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 Y. "E.Y." Mullins led the denomination to adopt the Baptist Faith and Message 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, amended in 1998, and again revised in 2000. In 1963, it was updated under the chairmanship of pastor-theologian Herschel H. Hobbs, and in 2000 under the chairmanship of pastor-author Adrian Rogers. The major revisions of 2000 incorporated sociological as well as theological changes.
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.
Baptists say their only creed is the Bible. Historically, Baptists 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 following three respects:
- Male priority in marriage and in ministry
- Exegetical standard
For the first time in Southern Baptist Convention history, provisions were added to define male-headship gender roles in both the ministry and in marriage.
The Baptist Faith and Message now explicitly defines the pastoral office as the exclusive domain of men — thus prohibiting female pastors.
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.
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. (Southern Baptist churches generally do not have elders; therefore, the issue of women elders is not generally an issue within congregations.)
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, over concerns that some groups were elevating the recorded words of Jesus in Scripture over other Scriptural passages. The traditional SBC view is that all Scripture is equally inspired by God. This revision was particularly objectionable to the Baptist General Convention of Texas, the largest Baptist convention in Texas, which was split by the formation of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention in the late 1990s.
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.
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.
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, or 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, or may create its own statement (which may or may not incorporate parts of the BF&M).
Despite the fact that the BF&M is not a creed, 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.
|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.
- 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.
- Article I, The Scriptures