Thursday, May 01, 2008

Unmasking Baptist Identity

The new Baptist Identity initiative in the Southern Baptist Convention is an attempt by some to redefine what it means to be a Southern Baptist. Whereas I believe with all my heart there is room in the SBC for those who wed themselves to the new bedrock convictions of Baptist Identity, there is real danger for the end of broad cooperation within the Convention if Baptist Identity is allowed to be presented as 'mainstream' to what it means to be a Southern Baptist church.

Though the non-negotiable principles of Baptist Identity are apt to multiply over time like dandelions in a spring lawn, there are certain 'bedrock convictions' of the new Baptist Identity movement that reveal the movement is neither historically Baptist nor mainstream Southern Baptist in identity. The three main problems associated with the new Baptist Identity iniative include:

(1). A Top-Down Ecclesiology

Baptist Identity people within the Southern Baptist Convention act as if the highest authority in the convention is a document the convention produces (the Baptist Faith and Message), an agency the Convention creates (the IMB, the NAMB, Seminaries, etc . . .) or a person the Convention anoints. The first is creedalism, the second is hierarchialism, and the latter is authoritianism. These three isms typify Roman Catholic ecclesiology, and though there are many Christians within the Roman Catholic church, Baptists have historically resisted the tendencies of Roman Catholic ecclesiology - but not the new Baptist Identity movement. This top down ecclesiology of Baptist Identity people manifests itself in various ways in our convention.

First, the sending out of missionaries. The Southern Baptist Convention historically recognizes that the local church sends out missionaries, NOT THE INTERNATIONAL MISSION BOARD. The IMB was created to facilitate churches sending THEIR missionaries. Recently, that dynamic has changed. Now we have the absurd practice of a local Southern Baptist church approving the baptism and sending of a missionary, only to then have the IMB ordering that autonomous church to 'rebaptize' the prospective missionary because the IMB says the administrator of the missionary's baptism was not a qualified administrator. I say this reverently; For God's sake, and in honor of His Word, will someone please show how it is historically Baptist for an agency to supercede the authority of a local church and order a church to 'rebaptize' someone that the church has already accepted into membership, determining their baptism to be biblical (by immersion, after coming to faith in Christ)?

Second, Baptist Identity people wish to use the BFM as a 'tool of accountability.' They have forgotten that confessions of faith are confessions, not creeds. The historic Baptist practice is for the local church to establish her beliefs and lay them out in local church confessions. Periodically, Baptists would gather together to write a common consensus of faith, called in the Southern Baptist Convention, the Baptist Faith and Message. Historically, these broad convention confessions were not intended to lay out anything that went beyond "the simple conditions of salvation revealed in the New Testament." Let me say that again. The Baptist Faith and Message was initially, and I quote, "not intended to add anything to the simple conditions of salvation revealed in the New Testament." The local church was the place doctrine was narrowed as the church saw fit. The convention was built on cooperation among diverse churches, not conformity among identical churches. Yet, over time, the BFM has been used to narrow the doctrinal parameters of cooperation beyond the simple conditions of salvation. Every time the BFM is narrowed to include more doctrines of a tertiary nature, cooperation among diverse churches within the SBC ends. And, Baptist Identity people applaud this end to cooperation by setting forth tertiary doctrines that go way beyond the fundamentals of the gospel, and then demanding conformity to these tertiary issues by calling them 'bedrock convictions.' Then, the Baptist Identity advocates make extreme statements like:

Cooperation must end where our bedrock convictions are compromised.

The Baptist Identity movement has now pushed to to narrow the parameters of cooperation by using backdoor policies at SBC agencies. They claim that the Convention had no idea what it was doing when the Garner Motion was passed in 2007, and the BFM is only a minimal standard of doctrine to which churches must conform. Other policies that exceed the BFM are needed to keep everyone in doctrinal shape. It ought to be a requirement for everyone with an affinity to the Baptist Identity movement to memorize the preamble of the Baptist Faith and Message (emphasis mine) and what Southern Baptists have historically believed about the doctrines contained within our convention confessions:

1) That they constitute a consensus of opinion of some Baptist body, large or small, for the general instruction and guidance of our own people and others concerning those articles of the Christian faith which are most surely held among us. They are not intended to add anything to the simple conditions of salvation revealed in the New Testament, viz., repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.

(2) That we do not regard them as complete statements of our faith, having any quality of finality or infallibility. As in the past so in the future, Baptists should hold themselves free to revise their statements of faith as may seem to them wise and expedient at any time.

(3) That any group of Baptists, large or small, have the inherent right to draw up for themselves and publish to the world a confession of their faith whenever they may think it advisable to do so.

(4) That the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience.

(5) That they are statements of religious convictions, drawn from the Scriptures, and are not to be used to hamper freedom of thought or investigation in other realms of life.

This top-down ecclesiology is the first huge problem with the Baptist Identity initiative.

(2). A Loss of Church Autonomy

A natural result of a hierchial, authoritarian, creedal ecclesiology within the Southern Baptist Convention is the loss of local church autonomy. The Baptist Identity movement wishes to exclude from cooperation any church that dares to do it differently than they do. The Baptist Identity advocates use labels in order to attempt to marginalize or neutralize those who disagree with them.

Yet, any study of history would lead people to recognize that true Baptist identity is found in churches that practiced autonomy, that dared to go against religious establishments, and sought to follow Scripture alone as their guide. Of course, humility has been the key component of Baptists over the centuries. A soul that recognizes no authority but Christ is humble enough to acknowledge that he is neither Christ nor His vicar. Therefore, a true Baptist will judge no man until it is time for Christ to judge the heart.

Most Baptist Identity advocates pastor small churches or preside over declining ministries. The attitude that leads to demands for absolute conformity, authoritian control over one's belief system, and separation from those who disagree leads to isolationalism and a declining membership. Avowals that 'I have the truth, and you don't' turn people away. When it comes to the fundamentals of the gospel, we don't mind that people turn away. But it is the demands for conformity on tertiary issues that is harming our convention. It is time for Southern Baptists to realize that Baptist Identity is a fringe movement of the SBC, and displays neither the mainstream spirit or theology of the majority of the people within our convention.

Let me repeat something that all Southern Baptist need to remember: The Southern Baptist Convention was built on cooperation among diverse churches, not conformity among identical churches. We need a restoration of understanding of what local church autonomy means.

(3). An Extra-Biblical Theology

The Apostle Paul put it succinctly in I Corinthians 4:6:

Let us not go beyond what is written.

Extra-biblical convictions, extra-biblical doctines, and extra-biblical traditions are fine when they remain personal. But when you include us, you violate Scripture.

One of our member's family has been raising prized herefords since the Land Run of 1893. He took me on a tour of his large operation recently and explained the process of keeping a growing, healthy herd of cattle.

He said that over time, inbreeding causes mutations and deformities that lead to a sick herd of cattle. He has to travel to North Dakota, Michigan, and other far reaches of the United States to find bulls that are different to breed with his cows. It is the introduction of differences within the herd that keep the herd healthy.

I'm convinced that the Baptist Identity movement is going the opposite direction of my rancher. The proponents of Baptist Identity are taking out any bulls and any cows within the Southern Baptist herd that look different, and are erecting fences to keep different cattle out. If we don't identify the problem and learn to 'cherish' differences then we are going to mutate into a convention that our forefathers would have not been able to recognize.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson


Tom Parker said...


First there was the CR to move people out of the SBC and now there is this. Where will it stop? said...

I see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Anonymous said...

Great post! Let's see who is the first of the BI crowd to comment. Wouldn't be surprised if some of them horse collared ten people and 'witnessed' to them while talking like the Fed Ex man in those old commercials so they can come here and bash you.

On behalf of my church, my staff (who prints out copies of your post for us to read every week), and myself, I say 'Thank You' and will remain anonymous for my personal ministry's sake, until the changes you articulate come to pass.

An SBC pastor in his 40's.

Anonymous said...

"Where will it stop?"

Hopefully, in Indianapolis.

Anonymous said...

Wade, in many respects the Baptist Identity movement is like the Christian Identity movement here in southeastern Arkansas. There are some good people in both groups - it is just extremism to the nth degree. Let's keep our focus on Jesus and loving people. That's enough for me and that's the convention with which I wish to identify.

Anonymous said...

Amen Pastor Hillard.


Thanks for letting your voice be heard!!

Anonymous said...

"Most Baptist Identity advocates pastor small churches or preside over declining ministries."

Nice conversational terrorism there Wade. You seem to love holding others to standards to which you will not submit yourself.

A simple student at SBTS.

Anonymous said...


Great post, but why have you changed to using "Baptist Identity Initiative" instead of "Baptist Identity Religion"? said...


I consider these
Baptist Identity men brothers in Christ, and not members of a different religion. That's why I call it an initiative. said...

believe the phrase, SWBTS student, would be ad hominem variant, but that is definitely not how I intended it.

LIFEWAY recently came out with a survey showing we are DECLINING in membership, DECLINING in baptisms, etc . . . and I am positing that some of the decline may be a judgmental, critical spirit toward those who don't agree with every jot and tittle of Baptist Identity doctrine.

I would love to be proven wrong.

Anonymous said...

I became a Southern Baptist in 1968, having been saved in 1967. I lived in a small town with the choice of churches being SBC--very landmark type--and Methodist.

I chose Baptist because they focused on winning people to the Lord in salvation rather than on changing the world.

I chose Baptist because they taught soul competency and the priesthood of the believer. I did NOT have to sign on to every landmark dot and squiggle to be an active, accepted part of the church.

I chose Baptist because in SS and TU, when folks discussed doctrine they tended to preface their statements with "I believe the scriptures teach". That left room for someone to reply, "Well, I believe the scriptures teach differently." We respected each other and trusted the Holy Spirit to guide.

And I will cease to be an inactive member and once more be active in an SBC church when we return to those exceedingly baptistic ways.

After all, Jesus did teach us not have "fathers" on earth, but rather One Father in Heaven. I think we are forgetting that!

Big time forgetting that!


Anonymous said...

rThe Loss of Autonomy...
"The Baptist Identity movement wishes to exclude from cooperation any church that dares to do it differently than they do."

That is not a loss of autonomy. No one in the B.Id. movement is going into other churches and telling them how to function or what they must believe. They are merely refusing to cooperate with churches that advocate positions they deem to be inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. You can debate the merits of this refusal to cooperate, but to state that it violates local church autonomy flies in the face of sound logic. The issue is about cooperation, NOT autonomy.

If anything, you are violating the autonomy of my local church when you suggest that I HAVE to support tongue-speaking missionaries or those who were baptized in churches that believe in baptismal regeneration. The reason for the guidelines being passed was that a large number of churches (demonstrated by the majority on the board of trustees) wish to be good stewards of their missions dollars and not support missionaries that have not been properly baptized or who hold theological positions we deem problematic.

Southern Baptists have always made statements about issues you deem to be tertiary (try reading the 1925 and 1963 confessions). Your problem is one of history, Mr. Burleson. You confuse John Gill, John Bunyan, and others for Southern Baptists. I would suggest studying Southern Baptist history a bit more before you draw any more hard conclusions about what Southern Baptists have historically believed.

A simple student at SBTS.

Anonymous said...

"A simple student"

Um, yep. You are.

Monte Erwin said...


You have just encapsulated the very reasons why we would not add our signatures to the BF&M as missionaries. It was not that we stood in direct opposition to any one statement (although there were statements that we questioned the wording), but because we knew that a precedent was being set that once in motion, would be difficult to reverse. We identified this as a narrowing process that would ultimately NOT unite Southern Baptists, but divide them.

Everything has seemed to follow the pattern we feared that it would. You do not have to live long in the middle of SBC denominational life to see the trends that are taking place from within. The very things we held to with conviction concerning the autonomy of the local church were and are being challenged for the sake of a few who believe that in order to be Southern Baptist, we must look exactly alike. I don't believe in cloning, and don't make a very good clone. However, I can see that many who comment on this blog don't make good clones, either. Sorry, it's just not a historical identity in the life Southern Baptists.

Lin said...

"When it comes to the fundamentals of the gospel, we don't mind that people turn away. But it is the demands for conformity on tertiary issues that is harming our convention. "

This is exactly right. However, they are trying to convince people that secondary and tertiary issues ARE primary doctine.

