Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Your Thoughts on the Opening Statement to the Arlington Roundtable

My thanks go to John Stickley, who along with others, has made available all the audio links to the Arlington Roundtable (John is the first blog I saw the link). We now have the ability to listen to all the sessions of the Roundtable via internet.

I have a favor to ask.

The opening statement that I gave for the meeting is three and a half minutes long and I believe summarizes the purpose for the meeting quite succinctly. More than that, I think it capsules the issues in the SBC.

I would be very interested in the comments of those who listen to the statement, either pro or con. Seriously, I would like for people to tell me where I am wrong. I would like for you to be specific.

Particularly, I would like to know the exact sentences or ideas in the opening statement with which you agree or disagree. If you disagree, why? Where am I missing it? Where is my thinking faulty? Where I am right? Etc . . .

Thanks in advance for taking the time to listen and respond.

In His Grace,



John Moeller said...


That was the most intellectually articulated statement I have heard in a very long time. I would have added the words “non-essential doctrine which does not change your salvation” somewhere in the statement to insure clarity to those who may pick the statement apart as they have in the past when you use the words “secondary issues” and “finer points of doctrine”. The tendency is to pick a few words and blog for months about it instead of listening to your heart and the feeling you place in the words.

The amazing thing is that I hear your heart and pray that others will too!

Anonymous said...


I listened to your introductory statement and enjoyed it very much.

On the whole, I find myself in agreement with your statements. However, there is one point you made more than once that I will be very interested in its further definition. That point is what you called "secondary issues."

I agree that Southern Baptists should not be divided on secondary issues. What I'm afraid is going to be a great point of contention is what comprises secondary issues.

From your opening remarks, it appears that you imply that PPL is a secondary issue. I'm not certain that I agree with that implication. I'm also not sure that I don't agree either. I guess my point is that I have not decided what is secondary (or 2nd or 3rd tier) and what is not. If PPL moves the SBC closer to Pentacostalism, then I think that it becomes a primary issue. The theological issue may be secondary, but the potential impact of the issue upon the convention as a whole may indeed move it into the primary category.

Until the SBC defines what is primary (or 1st tier) and what is secondary (2nd and 3rd tier), then referring to "secondary issues" really says nothing very specific. Once primary and secondary issues are defined, I may find that we are in more agreement than both of us think.


Les said...

Thanks Les and John for your comments. I have already been helped by them.

volfan007 said...


i guess i would have to agree with les. i wait to hear what are considered 2nd and 3rd tier doctrines. also, thank you for encouraging the crowd to continue supporting the cooperative program and to stay committed to the sbc.

you know, your voice is not what i expected of you. you know how you imagine a person sounds. you didnt sound like i thought you would. les also didnt sound like i thought he would. did you ever listen to les' song to his grandchildren on his blog? i dont know if les did an elf dance or a chicken dance or not....while he was singing. but, it was good.


Anonymous said...


I don't wish to speak for Wade, but I suspect his view of dividing doctrines into tiers is similar to mine. I hold to three tiers. The first are doctrines ESSENTIAL for salvation. This would include the humanity/deity of Christ, the efficacy of His substitutionary death, His resurrection, the Trinity, etc. The second tier are doctrines that DEFINE who Baptists (or, in our case, Southern Baptists) are. This would include doctrines such as regenerate church membership, believer's baptism by immersion, autonomy of the local church, the Bible as our sole means of religious instruction, etc. The third tier are doctrines that are important but one can vacilate between positions without rejecting Christianity or Baptist roots. Such doctrines would be escatological positions, different views on the constituent nature of humanity (monism, dichotomist, trichotomist), cessasionist vs. continualist, plurality of elders vs. single elder (yes, early Baptists practiced a plurality of elders), Calvinism vs. Arminianism, etc.

PPL, in my view, falls under the third tier. As opposed to your earlier statement, if some Baptists (and they do) accept PPL, that does not make them Pentacostal, by definition. That would be like saying if Methodists believed in ONE baptistic distinctive then they would be coming dangerously close to being Baptists. That's just not the case.

I hope this helps explain the general thought on three tiers of doctrine.

An Anonymous Baptist

Anonymous said...


I enjoyed your statement and agree with it if I get to define the terms. I think we see the problem in the comments already posted. Les and Anonymous don't agree on what are secondary issues. The real question is who gets to decide what are secondary issues and what are primary issues?


Nathan Finn said...


I am not sure if Wade agrees with this, but I think that Southern Baptists would claim they decided what those issues are when they revised the BF&M. In other words, the new confession represents what Southern Baptists consider to be essentials, at least for denominational leadership. Of course that doesn't solve the problem of issues not addressed by the BF&M (like PPL), and that is a major part of the present debate--will PPL be accepted as "non-essential" because of the BF&M's silence, or will it be incorporated into the confession, thus making it an "essential." But I think at least those things in the BF&M, whether they fall into either of anonymous' 1st or 2nd categories, would be considered by almost any gathering of the SBC as essential for at least our convention's leadership. So we will see what--if anything--happens with PPL and any future issues that are presently not addressed in the BF&M.


WTJeff said...


You're statement was outstanding and well articulated. The issues, however, go much deeper than just what are secondary and teriary doctrines, IMO. There seems to be a certain fear on the part of many of where the SBC may stray if these issues aren't clearly defined. While I don't share these fears, it appears many do. It seems to me that many have based a doctrines tier level on it's potential impact on the SBC if abused, not on whether it is truly a secondary issue. The root of the matter is dealing with these fears.

