Friday, February 02, 2007

What Happens When We Take Our Eyes Off the Gospel

A tribute to Marty Duren, Tom Ascol and other Southern Baptists who are reminding us that it is the gospel that should hold our attention and not doctrinal minutiea or denominational 'rubbish' that ultimately divides us and separates us -- and knocks us out cold.


Kevin Bussey said...


That is a classic! That's what happens when men follow women! ;)

CB Scott said...


I still think Marty should apologize to the UAW for not driving an American truck. As I was thinking I realized Ben does not drive an American made automobile either. Could there really be a conspiracy?

Art drives a Dodge so he is clear.(poor choice, but still American)

The truth, Wade; Do you drive an American made automobile? Is there a conspriacy to overthrow the economy of the USA? Is there a left-wing plot? First the SBC, then the USA?


Charles R said...

Thanks, Wade.

It feels SO MUCH BETTER to laugh even though the point deserves our tears.

You and I both celebrated our 45th birthday this year. I was burbling baby spit bubbles in a Fuller Hall apartment on Southern Seminary's campus just a couple of months before you arrived in the world. We don't remember JFK's assasination but we do remember RFK's and MLK's. I don't know about you but my first influences from TV (black & white - 3 channels to choose from) were laughs from Andy and Barney and the Vietnam casualty reports from Huntley and Brinkley. Both of our fathers are pastors devoted to doing all they can to change the world a little bit at a time by the power of Jesus Christ. Both of us have what my spiritual mentor calls a very high "justice quotient" in our personality. I believe you abhor some of the methods employed in the "Battle for the Bible" that was gaining good steam as we began our college years and gained "holy war" status as we began seminary.

I suspect, however, that we would disagree on the necessity of the battle in the first place. What I wonder is if you would agree with me as to the reason we are seeing doctrinal minutiea or denominational 'rubbish' smother the gospel work.

Please consider:
By the late '90s the "Battle for the Bible" had been won. A process for the orderly succession of "safe" convention presidents was secure. The likelihood of seeing a man or woman who balked at the term inerrant being nominated as a trustee to a convention institution or agency was nil. Seminary presidencies were in the hands of men who would assure the right professors were in and the wrong ones were out and they were virtually finished with that work. Yet for some reason, it was believed to be necessary revise the BF&M to, in effect, attempt to seal the deal.

I believe the first step down the increasingly slippery slope of narrowing parameters was the adoption of the revised introductory statement of the BF&M 2000. A Google search yields several comparative studies of the language. I find the following comparison (found at compelling:

"The 1963 BFM grounds Baptist faith and practice on “Jesus Christ whose will is revealed in the Holy Scriptures.” The 2000 statement says, “Our living faith is established upon eternal truths.” In the 1963 statement the foundation for our “living faith” is the person of Christ. In the 2000 statement the foundation for our “living faith” is “eternal truths.” This difference should not be understood as two ways of
describing the same thing, but rather as two distinct foundations for faith and practice. The 1963 BFM identifies this foundation as Jesus Christ. The 2000 BFM identifies this foundation as eternal truths. The 1963 foundation is a person in whom we believe. The 2000 foundation is a set of truths which we believe. The first foundation is relational; the second is propositional. This foundational difference is manifest at a number of points in subsequent sections, particularly in the following section on scripture. This observation does not imply that the 1963 BFM is not invested in eternal truths which, in fact, are affirmed throughout the text. Rather, the distinction discussed here concerns foundations. In describing Baptist faith and practice, where do we start—with Jesus Christ or with eternal truths? The omission of the 1963 sentence which disavows creedalism supports the creedal authoritarian role the 2000 BFM has now assumed in Southern Baptist life."

When propositional thinking is elevated above relational thinking, the only result that can be expected is what we are witnessing and mourning today. After all, did not Jesus Christ come in obedience to His Father's will that we be shown that His law was always about relationship, not proposition?

Marty Duren said...

That one guy looks like Mohler.

Ben now drives a Lincoln, does he not? He bought it from a lady in Mt. Pilot.

