People of the Book?

Posted on 12/15/2006


Are Southern Baptists really “People of the Book?” We certainly are on paper, but the reality at times seems to be much different!

I have been a Southern Baptist nearly all my life. I was born a PK; I started most of our summer vacations by running around the halls of the convention center, trying to lose my parents. My heros as a boy were W.A. Criswell, Baker James Cauthen, Keith Parks, and Adrian Rogers. My mom raised me to see the Missionaries as the real heroes. One year she gave my two brothers and I an autograph book and told us to get all the Missionaries signatures we could, because they were the ones who were really imporant. I still have that book. Those precious saints wrote some of the most wonderful things to us!

The night theIMB did its report at the convention was so unlike the way it goes down in our current climate. Back then I had the idea that the entire Convention revovled around that evening. It was well attended. Say what you want about Dr. Parks, but he sure had an anointing on him when he would take that mic and call people to accept the call to take the gospel “to the ends of the earth!”

Back then, I knew that being a Southern Baptist meant that there were thousands of churches that were united for one purpose; to join our hands and hearts in training and sending people to fulfill the Great Commission.

I was so proud of being a SB I would argue every chance I could with the boy the same age as me in town who was the Lutheran Pastor’s PK! He had the nerve to tell me one day that Martin Luther, their founder was the key person in the Reformation, and that we were a product of that reformation. Well I bowed up and informed him that no such thing was true! He could trace his lineage back to Luther, but we Baptists have been around since the days of John the Baptist himself! We are people of the book!

After 34 years of being a Christian, and 15 years of pastoring, I have observed over the years, that on occassions, we Southern Baptists may talk the talk but we aint walkin the walk!

The Sufficiency of Scripture

We have certainly won the battle over inerancy, but we must now go on and win the battle over the sufficiency of Scripture! We must look back at our heritage and do what Baptists have done for hundreds of years; cooperate with other Baptists for the sake of fulfilling the Great Commission! We cannot let those among us divide and rend us apart over doctrines that are diputable! Drawing a line in the sand against liberalism? YES. Drawing a line in the sand to exclude conservative, baptist brothers from full cooperation in Southern Baptist life, over non-essential issues? Wrong and in denial of the Spirit of the Bible we profess to exalt.
Consider our Confession.

Baptists have throughout their history adopted “Confessions of Faith.” These documents are designed to declare what we feel are the essentials of the faith and those things that are clearly taught in Scripture. In these confessions you will find strong language that not only guards against liberalism, but also exalts the Scripture above mere tradition and rejects the attempts of men to force extra-Biblical doctrine and requirements upon the Denomination and the individual. The most recent example is ” The Baptist Faith and Message, 2000” look closely at these principles (emphasis mine):
1. “That they constitute a consensus of opinion of some Baptist body, large or small, for the general instruction and guidance of our own people and others concerning those articles of the Christian faith which are most surely held among us.”(pg.4)

Question: By what authority do people seek to exclude people from full cooperation in SB life, on the basis of issues that are not “surely held among us?”

2. “That the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience.” (pg.5)

3. The Scriptures are: “the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried.” (pg.7)

4. “God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it.” (pg.20)

Tradition or the Word?

Take a closer look at that last statement, it is found under the heading entitled “Religious Liberty.” This document and those that preceded it consistently declared that Christians are to be free from being subjected to any doctrine or commandment that is not “contained in the Word.” Did you also see that the Scriputures are to guide our “Christian Union?” These are some of our most cherished Baptistic principles. There have been serious errors and abuses done to people by religious bodies that have upheld doctrines, teachings, and commandments that were derived from tradition and not from God’s Word. Baptists have always rebelled and dissented against such practices.

We are now facing in Baptist life issues that pertain to these very principles. There are those among us who have shown little regard for “Christian Union” and instead are defending doctrines and pushing policies that are not found in God’s Word. They certainly are saying to the hand, “I do not need you,” 1 Cor 12.21. It is obvious that Baptists, like so many other denominations, are also prone to letting our traditions lead us away from the teachings of Scripture.

Are Southern Baptists “People of the Book?”