Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Aim, Reproach and Triumph of the Reformer

John Quincy Adams was a Baptist pastor in America in the 1800's. This John Q. Adams was not the famous founding father of America, but an American Baptist pastor who was a contemporary of C. H. Spurgeon's. J.Q. Adam's gave a series of lectures entitled Baptists Thorough Reformers which were eventually placed in print. When Rev. Adams met Charles Spurgeon in London, in August, 1868, Spurgeon "informed him that he had used 'Baptists Thorough Reformers' as a text book in his Pastor's College, regarding it as the best Manual of Baptist principles he had met."

John Quincy Adams work has been of great encouragement to me over the past couple of years. In the Lecture One of the Centennial Edition (1876), Rev. Adam's writes very clearly on the aim, reproach, and triumph of the reformer. I have taken the freedom to excerpt a significant paragraph from each point below:


A Reformer is one who seeks to remove abuses which have crept into an organization or community, or one who boldly enters a field where error has held undisputed sway, and fearlessly wields amid giant powers of opposition, the weapons of truth. He aims to entirely revolutionize the minds of the community in which he labors, on that particular subject where he believes reform to he needed. A compromise between truth and error is not what he seeks, and will not satisfy him. "The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth," is his motto. Old systems of error, however sacred on account of their antiquity, he boldly attacks. Though massive darkness has long brooded over the people, he aims to dissipate the gloom, and shed upon them brilliant rays of light. His work is a mighty one; the end for which he labors is noble and sublime. He holds a position in advance of the community in which he resides, and the age in which he lives – hence he possesses traits of character that are peculiar, which fit him to toil and suffer for the accomplishment of his designs.


All Reforms are attended with agitation and conflict, but none more so than reforms in religion. At first, the reformer may attract but little attention. His attacks on error may appear so feeble, and his efforts to advance the truth may seem so faint, that the opponents of truth may esteem only the smile of ridicule and scorn necessary to throw his work into insignificance, or a slight exertion of authority sufficient to extinguish it. But let him continue with boldness, energy and eloquence, to plead for truth and begin to make an impression upon the public mind, and gather adherents around him; then will his adversaries become agitated and alarmed. Like the fierce storm, lashing into foam the waters of the mighty deep, they stir up the popular mind, until the entire community moves in angry surges, and persecution and violence ensue. The more bold the onset, the more forcible the elucidation of truth, the more numerous the adherents to the reform, the more fiercely will the advocates of error oppose the effort, and the more desperately will they seek to crush by force, or circumvent by cunning, what they cannot master by argument, or defeat by sound logic.


The true religious reformer must ultimately triumph. However opposed, reproached, and persecuted, he triumphs. Even when he appears to be discomfited he triumphs. While he struggles on in adversity, and while sad reverses meet him in his work, still he triumphs. The power of the truth is manifest in the support it yields him amid these disheartening circumstances. The consciousness that he has discharged his duty with fidelity, fills his mind with peace. He feels that the smile of God is upon him; hence the frowns of the opposers of truth, and their anathemas, are lighter than vanity to him. He esteems "the reproaches of Christ greater riches than all the treasures" of earth. The shame of the cross he counts greater honor than all the applause of the world, and the martyr's death is to him sweeter than all earthly pleasures. He exhibits a dignity of character that far outshines all others, and totally eclipses, on the historic page, all his slanderous persecutors. He is as far superior to the time-serving demagogue, as are the burning beams of the meridian sun to the last sickly rays of the feeble taper, flickering in its socket, and just ready to expire. He knows no fear of consequences. Duty, it is his to perform – results, are God's to control. He stands firmly, as the rock in the ocean, unmoved amid the howlings of the tempest and the fury of the waves. For him there is a, glorious future, however dark the hour of trial may be; and though for a time he endures reproach, he will have a name when his persecutors have perished and are forgotten.

I thank the Lord that Baptists are thorough reformers. May we stand on the truth and sufficiency of Scripture alone, and may our theological and religious shibboleths that have no biblical support fall at the hands of reform.

In His Grace,



Bill Scott said...

I am thankful that some Baptists are reformers. I am thankful that you are one of them.
Bill Scott

Rex Ray said...

“A very interesting paper…an excellent job of defending the faith” was in a letter from my pastor, Jerry Poteet of 1st Baptist Church Grand Prairie, TX.

