Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Benefits of Symbiosis in the SBC (Part 5: Benefits of Cooperation)

The Benefits of Cooperation between General and Particular Baptists

            General and Particular Baptists working together in a mutually beneficial relationship allows Baptists to accomplish more together than they could apart. So then, Southern Baptists, dissimilar in soteriology, can accomplish more united than they can divided. The reason for this is at least twofold.
First, Baptists united have more resources and more focus than they would if they were divided. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is the largest evangelical denomination in the United States.[1] The SBC is comprised of over 16 million members who worship in more than 42,000 churches in the United States.[2] On the national level, Southern Baptists operate the largest publishing house in the world, LifeWay Christian Resources, in Nashville.[3] LifeWay Christian Resources owns and operates the largest chain of religious bookstores in the nation.[4] Southern Baptists also operate two mission boards, the International Mission Board (IMB) for missions abroad and the North American Mission Board (NAMB) for missions in North America.[5] If this was not enough, the SBC operates six seminaries that are located across the country serving over 13,400 students.[6] The SBC funds these entities through its Cooperative Program (CP) that was established in 1925. The Cooperative Program allows these more than 42,000 churches to partner together as a missions team for the purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission.[7] 
Second, Baptists working together in a mutually beneficial relationship also have the benefit of giving a united witness to the world that Baptists belong to Christ.  This fulfills the words of Christ. He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”[8]
Southern Baptists, dissimilar in soteriology, also need each other to counteract unbiblical extremes into which either group is capable of degenerating. The history of General and Particular Baptists shows that they are both susceptible to doctrinal extremes that compromise both their ability and enthusiasm for evangelism and missions. However, with Baptists uniting in a mutual relationship for missions, the necessity for theological dialogue has arisen. As Bush and Nettles stated, “Differences between fellow Baptists call forth persuasive and logical arguments based on careful exegesis, while at the same time the fact that one’s opponent is also a Baptist serves to support if not demand Christian attitudes and Christian brotherhood.”[9] These discussions should help both sides maintain balance in their respective soteriological frameworks as long as destructive competition and monopolism are eliminated for the sake of symbiosis.
            While not all discussions between General and Particular Baptists in the Southern Baptist Convention are for the sake of symbiosis, some are. There are attempts to learn from each other and to encourage the good aspects of the other’s commitment to missions and service to the Lord. A few noteworthy examples should be mentioned.
First, the discussion about Calvinism at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary between Frank Page, president of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary should be mentioned.[10]  Page and Mohler are on opposite ends of the soteriological spectrum. Page formed an advisory team to craft a plan to bring together parties on both sides of the Calvinism debate. He said, “My goal is to develop a strategy whereby people of various theological persuasions can purposely work together in missions and evangelism.”[11] The discussion between the two was congenial and edifying.
Next, the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s conference, “Calvinism: Concerned, Confused, or Curious” should be mentioned. On August 4, 2012, a panel of four Southern Baptist leaders, Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee and Steve Lemke, director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (General Baptists); David Dockery, president of Union University and Hershael York, associate dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky (Particular Baptists), “ talked honestly about the division within the convention over the issue of Calvinism while offering suggestions and maintaining that Southern Baptists should and can unite, despite differences.”[12] These kinds of discussions are the kinds necessary in maintaining a symbiotic relationship among Southern Baptists.


            The history of Baptists in general, and Southern Baptists in particular, shows that Baptists can accomplish more united than they can divided and that they need each other to counteract unbiblical extremes into which either group is capable of degenerating. The harmful effects of either competition or monopolism should be avoided by Southern Baptists. Instead, Southern Baptists should apply the principle of symbiosis.
            There is great value to Southern Baptists in knowing their heritage especially in the face of current controversies in the SBC. As Dockery said, "There is not just one theological stream from one theological tradition in Baptist life. There are several. . . . Baptists, as a whole, in the 21st century, don't know their heritage."[13] Included in that heritage are two mechanisms that allow the two theological streams of Southern Baptists to work together: (1) the Cooperative Program and (2) The Baptist Faith and Message 2000. York said, “There is nothing in the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 that makes me or other Calvinists unable to believe what we believe.”[14]
            Southern Baptists would do well to remember that their history attests to the truth that they are a 

peculiar people made up of two groups dissimilar in soteriology but who united in a mutually beneficial 

relationship for the sake of missions.  After all, this just may be a match made in heaven.