Anonymous said...

Charles, you said:

When propositional thinking is elevated above relational thinking, the only result that can be expected is what we are witnessing and mourning today. After all, did not Jesus Christ come in obedience to His Father's will that we be shown that His law was always about relationship, not proposition?

Good word.

Anonymous said...

I would be afraid to stand before God and only be able to say that I stood firm on my doctrine. I stood firm behind the institution of the SBC. I stood firm on my understanding of proper doctrine, Lord.

I cling to the hope that through God's grace this filthy sinner can say I stood for you Jesus because I had nothing else upon which I could stand.

Rex Ray said...

Charles and Bryan Riley,
I can’t think of words that has touched my heart more than yours in noted truth.
Rex Ray said...

I drive the only car the Bible recommends for the disciples of Christ . . .

"And when the day of Pentecost was come, they were all in one Accord" (Acts 2:1).

Robert Hutchinson said...

i don't know the opinions regarding fuller theological seminary but i do like what they say about Christian cooperation. my italics for emphasis.

"The Bible is absolutely crucial to our evangelical stance, and so is our participation in Christ's worldwide mission. As evangelicals, we believe men and women are lost without Jesus Christ; we believe that terrible judgment awaits all who reject Jesus as Lord and Savior.

"There is, therefore, an urgency about the way we go about our work. We resent unnecessary distractions; we resist unbiblical diversions. Can anyone believe that all other activities should be suspended until all evangelicals agree on precise doctrinal statements? We certainly cannot. Hundreds of missionaries are looking to us to help them get the gospel to those who have never heard it. Scores of pastors count on us to analyze the mission of their congregations so that their growth will be encouraged. And, thousands of students look to us each year to equip them for ministry in churches, in cross-cultural overseas mission and in counseling clinics.

"To be truly evangelical surely means more than debating about what evangelicals are and who deserves the name. It means getting on with the evangelical task. We are not a lodge carefully screening its members and briefing them with secret information. We evangelicals are part of the church, grateful for our salvation and obedient to Christ's calling."

Rex Ray said...

To a group that is speaking truth,
Webster—“Messenger is one who carries a message.”
1. Changes to the BFM 1963 were kept secrete. The committee said, “We can’t tell you but you’re going to like it.”
2. Delegates did NOT carry a message from their churches to vote yes or no on accepting the BFM 2000.
3. Without a message, delegates were NOT messengers and were NOT qualified to cast a legal vote.
4. Thus the BFM 2000 is null and void because proper rules were not followed.

Do you agree? Why or why not?
Rex Ray

Anonymous said...

The 1963 and 2000 versions of the BF&M differ in length by 375 words (1963: 3654; 2000: 4029)--342 of which compose the article on family included by the 2000 version but not found in the 1963 version; other differences are accounted for by word counts in wording of the introductory statements and article explanations--but the two versions rely upon identical passages of Scripture for defense of their articles' explanations.

So, what is it truly which divides BF&M 1963 Southern Baptists from BF&M 2000 Southern Baptists? It honestly seems to be: (1) inclusion or exclusion of the family article; (2) a narrowed explanation of the nature of the Bible which stands behind the BF&M 2000 statements, but which wasn't explicitly included in its article on Scripture (i.e., from "truth without any mixture of error" to "inerrant"--though, again, the word isn't found in the BF&M 2000); (3) a basis or intent, some would insist, of the sort which Charles mentions above; and, (4) water under the bridge--lots and lots of water under the bridge!

Who really knew, back in the 1920's, what SBC'ers would be starting by writing the first BF&M statement? Maybe they believed SBC'ers today would be mature enough to get along with each other, if not also to live-out the BF&M statement they were typing!

I think: (1) we all mostly agree with the family article--and can live and cooperate with each other where we may differ; (2) we can agree that the inspired nature of the Scriptures are identical (synonymous--at least rationally), actually--and probably not quite complete statements of either view; (3) we can talk to each other (we've avoided doing so, you know) about our intentions and motivations--and be the mature believers that our predecessor SBC'ers (1925 and before) hoped we be today, forgiving and learning and moving forward evangelistically; and, (4) we can let the water having passed under the bridge go on down the river.