Scripture tells us that perfect love drives out fear. How that can be applied to this situation can only be found through the Holy Spirit's intervention. All involved need His wisdom to figure this one out.


Jeff Parsons

Paul Burleson said...


I think you've hit the proverbial "nail on the head."

To have a deep love for the lord and His Truth is one thing. But to function [to protect or correct] out of fear is totally different. There is no ability to reason, dialogue, or come to basic agreement where fear is the driving force. I hope you're wrong but I "fear" you're not.

Alycelee said...

Just a couple of thoughts. I think Nathan is suggesting that a BF&M revision could take a look at these issues more specifically, take a stance thus making them no longer tiers but essential. In fact, literally that 'could' happen. It could go before the convention and actually pass. But would the result be that my church and other churches consent to agree or would we simply believe that yet another SBC leadership has superimposed it's opinion in order to maintain control of others?

If we keep going in this direction, the road just gets narrower and narrower. We will only see a few left who "can be" Baptist and fewer who will want to be.

Bob Cleveland said...


I tried to post before but it apparently didn't take.

The statement is good and I agree with what was said, and that it needed to be said.

There are plenty of denominations out there that will tell you, in detail, what to believe. We don't need to turn the SBC into one of them, but that's apt to happen if folks don't keep saying what you said.

And insist on doing what you and the others are doing.

Jack Maddox said...


What a load of hot air! I cannot believe you would say such things...It was so off base that I am now going to actually go listen to it!


Just a little juvinille humor from your 'spooky' friend!


Scotte Hodel said...

I enjoyed and agreed with your statement. However, you asked for disagreement. Here's my two cents worth:

definitions The definition of 2nd and 3rd tier has been hashed out both on this blog and on others, but is not standard in conversation, in part because the criterion for taxonomy is not well defined either.

basis of argument The "other side" (which I'll leave undefined) asks a different question: "Who are we? What is it that makes baptists different from everybody else?" This is close to but not the same as identificaiton of 2nd/3rd tieir doctrines, and so we find opponents talking around each other.

An academic's thoughts I'm grading project reports from my engineering students. I'm regularly writing that their personal feelings and "growth" (i.e., "who am I") are not relevant; what matters is whether they identified, evaluated, and (I hope) met their objectives. In the present discussion, it's easy to focus on "who am I" and "what's second tier" rather than "what are my objectives?" Each of my students, while working a common project, has different objectives, but still must work together toward the overall project. Implicitly, that means that we all agree on a common set of ultimate goals in the project and, when necessary, can cross boundaries to help someone else with their personal objectives.

Summary in short, my only disagreement is probably semantic or academic: have we posed the problem statement in a way that reflects the discussion? [And that question plainly tags me as an engineer. We can't do anything unless the problem is well defined.]

Frankly, I don't know that I could have done any better than you did.

I'll get back to grading now. You get an "A." :-)


Jack Maddox said...

OK all seriousness

As always your comments are well thought and articulated. Your love for the Word, the English Lanquage and the art of the spoken word is without a doubt top notch. As to your comments....much of what you say and the tone of how you say it very appropiate. However, I cannot help but here you simply repeating the same themes and talking points of the those who opposed the conservative resurgence. In is almost the exact same theme. Now before you jump on me you need to know that I for one KNOW

1)Wade Burleson is no THEOLOGICAL MODERATE

2) Wade Burleson is absolutely NOT A LIBERAL

3) However, I do believe that your statement must be qualified as to what are "Secondary" Doctrines and issues

and Bro. do not get to decise what is a secondary issue for the rest of the SBC.

This is why I have said that all of this will be hashed out in the next couple to three years. I believe that the SBC perhaps will see many good Church's and Pastors leave because of their insistance that the rest of us subscribe to their idea of a big tent and their continuing frustration with many of 'us' not being open to a 'live and let live' type of denominational methodology and makeup.

To them I say God bless you and I respect that you have the courage of your convictions.

Perhaps we as Southern Baptist will be smaller and defined by this world as 'narrow'

Oh well...If I can quote Bro. Adrian Rogers..."God does not need the Southern Baptist COnvention"


Steve said...

This was very thoughtfully presented and makes clear the main thing needs to be the main thing.

As a layman, I know there is a whole bunch of stuff we think/talk about that doesn't matter a hill of beans that some hothead will make an issue of to try to get a political leg up on everybody else. I have seen other denominations make primary issues out of things that Paul, you, or I would not waste time on.

Having said that, I do not fear Baptist churches/agencies doing something that sounds or looks Methodistic, Catholic, or, to get wa-a-ay out there, Calvinistic.
As long as it fills heaven up with souls and builds Christians, are we going to stand on sentiment, habit, or The Way We've Always Done It? (They say the Caiaphas family had quite a run in the old Temple, too.)

The decisions about what the less-important issues are will HAVE to come up from the local church level, however. Our annual national convention, state, and even county-wide meetings are very poor legislative bodies to try to make decisions, and for this function to begin at the top is a sure recipe for disaster.

Actually, the blogosphere as partnered with the local church may hold the key to this sort of determination (of just what issues are seconday, etc.)

Hey, Wade, so what's your problem with a few sports metaphors, anyway? :)

Steve Austin
Hoptown KY

Anonymous said...

Very well done.

I think the Baptist Faith and Message, both '63 and '00 versions, do an excellent job of defining what the first tier, or primary doctrinal issues are for Southern Baptists. Anything that isn't covered in either of those is obviously a second or third tier doctrine, if a distinction needs to be made on issues below the primary list. There may even be a couple of things that I would drop to the second tier that are included in the BFM2000, but that's another discussion.

