Herschel Hobbs not 'duped,' successor says
February 17 2001 by Mark Wingfield , Associated Baptist Press

Herschel Hobbs not 'duped,' successor says | Saturday, Feb. 17, 2001

Saturday, Feb. 17, 2001

Herschel Hobbs not 'duped,' successor says

By Mark Wingfield Associated Baptist Press SHAWNEE, Okla. - The primary author of the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M) was neither "naive" nor "duped" by liberals as critics of the document have charged, claims a successor to his Oklahoma pulpit. Jeffry Zurheide, pastor of First Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, defended Herschel Hobbs for strong language affirming soul competency and the priesthood of the believer in the Southern Baptist Convention faith statement during an annual lecture series bearing Hobbs' name at Oklahoma Baptist University.

If Hobbs were alive today and asked what counsel he has for Baptists, he would cry out, "Freedom," Zurheide said.

"I think if Herschel were with us this morning, he would indeed tell us: 'Protect these key Baptist freedoms - the freedom of the individual, competent soul and the freedom of the local, Baptist, competent, church community. The Spirit is at work in you, individually and collectively.'

"This is the bedrock of Dr. Hobbs' faith and message. If we miss him here or minimize his thinking on this point, we misrepresent him."

Revisions adopted last summer to the BF&M de-emphasized those beliefs, while elevating biblical authority. Advocates of the changes suggested that Hobbs, a legendary denominational statesman who chaired the 1963 BF&M study group, was personally conservative but was misled by those wanting a broad enough statement to accommodate "neo-orthodox" theology.

Neo-orthodoxy arose in the 20th century in reaction to liberal theology, which rejected the miraculous and raised questions about the Bible's historicity. Neo-orthodoxy re-established the centrality of biblical revelation but is objectionable to fundamentalists because it relies on scientific methods of Bible study.

One critic suggested Hobbs was "duped" by neo-orthodox scholars into including broad language describing biblical authority in the 1963 statement and for strong words defending individual freedom in interpreting the Bible in its preamble.

But Zurheide claimed Baptist freedom in Christ was a recurring theme of Hobbs' writing, teaching and preaching.

"He reinforced these beliefs; he articulated and rearticulated these priorities," Zurheide said. "At times, he almost seemed to breathe them."

Hobbs wrote extensively about what he believed was Baptists' greatest contribution to Christianity, Zurheide said. "Baptists' most unique contribution to Jesus' church universal, Herschel Hobbs believed, was and is soul competency."

That doctrine is the building block upon which the priesthood of the believer stands, he said. Soul competency is a belief that every soul is competent to deal directly with God. Priesthood of the believer is a Baptist teaching that all believers in Christ have direct access to God, both to hear God's voice and to do God's work.

Soul competency has to do with one's being, while priesthood of the believer relates to what one does, Zurheide said.

Hobbs also would sound a word of warning today about threats to religious freedom, Zurheide said.

"Why not legislate the gospel and the dynamics of the kingdom of God? Because if we resort to anything but 'spiritual means,' as the 1963 BF&M puts it, we essentially label as ineffective the power and work of the Holy Spirit," he said.

Zurheide said he would love to ask Hobbs if he believes the SBC today is backing away from these three Baptist freedoms.

An answer might be found in Hobbs' own words, from a lecture he gave at OBU in 1980. Hobbs said: "We must exercise constant vigilance in warding off the threats to religious freedom, both within our denomination and outside it, including the current drift toward creedalism. The storm clouds of creedalism hover over our denomination.

"Well-intentioned people in contending for faith in the Scriptures may discover that the good for which they strive may become the enemy of the best, namely, the competency of the soul in religion."

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2/17/2001 12:00:00 AM by Mark Wingfield , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments
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