It's early on Saturday morning; cartoons haven't started yet. Thanks for letting me ramble. Get some rest, everyone--Sunday's coming!

Anonymous said...

(BTW: That was David Troublefield, not Anonymous, waiting for cartoons to start this morning.) ;-))

CB Scott said...


Thank you for your answer. The theory was that had you, Marty AND Ben all been drivers of automobiles not made in America that would be proof enough of a conspiracy to derail the SBC and the USA.

I was given these facts by very "KNOWLEDGEABLE people." Therefore, I determined your guilt.

NOW, I find that I was led astray. Ben drives a Lincoln. A Lincoln is the most American made car there is. Also, famous leaders of the Resurgence drove Lincolns.

With this new revelation to the fact that Ben is living the "RESURGENCE DREAM", it stands to reason there is no conspiracy to destroy the SBC or the USA.


cb said...

You guys are funny.

I am just glad that nobody has lost their sense of humor.

Anonymous said...

Good Point 10-40 - ALL means ALL!!! It reminds me of my old mega church pastor trying to make a mockery of the doctrines of grace as he held fast to his traditions by yelling from the pulpit, "when I read 'ALL' in the bible, I read the word 'all'. I don't need some old theologian redefining terms we ALL know the meaning of...ALL means ALL!!!"

Does ALL mean ALL? hehe - Needless to say, we found a more theologically sound place to worship.

This is a nice diversion Wade. Thanks for letting us "relax"...if only for a day. :)

RKSOKC66 said...


Yesterday, I took my wife and daughter to the local Chinese place on 59th and Sooner here in OKC. I think I had just finished looking at your BLOG before going over there. My fortune cookie said, "Your diligence is yielding positive results". I think that fortune applies to you. I think those who are very narrow are just loosing traction. The comments by the Dr. Curtis, Chairman of the NAMB BoT, seemed to me to be encouraging.

I agree with the cogent comments of Charles -- Christianity is primarily relational and only secondarily propositional.

We have had some "fights" (well not with actual fists but maybe 4 on a scale of 5) at our church recently. Half of our Sunday School class left the church. The remaining half -- which my wife and I are members of -- have a new name for our class - "One Accord".

We could have called ourselves "The Cessationists" (or "The 5 Pointers") but that just doesn't cut it.

The guys who are going for a very narrow view will loose even if they win. They will be leading what will become an empty shell.

Roger Simpson
Oklahoma City OK

Anonymous said...

OK, shameless plug, of an indirect sort. For any pastor who ever knew or heard of Pastor HD McCarty, who pastored UBC for 39 years, I posted about him early this morning, and it was very appropriate to the subject of today's SBC.

Anonymous said...

Taking your eyes off the gospel is taking another road. The road without the TRUTH is very lonely.

What if you take your eyes off bloggin and the subject of women preaching.... and we will see that in the big grand sceme of life -- this is a pin in a hay stack. Like the movie said, "it just doesn't matter." ((Blog or No Blog))
We must keep our eyes focused on Jesus.

It's easy to get your ego in the way debating issues, but humilty and grace will always bring back to your starting block.

truth, not religion said...

Bryan Riley:

Your post on propositinal thinking is truly one of the most incredible things I have heard in a long time.


Jim Paslay said...

I am still trying to figure out how a couple of men on the back of a trash truck with a woman smacking a pole has anything to do with the 1963 BF&M or the 2000 version.

What I do know is that seminary professors from Southern and Southeastern refused to sign the 1963 BF&M because they preferred their own Abtract of Principles. Many moderates did not like the phrase "truth without any mixture of error" because they believed there were errors in Scripture. They really didn't like the 1963 version anyway.

Then the SBC had the audacity to include the family admendment in 1998 and the moderates were furious. How dare you quote Paul from Ephesians 5 and God forbid that we state that life was sacred from the womb to the tomb.