With more than 40,000 independent, autonomous churches making up what we call the Southern Baptist Convention, there is even diversity in the way some of the first tier doctrines are expressed from church to church. It is outside the nature of Baptist Christians to demand conformity in exchange for cooperation on matters that are traditionally and historically the domain of the local church. The attitude should be just enough to insure that there is enough in common to advance the kingdom, and not so much that it becomes an issue which causes churches to become apathetic, or reconsider their cooeration.

CB Scott said...

Anony Guy,

Not speaking for anyone except myself in this matter----

I think the doctrine of Baptism is more a definitive concept and doctrine for Southern Baptist and for all Baptist in general than it is as a "tier" doctrine of any degree.


Bowden McElroy said...

Two thoughts; first, I wonder if the issues (cooperation, secondary doctrines, etc) can be seperated from the processes we have for discussing them. In other words, if we are not consistently open and transparent in how we do business, then I'm not sure agreement on the issues is possible.

Next, I noticed you made several references to preachers, ministers, and leaders. While I understand why you did this (that is who was at the Roundtable) I would suggest that such language in the future may make it easy for rank and file Southern Baptist laity to ignore the issues because it only concerns the "professionals". I think the future of the SBC is too important to leave entirely in the hands of preachers!

RKSOKC66 said...


I listened to all of the segments of the December 5th meeting including your opening remarks via the streaming audio.

I believe that everyone in SBC life should welcome the fact that there is what I've called the "Breath of Fresh Air" that is stripping away excess baggage beyond what the BF&M says.

As a layman myself, I don't know much -- pro or con -- regarding PPL.

Also, I all this nuanced parsing about whether someone's baptism is or is not valid as a function of what "denomination" may have baptized them (even if it was by immersion) is over my head. I just think Baptists should agree to set aside such "narrow" differences. I've never heard a cogent argument that says that a person's baptism should be invalid just because the person/organization doing the baptism has some "wrong" theological belief -- especially if the convert was unaware of the "wrong" belief.

Most Southern Baptists have set aside rules on closed communion. As a kid growing up in SBC I specifically recall that the pastor told the congregation prior to the Lord's Supper "don't partake unless you are a member of this (meaning this local congregation) church." Evidently, this narrow view has been largely been relegated to the scrap bin on history -- where it belongs. Maybe, some of the other aspects of "Baptist Apparatus" will melt away so we in the SBC will simply follow our agreed upon common "handbook" -- the BF&M, thus avoiding 'private' interpretations.

Your opening remarks set the tone. It optimistically awaits the time when we as Baptists won't be dividing upon theological minutia. Wouldn't it be great if we could capture the energy people are using to think up pretenses to exclude people from service and instead channel this energy to actualy work together to spread the Gospel.

As far as I'm concerned the chief reason for the existence of the SBC is to cooperatively support the mission boards and seminaries.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Burleson,
I am a student at one of our six seminaries. Recently, during a "coffee shop" discussion with some of my peers, I was told that the IMB policy excludes anyone who has EVER spoken in tongues not simply those who PRACTICE speaking in tongues on a regular basis. Is that true?

If so would that exclude someone who grew up in a penecostal church and practiced the "gift" in a un-Biblical manner but has since seen the error of their ways and no longer thinks the practice is valid?

I would appreciate clarification on the policy. Is it meant to exclude those who currently practice or ANY experience in the past?

Anonymous said...

Your words were good, your delivery was crystal clear, but it is the heart behind the words and delivery that I have come to appreciate. Great job.
I tire politicians who stay on message and never deviate from their script. In your case, I must applaud you for staying on message and not becoming sidetracked by tertiary issues. The primary issues at play in the SBC and IMB are too important for you to stop speaking from the same script day after day. If you ever tire of the battles in SBC Life, I think you would do well in elected office.

Anonymous said...

CB Scott,

Thanks for addressing my post. Let me clarify. I'm not saying that the doctrine of baptism is not a clearly defined aspect of Baptist theology. However, a philosophy of "tier(ed)-theology" would dictate (at least as I understand it) that first tier doctrines are ESSENTIAL for salvation. Baptists firmly reject that baptism is necessary for salvation. Therefore, baptism would not be a first-tier doctrine. It is also not a doctrine we can 'agree to disagree upon' and still remain Baptists. Unlike eschatology (where there are a myriad of acceptable positions available to Baptists), you either believe in baptism by immersion for believers only or you do not. Therefore, it naturally falls in the second tier of doctrines. It is a mandatory doctrine for persons claiming to be Baptists, but not for Christians in general.

I hope that better clarifies my position on this issue.

An Anonymous Baptist

CB Scott said...

Anony Guy,

Well spoken and I agree about Baptism and its relationship to one's salvation as any New Testament Believer should.

Also, I agree that the doctrine is a "clearly defined aspect of Baptist theology"

My point, and I may be splitting hairs here, is that Baptism is a "defining" doctrine for Baptist in theology, both Systematic and Biblical. Also it defines us as to our history.

I seem to see it outside the "tier" structure although I know it is not essential to salvation. To me it is a Flag Ship doctrine not unlike the Royal Family is to the British Empire.

----probably not very good as an example of what I am trying to say, so I hope you catch my idea:-)


Unknown said...

Anony and CB,

I think you are confusing "first tier- second tier- third tier" doctrines with "essential-secondary" doctrines. Baptism is not essential, but it is certainly first tier, as is inerrancy of Scripture.

