Connecting the Dots in an Unconnected World

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What does it mean to be a Baptist church?

I recently was introduced to a new term, “Baptist Identity.” This term is most often used as a pejorative identifying those who hold a doctrinal position of ecclesiastical separation. As I have mulled over this term it has raised a question in my mind, “What does it mean to be a Baptist Church.”

It means we are committed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Baptist churches as I have known them and as history portray them have always sought after the will and purposes of our Lord, to do else would be to deny our very existence. The church belongs to Him.

It means we are a people of the book. The Bible is our final guide in all matters of faith and practice. We believe the Bible to be the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. By the way, these are still good and appropriate words to describe our Bible.

It means that we identify with a great heritage of churches that have existed since the origin of the first New Testament church. While I am well aware that some would date the origin of the Baptist church to the time of the Protestant Reformation. I cannot do so. I believe that since the origin of the New Testament church there have always been churches that believed and practiced what Baptist churches in our day believe and practice. These churches were not perfect (our churches today are not perfect). They were not always called “Baptist” however, they held to the tenants of faith that we today hold dear.

It means we hold to an identifiable set of doctrines and practices. You cannot believe anything you choose and be a Baptist church. There are doctrines that Baptist churches hold dear and doctrines that Baptist churches reject. If this is not true then we shall be lost in an ecumenical hodge-podge, which believes nothing and falls for everything.

It means we are committed to the Great Commission. The heart-beat of Baptist churches is the winning of the lost and developing of the saved, where we are and around the world. The key for Baptist churches in the fulfilling of the great commission will be the establishing of Baptist churches that have a burning fire to reach the lost with the gospel.

And, as Southern Baptists, it means we are committed to cooperative ministry. Baptist churches do best that which they do together. As Southern Baptists we are a group of churches that hold to a like faith and practice. Do I agree with all Southern Baptists? No. Do I believe that the best way to reach the world with the gospel is through our great Southern Baptist missions efforts? Yes.

I proudly claim my “Baptist Identity.”

Attempting to connect the dots…

Romans 1:16

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it, but because by it, I see everything else.”

- C. S. Lewis


Blogger Strong Tower said...

"It means we hold to an identifiable set of doctrines and practices. You cannot believe anything you choose and be a Baptist church. There are doctrines that Baptist churches hold dear and doctrines that Baptist churches reject. If this is not true then we shall be lost in an ecumenical hodge-podge, which believes nothing and falls for everything."

The BFM: With the 1963 committee, we have been guided in our work by the 1925 "statement of the historic Baptist conception of the nature and function of confessions of faith in our religious and denominational life . . . ." It is, therefore, quoted in full as a part of this report to the Convention:

(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. They are not intended to add anything to the simple conditions of salvation revealed in the New Testament, viz., repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.

(2) That we do not regard them as complete statements of our faith, having any quality of finality or infallibility. As in the past so in the future, Baptists should hold themselves free to revise their statements of faith as may seem to them wise and expedient at any time.

(3) That any group of Baptists, large or small, have the inherent right to draw up for themselves and publish to the world a confession of their faith whenever they may think it advisable to do so.

(4) 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.

(5) That they are statements of religious convictions, drawn from the Scriptures, and are not to be used to hamper freedom of thought or investigation in other realms of life.

Baptists cherish and defend religious liberty, and deny the right of any secular or religious authority to impose a confession of faith upon a church or body of churches. We honor the principles of soul competency and the priesthood of believers, affirming together both our liberty in Christ and our accountability to each other under the Word of God.

Baptist churches, associations, and general bodies have adopted confessions of faith as a witness to the world, and as instruments of doctrinal accountability. We are not embarrassed to state before the world that these are doctrines we hold precious and as essential to the Baptist tradition of faith and practice.

As a committee, we have been charged to address the "certain needs" of our own generation. In an age increasingly hostile to Christian truth, our challenge is to express the truth as revealed in Scripture, and to bear witness to Jesus Christ, who is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life."

The 1963 committee rightly sought to identify and affirm "certain definite doctrines that Baptists believe, cherish, and with which they have been and are now closely identified." Our living faith is established upon eternal truths. "Thus this generation of Southern Baptists is in historic succession of intent and purpose as it endeavors to state for its time and theological climate those articles of the Christian faith which are most surely held among us."

It is the purpose of this statement of faith and message to set forth certain teachings which we believe.

"...which we believe," for the time being. Apparently the SBC does not agree with you. The only real distinctive here is that there is no true Baptist Identity, merely a consensus that is not sure and certain and is apt to change at any moment in time.

Perhaps what you identify with, ceased to exist with Mullins ecumenical big tent spirit? Perhaps it never existed at all.

Point of fact, which is true: "He was created in a state of holiness under the law of his Maker, but, through the temptation of Satan, he transgressed the command of God and fell from his original holiness and righteousness; whereby his posterity inherit a nature corrupt and in bondage to sin, are under condemnation, and as soon as they are capable of moral action, become actual transgressors."


"Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit 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."

Does condemnation come before or after actual sins?