It all goes back to one thing: Wanting authority over others. said...


However, they are trying to convince people that secondary and tertiary issues ARE primary doctine.

The gold apple for the best comment of the day.

Anonymous said...

WOW...Simple Student,

You really have a skewed view of Baptist history and cooperation. I am actually embarrassed that you are attending SBTS, which I attended and graduated from very recently. They taught me at SBTS to be much more careful and studious than you obviously are.

Go back and re-read the reasons for the orignial formation of the SBC as its own independent fellowship. Though I abhor the historical institution of slavery, it is true that Baptists in the South didn't take kindly to Baptists in the North saying that it was immoral to send missionaries to the field who were slaveholders. The Baptists in the South refused to allow the "board" to dictate to them that an outsider could determine who could and who could not be deemed a missionary by the local church.

Same issue today. Cooperation is based on the agreement that we affirm the same broad doctrinal convictions, first-order things like atonement, the Trinity, and inerrancy of Scripture. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO THINK THAT 42,000+ Baptist churches will agree on all points of doctrine...EVER...End of debate! For the cause of worldwide missions, we have always agreed on the essentials and allowed for variance on the non-essentials.

If you want to be a Landmarker, FINE, Go for it! Join John R. Rice and his merry band of progressive Baptists in their Landmarkist positions, but STOP trying to drag the SBC to a place it has never been (i.e. Landmarkism). You have the freedom to walk away from SBC life if you don't like the notion of cooperationalism, but you don't have the right to attempt to redefine what SBC life is all about. Its intellectually dishonest and ethically wrong. You talk about the "autonomy" of your church being violated, and again, you are wrong. When your church autonomously chose to enter into the CP, they were agreeing to cooperate together with other churches who held the BFM. The issues to which you refer are NOT ISSUES COVERED IN THE BFM! If they were, this would be a different conversation, but they aren't. Ergo, churches that receive members from other immersing denominations can be totally honest in saying they hold the BFM. YOu however, by expecting everyone else to hold your Landmarkist, Trail of Blood views, cannot. It is your church that agreed to cooperate on broad terms. If they cannot do so in good conscience because of issues outside the parameters of the 2000 BFM, then they seriously need to pray about continuing to support CP life. Consider the BBF or the GRBC, or become totally independent, I don't care, but quit trying to re-create the CP according to your own image.

Oh, and your quip about the "majority of the board of trustees" shows me that you really know nothing about current SBC life, or you are just being dishonest. The boards in all of our institutions are stacked. Its a fact. Nepotism and inbreeding (Wade's word) are currently rampant in SBC life and being appointed to anything, either at the local or state level, is based on how loyal you've been to the big-wigs and how willing you are to "tow the (CR) party line." You can argue till you're blue in the face about this, and you will still be DEAD WRONG! In fact, if you argue this at all, it will just go to discredit you since everyone knows this is true (yes, even the BI guys, who are on the "right" side of the CR crowd, will reluctantly admit this if pinned down). You say the "majority of the churches" (as represented by the BOT...). Really??? So over 21,000 churches agree with the BOT, a hand-picked group representing a myopic and theologically narrow minority (albeit powerful minority) in the SBC?? Are you really ready to stand behind that ridiculous statement??? That's tantamount to assuming that a majority of Americans (over 300 million) agree with tax increases because the majority of the Senate approves them! Ludicrous!

There's more I could say, but I am probably wasting my time. Most of the BI crowd are firmly entrenched and willing to ride this sinking ship down to the bottom, just as long as its them holding the wheel when it sinks!

Please quit using SBTS in your tag-line, it's embarrassing. Use Bob Jones or Tennessee Temple instead, because your ecclesiology is more akin to theirs.

A thoughtful graduate of SBTS

Dave Miller said...

I would be interested in knowing the support for your statement that most of the people who are involved in BI pastor small or declining churches.

Is that a national statistic, or just referring to those who regularly blog?

Kevin Bussey said...


It reminds me of the cookie cutter baseball stadiums of the 70's. They all looked the same. Now people are creating imaginative stadiums. Do we really want all of our churches looking the same. If so, why not merge with the Roman Catholics? Why not have every church preach the same sermon every week? Why not have an approved translation of the Bible? What is next?

Aaron New said...


I still consider myself relatively new to Arkansas (only been here 3 years), but I think I have to take exception to your comparison...

"In many respects the Baptist Identity movement is like the Christian Identity movement here in southeastern Arkansas. There are some good people in both groups."

As I understand the Christian Identity movement, it is a harsh, white supremist, anti-Semitic movement. I doubt I would like to call folks in that movement "good people."

(1) Is that a fair representation of the Christian Identity movement where you are?

(2) Is it really fair to compare the Christian Identity movement to the Baptist Identity movement? Is the Baptist Identity initiative really that extreme? said...


The statement may be more reflective of those who blog, my experience with Baptist Identity trustees and leaders, and personal observation of pastors within this state, etc . . . though I would be happy to stand corrected if I can be shown to be in error. Again, the point is you don't reach PEOPLE with a judgmental, critical spirit - focusing on non-essentials more than you do the gospel.

Anonymous said...

Aaron New,

The two Christian Identity people I know are good, solid people and members of Christian churches. Though you may be right that most of those in the CI are not like that. All I know is my experience. I was just making a comparison.

Gary said...


Terms of reference for the Christian Identity movement. A 50,000 foot overview can be found both at and WikiPedia.

But please remember that this is NOT what Wade is talking about.


Anonymous said...

Thoughtful graduate...

You are upset because I raised the issues of tongues and baptism.

Perhaps I should have raised the issues of women in the pastorate and open communion. Both are issues clearly addressed in the BF&M, yet Wade would have my church support missionaries that articulate and teach positions contrary to the accepted Southern Baptist position. Issues that my church autonomously chose to enter the CP. Call them tertiary positions if you like, but they are clearly addressed and identified as major issues in the BF&M 2000. Besides that baptism is clearly addressed in the BF&M 2000 as a prerequisite to church membership and the ordinance of the Lord's Supper. Wade apparently wants to redefine that position for the convention as well.

Simple Student at SBTS

Anonymous said...

thoughtful graduate,

"being appointed to anything, either at the local or state level, is based on how loyal you've been to the big-wigs and how willing you are to "tow the (CR) party line."

I want to make one challenge in reference to this. I began to get involved on the local level a couple of years ago and I am now involved on the state level as of last fall. In both cases, I had to open the doors myself. It can be done and I truly wish more of our young pastors (like myself) would put the initiative forth to do so. I'm not arguing that "inbreeding" or "nepotism" isn't taking place. I'm simply stating that I have found that the opportunities and doors are more open than we think. If we simply are willing to pursue the opportunities and not sit and wait for a phone call.

Anonymous said...

Ben looks good in that costume.

I propose that if Ben intends to make any motions or offer any resolutions this year that he wear this outfit. Anything he proposes will be sure to pass!

Like most things, I agree with some things that is new organization is promoting and disagree with others.

But I am not convinced that the Barbarians are at the gate.

It's good to know about things like this, but am not going to get worked up anytime soon on this.


R. L. Vaughn said...

Others are interested in weighty issues. But on the lighter side, I am curious how "one of [your] members has been raising prized herefords since the Land Run of 1893." How old is he??? said...

Mr. Vaughan,

Ooops. His great grandfather made the run. The business has been passed down to three generations.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps if you had raised those issues, our discussion would be different, but you didn't.

I am curious about a few things...
1. What is the "accepted Southern Baptist position" a reference to? Do you really think there is some etheral, nebulous position on these issues (i.e. women in pastorate and open communion) that is "common and accepted" among the overwhelming majority of SBs? Do you seriously think that a few thousand (fewer and fewer each year) messengers at a meeting, most of whom are there for the Lifeway deals and the politicing anyway, speak accurately for (supposedly) 16 million SBs? Even 4 million SBs?

You speak about the "accepted position" as if all (or even the majority) of SBs have been polled and agree on some certain position regarding these issues? Because I assure you there is a WIDE diversity of positions on these issues in SB churches across this land. I dare you to poll even 1000 SB churches and find out how many practice true "closed" communion. It won't be many. As per women in ministry, I affirm the 2000BFM change. I am a full complementarian and my church supports the biblical injunction against women in pastoral ministry, but how much of a problem has this been for our IMB missionaries? Do we have missionaries ordaining female pastors? You know as well as I do that this issue was about pastors of local churches here at home, and had little to do w/ the support of missionaries on the field. Do you belong to a church in or near Louisville since you are at SBTS? When I was there (just 2 yrs ago) there were still at least 3-4 SB churches in the Long Run Association with female pastors. Does your church fellowship with LRBA? How about the KBC? I know there are churches in KY that differ w/ the 2000 BFM position on women in can you fellowship with them in good conscience? If you can't, don't worry, the BI guys will be along shortly to tell those folks they can hit the road. The tighter the parameters, the smaller the fellowship and the smaller the fellowship, the less likely there will be any dissent, and when there's no dissenting voices, it will be easy for a small group of ego-centric powerhogs to run it all.

I respect the BFM. I've studied every word of it. Our church holds it. I affirm closed communion and the restriction on women in ministry. But you miss the point of Wade's post. The local church is exactly where one can be as narrow on these issues as one wants to be. The beauty and (dare I use the pagan word) magic of the CP is that it allows diverse Baptists to rally around essentials and work together.

But you and others don't get that.

A few more comments:
1. "Wade would have my church support...contrary to the accepted SB position." Do we currently have missionaries on the field teaching outside the parameters of the BFM? Please provide some proofs of your claim. Me and everyone else would be eager to know if this is true. I suspect it's not, but it becomes the BI's "boogeyman" that's brought out of the closet to scare the masses whenever they want to make a politically expedient move.

2. "Issues that my church autonomously chose to enter the CP." This isn't even a sentence. I have not a clue what you are saying.

3. What does baptism being pre-requisite to membership and the Lord's supper have to do with this discussion? Every local church is allowed to determine how they determine the "validity" of one's baptism according to the parameters of the BFM according to that local church's understanding. Thus, if someone comes to my church for membership from a Bible Church, and after an interview, I determine that they give credible evidence of salvation and that they were immersed following their profession as a sign of obedience to the Lord, we can choose to accept them as full "baptized" members eligible for the Lord's supper. However, our option to do so is just that...our option. I don't need to be told by a document or a board that our church doesn't have the right to determine the boundaries of acceptable baptisms according to the teachings of the bible alone. As of yet, the BFM does NOT say in statement VII that the baptism must be "BAPTIST" although I suspect that will soon change as well if you have your way. I find it supremely ironic that some of the heroes of the SBTS community (Piper, MacArthur to name two) are non-SBs who would not be welcome to join SB churches by your criteria because their "immersion" was not in a SB church. Ridiculous.

And I believe that more than a few SBTS profs (do I need to name them, because I can, but won't for the sake of perception) have come to SBTS from non-SB backgrounds. Were all of them re-baptized when they came to SBTS and joined SB churches? You know they weren't...but they were accepted into fellowship at local SB churches. I am OK with that, it is you who are going to have to explain the inconsistency of attending a SB seminary where all of the profs are not even "SB baptized" while at the same time calling others to the carpet for being against narrowed parameters on baptism at the IMB/ entity level. Not all of SBTS profs pastor churches that practice closed communion either. I know. I attended some of their churches while there, and they are not closed. Guess we should hunt them down too. haven't thought these things through very well. You are being fed a party line, probably by a prof that you admire and respect (or his sons, probably also attending SBTS), and you simply buy it without question. You'll grow out of that.

A thoughtful graduate of SBTS.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Hilliard,

Thanks for the encouraging comment. I am glad that you are increasingly involved and hope you are making a true difference.

All I can say is that I doubt you are in the same state as I am. Here, it is ridicuously stifling. I was involved for many years at the local associational level and was open to serving in any state capacity offered. I was a tried and true CR/ 2000 BFM guy too (and still am), but never had doors open. I finally found the nepotism too nauseating and just drifted away.

In our state, there is an "unauthorized" group of pastors (all conservatives) who meet regularly "off the books" to strategize. From what I know, it is no more than 100 pastors out of the thousands of churches in my state. I know this for a fact. Many from their congregations and their families get regularly appointed to positions while hundreds of smaller-church pastors are passed over year after year. It's tiring to watch and its no different at the national level.