I valued his words more than all my sport trophies. I was afraid he might have thought of me as an idiot. His question of “What are you going to do with it?” has haunted me since 1993.

In 1994, I had 2,000 copies of 20 pages that I called ‘The Truth of Acts’. I thought, if Catholics believed this, they’d become Baptists, but I couldn’t get Baptists to believe it. Most of the printing is still in boxes. I had added 12 more pages named, “Why I write”, which identified people that jumped all over me as the ‘Red Flag’ people. I didn’t know at the time they were ‘Inerrantists’, and I didn’t know the conservative resurgence existed until after 1997.

I fell in love with the eight definitions of inerrancy because one described me. I WAS NOT ALONE. I remember one saying, “All speeches reported in truth, but not all speeches were true.”

That explained how Peter’s speech, led by the Holy Spirit, “Why are you challenging God by burdening the Gentiles…” (Acts 15:10 New Living) contradicted, “It was the Holy Spirit’s decision and ours to put no greater burden on you than these necessary things.” (Acts 15:28 Holman)

How many sermons have been preached on Acts 15? It seems Baptists have cut that chapter from the Bible.

Those 32 pages were lost to a crashed computer. I was rewriting it in October 2004 when I fell from a pear tree and the doctor told me, “An hour later and you’d been pushing up daisies.” The first had been written with limited knowledge of history, but I found that history backed up the Bible but NOT ALL Baptist traditions.

My conclusion of the 25 pages is still what I wrote at 62: “I am trying to solve some stumbling blocks that Christians my encounter, and of more importance “Do you want more of God’s kindness and graces? Then learn to know him better and better” (2 Peter 1:2)”, but I know now at 75, it will not be in my lifetime.

davidinflorida said...


Maybe in 1876 most Baptists were reformers, do you believe that they are now?

Nevertheless, you are a reformer, and according to John Q. Adams, you will have a glorious future after the trial.

Jeff said...

I was wondering is this why Baptists are narrowing the parameters because they are reformers. So, Are you the reformer or is the BoT? said...

Belief Matters,

If the Bible commands "Do not forbid the speaking in tongues" (I Cor. 14:39), and the IMB forbids a new missionary from speaking in tongues in the privacy of his or her prayer closet, and if the Bible does not place restrictions on the qualifications of the person who is able to perform baptisms, except that the baptizer must be a disciple himself, but the IMB places restrictions that are not present in the Bible on the qualifications of the baptizer, then I will let you figure out for yourself the answer to your question.

Jeff said...

But therein is the problem and therein is the answer.

The matter isn't clear is it.

So we have our answers don't we :)

Is that clear? :)

david b mclaughlin said...

So, Are you the reformer or is the BoT?

Actually, both can be considered reformers. The question maybe should be, "Who is reforming in the right direction?"

Jeff said...

David, You are wise, good to know that the ice has not frozen your brain. :) Happy New Year Brother.

Anonymous said...

Good point David. Since both sets of reformers claim scriptural mandate, we can't objectively judge on that basis. Perhaps the best approach would be to follow the trajectory that would result from success of each reformer. The IMB's reformation would yield a smaller SBC with a precedent for requiring conformity on disputable interpretations of scripture on tertiary doctrines, which would doubtless be used to exclude more and more people with the "wrong" view of scripture. Wade's reformation would basically bring us back to the SBC of 60's and 70's, but without the extremes of a few professors or leaders who did not believe scripture to be entirely true. The last time I recall the SBC being united (mostly) and focused on the lost world rather than on internal politics was Bold MIssion Thrust. I was so naive, I really believed that we could reach the whole world for Christ by 2000. I also recall great satisfaction with the idea that the major Baptist distinctives were the priesthood of the believer and the autonomy of the local cooperating Baptist church. The new reformers would have us exchange personal and individual responsibility before Christ to responsibility to the Church (meaning the SBC) and the autonomy of the local church for the wisdom of central authorities (like the IMB BoT). What amazes me is that so many have remained silent or actually endorsed this nonsense. They have somehow convinced themselves that in the old days there was a "momentary lax of parameters", which they are correcting. It should be emphasized, however, that the "big tent" reform does not include acceptance of non-biblical notions that triggered the resurgence. It would simply take us back to the state we were in the last time the SBC was a truly effective collaborative effort.