The tier system is good for personal and pastoral theology, but not for the convention. If you want to divide the SBC, have the convention vote on tiered doctrines. That language should be dropped from this debate. I think Nathan Finn's comment is the most accurate as doctrine relates to confessions.

I would be hesitant to relegate to second-tier anything Chirstians had to die for- esp. at the hands of other "Christians."

CB Scott said...


Stand down. I did not relegate Baptism to any tier. Read what I said. I do not say you did not read correctly as so many do when defending statements. I am saying you did not read me in the first place for if you did a logical person would not have said what you did and address me in it.

I cut my teeth on the doctrines of the faith long before you and have fought to preserve them. Again, stand down and take note.


Benji Ramsaur said...

It's good.

You laid out your argument in broad terms (which I think is a good start).

Now, I think it might be good if you laid out, in detail, a robust defense for why PPL (for example) should not be considered a doctrine that should cause a Southern Baptist to be excluded.

You have stated your belief that it is not an issue that should end up excluding Southern Baptists. I think people understand that. Now, I think you need to give a well articulated defense of your assertion.

Maybe deal with issues such as:

"If" PPL is unbiblical then the worst harm it could cause in the SBC is XYZ.

Maybe contrast possibly being wrong about PPL with possibly being wrong about other things the SBC does not exclude over.

Maybe deal with the fear (that might exist) of "adding to" God's word if PPL is tolerated.

Maybe deal with the fear of Southern Baptists becoming "Pentecostal" if PPL is tolerated.

Your generalities, I think, are sound.

Now, I encourage you to break out the scholarship.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the clarification. I agree that it is a defining doctrine. My placing baptism within a tiered system flows from seeing the overall picture of theology, not just from a Baptist perspective. In that sense, (to me) it belongs in the second tier as a defining principle of Baptist theology.

If i were looking at this issue specifically from a Baptist perspective, then i would toss out the first tier entirely (because it would be assumed) and there would be only two tiers: those which make one baptist and those that baptists (and others) hold but are up for discussion (so to speak).

An Anonymous Baptist

Anonymous said...


Technically, Anabaptists didn't die "for baptism". They died as a consequence of their pursuit of a regenerate church. Believer's baptism (though not by immersion) was one aspect of that overall ecclesiology. Since it was against the law to be baptized a second time, their actions towards achieving a regenerate church (i.e., the act of baptism) made them lawbreakers.

Second, while all Christians (except a few small sects) believe in baptism, the issue for Baptists is one of mode/meaning. In one sense, baptism is a first tier doctrine (i.e., do it because Jesus commanded it). however, in the discussion we are having, baptism is a second-tier doctrine because we are not discussing whether one should do it, but what the Bible means when it commands us to do it. How do we do it? To whom do we do it? What does it mean? These are interpretive issues that force the issue to be a second-tier doctrine. Baptist, as an outgrowth of the pursuit of a pure church, is one of the defining characteristics of Baptists and is placed in the second tier.

An Anonymous Baptist

Unknown said...


My apologies. I mentioned you both because I was butting into your conversation, not because I was addressing you. Rather, I was agreeing with you and telling anonymous man that he was mistaken in his tier approach. You did not say baptism was a first tier (or any at all!) so know for sure it wasn't for you. Excuse my lack of crisp, clear communication which is a continual problem of mine, as you should realize by now!

CB Scott said...

Anony Guy,

Again, well said and I thank you for your grasp of history. It is very refreshing.


Unknown said...


I wouldn't want to hear you have to articulate to a dead man that he "technically" did not die for believer's baptism, b/c as you mentioned, he died for all of it, wrapped up neatly in the defining characteristic of Baptist ecclesiology- regenerate church membership. In that I agree, but I would not ever argue from your technical standpoint.

On the tier system, I disagree, primarily because each persons tiers are different. Some place not only salvific issues but also important ecclesiological issue in the first...some don't, like you. So it matters not the perspective from which you argue, but your own definition--and that, my anonymous friend, is what would tear the convention apart if anyone ever tried to institute a SBC tiered doctrinal system...IMHO. But I have been known to be wrong on several occaisions.

CB Scott said...


You are well received and I must admit I get too touchy when I think anyone may be calling me liberal in my theology. Some of us have had that thrown at us this past year and as for me I know beyond a shadow that I am not such as we have been accused. My theology and my history stands as a clear testimony that I stand by the faith of the Fathers far more than most all of my critics when it comes to doctrinal purity and telling the truth, especially telling the truth. There are some great liars among us that call themselves conservatives.

My problem and not I stand down on my too fast judgementr of you . It was, in truth, a poor judgement. and I am sorry.


Benji Ramsaur said...

Jack Maddox,

You said "However, I cannot help but here you simply repeating the same themes and talking points of the those who opposed the conservative resurgence. In is almost the exact same theme."

I understand. However, we must look at statements in their historical/idealogical context. The "freedom" talked about by moderates against the conservative resurgence included, in context, the freedom to teach that the Bible had errors.

Wade, on the other hand, is talking about, in context, Southern Baptists having the "freedom" (for example) to practice a PPL without being excluded from missionary service.

I hope people can see this difference in the light of both contexts (even though the terminology is the same).

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the compliment.

I am in substantial agreement with Nathan Finn. Indirectly, the SBC has declared that there are doctrines worth defending and those are contained within our confessions.