[1] Dockery, Consensus and Renewal, 2.
[2] Sbcnet, “About Us – Meet Southern Baptists,” http://www.sbc.net/aboutus/default.asp (accessed April 13, 2011).
[3] Sbcnet, “About Us – LifeWay Christian Resources,” http://www.sbc.net/aboutus/lifeway.asp (accessed April 13, 2011).
[4] Fisher Humphreys, The Way We Were: How Southern Baptist Theology has Changed and What it Means to Us All, (New York: McCracken Press, 1994), vii.
[5] Sbcnet, “About Us – International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention,” http://www.sbc.net/aboutus/IMB.asp (accessed April 13, 2011); Sbcnet, “About Us – North American Mission Board,” http://www.sbc.net/aboutus/namb.asp (accessed April 13, 2011).
[6] Sbcnet, “About Us – Southern Baptist Seminaries,” http://www.sbc.net/aboutus/sem.asp (accessed April 13, 2011).
[7] Sbcnet, “About Us – CP Missions – The Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention,” http://www.sbc.net/aboutus/cpmissions.asp  (accessed April 13, 2011).
[8] John 13:34-35, NASB.
[9] Bush and Nettles, Baptists and the Bible, 18.
[10] Joshua Breland, “Video: Albert Mohler and Frank Page Discuss Current SBC Issues at SBTS Chapel,” in “Blog: The Daily Bleat: A Southern Baptist Theological Perspective” (August 21, 2012) http://thedailybleat.com/video-albert-mohler-and-frank-page-discuss-current-sbc-issues-at-sbts-chapel/#more-4223 (accessed August 21, 2012).
[11] Michael Foust, “Page Names Advisory Team on Calvinism,” in Baptist Press, (August 15, 2012), http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=38507 (Accessed September 9, 2012).
[12] Foust, http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=38429 (accessed September 18, 2012).
[13] Foust, http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=38429 (accessed September 18, 2012).
[14] Foust, http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=38429 (accessed September 18, 2012).

Monday, December 10, 2012

Benefits of Symbiosis in the SBC (Part 4: Catalyst for Cooperation)

The Catalyst for Cooperation between General and Particular Baptists

            What could possibly unite General and Particular Baptists into either an association or convention of cooperating Baptists? The answer to that question is in one word, “missions.” The missionary enterprise did more to bring General and Particular Baptists together than did any of the former trials and tribulations suffered by Baptists. The missionary enterprise was a result of a more evangelical Calvinism that broke down the anti-missionary spirit of hyper-Calvinists.[1]
            Andrew Fuller, pastor of the Baptist church at Kettering in Northamptonshire, modified the extreme Calvinism of John Gill.[2] The moderate Calvinism of Fuller highlighted “the individual’s responsibility to witness to the gospel.”[3] According to W. Wiley Richards, “Fuller saw the atonement as sufficient for all sinners but efficient in its application.”[4] Viewing the atonement as unlimited in its sufficiency but limited in its efficiency may seem as though it is not truly Calvinism. Although this view is a moderate form of Calvinism, it is Calvinism. Erickson said:
The view that we are adopting here should not be construed as Arminianism. It is rather the most moderate form of Calvinism or, as some would term it, a modification of Calvinism. It is the view that God logically decides first to provide salvation, then elects some to receive it. This is essentially the sublapsarian position of theologians like Augustus Strong. Those who would construe this position as Arminianism should be reminded that what distinguishes Calvinism from Arminianism is not the view of the relationship between the decree to provide salvation and the decree to confer salvation on some and not on others. Rather, the decisive point is whether the decree of election is based solely on the free, sovereign choice of God himself (Calvinism) or based also in part upon his foreknowledge of merit and faith in the person elected (Arminianism).[5]

