Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Should We Get Rid of the Baptist Faith and Message?

This afternoon the trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary approved a statement declaring that the seminary "will not knowingly endorse contemporary charismatic practices such as a private prayer language nor hire professors who advocate the practice." (Quote is from this article by Baptist Press.) The new statement was adopted at the request of seminary president Paige Patterson. On his blog Ben Cole has posted Patterson's remarks to the trustees in which this request was made. This action by the SWBTS Board of Trustees is just the latest example of the trend within the SBC of narrowing the parameters of cooperation by requiring adherence to a particular interpretation of Scripture, even on issues where our understanding of the Bible is less than perfectly clear, as a condition of working together.

Why did Patterson and the SWBTS trustees feel it was necessary to make such a move? I cannot say for sure. However, when this controversy first erupted a few weeks ago Patterson characterized the position of SWBTS trustee Dwight McKissic that private prayer language (PPL) is a legitimate spiritual gift, as "harmful to the churches" of the SBC. Apparently the churches of the SBC have never recognized this position as being harmful, because the subject has never been addressed in the Baptist Faith and Message. Many may not agree with this position, but that does not mean it is harmful or dangerous. Since the SBC has not seen it necessary to adopt an official position on PPL, should a seminary that is funded by Cooperative Program dollars---including dollars from churches which believe that PPL is a legitimate gift---adopt a position that excludes Southern Baptists who are in agreement with the BFM and who financially support the seminary? I think not.

Perhaps a motion should be made at the 2007 SBC Annual Meeting in San Antonio to do away with the BFM. If our entities are free to establish their own doctrinal requirements then how can we claim to have a common doctrinal confession? It seems nonsensical for the SBC to point to the BFM and say, "This is what we believe," if the IMB, NAMB, and our seminaries are all saying, "Oh, and if you want to be a part of our ministry you also have to believe. . ." The way things are right now, we don't have one statement of faith; we have several statements of faith.

On second thought, we should not get rid of the BFM. Instead, we should make sure that our SBC entities do not go beyond the BFM in establishing their doctrinal requirements. Any Southern Baptist who is faithful in his or her Christian walk and who affirms the BFM should be welcome to participate in the work of any of our entities for which he or she is qualified.


Bowden McElroy said...

Re: This action by the SWBTS Board of Trustees is just the latest example of the trend within the SBC of narrowing the parameters of cooperation...

Although I am one who has been vocal about the trend toward exceeding the BF&M, I'm not overly concerned by SWBTS action.

The difference between the IMB and SWBTS is that SWBTS is just one of six seminaries.

I have no problem with each of our seminaries having it's own "take" on doctrine. In other words, I would be okay if SWBTS were the dispensational seminary, SBTS the reformed seminary, etc.

My problem with Patterson's remarks is the explicit message that this is THE SBC way. Had he acknowledged differing interpretations within SBC life and then gone on to say what SWBTS will stand for, I would not be concerned at all.

If each of the seminaries had their own "stamp" or "stance", then we would see the dynamics of the marketplace: I would hope SWBTS enrollment would eventually decline while other seminaries - open to other interpretations while staying within the BF&M - would increase.

onelittleman said...

Pastor Tim,
Maybe the elephant in the room is interpretation? The one thing that the BFM seems to avoid spelling out is how to interpret the Bible properly? I wonder if a lot of the bruhaha now going on over whiskey, women and tongues has more to do with how we arrive at our points of doctrine?

I still don't understand how preachers get some of the applications they preach from the pages I'm reading.


Anonymous said...

This would do away with the abstract as well, right? Good.