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Mohler is right, CBF members say on question of Biblical authority

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Even in their outrage over the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message statement, many Cooperative Baptist Fellowship members at the group’s General Assembly could find one area of agreement with SBC conservatives.

The question of biblical authority is “what it all comes down to” in the debate over the new confessional statement.

Stan Hastey, CBF member and head of the Alliance of Baptists, also agreed with conservatives who maintain that the BF&M discussion demonstrates that the inerrancy controversy was theological and not just political.

“Al Mohler is right,” Hastey said. “It has been a battle for the Bible and is about the inspiration and authority of the Bible.”

Calling the Bible “everything it claims to be, but nothing more,” Hastey suggested that Baptist adherence to the Reformation principle of Scripture alone as final authority has proven not to provide “an adequate basis of authority for Baptists.” The inerrantists in the SBC, he said, “cannot abide the discomfort of the discrepancies in Scripture.”

Hastey said that differences with conservatives go beyond the question of biblical inerrancy. When asked whether those who do not come to faith in Christ will go to hell, Hastey replied, “I don’t know.” He said he believes that Jesus is the fullest revelation of God, but, unlike the SBC leadership, he does not believe this means “we ought to be aggressive in evangelizing those in world religions.”

Longtime CBF leader Carolyn Weatherford Crumpler said she agrees that the differences between the SBC and the CBF over the new Baptist Faith and Message represent a fundamental difference between the two groups’ views of authority.

“We see our authority in Christ,” Crumpler said. “Southern Baptists see their authority in the Bible.”

“I know Jesus personally,” Crumpler maintained, when asked what she knows of Jesus apart from Scripture.

Gary Parker, CBF Baptist Principles Coordinator, said that CBF Baptists and SBC Baptists have “two different visions of Jesus.” The new Baptist Faith and Message is “a denigration of Jesus,” he said.

“There is a place to call this heresy,” Parker said of the BF&M’s assertion that the Bible is itself God’s revelation and not merely a record of God’s revelation.

“I may become a Christian and never see a Bible,” Parker asserted. “Peter at Pentecost preached out of his own experience with Christ.”

Rev. Kristina Yeatts, associate pastor of First Baptist Church, Clayton, N. C., agreed with the messenger to this June’s SBC meeting who asserted that the Bible is inspired and points to Christ, but is nonetheless “just a book.”

“They [SBC conservatives] says it is God’s word, fully inspired, everything it says we should do,” she said. “But it is a book with the biases and traditions of biblical days.”

“It is a book to guide us, but it’s just a book,” she said.

Like Hastey, Yeatts said her disagreement with SBC conservatives extends to questions of evangelism and the exclusivity of Christ as well.

“I believe you need to have a personal relationship with Christ, but I would never say someone couldn’t be led to him in other ways,” she said. “Jews and Buddhists are missing out because they are not Christians, but I wouldn’t say they are not going to heaven. I know if I was in the same situation I would take great offense if someone told me that.”

Karen Massey, professor at Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology and board member of Baptist Women in Ministry, agreed that the controversy is about the Bible.

“God’s Spirit blows where it will,” she said. “If we’re all honest, we all pick and choose what fits our experience” from different passages of Scripture.

“Unfortunately, Baptists have seen God defined just by Scripture,” she said. “God is bigger than the Bible.”

Amy Joyner, a Wake Forest Divinity School student from Sanford, N.C. agrees that her view of the Bible is quite different from that of the Southern Baptist leadership.

“They act like you can’t be a Christian and believe in evolution, for instance,” she said. “The Bible is not a science book. It is a book of faith.”

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  • Russell D. Moore