Why work for biblical reformation in the SBC?


Some of what I have been doing in this blog can be compared to turning on lights in a dark house. The light does not bring the furniture, fixtures, junk, etc. into existence, it merely exposes it. It was already there, but just lurking in the shadows. It is painful to own up to much of the sinfulness and wrongheadedness in the evangelical world or in our denomination or in our local churches. We wish that the bad simply did not exist. Some want to overlook it completely and thus get upset with anyone who seeks to turn on the light. Charges of disloyalty and worse are quickly levelled. But if cancer is present in my body, I want to know the truth about it and I will not get mad at the diagnosticians who make me aware of it and call me to own up to it.

I also realize, however, that some of the things that I have spoken plainly about, especially in the realm of SBC life, can tend to leave those within and those looking at us from without disillusioned. “Why stay in?” Or (as Doug mentioned), “Why even consider joining?” Well, I wrote an article that addresses that kind of concern a while back and I will link to it below. But let me make this one observation (OK, two observations). First, every Southern Baptist church is independent. No one dictates to a church what to do. Now this autonomy gives some–really, only a few–associational and denominational workers a cramp, but there are over-the-counter medicines that they can take to help with that. No Southern Baptist church should allow any person or entity to infringe on its autonomy. We voluntarily associate and cooperate with other churches under the Lordship of Christ. This makes our position patently different from the Roman Catholic Church or even from Anglican or Presbyterian churches. No top-down structure defines a Baptist church. Our ecclesiology works from the local church down. The churches define the associational and denominational structures. It is simply time for churches to start taking this responsibility seriously and quit being intimidated by denominational employees who might like us to think otherwise.

Secondly–and this is the point I want to underscore–every problem that is brought out into the light, every erroneous idea, unhelpful practice, misguided promotion and biblically unwarranted practice is not a call to retreat, but rather a call to advance! What we need is a reformation mindset that, like the cavalry of old, rides to the sound of the guns. Where the battle rages the hottest, where the need is the greatest, let’s be willing to engage our labors there. Not to win arguments. Not for the love of contention (may such emotional perversion perish!). Not with the spirit of theological pugilists. But out of love for Christ and His truth and His church and with the conviction that reformation here will benefit the advance of the Gospel around the world. We must never lose site of this fact: the manifested glory of God and the eternal salvation of souls are at stake. This does not mean that everyone who loves the Gospel of God’s grace should be (or even remain) Southern Baptist. Every church and pastor must settle that question before the Lord. What I am saying is this: the problems that sometimes tempt us to throw up our hands in despair are the very reasons that we should keep laboring for biblical reformation.

Here is the article I wrote. May God raise up a mighty army of local churches who will begin taking more seriously than ever our calling to be the church!

Pastors and church members who are committed to historic Southern Baptist principles regularly find themselves confronted with the question, “Why stay in the SBC?” After all, when many denominational leaders have made it very clear that you and your theological convictions are suspect at best and unwanted at worst, why put up with the headaches and animosity that often accompany SBC affiliation? Wouldn’t it be easier and even better to disassociate oneself from a convention of churches that has deviated so far from its doctrinal roots? Isn’t staying in the SBC compromise–making truth secondary to denominational loyalty? (read more)

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15 Responses to “Why work for biblical reformation in the SBC?”

  1. Thanks Tom, I affirm your remarks and concur. I guess the question becomes, “When does our association with the SBC become a hindrance to the local church because of the reputation that the SBC has garnered because of the nonsense that has been propogated.
    In my mind,it would be at that point the plug would need to be pulled. I hope to never have to make that decision.

  2. Send it to James White for comment on the DL @ http://www.aomin.org . He’s reviewing a DVD right now. The cruise begins this weekend, and there won’t be a DL until after Labor Day. Sounds like James needs to run a special “Radio Free Geneva.”

    I do so wish these megachurch pastors would get off of this kick. This is the internet age. It’s amazing how many people hear these sermons then go to the internet to look up what they were told and find out they’ve been lied to by their own pastors. Oh well, maybe this is the stumbling block that will end the rule of the Good Ol’ Boys in the SBC. People will take being deceived about theology and their brethren only so long, and the Lord won’t tolerate it. He’s slow to anger, but He won’t let the guilty go unpunished. (Ex. 34:6-7)

  3. Would this then, based on how this thread has gone, be a good place to talk about part of the BFM 2000? If not I’ll adress it elsewhere, but I would like to see a blog over article Five. The second paragraph is about Eternal Security/Perseverance of the Saints, but the first paragraph reads:

    V. God’s Purpose of Grace

    Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.

    …so… seeing that, I was immediately wondering what was meant by “free agency of man” and assumed that it was meaning it in no way detracts from his responsibility to repent. I read what Herschel Hobbs said about it and I was crestfallen, especially with his treatment of Ephesians 1:4 and 1:5. In any case, I won’t go on to expound on it here yet, wanting to see if this is an appropriate addition to this thread. I’ll check back in later.

  4. Pastor Ascol:

    I’ll bring the lightbulbs and the trash bags. We can call in a dumpster when you’re ready.

