Believing the Bible 'not enough,' conservative says
April 4 2002 by Mark Wingfield , Texas Baptist Standard

Believing the Bible 'not enough,' conservative says | Friday, April 5, 2002

Friday, April 5, 2002

Believing the Bible 'not enough,' conservative says

By Mark Wingfield Texas Baptist Standard

DALLAS, Texas - "It is not enough to say we believe every word of the Bible to be true to be a Baptist," a conservative leader in Texas said.

Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, made the declaration in his column, "Speaking the Truth in Love," in the April-May issue of the Southern Baptist Texan magazine. The magazine and a related newspaper are published by the breakaway Texas Baptist convention.

"To say we have no creed is to say we have no beliefs," Richards wrote.

The Baptist Faith & Message as revised by the Southern Baptist Convention in 2000 is the answer to this theological problem because it "leaves no wiggle room for neo-orthodoxy," he wrote.

"The Baptist Faith & Message statement 2000 is the final expression of the conservative resurgence," he added, referencing the movement that gained control of the SBC in the 1980s and '90s and has reshaped its agencies and institutions.

Richards' column is devoted to defending the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message against criticism from the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT). Although he does not specifically name BGCT Executive Director Charles Wade, Richards counters what have become well-known Wade criticisms of the SBC faith statement.

Wade, for example, has called the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message a non-Baptist creed and has said he will gladly sign every page of the Bible but not any man-made creed. Wade has championed the historic Baptist confession of "no creed but the Bible."

Those who oppose the signing of creeds by Baptists leave the door open to all manner of theological error by individuals who still might claim to believe every word of the Bible, Richards wrote. As an example, he cites Alexander Campbell, who led a major schism among Baptists in the 19th century that created the Church of Christ.

The "signing of documents" should not be a concern to faithful Baptists, Richards said. "When people hide behind nuances of words or a perverted view of the priesthood of believers, then it becomes necessary to have an instrument of accountability.

"Southern Baptists expect those who receive the Lord's money through Southern Baptist giving channels to represent what Southern Baptists believe," he also wrote. "We should encourage and support our Southern Baptist leadership who are making the difficult decisions to make this happen."

Ensuring doctrinal conformity has been a major theme of the SBC's conservative movement since its public debut in 1979. The focus initially was on the convention's six seminaries, which conservatives said were too liberal.

The need for doctrinal accountability was sounded forcefully through the years by Memphis pastor Adrian Rogers, three-time SBC president and a powerful figure in the conservative movement.

Rogers quipped in 1987, while he was SBC president, that "if Southern Baptists believe that pickles have souls, then professors must teach that."

With the six seminaries now fully in line with the desires of the new SBC leadership, conservatives have turned their attention to foreign missionaries, an area where many moderates and centrists have continued to find common ground with conservatives.

However, the new requirement that IMB missionaries sign an affirmation of the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message has created rifts in this missions coalition.

In the Southern Baptist Texan newspaper, a companion piece to the magazine published by the SBTC, Editor Gary Ledbetter devoted his March 19 editorial to rebutting the concerns of the BGCT regarding missionaries. IMB missionaries, he said, do not need to be "rescued" from the threat of creedalism as stated by the BGCT and moderate Baptists.

"Jerry Rankin's request that missionaries affirm their denomination's confession of faith is not insulting, offensive or even surprising," Ledbetter wrote. "A benefit of this move is that it puts our missionaries on the same plane as other denominational workers.

"Some moderates have behaved as though it is possible to hold the seminaries and other agencies in contempt and still support the missionaries."

Those who don't support the new direction of the SBC shouldn't appoint themselves as "rescuers" of SBC missionaries, Ledbetter said.

"Why would they want anything to do with SBC missions? Most of these folks (the missionaries) were trained at the same seminaries moderates distrust. Our missionaries were interviewed and approved and appointed by a staff and board the moderates now call idiots and wolves. Wouldn't some of that bad stuff rub off on the missionaries?"

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4/4/2002 11:00:00 PM by Mark Wingfield , Texas Baptist Standard | with 0 comments
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