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Confessionalism Scripture

Reflecting on the Baptist Faith and Message, Part 3: The Doctrine of Scripture (con’t)

The first article of the Baptist Faith and Message speaks of the source, nature, authority, and goal of the Bible as God’s revelation to humanity:
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.
Having addressed the matters of the source and nature of the Bible in the previous installment, I will now turn attention to the confession’s doctrine of Scripture’s authority and goal.
 
The Authority of Scripture: Absolute
Because God is the author of Scripture by means of inspiration, and because God cannot lie (Heb. 6:18; Tit. 1:2), that means the Bible contains only “truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter.” Scripture is, in other words, inerrant in all that it affirms. We are, therefore, obligated to believe and obey all that it teaches, when we have properly interpreted and applied that teaching.
 
The doctrine of inerrancy has been a flashpoint of controversy among Christians in recent history. Some have claimed that Scripture never claims inerrancy for itself, and that the phenomena of Scripture clearly disprove the concept anyway. For example, if the Bible uses round numbers to relate historical details, has it recorded some data point erroneously? And if so, doesn’t the doctrine of inerrancy seek to impose on the Bible a standard that the Bible itself never claims to meet?
 
In fact, the doctrine of inerrancy does not claim that Bible is written with maximal precision. Proponents of inerrancy gladly acknowledge it was written, instead, in ordinary human language. For this reason, the doctrine of inerrancy claims that the Bible is inerrant according to the standards of precision to which it seeks to adhere. If a man earned $52,174.23 in net income in the year 2020, and he said to a friend, “I made $50,000 last year,” no one would accuse him of deceit or error; so it is with Scripture. It must be evaluated at the level at which it intends to communicate. Round numbers, figures of speech, omission of incidental details in parallel accounts, etc. do not constitute errors. They are accepted conventions of human communication.
But does the Bible itself claim that it is inerrant, and therefore completely authoritative in all that it affirms? Yes, it does, and in numerous places. But I will simply note two here, both from the words of Jesus. In Matthew 5:18, Jesus says, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law [i.e., the Old Testament Scriptures] until all is accomplished.” The reference to an “iota” and a “dot” represent, respectively, the smallest letter of the alphabet and the smallest part of a letter. Jesus goes to great lengths to speak of the absolute authority of the Bible as the written Word of God. And because it is the written Word of God, he came to fulfill it, not to scrap it and start over with something new (Matt. 5:17). One other reference of Jesus to the Bible is found in John 10:35, where in a passing comment he notes, “and the Scripture cannot be broken.” Here Jesus affirms not only that the Bible has no errors, but that indeed it cannot have errors because of the nature of what it is: the very Word of God. In other words, Jesus affirms not only the fact of inerrancy, but even the stronger claim of biblical infallibility, the claim that the Bible is incapable of error.
 
Because Scripture has no mixture of error, it is completely trustworthy and represents the absolute standard by which all truth is discerned. The Baptist Faith and Message affirms biblical authority very clearly.
 
The Goal of Scripture: Salvation
In addition to noting that Scripture has God for its author and inerrant truth for its matter, the confession affirms that it also has “salvation for its end.” Scripture is divine revelation that is oriented toward one main goal: the salvation of sinners through Jesus Christ. This is why, as the confession affirms, “All Scripture is a testimony to Christ.” The Bible is not our Savior. Jesus Christ is. But how can we know Jesus Christ in the absence of his physical presence with us? God has committed the authoritative prophetic and apostolic testimony of the Person and work of Jesus Christ to writing in Scripture, which is now the permanent form of divine revelation that remains with the church until the end of history.
In the early years of the church, the gospel spread by apostolic proclamation. That proclamation took on certain forms that could be passed down orally as tradition. However, the more time elapses between the events of Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection and the hearing of that tradition, the more opportunities arise for corruptions of the traditions handed down. If we had no permanent, written account of Jesus here now 2,000 years after his time on earth, we would be dependent on an oral tradition that could have become so corrupted by this point that it could lead us far astray into error. In fact, the Roman Catholic adherence to oral tradition as a stream of divine revelation on par with Scripture demonstrates the level of doctrinal corruption that can accrue over long periods of time without an authoritative canon that stands above tradition to keep it in check. Roman Catholics hold numerous beliefs and practices that are not only non-biblical, but even anti-biblical, as they have allowed tradition to stand alongside Scripture as a source of revelation. As a result, they have a compromised gospel of justification by faith plus works, combined with compromised worship practices that resemble paganism: prayers to Mary and the saints, indulgences, a continuing earthly priesthood, etc.
 
