The Southern Baptist Convention in 1960

In 1960, Time Magazine ran a fascinating profile of the Southern Baptist Convention, which is available online. A number of prominent Convention personalities of the era were profiled as the popular periodical tried to interpert Southern Baptists for a general readership. The article is an interesting glance into our past.

I’ve written quite a bit about the mid-twentieth-century SBC over the past three or four years. Though our churches were of course diverse, in terms of our corporate denominational identity we were at the height of our influence in and capitivity to southern culture (including Jim Crow). We were characterized more by programmatic initiatives than theological conviction, save a commitment to evangelism and missions and a couple of Baptist distinctives (understood in various ways by various Southern Baptists). We were led by an odd combination of atheological pragmatists, doctrinal progressives, and revivalistic pulpiteers. And we were on the verge of a non-stop barrage of theological controversies from 1961 (the Elliott Controversy) through the remainder of the century (BF&M 2000). In many ways, we are the Convention we are today because of who we were fifty years ago and how we responded to that identity in the generation or two since then.

If you are even remotely interested in the SBC, take the time to read the article.

(HT: Bruce Gourley via BaptistLife.com)rpg mobile game

On The GCR Declaration, Part 3

Lord willing, over the next few days I will be blogging through the GCR Declaration in anticipation of next week’s SBC Annual Meeting in Louisville, Kentucky. This is the third article in what I hope will be a series. As you read, please remember that while Between the Time is a group blog that includes a number of Southeastern Seminary professors, these articles (and every article I write) represent my own personal opinions. I speak only for myself, so please avoid imputing my views to any of my fellow contributors unless they have publicly spoken/written about these matters and you can cite their agreement. The comments are open, but because of the large volume of blogging I will be engaging in this week you will understand if I choose not to interact with many comments.

Article IV: A Commitment to Biblical Inerrancy and Sufficiency

I mentioned in a previous post that the GCR is, in my opinion, the logical next-step following the success of the Conservative Resurgence. This particular article, perhaps better than any other article, does a fine job of making that explicit. While the Conservative Resurgence was surely about more than inerrancy, there is little doubt that the full truthfulness of Scripture was the key rallying point for Convention conservatives. It is evidence of God’s grace that biblical inerrancy is, once again, a central affirmation of those who would draw a paycheck from our churches to serve as missionaries, teach in our seminaries, or work in our other denominational parachurch ministries.

Ditto on the GCR Declaration’s affirmation that the broader “Battle for the Bible” began just after creation and will continue until consummation. The Conservative Resurgence was just a single skirmish in one corner of the world, albeit one about which many of us care quite a bit!

As for biblical sufficiency, I think most Southern Baptists would agree in principle that, “It is not enough to believe that the Bible is inerrant; we must also be willing to submit to all of its teachings, even if that means we must relinquish our own preferences or human traditions”. The key is that we enjoy increasing unity as we seek to determine which of our practices might be “our own preferences or human traditions” (see below). I think this will be a tension point in our cooperation, but I don’t think it has to be a denominational “WMD” if we stay focused on Christ’s lordship and obeying the greatest commandments. Join me in praying that God will give wisdom to each of us, to all of our churches, and to every parachurch ministry within our denominational family.

Article V: A Commitment to a Healthy Confessional Center

I’ll probably camp out here for awhile. If you’ve been listening to podcast interviews with Johnny Hunt or reading the various print interviews with President Hunt or Danny Akin, you hopefully already know what this article does not mean. I am glad that they have made it clear that this document is not a rehashing of the argument from a couple years back that the BF&M is a “maximal” statement of faith and that no denominational parachurch ministry can articulate further parameters. While the BF&M 2000 is the document around which we choose to cooperate as Southern Baptists (and in many state conventions), every seminary or board should have the right to adopt entity-specific guidelines because each of them has a unique history, faces unique challenges, and embraces unique emphases.

I realize that some readers will take umbrage with this position because of the way they feel about specific guidelines (i.e. the IMB baptism and PPL guidelines, the SWBTS prohibition against women teaching Hebrew, or the use of the Abstract of Principles at SBTS and SEBTS). Now I think it is totally appropriate to debate the merits of a given entity’s guidelines, but I also think it is crucial to preserve the right of denominational parachurch ministries to adopt such guidelines. Remember that almost all Southern Baptists agree that our confession of faith is not an infallible creed but is a living document that is subject to revision as contexts change and new issues arise. It would be a tad awkward for us to claim that the BF&M says all that needs to be said, but then turn around in 15 or 20 years and revised it again (which you can bet will happen-it has happened once a generation thus far).

