Baptist Faith & Message changes
touch on Bible, gender, sexuality
___By Ken Camp &
___Texas Baptist Communications
___If the Baptist Faith & Message is amended according to suggestions released May 18 by a Southern Baptist Convention study committee, Southern Baptists will go on record
declaring women ineligible to be pastors, condemning abortion and homosexuality but softening their stance on observance of the Lord's Day.
___The proposed changes also would drop explicit references to the doctrines of soul competency and the priesthood of the believer, hailed as undergirding hallmarks of the 1963 Baptist Faith & Message. The proposal does not insert the word "inerrant" in its description of Scripture, but it does remove a previous statement that "the criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ."
___Proposed changes to the statement of faith will be considered by messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., June 13-15.
___The updated Baptist Faith & Message proposed by the 15-member committee follows the basic 17-article framework as the 1963 document, plus the "Family" article adopted by the SBC in 1998.
___The Baptist General Convention of Texas last November reaffirmed its support for the 1963 version but not for the added statement on the family.
___Like the 1963 document, the new version includes an introductory report. That report quotes from the 1925 Baptist Faith & Message a "statement of the historic Baptist conception of the nature and function of confessions of faith in our religious and denominational life."
___Those statements include that "the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments" and that "confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience."
___The preamble to the 1963 statement of faith included the statement, "Baptists emphasize the soul's competency before God, freedom in religion and the priesthood of the believer." That statement is not found in the newly revised document.
___The late Herschel Hobbs, who chaired the committee that drafted the 1963 statement, wrote that soul competency is a "basic and distinct principle" for Baptists because it safeguards individual conscience. He defined soul competency by saying, "Religion is a personal matter between the soul and God."
___In a church study course book about the Baptist Faith & Message published by the SBC, Hobbs wrote that authors of the 1925 and 1963 documents were careful to safeguard individual conscience. He devoted an entire chapter in that book to explaining the preamble and its protection of conscience, which he said were as much a part of the overall 1963 statement as the various statements of faith in the body of it.
___"If this (soul competency) be denied or ignored, then the statement becomes a creed," he said. Hobbs added that he did not believe the SBC would have adopted the 1963 Baptist Faith & Message without safeguarding individual conscience through the words of the preamble.
___Several members of the committee that drafted this year's changes to the Baptist Faith & Message were contacted for comment on this matter May 18 but were unavailable. The full report of the committee was received just hours before the Baptist Standard went to press May 18.
___The statement as amended this year makes changes in the articles on the Scriptures, God, Man, Salvation, God's Purpose of Grace, the Church, the Lord's Day, Evangelism and Missions, Education, the Christian and the Social Order, and Peace and War. It also revises the Family amendment, added to the 1963 statement by the SBC in 1998.
___The recommended statement does not make changes, other than punctuation, capitalization and spelling, to the articles on Baptism and the Lord's Supper, the Kingdom, Last Things, Stewardship, Cooperation or Religious Liberty.
___Here is a summary of key changes:
___ Scripture. The 1963 statement says, "The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is the record of God's revelation of himself to man." The proposed 2000 document deletes the words "the record of."
___A new sentence is added: "Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy."
___The final sentence of the 1963 document stated: "The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ." The proposed document deletes that sentences and replaces it with: "All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is himself the focus of divine revelation."
___Adrian Rogers, three-time SBC president and pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., was chairman of the study committee. He told Baptist Press the statement about Jesus being the criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted was removed "because it has been subject to misunderstanding."
___"Jesus Christ cannot be divided from the biblical revelation that is testimony to him," Rogers said. "We must not claim a knowledge of Christ that is independent of Scripture or in any way in opposition to Scripture. Likewise, Scripture cannot be set against Scripture."
___ God. The committee adds this sentence: "God is all powerful and all knowing; and his perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present and future, including the future decisions of his free creatures."
___Under the subheading of "God the Son," the revised document identifies Christ's death on the cross as "substitutionary." It also changes "partaking of the nature of God and of man" to "fully God, fully man."
___Under the subheading on "God the Holy Spirit," the phrase "fully divine" is added to the description. A sentence is added: "At the moment of regeneration, he baptizes every believer into the Body of Christ."