As i said in my previous post to CB, if we look at doctrine from an overall Christian perspective, then there are three tiers (ones that make us Christians, one that make us Baptists, and one that we leave open to different interpretations). If we look at it from a Baptist perspective, then there are two tiers. Those doctrines spelled out in our confessions which are less than necessary for inclusion in the orthodox faith mark out what i (and others) call second-tier doctrines.

Personally, i think confessions should be minimalistic. If the BFM were up to me, i would excise some portions that i think are unnecessary as boundary markers for Southern Baptists. The parts of the confessions that are vague or open for multiple interpretations I would classify as third-tier doctrines.

Systematic theologians, Baptist ones even, do this. One of the leading systematic theology textbooks being used in SBC seminaries right now argues for the "tier-ing" of doctrines.

An Anonymous Baptist

Anonymous said...

I approve of every word and wait patiently. We will never accomplish the Great Commission if we do not live the Great Commandment - to love one another as Christ loved us. said...

One and all,

Good comments, if not great ones.

I also appreciate the humor! :)

I will take to heart the suggestions I have read thus far.

Jack Maddox said...


that is simply not true. Many if not most of the moderates who opposed the Conservative resurgence claimed to hold to a belief of biblical infalibility. They did not like to use the word 'inerrency'. You claim that they fought to for the right to teach that the bible had errors...I find myself defending them on this point. I do not remember at any point a moderate asking for the freedom to teach that the bible has errors. What they fought for and lost was the right to interpret what infallibility is...and they lost


Benji Ramsaur said...


I understand that they did not come right out and say "We believe we should have the freedom to teach that the Bible had errors!".

That would be political suicide.

But that is exactly one of the "freedoms" they did want.

They wanted, for example, the "freedom" to teach in the classrooms that Paul might not be/was not the author of some of the books of the Bible that he claimed to have written.

There is a reason why they did not like "inerrancy" (no matter what they might have said about infallibility).

They believed that "Jesus" was innerrant, not the Bible. They wanted the freedom to follow the "Word", not neccessarily every jot and tittle of the "word".

Surely you know these things.

Benji Ramsaur said...

Quote from Dr. Bruce Prescott

"Education needs to raise doubts and difficult questions. That is the only way the mind can be stretched and understanding can grow to maturity. Immature Christians have no business in the pastorate. Seminary education is supposed to be for the most mature Christians and it needs to expose them to the deepest doubts and the most difficult questions. Instead, all six of our SBC seminaries have been turned into hothouses designed to protect the fragile faith of insecure and immature men. (Note that I limit the fragility to the men, any woman who can survive in that atmosphere is sure to have faith as solid as a rock. I should define this more. Not every man at seminary is immature. There are a lot of good men at the seminaries. But they can’t learn anything because the professors are not FREE to teach them." (emphasis mine)

Hopefully, I don't have to define "deepest doubts" for anyone.

Jack Maddox said...

Soory Benji

Your point is well taken and I agree they did not come out and say these things...yet still men like Richard Jackson, Winfred Moore, Dan Vestal, Russell Dilday, Phil Lineberger (sp), Cecil Sherman, David Currie, Bill Self...and the list goes on and on...claim to believe in Biblical infallibility in the same way that inerrentist fact Clark Pinnock made this very point at the conference on Biblical Inerrency at Ridgecrest in the late 80's.

All I am saying is many of us aint gonna buy that line under the guise of a Big Tent!


Benji Ramsaur said...


OK, I am probably running the risk of possibly misunderstanding you because I am not all the way sure of what you mean by "many of us aint gonna buy that line under the guise of a Big Tent!"

So, if I get anything or everything wrong, then please correct me.

I think what you might be saying is that Wade is "claiming" something that sounds good like those guys you mentioned "claimed" something that sounds good, but Wade, like them, would lead the SBC down a slippery slope towards liberalism if he got his way.

However, is it not true that there is a difference between saying you want the tent big enough to include people who are "free" to practice a PPL as SBC missionaries versus saying you want the tent big enough to include people who are "free" to, as Prescott said, "expose them [seminary students] to the deepest doubts"?

Again, you must look at the context in which something is said. You can't just isolate terms like "freedom" and "big tent" from it's context and conclude that you understand their meaning.

I'm pretty sure you try not to interpret the Bible that way.

Also, if you think Wade is being deceitful in relation to his language of "freedom" and "big tent", then why not question him about it on this post?

I have a hunch he can handle it.

However, don't you think you need something more substantial to justifiably even "think" that Wade is using language that "sounds good" [but in actuality is really dangerous] other than his use of some terms that moderates used in the past?

John Fariss said...

I HAVE to throw my two cents worth in here on a couple of issues. I'm sorry--I cannot remain silent.

First, the classic formation of Baptists is at the grassroots level, not invested in a hierachy. This means that while there are many doctrines held in common, there can be none which are absolutely mandated for the entire body of believers by a hierachy beyond the local church--not if we remain classic baptists. This I know does not appeal either to those who mistrust the local church, many with a legal, scientific, or engineering background, nor with those who have what a counselor friend of mine calls an "OSCAR" personality. OSCAR is an acronym for OBscessive-Compulsive-Anal-Retentive,and you know who you are. I don't mean to insult anyone, but the fact is, we ALL (including me) allow our own prejudices, leanings, personalities, hopes, and desires to influence what we think are "essential" doctrines and theology, and we are very adept at justifying that rationally and Biblically. Consequently: if "we" (and unfortunantly, in an organization of 40,000 churches and 16 million members--or 8 million or even 2 or 3 million--the "we" will be a very small fraction of the whole) define precisely what we believe, what we must not believe, and what constitutes a belief that is outside the boundaries and consequently disqualifies one from salvation and/or church membership--we will have become something that is NOT the classic baptist identity. Hey, I don't know about anyone else, but I am looking forward to meeting the thief on the second cross in paradise, and he was never baptized at all! Seriously, maybe we need to learn from the Catholics, and understand that there is such a thing as a "baptism of intent." And if there is such a thing in God's eyes, or if we can even accept it as a possibility, then maybe neither the mode nor the administrator of baptism is as essential as some are trying to make it in this whole discussion.

