Blount, Douglas, and Joseph Wooddell, eds. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000: Critical Issues in America's Largest Protestant Denomination. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007.
The 2000 edition of the Baptist Faith and Message addresses specific areas of doctrine the Southern Baptist Convention felt required attention. Of these doctrines there are some remaining true to the forerunners (1925 and 1963), while others are shifting from previous terminology and even strengthening foundations. This paper addresses each Article as laid out in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 edition and qualifies each with a statement summarizing the Article and subsections.
Within this portion of the paper, a reduction of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 provides for quick review of the tenets of Baptist doctrine. Each article identifies the subsections while sharing an overview of the section. This summary allows the reader a reduced version of the Faith and Message without having to drudge through hundreds of pages of doctrine.
The Scriptures: From the beginning, Blount and Wooddell provide controversial discussion by shifting the paradigm of inspiration and inerrancy.
Inspiration: To substantiate the shift Wooddell explains, “Biblical writers were inspired; the biblical writings are inspired…the Bible ‘was written by men divinely inspired’ and ‘has God for its author’.”
Inerrancy: Describes the Bible as holding “truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter, therefore all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy.” For this reason the Scripture rather than the reader has final authority.
Record or Revelation: Stricken from the latest manuscript records “is God’s revelation” or “the record of God’s revelation” replaced by “Scripture is revelation” inciting Scripture is both a revelation and an accurate record.
The Criterion Statement: The criterion statement, described, as the most contentious of all debates, expresses “the criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ” no longer holds true.
God: Within the doctrine of God, the 2000 provides three particularly significant changes.
That God exhaustively knows the Future: Written in accordance to the London Confession (1644) “God hath, decreed in himself from everlasting touching all things, effectually to work and dispose them according to the counsel of his own will, to the glory of his name…”
That God is triune: In the previous editions of the Baptist Faith and Message, the Trinitarian idealism lacks substance; therefore, the 2000 edition clarifies with the statement “The eternal triune God reveals himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.”
That Christ is God and Man: Never expressly stating a holistic approach to Christology, the 2000 affirms, “Jesus of Nazareth is not merely a partaker of human nature. He is not merely partly human; he is rather fully human. He did not merely take on the demands and necessities of human nature; rather, he took on that very nature itself. Yet in doing so, he nonetheless remained fully divine.”
Man: Article III makes minimal changes from the prior editions; rather, it provides relevant clarity for the Convention.
Initial observations concerning the statement: The greatest clarification comes in the description of man being a special creation of God. Here the addition of male and female, and “the gift of gender is thus part of the goodness of God’s creation” rivals the modern construct that gender is unneeded for humanity makes its own determination of love, marriage, and sexuality.
The Image of God: The only created being in God’s image, humans, hold three positions reason, relation, and function. “It seems best to think of the image as involving something man is rather that something he does or some relation in which he stands. Nevertheless, the relational and functional views highlight a significant dimension of what it means to be human.”
Human Freedom: The 2000 asserts that man sins through “his free choice”, yet in order for consistency the proper perspective for the Convention holds to compatibilist freedom.
Effects of Man’s Sin: Departing from the 1925 edition, both the 1963 and 2000 identify man “fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherits a nature and an environment inclined toward sin. Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation.”
The Doctrine of Salvation: Surely, one of the pinnacle doctrines of the Convention has varied little over the editions. In order to remove any contemporary confusion, the term “perfection” shifted in meaning, and therefore, today reads “maturity”.
Salvation according to the Baptist Faith and Message: Simply states that there is “no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.”
God’s Purpose of Grace: This article rests between God’s electoral purpose of grace and humanities responsibility of repentance and faith.
Election and Human Responsibility: “is affirmed as being ‘consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end’.”
The Five Points of Calvinism: Observing resurgence in ideology amongst well-known Southern Baptists, the Convention remains faithful to four points.
Accepting the Tension in Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: The tension between divine sovereignty and human responsibility must be a stepping stone not an obstacle in the life of the believer. “The Bible teaches that God predestines and elects persons to salvation but that he does so in such a way as to do no violence to their free will and responsibility to repent from sin and believe the gospel.”
