The BF&M 1963 was a good, conservative statement of faith. But its statement on Scripture knowingly or unknowingly left a couple of loopholes for those who may be theologically liberal. Also, in 2000 Baptists felt we should deal with some more modern day challenges to our faith, challenges seldom heard in 1963.
1. There were a couple of changes in the article on Scripture. The 1963 BF&M stated the Bible “has... truth without any mixture of error.” Some said, therefore, the Bible has truth and the truth it has is without mixture of error. But it does not say the Bible is truth. So, according to this liberal view, the Bible has truth, in addition it may also have error. Therefore a liberal could state agreement with the 1963 BF&M, all the while believing there are errors in the Bible. Conservatives would be deceived into believing the liberal was really theologically a conservative. This is a case where there is a significant difference between has and is.
The 1963 BF&M also said, “The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Christ.” While a little confusing to some, the sentence sounded good. After all, we believe in the preeminence of Jesus.
Some, however, interpreted that statement to mean, “If Jesus speaks directly to an issue it is true. If not, then we can make our own decision.” For example, while the Bible says homosexuality is sinful, Jesus did not directly say that, so we have the option of agreeing or disagreeing with those passages in the Bible. (Actually, Jesus did speak to the issue. He spoke of marriage as being between one man and one woman. Jesus also affirmed the truth of the Old Testament, and it directly speaks to this issue.) Some have said that Jesus and Paul disagreed on some issues, such as the role of women. Therefore we disregard what Paul wrote in the Bible in favor of what Jesus said. The conservative believes all Scripture is true and inspired by God, and that Jesus and Paul do not contradict each other.
The 2000 Baptist Faith & Message does away with these misunderstandings by stating that “all Scripture is true and trustworthy” and by removing the “criterion” statement.
While some liberals who believe there are errors in the Bible could use the above “loopholes” and sign the 1963 statement, they cannot do so with the 2000 statement. At least they could not sign the 2000 statement without being openly dishonest.
2. The 1963 BF&M does not speak to the issue of the Family, the 2000 statement does.
3. The 2000 BF&M says the pastor of a local church should be a male. The 1963 BF&M does not refer to this issue. The BF&M 2000 does, however, make it plain that both men and women are of equal worth before God and gifted for ministry.
4. The BF&M 2000 speaks against euthanasia, pornography, abortion, and homosexuality. The 1963 statement does not deal with these issues.
The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 is now the official statement of faith of the SBC. All our SBC seminary professors and missionaries are expected to sign it and not teach contrary to it. Other views are presented in class, but the professor is expected to believe what the majority of Baptists believe on these issues.
Some protest that we should not require professors and missionaries to sign this statement; they should be free to follow their own beliefs. They do have freedom to follow their own beliefs. We also have freedom to not provide them a living with our mission gifts.
It makes little sense for churches and pastors to support people with their mission money to teach what we do not believe. J. B. Gambrell, an old time Baptist leader and SBC president, maintained, “Baptists never ride a horse without a bridle.” We will always disagree on some issues, but the BF&M 2000 is a summary of some of our most basic beliefs.
Read the entire Baptist Faith and Message 2000 at sbc.net. It can be purchased in pamphlet form at LifeWay Stores or ordered from LifeWay (800/458-2772). It’s a good idea for a church to have some copies available for their members and Sunday School teachers.
Note: You may also be interested in Brief History of the SBC Conservative Resurgence and a couple other articles under Gulf Coast Pastor Articles (Labels) in the lower right margin. Click the heading Conservative Resurgence.
Preserving Unfermented Wine in Bible Times
Order copies of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 from LifeWay.
-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, September 21, AD 2009.