Now after the 2000 BF&M is adopted, moderates continue to gripe and ask for a return to the 1963 version. I wonder what doctrinal statement of faith would be satisfactory for those who continue to speak out against the course correction that was needed in 1980s and 1990s.

I for one am tired of those trying to rewrite history within our convention. It wasn't professors who believed in the inspired Word of God that were teaching heresy, it was those who held to a neo-orthodox view of Scripture that created the controversies.

As for us keeping our eyes on the Gospel, can I assume that we would all agree that the Gospel is found in the inspired Word of God and that "there is salvation in one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved." If so, count me in!

Charles R said...

I fully understand how cathartic it can be to let folks know what we're "tired of"...I do it fairly often myself.

It is important to note that history is a recording of past events from a particular perspective. It is true that facts are facts but train wrecks viewed from either side of the tracks can be perceived and described very, very differently without either description being a rewrite of anything.

Rex Ray said...

David Troublefield,
I don’t believe you went far enough in what TRULY divides the two BFMs. The word count was impressive, but instead of generalities here are some specifics:
1. 1963 “Such statements have never been regarded as official creeds carrying mandatory authority.” 2000—deleted.
2. 1963 “In no case has it sought to delete from or add to the basic contents of the 1925 Statement.” 2000—deleted.
3. 1963 “Men now serving as presidents of the various state Conventions would qualify as a member of the SBC [BFM] committee.” 2000—deleted.
4. It is understood that any group or individuals may approach this committee to be of service.” 2000—deleted.
5. 1963 “Baptists emphasize the…priesthood of the BELIEVER.” 2000—“We honor…priesthood of BELIEVERS.”
6. 1963 “The criterion [standard] by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ.” (I believe that means the Bible should be interpreted through the eyes of Jesus.) 2000—“All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.”
7. 1963 “A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is…COMMITTED to His teachings.” 2000—“A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is…GOVERNED by His LAWS.”

2000—Adds: “The office of pastor is limited to men.”

David, is “The office of pastor is limited to men” a confession of faith?

Yes, it’s a CONFESSION of FAITH, but the 2000 says, “Baptists deny the right of any secular or religious authority to impose a CONFESSION of FAITH upon a church or a body of churches.”

HYPOCRITES! They did what they said no one could do. They broke their word. They made a law to GOVERN Baptist churches just like their #7 said.
If they have the right to make one law, they have the right to make a hundred laws, and bingo, whatever remains of the SBC will be Catholic.

David, the BFM 2000 is not water under the bridge, but it’s a foundation of sand that will cause the house of the SBC to crash if the sand is not replaced with rock.
Rex Ray

Rex Ray said...

Jim Paslay,
Thank you for telling me about a woman smacking a pole. I thought it was only a picture till I clicked on it. That was funny. I played it 5 or 6 times. No wonder you guys got your tickle box going and started talking about cars and stuff. I was upset with you for turning a serious subject into a joke. One reason I liked the ‘movie’, I was tired of women showing men up on TV commercials etc.

I’d like to explain why moderates didn’t like “truth without any mixture of error” because I was one of those at one time. I believe you put words in our mouths when you said they believed there were errors in Scripture. They believed there were errors in the Bible, and that’s a big big difference, because some words in the Bible are NOT Scripture.

I think you will agree that lies of men and the devil did not come from God and therefore they are Not Scripture. The same with ignorance and stupidity.

Have you wondered why the word “mixture” was in the statement? It never made sense to me until the presiding lawyer at the 2004 SBC explained it. He said, “Mixture means the truth of the Bible is true and the untruth of the Bible is not true.” He was quick to add, “That’s why we added—all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy.”

Scripture—yes; that’s exactly what I believe and I’ve always believed that as a moderate.
And the Gospel, yes—count me in too.
Rex Ray

Anonymous said...

Jim and Rex:

Thanks for addressing my posted offerings regarding life in the SBC and its faith statements. Sometimes, you wonder if people skip-over a long posting on these blogs!

