Inerrancy Commotion in the Southern Baptist Convention

A Bible battle erupted last month at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Houston, Texas. And the battle lines were drawn according to one’s interpretation of scriptural inerrancy.

In the end, the conservatives won—at least, in the sense that Adrian Rogers of Memphis, Tennessee, was elected president of the 13-million-member denomination. Rogers believes in an inerrant and infallible Bible and hails from the conservative camp. In a postelection news conference, Rogers, pastor of the 11,000-member Bellevue Baptist Church, said, “I was saved in a church where the Bible was the Word of God … I have never moved from that an inch.”

But some Southern Baptists felt uncomfortable during the three-day meeting when conservative spokesmen attacked Southern Baptist seminaries as “liberal,” and engaged in preconvention politicking. One Louisiana pastor complained of these conservatives, “They may be as orthodox as Peter, but they’re as mean as the devil.”

An influential coalition of conservatives, led by Paige Patterson of the Criswell Center for Biblical Studies in Dallas, and Paul Pressler, a Houston appeals court judge, had supported Rogers for president and received credit for engineering his first-ballot victory. In at least 15 states, meetings were held prior to the convention, in which conservatives encouraged messengers (delegates) to attend the convention and to elect a president committed to biblical inerrancy.

Pressler and Patterson had made charges of “liberal” teachings in the six Southern Baptist seminaries. Certain faculty members, they said, did not hold to the traditional Baptist position of an infallible Bible. Evangelist James Robison and superchurch ...

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