On a purely practical level, the numbers show quite clearly which reforms may work best. Record growth occurred when the tent was big and central authority served and did not try to dictate. Growth under the other reformers no longer even keeps up with population growth, and there is no grand vision of evangelism shared by the people. I think that explains why many of us have trouble keeping an obvious anger and sarcasm out of our posts. All of us should be angry about that which we have lost.

foxofbama said...

I have started a thread at the SBC Trends at I hope you and Ben Cole will engage.
It is roughly about this very topic and a call for some ethical take on the SBC's silence in the South Carolina Primary of 2000.
DAvid Gushee, recently of Dockery's Union Univ has a great framework for reform and consensus in the January Issue of Baptists Today.
I hope you and Ben especially will take a look at Gushee as well as engage the discussion at
While there take a look at the discussion about Gothard and Huckabee as well.
Yall have a Good New Year, no kiddin


Jeff said...

Stephen, Can you show why your summary about growth is correct? Stats? Links? Research?

Chris Johnson said...


What do you think it will take to get the IMB to a more biblical position? What would be your top three reformation strategies?


Anonymous said...

Belief Matters,

Did you read or not understand Wade's response? It's not any clearer than that.


Jeff said...

Which response? Did you read and understand my point? Perhaps you should read again and realize I wasn't disagreeing with Wade.

Unknown said...

I just love throwing these fire bombs… “We have come to the point in the life of the SBC where The Conservative Resurgence has digressed into The Fundamental Resurgence.”

Belief Matters,

You ask "I was wondering is this why Baptists are narrowing the parameters because they are reformers?"

In a Word NO!

Fundamentalist narrow the parameters of cooperation based upon extra/non Biblical doctrines, Reformers set the parameters of cooperation based upon the truth and sufficiency of Scripture alone.

Here is a textbook example of someone who is definitely NOT a Reformer. In response to all the bad press coverage about the Missouri Baptist Convention de-funding their own Baptist church planters who also had ties with the ACTS 29 Church planting network the Interim Executive Director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, David Tolliver, recently said:

“I understand that the Bible does not say, ‘Thou shalt not drink,’” Tolliver said. “The Bible doesn’t say that. I get that. The Bible doesn’t say ‘Thou shalt not drink’ anytime, anywhere, for any reason. It’s not that explicit. I’m a little slow at it, but I can read, and I understand that the Bible does not say that. The Bible does not specifically call the drinking of alcohol a sin—not in so many words. “But I want you to hear me very carefully this evening, and I will be clear to say that I believe the only biblical position for Christians in this 21st century Show Me State environment that we live in is total abstinence.”

Now this guy is not a Reformer…

Grace Always,

greg.w.h said...

“I understand that the Bible does not say, ‘Thou shalt exchange propitiation for favors or money,’” Leo X said. “The Bible doesn’t say that. I get that. The Bible doesn’t say ‘you are permitted to forgive sin’ anytime, anywhere, for any reason, and you're allowed to set the price for it. It’s not that explicit. I’m a little slow at it, but I can read, and I understand that the Bible does not say that. The Bible does not specifically call the offering of indulgences is permitted—not in so many words. “But I want you to hear me very carefully this evening, and I will be clear to say that I believe the only biblical position for Christians in this 16st century Holy Roman Empire that we live in is paying for St. Peter's Basilica with indulgences.”

Greg Harvey

p.s. mea culpa on smearing history regarding such terms as the Holy Roman Empire.

Anonymous said...

BeliefMatters, The basis for my statements on poor growth in recent times is based on an NAMB report which points out that growth of SBC membership is much less than growth of the population. I couldn't locate that report quickly, but the 2006 annual report shows the same trend- growth of 0.22% and a decline in baptisms (

My statements regarding the 60s and 70s are mostly based on my recollections, and this article ( indicates that growth has not been associated with the conservative resurgence. Interestingly the author reaches the conclusion that it would be worse without the resurgence (based on poorer growth rates of CBF churches). I think this conclusion is questionable because it requires the unprovable assumption that CBF churches would have had poor growth had they remained in the SBC, and it also assumes that all CBF churches originated as "converted" SBC churches. However, I know of at least one that was started from scratch, and I am sure there are many. Regardless, those in leadership should be accountable for performance, and the leadership provided by the leaders of the CR has not yielded an increased rate of growth or a consistent vision and an associated program like Bold Mission Thrust that could capture the imagination of everyday baptists. I would like to suggest that narrowing the parameters of cooperation and excluding people from missionary service on the basis of disputable interpretations of tertiary doctrines is not the best way to reverse this trend.