If you want to know what I really believe from the Bible, I'm going to hand you a Bible and tell you to read it. If you want to know what I believe from the Bible "in a nutshell," I'm going to hand you a copy of the Baptist Faith & Message--any year's version because it doesn't matter if what you want to know only is a REPRESENTATION of my personal theological persuasions. Only via a conversation with me and a reading of the Bible I hand to you can you know EXHAUSTIVELY what I believe (unless I keep posting these long comments on Wade's blog!).

Jim, read a little closer, brother. I'm not into rewriting history--I'm into reconciliation that God will smile about. If there were ANY who didn't like the BF&M 1963 version, there certainly weren't MANY--proportionately, every single SBC'er in days gone by, including Paige Patterson himself (as if he's the epitome of what it means to be a SBC'er), stood on that statement as probably the best such document ever penned to explain believers' view of the Bible and its doctrines. Was it a perfect document?--No; did we know it?--Yes; would it suffice?--It did, for 25 years until the prevailing spirit (not beliefs, not attitude initially) in the SBC changed for ungrounded reasons, then the course of the convention in important areas (baptisms, membership, etc.) began to decline (or to become susceptible to decline; 90% of SBC churches now are plateaued or declining in terms of numerical growth--our preferred versions of the BF&M statement, and 20 million LifeWay Bible lessons taught annually in Sunday School, notwithstanding) because the main thing no longer was the main thing--it was the second or third main thing. I agree with whoever else has said it here: Christianity is Christ--not Bible first of all--and it's initially all about personal relationship with Him; He brought both grace and truth, and we can't begin to know the truth--or to understand the doctrines written about in the BF&M statements (or to be reconciled with each other)--without that relationship (John 1:17). If you or anyone you know holding to the BF&M 2000 has another way to bring together Christian brothers who basically agree but are needlessly fussing with each while people go to Hell, I'd like to see it--because it isn't being offered (this blogsite, though, is one example of something being offered; it has come a LONG way over the past year from where it started to where it is today offering some hope for setting aside what doesn't matter as much among us in order to focus on our doing what does matter most).

Rex: it's enough for me to say "Any year's version of the BF&M--everyone just pick one, and let each other pick one, and let's move forward together with the gospel!" The statements are too close in what they say and what they mean for us to stay out of focus trying to split hairs. If Baptists stood in foxholes beside Anglicans shooting at the British during the American Revolution (and then reminded them later that we did, for the sake of freedom of religion), then certainly we can stand beside each other today fighting the spiritual battles we face. Again, if we tried to write a statement fully-exhausting our personal theological persuasions, we'd copy every page and word of the Bible! "It represents my beliefs" is a good-enough statement; now, let's all move forward. A spirit, not a document, keeps us a part; let's repent of that spirit, stand on the document, and tell the world from the Bible about the Jesus that the Scriptures proclaim as Savior and Lord--that's all I'm saying.

Worship Him today--and listen to what He says.

David Troublefield

Anonymous said...


That was AWESOME with a capital A!!!

Steve said...

I've been that lady, and I've been the guys. I am probably too old to be anybody's light standard. What's ironic is how briefly one has to be distracted to become an example!

Rex Ray said...

You hit the nail on the head when you said in words to the effect that it was the Spirit that holds us together to keep the Main thing in presenting the Gospel.

Until the ‘Resurgence’, the glue that held Baptist together was MISSIONS, but they said, ‘No, no, no, it’s THEOLOGY, and proceeded to push their ideas that all must believe like them or your head was chopped off. And now THEM are at each other’s throats arguing about obeying their own rules.

Baptists have never signed creeds, but now over 100 missionaries were ether forced off the field or fired by the IMB. The Spirit that did this was pride. If pride had weight, they would need wheelbarrows. No longer was the Holy Spirit the boss, they were the boss. They went beyond the BFM because they think they are above rules.

The BFM 2000 is not a creed in itself. (Webster—“Creed: A brief, AUTHORITATIVE formula or religious belief.”), but the SPIRIT of FORCING everyone under their CONTROL to sign it makes it a creed.

