News Articles

The Southwestern Declaration on Academic and Theological Integrity

EDITORS’ NOTE: The full statement on academic/theological integrity adopted by trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary follows.

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has provided theological education for tens of thousands of persons seeking to follow Jesus in lives of ministry. Over 62,000 students later and nearly a century after our founding, it is eminently appropriate that we articulate our theological and educational commitments for the generations now before us. We have a clear mission strengthened by our guiding priorities and principles.

Our educational mission is to serve Jesus Christ our Lord who has given us the ministry of teaching in his commission to disciple the nations. As the living word of God, he, by the Holy Spirit, has given us the written word of God, the inerrant Scriptures that we should preach, teach, and proclaim him in accordance with all that is written therein.

We recognize Jesus Christ as himself the truth of God, even as he taught that he is the way, the truth, and the life. And we recognize the Scriptures breathed out by God who does not lie, as true and inerrant even as the Lord himself taught when he identified the Scriptures as the word of God which he proclaimed as truth.

Faithfulness to Jesus Christ demands that we pursue the knowledge of truth as a knowledge of him found in the knowledge of his word. The study of God’s word, the Scriptures, therefore is central and primary in the academic mission of the Seminary. Our goal is a faithful understanding of Scripture and an application of its teachings in all aspects of life especially as that has to do with the growth of our faith and the purpose and practice of the ministry entrusted to us by Jesus Christ.

We share this goal with a convention of believers who support our work. Our agreement in this ministry is expressed by a common voluntary confession of the Lordship of Christ, the living word of God, and the centrality of Scripture, the written word of God. The statement of our confession is the Baptist Faith and Message. We freely express a common faith as a convention of believers and join to support the enriching of this faith through further study of the content and application of Scripture and the extension of this faith through the ministry of discipling and teaching the nations.

We heartily affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 as a statement of shared faith with the messengers of the Convention June 2000, are pleased to be accountable to the ongoing Southern Baptist Convention, and are grateful for the Convention’s support of our academic mission. We affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 because we believe it expresses a faithful and foundational interpretation of God’s word which we seek to promote and extend in faithfulness to the calling of Jesus Christ.

We are firm and resolute about our Christian and denominational distinctions. These distinctions harmonize with the great and fundamental convictions of the church throughout the ages. We are Southern Baptists standing within the evangelical tradition of orthodox Christianity. It is incumbent upon us to carry out our mission with confessional integrity. In doing so, we join hearts, heads, and hands with other believers in obedience to Christ and fulfillment of his mission. We stand together then in:

— Affirming biblical authority

— Maintaining the highest of academic standards

— Living out the commitment to global evangelization and missions

— Stressing the preeminence of biblical exposition for all ministry

— Nurturing pastoral hearts to lead God’s people in effective service

— Building a community of worship, faith and learning

To underscore our commitments and priorities, we make the following affirmations and denials pertaining specifically to how we understand our mandate from the Lord and our common denominational confession.

We affirm the necessity of aligning ourselves with the enduring beliefs of Christian orthodoxy, the faith once and for all delivered to the church.

We deny that distinctly Christian theological education and spiritual formation take place outside of such an alliance.

We affirm that the Bible is the inerrant, trustworthy, and sufficient authority in all that it affirms.

We affirm that the Bible is the supreme starting point in the pursuit of all wisdom and knowledge.

We deny that this theological confession forecloses on appropriate intellectual and theological inquiry.

We deny that Bible-based education results in intellectually inferior learning.

We affirm the authority of God’s word, written as Scripture and incarnate as Jesus Christ.

We deny a difference between the authority of Scripture and Jesus Christ and we reject any attempt to set in opposition Christ, the living word, and the Bible, the written word.

We affirm that the ultimate subject of theological education is knowing God by submitting to his revelation, the Scriptures, by faith which demands the most careful scrutiny.

We deny the unbridled modern confidence in reason or experience apart from or in place of divine revelation.

We affirm that the Bible is the word of God and speaks with relevance and authority to every generation and culture.

We deny that the Bible’s message is muted or irrelevant for contemporary culture.

We affirm that the goal of theological education is to live Christianly.

We deny that sound theology can be divorced from healthy Christian living.

We affirm that theological education is best pursued within the community of faith where worship, encouragement, and accountability are regular practices.

We affirm the Spirit giftedness and significance of everyone within the community of faith. All Christians have a ministry given by Christ which should be exercised.

We deny that individualism is conducive to sound theological education or Christian living.

We affirm that the Lord has appointed the pastoral office to men, and we affirm that the Lord has appointed many ministry positions to women.

We deny that the biblical limitations of the pastoral office to men were culturally limited and that role distinctions are no longer valid.

We affirm that the pastor is called to shepherd the local church entrusted to him by God.

We deny that pastoral authority should be exercised in an autocratic manner.

Unlike a university, as a theological seminary, we engage in a specific educational focus, namely theological education. The Lord has called us to the ministry of teaching. Our convention has joined together to support this teaching in preparation for ministerial service in the churches and on mission fields at home and abroad. All of our educational concerns, programs, and pursuits in some way or another revolve around this foundational purpose.

Our mandate is set. Our confessional framework has been articulated. Academic and theological integrity demands that we be faithful stewards of our task.

We pledge to maintain a teaching faculty who carry forward this mission with academic and theological integrity.

We pledge to equip Christian leaders to evangelize the lost world and disciple the nations in faith and the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

We pledge to practice biblical exposition as the primary means of communicating the word of God in preaching, education, counseling, and discipling in every way.

We pledge to serve local churches in all facets of personal and academic life and ministry.

May God grant us his grace and wisdom and the moral courage to be faithful to him by obeying his word.

    About the Author

  • SWBTS Staff