FIRST PERSON: Being Baptist - Conviction in Confession
“Christianity is supernatural in its origin and history. We repudiate every theory of religion which denies the supernatural elements of our faith.”
No, these words are not a response to the current post-modern climate, although they would be appropriate in our time. Actually, they are from the preamble of the Baptist Faith and Message (1925).
Nearly 85 years ago, Southern Baptists were entrenched in the same battle as other denominations—the Fundamentalist/Modernist Controversy. Darwin’s theory of evolution was not only being taught in the public school classroom, but it was seeping into the pulpit and seminary classroom. The question over the origin of man as well as the relationship between science and faith had hit a fever pitch. Southern Baptists believed it was time to take a stand and defend the accuracy of the Bible.
In a sea of shifting theological beliefs, Christians as far back as the early church have felt compelled from time-to-time to put into writing documents that define and defend their faith. Often, these statements—whether creeds or confessions—are birthed as a response to theological controversy or heretical claims. Creeds typically demand assent, while confessions affirm theological beliefs and leave room for disagreement.
Baptists have been no strangers to confessions of faith. Early American Baptists commonly affirmed the Philadelphia Confession (1742) and the New Hampshire Confession (1833).
The preamble of the Baptist Faith and Message (2000) says it this way: “Baptists are a people of deep beliefs and cherished doctrines. Throughout our history we have been a confessional people, adopting statements of faith as a witness to our beliefs and a pledge of our faithfulness to the doctrines revealed in Holy Scripture.”
Southwestern’s president, L.R. Scarborough, served on the committee that presented the doctrinal confession in 1925, which was adapted from the New Hampshire Confession. The preamble of the document made it clear that Scripture was the sole source of authority, and the confession merely constituted commonly held beliefs with room for differing interpretations. Thus, the Baptist Faith and Message was born.
Over time, successive Southern Baptist generations experienced new challenges to their beliefs, requiring further clarifications and additions to the statement of faith. When seminary professors questioned the first 11 chapters of Genesis in the early 1960s, Southern Baptists recognized the need for further explanation of their beliefs. In 1963, the Baptist Faith and Message was revised to respond to these attacks on the Bible as God’s revelation to man.
Growing theological liberalism in the convention served as the impetus for the Conservative Resurgence in the '80s and '90s. Ultimately, the authority and inerrancy of Scripture were upheld in the Baptist Faith and Message (2000).
Every time the ship has veered off course away from fidelity to the Bible as God’s inspired, authoritative, infallible revelation to mankind, Southern Baptists have corrected their course and reaffirmed their beliefs through their statement of faith. And this is something worth being proud of.