Because God has given us the Bible as the only divine authority on earth, we can trust that its revelation of Christ to us is what will lead us to salvation. Where Scripture is preached, taught, and revered, faith in Christ will be stirred, nurtured, and preserved. Where Scripture is not proclaimed in faithfulness, people will descend into spiritual darkness.
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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.

Categories
Gender Reform SBC Author Scripture

The Egalitarian Shift in the Committee on Committees

 

It’s totally a Baptist thing to have a committee on committees, isn’t it? But for those who do not know, this committee is one of the most important (if not the most important) committees that exists within the Southern Baptist Convention. Baptist Press correctly articulates the situation:  

“The Committee on Committees, with two members from each of the 34 states and regions qualified for representation, has the responsibility to appoint the Committee on Nominations. The Committee on Nominations has far-reaching influence on Southern Baptist life. They recommend the trustees of our 11 convention entities and our Executive Committee to the Southern Baptist Convention.”

A key to a healthy convention is God fearing trustees since they are responsible to watch over our entities on behalf of the 47,000 churches of the SBC. These trustees receive their appointment through the Committee on Nominations. Therefore, you want to have a solid Committee on Nominations in order to ensure solid trustee nominations. This brings us back to the Committee on Committees – this committee needs to be strong since it is charged with appointing who will sit on the Committee on Nominations.

The 2021 Situation

In mid-April of 2021 SBC President, J.D. Greear, named the 68 members of the Committee on Committees. By the way, this is one of the reasons electing a strong conservative SBC President in 2021 is so important since they are the ones who name the persons on the Committee on Committees.

What is the makeup of Greear’s Committee on Committees? Well, there’s quite a bit of makeup actually. It is chaired by Meredith Cook, a member of Neartown Church in Houston, Texas. Along with Mrs. Cook there are an additional 38 women sitting on the committee bringing the total to 39 out of 68 members (57%) being female (source).

Thus, out of the 34 states/regions that comprise the Committee on Committees there were multiple areas that J.D. decided needed no male leadership at all.  

What’s the Problem?

In a Q&A session (that was definitely not sponsored by SWBTS and NAMB) with Dr. Ed Litton on April 29, 2021 I had the opportunity to ask if he thought there was any issue with this committee being a majority (57%) female committee. Several pastors in the room laughed at me and shouted “No!” Dr. Litton smiled at the support in the room and answered (though in a kinder way) along with them, “No.”

As you have probably already figured out, the point of this post is to show why a majority women Committee on Committees in the Southern Baptist Convention is an issue. Here are a few reasons why:

  1.       It Reeks of Tokenism

My wife is the one who brought this point to my attention. She said that she finds it offensive that so many women are on the Committee on Committees simply because they are women. It seems as though J.D. wanted to make a point and it certainly has been made!

  1.       It’s Catering to the Culture

This move seems to be another example of the Southern Baptist Convention seeking to make peace with a godless culture. It is extremely countercultural in our day to preach and live out strong biblical complementarianism in our homes and churches. This seems to be another move whereby we can shout at the culture to look how non-complementarian we are.

Let me quickly mention in response to these first two points that I’ve grown quite weary of leadership in the SBC not exalting the roles of women that we have in Scripture as important and meaningful to our convention. That is, why are women only seen as “empowered” if they serve on a certain committee? Why do we not value the role of a wife and mother in the home, submitting to her husband, nurturing her children, and being a godly member of her local church? Why are we so bent on making women preach or serve in this or that area of leadership as the only real meaningful contributions they can give? 

  1.       It is an Egalitarian Slide

Here is where I will spend most of the blog post. Egalitarianism “holds that women and men properly have equal and interchangeable roles in the home, church, and wider society.”[1] That is, an egalitarian would hold that it doesn’t matter who preaches, pastors, leads the home, etc. in terms of gender. Both men and women are qualified to hold whatever position in the home, church, or society.