Sorry to be a pessimist. But I do take your words as encouraging. Keep fighting the fight brother.

A thoughtful graduate of SBTS

Anonymous said...

I think the Moderates were TO THE LEFT of the people in the pews and had no business taking their money to support the teaching that the Bible might/does contain error.

I think the B.ID people are TO THE RIGHT of the people in the pews and have no business taking their money to support the shutting out of good Baptists from Missions.

Anonymous said...


You are right. And neither side gets that. Many of the current debates are among conservatives and yet many moderates/liberals are jumping in the debate. They want to claim those who are against the BI group are with them when the truth is they aren't.

Writer said...


I trust your statement of "Most Baptist Identity advocates pastor small churches or preside over declining ministries" is not meant to imply that small churches are declining ministries or are in any way deficient in their value.

I don't believe you mean to disparage small churches but I thought I would give you an opporunity to clarify this part of your statement.



Anonymous said...

Anyone who can help:

I don't want to jump into the middle of this debate, but is the BFM really "clear" on the issue of closed communion? As I read it, the BFM says that communion is for "members of the church" but in the previous statement on the church defines the church both in local and universal terms.

So couldn't one be a born-again Christian (i.e. church universal, i.e. member of the church) and participate in communion at a church where his (earthly) membership did not reside?

Doesn't seem real "clear" to me, at least as the BFM is presently worded.

jbrady said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...


The BF&M states "Christian baptism is the is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper."

I think at the very least it is saying that a Baptist church must not or should not allow a visiting nonimmersed Christian [Methodist, Presbyterian, etc] to partake of the Lord's Supper with them since the nonimmersed Christian has not been baptized first.

I think the inclusion of the word "prerequisite" in the confession makes that clear.

Tim G said...

It would also be interesting to find out what Wade calls a small church.

I thought the wording was indeed weird and wrong. No data to prove and very arrogant in it's perception. said...

I would agree that the small church statement is poorly worded. I have pastored small churches. I consider them to be churches of less than 200 in attendance.

I was attempting to say that you cannot pastor a church that runs over 1,000 and be critical, judgmental and condemning of people with different backgrounds and convictions. You would run away 3/4's of your church.

I do not know of a pastor who pushes BAPTIST IDENTITY - and not Christianity that is pastoring a church over 1,000 in attendance in the Southern Baptist Convention. But as I said, I am happy to be corrected.

By the way, I have repeatedly said that the real heroes in the SBC are the pastors of small churches. They work much harder, do far more in ministry, than pastors of larger churches.

The issue is not small church vs. large church pastors. The issue is 'in our day can a man pastor a large Southern Baptist church and emphasize Baptist Idenity?'

I say the answer is no.

In His Grace,

Wade said...


Do a search on this blog for Lord's Supper and you will find numerous articles that deal with the BFM, closed communion, and how it works itself out in the local Southern Baptist Church.


Anonymous said...

If it is granted that B.ID people are supporting the exclusion of some people from missions with an agenda that is to the right of the people in the pews, then how is this NOT taking advantage of these people who give their money?

Tim G said...

Can a man Pastor a church larger than 200 and even up to 1,000+ and preach the Word without compromise and still be used to grow a church?


Will Baptist Identity be included?
If the Bible is being taught - yes. Jonathan Falwell is one young man doing this better than even his father did.

And no, not all churches who are not Baptist are in sin or wrong :)!

Anonymous said...

Wade, thanks for the help with the communion questions.

Benji, thanks for the exchange as well. I understand your point, and agree. My contention is not regarding Christians from other (non-immersing) denominations. They would not receive communion in our church either. However, true "closed" communion is for members of that local body only. We practice this in our church, but I have found that the majority of SBs I know do not take this stance. They "open" the Lord's table to regenerate Christians who have been scripturally immersed, and usually even say "from churches of like faith and order."

I know there are various levels of "closed" communion. My original question though, going hand in hand with the current baptism exchanges, relates to other Christians who are biblically immersed but not members of the particular local church taking communion. I personally would politely turn-down the offer to partake, but again, the majority of SBs I know would say that they would partake with a clear conscience. How narrow do we need to get on this stuff?

So again, my question is "how clear really is the wording of the 2000 BFM on this issue?" I am not trying to be overly "nit-picky" about this, but some of the threads on here seem to imply that the standards for communion and baptism are being narrowed to Landmark-like status, and I am not so sure that this is required by the BFM or that the "majority" of SBs in the pew would agree.

Thanks again, to both of you for your prompt, reasonable responses. said...


Interesting that you bring up Jonathan Falwell.

I just read the May/June issue of Liberty Journal, with Jonathan's brother, Jerry Falwell, Jr. the chancellor of Liberty University on the cover. There was an article about Jonathan within the magazine.

I was impressed.

Jonathan will be hosting the INNOVATECHURCH Christian Workers Conference.

Charles Billingsley, Thomas Road's Worship Pastor, Ed Stetzer of LIFEWAY, Jim Cymbala of Brooklyn Tabernacle, Chuck Colson, Tommy Walker of Christian Assembly in Los Angeles and Tom Mullins of Christ Fellowship are the conference leaders.

I can assure you, with no hesitation whatsoever, that the men so named are more interested in the Gospel than Baptist Identity, and I can further assure you that many within the Baptist Idenitity movement of the SBC have been very critical of these men.

So, yes, Jonathan Falwell is doing an EXCELLENT job - so is his brother, Jerry, Jr. But they are moving forward with a focus on the gospel and cooperation among evangelicals and not getting bogged down in a Baptist Identity movement. The Kingdom is better for it.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Bob Cleveland said...


I went through 4 months (last weekend each month) of training, called "Shamgar" in 1969 - 1970. There were 12 of us and we focused on witnessing, scripture memory, and spiritual discipline.

I belonged to a Methodist church at the time, as did 2 of the other guys. I know one was a presbyterian, and the trainer from Texas, I have no idea.

That was likely the biggest thing that happened, to me, in my spiritual journey. We went out and witnessed to people the last 2 weekends, and saw people come to Christ. I dare ANYBODY to try to tell me there was ANYTHING wrong with that.

Nobody cared about "identity". I am not about to start, to go beyond being a Christian. said...

Amen Bob.


Anonymous said...

Wade, I hope the light you see at the end of the tunnel isn't a locomotive headlight! It sure seems that way, coming fast.

This continued divisiveness seems a major problem to me. It all just seems one more attempt at control and narrowing of parameters. The 2000 BF&M narrowed things considerably (and had the audacity to make itself an instrument of doctrinal conformity, which no previous Baptist confession had done, to the best of my recollection) and since then there has just been more of the same. Pretty soon there will be just a few left who consider themselves and no one else true Baptists and they will likely each find fault with all others who do not agree completely with them.

This is not what I have always understood being Baptist to mean. Of course, being female, I already do not have a right to an opinion according to many of them, so they have already excluded me and all other thinking women.

Oh well, God still loves me and I still consider myself Baptist, though obviously not their kind.


Steve said...

The more I read of this B.I. stuff, the more I am convinced that somebody is intentionally pulling our leg. Surely, learned and respected men with such reputations wouldn't engage in such pointless (practically puerile in a philosphical sense) debating on such questions as whether a church was represented in the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch.

I get the sense that if Wade or the ExComm or some political entity had demanded that the SWBTS faculty invest time in such inapplicable pursuit, the noise of rejection would still be echoing.

Therefore, the Watergate answer has to apply: this is a pursuit of either power or money. Maybe it began with an effort to whitewash the IMB manipulations of truth the past couple years, or to make some other cluster-buck more palatable.

I simply cannot imagine well-intentioned Christians giving this malarkey the time of day! Aren't these leaders of our convention BUSY?

R. L. Vaughn said...

Susie, re your statement "so they have already excluded me and all other thinking women," whom would you identify as "thinking women" and who are "unthinking women"?


OC Hands said...

I apologize for this post on the previous topic. Somehow part of it was deleted. So, I have tried to reconstruct it so it makes sense. Thanks Mary for calling it to my attention:

One thing that I have observed in reading this blog is how many who post here have the gift of judgment. From one paragraph or two, some are judged as being liberal, fundamentalists, not such as building a larger sanctuary. The pastor was indeed challenged, and proceeded with these plans. But in the midst of his planning, God spoke to him and reminded him of his call and responsibility for evangelism. Chastened, and chagrined, he began a project of contacting every member who had not attended church in several years. First, he wrote a letter to each one, inquiring as to why they had not attended, and what he could do to minister to them. He was amazed at the results, as scores of people responded to his communication with them. Then he began to communicate with people who lived in the vicinity of the church, inviting them to a discussion of the Bible and Christian beliefs. Many responded, and the result was his church began to grow again. Not only that, he led the church to begin several new churches, one of which I was personally involved in starting.
It would seem to me that an encouraging word to the churches would have more of an effect than one which was critical of the manner in which they have reported their membership in the past.
I would suggest a strong challenge to every church to begin a campaign to contact all the members on their rolls to find out where they are, and why they no longer attend the church with an offer to be of service to them. It might actually catch on and have the desired effect of the resolutions.
This all relates to "Baptist Identity" What is it? Some expressions of Baptist identity that I see on these blogs does not sound at all like the church where I first believed in Christ and was baptized--the church where I learned how to serve the Lord and worship together with fellow believers. It was a small country church, but we were very supportive of missions and missionaries. And, it was at that church that God began preparing me for service as a missionary, in spite of the faults and failures of some of its members.
That church is still dear to my heart, and continues to shed the light of the gospel in that community. They have no doubt as to who they are as Baptists, and would resent and resist any efforts by some who would try to make all churches and church members conform to THEIR idea of what Baptists are. Can't we cooperate (the reason we came together in the begining, right?) in sharing the love of Christ with the whole world?

Savage Baptist said...

The Southern Baptist Convention was built on cooperation among diverse churches, not conformity among identical churches.

I like that. There is so little in the way of provable hard-and-fast "thou shalts" and "thou shalt nots" in the New Testament that it has often seemed to me that it would be really weird if all churches looked and acted just like each other.

I'm never quite sure if the quest for conformity--though I'm convinced that there is such a quest in certain quarters--is altogether a top-down thing, though. It seems to me that there is also a certain unwillingness on the part of many Baptists to holler out that the emperor has no clothes, or to critically examine what people say. Just for example, once we had a traveling musician perform at our church. During the performance, he made a comment to the effect that you had better be careful what sort of "Christian music" you listen to--after all, there are ostensibly Christian songs out there that don't actually mention God, or Christ, or Jesus.

I didn't think too much about it, but a couple of weeks later, our pastor (who was actually much sharper than this anecdote will make him sound), brought up that very point during his Wednesday night message. Afterward, I mentioned to him that we sang a song all the time that didn't mention--at least by name--God, or Christ, or Jesus: Be Thou My Vision.

The look on his face was priceless.

The thing was, he was perfectly prepared to accept as sound spiritual instruction the concept that a person shouldn't listen to songs that didn't mention God, or Christ, or Jesus. It sounded good, sounded right--but wasn't.

Too many of us in the Southern Baptist Convention are vulnerable to that sort of thing. It sounds good, it sounds right, it sounds spiritual--but ain't. And until we learn to say something about it, we're going to have problems like the ones you're talking about.

Anonymous said...

Thoughtful Graduate,

You may be right. Although, I am in NC which is quite a battleground between moderates/liberals and conservatives/fundamentalists. My first association yawned at my presence and I never got involved. My second was much better. As for the State, they needed nominations and the best qualified person to nominate me did. My wife.:)

Don't give up.

Anonymous said...

Here's what Wade does not understand.

He has a definition of baptism. In its simplest terms it is "by immersion, after coming to faith in Christ". He believes this definition is biblical, supported by the Baptist Faith and Message, Baptist history, and the typical Southern Baptist church. Therefore if a Southern Baptist church approved the baptism of a potential IMB missionary that did not meant the criteria of Wade's definition, he would say the IMB is full within its rights to reject this missionary until he is "rebaptized". So Wade believes in a "Top-Down Ecclesiology" just as much as any Baptist identity Southern Baptist.