 This moderate Calvinism of Fuller led to a recovery of evangelism among Particular Baptists. McBeth wrote, “In the midst of the Particular Baptist recovery, a Midlands pastor, William Carey, inspired the formation of the Baptist Missionary Society in 1792.”[6]
William Carey was responsible for the awakening of missionary interests among Baptists. Torbet wrote, “William Carey (1761-1834) was the heart and soul of the initial missionary enterprise of the Baptists.”[7] McBeth wrote, “William Carey led the Particular Baptists to launch a world missionary effort, and the ‘call to prayer’ of 1784 proved both cause and effect of a surge of spiritual renewal among the churches.”[8]
Baptists of both soteriological streams both in England and America worked together to support the missionary enterprise. “The far-reaching consequences of the obedience of William Carey and the English Baptists as well as the providential conversion of Judson and Rice [came] to be regarded as ‘as a special call of God on American Baptists to labor for the spread of the gospel throughout the earth.’”[9] Adoniram Judson, an American Congregationalist, converted to Baptist views while in route to Burma.[10] Luther Rice, appointed as a missionary by the same Congregational foreign missions board that appointed Judson, “arrived in India on a separate ship, and also embraced Baptist views.”[11] Judson and Rice motivated American Baptists to enlarge their evangelistic vision and to form an organization for the support of mission causes. “Baptists responded by establishing the ‘General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination of the United States of America for Foreign Missions.’”[12] These historical truths prompted David Dockery to state, “In the 18th century, there were particular [Calvinist] and general Baptists, but at the sending of [missionary] William Carey, they joined hands together for the common cause of missions. That's something we can do again.”[13]
The Southern Baptist Convention was formed with the express purpose of emphasizing both evangelism and missions. Nathan Finn said, “The dual emphases of evangelism and missions have been at the heart of the SBC since its founding in 1845, when two of the convention’s first acts were the formation of Foreign and Domestic Mission Boards.”[14] From its inception the Southern Baptist Convention has been composed of both General and Particular Baptists working together in the spread of the Gospel both on its home mission field and on foreign mission fields. Cooperation in missions, especially among Southern Baptists, was the catalyst that united the two streams of Baptists in a mutually beneficial relationship. What are the benefits of a mutual relationship between General and Particular Baptists?

[1] McBeth, Heritage, 152; Torbet, History of Baptists, 80.
[2] Torbet, History of Baptists, 80;  McBeth, Heritage, 171.
[3] Torbet, History of Baptists, 80.
[4] Richards, Winds, 55.
[5] Erickson, Christian Theology, 852.
[6] McBeth, Heritage, 152.
[7] Torbet, History of Baptists, 80.
[8] McBeth, Heritage, 171.
[9] Tom J. Nettles, “A Historical View of the Doctrinal Importance of Calvinism among Baptists.” http://www.edstetzer.com/Tom%20Nettles%20Building%20Bridges%20message.pdf (accessed September 18, 2012).
[10] Bush and Nettles, Baptists and the Bible, 121.
[11] McBeth, Heritage, 345.
[12] Bush and Nettles, Baptists and the Bible, 121.
[13] Michael Foust, Baptist Press, “Southern Baptist Leaders: Calvinism Should not Divide SBC,” Kentucky Baptist Convention Conference: “Calvinism: Concerned, Confused, or Curious,” David Dockery, “Overview of the History of Baptist Theology (Part 1).” http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=38429 (accessed September 18, 2012).
[14] Finn, “Southern Baptist Calvinism,” 3.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Benefits of Symbiosis in the SBC (Part 3: Doctrinal Extremes)