SECOND, I must disagree with several contributors to this string who have said that Southern Baptists have already spoken about what is essential verses non-essential (or first,second, and third tier issues) through their votes on BF&M, whether 1963 or 2000 (or I suppose 1925). Logically, this does not hold water. The fact that something was passed without reference to how important it was DOES NOT and CANNOT speak to whether Southern Baptists (even that small percentage who came and voted) thought it was something ESSENTIAL to salvation or even to our belief system. It simply means the majority present agreed with it as presented. They made no pronouncement that each and every article was vital to being Baptist. In fact, the preable to each BF&M plainly states that the decision was driven by changing cultural norms; consequently, when those norms change, the BF&M changes also. THAT was the presupposition for each BF&M statement--that as a body, we baptist believers needed to make a counter-cultural statement, not that the BF&M was a statement that each of the doctines verbalized was essential, and only if understood a certain way. That is also why certain parts are somewhat vague, and why certain doctrines are omitted altogether: (1) they were not germain to making a counter-cultural statement, and (2) different interpretations of some are not essential to salvation or eccesliology.

I do not practice PPL, and I never have. I was baptized by immersion, which is the practice I follow as a pastor--although I haven't a clue what the Southern Baptist church in which I was baptized believed about eternal security or many other doctrines, much less the pastor. But on the other hand: I do not feel threatened by a person who does practice PPL, or is uunsure about eternal security. And we must be careful NOT to make such a feeling the central organizing principle of Southern Baptists for the 21st Century.
John Fariss

gmay said...

Let me commend you on a well-phrased motivating rhetorical (positive word) presentation. Your aim seems to be very clear and your rhetorical style very convincing.

You used a phrase that very possibly will rise to be the central focus of this debate and those who will continue in the future. That phrase was, “matters essential to faith and Baptist identity.” Those doctrines considered Baptist identity are probably some of the most fertile fields for battle in SBC life. The current debates over PPL and baptism are wrapped up in Baptist identity. The debate over election and irresistible grace are items of Baptist identity. The SBC church of my raising was convinced that no Baptist believed in irresistible grace or unconditional election. It was in my seminary training in an SBC seminary that I learned the truth. The first church I was called to as pastor had been founded as a particular “Baptist” church. Some years ago I interviewed with a search committee who finally halted consideration because I attended a seminary where these doctrines were considered and because I defended my brothers who believed differently than they did. For them, these doctrines do fit in “Baptist Identity”. The debate will continue over things like ‘The Priesthood of all believers” vs. “The Priesthood of the believer” as well as “separation of church and state” vs. freedom of religion.

As I listened to your introduction with this post in mind, I tried to identify what you were seeking to accomplish and what you were effective in accomplishing.

1. You sought to make the round table “the” model for cooperation.
2. You sought to make yourself and those assisting you in this endeavor as a champion to young SBC pastors.
3. You sought to draw certain lines in the sand.
4. You sought to enlarge your support base.

Did you accomplish these things? Most probably you did hit the goal in items 2-4. Item number 1 will only be revealed over the course of time. The rhetoric approach to the model of cooperation almost insinuates that all other methods currently employed fall short of the mark. Again, this is effective rhetoric yet statements that also divide and offend.

My personal reaction is guarded. You are successful in establishing the lines, championing young pastors, and enlarging the support base. Herein lies the danger. From your previous post the depth of your commitment to the SBC appears clear. You have stated that you will support even when your way is not the approved way. The introduction you made was a definite rally cry with lines in the sand. My fear is that some of the support base you are enlarging will not be so loyal to remain if they are defeated. According to news and blog reports, several of you have had to strongly encourage Brother McKissic to remain in the SBC camp. If you desire unity among diversity you must also model unity among diversity. If the issues of PPL and Baptism are an issue that causes some to leave the SBC or cooperative program camp if their ideas are not implemented, the issue just moved from whatever tier you place it in the number one position.

There are many cans of worms in Baptist life. Some of them are better left undisturbed. Some of them will rot if not disturbed. Once the can is open, the worms are highly resistant to getting back in the can. With your rhetorical abilities, I encourage you to be very careful of the issues you raise. As you use your influence to rally the troops, it is equally as important that you establish the parameters concerning working within the system rather than leaving or circumventing the system.

As this blog is taking place, another one is heating up in Texas. You are probably aware that there will be a meeting in Mesquite, Texas next month to establish yet another way of collecting moneys for the institutions without respecting the authority that organizes and administratively supports the institutions. My encouragement is that as you use these God given and developed rhetorical skills to lead action for your position, remember the responsibilities and consequences attached to your actions.

Jack Maddox said...

Ok Benji...let me respond,

First of all I am not calling into question Wade's motivation or his character. There have been a whole lot of folks calling others motivation's into question...and most of it comes out of the 'Memphis' gang’s circle of influence. I believe Wade says what he means and means what he problem there.

There is no doubt that Wade is a man of great and Godly character.