I like it that the GCR Declaration notes, “Like the best of confessions, the BF&M 2000 speaks most clearly to those doctrines wherein we enjoy greatest agreement and speaks more generally concerning areas where some differing opinions exist.” Simply put, the sections on ecclesiology are more specific than the sections on some of the finer points of soteriology for a reason (we are uniformly Baptist, but not uniformly Calvinist, Arminian, Amyraldian, Calminian, or “biblicist”). I would simply add that the BF&M also is silent on a number of matters wherein our churches are characterized by considerable differences of opinion.

To me the most important part of this article, at least in terms of our future cooperation, is the third paragraph. It is here that we find mention of the oft-debated “theological triage” terminology, a practice that I am convinced almost all of us affirm in principle. I don’t think most of us are debating whether or not we ought to practice such triage, but rather which doctrines fit into which categories (primary, secondary, tertiary). Is one’s position on the number of elders/pastors in each church secondary or tertiary? What about one’s views of election and the extent of the atonement? Are female deacons ever appropriate? Can women teach mixed Sunday School classes and/or choose to work outside the home? What about some practices traditionally associated with Pentecostal, Charismatic, and/or Third Wave Christians? Must one be properly baptized to participate in communion (this one’s particular tricky because the BF&M says one thing–and I agree with what it says–but many [most?] of our churches practice something different)? Where do styles and methods and cultural preferences and strategies fit in? Each of these is a live debate, and the list could go on.

I agree with the GCR Document that the BF&M will help guide us in these debates, but remember, as I mentioned in the last paragraph, the BF&M is ambiguous or even silent on some issues, including most of those mentioned in the previous paragraph. So even more than the BF&M, we will need wisdom and grace from on high as we interpret our inerrant and sufficient Bibles under the lordship of Jesus Christ for the sake of the gospel and the health of our churches and parachurch ministries. To the degree that we do this, I think we will be doing theological triage with biblical integrity and Christian charity.

Axioms for a Great Commission Resurgence

In about 90 minutes Eastern Standard Time, Dr. Akin will preach a chapel message titled “Axioms for a Great Commission Resurgence.” Many of our readers have known for a couple of weeks that this message was forthcoming, and the SEBTS community and other friends have been praying for this morning for days. Later today, Dr. Akin’s complete manuscript will be posted at BtT. In anticipation of that, however, we have chosen to go ahead and post the twelve axioms that Dr. Akin will be fleshing out in his message today. We want to urge you to watch our site closely today. Also, be sure to watch the chapel message on the SEBTS website once it is available later today.

Axioms For A Great Commission Resurgence
Acts 1:4-8
By: Daniel L. Akin, President
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, NC
April 16, 2009

I. We must commit ourselves to the total and absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ in every area of our lives (Col 3:16, 17, 23-24).

II. We must be gospel centered in all our endeavors for the glory of God (Rom 1:16).

III. We must take our stand on the firm foundation of the inerrant and infallible Word of God affirming it’s sufficiency in all matters (Matt 5:17-18; John 10:35; 17:17; 2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21).

IV. We must devote ourselves to a radical pursuit of the Great Commission in the context of obeying the Great Commandments (Matt 28:16-20; 22:37-40).

V. We must affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 as a healthy and sufficient guide for building a theological consensus for partnership in the gospel, refusing to be sidetracked by theological agendas that distract us from our Lord’s Commission (1 Tim 6:3-4).

VI. We must dedicate ourselves to a passionate pursuit of the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus across our nation and to all nations answering the call to go, disciple, baptize and teach all that the Lord commanded (Matt 28:16-20; Acts 1:8; Rom 1:5; 15:20).

VII. We must covenant to build gospel saturated homes that see children as a gift from God and as our first and primary mission field (Deut 6:1-9; Psalm 127; 128; Eph 6:4).

VIII. We must recognize the need to rethink our Convention structure and identity so that we maximize our energy and resources for the fulfilling of the Great Commission (1 Cor 10:31).

IX. We must see the necessity for pastors to be faithful Bible preachers who teach us both the content of the Scriptures and the theology embedded in the Scriptures (2 Tim 4:1-5).

X. We must encourage pastors to see themselves as the head of a gospel missions agency who will lead the way in calling out the called for international assignments but also equip and train all their people to see themselves as missionaries for Jesus regardless of where they live (Eph 4:11-16).

XI. We must pledge ourselves to a renewed cooperation that is gospel centered and built around a biblical and theological core and not methodological consensus or agreement (Phil 2:1-5; 4:2-9).

XII. We must accept our constant need to humble ourselves and repent of pride, arrogance, jealousy, hatred, contentions, lying, selfish ambitions, laziness, complacency, idolatries and other sins of the flesh; pleading with our Lord to do what only He can do in us and through us and all for His glory (Gal 5:22-26; James 4:1-10).