Eternal Security/ Perseverance of the Saints: Grounding his/her theological perspective in the union with Christ provides the believer with the needed motivation for perseverance.
The Church: The idea of a church does not find origination with Baptist doctrine, yet the 2000 edition expresses that “to be a Baptist is to be a biblical Christian; to be a Baptist church is to be a biblical church.”
The Church’s Name: What does ‘Church’ Mean? Originating in the Greek and later derived from the Constantinian era, “belonging to the Lord”, identified Christian houses of worship.
The Church’s Identity: What is the Church? “The church is comprised only of the born again who witness to their conversion in believers’ baptism.”
The Church’s Activity: What does the Church do? The church must fulfill the Great Commission, observe the two ordinances, and perform redemptive church discipline.
The Church’s Polity: How is the Church Governed? Because the Baptist church is a New Testament church the rule comes through Jesus Christ, governed by the congregation, led by pastors, and served by deacons.
The Church’s Ministry: Who Serves and Leads the Church? As stated above, the pastors lead the church and deacons serve the church.
The Glorious Church: When is the Church Universal? Only upon the consummation will the “universal” church exist.
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper: Article VII does not depart from the previous version of Baptist Faith and Message, even though there are calls for reformation.
General Issues: There are a few general issues identified in this subsection: terminology, number, administrator, setting, and perspective.
Baptism: the Ordinance of Commitment: Only those who profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are eligible for immersion, yet the age range accepted varies by church.
The Lord’s Supper: the Ordinance of Renewal: As a continuing observance, the Lord’s Supper operates as a spiritual renewal.
The Debate of over “This is my body”: While the Eucharist often shares the belief of transubstantiation. The idea of a literal transformation of the bread and wine loses its meaning within the SBC, the term “memorialize”, reflects the beliefs.
The Lord’s Day: Restricted to Sunday, the Lord’s Day becomes a right to observe according to one’s own conscience.
The Sabbath and the Lord’s Day: Little discussion of the Sabbath exists within the New Testament. Only Paul shares regarding the day being a matter of personal Christian liberties.
Practical Implications: Whether or not an individual believer remains faithful to the Sabbath resides within his/her own Christian conscience.
The Kingdom: “Is God’s not simply a metaphor for the Christian life; rather, it is the defining purpose of God’s plan for the cosmos.”
The Kingdom and the Baptist Confessional Tradition: From 1963 to 2000, the editions only shifted spelling changes from kingdom to Kingdom. The major shift came between 1925 and 1963 where the doctrine became more community-focused and Christocentric.
The Kingdom as General Sovereignty: Through the affirmation of Article II.A asserts, here God’s Kingdom includes his “general sovereignty over the universe” and ties to his Fatherhood.
The Kingdom as Particular Kingship: The 2000 stands or falls on the Baptist concept of the Kingdom as detailed in Article XVII. “This holistic Kingdom vision is precisely why the Southern Baptist cooperative effort is so focused on personal evangelism and world missions.”
Last Things: Baptists hold varying degrees of belief regarding the doctrine of eschatology.
The History of Article X: The foundation of Baptist eschatological belief comes from the New Hampshire Confession of 1833.
Analysis of Article X: This section provides twelve clear affirmations regarding the eschatology of the Baptist Faith and Message carried through the 1925 confession, and the 1963 and 2000 committees.
Evangelism and Missions: Division arose amongst the SBC as the focus shifted from missions to doctrine and back again. Article XI explains and defends the latest revisions.
The Scope and Means of Biblical Evangelism: Statement Additions: The main addition expresses that individual believers are to “live in such a way as to foster consistent witness to the Gospel message and is to do so ‘by verbal witness undergirded by a Christian lifestyle’.”
Motivation and Spiritual Condition for Bearing Witness: Statement Preservations: The motivation for witness comes forth from the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:44-49, John 20:21, Acts 1:8).
To sign or not to sign: This timeframe became a major milestone in the life of many missionaries, as well as, the reform movement.
Education: “The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 draw a direct practical connection between educational preparation and the effective kingdom of God, particularly the work of missions and benevolence.”
Stewardship: Not only is stewardship a fiscally responsible core belief, but it also parallels various theological and doctrinal areas, including discipleship.
