks out there: I'm sorry some of these posts are long, and it crimps your time schedule to read them all, but don't you think that spending a little more time on your relationship with Christ and other believers is worth a little extra effort? Why do you think you have such a hard time following deep theological discussions? You got to ask, seek and knock for answers, they don't just fall from the sky! "STUDY to show yourself approved" Paul said. I want to understand!

Thanks all,


Anonymous said...

Most of the questions about scripture against creeds/confessions, etc., show the general irresolvable problem of trying to make the Bible be something that it never says it should be, the soul authority on matters rule of faith.

Anonymous said...


The biggest qualification you have for being elected to serve as President of the SBC at some point is your lack to desire to serve there. The fact that you have other priorities is your biggest atribute. Only someone like you with no bone to pick and who would work with others who love Jesus but might not be in full one hundred percent agreement on nit picky non essentials, is qualified to hold such a powerful office in the SBC.

Men who want power automatically disqualify themselves to serve. You unknowingly are just the man for the job. If God calls you, he will give you the grace for it, and you will be able to keep your priorities in tact. Don't worry. Moses didn't want his job, but he got it, Jesus at one point didn't want his job, but he got it. "Not my will Lord, but thy will be done".

A brother on the outside looking in. (maybe not for long)