Now Wade is going to response and say I am presenting a scenario that would never happen. Yet there are Southern Baptist churches that receive Mormon immersions, Jehovah Witness immersions, Catholic immersions, and even pedobaptist sprinklings. If one of these churches sent one of these members to be a IMB missionary, Wade would want the potential missionary rejected until he was rebaptized, regardless of the fact that this person's home church approved his baptism.

You see it all comes down to what you believe about baptism. Baptist identity Southern Baptists believe that baptism is ""by immersion, after coming to faith in Christ", but we also believe that baptism is only a symbol unlike the baptismal regeneration crowd. And we believe that baptism is an ordinance of the local church and can only be administered under the authority of a New Testament church. We believe the scriptures, the Baptist Faith and Message, Baptist history, and the typical Southern Baptist church supports this position.

- Ben Stratton

Michael Ruffin said...

If we are indeed heading toward a post-denominational future, I'm starting to think that it can't get here soon enough.

Baptist Theologue (Mike Morris) said...


This post was certainly thought-provoking. My desire is not to attack anyone. I do desire, however, to inject some thoughts from my perspective as one who sympathizes more with the Baptist identity movement than with the reform/dissent movement. I do not speak for anyone other than myself.

You stated, “The new Baptist Identity initiative in the Southern Baptist Convention is an attempt by some to redefine what it means to be a Southern Baptist.”

I don’t get that impression at all. I think it’s an attempt to clarify historical Southern Baptist distinctives rather than to redefine who we are in the sense of historical revisionism.

You also said, “The Southern Baptist Convention historically recognizes that the local church sends out missionaries, NOT THE INTERNATIONAL MISSION BOARD. The IMB was created to facilitate churches sending THEIR missionaries. Recently, that dynamic has changed.”

The missionary candidate is required to submit a local church recommendation in the application process, so the local church is certainly involved in the sending out of missionaries. When I was commissioned as an IMB missionary, some members of the church where I had served as pastor attended the commissioning service and felt very involved. I continually informed church members about my candidacy after attending candidate conference. On the other hand, however, my church was not the only SBC church that was sending me. The IMB trustees who played a role in my appointment were accountable to the Southern Baptist Convention. I think the system works well. I played a small part in it one year when I served on the Committee on Committees for the SBC. I was not a smoke-filled room. I simply nominated a person to serve on the SBC Committee on Nominations. I would have been required to defend my nomination had it been challenged from the floor of the convention.

You also said, “Second, Baptist Identity people wish to use the BFM as a ‘tool of accountability.’ They have forgotten that confessions of faith are confessions, not creeds.”

I don’t think it’s just BI people who see the BFM as an instrument of doctrinal accountability. That description is now in the preamble of the 2000 BFM, which you referenced later in your post: “Baptist churches, associations, and general bodies have adopted confessions of faith as a witness to the world, and as instruments of doctrinal accountability.”

Under the section of your post entitled “A Loss of Church Autonomy,” you stated, “The Baptist Identity movement wishes to exclude from cooperation any church that dares to do it differently than they do. . . . Yet, any study of history would lead people to recognize that true Baptist identity is found in churches that practiced autonomy.”

Well, again, I can only speak for myself. I believe that local churches are indeed autonomous. They can do what they want to do. They can even send out their own missionaries. It is also true, however, that associations, state conventions, and the SBC are also autonomous. Thus, associations, state conventions, and the SBC cannot tell local churches what to do, but they can autonomously decide not to cooperate with particular local churches. Conversely, particular local churches can decide not to cooperate with associations, state conventions, and the SBC. Autonomy works both ways, and it is not threatened by a lack of cooperation.

In the past you and I discussed your ancestor, Rufus Burleson (1823-1901). Both of us admire him. Based on the following quotes, do you think he would be even a little bit sympathetic with the Baptist Identity folks?

From The Life and Writings of Rufus C. Burleson, compiled and published by Mrs. Georgia J. Burleson (Waco, TX, 1901):

“On one occasion Rufus went with his father to hear a presiding elder preach on baptism, in reply to an uneducated Baptist preacher, who had been guilty of baptizing some half-dozen of his most prominent members, amid the usual jeers, ridicule and sneers heaped upon the Baptists of that day for their ignorance and bigotry. . . . Rufus reminded his father that when the congregation laughed, under these withering criticisms of the denomination to which he belonged, he hung his head in shame, not that the insinuations were either true or just, but that there was even an excuse for making them. ‘My soul,’ Rufus said, ‘burned as young David’s did when Goliath derided Israel, and Israel’s God, and I want to so prepare myself as a preacher as to make it impossible to cast such reflections on God’s Church and Baptist people.’ ”(38)

“Dr. Campbell withdrew from the Baptists and was, for a time an independent preacher. . . . He seemed to be more hostile toward the Baptist than any other denomination, and Baptist churches suffered more from his preaching and proselyting influence of his followers than any other Christian organization. . . . Mr. Burleson saw the peril of the situation, the break in Baptist ranks, that the issues were vital, and that every man must stay with his colors, and speak, giving forth no uncertain sound as to what Baptists might expect unless the influence of this powerful propagandist was neutralized. He entered the arena, sought controversy, preached many sermons in defense of his own creed, (the Bible) showing the weak places in the code of the new sect, and exhorting his own people in burning eloquence to stand firm. . . . He therefore prepared a series of articles for ‘The Tennessee Baptist.’ . . . In these articles he maintained that we cannot exercise saving faith in Jesus Christ, and at the same time believe in the possibility of baptismal regeneration. . . . These contributions to the press, his sermons and personal work, in this great wave of religious excitement that was sweeping over the country, had some effect in rendering the Baptists steady and loyal to the Church of their fathers.” (47-49)

“Mr. Burleson . . . wrote a serio-comic article, in which he gave the substance of a lecture delivered by a theological professor to his class as containing the only formula then known for killing Baptists, which is here given. . . . ‘The truth is, there is but one way to kill the Baptists, and that way is to hug them to death. I mean kill them with kindness, call them dear brethren, invite them to your communion table, urge them to come unite with you as brethren, and leave off the discussion of doctrinal questions. This is the most effective, indeed the only way, to kill the Baptists. The old Doctor was right, and many weak-kneed Baptists are suffering themselves to be hugged to death every day, while those who are loyal to their convictions are increasing very rapidly.’” (50-52)

“The deacons expressed a willingness to excuse their pastor for a few days, and Mr. Burleson consented. The interesting story of this, his first revival in Texas, we give in his own language: ‘The third Sunday in June, 1848, I went to Galveston to commence a protracted meeting with the Baptist Church. . . . As is always my custom, I explained briefly and lovingly that the beautiful ordinance of baptism is to remind us vividly of our Savior’s baptism in the River Jordan, and also of His burial and glorious resurrection, and that it was also designed to illustrate our future burial and resurrection, and to proclaim to the world that we had died to sin, were now “buried in holy baptism, and raised up to walk in newness of life.” This brief explanation astonished many of that assemblage, who saw a beauty and solemnity in baptism never dreamed of before. Indeed, it shook the faith of many who believed in other modes, who had been attending the meeting. Some of these said: “If Bro. Burleson is going to turn this great revival into a mean proselyting affair, we will have nothing more to do with it.” ’ ” (77-81)

“Few ministers ever lived who entertained a more exalted opinion of the Church of Jesus Christ, and had a clearer conception of the authority and calling of the pastor than R. C. Burleson. . . . He believed ‘the inspired Scriptures contained the supreme authority. . . . That Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, after the apostolic appointment, both as it regards their relation to themselves as ordinances, and to other great Gospel teachings, should be practiced solely as God’s Truth enjoins. Water can never wash away the stain of sin, and the Supper should only be celebrated when the local church is met in one place as a body.’ ” (91-92)

Mike Morris (aka, BT)

Unknown said...

Mike Morris,

That was beautiful. Just plain beautiful. I was just reading all the comments, the Baptist Identity vs. the non-Baptist Identity, closed communion, and all the other stuff - and then you wrote what you did. Beauty of baptism, reminder of Our Savior's baptism, symbolism of death and newness of life. Exalted opinion of the Church of Jesus Christ.

No matter where we stand on the issues, He's what we stand for, right? He's our common bond.

Baptist Theologue (Mike Morris) said...

Thanks, Elisabeth. He is what we stand for.

volfan007 said...

may more rufus burleson's arise in our sbc. even if they are only "small church pastors" who are not "blue blooded southern baptists."

oh, btw, joel osteen gets a huge crowd every does schuler in california. God help us to not be so concerned with "large crowds and big churches" that we're willing to sell out sound, bible doctrine in order to get them.


Debbie Kaufman said...

david: It's not selling out sound Bible doctrine. God forbid. It's making room for those whose tertiary sound Bible doctrine is different from ours.

I believe there is room for both the small church and the larger churches. One is not better than the other, just different. But what if I was in power and decided that small churches were not allowed in the SBC and made a move to oust them based on their size? Or vice versa, what if I wanted to oust bigger churches because they might become like Joel Olsteen's or Dr. Schuller although there would be no evidence that was happening but my fear?

That is what I feel those who are in Baptist Identity are doing to people who disagree with them on tertiary doctrine. It wouldn't be right for me to want to oust small churches or large churches just for their size and it's just as wrong to oust people because they don't agree that all doctrine is equally important.

Tom Parker said...


I sadly have come to the conclusion that it is just best not to respond to some in the blog world. Someone in the last week gave me the advice to walk away from those it is just not possible to have a conversation with and it was one of the best moves of my life. Fires have to have oxygen to stay alive.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Every church on planet earth is too small. As long as there is at least one soul to be won to Christ, your church is too small.

Steve said...

"... so they have already excluded me and all other thinking women."

Could a thinking woman be one who would prefer to be judged on her own acts or disdeeds than by the acts of Eve or any other historical/allegorical figure?
I daresay if the SBC decided tomorrow that it had found that most True Believers of absolute fundamentalist and legalist concepts were somehow disqualified from being ordained, you would boil at the pre-judgement made about you by someone who didn't even know you. Think about how invested in or trusting you would then become in "your" own denomination.

Anonymous said...

When I read Wade's original post I didn't read anything about forsaking the sound Gospel in order to build a crowd. I read that he seriously doubts anyone can build a very large church when they're judgemental and divisive. Maybe if they live in a community that is judgemental and divisive. Today people are sick of this type of stuff, which is part of the reason we're going to see a decline in the SBC.

Jeff said...

Wade, There are several IFB churches that run over a thousand. Many of these people are very restrictive in their beliefs about what it means to be a baptist.

Jeff said...

Young Tom Parker, I too followed that same advise and you are definitely less offensive. Still wrong, but just less offensive. :)

That's a joke so you can smile---I just wanted you to know that since you must have played football without a helment. That's a joke too! :)

Jeff said...

cmlcros, We do not know the reasons the SBC is in decline. Isalm is growing really fast too, and look how judgmental they are so you simply can't make that connection.

Jeremiah's ministry was in decline but he was being faithful to the Lord.

Anonymous said...

Mike Morris:

What a great comment.

I am not sure that we would agree on every issue in Baptist life, but I can see why you were appointed to the Committee on Committees. I bet you did a great job.

Wade, congrats on such a great heritage.


J. Guy Muse said...

Concise, and so very well stated. I just wish every S. Bapt. out there could have access to reading this well-crafted post. If they did, I am confident 95% would be in agreement, and we could all get back to the placing our attention on making disciples of the nations.

Christopher B. Harbin said...

So what is the difference between the baptist Identity initiative and the CR? They seem to be parallel in focus and aim, one just being more restrictive than the other. When you exclude others to enforce your own opinions and preferences, there is little reason to cry foul when the action is replicated. this is the direction the SBC has been moving since 1979. Why does this surprise anyone?

Unknown said...

Ben Stratton,

Can you show us from scripture where the hand of the administrator of baptism was more important than the heart of believer?

If the hand of the administrator is indeed as important or more important than the confession of the believer in baptism, thus making baptism improperly administrated "invalid", then it would stand to reason that all the generations of believers that followed from that baptism would also be invalid.

This being the case, how are we to know that any of us have been properly baptized?

If we were to follow your (landmarkist) logic, we should all keep records of our baptism pedigree as closely as the Mormons keep of their ancestors.