    Your post here is exactly right: the issue is reform of a denomination that has been in the process of reform for almsot 30 years. It cannot stall out just becuase Biblical inerrancy is no longer in dire straits — in fact, now that there consensus (at least at the pew level) is that God’s word is true, the foundation for true reform is poured and cannot be jackhammered by some who are afraid that God might have more power in salvation than their TV ministry. (so to speak)

  5. “Is this sermon and teaching consistent with the Abstract of Principles or even BFM2000?”
    Answer: NO

    “He makes the comment that this very ‘blasphemy’… is taught in some seminaries. To which seminary is he referring? When are these men going to be held accountable for their statements?”
    Answer: He needs to be held accountable, especially considering the fact that he joined forces with the non-Trinitarian / ‘health & wealth’ preacher T. D. Jakes to sponsor the Global Day of Prayer. Why is it that he can get by with stating that the teaching of the Abstract of Principles is “blasphemy,” and yet join forces with a heretic?

  6. I don’t think that there is any way to hold Jack Graham accountable – if you mean some kind of formal discipline. Prestonwood Baptist is an autonomous church. Graham is one of the most powerful men in the SBC (two terms as President), while Calvinists are a tiny minority.

    If by “hold him accountable,” you mean subject his assertions and arguments to rigorous scrutiny and seek to refute them, then we can definitely do that.

    I always liked Jack Graham, and I was very disappointed by his sermon – by the shoddy research, by the insults, and by the angry tone.

    At the same time, there is something hopeful that emerges from this sermon – the fact that it was preached at all. A pastor of a huge megachurch generally only preaches about “relevant” topics – and Calvinism must be becoming influential enough in the SBC that Jack Graham felt that it was relevant to preach against it.

  7. My wonder (I listened to part of Jack Graham’s sermon) is how we can use the BFM in this discussion. I posted about it a few posts ago, and was wondering what the original understanding of it was. I read what Herschel Hobbs had to say about it and was very disappointed, especially since he was on the 1963 committee that produced it. However, I am pretty sure these comments go back farther than that (1925 version). I also know that Dr. Mohler was on the 2000 BFM team. Now, the questions is this: by “consistent with the free agency of man” do we mean “Man can make whatever choice he wants and God didn’t decide it” or “man is responsible for his sins regardless of the fact that God only chooses some to be saved”? This is what I would like to see discussed.

    Dave Hewitt

  8. The 1925 Bf&M is based on the 1833 New Hampshire Confession. Brief history: In the 1770s Benjamin Randall, a Congregationalist, reacted against Calvinism and infant baptism and finally became a Baptist. Randall began in 1780 the religious movement which later came to be known as the Freewill Baptist Group. The theology of the Freewill Baptists was very Arminian. The Freewill Baptists were very successful among the middle class people of New Hampshire, drawing many laymen, ministers, and churches away from the Calvinistic Baptists.

    The Response of Calvinistic Baptists in New Hampshire:

    The Baptist State Convention was organized in 1826. In 1833, this convention published a confession in response to the success of the Freewill Baptists. The New Hampshire Confession’s doctrine of salvation was formulated in reaction to the popularity of the Arminianism of the Freewill Baptists.

    William W. Barnes wrote that the New Hampshire Confession “was so mild in its Calvinism that the five points of distinction between Calvinism and Arminianism were almost ignored.”

    On the other hand, Thomas J. Nettles writes, “Many have interpreted the contents of the New Hampshire Confession of Faith as an attempt to modify the strong Calvinism of earlier days into something more palatable to the tastes of nineteenth-century churches. It is true that it not as detailed or as lengthy as the Philadelphia Confession, but it is also true that the substance of its doctrine remains unchanged.” Nettles concludes, “Rather than interpreting the New Hampshire Confession as a gradual retreat from the Calvinism of former days, it is better to see it as an affirmation of the Calvinist position on the particular issues raised by the presence and growth of Free Will Baptists in New England.”

    When Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary was founded in 1908, B. H. Carroll decided to adopt the New Hampshire Confession, probably because its silence on the universal church suited his Landmarkist tendencies.

    When E. Y. Mullins led an effort to adopt a cofessional statement for the SBC in 1925, he decided to base the confession upon the 1833 New Hampshire Confession instead of the 1742 Philadelphia Confession and Southern Seminary’s Abstract of Principles. Mullins may have done this because the 1833 New Hampshire Confession was less explicitly Calvinistic than the other two.

  9. Thanks for the background; it is truly appreciated. In other words, it would appear that the BFM on it’s article on God’s Grace (article five in the current BFM) isn’t really holding a reformed view at all. SIGH, this is indeed truly sad. Thanks for helping me on that, I appreciate it.


  10. “it would appear that the BFM on it’s article on God’s Grace (article five in the current BFM) isn’t really holding a reformed view at all.”

    I would put it this way: the article was originally written by Reformed people in such a way as to make the Reformed view less offensive and seem more inclusive. Calvinists can sign the BF&M in good conscience, but less Calvinistic types probably can too.

  11. I think Dr. Nettles sheds a little light on the intented meaning of article 5a in “An Exposition from the faculty of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on the BFM2000”


    This booklet may be available through the public relations office at the seminary upon request. However, it is available online.
    Nettles writes, “Election does not contradict the ‘free agency of man’. When a person acts, he acts freely — or exactly as he is disposed to act. While dead in trespasses and sins, he is a slave to sin. Sin reigns in his mortal body, and he has no desire for righteousness.”

  12. I joyfully stand corrected! Thank you all for your help; God bless you.

    I’ll be sure to read that pamphlet from Southern which expounds on the BFM.



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