Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Why I Affirm Only the Original Baptist Faith and Message
Recently an exceptionally well-informed pulpit committee asked if I subscribe to The Baptist Faith and Message. As I understand it, quite a number of missionaries, professors, and other types of SBC ministers have been asked that question over the past seven years! So I suppose it was my turn.
My answer went something like this:
“I fully subscribe to The Baptist Faith and Message as it was originally penned in 1925, but there are some problems with the 1963 and 2000 revisions that don’t allow me fully to subscribe to them.”
This position is the opposite of Nathan Finn’s and Dr. Bart Barber’s view. They say that only the latest revision can even be called The Baptist Faith and Message, and that it is sacrilege even to say, “BFM 2000"! (I am poking fun, here, and do not intend to poke too hard at these two fine Baptist ministers and bloggers.) I do not agree with them. The original 1925 version was in perfect keeping with hundreds of years of Baptist tradition, rooted in correct interpretation of the Bible, but the 1963 and 2000 revisions contain significant departures.
I went on to explain the one minor and two major problems resulting from the changes made in the 1963 and 2000 revisions. I will demonstrate them to you here, in terms of the historic consistency of Baptist confessions up through 1925, and the radical departure from them in the 1963 and 2000 revisions. For your convenience, I have provided a link to our most important Baptist confessions of faith, at the bottom of the page.
1646 First London Confession Section 36: Being thus joined, every church hath power given them from Christ, for their wellbeing, to choose among themselves meet persons for elders and deacons . . .
1742 Philadelphia Confession chapter 27, paragraph 8:
the officers appointed by Christ to be chosen and set apart by the church . . . are bishops or elders, and deacons.
1833 New Hampshire Confession chapter 13: its only scriptural officers are Bishops, or Pastors, and Deacons
1858 Abstract of Principles chapter 14: The regular officers of a Church are Bishops or Elders, and Deacons.
1925 BFM chapter 12: Its Scriptural officers are bishops, or elders, and deacons.
1963/2000 BFM chapter 6: Its Scriptural officers are pastors and deacons.
The scriptures teach us that Paul called the elders to come to him, and that Peter addressed his fellow elders. He then instructed them to serve as bishops, pastoring the sheep. (See Acts 20 and 1 Peter 5.) Biblically and historically, the words “elder,” “bishop,” and “pastor” were used as synonyms, with “elder” being the most prominent. To drop the two more important terms for exclusive use of the third is to miss part of the meaning of the office. This is not a great matter, as far as I am concerned, but it is an error.
1646 First London Confession Section 4: Adam; who without any compulsion, in eating the forbidden fruit, transgressed the command of God, and fell, whereby death came upon all his posterity; who now are conceived in sin, and by nature the children of wrath, the servants of sin, the subject of death, and other miseries in this world, and for ever, unless the Lord Jesus Christ set them free.
1742 Philadelphia Confession chapter 6, paragraph 3:
They being the root, and by God's appointment, standing in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of the sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation, being now conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, the servants of sin, the subjects of death, and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal, unless the Lord Jesus set them free.
1833 New Hampshire Confession chapter 3: We believe that man was created in holiness, under the law of his Maker; but by voluntary transgression fell from that holy and happy state; in consequence of which all mankind are now sinners, not by constraint, but choice; being by nature utterly void of that holiness required by the law of God, positively inclined to evil; and therefore under just condemnation to eternal ruin, without defense or excuse.
1858 Abstract of Principles chapter 6: God originally created Man in His own image, and free from sin; 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 wholly opposed to God and His law, are under condemnation, and as soon as they are capable of moral action, become actual transgressors.
1925 BFM chapter 3: 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.
1963/2000 BFM chapter 3: By his free choice man sinned against God and brought sin into the human race. 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.
The problem is that by re-arranging the phrases, the revisions state that a person becomes guilty of sin only after he consciously sins. The biblical and historic Baptist position was that a man is born guilty of the original sin that he committed in Adam. The primary scriptural reference for this idea is Romans 5:12 "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned"
1742 Philadelphia Confession chapter 22, paragraph 8 The sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering their common affairs aforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all day, from their own works, words and thoughts, about their worldly employment and recreations, but are also taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.
1833 New Hampshire Confession chapter 3: We believe that the first day of the week is the Lord's Day, or Christian Sabbath; and is to be kept sacred to religious purposes, by abstaining from all secular labor and sinful recreations; by the devout observance of all the means of grace, both private and public; and by preparation for that rest that remaineth for the people of God.
1858 Abstract of Principles chapter 17: The Lord's Day is a Christian institution for regular observance, and should be employed in exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private, resting from worldly employments and amusements, works of necessity and mercy only excepted.
1925 BFM chapter 14; 1963 BFM chapter 7: The first day of the week is the Lord's day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should be employed in exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private, and by refraining from worldly amusements, and resting from secular employments, works of necessity and mercy only excepted.
2000 BFM chapter 7: The first day of the week is the Lord's Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should include exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private. Activities on the Lord's Day should be commensurate with the Christian's conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
The unbelievably flippant change to this section reflects a misunderstanding of the Law and the Gospel that would have been unthinkable to Baptist ministers of previous centuries. Some of our fellow ministers and many of our dear people have come to believe that The Lord’s Day should merely include worship alongside worldly entertainments, and that whether or not a Christian pursues business on The Lord’s Day is simply a matter for his own conscience. Perhaps you followed the story that Lifeway Stores are working on The Lord's Day this month to do annual inventory, which in past years they had always done on Saturday afternoons. Is that really the direction we want to go?
Brothers, did our late-20th-century generation of Baptists suddenly know better on these three doctrines than did the several generations of Baptists before them? Were the Baptist men who penned these documents in the 1600s, 1700s, 1800s, and 1900s truly in error? Or could it be that on these issues, we have failed to learn the lessons that they knew so well?
May the Lord bless you and our Baptist churches as you study these important doctrines. I have put my flame suit on, and look forward to reading your comments.
Love in Christ,
1646 London Confession of Baptist Faith (First London)
1742 Philadelphia Confession of Faith (essentially the same as the 1677/89 2nd London)
1833 New Hampshire Confession of Faith (the basis for the 1925 BFM)
1858 Southern Seminary Abstract of Principles
1925, 1963, and 2000 BFM Side-By-Side
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