Michael Ruffin said...

Chris Harbin,

Amen and Amen.

As I have before, the SBC has sown the wind and is now reaping the whirlwind.

Everybody should have seen this coming because it has never stopped coming and I believe that it never will.

I suppose that somewhere, someday, there will be that one person who is absolutely right about everything, who can rest smug in his convictions, and who can ponder the fact that he is all alone. But at least he will be right.

And when he stands before the Lord, I suppose he will hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant--you were right."

Or not.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, I am praying for you. After reading your comments on here, I've decided that's the best I or any one else on here can do for you. Not sure where you anger and sacrasm comes from, maybe one too many deacons' meetings...

Rex Ray said...

Benji Ramsaur,
You said, “I think the Moderates were TO THE LEFT of the people in the pews and had no business taking their money to support the teaching that the Bible might/does contain error.”

That’s funny because what you say is backwards. The Moderates (BGCT) give money and in return, they’re denied being missionaries or leaders in the SBC.

At the 2004 SBC, the Holman Christian Standard Bible was advertised: “The Most Perfect Bible”. If all Bibles are perfect, how can one be “Most Perfect”?
Maybe the Holman was most perfect because there was not a contradiction in Matthew with Mark and Luke since the Holman changed the ruler’s daughter from dead to alive.

Even the BFM has: “We believe that the Bible has God for its author; salvation for its end; and truth, without any mixture of error…”

Benji, I’ll bet that you read the BFM statement as ‘…without ANY error’. Will you explain what “mixture” means?

Hint: “mixture” is a lawyer word that means truth and untruth as explained by the SBC lawyer, Michel Whitehead.

Caution: The Ten Commandments of no other God’s before me includes the messenger.
So please, don’t beat me over the head that I have to believe as you.

Gary said...


THANK YOU so much for stating elegantly what I've been asking for some time on this and other blogs. If the person who baptised the person who baptised me was not "right", then am I?

So I guess there will be semantic acrobatics to try to prove a point, but as far as I'm concerned it is a load of hog-wash.

I'm with you. This is Landmarkism dressed up with different color socks.


Jeff said...

I can always use prayers, if I am the Jeff you are praying for. If not please pray for me anyway, I am a finite fallen man who has been saved by grace. I can assured you I am not angry, and that most of what I write is with my tongue in cheek.

But I do appreciate your prayers.


Anonymous said...

Rex Ray,

I said "I think the Moderates were [past tense] TO THE LEFT of the people in the pews and had no business taking their money to support the teaching that the Bible might/does contain error.”

You said "The Moderates (BGCT) give [present tense] money and in return, they’re denied being missionaries or leaders in the SBC.

Therefore, since I did not state anything concerning the present status of Moderates, then your statement of the present status of Moderates to the SBC does not apply to my statement.

However, I will state this: I think the Moderates are STILL to the left of the [majority] of the people in the pews. Therefore I think they would have no business taking their money to support the teaching that the Bible might/does contain error if the Moderates were in positions of authoity to do so today.

Jeff said...

P.S. To my nameless prayer partner, why not share your name? or have you been in one too many deacons meeting---like me :)

Jeff said...

One more p.s. I must confess now that the deacons that I serve with are a blessing. They are the best group I have ever worked with and are great encouragers to me.

Anonymous said...

To all,

I think it is NOT just about what you or I think is biblical or not.

I think it is also about who is giving the money.

The establishing of innerancy in the SBC and its agencies was, I think, a responsible move on the part of the convention since it represented the majority of the people in the pews [in my opinion].

However, I think the affirming of the BF&M 2000 [along with the subsequent further narrowing that has happened] has been an irresponsible move since I think it is to the right of where the people in the pews are [in my opinion].

Baptist Theologue (Mike Morris) said...

Louis, thanks for the compliment.


Only By His Grace said...


Billy Graham gets a large crowd, too, if I am not mistaken. And your point...?

Phil in Norman.

Anonymous said...

To the B.ID people and sympathizers,

If the B.ID agenda is to the right of the people in the pews, then is it not true that to shut out people from missions with the B.ID agenda is to use a top down approach?

However, if the people who hold to the B.ID agenda came down to where the people in the pews are and convinced them of their agenda [with the result that a change in the SBC and its agencies happened in time], then would this not be a bottom up approach?

Which approach is [more?] grassroots oriented and which approach is [more?] elitist oriented?

Only By His Grace said...


I do not think you would have a majority (the center) if you did not have those to the left and right of that center; however, the questions are:

Should there be any representation at all of the left and right on the mission fields, in seminaries, committees, etc.?

Should we receive money from the right of center folks or the left of center folks if we deny them service on the mission fields, committees, seminaries, etc?

More importantly, where does left and right begin and who decides where left and right begins?

Phil in Norman.

Anonymous said...

"This being the case, how are we to know that any of us have been properly baptized?"

Mr. Stratton,
I was baptized by a seminary graduate, ordained sbc pastor, who a short while later was found to be cheating on his wife, left her and the kids, left the church, became a police chaplain and started living with a young woman.

Is my baptism valid because at the precise moment I was baptized he WAS ordained and none of us knew the bad stuff yet?


Anonymous said...


My present deacons aren't the best I have every served, I'll stay this way for now.

I do like how you were quick to point out how good your current bunch are! You afraid that might read what you've written here? :)

oc said...

Phil in Norman,

Excellent questions. Especially the last one. I want to know the answers to those questions.

Larry in MS.

Anonymous said...

Only by His grace,

Good questions.

Basically I think the voice of the people in the pews needs to be voiced at the SB Convention[s] through sending messengers who will be sensitive to the voice of the local church they are a member of.

If they will do this, then they can answer your good questions.

Having said that, I think [and this is just my opinion] this is where they are at on some things.

I don't think they would be comfortable with teachers teaching that the Bible might/does contain error in the Seminaries.

I don't think they would be pleased with people being turned down to go on the Mission field through the IMB because they had a PPL, were baptized in a Free Will Baptist church, believed in open communion, or believed that women could be pastors.

I don't think they would mind a landmarker or landmark sympathizer to go on the mission field through the IMB as long as they could work with whoever they might have to do missions with.

I don't think they would want people on the boards who would impose minority positions on the rest of the denomination, but I also don't think they would mind some on the boards who have minority positions.

Anyway, I basically think that the people in the pews do have their limits, but are open to others serving in the denomination who I think are [somewhat?] to the left or right of where they are.

Jeff said...

No, my name is out here, what about your name?

Anonymous said...

Excellent comment Benji. There are many of us who envision the SBC as a large, though theologically orthodox (as per the boundaries of the BFM) tent. I am perfectly willing to work alongside a Landmarker, so long as he is not trying to ram his extra-biblical, beyond the BFM views on me. That's the difference that is at contention though.

Others want a smaller and smaller tent, and they want to force out any who do not agree with them on every jot and tittle, usually jots and tittles that are well beyond the parameters of the BFM.

In the end, if we don't stand up and speak out, they will have their smaller tent (i.e. a pup-tent if we are to follow some's prescriptions!). And it will suit them as well, for then, the clowns can go about with their narrow little circus. :-)

Sorry, I couldn't resist playing out that metaphor as far as it could go!

Jeff said...

Perhaps Anonymous it is best to stand up and speak out---perhaps it is best to begin with your name.

Gary said...

Mr. Stratton,

You said: "And we believe that baptism is an ordinance of the local church and can only be administered under the authority of a New Testament church."

I ask the following in all seriousness: What local church was John the Baptist acting on behalf of when he baptized Jesus?



Rex Ray said...

You made some good statements, but you ‘wiggle wiggle’ like Clinton asking “What does ‘is” mean?” when you said you were using “past tense” in referring to what Moderates did. What did Moderates do then that they don’t do now?

I agree passionately with your saying, “I think the affirming of the BF&M 2000…has been an irresponsible move.”

You said “The establishing of inerrancy in the SBC and its agencies was, I think, a responsible move on the part of the convention…”

How did the convention establish ‘inerrancy’ when it is not even mentioned in the BFM?

BTW, you did not reply to my two questions:
1. If all Bibles are perfect, how can one Bible be “most perfect”?
2. Will you explain what “mixture” means?

Anonymous said...

Rex Ray,

You make me smile. I have probably been compared to many things--but not Bill Clinton:)

I believe the original autographs [which, yes Rex, we don't have-yes, yes, yes, yes:)] were perfect.

I believe mixture has to do with error being "mixed in" with the contents of the Bible [like the chocolate chips were mixed in with my wife's pancakes last night].

Now Rex, I can tell you're a good feller and we've been down this road before.

Inerrancy is worth debating. However, after a while it begins to feel like two guys who are standing around arguing whether or not the car has gas in it.

Just drive the car Rex.

It's got gas.

ezekiel said...

"We do not know the reasons the SBC is in decline."

Yes we do, just don't want to admit it. It is the same problem we see the Lord condemning in Haggai 1.

Over and over in the comment thread, we see fighting for the SBC, for our religious system and for Baptist identity.

Building our houses rather than the Work of the Kingdom. We would all do well to turn our attention to building the Temple.

2 Cor 6:16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

"I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.

Don't get me wrong, I am just as willing as the next guy to fight for "correct doctrine". But I think we would be better off making disciples, pointing people to the BOOK and encouraging people to abide in the WORD.

We have seminary professors and preachers more concerned about "baptist identity" than Christian identity. More concerned about the SBC than the christian that they have to drive from their midst because they don't interpret the WORD exactly as they do. More concerned about maintaining control over the house they built than being part of the house the HE is building.

The same mistake that Israel made in Jerusalem and that Jesus condemned when He came the first time. Somehow, we have convinced whole assemblies that His Grace and His Mercy has it all covered when in fact, it is our rebellion and refusal to hear His instruction and turn back to him that has caused this mess. And it will keep causing it until He has had enough.

Then we are told, He returns the second time. The first three chapters of Revelations gives us a glimpse of that.

Don Smith

Anonymous said...

People in the pews,

In the light of high gas prices [among other things], you might want to consider putting your money together to send messengers you believe you can trust to the Convention [if you have not already].

oc said...



Christopher B. Harbin said...


To the point, and on the money.

DT Boy said...

Just a question if a church does not affirm the 2000 BFM is it no longer to be considered Southern Baptist?

Seriously is it the affirmation of the BFM that makes a church Southern Baptist or is it by their actions of giving to the CP and working with other SBC churches to spread the gospel that makes them Southern Baptist?

I have always lived under the notion that actions speak louder than words.

Anonymous said...

My error.

What I said should read "I believe mixture has to do with error N O T being "mixed in" with the contents of the Bible [like the chocolate chips were mixed in with my wife's pancakes last night].

Christopher B. Harbin said...


I guess that includes typos in a name? :)

Anonymous said...

WOW...thoughtful student of SBTS

You have certainly shown your ignorance in more than one area of Baptist life and history.

First of all, as to the "no landmarkism in the SBC." Go read your SBC history. One of the most well-known SBC pastors of the 19th century was Dr. J.R. Graves, whose landmark beliefs were taught through the pages of THE TENNESSEE BAPTIST state paper. There were also men like A.C. Dayton, J. M. Pendleton, and others who held to the BIBLICAL position of Landmarkism.

As for John R. Rice and other IFB preachers, these are great men but they ARE NOT LANDMARKERS. Their beliefs in local vs universal church alone would disqualify them.

So please, before you attempt to take someone to task, try reading a little more. You could save yourself some embarrassment.

Dr. Jim Roebuck

Anonymous said...


Good questions.

I believe grassroots Baptists need to answer those questions at the Convention[s].

Anonymous said...


That is pretty funny:)

DT Boy said...

I really would like someone to answer those questions. I would especially like someone who at the least sympathizes with the BI folks to answer those questions.

For the record I also think it is ok for women to be ordained. Does this stance make me no longer a Southern Baptist? Just another thought for the discussion.

I believe in cooperation. I believe in cooperating for the Gospel even across denominational lines.

I chose to be a Southern Baptist while I was in College. I think we have one of the greatest missionary sending organizations in the world. I do not want to see that destroyed over issues that have so little to do with the Gospel.

Baptist Theologue (Mike Morris) said...

Dtboy, you said, “I would especially like someone who at the least sympathizes with the BI folks to answer those questions.”

