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.
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]
|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.
In 2001, Russell Dilday of the Center for Baptist Studies at Mercer University, raised 12 controversial points about the 2000 revision. The most controversial points were 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 a catalogue of specific sins.
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.[b]
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,[c] 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[d] 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.
Catalogue of specific sins
The 2000 BF&M has been criticized for including a specific list of contemporary sins, which could lead to endless additions.
- 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).
- 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.
- BGCT's new fund for missionaries, chaplaincy board expands SBC rift Archived 2007-04-10 at the Wayback Machine, February 27, 2002, accessed January 20, 2007.
- William H. Brackney, Historical Dictionary of the Baptists, Scarecrow Press, USA, 2009, p. 62
- "The Baptist Faith and Message, accessed January 20, 2007". Archived from the original on October 9, 2003. Retrieved October 11, 2003.
- CT, Do Good Fences Make Good Baptists?, christianitytoday.com, USA, Aug 9, 2000
- Russell H. Dilday, An Analysis of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, centerforbaptiststudies.org, USA, April 2001
- 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