Exposition: Stewardship “addresses the relation between the Creator and his creation, believers and the world, their material resources, the purpose of those resources, and finally their specific obligations and methods of giving.”
Issues and Controversies: Limited in scope over the history of the confessions and identifies the commitment to work together for the advancement of the Lord’s kingdom.
Cooperation: This one area has been the source of complication over the past centuries dating back to the Apostles.
Church Polity in the New Testament: There are “many examples of congregational polity-ministry done by local congregations under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”
Cooperative Ministry in the New Testament: The ministries of Paul, Barnabas, Peter, John, and Philip exemplified the concept of cooperative ministry.
Potential Pitfalls of Cooperation: The greatest pitfall consistently dealt with revolves around heresy.
Stewards of a Common Work: The Cooperative Program provides resources for Southern Baptist Churches to work alongside each other for the purposes of mission, education, benevolence, and other ministries.
The Christian and the Social Order: From the beginning, the SBC has had a social conscience.
The history of Southern Baptist Social Engagement: A long and varied history has shaped the modern SBC social engagement into the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).
The Christian and the Social Order: The current trend in the ERLC maintains the need to stand strong against all forms of racism and sexual immorality, and to affirm the holiness perspective and the sanctity of life.
Peace and War: Article XVI provides a focus first on seeking peace, and the coming kingdom of Christ, then lastly with the moral permissibility of war.
Pacifism: Founded in the Sermon on the Mount many hold true to the teaching, yet others seek a moral standard fitting the entire scope of scripture.
Just War: Many Southern Baptists determine to support the governments call to arms only when the war seeks to restore justice and restrain evil.
Before going to War: All governing officials must pursue peacekeeping efforts prior to ordering a just war.
Rules for the Conduct of War: Following the Geneva Convention provides the government with the needed amount of force for their attack. The 2000 “puts Christ at the heart and center of how evil can be controlled, wars ended, and righteousness fulfilled and expressed in every relationship among people.”
Religious Liberty: The heart expressed in the last sentence of Article XVII: “A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power.”
Religious Liberty means God alone is Lord of the Conscience: “Baptists deny the state any role in matters of the soul, the spirit, or the conscience.”
Religious Liberty means unbiblical creeds have no authority: The human conscience must be free from the doctrines and commandments of men, free to follow the doctrines and commandments of Christ.
Religious Liberty means no state church and no church state: The Baptist notion of the church rules out the potential for a state church, while also rejects the notion of a church state.
Religious Liberty means the state has obligations to the church: The state owes every church protection under the law and freedom to pursue its spiritual ends.
Religious Liberty means the church has obligations to the state: The church or Christians owe the state taxes, prayers, and a vote.
Religious Liberty means civil disobedience is sometimes required: Civil disobedience allows the church to stand up to the state on issues contrary to the revealed will of God.
Religious Liberty is a distinctive of Baptists: “By definition, no government could ever be genuinely Baptist, because Baptists reject the notion of an official state church or an official church state.”
Religious Liberty is a contribution from Baptists: “Baptists worked with Thomas Jefferson and James Madison to oppose state churches and to enshrine religious liberty in the Bill of Rights.”
Religious Liberty is a cause yet to be fully realized: “Religious liberty protects the gospel from corruption by the secular state.”
The Family: This article was excluded from previous editions of the Baptist Faith and Message until 1977 when the committee was formed to study the need.
Background: This article sought to provide a “clear understanding of the Creator’s design for marriage and the home” from a thoroughly biblical and theological nature.
Commentary: Article XVIII provides a narrow definition of family from a biblical and theological perspective. The narrowness eliminates any need for discussion of contemporary or future issues raised in the realm of Marriage, gender roles, parent and child relationships.
Throughout this paper, a reflection of the eighteen key doctrinal positions of the Southern Baptist Convention provides simple consideration on the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 edition. In closing, there is a concluding statement at the end of Article XVIII fitting for this paper:
“Doctrine and practice, whether in the home of the church, are not to be determined according
to modern culture, sociological, and ecclesiastical trends or according to personal emotional
whims; rather Scripture is to be the final authority in all matter of faith and conduct.”
In all endeavors, may the SBC and its churches provide the needed guidelines for a scriptural rendering of doctrine while in practice to their pastors and congregants.