Because I earlier said that I sympathize with the BI movement, I am guessing that you want me to comment.

You asked, “For the record I also think it is ok for women to be ordained. Does this stance make me no longer a Southern Baptist?”

I talked earlier about autonomy. You as an individual are autonomous in regard to what you call yourself. Thus, you can call yourself a Southern Baptist when you introduce yourself to other people. They might ask you what you mean by that designation. At that point, you would have the opportunity to define Southern Baptist doctrine as you see it. Your definition might differ from mine. As I mentioned earlier, local churches, associations, state conventions, and the SBC are all autonomous entities. They, as well as you, can decide with whom they will cooperate. A local church could choose not to cooperate with you for doctrinal reasons. Conversely, you could choose not to cooperate with a local church for doctrinal reasons. If your local church has a woman serving as its senior pastor, probably most associations, state conventions, and the SBC itself will choose not to cooperate with your church to some degree, on some level, or at some point in time. The association has traditionally been the chief doctrinal watchdog in regard to local churches because it is closer to the church than is the state convention or the SBC. Most associations would probably choose to not to cooperate with your church if your church were to have a woman as a senior pastor.

If you have any other questions, I would be glad to answer them. Again, I speak only for myself.

Chris Johnson said...

Good words brother Mike Morris.....keep on theologin'


Baptist Theologue (Mike Morris) said...

Chris, it was good to see you at the regional ETS meeting. Let's do the IHOP thing again when you're in town.

Anonymous said...

"Most associations would probably choose to not to cooperate with your church if your church were to have a woman as a senior pastor."

Strange how that would be an issue not to associate over but a pastor who keeps a pedophile minister on staff is NOT an issue some would consider disassociating over.

I can think of quite a few churches where sexual molestation occured by staff and the church did nothing but yet there was no consideration of disassociating with them.

But, have a woman preach and you are in sin!

Seems we pick our issues in a strange way.

Only By His Grace said...


Thank you for answering my questions.

Personally, I agree that the Scriptures in the original manuscripts were perfect to which you can add a plethora of words, inerrant, verbal, plenary, without error. I know we do not have the original manuscripts, but as we compare all that we do have with many the quotes from the early church fathers, I believe our Bible is very close to the original manuscripts; whereas having this in mind I do not really get upset when I hear a person who takes a day as an age theory of creation or does not believe that there was a literal fish that swallowed up Jonah. I do get upset when someone tries to tell me that my church and I have to believe like they believe in all their interpretations of which most are just theories at the very best.

Phil in Norman.

Anonymous said...

Here is a question to ponder: what is the opposite of innerancy or an inerrantist?

Several whose writings and opinions I respect on this blog have suggested that the answer is one who believes there are, or could be, errors in the Sacred Text. Respectfully, I disagree. I went to the "old" SEBTS, regarded as horribly liberal. I never heard a professor say such a thing, and I know no Baptist (whether still in the folds of the SBC, or in the CBF) who puts it that way. On the contrary, those of us who do not like/use the term reason that the Bible is our sole guide in matters of faith and practice, and most of us (including myself) would concede that with that parameter, at least the original manuscripts were "inerrant." However, first, we (I) also reason that since no such original manuscripts are extant, the whole argument is a tempest in a teapot: without those manuscripts, inerrancy can neither be proven nor disproven. Second, we (I) see at least the possibility of the text being used for purposes God did not intend it. The Bible was not given as a textbook for mathematics, or science, or geography, or geology, or any other disciplines, and thus should not be used for that--yet to simply say "the Bible is inerrant" could suggest there are no limits as to what it should be used for. But again: those of us who do not like/use the term "inerrancy" do so because it lends itself to so many misinterpretations, and to attach the parameters we believe are necessary negate the meaning of the term itself. It does NOT mean we think the Bible is "full of errors."

Baptist Theologue (Mike Morris) said...

Anonymous, you quoted me, but I did not pick the issue of a woman serving as a pastor. I was answering Dtboy’s question, but I will be glad to comment. I assume that everyone who posts here agrees that the molestation of a child is horrible sin. I’m not sure what such molestation has to do with the Baptist Identity movement. I believe in congregational authority, so I believe that the congregation is ultimately responsible for deciding whom to hire and whom to fire. Again, I only speak for myself, but I assume that Southern Baptists who are in the Baptist Identity movement and agree with the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message believe in such congregational authority. The 2000 BFM states, “Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes.” I think that it is much easier for small churches to maintain transparent democratic processes. When I was a pastor at a small church in Kentucky we had a monthly business meeting, and every member at that meeting received a financial report that listed every check written. There was complete accountability. Anyone could speak up at a business meeting, and we had time to deal with all questions and comments. Megachurches would have a difficult time listing every check in a monthly business meeting and accommodating every person wanting to ask a question or make a comment. At this time in our culture, however, there seems to be a greater need for accountability and transparency than ever before. I hope the megachurches can figure out how to do things as transparently as possible (without violating privacy laws, etc.) so that all their members sense that their congregations operate through democratic processes. In a Baptist Press report (April 10, 2008) Frank Page said, “Most of the mega-churches in the Southern Baptist Convention are declining.” This decline may be due to our changing culture and the concern for greater accountability and transparency. I cannot predict the future, but my guess would be that this trend of declining megachurch attendance will continue. I think many people are rediscovering the good things about small churches, e.g., having close relationships with the pastor and other members of the church. The big programs that can be offered by megachurches may not be as big a factor in attracting people as they used to be. I think, however, that there will always be a place for megachurches. There will always be superb preachers like Spurgeon who will attract big crowds. I am very thankful for the help that some megachurches give to small churches.

Bob Cleveland said...

It seems to me that the framers of the original consensus statements of faith did an outstanding job of providing a framework within which a sound Christian can answer God's claim on their life, respond in areas in which the Holy Spirit sovereignly has gifted them, and fill their role in the Kingdom work. And I still see that in the BF&M (albeit watered down a bit by the exclusion of woman pastors). Certainly much moreso than in my prior denominations.

And it really ought to be simple, so ordinary folks can see themselves fitting into God's plan, with some knowledge that God has uniquely and individually prepared them for the task to which God individually called them.

So who is it that's complicating that, now? Shouldn't the SBC be the leaders in facilitating God's call in people's lives, rather than picking and choosing who can do what?

Shouldn't the SBC lead the way, with their international perspective, in calling churches to clean up their membership rolls and taking steps toward assuring regenerate membership?

Shouldn't they be involved in helping churches solve the elephant-in-the-room abuse of children by those in the ministry?

Shouldn't they be making this thing easy on us as members, rather than building more hoops to jump through?

And why when Dr. Stetzer points out real problems are lurking in the shadows and hidden in the statistics, do people excoriate him and try to explain away what he points out complete with evidence to prove it?

What's going on here?

Anonymous said...

Dr. Roebuck, thank you for setting me straight. You sure put me in my place. Please allow me a second to recover from my terrible embarrassment…OK…that’s long enough. :-)

First, you are right that John R. Rice is not a Landmarker. His book "The Churches and the Church" clearly delineate that he believes in a Universal church and he has been castigated by many Landmarkers ever since its release in the 50's. He is however a legalistic fundamentalist, and in today’s SBC, it is my opinion that many of the same folks who are trying to push us back toward Landmarkism would also be happy to move more toward Rice-like fundamentalism. So in my haste to whip-out a tongue-in-cheek comment, I wrongly lumped Rice together with Landmarkers. Thank you for keeping me intellectually honest. I should be more careful in the future.

However, before you presume to know too much about me, please know that my salvation and earliest years of ministry occurred in an IFB LANDMARKIST church. My Bible-College education was at a LANDMARKIST School. I had the Trail of Blood handed to me (literally) on the day of my profession of faith and my pastor challenged me to learn it before he challenged me to learn any Bible verses. I cut my teeth on C.D. Cole’s “New Testament Church” and still have it on my shelf. I had read works by all three “great triumvirate” authors (Dayton, Graves, Pendleton) long before I ever even considered becoming a SB, much less going to a SB seminary. Yes, I have even read sections of "Theodosia Ernest" by Dayton (kinda' dry reading). I know all about the “5 questions,” the “Cotton Grove resolutions,” the Whitsitt controversy, the legacy of the Carroll brothers, etc…etc...etc... I know the Landmarker positions inside and out, probably better than most, so please don’t assume to know too much about what I do and don’t know or what I do or don't read.

I am also aware that the Landmarkist movement was primarily in SB life in the second half of the 19th century, led by Graves, Dayton, Pendleton, and the Carrolls. Please don’t make the mistake of oversimplistically lumping most other 19th century SB leaders into the movement as some do. It is highly doubtful (as some are quick to claim) that PH Mell, Boyce, Dagg, Howell and others were as thoroughly Landmarkist as some want to make them. Simply believing in believer’s baptism, rejecting other denomination's "non-immersion"/ alien immersions and even closed communion does not suffice to make one a thorough Landmarker. The movement drew its strength largely from churches in TN, AR, and TX, and historically, most were marked by division, a quarrelsome spirit and a tendency to separate from others. I know that the movement had its greatest strength in the 1850’s, but after the Civil War was seldom recognized as much more than a factional, splinter movement. After the resolution of the Whitsitt controversy in 1899, the movement largely fizzled out among SBs. This is not to say that the movement died, but rather that most adherents either aligned with the ABA, the BMAA or just went independent. My heritage is in an independent Baptist strain of such churches.

All of this is to say that my comment ("quit taking SBs somewhere we’ve never been"...or something like that) though poorly worded was intended to point to recent history and denominational identity. Yes, Landmarkism has a place in SB history, but it never gained an overwhelming foothold among large populations of SB churches. Historically, it has been a splinter group. By and large, our convention itself has not been Landmarkist! To assert, solely on the grounds that the founders and key proponents of the movement were SB, that Southern Baptists have been or are Landmarkers is ridiculous! The movement never gained much of a foothold because its doctrines are not biblically sustainable. The ecclesiology held by most Landmarkers is built upon fallacious logic and VERY poor history. I even made it a point to talk a LOT about Landmarkism in my Baptist History classes in seminary and multiple church history profs agreed that there is no historical grounds for the “trail of blood” notion of successionism/ perpetuity, which I believe is fundamental to Landmarkism. Thus, it has remained a small following which still has some adherents today, but it has not been the bread-and-butter ecclesiology of SBs as a whole.

Some will disagree. That’s fine. But please sustain your positions with scripture and actual history, not conjecture, tradition and an appeal to a white paper on a website somewhere.

I am happy to say I attend a church where believer’s baptism is practiced, closed communion is practiced and non-immersion “baptisms” are rejected. We also practice responsible church discipline, believe in the primacy of the local church and recognize the authority and autonomy of our local body, subject only to Christ.

But we are not Landmarkers. We trace our history to separatist English Baptists and reject the notion of the “trail of blood” or the “Baptist Bride.” We also play well with others...recognizing that not every Baptist has to hold to exactly the same secondary/ tertiary positions that we hold in order to be acknowledged as brethren with whom we can fellowship.

Again, good Dr. Roebuck, thank you for your correction. In my haste to get something out there, I occasionally run things together. So thank you. If you seek to defend Landmarkism among Southern Baptist life though, you’re gonna have to come with more than just passing references to Graves, Dayton and Pendleton. You know, there’s a reason why their movement fell largely into obscurity while the CP and cooperative missions among SBs in the 20th century blossomed and flourished into one of the largest missionary movements in history. That reason...

One group LOVES to divide and exclude…they’re still doing it today. But other Baptists long for fellowship and cooperation within the parameters of orthodoxy.

Still blushing,
Thoughtful grad of SBTS

Sorry for the delayed response...Friday night's for the movie theatre...a habit which my fundy forefathers would never approve of!

david b mclaughlin said...

Funniest thing on this page?

"Committee on Committees."


Why not have an approved translation of the Bible?


David Mc

Jeff said...

Please David, :) The Holman is the worst translation I have ever read. If it was for the SBC, it would be a minor translation seldom use. My two favorite are the NKJV and ESV. I can't decide between the two.

Lin said...

"Funniest thing on this page?

"Committee on Committees."

Speaks volumes, doesn't it.

Anonymous said...