These are two completely different and mutually exclusive doctrines and therefore describe two entirely different religions. So which is Baptist Identity, the first which recognized original sin, or that which denies it? That man was created holy in the image of God, or merely innocent. That we are Augustinian or Pelagian?

You decide. It may just shock you enough that you realize that Baptist Identity is in reality baptist popery, an attempt to errect an Ecclesium and an implicit faith that is more like Romanism than Protestantism.

The point is well made in the BFM, that it is not a definitive confession for all baptists, indeed, the freedom that is granted within the preamble evicerates any definitiveness that is expressed in it as far as being a required laundry list of necessary and implicit beliefs. Strange then, that the freedom within it is precisely what was the strength of it as opposed to the Baptist Identity concept of it. It was its inclusiveness, not it exclusiveness, its ecumenical not its ecclesiastical nature, its liberty not its bondage, that made the SBC the mission work that it is.

March 24, 2009 at 1:24 PM  
Blogger Wayne said...

Thanks for your opinion.

March 24, 2009 at 2:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Strong Tower,

I'm sorry. It is obvious you are well read and I'm sure at least some of what you're saying has merit, however, even as an intellegient, well educated college grad, I'm still really stuggeling to follow what you are saying. My suggestion is you try to be a bit more clear if you want to get your point across. As it stands, I don't really get what exactly you are trying to say.

The idea of the Baptist Faith and Message is to declare what Baptist already believe, not to command anyone to agree with it. If I were to put together a statement of What Democrats Believe, it wouldn't be under my power or within my goal set to kick anyone out of the party who disagrees. It would be a statement to be sure everyone knows generally what a democrat is. The BFM is simply a statement to say what it is Baptist already believe and have beleived for generations. Its not meant to alienate someone who may slightly differ in belief. The preisthood of the believer is not taken lightly by Baptist, at least typically.

That being said, if I am Pro Life, small government, anti gun control, it would be ridiculous to call myself a Democrat. The same applies to being a Baptist. If one disagrees on the means of salvation, the inerrancy of the Bible or any other of the pilalrs of Baptist Faith, why call yourself a Baptist? Please think independently and believe as you'd like, but why would you want to be a Baptist if you disagree on the major issues?

If it walks like a duck, looks like a duck and talks like a duck, don't call it a Baptist, call it a duck.

Just my oppinion. If I misunderstood your point, let me know.

March 24, 2009 at 8:33 PM  
Blogger Strong Tower said...


You misread in part, and do not contend with the context in another.

First, I didn't say that the BFM doesn't state certain "consensual" beliefs. One thing that must be noted, however, is that this confession was not adopted by the Majority of the SBC, but by a minority committee, and adopted by resolution by a minority of SBC'ers. It is not part of the Constitution of the SBC. It is in other words, opinions, cherished and held by those who crafted it.

That said, it does for the most part reflect a great part of the Historic Baptist positions.

Second, one must contend with the point of fact that I noted. If these are cherished doctrines surely eternal in nature, why the changes? Especially in this most vital doctrine? This is far more crucial than female leadership, baptisms, the Supper... and a host of secondary doctrine. This is a primary doctrine, the doctrine of the fall.

So if it walks like a duck but puts on pants like a man, what is it? Why would you want to be a Baptist whose doctrine isn't Baptisit? Or, just who was right, Mullins or Hobbs? What we have now is Hobbs, what we had in the 25 was the Historic Baptist position, the orthodox historic Christian doctrine. So are you saying that to be a baptist now means being unorthodox?

You see, the traditionalism that blinds is the same traditionalism that establishes an Ecclesium. I don't think that was the baptist foundation that the SBC was founded upon.

"The idea of the Baptist Faith and Message is to declare what Baptist already believe..."

Already since when? And I guess you didn't read the preamble. The BFM are mere opinions (That they constitute a consensus of opinion) of some baptists in the SBC, specifically at the convention level, not all.

"The BFM is simply a statement to say what it is Baptist already believe and have beleived for generations."

That is simply not true. We have three BFM's, the last is only a decade old, hardly a generation. And the 63 is radically different from the 25. So generations, say three, would take us just about back to the 25. So either you have believed the lie, or you just don't know.

"...not to command anyone to agree with it...The preisthood of the believer is not taken lightly by Baptist, at least typically." Oh but it is by some and I would say the majority. That is in fact the reason I reject the BI position. It disallows for the priesthood of the believer. But, I really think you meant, liberty of conscience.

My point was that many do not know what the BFM is, or what it's function is, they neither know its history, nor the history of Baptistism.

"You cannot believe anything you choose and be a Baptist church."

This is the bone of contention. Nothing in the Constitution requires anyone to believe anything, and all are free to craft their own doctrinal statements. So contrary to this, they are indeed free to do so. The only exception in the homosexuality clause.

The SBC is by no mean monolithic, neither is the history of Baptistism, but the BI would have it otherwise. That does violate the spirit even if there is no letter of the law of what it means to be Baptist.

March 24, 2009 at 9:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I agree.

And, I agree that we all should be connecting the dots.


March 31, 2009 at 1:17 PM  

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