Does that mean we should be doctrinally "flexible" to attract more people? I don't think any of the present day reformers have said anything like that. That is a straw man and a red herring that is old (it was used during the CR, I believe) and smells like it. The doctrinal standards in the SBC changed little from 1963 to 2000 (as indicated by the B F & M). Although I personally think a few issues in the 2000 version deserve additional discussion and reconsideration (including the language weakening the priesthood of the believer), at least we should go no further with our exclusivity than indicated by that document.

Anonymous said...

The first link was cut off in the previous post. Hopefully this one will work.

Anonymous said...

Still didn't work. Just add a pdf at the end and that should get it. I know there is a way to paste in links to web pages without giving the URL, but I don't know how to do it. Any advice on that anyone?

That Baptist Ain't Right said...

Dissent is silenced. Tow the party line -- or else. Adding rules. Disagree with Mt Sinai of Nashville & you are an unpatriotic heretic. We've gone past the Biblical ethic & delved into system of Pharisees. Roger Williams, John Leland, & Isaac Backus would be defrocked at most SBC churches today. I'm starting to worry if we have become our own worst nightmare.

Steve said...

But Wade, if our theological and religious shibboleths that have no biblical support fall at the hands of reform, we can't play "Holier-than-thou" and have all that much fun anymore, or get our buddies elected to stuff so they can run things. You know, Be In Charge. Ain't that what it's all about?

Anonymous said...

If one claims to believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, yet, sees the need to add to Scripture things that our Holy God Himself didn't see the need to say, isn't that saying that God Himself made a mistake in leaving these things out of Scripture and that HIS BIBLE is incomplete and thus open to further revelation?

If God would have wrote, "I want you to hear me very carefully this evening, and I will be clear to say the only position for Christians in this FIRST CENTURY CHURCH environment that we live in is total abstinence", then we have no problem. However, no matter how you SPIN IT, God did not say it in HIS WORD, thus, we don't have the right to say it.

If we believe in further revelation, then how can we be sure that the new revelation would be inerrant. As that goes, If we can add to it and make it equal to standards that God did speak, how can we be sure of what we already have for Scripture?

The Bible says all God intended to say. We can argue and debate about what HE DID SAY (interpretation and application) but NEVER ADD TO THE BIBLE.

When I was a kid, loose talk was called hear say. That is mighty close to a word that many have been burned for.

Fear only God

Darrell Treat

Anonymous said...

I forgot to say, If God had forbit drinking in His Word, then Jesus would have been a sinner. We know He didn't sin and that should have ended this argument. Drinking a bit was OK with my Creator. Drunkeness was not OK.

How dare us make a rule that even condemns the actions of our Creator.



Jeff said...

Where do we find that Jesus drunk wine?

Bill said...

Jesus was a Jew and not a Nazirite. He celebrated Passover. He most certainly drank wine.

Jeff said...

Does it say he drunk wine? We want to be literal....

greg.w.h said...

I'll note that the alcohol discussion is off-topic for the primary purpose of Wade's post. But BeliefMatters asked a question regarding specifics, and I hope that I can give an answer that not only responds to his question, but points us back to the topic of reform.

He turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana. If it was sinful to drink wine, then Jesus could be correctly accused of leading people into temptation which the Bible strongly claims God does not do.

Jesus also instituted the ordinance of the Lord's Supper by passing a cup (specifically in Matthew 26, though there are of course other gospel accounts and even a Pauline one). We could assume it wasn't wine, except he further commented "But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom." in Matthew 26:29

We can read into that verse pretty much any interpretation we want to for the term "product/fruit of the vine" and "drink it new with you", but the simplest reading suggest he is talking about wine and drinking it "new" suggests a combination of allusions to new wine and to drinking it again with the disciples.

As I've noted before, there is a very strong argument that can be made with regards to wisdom--not rules--dictating to the conscience great care in the consumption of any alcohol. But we send the wrong message when we institute new rules that we--as humans--design to improve our relationship with God.