I do however disagree with Wade on essentially 2 issues.

1) His methodology as a trustee of the BOT of the IMB

If I were in Wade's shoes and felt as strongly as he does than I would have resigned my position and carried on the very public dialogue that he has from that vantage point. But that is just me...Wade certainly is free to so what he wants, I simply disagree.

2) This whole idea of characterizing folks who happen to hold to a stringent ecclesiology and who have definite views on "Tongues" as being unbiblical (and by the way, that is what we are talking about here...this politically correct verbiage of PPL is nothing more than the neo-Pentecostal phenomena of "Tongues") as being 'narrow' and 'seeking to narrow the parameters of cooperation' is simply in my opinion, not true. Again, Wade and I disagree...fine. Can I not disagree with Wade and those who support his view of a big tent without also being accused of calling into question his motives and his integrity?

The men I mentioned before in a previous post are not bad men, evil man, or men who possessed impure motives...they were simply men who history has shown to be outside the parameters of acceptable Baptist leadership. And by the way...that is what we are talking about here...LEADERSHIP. Who can serve as a leader, who will serve as a missionary? We as Southern Baptist should have the right as a convention to make that decision without being maligned as being 'narrow'

An example of what I am talking about. Recently my state convention passed 2 resolutions, one against leaders partaking o alcohol, and another against leaders practicing openly a PPL (Speaking in tongues). For this we have been accused of being narrow, bigoted, attacking dear brothers and 'narrowing the parameters of cooperation”. At the same time we have entered into a ministry agreement with the BMA of Texas to cooperate in mutual ministry endeavors which we hold in common. For that we are now accused of being in bed wit the Landmarkers. My response...MAKE UP YOUR MIND! The fact is we made these decisions on the convention level and as an autonomous convention we have that right. Just like if the you or your church disagree with the current leadership of the SBC, you are not FORCED to comply.

I simply to not see this idea of "The Big Tent" being the panacea of who we are as Southern Baptist. As Vance Havner said "You get the tent to big and all you end up wit is a circus!"

A far as your comments concerning context. he context is simple. We have a group of folks who have continued to speak out against current SBC leadership and many who have been used of God in the past. The context is a very similar to the pre resurgent days in and that...there is a disagreement on the importance of certain doctrines in Baptist life and their role and priority in regards to cooperation. You must understand that ones insistence of a 'big tent' may very well undermine and intrude on another's understanding of biblical separation...This is the Achilles heal of Southern Baptist life.

When the day is done we will all have to decide whether this convention is to broad or to narrow. However, no one can force us to cooperate and that is the great thing about being a baptist.

Thanks for the dialoge and certainly you and I may have to agree to disagree...but thats OK to...It does not change what should be a mutual respect and understanding of the others position even if we disagree. Keep in mind that the discusion and disagreement is not on what we believe or hold to, but who can serve as a employee or leader in the SBC.


Stephen Pruett said...

Just a thought, but the idea that we are supporting a big tent does not seem quite right to me. We are supporting keeping the tent the same size it was before the IMB's infamous rule changes. No one that I have heard from is recommending anything different from practices and rules that were put in place by the leaders of the conservative resurgence and which worked just fine to prevent pentecostalism and to maintain a bilically baptized missionary force. However, it seems that the resurgence has taken an unpleasant turn toward narrowing the parameters of cooperation. It is not Wade et al. who have changed, it is those in power. The slippery slope here is not toward liberalism. It is toward continous narrowing until there are just two Southern Baptists with a list of 500 rules and doctrines on which they are the only ones who agree.

I believe the stagnant growth among Southern Baptist churches is likely to continue or even change from very slow growth to loss of members, as potential top notch pastors rethink their options when they learn that the SBC is exluding people over relatively minor and certainly biblically disputable doctrines. Furthermore, everyone knows that the SBC cannot be trusted and may change the rules of employment on a whim. Although the IMB elected not to enforce the new rules on missionaries already in place, it certainly did so in the case of BF&M 2000, and it is still possible they will enforce the new rules on current missionaries in the future. How can we expect church growth in such an environment?

It is also of great concern to me that all of this has been instigated by people who are certain their INTERPRETATION of the Bible is infallible, even though it seems to me that the opposite positions can legitimately be derived from careful exegesis. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote, " I will pray with the spirit (based on the context this means in tongues), and I will pray with the understanding also" and " But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak (again the context indicates that this speaking is in tongues) to himself, and to God." What is speaking to yourself and God except a private prayer language? I have not seen any effective answer to that question.

Benji Ramsaur said...


Thanks for the clarification. I like that you got to your points without being insulting.

I also appreciate your belief that Wade is not trying to be slippery.

Here are some thoughts.

If a church had a meeting where they only accepted people into their church who believed in the "pretrib" position and someone stood up and said "we need a big tent [i.e., we do no need to exclude Christians based on their view of the tribulation] policy of who can be a member of this church" then would that person be advocating a position that would lead to a circus?

I don't think Wade is against people having "definite" views (there was at least one cessationist who spoke at the roundtable meeting and Wade led people to clap for him). I think Wade is against people imposing their definite views on others if those views, at least in Wade's mind, are not essential to cooperation.

You said "You must understand that ones insistence of a 'big tent' may very well undermine and intrude on another's understanding of biblical separation..."

OK, but how far should this be pressed? Are you going to press this to say that you cannot cooperate with anyone who does not agree with every jot and tittle of your theology? If not, then why not?