Thoughtful grad of SBTS,

Very interesting post about the history of Landmarkism. Allow me to make a few comments:

You wrote: "Please don’t make the mistake of oversimplistically lumping most other 19th century SB leaders into the movement as some do. It is highly doubtful (as some are quick to claim) that PH Mell, Boyce, Dagg, Howell and others were as thoroughly Landmarkist as some want to make them."

You may be referring to me or my website with this statement. You are quite right that these men were not directly identified with the Landmark movement and held to some positions Landmarkers deny such as pulpit affiliation. However by today's SBC standards they were Landmark. Not only did they all practice restricted communion and reject alien immersion, they all believed in Baptist perpetuity and believed in a limited form of the universal church.

You also wrote: "After the resolution of the Whitsitt controversy in 1899, the movement largely fizzled out among SBs. This is not to say that the movement died, but rather that most adherents either aligned with the ABA, the BMAA or just went independent."

This is a common misconception. Only a portion of Landmark Baptist went into the ABA / BMAA. Take the area where I live - western Kentucky. It is as Landmark as any section of the U.S. and yet there is not a single ABA / BMA church here. As a many of fact most of the independent Landmark Baptist churches here did not pull out of the SBC until the 1950's & 1960's and then only left because of the liberalism in the convention as a whole. After the 1905 Bogard division, the Landmark movement was still strong among Southern Baptists. They operated a number of Bible colleges and published a number of papers. After the 1940's Southern Baptist Landmarkism began to slowly decline, but even today it is still strong in several places. There is much more I could say about this, but it is late.

You mentioned that you grew up in the Landmark tradition and teach Baptist history in seminary. Would you mind identifying yourself? If you don't want to do this publicly, please e-mail me privately. I think we could have some interesting historical discussions.

- Ben Stratton,

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the thoughtful and engaging response. I have read some discussions about Landmarkers in the SBC on some blogs, but I cannot say whether or not it was yours. Perhaps, but I cannot recall. The gist of what I referred to was in reference to discussions with other students and particularly, other Landmarkers. I have participated in this discussion for some years now, so my discussions begin to run together.

What is your blog site address? I will be glad to read anything you have posted.

Also, either I misspoke or you misread about my "teaching." Let me clarify...I do NOT teach Baptist history in any college, seminary, or other institution. For that matter, I don't teach anything at any institution, except for the local church. I was a student. I'm not nearly smart enough to be an instructor. :-)

Perhaps I will contact you sometime.

thoughtful grad of SBTS.

david b mclaughlin said...

Please David, :) The Holman is the worst translation I have ever read. If it was for the SBC, it would be a minor translation seldom use.

between the typos and the smiley face i think you got my point.

Just to be clear, Aaron was asking when we would have our own translation and I was reminding him that we have already gone there.

Anonymous said...

John Farris,

I respect your comments as well.

To let you know a little of my background, My Dad went through three SEBTS presidents [Lolley, Drummond, and Patterson] and I went to a Moderate Baptist University and Moderate Divinity school [for a little while] and ended up at Southeastern--first under Patterson and then Akin.

My Dad and I could write a book on Southeastern, eh?:)

Discussions on inerrancy can get extremely long, but I'll try to be concise:

1. If the Bible is God's word [and I believe it is], then for a human to declare it has error [in its doctrine, history, etc] is for a human to position himself as a judge of what God says. In other words, the creature has set himself over the Creator.

2. Since a human is not omniscient, a human [who sets himself over God's word] cannot justify whatever criteria he brings [whether that be the scientific method, etc] to judge God's word. In other words, there is always the possibility that there is some "fact" or "truth" out there that he does not know about that could contradict whatever he might claim to know for certain. God, on the other hand, does not have this problem. Plus, God controls all past, present, and future facts as well. Man doesn't.

In sum, if the Bible is not true, we can't prove anything since we aren't omniscient and omnipotent. However, if we trust the Bible, then we can know some things for certain [and reason based off those certain things] since we are trusting God who is omniscient and omnipotent.

So here's my answer to your question: The opposite of an inerrantist is someone who positions himself over the Bible to declare it contains error on anything contained in the Bible. Therefore, a noninerrantist does not necessarily have to claim the Bible is full of errors to be a noninerrantist. All he has to claim is one.



Christopher B. Harbin said...


Gee, and I thought it was the inerrantist who placed himself above the Bible to makes claims about it which it does not claim for itself. :)

Those are pretty strong words to protect an extra-Biblical principle.

DT Boy said...

Baptist Theologue,

I actually did not bring in the topic of a woman Senior Pastor I said woman ordination and they are separate issues. One can believe in the ordination of women but not in women senior pastors.

So if it is the local associations who are the watchdogs then why is it even necessary for the national convention to make any statement on baptist identity?

Nonetheless, what about my original questions about 63 or 2000? Should this even make a difference?

Jeff said...

I know David, I was having fun with you. I had not poked at you in a while, and just had to have some fun. Your a great guy, and I appreciate you. :)

Baptist Theologue (Mike Morris) said...

Dtboy, Webster’s College Dictionary defines “ordain” as “to invest with the functions or office of a minister, priest, or rabbi.” In the ordination councils in which I have participated, our goal was to discover whether a candidate met the biblical qualifications for the office of pastor or deacon. There’s no point in a person being ordained unless that person is going to hold one of the two biblical offices. Thus, I don’t think ordination can be separated from the two offices. My wife is a seminary graduate and serves on a church staff, but she does not hold one of the two offices, and she is not ordained.

You also referred to your original question: “Just a question if a church does not affirm the 2000 BFM is it no longer to be considered Southern Baptist?”

Again, I believe that churches are autonomous, and thus they can call themselves Southern Baptist if they wish to do so. It’s my understanding that some associations, some state conventions, and of course the SBC itself have adopted the 2000 BFM as their official confession of faith. They of course are also autonomous bodies, and they can thus decide to restrict cooperation in various ways based on their adopted confession of faith.

ezekiel said...

When we start running into these KJV only folks, folks telling us that it is incomplete, one version better than another, on and on.....

I take Him at His WORD.

John 16 :25 These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

2 Tim 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

My personal favorite is the ESV. The KJV seems more reverent in some things but harder to read. The NASB is good as well. I used to get all locked up when my mom was reading "The Message" and we all know there are poorer translations and paraphrases out there. BUT.....I tend to read Tim literally. Good translation, bad translation, paraphrase, whatever. All scripture. "The Message" might be looked at as milk. KJV as meat.

Just point people to the WORD. Whatever they are capable of reading and let the Holy Spirit do His Job. I am quite sure He will kindle a fire that will have that person seeking Jesus within the pages of any scripture he can get his hands on.

Anybody else out there that has more than one version? Can't stay out of the bookstore? Read more than one translation and looking forward to reading another?

It isn't all about which version is the "right" one any more than it is about which preacher is the best one. It is all about looking for HIM. Abiding in HIM and HE abiding in ME.

Some out there will say that they get enough abiding by going to church every Sunday. Well, that is sort of like checking into a hotel on Sunday morning at 10:45 and back out at 12. I think He would say they don't "abide" at all, just swing by for a visit. HE will probably say some day "I never knew you".....Then you have those that hit the door of the local church every time it opens, totally consumed with their own dead works. Jesus will probably tell them the same thing.

To say that we should avoid a particular translation seems to be the same error many commit when they proclaim that their interpretation is the "right" one. The Holy Spirit and the WORD are the only authorities and they have the power to bring one to an understanding. Your faith is from Him, He is the one that works His works through you and He will use whatever version, translation He wants to. He has even been known to use an donkey to send His message (Num 22:30). A tactic that He seems to be using more all the time. Oh that we had more donkeys, willing to speak what the Lord tells them to speak and with eyes able to see the Lord standing with the sword in His hand!

2 Tim 2:7 Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. 8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!

Baptist Theologue (Mike Morris) said...

Oops! I did not answer one of your questions, Dtboy. You asked, “So if it is the local associations who are the watchdogs then why is it even necessary for the national convention to make any statement on baptist identity?”

Again, I cannot speak for all Baptist identity folks. I can only speak for myself. I earlier stated, “The association has traditionally been the chief doctrinal watchdog in regard to local churches because it is closer to the church than is the state convention or the SBC.” Notice that I used the words “traditionally” and “chief.” The association traditionally has not been the only theological watchdog, but it has been the chief one. The role of the association seems to be changing. I also think that our denominational culture has been affected by the Internet. Theological issues that in the past were discussed and perhaps settled in associational settings are now discussed quite a bit on the Internet and perhaps settled at the SBC annual meeting. I did not attend the annual meeting last summer, but when I watched business sessions by means of the Internet, I was amazed to see so many bloggers with whom I was familiar at the microphones. Our denominational culture has indeed changed. Because our denomination is composed of human beings who can vote at annual meetings, it is not surprising that groups of people holding similar beliefs would find each other and form informal voting blocks in regard to important issues. In the 80s, the two groups were the conservatives and the moderates. Now, it appears that the two groups are the Baptist identity group and the reformers/dissenters. This situation can be fairly healthy for the denomination if each group holds the other accountable and if both groups can disagree agreeably. We must stay focused on issues, not personalities. We must love each other in spite of our disagreements. As to the future agenda of each group, I don’t think anyone knows that for sure. Different issues will pop up from time to time, and each group may have a different response or the same response, depending on the issue.

Anonymous said...

Dear Benji,

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I can certainly see the reasoning behind it, and do not disagree with it. However, what I (and some others) believe is that it is incomplete, that it does not take all the factors into consideration.

For me, and many (most?) others who do not like/use the term inerrancy, the issue is NOT whether the Bible contains errors, or even one error. It is not about whether the Bible could contain errors, or even one error. Rather it is about parameters, about qualifications, about limitations; and it seems to me that when you add these parameters, qualifications, or limitations in, it make the very term "inerrant" mean something other than its face value, or what most folks in the pew would understand it to mean.

These parameters, it seems to me, fall into two groups: the first is the human source of our translations, and the second is the purpose for which God gave (inspired, I have no problem with that word, it is good and sound and Biblical) the Bible.

First: as we all know, we do not possess any of the original autographs of any Bible books. The oldest, unless something has been found since I actively kept up with that, is a fragment of a single page of John's Gospel, which has been dated to ca. 125-150 AD. The oldest extant more-or-less complete books (one of the Beatty papari, I think--I am at home, and all my material is at the church), dates to the 200s AD. It is well established that these ancient copies have errors: sometimes there are words or lines of text that are repeated, sometimes there are words or lines omitted. There are copies which differ (all in minor matters, none concerning the historic doctrines of the faith) as to some specific words--some exceedingly trivial, some nothing more than the difference in whether a Greek word has a long or short viowel sound, which, for instance, can make the difference whether we have a camel going through the eye of a needle or a cable going through it. But regardless of how minor these issues may be, it is nontheless a parameter: we have to limit inerrancy to the original autographs, not to copies, and certainly not to versions/translations.

The second parameter is more fundamental in my eyes: the purpose of the text. It is, as I see it, for matters of faith and practice. Of course, that can be phrased many different ways, but I think that is the historic Baptist way of putting it. Carrying that just one step further means that the Bible is not meant to serve as a text book in the physical or behavioral sciences, at least not in any direct sense. (Examples: we see dysfunctional people and families in the Bible, but it is not a textbook on psychology; we see mathematics and people using mathematics in it, but the Bible cannot serve as a textbook on calculus, etc.) It is limited to matters if faith and practice.

Consequently, you have to limit the meaning of "inerrancy" by these factors, and it just seems that I would be intellectually dishonest to use that term when I have so qualified it. Of course, that is just me, I speak not for you or anyone else. And of course, if a person does not acknowledge these parameters, then their use of "inerrant" becomes internally consistent (though I still disagree with the completeness of their logic). Still, as I see it and understand the inspiration, transmission, and purpose of the Bible, the whole "battle for the Bible" becomes less epic and more of, as I said earlier, a tempest in a teapot.


Anonymous said...


I'm smiling again:) I'm not sure what you mean by "extra-Bbiblical principle", but let me say this:

2 Timothy 3:16 shows that the Scriptures are breathed out by God.

Therefore, to declare that there is something false [i.e. error] in anything that God has breathed out is to "judge" what God has said.