___The presence of the Holy Spirit in the Christian is described in the 1963 statement of faith as "the assurance of God to bring the believer into the fullness of the stature of Christ." The proposed document changes "assurance" to "guarantee."
___ Man. Three sentences are added at the beginning of the article: "Man is the special creation of God, made in his own image. He created them male and female as the crowning work of his creation. The gift of gender is thus part of the goodness of God's creation."
___The article also changes "every man possesses dignity" to "every person of every race possesses full dignity."
___ Salvation. The 1963 document identifies three aspects of salvation which are numbered--regeneration, sanctification and glorification. The proposed document makes justification, considered a part of sanctification in 1963, a separate step in the salvation process.
___The article on salvation also adds this sentence: "There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord."
___ God's Purpose of Grace. Bringing it into line with the statement on salvation, the article on "election" includes the word "justifies" along with "regenerates ... sanctifies and glorifies sinners."
___It also changes election from "a glorious display of God's sovereign goodness" to "the glorious display of God's sovereign goodness."
___ The Church. The New Testament church is identified in the 1963 document as "a local body of baptized believers." The proposed statement changes that to "an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers." The 1963 statement identifies the church of Jesus Christ as "committed to his teachings," while the proposed document recovers language from the 1925 Baptist Faith & Message to say churches are "governed by his laws."
___The 1963 statement speaks of the church as "an autonomous body, operating under democratic processes under the Lordship of Jesus Christ." The proposed document restates that: "Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Jesus Christ through democratic processes."
___The 1963 document says members are "equally responsible." The new document strikes "equally," changing the statement to say, "Each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord."
___The proposed statement then adds a sentence, "While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture."
___Rogers said of this change: "The convention has spoken clearly (in a 1984 resolution) its conviction that while both men and women are gifted and called for ministry, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture."
___In describing the church as the Body of Christ which includes the "redeemed of all the ages," the proposed document adds: "believers from every tribe and tongue and people and nation."
___ The Lord's Day. The 1963 and 1925 statements both spoke of "refraining from worldly amusements and resting from secular employments, work of necessity and mercy only being excepted." The proposed document states: "Activities on the Lord's Day should be commensurate with the Christian's conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ."
___ Evangelism and Missions. The proposed document adds a new sentence: "The Lord Jesus Christ has commanded the preaching of the gospel to all nations." In reference to the individual duty of each Christian, the 1963 statement refers to "personal effort." The proposed document speaks of "verbal witness undergirded by a Christian lifestyle."
___ Education. The recommended statement of faith reclaims some language from the 1925 statement, adding the following to the 1963 document: "Christianity is the faith of enlightenment and intelligence. In Jesus Christ abide all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. All sound learning is, therefore, a part of our Christian heritage. The new birth opens all human faculties and creates a thirst for knowledge."
___ The Christian and the Social Order. In a listing of social ills that Christians should oppose, the proposed document includes "racism." It also adds "all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality and pornography."
___In speaking of those for whom Christians should provide, the recommended document adds "the abused" alongside the orphaned, the needy, the aged, the helpless and the sick.
___The proposed statement then adds: "We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death."
___Rogers offered this explanation for the additions: "Our Baptist ancestors of a mere generation ago could not have imagined the need to address the issues of abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia and all manner of deviant and pagan sexuality. We answer with a clear word of biblical correction."
___ Peace and War. Picking up language similar to the 1925 Baptist Faith & Message, the proposed document states: "Christian people throughout the world should pray for the reign of the Prince of Peace."
___ The Family. The article, added in 1998, remains intact except for one addition. The proposed document states that marriage is "God's unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and his church."
___In addition to Rogers, other members of the committee are Jerry Vines, pastor of First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Fla.; Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Steve Gaines, pastor of First Baptist Church of Gardendale, Ala.; Heather King, state WMU/women's ministries director for the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana; Simon Tsoi, pastor of First Chinese Baptist Church in Phoenix; T.C. Pinckney, editor of the newspaper of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia convention; Susie Hawkins, member of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano and wife of SBC Annuity Board President O.S. Hawkins; Charles Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; Roger Spradlin, pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, Calif.; Richard Land, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; Rudy Hernandez, an evangelist and member of Primera Iglesia Bautista in Grand Prairie; Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans; Max Barnett, Baptist Student Union director at the University of Oklahoma; and Nelson Price, pastor of Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga.
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