Doctrinal Extremes of General and Particular Baptists

            Neither the General nor the Particular Baptists, in and of themselves and through their respective confessions, were able to completely avoid unbiblical extremes peculiar to their respective soteriological viewpoints. Usually the unbiblical extremes of each group are polar opposites. On the General Baptist end of the scale there were the doctrinal extremes of Arianism, Socinianism, and Liberalism. On the Particular Baptist end of the scale there were the doctrinal extremes of hyper-Calvinism, ultraconservatism, and Antinomianism.[1] Both General and Particular Baptists declined in the first half of the eighteenth century.[2] The disappointing reality is, as Torbet said, “A condition of apostasy laid hold upon the General Baptists, whereas hyper-Calvinism plagued those of the Particular group.”[3]
Both English and American Baptists on both sides of the soteriological divide were plagued to some degree by the doctrinal extremes into which their respective viewpoints were vulnerable. These doctrinal extremes caused decline in both groups on both continents.
Doctrinal Extremes of General Baptists in England
 In England, General Baptists declined as a group due to their doctrinal extremes “concerning the deity of Christ and the meaning of the atonement.”[4] In particular, the General Baptists were susceptible to Arianism, Socinianism, and Liberalism. Both Arianism and Socinianism are forms of anti-Trinitarianism. Arianism denies both the deity of Christ and humanity of Christ by teaching that he was an angel created by God. Arians therefore taught that Christ was more than man but less than God.[5] Socinianism on the other hand denies the deity of Christ but not the humanity of Christ. The Socinians taught that Christ was merely a good man.[6] Therefore the death of Christ “was simply that of an ordinary human being in a fallen and sinful world.”[7] Concerning Socinianism, McBeth said, “This doctrine robbed the cross of any real atonement.”[8]
Socinianism reduces the atonement, the death of Christ, to an example of the type of dedication that Christians are to follow. Erickson identified the erroneous concepts that feed the Socinian understanding of the atonement. He said:
Several conceptions feed into the Socinian understanding of the atonement. One is the Pelagian view of the human condition as spiritually and morally capable of fulfilling God’s expectations. Another is the conception that God is not a God of retributive justice, and therefore he does not demand some form of satisfaction from or on behalf of those who sin against him. Finally, there is the conception of Jesus as merely human. His death was simply that of an ordinary human being in a fallen and sinful world. It is important, not in some supernatural way, but as the ultimate extension of his role as the great teacher of righteousness.[9]