Anyway, if you or anyone else is interested, you can read an interchange between Rex Ray and I on inerrancy here:

I'm the anonymous who signs his name "Benji" at the bottom [progress in blogging has been a slow process for me:)]. Anyhoo, I've got sermon prep today.

Take Care


Anonymous said...


The whole idea of inerrancy is nothing more than a religious political claim, or a simple statement of one's confidence in the Bible. There is no way an inerrant Bible exists today for us to use.

1. We do not have the original autographs, so they do not exist for us. They may be out there somewhere, but we do not have them.

2. Translations into English or any other language are not inerrant, and no one thinks that they are.

So, the whole discussion is a hollow one. No one can display an inerrant Bible for everyone else to see and read. So why are some so exercised about insisting on the idea?

This leads me to think that the claims of inerrancy are simply political jargon that are intended to claim superiority by one believer over another. As in, "I believe the Bible more than you do. Ha! Ha!"

I would gladly change my thinking if someone can show me a copy of an inerrant Bible. Until then, we are wasting a lot of criticism and complaint. Why God fearing believers choose to pursue such foolishness is beyond me. It is a distraction from the main concerns of the Gospel, and a complete waste of time and talent.

For one's faith in God to hinge on an inerrant text seems to me to mean that that individual has not had a personal experience with the Living God. Paul met God outside of the New Testament, as did the Ethiopian and the Gentiles at Antioch.

God has never limited his work on Earth to perfect vessels of any kind. Why should we think that the English translations we use must be perfect to be used by him today? They do not have to be. And they are not. They are translations. And yet, the Spirit uses them powerfully.

The insistence on an inerrant Bible is meaningless to believers who have an ongoing walk with the Father. He can and does use whatever translation is in our hands to speak to our hearts.

That is, unless we are legalists, which is another subject for another time.


Anonymous said...


I believe you touch on a very important point: What if the Bible were not inerrant, would that destroy the faith of a person who insists on its inerrancy?

Anonymous said...


If one's faith depends on an inerrant Bible, that person is in real trouble. They cannot be sure that the Bible they read is inerrant.

It is an English translation of manuscripts that are not the autographs. That is hardly basis for inerrancy.

All translators are biased by their theological understandings.

And some are simply political with their translations. For instance, the King James translators chose to mistranslate the name of Jesus' brother. They named him James rather than Jacobus as is in the Greek. Do you think that they were influenced a little by the king who was watching over them?

We should be careful about insisting that our philosophical conclusions be seen as doctrine and dogma.

Faith in God is faith in a living person. He is active today, tomorrow and forever. He has a way of taking care of himself and his people. His living presence in and with us is our only hope.


Only By His Grace said...


I think you and I enter the same place on inspiration, but I am not sure we come out at the same place (conclusions).

My faith is above and beyond all very personal even as a full time Pastor being in my forty-fifth year in the pulpit.

For some reason, I have seem to pastor churches within rock throwing distances of universities (Denton, Ft. Worth, Norman, etc). Being around the college campus usually results in discussions in apologetics and usually about the authority and authenticity of Scripture be it with students or professors.

I usually am right up front right off the bat in letting them know I have made a supposition on which I have based my entire being: the Scriptures are totally reliable for all faith and practice and consider them the only rule (canon) to ultimately decide any disagreement of theological issues that

I take a literal approach to scripture and reject almost all allegory; hence when James Mofatt for instance writes in his Introductory to James,

"There is no problem of Jew and Christian present to his mind (author of James, pr) it is only a misinterpretation of passages like 2:2 and 21 that has led to the idea that the tract was designed for Jewish Christians of the primitive period."

Moffatt compounds his mistake by stating in his comments on James 1:1,

"The readers are not described as exiles of the Dispersion though Dispersion means means what Peter (I Peter 1:1) and other writers had popularized: they are the twelve tribes in the Dispersion, a figurative term for catholic Christianity as the true Israel, living for the time being in a strange world, far from its true Fatherland." (italics mine, pr). The Moffatt New Testament Commetary; James Moffatt, Ed.; The General Epistles of Peter James and Jude by James Moffatt, DD, of Union Theological Seminary, Harper and Brothers Publishers, NY and London, 1930.) p. 6.

Moffatt is no flaming liberal; his words are words of misinterpretation not that of 19th Century German theological liberalism. I majored in History with a minor in Literature. I know what Liberalism is. One can defend Moffatt's interpretation of "the Dispersion" being the church in world, "far from its Fatherland" all one wishes and can say the Epistle is not written to Jewish Christians, but it is a gross misinterpretation.

Anyone with any knowledge of James knows that this letter is more Jewish than Hebrews or Revelations while any person of Jewish knowledge knows of whom the writer speaks when he talks of the Twelve Tribes and the Dispersion.

I know of no Dispensationalist until after 1960 that would call James Moffatt a liberal, but that is the first tag that would be put on him to day by some at SWBTS and many making comments on this blog. If you want to know what liberalism really is you only need an introductory course of European Christianity of the eighteen and nineteen centuries. My friend, what you would find is real liberalism, not what you had in the seminaries in the sixties and seventies when I was student at SWBTS.

I would find it very hard to believe that such men as Robert Naylor, Jesse Northcutt, David Garland, William Estep, Curtis Vaughan, Robert Baker, Jack Grey, John Newport, John Drakeford, William Tolar, Roy Fish, Leon McBeth and dozens of other, and I have not even mentioned those in the NT department such as Gideon, McGorman, Smith, Brister. These are the ones just off the top of my head.

I would like for anyone who makes the charge that SWBTS was rampant with liberalism name the men just as I have done. If they cannot and they keep telling this untruth, then I am afraid they are gossip mongers and liars.

I do not say this lightly. I can tell you much about the Olin Collins and Miles Seaburn crowd. They were my friends as well as some good men on the other side.

Good night, Oscar Thompson recommended me to FBC Springtown before he came down with cancer and died such an untimely death. Again, I know of none that denied the second coming, the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, the trustworthiness of Scripture for all faith and practice, the sole sufficiency of Christ and Christ alone for salvation.

I tire of hearing about these charges of rampant liberalism for it is untrue. I see these charges just as read meat issues to incite the unknowing church member to get one group out so another group can take over. The trouble with the greed for money and power never stops.

I was around that campus from 1966 to 1986 and very involved in the Denton County Association, Parker County Association and Tarrant County Association as well as the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Does my dispensational theology make me a Fundamentalist? No; and neither does Moffatt's covenant theology of a-millennialism where the church is made to replace Israel make him a liberal. We just differ in our interpretations of Holy Writ and there is plenty of room for those like both of us within the graces of the Southern Baptist Convention.

I could easily have someone of Moffatt's persuasion and have had many who take Moffatt's position serving with me on my church staff. The above doctrines are bedrock doctrines while these do not even get down to the fifth floor.

Phil in Norman.

Anonymous said...

Behold, the long discussion on inerrancy has broken out.

I feel like a prophet:)

Anonymous said...


I'll try to be concise again.

No, the Bible is not primarily a book on X, Y, and Z.

However, I believe it gives one the presupposition[s] to be able to do X, Y, and Z in the first place.

I think I touched on this in my discussion/debate with Rex Ray here:

Also, while we do not have the original manuscripts, I think for all practical purposes, if you will, we are amazingly blessed with what we do have.

Grace brother


Anonymous said...


Sure a claim to inerrancy can be a source of pride. But can't about anything else be a source of pride as well?

I think you have to distinguish between the argument of someone and the motive behind it.

I could use factual statistics from a completely political motive, but that does not mean my factual statistics are untrue.

You talk about "the main concerns of the Gospel"

How do you know there is a gospel?

You might say "it's in the Bible"

Well, how do you know those places in the Bible [whatever places you might want to pick] are true?

You might scratch appealing to the Bible and appeal to your experience.

Well, how do you know your experience was not an illusion?.

You might say "Well, I just know"

Well, how do you know?

You might say "because I've seen the difference it has made in my life and the life of others"

How do you know whatever difference it has made is a good difference?

You might say "because there has been a change from selfishness to selflessness"

Well, how do you know that there is any resurrection to make selfless service something worthwhile in the first place?

You might say "because of 1 Cor. 15"

[see one of the responses above]:)

Take care brother


Anonymous said...

only by His grace,

I definitely think one needs to be careful when it comes to calling someone a liberal.

You're right. Just because someone disagrees with me [or whoever] on some interpretation of Scripture does not necessarily mean they are a liberal.

Anyway, I would encourage you to read "Abraham's Four Seeds" by John Reisinger if you have not.

Grace brother


Anonymous said...


One more thing.

I believe wherever the Bible touches on X, Y, and Z, it is truth.



Anonymous said...


I understand you, brother, I unerstand what you are saying. I further appreciate the spirit in which you say it, that you have centered your comments on "I-statement" (I try to do likewise) rather than "you-statements," and that you realize you are approaching the Bible with a certain set of presuppositions (as do we all; unfortunantly, some of approach it with presuppositions are never articulated and never consciously realize are there).

I simply feel it would be intellectually dishonest for me to say the Bible is inerrant, but then place limits on it--that it is limited first to original manuscripts, none of which we possess, and second that it is limited to matters of faith and practice. Without such limitations, I fear least some (both within the faith and without it) would assume we mean it is inerrant in each and every area
and can therefore get us into the scholastic-type situation that the Catholic church found itself in the Renaissance, opposing the helio-centric model of the solar system and the possibility of a limit on the Atlantic Ocean, etc., on theological grounds.

I suppose it is an area we will simply have to agree to disagree on. The real question, it seems to me, is: can we both acknowledge each other's place in the SBC, with equal access to service, employment, even leadership?

Anonymous said...


I think the Chicago statement on Inerrancy group went into [some? much?] detail on some of the issues you bring up. I would encourage you to at least read their statement if you have not. I'm pretty sure it would be up on the web.

Yes, a Bible writer described the sun as rising, for example, since that was how the sun "appeared" to him.

Scientifically speaking, the sun does not rise.

However, if you talked about the sun rising in everyday conversation, it would be silly of me to turn around and say "Behold, you err!"

Let me tell you two areas I would have a problem with:

1. Denying a historical Adam. If there was no historical Adam [through whom sin came into the world], then this would undermine, at least in part, the need for a historical second Adam--Jesus the Christ--to deliver us from sin.

2. Denying [or expressing doubt in a teaching format] that Paul wrote the letters he signed his name to.

However, one area I think I could allow freedom on [even though I disagree on literary grounds] would be:

1. Believing the first six days of creation were not literal 24 hour days based on one's interpretation os Scripture.

Grace brother


Anonymous said...


FYI, I have no problem with either of your two criteria.

Historical Adam: there had to be a first human being, and even statistically, #1 had a 50% liklihood of being male. And incidentially, I agree with your theology here, and accept the Biblical identification of the man.

Two, I have no problem with accepting that Paul wrote what the Bible says he "wrote," understanding of course that a secretary actually put pen to paper in at least most of those instances. In fact, that was my thesis in a major paper at SEBTS for a NT professor regarded as quite liberal, and I received an "A" on it. I hope though that you don't regard Paul as the author of Hebrews, since few (if any) of the most ancient manuscripts do so.

And yes, I'm an old earth advocate, and find no Biblical problem with that.

But I am curious: with all the folks out there who doubt the historicity of Jesus Christ, of his divinity, the reality of the crucifiction and the new covenant it effected for us, the need for church, and all the cults that pervert the major historic doctrrines of the faith--why do you draw the line at an historical Adam and what some suggest is a modern concept of authorship?

Anonymous said...


I bring up these two issues since, if I'm not mistaken, these can be the kinds of issues that people who do not claim inerrancy might disagree with me on.

I was trying to give you some kind of feel for where I as coming from. I don't think I was trying to give anything exhaustive.

I don't know who wrote Hebrews:)

Anonymous said...

I have just learned something interesting about "turning the other cheek" and this is, that in Roman culture, it was considered demeaning to hit someone with the back of your hand. So, if a victim "turned his cheek", the Roman soldier would have had to think before hitting the victim with the back of his hand: would the Roman soldier choose to disgrace himself or choose to continue tormenting his victim?

Maybe, if we are very open-minded, and humble, and continue to study the scriptures in the context in which they were written, we can come to understand more of the wisdom we were meant to learn.