Baptist Faith and Message
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The Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M) is the statement of faith of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). It summarizes key Southern Baptist thought in the areas of the Bible and its authority, the nature of God as expressed by the Trinity, the spiritual condition of man, God's plan of grace and salvation, the purpose of the local church, ordinances, evangelism, Christian education, interaction with society, religious liberty, and the family.
Although the Southern Baptist Convention was organized in 1845, no formal confession of faith was adopted until internationally known Baptist theologian Edgar Young Mullins led the denomination to adopt the original BF&M in 1925. Described as "the New Hampshire Confession of Faith [of 1833], revised at certain points, and with some additional articles growing out of present needs," it was intended as "a reaffirmation of Christian fundamentals," which was deemed necessary because of "the prevalence of naturalism in the modern teaching and preaching of religion."
The BF&M was revised in 1963 (under the chairmanship of pastor-theologian Herschel H. Hobbs), amended in 1998 (with the addition of Section XVIII on The Family), and again revised in 2000 under the chairmanship of pastor-author and former three-time SBC President Adrian Rogers; the 2000 revisions incorporated sociological as well as theological changes and were considered the most controversial.
Role in Baptist life
In keeping with Southern Baptist polity, which eschews creeds generally, and considers each affiliated congregation to be independent and autonomous in its faith and practice (and, therefore, not bound by the actions of the Southern Baptist Convention, a state convention or local association), the BF&M is not binding on SBC-affiliated churches. An individual church may choose to adopt the BF&M in whole without alteration, adopt it with commentary added, or may create its own statement (which may or may not incorporate parts of the BF&M); the prevailing practice is for a church to adopt the BF&M as its statement of faith (the moderate-leaning churches generally use the original 1963 version which excludes the 1998 amendment, while the conservative-leaning churches generally use the 2000 version in its entirety).
Despite the fact that the BF&M is not a creed, key SBC leaders, faculty at SBC-owned seminaries, and missionaries who apply to serve through the various SBC missionary agencies must affirm that their practices, doctrine, and preaching are consistent with the BF&M.
The BF&M includes 18 topics which are position statements of the SBC. Each article or position is followed by Scripture which they use to support their position.
|A. God the Father|
|B. God the Son|
|C. God the Holy Spirit|
|V.||God's Purpose of Grace|
|VII.||Baptism and the Lord's Supper|
|VIII.||The Lord's Day|
|XI.||Evangelism and Missions|
|XV.||The Christian and the Social Order|
|XVI.||Peace and War|
There was both praise and criticism for the significant changes to the BF&M in the 2000 revision.
Some of the changes that were particularly well received (affirmations) by some Baptist theologians include the following:
- The controversial use of the word “inerrancy” was not inserted into the section on Scripture. Some were concerned that it would be included.
- No inclusion of more restrictive views of eschatology, such as dispensationalism. Apprehension had been expressed that such views might be espoused in the revisions.
- Inclusion of a statement that Baptists honor the principles of soul competency and the priesthood of believer.
- Reaffirmation of most historical Baptist convictions.
- Addresses issues of contemporary concern — soteriological inclusivism (Section IV), family (Section XVIII), gender (Section III), sexual immorality, adultery, homosexuality, pornography, and abortion (Section XV).
- Clear expressions about the future direction of the SBC under the "conservative resurgency" leadership.
- Editorial changes, such as the use of gender-inclusive language, considered improvements of the form of the statement.
Historically, Baptists have refused to adopt creeds or confessions, stating that the Bible is the sole source of doctrine and practice, and furthermore have tenaciously defended the privilege of every believer, with the illumination of the Holy Spirit, to interpret Scripture according to his or her own conscience. This deeply engrained anti-creedal sentiment is said to be responsible for many negative reactions to the newly revised document.
Additionally, both the 1998 and 2000 revisions were particularly controversial in the areas of male priority (in marriage and in ministry, specifically the pastorate), the exegetical standard by which the Bible is to be interpreted, and homosexuality.
For the first time in SBC history, provisions were added to define male-headship gender roles in both the ministry and in marriage.
Regarding ministry, the BF&M now explicitly defines the pastoral office as the exclusive domain of men — thus prohibiting female pastors. While not stated in the 2000 BF&M, some churches also apply this interpretation to deacons, being a pastoral office of the church, and will not ordain women or allow them to serve as deacons.
Article VI. The Church. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.
Regarding marriage, the BF&M added Article XVIII to specify the husband is the head of the household (though it is to be understood in a complementarian role, not as an autocrat). Nothing in the BF&M prohibits or discourages the wife from holding outside employment, nor the husband from doing household duties traditionally considered those of the wife.
Article XVIII. The Family. The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God's image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to his people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.
Second, the 2000 revision of the BF&M removed the assertion that the person of Jesus Christ was to be the exegetical standard by which the Bible was to be interpreted, and replaced it with the last sentence in the quotation below.
The change was made over concerns that some groups were elevating the recorded words of Jesus  in Scripture over other Scriptural passages (or, in some cases, claiming that Jesus' silence on an issue held priority over other passages explicitly discussing a topic, an example being homosexuality). The traditional SBC view is that all Scripture is equally inspired by God.
Article I. The Scriptures. The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God's revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.
This revision was particularly objectionable to the Baptist General Convention of Texas, the largest SBC state convention, which had previously split between moderates and conservatives, with the latter forming the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
The 2000 BF&M is also noted as taking a stand on the issue of homosexuality. This section was originally added as an amendment in 1998 to the 1963 BF&M.
Article XVIII. The Family. Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. It is God's unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race.
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- BGCT's new fund for missionaries, chaplaincy board expands SBC rift, February 27, 2002, accessed January 20, 2007.
- The Baptist Faith and Message, accessed January 20, 2007.
- The official SBC website, when referencing the Scripture, uses the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation, and has a pop-up box to show the actual text (except for a couple of cases where entire chapters are referenced).
- Russell H. Dilday. An Analysis of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. Online: http://www.centerforbaptiststudies.org/hotissues/dildayfm2000.htm
- Smith, James A., Sr. "A confession of faith worthy of support." Editorial, Florida Baptist Witness, April 25, 2002. Accessed July 11, 2007.
- Traditional Southern Baptist churches generally do not have elders; therefore, the issue of women elders is not generally an issue within those congregations. However, for more contemporary churches which have elders, the interpretation has been extended to this office as well, thus prohibiting women from being elders.
- The text of the original assertion, which was the last sentence in the section, was: "The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ."
- Those words are commonly referred to as the "red letter words", based on the 20th Century use of such in Bible printing.
- Article I, The Scriptures