Complementarianism, on the other hand, says “that God created man and woman equal in value and personhood, and equal in bearing His image, but that both creation and redemption indicate some distinct roles for men and women in marriage and in the church.”[2]

Unequivocally, the Southern Baptist Convention is a complementarian convention of churches – at least on paper. What paper? Well, the Baptist Faith and Message says this, for example,

“The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation” (BFM 2000, XVIII).

So, what does all of this have to do with the Committee on Committees? Quite a lot actually. But first let me say this: I am not arguing for or against in this post whether a woman ought to serve on a committee. That’s not the purpose of this writing. The purpose of this writing is to ask whether or not the most important committee in the Southern Baptist Convention ought to have a majority of its seats held by women.

We have already affirmed in the BFM 2000 that we believe that men ought to lead in the home. We also state that men ought to lead in the church as the office of pastor is only for qualified men (see BFM 2000, VI.). Yet, when it comes to this committee, Southern Baptists are affirming an egalitarian position – that is, the role of leadership here is interchangeable.

A Moment of Crisis

No matter which “side” someone is on in the current SBC debates I think most would agree we are in a moment of crisis. Some might say the “crisis” is people saying there is a crisis! But that would still be a form of crisis.

And here is the point I am making: How can we think it is a good idea – a God ordained idea – that in a moment of crisis in the Southern Baptist Convention, we ought to have our most important committee led by women? Shouldn’t men be leading in all times, but especially during a moment of crisis?

Yes, before you ask, I have read the book of Judges and am familiar with Deborah. I am also familiar with the context of the book and that we do not want to get to a point in Southern Baptist life whereby we are in need of a Deborah to lead us.

The Value of Godly Women

I don’t think this point needs to be made but I’m going to make it anyway. Women in the Southern Baptist Convention are unquestionably valuable. Our churches and our convention would not be where they are today without godly women. This is incontrovertible.

Why then am I saying it’s not a good idea for our most important committee to be led by women? Because God’s very good and holy design in the home, church, and society at large is for men to take up the mantle of leadership. This is not to wonder whether or not a woman is able to select a good candidate for the Committee on Nominations. It’s rather to say that God has not created men to put their wives in that situation.

And I’ll close with this: The Committee on Committees situation is another example where we are losing the battle for the sufficiency of Scripture in the SBC. If we believe the Bible is sufficient to teach us gender roles, then why are we not making proper application on the Committee on Committees? Why do we believe, as the BFM states, that men are designed for leadership in the home and the church, but that the Committee on Committees is an exception?

Some have stated this is about “power” or “control.” The reality is this is true. This is about power. It is about the power and sufficiency of God’s Word. And it is about control. Will we allow this authoritative and sufficient Word to control our convention or will the cultural winds change our course? Do we trust God’s very good design or not?

 

 

 

 

[1] Major Contributors and Editors, “Egalitarianism,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

[2] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 16.

Categories
Complementarianism Controversy Ecclesiology Gender Methodology Missions Reform Scripture

Time to Contact NAMB Trustees. Here’s How.

Southern Baptists are a great-commission people.  As a result, Southern Baptists are a church-planting people.

Southern Baptist are also a confessional people who, as a result, have real clarity on what the important terms “church” and “pastor” mean according to Scripture.  This clarity allows Southern Baptists to accomplish what they intend in church planting, namely to plant Southern Baptist churches.

A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.

The New Testament speaks also of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.

As Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Daniel Akin recently articulated, there is no ambiguity in what Southern Baptists confess.  Scripture knows of no office of pastor available to women, regardless of what other adjectives and qualifications might be attempted.

Thankfully, Southern Baptists have an excellent mechanism for planting Biblically-faithful Baptist Faith and Message 2000 churches in the North American Mission Board.  However, the last two weeks have revealed that the blessings of Southern Baptist churches planting Biblical Baptist Faith and Message 2000 churches through the North American Mission Board is experiencing a disruption that has to be addressed.

January 26th, 2020 brought to light the first sign of the breakdown: A North American Mission Board church plant, 1 Name Church of Planation, FL, was found to be using the title “Pastor” in unbiblical fashion, applying it to a woman within the church.