You said "The context is a very similar to the pre resurgent days in and that...there is a disagreement on the importance of certain doctrines in Baptist life and their role and priority in regards to cooperation."

Yes, but the issue of PPL is nowhere near as important as the issue of inerrancy was. In that sense, the context is vastly different.

In a sense, I don't think the issue is really the "narrowing of parameters". The parameters were narrowed to exclude leaders who did not believe in the full trustworthiness of the Bible. I think the issue is the CONTINUATION of narrowing the parameters.

It seems to me that some people can't chill out, they have got to continually "push the bill".

Well, if that continues, then don't be surprised to find that there arises another doctrine that gets imposed that you did not see coming...

And the exclusion, this time, involves a good man named Jack.

Jack Maddox said...


You make some good and noble points, however, It would seem that many do believe that there has been change on the field itself. That the new guidelines are a response to that change. That this emphasis on ecclesiology and pneumaology has more to do with thwarting those who would like to see a change of emphasis in mission strategy...It is my understanding that in and through the church planting emphasis and a smaller emphasis on Baptist distinctive’s on the field itself is what led the IMB to these conclusions.

To think that there are people on the BOT of the IMB who just sit around and think up ways to 'narrow the parameters of cooperation' is silly to me. They have done what they have done as a reaction to what they perceive as a threat to Baptist distinctive’s and positions held both historically and theologically. Now we may disagree with them and we may not even agree that it is important that these things be held in high esteem...but to say that all of this just came about out of nowhere is simply not true.

The bottom line...The BOT feels that Southern Baptist have the right to know that their missionaries are planting and leading Southern Baptist church's...not charismatic, neo Pentecostal or any other type of church!


Jack Maddox said...

To Stephen and all

I do not always agree with Jeremy Greens abrasive style although I well imagine he and I agree on the issues to some degree (Whatever that means in Baptist life) However, he does have 2 excellent posts on the issue of why the BOT adopted the policies that they did.

You may not agree with their rationale, however you at least will know their motivation.


Anonymous said...


Concerning Jeremy Green's most recent article on why the IMB changed its baptism policy, i noticed a glaring red herring in the opening paragraphs that caused his article to lose any credibility.

He quotes Winston Curtis, a trustee from OK, who says he didn't have the courage to turn down an applicant who had been sprinkled as an infant. Then, he goes on to quote Wade Burleson (without context) as saying his church would examine a candidate and if they affirmed the baptism, then the person would not need to be baptized.

The problem: Burleson is not dealing with the problem Curtis raises. No one that i know is advocating appointing persons not baptized by immersion as believers. Wade would never endorse such a position. Green (surprise, surprise) makes Burleson sound as if he would have no problem appointing an IMB applicant who had been only sprinkled.

Just more slanted writing from a 29 year old 'senior' pastor. His writing has little to no credibility.

An Anonymous Baptist

Benji Ramsaur said...


You said "The bottom line...The BOT feels that Southern Baptist have the right to know that their missionaries are planting and leading Southern Baptist church's...not charismatic, neo Pentecostal or any other type of church!"

I wonder how many of those in the BOT could subscribe, in full, to ANY of these HISTORICAL confessions of faith that give us insight into what the original Southern Baptists believed:

1. Principles of faith of the Sandy creek Association (1816, it includes an affirmation of "effectual calling")

2. The 1689 London Confession (Charleston's confession)

3. The Abstract of Principles (which affirms wine in communion)

Do you think they are talking about a 1950's or an 1850's Southern Baptist church, a historical or "H"istorical Southern Baptist church?

Stephen Pruett said...

Jack, You raise a good point, and I should not have written so as to suggest that the purpose of the BOT was to narrow parameters. I do not pretend to know the motives of the BOT. However, I think Wade has posted several times about the fact that he asking fellow trustees for a year why the new policies were needed. Specifically he asked if there was any anecdotal evidence indicating that either issue was really a problem on the mission field. If I recall correctly, the answer he finally received was that there was no evidence. Maybe the trustees had a "feeling" that there might be problems and that they would head them off. I am willing to assume that their motives were to protect the IMB and keep its practices distinctively Baptist. However, the policies devised to do this raise many practical problems, and I believe they will actually be less effective than the previous policies in addressing the concerns. Basically, anyone willing to deceive the IMB by joining a Baptist church to become a missionary just to get the better pay and benefits would certainly be willing to lie about a PPL or to be baptized again to satisfy that criterion. The folks excluded will be those whose integrity would not permit them to do such things. I'm thinking that the latter folks are the ones we should want to send, not the former.

Benji Ramsaur said...


I want to encourage you to continue posting your comments on Wade's blog.

I think God has blessed you with a thoughtful disposition. said...

Mr. Anonymous,

Email me.

You are dead on.

What is so unbelievably sad to me is that people would deliberatly lie in order to seek to discredit a brother in Christ. said...


I find that both you and Stephen are two of the most articulate commentators on the blogs.

Unknown said...


I am entering this thread late but I hope to comment on this topic.

My prayer is that we as Southern Baptists would communicate and work together more. I have heard the comment many times recently that we are 'eating our own.'

I am 27 years old and have been called into the ministry. My wife (Sarah) is being called into Counseling. We are praying about which seminary to go to at the moment.

My wife and I are struggling with the SBC right now. We want to get out and go elsewhere, but we want to stay and fight for the SBC. I am a Calvinist and in the current climate of the SBC, I feel as if I am a Jehovah's witness or something. People in our church so flippantly speak negativly about Calvinism that I struggle with how to respond. Please pray for us.

Thanks for your time.