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Attorney challenges pastor over array of biblical passages

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP)–An attorney representing Missouri Baptist College waged an aggressive attack on the inerrancy of the Bible during depositions of the Missouri Baptist Convention president and his predecessor.

The depositions are part of the ongoing legal battle over five Missouri Baptist entities where trustees voted to become self-perpetuating, effectively severing ties with the convention that birthed and financially supported them over the years.

College attorney Clyde Farris, a member of the Copeland, Thompson & Farris law firm in St. Louis, questioned Bob Curtis, former Missouri Baptist Convention president and pastor of Ballwin Baptist Church, and Monte Shinkle, current MBC president and pastor of Concord Baptist Church in Jefferson City, for several hours each, apparently trying to paint them as religious fundamentalists whose beliefs include snake-handling and poison-drinking. It was unclear what the questions had to do with the legal question of the college and the other four entities unilaterally changing their state charters without the required approval of the Missouri convention.

The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri convention, attended some of the depositions but was under court order not to disclose the contents of the depositions until 21 days after attorneys received a court reporter’s printout of the testimony.

The pre-trial questioning of witnesses (depositions) is part of the process in the MBC’s lawsuit in Cole County Circuit Court, filed more than a year ago, asking the court to issue a declaratory judgment that the college and four other entities — Windermere Baptist Conference Center, The Baptist Home retirement facility, The Word & Way newsjournal and the Missouri Baptist Foundation — are in violation of Missouri corporate law. The petition also seeks an injunction to stop the breakaway boards from any actions which might diminish the value of their entities’ assets, estimated at $40 million.

Curtis was questioned over a two-day period in late August, and was repeatedly challenged by Farris, the college’s attorney, about his affirmation that the original writings of Scripture are totally true and without error. According to the transcript as released by the court, for example:

“Which translation of your Bible is the inerrant version?” Farris asked. “And if we don’t have the original autographs, how do we know what we have today is inerrant? What about the American Standard Bible? Is that an inerrant statement of God’s word? If there’s a difference between it and the King James Version, which is the inerrant word of God?

“When you’re making a decision as to what God’s will is based on the inerrant scriptures, the scriptures you’re relying on are one of these translations that are out on the marketplace today?”

Curtis responded that he does base his decisions on “God’s infallible, inerrant word.”

Farris continued:

“Let’s look at a real significant passage in the King James Version, 2 Timothy 3:16, ‘All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.’

“Is that inerrant or is the American Standard Version which says, ‘Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching? Is it all scripture is given by inspiration or just that every scripture inspired of God is profitable for teaching? Which is the inerrant word?”

Curtis responded that translations are based on interpretation of the original text. “It’s just a different way of saying the same thing,” Curtis answered.

Farris continued:

“Well, one says that all scripture is given by inspiration of God and the other one says every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching. They don’t mean the same thing, do they?”

Curtis explained that both the words “inspired” and “inspiration” mean God breathed. He said “every” and “all” can also mean the same thing in the Greek language.

“I don’t see the discrepancy,” Curtis said.

Farris, in extended questioning of Curtis, challenged the pastor on such Bible references as 1 John 5:7 and the Trinity; Mark 16:9-20, which modern-day translators note is not found in various ancient manuscripts; Genesis 9:1 and slavery; the creation accounts of Genesis 1 and 2; 1 Corinthians 7:1 on family roles; Luke 3 and the human genealogy of Jesus; and the crucifixion accounts of Mark 15 and John 19.

An extended report on Farris’ questions can be accessed at The Pathway online, www.mbcpathway.com.
Bob Baysinger is managing editor of The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.

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