When this breakdown in healthy practice – most importantly, by breaking with Scripture’s clear teaching but secondarily also by breaking faith with the Southern Baptist donors who sponsored the church in good faith with the North American Mission Board under the assumption that NAMB would plant churches keeping with our confession of faith – came to light 1 Name promptly ended their relationship with the SBC and asked to be left alone.

Ultimately the decision of a local church to cooperate or not with the Southern Baptist Convention is that church’s decision.  What remains is for the North American Mission Board to account for (a) how much money they were tasked with stewarding on behalf of Southern Baptists has been sunk into a church that was clearly not of like faith and practice and (b) what safeguards failed to prevent this from happening.

There was an initial indication that Dr. Kevin Ezell, President of the North American Mission Board, was willing to address the seriousness of the problem directly.

What appeared to be an invitation to engage directly with Dr. Ezell via email resulted for those of us who reached out in a form-letter response from someone other than Dr. Ezell that amounted to a shutdown in further communication (the last I personally received directed me back to Dr. Ezell’s tweets, for instance).

Unfortunately, the intervening days have revealed the problem is more pronounced than just one church.  In fact, – in the most distressing fashion possible – it is now clear that the situation with 1 Name Church is far from an isolated incident.  As Nate Scholman has demonstrated here on CR Voices – and please read the whole thing – there are a disturbing number of churches receiving sponsorship from the NAMB who are in open contradiction to The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, indicating a breakdown in the partnership/stewardship relationship of Southern Baptist donors and the NAMB, doctrinal fidelity to our confessional statement, and faithfulness to Scripture’s clear teaching.

Since the problem is now seen to be worse than indicated on January 26th and the opportunity to engage with Dr. Ezell resulted in no additional way forward to address these breakdowns in Southern Baptist cooperative ministry it is now time to call on the trustees of the North American Mission Board to fulfill their responsibilities to Southern Baptists.  The trustees of Southern Baptist entities work on behalf of Southern Baptists (rather than on behalf of the entities themselves) to supervise the work of these entities in such a way that the entities fulfill the mandate given them by Southern Baptists.

Categories
Controversy Critical Race Theory Critical Theory Methodology SBC Author Scripture Social Justice

An Open Letter to the Southwestern Seminary and Scarborough College Family (Adam Greenway)

In this open letter, Adam W. Greenway, President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, addresses recent controversy surrounding a recent statement from the Council of Seminary Presidents.

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Abortion Abuse Complementarianism Controversy Critical Race Theory Critical Theory Gender Homosexuality Intersectionality Methodology Racism SBC Author Scripture Social Justice

Will Southern Baptists practice biblical conservatism or acceptable progressivism? (Ronnie Floyd)

In this article from Ronnie Floyd’s Advancing the Vision series, Floyd writes, “The future is not in having cultural conversations apart from the Bible. This will always lead to division. Southern Baptist pastors, leaders, and churches need to be having biblical conversations about cultural matters.”

Categories
Critical Race Theory Intersectionality Methodology Reform SBC Author Scripture Social Justice

The Southern Baptist Convention Should Be Led by Pastors (Tom Ascol)

In this post, Tom Ascol writes, “To put it bluntly, the Southern Baptist Convention needs to be led by pastors. Granted, there are some pastors who are eager to be enablers of or fellow travelers with wayward bureaucrats. I am not talking about those guys.”

Categories
Critical Race Theory Critical Theory Gender Homosexuality Intersectionality Non-SBC Scripture Social Justice

The Enemy Within: Critical Theory, Cultural Marxism, and Social Gospel

According to the description for this episode of UNSHACKLED! titled ‘The Enemy Within,’ “In this homage to CS Lewis’s ‘The Screwtape Letters’, a Senior Tempter instructs a Junior Tempter how to secure the damnation of their latest ‘patient.’ The fact that this patient is part of a Bible study only emboldens their efforts.”

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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.”

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

What Does it Mean to Be “Woke” and How Does Church Discipline Apply? (Owen Strachan)

In this post, Owen Strachan responds to critiques of his recent lecture series on Christianity and wokeness, defining wokeness as:

…first and foremost a mindset and a posture borne of Critical Race Theory and related systems of thought. The term itself means that one is “awake” to the true nature of our society where so many fail to see it. In the most specific sense, this means one sees the comprehensive inequity of our social order and the corresponding need for racial and social justice.