This erroneous understanding of the atonement came to be held by many General Baptists “and many of their churches eventually became Unitarian.”[10]
Doctrinal Extremes of General Baptists in America
            In America, General Baptists declined as a group more as a result of the evangelistic zeal of Particular Baptists than from doctrinal extremes. Richards said, “The General Baptists seem never to have built a strong doctrinal base in the local church and consequently were no theological match for the evangelistic zeal of the Particular Baptists.”[11] However, Richards also noted that “around the end of the eighteenth century and at the beginning of the nineteenth, a few ministers lapsed into Unitarianism.”[12]
            McBeth attributed the decline of the General Baptists in America to “internal problems, such as doctrinal ambiguity, lack of aggressive evangelism, and opposition to the First Great Awakening.”[13] He said, “The thrust of the First Great Awakening was Calvinistic, and it swept all opposition aside.”[14] There arose a campaign to win the General churches to Calvinism that resulted in the majority of General Baptist churches transitioning to Calvinism but with the detrimental effect of 95 percent of their membership either dropping out of church life or joining other Arminian groups.[15]
            The doctrinal ambiguity of the General Baptists also made them susceptible to the teachings of Alexander Campbell who taught that there was “no promise of salvation without baptism; that baptism should be administered to all who say they believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God without examination on any other point; that there is no direct operation of the Holy Spirit on the mind prior to baptism;” and, “that baptism brought the remission of sins and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.”[16] Many Baptists west of the Alleghenies, holding to Arminian doctrine were won to Campbell’s views “and brought their entire churches into his movement.”[17] Richards said, “Campbell’s followers split Baptist churches. No definite figures are available, but there can be little doubt that hundreds of Baptist churches left the denomination to follow Campbell.”[18]
Doctrinal Extremes of Particular Baptists in England
            The Particular Baptists declined as a group due to their doctrinal extremes on the opposite end of the spectrum from that of the General Baptists. McBeth said, “While General Baptists had fallen into extreme liberalism, the Particular group fell victim to extreme doctrinal conservatism. . . . [M]any Particular Baptists became theologically narrow, rigid in sterile orthodoxy, and with a faith more rationalistic than biblical.”[19] Both hyper-Calvinism and Antinomianism would plague the English Particular Baptists.
            In England, hyper-Calvinism resulted from an overemphasis on election and predestination to the exclusion of any zeal for evangelism. McBeth said, “At their most extreme, Particular Baptists would not preach or apply the gospel to the unsaved.”[20] The fatalism of hyper-Calvinism put a damper on evangelism. The notion was that God would save his elect without the means of men preaching the Gospel. In fear of offending God by offering his grace to the non-elect, hyper-Calvinists refused to evangelize.[21] This created in the Particular Baptists a spirit of ultraconservatism that caused them to have no room in their preaching for evangelism, invitation, or application.[22]
            Another error of hyper-Calvinism is antinomianism. McBeth noted that some Particular Baptists in England fell into antinomianism. He said, “Some of them also fell into Antinomianism, an extreme form of Calvinism which assumed that even personal behavior was foreordained, thus excusing individuals for any lapses in moral conduct.”[23] One needs only to contemplate the effects of Antinomianism on the witness of the church.
Doctrinal Extremes of Particular Baptists in America
             In America, Particular Baptists were plagued by the same doctrinal extremes that plagued their counterparts in England. These also struggled with hyper-Calvinism, ultraconservatism, and Antinomianism.
            The hyper-Calvinism and ultraconservatism of the Particular Baptists in America combined to create in them a spirit that opposed “missionary societies, Bible societies, temperance societies, Sunday schools—all of which they regarded as man-made efforts to evangelize, and as unscriptural and contrary to their extreme emphasis upon predestination.”[24] This anti-mission doctrinal extreme caused “the first controversy which actually split the ranks of [American] Baptists, particularly in the South and West.”[25]
            John Taylor (1752-1835) and Daniel Parker (1781-1844) both wrote in opposition to missionary activity.[26] Taylor’s “principal polemic was a pamphlet entitled Thoughts on Missions . . . . Taylor charged that missionaries were simply involved in the movement because of their love for money, and that the missionary system was hierarchical in its tendencies and contrary to Baptist church government.”[27] Parker’s polemic, Views of the Two Seeds, was based on his theology of predestination.[28] In his pamphlet Parker “divided the human race into the predestined children of God and the predestined children of the devil. God will save his own; the devil will claim his own. There was no place for missions in his theology.”[29]
            This anti-mission spirit had an infectious effect on Southern Baptists. Dr. Roger Richards wrote, “The effect of the antimission movements . . . on Southern Baptists was devastating. Many churches and sometimes whole associations declared themselves antimissionary.”[30] While other factors were part of the anti-mission spirit, there is no denying that hyper-Calvinism was a main reason for it.
            English Baptists “were devastated by doctrinal extremes which sapped vitality and warped Baptist outlook. The General Baptists fell into extreme liberalism, Arianism, and Socinianism. Particular Baptists fell into extreme conservatism, hyper-Calvinism, and Antinomianism.”[31] American Baptists were not immune to the doctrinal extremes that plagued their English counterparts. They were also affected by doctrinal extremes as has been mentioned.
            The historical contexts of the General and Particular Baptists, both in England and America, makes one wonder if there could possibly be any form of cooperation among the two groups. Could there be any possibility of the two groups, with their differing soteriological viewpoints and their opposing poles of doctrinal extremes, working together in a mutually beneficial relationship? What could possibly bring these two groups together?

[1] McBeth, Heritage, 152, 154.
[2] McBeth, Heritage, 154.
[3] Torbet, History of Baptists, 62.
[4] McBeth, Heritage, 155.
[5] McBeth, Heritage, 155.
[6] McBeth, Heritage, 155.                                                  
[7] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd  Ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2001), 801.
[8] McBeth, Heritage, 155.
[9] Erickson, Theology, 801.
[10] McBeth, Heritage, 155.
[11] Richards, Winds, 12.
[12] Richards, Winds, 22.
[13] McBeth, Heritage, 704.
[14] McBeth, Heritage, 704.
[15] McBeth, Heritage, 704-705.
[16] Richards, Southern Baptists, 1919-1933 of 9258.
[17] Richards, Southern Baptists, 1933 of 9258.
[18] Richards, Southern Baptists, 1933 of 9258.
[19] McBeth, Heritage, 171.
[20] McBeth, Heritage, 172.
[21] McBeth, Heritage, 174.
[22] McBeth, Heritage, 176.
[23] McBeth, Heritage, 172.
[24] Torbet, History of Baptists, 261-262.
[25] Torbet, History of Baptists, 268.
[26] Richards, Winds, 78.
[27] Richards, History of Southern Baptists, 1965 of 9258.
[28] Richards, Winds, 78.
[29] Richards, History of Southern Baptists, 1965 of 9258.
[30] Richards, History of Southern Baptists, 2020 of 9258
[31] McBeth, Heritage, 199.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Benefits of Symbiosis in the SBC (Part 2: Formulation of Confessions)

