NEW ORLEANS (BP)–The 2000 version of the Baptist Faith and Message remains unchanged despite three attempts at modifications made in the form of motions presented June 12 during the opening day of the 2001 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Members of last year’s Baptist Faith and Message study committee — R. Albert Mohler Jr., chairman Adrian Rogers, Chuck Kelley and Richard Land — lauded the sincerity and the concerns of the men who presented the motions, while at the same time urging the defeat of each motion.
The wording changes, however slight, would have weakened the message proclaimed last year by the updating of the Baptist Faith and Message from its 1963 version, said Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.
“Your committee would plead with you not to be about the business of continually revisiting the Baptist Faith and Message,” Mohler said. “It is confessionally reckless; it is irresponsible, we feel, to continually debate such an issue on the floor.
“We would set a precedent in this convention of continually revising the Baptist Faith and Message, and putting our denomination in a reckless position,” he continued. “State conventions, churches, associations and entities of this convention have adopted the Baptist Faith and Message. We dare not go back to them on an annual basis and ask them to revise their constitutions, charters and bylaws to meet whatever may be the annual revision of the SBC. That would not be fair. It would not be right. And it would impugn our testimony before a watching world.”
Mohler’s words came after Fred Malone, a Clinton, La., pastor, spoke in favor of the motion he had presented to add the words “informed by Holy Scripture” to Article 8: “Activities on the Lord’s Day should be commensurate with the Christian’s conscience, [add: informed by Holy Scripture,] under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”
“I believe when we live our consciences in such a way that we can do fairly much what we wish on the Lord’s Day without testing [the plans] of Holy Scripture, that leads to some problems as Christians,” Malone said. “In the last 50 years we have lost the culture war. I also believe we’re losing the sanctity of the Lord’s Day in the church as a day that literally belongs to the Lord and not us. The Lord’s Day is a spiritual oasis of rest and worship that renews us to live in an ungodly world. If we Southern Baptists believe in all Ten Commandments, then we need to make sure the Christian’s conscience is informed by Scripture — not worldly attitudes and subjective conscience — under the lordship of Christ.”
Bill Ascol, a Shreveport, La., pastor, also spoke for the motion; Adrian Rogers, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church, Memphis, Tenn., spoke against it. The motion failed by an overwhelming show of ballots.
“I felt for my own conscience this issue needed to be discussed,” Malone said after the vote was taken. “This is an assembly of messengers and the will of the body was done. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss my concerns, but God has spoken through the assembly and that’s it.”
Tony Woodell of Little Rock, Ark., brought the second motion that was debated during the Tuesday evening session of the 144th SBC annual meeting. His motion was to add to Article 1 the phrase, “The criterion by which Scripture is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ” after the words, “… the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried.”
“Dr. Mohler referred to the rock of our salvation,” Woodell said. “If we do not recognize Jesus Christ is Lord over Scripture, then we fail to recognize Jesus Christ as Lord over all. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.
“We also recognize the Scripture is very important,” Woodell added. “The Lordship of Jesus Christ allows us to go to the Scripture. Jesus Christ must be the criterion by which we interpret Scripture.”
Richard Land, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, who spoke against the motion, pointed out to messengers that the phrase was “virtually the same as that which you resoundingly defeated last year when we adopted this confession.” The phrase last year was, “The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ.”
“The reason it is not in the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message is this sentence was used to set up a false dichotomy between Jesus and Scripture,” Land said, meaning mutually exclusive or contradictory. “We need to remember that when Jesus got ready to leave the disciples, he said, ‘I have more to teach you ….’ There is no false dichotomy between Jesus and Scripture.”
Charles Wade, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, spoke for the motion.
“This idea there is a false dichotomy proposed between Jesus and Scripture is a false statement,” Wade said. “Those of us who believe this sentence in all its elegant praise to Christ should have been left in the 2000 statement want to be on record as saying we do believe in the full authority of Scripture.”
Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, also spoke against the motion. “Southern Baptists have always believed the whole Bible is the Word of God and there is no need to get Jesus to pick which parts of the Bible are inspired,” he said. “What we have in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is a wonderful way to affirm the concerns of Dr. Charles Wade about the supremacy of Christ, but preserve a good biblical hermeneutic.
“Perhaps the issue for me was most clearly explained when one of the editors of the [Texas] Baptist Standard, complaining about the removal of this statement prior to the convention last year, gave us a very vivid example of how the 1963 statement was being used,” Kelley said.
“He used the example of Paul writing about the role of husbands and wives in Ephesians chapter 5,” Kelley continued. “He said Paul contradicted himself in two consecutive sentences. In one sentence he said Paul said we are to mutually submit wives and husbands to one another. In the next sentence Paul said the husband was the head of the wife.
“That was a contradiction and [the editor said that] Jesus would help us understand which one of Paul’s two statements were right. Jesus would not be in favor of demeaning women, [the editor reasoned;] he felt that that statement in Ephesians 5 about husbands being the head of the wife was demeaning to women, therefore Jesus would choose Eph. 5:21 over Eph. 5:22.
“Southern Baptists have always believed the whole Bible is the Word of God and there is no need to get Jesus to pick and choose which part of the Bible is inspired and which is not.
“Based on that editorial in the Baptist Standard about the use of this sentence, I came away more convinced than ever that what we have in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is a wonderful way to affirm the concerns of Dr. Charles Wade about the supremacy of Christ but preserve a good biblical hermeneutic.”
The motion failed by an overwhelming show of ballots. The business session was extended by 10 minutes to deal with the third motion.
Steve Barrett of Waseca, Minn., proposed to delete the word “religious” from Article 1, which states “[the Scripture is] … the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried.”
“The Bible is applicable to our lives 24 hours a day, seven days a week, not just at 11 a.m. on Sunday morning,” Barrett said. “We deny this when we say the Bible is only applicable to religious opinions.
“We are diluting the Bible by limiting applications to only religious opinions,” he continued. “We are saying God’s Word is not enough when we limit the application to religious opinions. God’s Word is sufficient without anything else added. If we continue to limit the application of God’s Word to only religious opinions instead of all opinions, we are either adding to or taking away from God’s infallible and inerrant Word. … Let us as a people of the Word acknowledge the Bible as the final authority over all opinions, not just religious opinions.”
Mohler spoke against the motion.
“… I believe the entire committee would resoundingly agree with the sentiment and the conviction that was so forcefully articulated by Brother Barrett,” he said. “If we as a committee felt this statement limited the authority or truthfulness of Scripture to religious opinions we would have changed it last year and we would by no means have proposed the language so overwhelmingly adopted last year.
“By no means does the word religious there seek to limit,” Mohler continued. “The word ‘only’ does not appear. … Your committee feels the historic language used ever since 1925, when the Baptist Faith and Message was first adopted by this convention, should be maintained. We also want to state our emphatic agreement that Scripture is not only totally true and trustworthy in religious opinions but in all opinions.”
Like the other two motions, this one was overwhelmingly defeated.