If pride goes before a fall, they are overdue—and you can see it happening all around us…telling missionaries how to breath, firing people because of their sex, preventing God called people from being missionaries because they were not baptized exactly to their theology, and for having a gift that the IMB president has.

The foundation of sand will cause the house to fall suddenly just like the pole ran into that lady.
Rex Ray

Anonymous said...

Mr. Burleson -

It's Sunday, an important day for many reasons. So how about a Super Bowl prediction...? said...

Indianopolis 31

Chicago 20


Anonymous said...

The President of the North American Mission Board has a published a great take on the topic of this discussion in SBC Life entirled "Working Together for the Sake of The Gospel."

Anonymous said...

Here's an interesting document, published by The Center for Theological Research @ SWBTS and posted at entitled "Should Women Serve As Pastors?"

The document says its "purpose is to serve the churches" -- but it is written by a -GASP!- Woman!!! -Oh, the heresy...

Rex Ray said...

I guess you are still David, so I’ll address you as such.
The website you gave had this information from Bill Curtis, Trustee Chairman of the North American Mission Board. (The other website could not be found.)

• SBC baptisms are at their lowest levels in twelve years;
• Seventy-three percent of SBC churches are plateaued or declining;
• There were 11,740 SBC churches that reported zero or one baptism in 2005;
• Fifty-five percent of SBC churches baptized no youth between the ages of 12-17 in 2004;
• From 1991-2004 the number of unchurched adults in America increased from 39 million to 79 million;
• Every county in North America is at least 50 percent unchurched (statistics available from NAMB).
In the era following the conservative resurgence, when we should be better positioned than ever before to work together for the sake of the Gospel, we are beginning to see factions crystallize within our Convention. Where before we stood united in our commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture, many now are choosing sides over issues which pit generations and traditions against one another and which seek to limit theological fellowship when, in fact, DEBATABE ISSUES exist within the scope of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.
David, is this decline due to lifting up doctrines rather than lifting up Jesus? Is this decline due to being led by spiritual bosses rather than the Holy Spirit?
“Debatable issues” is all Bill Curtis said about the BFM. He didn’t say what they were. His six pages didn’t cover any difference between the two BFMs, so you are still lacking in replying to my comments.
Rex Ray

Anonymous said...

Bro. Rex:

The anonymous posting just above is from another (wonderful) individual, not from me. I tried to reply to your post of earlier, but my posting was lost somewhere out in cyberspace--sorry!

I appreciate very much your concern, and think that I understand well where you're coming from--and can agree that what you say is worthy of attention by all. I had the unfortunate experience of watching the Missouri Baptist Convention totally come apart right before my eyes as a member of the MBC executive board (1999-2001); the utter hypocrisy displayed by officers of that board and convention during public and closed sessions still is disturbing--what is worse is that folks appeal to the Bible to justify the entire debacle, and that the messengers of churches understood so little of what they were seeing in or hearing from their elected leaders. I have been told by a reliable source that secular news reporters--who may or may not have been Christians--could not believe what they were witnessing during the MBC's 2001 annual meeting when the convention's split essentially was completed and lawsuits of spiritual brothers were all but begun. I know that I couldn't believe it at the time.

Still, I'm with Wade (I think) on the treatment of those with whom we disagree--as he states in his Monday blog posting. Perfect love casts out--or, simply has no time for--fear, but it never demolishes its brother as has been done/attempted during the past 25+ years in the SBC. A better approach is to stand on the truth, to keep the issues out in front of everyone and continue to debate those issues even when others insist they're finished debating, and to work within the system established while holding everyone else accountable to the same. The Lord Jesus said that, when we are right, we are to seek to win our brothers, not our cases against them; when we're the brother in the wrong, we're to be win-able and not cantankerous.

Keep the debate alive until it's done, Bro. Rex--but in the spirit pointed to by Wade on Monday.

God's best to you today, brother.

David Troublefield
Wichita Falls, TX

Rex Ray said...

Thanks. I’ve heard it said there’s no deeper hatred than religious hatred, and it sounds like you were in it neck deep. You have said wise words.
Rex Ray
Bonham, Texas