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Confessionalism History SBC Author Scripture

Reflecting on the Baptist Faith and Message, Part 2: The Doctrine of Scripture

The first article of The Baptist Faith and Message, the doctrinal statement of the Southern Baptist Convention, addresses the doctrine of Scripture and reads as follows:

The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.

Herein is contained a robust confession of the source, nature, authority, and goal of holy Scripture. In this installment we will ponder the source and nature of the Bible, leaving the authority and goal of it for the next reflection.

The Source of the Bible: Divine Inspiration

The first sentence of this section of the confession affirms that men wrote the books of the Bible, but in doing so they were “divinely inspired.” The doctrine of inspiration states that, by a special and unique influence of the Holy Spirit, the human authors of Scripture wrote in forms that express their own individual personalities, yet nevertheless in such a way that what they wrote as Scripture constitutes the very Word of God to humanity. In other words, they did not put their own autonomous ideas down on paper, but were carried along by the Holy Spirit as they communicated God’s own words (2 Peter 1:19-21). The process of inspiration involves the Holy Spirit’s influence on the biblical authors.

But the product of inspiration is the biblical text itself, which, according to 2 Timothy 3:16, is “breathed out by God.” That phrase expresses the theological truth that Scripture itself is the product of God’s own mouth. The confession, by declaring plainly that Scripture “has God for its author” does not deny the human authorship of Scripture but rather affirms that God, by his work of inspiration in men, produced for humanity a book like no other: a book of which he himself is the author. Scripture is the very Word of God written. The Bible itself testifies to its own origin in this way numerous times, but I will note just one here: the author of Hebrews, quoting from Psalm 95 in Hebrews 3:7, introduces this Old Testament quotation with the words “as the Holy Spirit says.” Examples such as this one can be multiplied many times over.

The Nature of the Bible: Revelation

The 1963 version of the Baptist Faith and Message spoke of Scripture as “the record of God’s revelation of Himself to man.” As a statement of fact, that is a true statement. Scripture does indeed constitute a record of the various revelatory acts of God in the various stages of history, including his revelation to the patriarchs, to the people of Israel, and ultimately to his new covenant people through the incarnation of Jesus Christ. However, the 1963 statement was revised in 2000, not so much because it was wrong, but because it was insufficient. By affirming that the Bible is a record of God’s revelation, the confession left room for some to claim that God’s revelation itself can only be identified with the historical events recorded in Scripture, but not with Scripture itself. On this view, Scripture is a fallible human testimony to God’s revelation, a revelation that occurred in the past and is now inaccessible to us except through merely human accounts of it written in the Bible.

The revision to the statement that occurred in the year 2000 addressed this deficiency by affirming that Scripture “is God’s revelation of Himself to man,” not merely a record of revelation. By identifying Scripture with God’s revelation, the statement does not deny that the historical events, culminating in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, are also God’s revelation. Rather, the statement simply affirms that the acts of God in history by which he has revealed himself have also been recorded and interpreted by his own verbal revelation.

When God reveals himself, he does so by the pattern of word-act-word. First, there is a verbal revelation announcing the revelatory act in advance. Think of all the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament, written as scriptural testimonies to Christ before he ever appeared in history. After this announcing Word, God acts in history. Jesus Christ was born during the reign of Tiberius Caesar. He grew up in Nazareth, carried on a three-year public ministry, and then was crucified by Pontius Pilate before rising again and ascending into Heaven. These events, as acts of God, actually occurred in history and were witnessed by many. And then following these events, God inspired men to write about them, not only preserving their memory for future generations, but also interpreting their theological significance with God’s own interpretation of these events. The word of announcement is followed by the act, which is then followed by the word of interpretation. Scripture, as God’s verbal revelation, is an absolutely necessary part of this total revelatory work, and thus may rightly be called God’s revelation of himself to man.

One more reason the confession speaks of Scripture in this way is because, for all people at all times who are not eyewitnesses of God’s revelatory acts in history (the vast majority of humanity), Scripture is the only special revelation of God to which any of us has access. So yes, Jesus Christ, incarnate in the flesh, is indeed the culminating revelation of God. We will worship him forever, not the pages and ink of the Bible. But none of us living today can know Jesus Christ rightly apart from Scripture, the permanent written record and divine interpretation of his incarnation, life, death, and resurrection.

The Holy Bible is God’s Word written, the result of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit operating upon its human authors. Consequently, it constitutes the permanent, abiding form of God’s special revelation. Whatever the Bible says, God says.

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History Methodology Missions

Dr. Tom Nettles on The Mission Board that Saved the Southern Baptist Convention

Renowned church historian and Southern Baptist Dr. Tom Nettles recently spoke with the Church History Matters podcast about the founding of the SBC’s Domestic Mission Board in 1845 and how that decision reverberated through the Convention.

This is a great reminder of the importance of The Cooperative Program as a mechanism for funding missions and theological education. It also reminds us why a healthy SBC matters.

Find it on your podcast app or stream it here!

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History SBC Author

A Commitment to Truth: The Twentieth Anniversary of the Baptist Faith & Message (Albert Mohler)

In this article, R. Albert Mohler, Jr. remembers, “the conservative revision of the Southern Baptist Convention’s confession of faith, the ‘Baptist Faith and Message.'”

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Controversy Ecclesiology History Methodology New Liberalism Non-SBC Podcast Reform

“Liberals Are Very Good at Capturing Institutions. They’re Very Poor at Creating Institutions.”

Aaron Ren has released an episode of his podcast, The Masculinist, with critical insights for those interested in learning lessons for today from church history.  The focus of the episode is the battle for conservative theology within the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.

The quote in the title of this post can be found around the 12:41 mark in the episode.  You can listen to it on your podcast app or stream it here.

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History

A History of “Hateful” (Anti-Islam and Anti-Judaism) Statements from Southern Baptists

This page summarizes an article about, “a series of conservative Baptist comments and actions over the last 20 years or so that have antagonized one group or another.”

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History Podcast Politics SBC Author

Live Not by Lies: A Conversation with Author Rod Dreher about Moral Resistance in a Secular Age (Albert Mohler)

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History Missions Pastoring SBC Author

Steve Gaines on Episode 35 of Pastor Well

Steve Gaines talks about pastoral ministry and preaching, the Southern Baptist Convention, and what it was like to follow Adrian Rogers.

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History SBC Author Social Justice

Christian Citizenship (Adrian Rogers)

In this sermon from Love Worth Finding, Adrian Rogers answers, “What does the Bible say about Christian citizenship? What are our responsibilities, duties, and rights? What are Christians to do, to think, and how are we instructed to behave?”

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Critical Race Theory Critical Theory History Intersectionality Podcast Social Justice

Jared Longshore on New Calvinism, Christian Celebrity Culture, and the Social Justice Movement

On Episode 19 of The CR:V Podcast Chris Bolt speaks with Jared Longshore of Founders Ministries about New Calvinism and Its Consequences.

Subscribe to the podcast on Anchor or iTunes.

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Controversy Critical Race Theory Critical Theory History Intersectionality Racism SBC Author Scripture Social Justice

What Wokeness Is Not, and What it Is (Owen Strachan)

In this post, Owen Strachan argues, “while wokeness supposedly shares a vision for equity and virtue, it is radically different from Scripture and the biblical worldview. When you actually delve into woke literature, and when you study Critical Race Theory and intersectionality in particular, you come away shocked by what you see in many senses.”