CLEVELAND, Ga. (BP) — Truett-McConnell College faculty set a precedent among Baptist colleges by publicly signing the Baptist Faith and Message on Oct. 27, demonstrating their belief in the confession as adopted in 2000 by the Southern Baptist Convention.
Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, was the keynote at the Cleveland, Ga., campus.
Truett-McConnell President Emir Caner, in opening remarks, said, “Indeed, anytime the people of God confess the living Word and the written Word, God will bless their endeavors with His favor.
“Such was the case in June of 2000, when the Southern Baptist Convention affirmed the newly updated confession, the Baptist Faith and Message, and just a few months later, Georgia Baptists did likewise,” Caner said. “On the national level, each of our six seminaries faculties fully affirmed the document. However, this was not the case at the state level, where the battle over the inerrancy of Scripture was not yet completed. Today on our campus, this battle is won.
“Today we honor Christ by honoring his Word,” Caner said. “Today we say to anyone wishing to receive the broadest, best and most biblical education, Truett-McConnell College will stand firm on the essentials of the faith.
“These beliefs affirmed in writing by all full-time faculty sitting behind me ensure parents and students, alumni and friends that Truett-McConnell College will teach and emulate all of these biblical principles, that our students will be taught in accordance with the eternal truth of an infinite, omniscient God, not the opinions of a finite man,” Caner said.
“In a world so lost, may the people of God arise in churches and colleges [to] raise up a generation that will go to every tribe and tongue, that will hear the worship of the nations,” Caner added. “If we are to reach this generation, we have to teach this generation.”
In an interview, Caner said, “It has taken 11 years for a Baptist college to follow suit” with the SBC and its seminaries in affirming the BFM 2000.
Truett-McConnell’s vice president of academic services, Brad Reynolds, citing early documents from America’s oldest academic institutions, Harvard and William and Mary universities, noted the historic institutions’ inaugurating quest for biblical truth.
“How is it that institutions founded on such strong Christian foundations could have so quickly departed from such? Where should we look to find the erosion of the Christian faith from their curricula?” Reynolds asked. “I submit we look no further than the classroom. When faculty doubt the power, authority, authenticity, inspiration, infallibility or inerrancy of God’s Word, it inevitably bleeds into the classroom and soon infiltrates the entire institution.
“How does a Christian institution whose desire is similar to Harvard’s or William and Mary’s keep from repeating their divergent paths? Today is our answer,” Reynolds said. Designating the day as “historic and innovative,” he said TMC would “now chart the course of finding truth in every discipline through the spectacles of Scripture.”
After TMC faculty signed the BF&M 2000, Patterson addressed the 500-plus attendees, saying, “God is gracious to me beyond anything I could imagine,” in reference to the number of faculty and administrators there who studied under his tutelage at Criswell College in Dallas and/or Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest. N.C., where Patterson served as a teaching president at both institutions. “My students become my children, and so it is especially rewarding today to be here.”
And it is “particularly rewarding [to those] who fought so hard to come to a place where once again our schools would take this kind of stand,” Patterson continued. “We anticipated that this would happen with [the SBC’s] six seminaries. We hardly anticipated, we dared not believe that it could happen at a school like Truett-McConnell. But this is the grace of God that He does abundantly above anything that we are able to think or to believe. So thank you, President Caner, for bringing us to this hour.”
Recounting the 15-member BF&M study committee that he appointed when he was president of the SBC (1998-2000), Patterson said, “I tried to be very careful in my appointments” regarding ethnic, gender and theological diversity.
“In fact, we had theologians on this committee to watch each other,” said Patterson, saying he selected a noted Calvinist for the committee to “make sure we didn’t become Arminians.” And he cited two other theologians to keep the Calvinists in check to “be sure that we didn’t become Calvinists, because we don’t want to be Calvinists, we don’t want to be Arminians, we want to be,” said Patterson, pausing — “Baptists!” the applauding crowd responded.
“Baptists, that’s right,” Patterson replied.
Mirroring the New Hampshire Confession, the BF&M 2000 addressed the essentials of the faith while also countering modern immoral beliefs such as abortion that were not addressed in earlier statements of faith, said Patterson, noting there is no “perfect confession of faith.”
“That’s why we call it a confession of faith rather than a creed…. This sacred book is our creed,” Patterson said, pointing to his Bible. “It is the only statement of faith that is perfect. It is the only statement of our faith that is without any kind of error. It is the only infallible statement of our faith that will lead us to no mistakes spiritually or otherwise.”
Patterson said the BF&M 2000 highlights that which “we most dearly hold to be true. It is not all that we believe. It is a wonderful summation of the most important aspects of our Christian faith. It is a summation of that which is mutually held among most Southern Baptists that binds us together.”
Noting that the majority of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s churches have affirmed and adopted the BF&M 2000, Patterson said, “For us to sign the statement of faith is to declare to the churches: ‘We are your faithful children; we will represent your view in the higher education arena as you understand it, as we understand. You can count on us to be faithful.'”
Turning to address the faculty seated behind him on the platform, Patterson said, “And to you today, faculty, I would say you must remember that you have a responsibility every day to every one of these precious students that God has placed in your hand as a stewardship from God, and you dare not do anything that would cause one of these little ones to stumble. Better it would be that a millstone were hung around your neck and you be dropped into the deepest sea than to cause a single one of these young people to stumble…,” he said, echoing Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:6.
“Better be dead, better never be remembered on this earth, than to fail to be true to that document which you have signed, and more important still, to this document, which is our real creed,” Patterson said, again referring to his Bible. “May God bless you as you serve and teach in line with that which you have confessed. Hold to it, and someday you will hear, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant.'”
Vicky Kaniaru is senior staff writer at Truett-McConnell College; Norm Miller is TMC director of communications. The college is affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Convention.