If God could save the world by relating to us through us keeping rules, then Jesus didn't have to die on the cross. The fact that Jesus died should cause us to reconsider moralizing as a way to reform morality. Instead we must proclaim truth, evangelize, disciple, and baptize. When people relate spiritually to God, God brings about transformation rather than reformation. That's why we must worship Him in spirit--as well as through HIS Spirit--and in truth.

Then God--as the author of our faith, of all truth, and the source of all wisdom--can lead us in how we wisely "become all things to all people so that by all means some can be saved." Perhaps that will include an act of personal abstinence from alcohol. But when we cross the line from there to imposing that on other people, we do violence to the process of sanctification that God has designed especially for them.

Greg Harvey

Jeff said...

How do you know that the water he turned into wine was the same wine we drink today?

greg.w.h said...

Mashed grapes ferment naturally? Why assume that the wine that Noah got drunk on and the wine Paul warns us against getting drunk on is different than the wine that Jesus miraculously created or that he offered as part of the Lord's Supper observance? I thought the Bible tells a single story and all of it is used to interpret all of it?

Greg Harvey

Anonymous said...

BM: Let's turn the question around. Do you think anyone without a predisposition towards teetotalling would for a moment assume the stuff Jesus made and drank was anything other than wine? Maybe it was weaker, maybe diluted. Maybe a lot of things. But the Jews turned grapes into wine. It fermented. They drank it. It was part of their ceremonies, feasts, and sacrifices. They considered it one of God's blessings (mainly because their scripture said so). Why would Jesus not drink it?

Jeff said...

Let's turn it around again: Those who like to drink are going to see it their way.

BTW, I don't think it is wrong to drink, and I believe it was greatly diluted perhaps about like kool-aid. :)

Anonymous said...

I don't drink. I believe I see it the way it was intended. Diluted or not, it could intoxicate, otherwise why the warnings against intoxication?

There have been teetotalers forever. But teetotaling as an article of faith clearly grew out of American prohibition.

Jeff said...

Because there are two different words for wine in the New Testament.

Bill said...

OK: So does one word clearly mean alcoholic wine, and the other clearly mean grape juice? And if so, can we clearly make the connection between Jesus and only the grape juice? And does Passover occur in the time frame that would allow the Jews to drink grape juice that didn't have time to ferment?

Lastly, does any serious, credentialed NT scholar believe that the wine of the NT was not fermented?

greg.w.h said...

Bill suggests:

"There have been teetotalers forever. But teetotaling as an article of faith clearly grew out of American prohibition."

Perhaps not (from the BBC series On This Day regarding the British travel agency Thomas Cook and Sons):

Travel revolution

Thomas Cook is widely credited with starting the foreign travel revolution. It was founded in 1841 by the Baptist cabinet maker and strict teetotaller whose name it bears.

His idea for a new company began when he arranged a train excursion for temperance campaigners from Leicester to Loughborough.

Note that time frame 60 years before prohibition and the British location. The first national American temperance effort was probably the "Women's Crusade of 1873-1874"

The idea that the different words for wine implied different alcoholic content is irrelevant if you can get drunk from "oinos" (which is the word used in the Cana miracle and Paul's admonition). The term "fruit/product of the vine" could be given the weasel word treatment (as Southern Baptists have done).

But let's quit playing semantic games. It's probably alcoholic wine and there is absolutely NO indication that you couldn't get drunk off of it if you had enough. Your concept that it is diluted like kool-aid comes from which Bible verse? Or is it from some Southern Baptist that is willing to twist Scripture to support a human-created, religious prohibition of drinking of alcoholic beverages?

Isn't it enough to offer that wisdom recommends not drinking alcohol and Bible provides word-picture (Noah & Lot) and written (Paul) admonitions against drunkenness?

Greg Harvey

greg.w.h said...

Boo...someday I'll learn to do arithmetic. 1919 - 1841 = 78 years, not 60ish.

Greg Harvey

Bill said...

Greg: Good point. The abstinence only position is clearly isogesis. It's like saying "prove to me that Jesus ate lamb." It doesn't say in the bible that Jesus ate lamb. But for crying out loud, he was a Jew. They ate lamb. They drank wine.

Anonymous said...

let me repeat, it is not about if it was wine or not, not about lamb, it is about the fact that ANYTHING THAT ADDS TO SCRIPTURE IS SIN.


darrell treat