June 23, 1999

Patterson: Preach right,
counsel right, believe right

___By Marv Knox
___ATLANTA--Southern Baptists must preach right, counsel right and believe right if they are to reach their nation for Christ, Southern Baptist Convention President Paige Patterson claimed during his address to the SBC annual meeting in Atlanta June 15.
___Patterson recommended those commitments under the umbrella of affirming the "sufficiency of Scripture."
___"For the last 20 years, Southern Baptists have struggled through an exercise of self-definition," said Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in
Wake Forest, N.C.
___He referred to the two-decade-long theological/political conflict--which he helped engineer--that reshaped the SBC. Notably, the convention acted to affirm the inerrancy of the Bible and preserve the missionary and evangelistic impetus of the convention, he said.
___But he wondered whether "we have won the battle for the inerrancy of the Bible while we have foundered on the issue of the sufficiency of the Bible."
___He suggested three categories of "sufficiency" required by Scripture:
___* "The Bible must be sufficient for preaching," Patterson stressed, advocating "exposition and application of the word of God" as opposed to narrative preaching.
___"Some among us counsel that we should abandon the careful explanation and application of the biblical text, alleging that contemporary audiences are no longer charmed by such tunes," he said. "Twelve-minute sermonettes generated by the 'felt needs' of an assembled cast of post-modern listeners, augmented by drama and multiple repetitions of touchy-touchy, feely-feely music is the call of the hour."
___Such trends aren't completely wrong, but preaching that is not expository--verse-by-verse explanation of the text--"is an inadvertent challenge to the sufficiency of Scripture," he said. "It is to suggest that human wisdom surpasses God's expression of his will and purpose as recorded in his holy word, and it is further to deny the ability of the Holy Spirit to make the word of God proclaimed from Scripture come alive in the hearts of the listeners.
___"Let the rest of Christendom chart its own course, but may Baptists remain forever a people of the book, not merely by confession but by the method of their preaching as well."
___* "The Bible must be sufficient for counseling," he added. While the church once viewed psychology as "the enemy of biblical Christianity," today Christians "sometimes speak the language of psychotherapy more often than we speak the language of Zion," he explained.
___"The tragic truth is that most of those who are addicted to drugs, alcohol, pornography and violence will say to the most confident psychotherapy, 'been there, done that, and I am still the same inside,'" he said.
___"Enough of our unsuccessful marriage to psychology," he urged. "Find in Scripture the information we need to assess the nature and problems of humanity and especially spiritual and emotional guidance for triumphant living."
___* "The Bible must be sufficient for doctrine," Patterson said. He specifically cited charismatic practices, also known as "speaking in tongues," and the debate over Calvinism, which focuses on the sovereignty of God versus human will.
___"Widespread charismatic practices have visited the churches, indiscriminate of denomination or doctrine," he observed. "These practices range from the relatively controlled and accountable practices of charismatic evangelicals to the extremes of phenomena clearly novel to the Scriptures."
___Patterson urged Southern Baptists not to "allow minor emphases to take the place of the major emphases of Scripture."
___"My purpose ... is to remind Southern Baptists that our focus across the years has been the conversion of men and women to faith in Christ," he said.
___"We have devoted our energies to the proclamation of the miraculous incarnation, the atoning death, the vivifying resurrection and the certain return of the Lord. We have steadfastly evaluated all other emphases as unworthy of our mission and as unintentional detours to divert us from our focus on the greatest miracles just enumerated, along with the astounding miracle of the new birth."
___Turning to the Calvinism debate, Patterson noted: "Some wring their hands in apparent terror over these discussions. I welcome them."
___Sidestepping taking sides in the debate, he pointed out that Southern Baptists history flows from "two distinct tributaries"--"a strong infusion on the sovereignty of God" along with affirmation of "the freedom and responsibility of man."
___"I plead only two considerations," he said. "First, let Southern Baptists forever steer a course between ... unbridled experientialism and ... stultifying propositionalism. ... Second, may we always remember that any and every doctrinal formulation that either purposefully or inadvertently dilutes our passion for the lost or our soul-winning vigor is at odds with the biblical message and mandate. There can be few more profound acts of worship than to introduce a wayfarer to the Savior who bled and died for him."
___In his 61-page sermon, Patterson also affirmed the SBC's Cooperative Program unified budget.
___He warned against indiscriminate ecumenism, "diluting the blood of our martyrs who knew so very well the dangers of popular religious faith."
___"I do not herewith propose a revival of denominational isolationism," he said. "Baptists must as never before recognize evangelical believers in churches operating behind diverse names, worship styles and approaches, attempting with hearts like our own to find God and please him in all things." Still, Southern Baptists must preserve Baptist ideals, he stressed.
___He concluded with a call for evangelism. Southern Baptists, he said, should "break through to the next level," baptizing 1 million people--500,000 in the United States and 500,000 on mission fields--during the period from Oct. 1, 1999, through Sept. 30, 2000.
___Patterson particularly pleaded for evangelization of America's cities.
___"Southern Baptists, will you weep before God? Will you wet your pillows and discolor the varnish on your church pews until God gives us the souls of our cities? May God grant it."

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