The following article is based on remarks by SBC LIFE editor A. William Merrell, in a report to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Salt Lake City, June 9, 1998.
As even the least observant among us must surely know, we are living through a revolution of sea change proportions in our culture — a revolution of ideas and values. A hallmark of this revolution is the rejection of truth as truth. Postmodernism, characterized by the organizing idea that there is no universal or transcendent truth, is said to be the wave of the future. If that is so, it will be a grim future, indeed.
Of course, this concept flies in the face of biblical, orthodox Christianity. As Christians, we believe that truth does exist, that it issues from God and not man, that it applies to all places and times, and that it is true whether anyone approves of, or even believes, it. Some may think that this is only so much philosophical chatter, that this is just a discussion among the intelligentsia, and that we can afford to ignore it. I insist, however, as do many others, that this is a battle for the very minds and souls of men. Failure to engage and challenge this view makes us jointly liable for the destruction it wreaks.
Make no mistake: if there is no truth, universal and transcendent truth, then we have no sure word from God, and as a consequence, no guidance, no gospel, and no hope. The postmodernist view is not just sub-Christian; it is anti-Christian, and for it to triumph, it must stamp out the truth claims of Christianity. It is a singular challenge to which God has called our generation — to grapple with "the principalities, powers, and rulers of the darkness of this world" — champions of this new idolatry — "having our loins girt about with truth." (Ephesians 6:12-14)
SBC LIFE is the publication of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. It is sent to pastors, staff members, denominational leaders, and missionaries of the Convention. Its aim is to provide information, encouragement, and inspiration. Our presumption is that truth exists, and that it matters in the most essential way. Truth alone has the capacity to give dependable guidance, and to set men and women free, as the Lord said. At SBC LIFE, we are biased in the favor of truth. It is a publication with an edge. We will write about, and will take positions on, those things affecting the churches, their people, and the culture to which God has commissioned us to minister.
We have a viewpoint. It is only fair for you to know what comprises that viewpoint.
FIRST, we believe the Bible is the Word of God — that it is inerrant, a "perfect treasure of divine instruction" that has "truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter."
We accept what it says about God and man; that God is the Sovereign Lord of the universe, Creator of us all, that He is self-revealing through Scripture and through the Incarnation. Further, that men, made in the image of God, are sinners, but salvable, and are accountable to God.
We accept what it says about heaven and hell; that men answer to God in judgment, and that only those who place faith in Jesus Christ as Savior will be delivered from eternal perdition, and into eternal bliss with God.
We accept what it says about and right and wrong. Only a biblical worldview provides what is ultimately needed to restrain evil and hold a society together. The Bible alone provides bedrock ideals and values which furnish an enduring vision of what life is about, and how it is to be lived. Efforts to redefine and downgrade morality are nothing less than repudiation of biblical teaching, and the expression of rebellion against God. Fidelity requires us to tell the truth about sin and righteousness, and compassion requires us to trumpet God's provision for forgiveness. We believe that what God calls "good" is good; what he calls "evil" is evil; what he calls an "abomination" is just that.
SECOND, we believe in the work and ministry of the churches of Jesus Christ. We believe in the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to convert men and women, to give them peace and forgiveness, and fit them for heaven. We believe in the primacy of evangelism; of individuals and of the masses; by both old and innovative means; confrontive and non-confrontive. We believe in ministry to hurting men and women. We believe that the local church is where the works of evangelism and ministry are most often, and most effectively, done. We believe in the necessity of uncompromised biblical preaching and undeviating witness to the gospel.
THIRD, we believe in the Southern Baptist Convention. It is our delight to tell the good news of what God is doing through Southern Baptists here and around the world. Some confidently assert that denominational loyalty is dead. I think they are misreading the data. Denominational loyalty certainly is dead, or dying — among those mainline denominations where laymen and women have lost confidence in the orthodoxy or commitment of their leaders. But it is alive and well among Southern Baptists, and among others where the constituents have well-grounded confidence in their leadership. It is not an open question with us whether the Convention work should exist, or whether its efforts should be supported!
FINALLY, we believe in the Cooperative Program. Its record, since its adoption in 1925, is emphatically positive. Some now attempt to seduce Southern Baptists away from the support of the Cooperative Program to the tired, worn, and ineffective Society method Southern Baptists weighed, found wanting, and discarded in earlier generations. Is it missions zeal, or a selfish desire for control, that drives those who hope to entice Southern Baptists away from the Cooperative Program? The Cooperative Program not only was best for the past, it is best for supporting God's work today!
We are certainly not the only Baptist publication which holds to the viewpoint we have described. But, when we announce: "here we stand," our history validates the announcement. Articles and features have been, and will be, produced and published through SBC LIFE reflecting the viewpoints stated. We will be honest, straightforward, and disciplined in the stewardship assigned us. You have a right to expect it, and we pledge to God and to you, to remain true to this stewardship.