The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is America's largest Protestant denomination: it has nearly 16 million members and more than 40,000 affiliated congregations. Consequently, the SBC annual meeting often creates waves that splash elsewhere in the evangelical world. The recent annual gathering was just such a meeting. The key issue was the revision of the Baptist Faith and Message (BFM), the third major redefining of what it means to be a Southern Baptist.The SBC was organized in 1845, but it was 85 years before a conventionwide confessional statement was adopted, in 1925, during the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy, providing one basis for denominational expansion while keeping theological liberalism at bay. In response to growing controversy over the Bible, Southern Baptists adopted a new version of BFM in 1963. Approved by an overwhelming majority of the 11,000 messengers (as Southern Baptists call their delegates), BFM 2000 keeps much of the 1963 language intact but makes several changes in an attempt to close ranks and define the SBC more conservatively.We applaud most of the changes as they will discourage the liberal drift experienced by other large denominations. At the same time, we wonder if the SBC has gone too far, both in seeming to eliminate discussion of some beliefs and in alienating opponents.
Criterion or Focus?
"The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ," the 1963 statement said. The new language declares that the Scriptures are "a testimony to Christ, who is himself the focus of divine revelation." It also declares that Scripture "is God's revelation," not merely "the record of God's revelation." While it does not use the word inerrant, it declares, "all Scripture is totally ...1
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