The Formulation of Baptist Confessions of Faith

            While both General and Particular Baptists have their roots in the Protestant Reformation, certain distinctive emphases peculiar to Baptists distinguished them from other Protestants. These Baptist emphases include the principle of a regenerate church membership, believer’s baptism upon an individual’s profession of faith, congregational church government and discipline, a wider fellowship through membership in associations, protection of the autonomy of the local congregation, and freedom to obey God.[1] This, according to Torbet, “represented a distinctly minority viewpoint concerning the nature of the visible church. It was this witness that distinguished Baptists from most Protestants.”[2]
 On certain occasions Baptists were compelled to write confessions of faith that both identified similarities and differences between them and some of the other Protestants. Concerning Baptist confessions, McBeth wrote, “These have usually been hammered out on the anvil of some doctrinal dispute. They express consensus and, thus, rarely satisfy extreme partisans on either side.”[3] A sketch of the formulation of Baptist confessions of faith should aid in understanding that while there are differences of opinion among Baptists concerning soteriology, they nevertheless can and do work together.
Helwys wrote “A Declaration of Faith of English People Remaining at Amsterdam in Holland” to distinguish his congregation from that of John Smyth which had sought admission among the Mennonites (Anabaptists) at the Amsterdam Waterlander Church.[4] The confession written by Helwys was not for the purpose of being unfriendly with the Mennonites but for the purpose of asserting the validity of the baptism of his congregation and for preserving its independent organization and identity.[5] By distinguishing themselves from Smyth’s group in this confession, Hewys’ group also distinguished themselves from the Mennonites. They were anti-Arminian in their view of sin and the will and rejected other Mennonite emphases such as “prohibitions against oaths, the bearing of arms, participation in government, and having dealings with excommunicants.”[6]
Although the confession written by Helwys was anti-Arminian in its view of sin, the will, and anti-anarchy, it was also anti-Calvinistic on the doctrine of the atonement.[7] However this did not stop Baptists from being accused of Pelagianism and anarchy, both of which were associated with Continental Anabaptists.[8] These circumstances led the Particular Baptists to produce a confession of faith. The first Particular Baptist confession, the First London Confession, was drawn up to distinguish the Particular Baptists from both the Anabaptists and the General Baptists and to identify their similar theological beliefs with the prevalent Calvinism of the nation.[9]
The First London Confession, written in 1644, was superseded by the Second London Confession of 1677. The Second London Confession was revised in 1688 and published in 1689. The Second London Confession was in agreement with the soteriology of the Westminster Confession of the Presbyterians but it differed by emphasizing religious liberty and baptism by immersion.[10]
The historical context that provided the impetus for the Second London Confession was the renewal of persecution of dissenting groups by the Church of England. The Presbyterians had been the dominant group under the Commonwealth and had success in defying the Conventicle Act. As a result, Baptists and Congregationalists formed a united front with the Presbyterians through a show of doctrinal agreement among themselves. So the Particular Baptists of London made the Westminster Confession the basis of their new confession to show solidarity between them, the Congregationalists, and Presbyterians, although it was modified to meet Baptist emphases.[11] This new Particular Baptist Confession of faith, the Second London Confession, became very influential and was adopted by Baptists in Philadelphia and Charleston.[12]
Shortly after the Particular Baptists published their new confession, the General Baptists followed suit and drew up their Orthodox Creed “to unite and confirm all true protestants in the fundamental articles of the Christian religion.”[13] One of its purposes was to refute Hoffmanite Christology, a teaching that Jesus did not have a human body but was a divine being with angelic flesh.[14] Lumpkin noted that the Orthodox Creed came closer to Calvinism than any other General Baptist confession. He said, “Perhaps, indeed, the Creed is principally noteworthy as an early attempt at compromise between the two great systems of theology, thus anticipating the work of Andrew Fuller and others of the latter eighteenth century.”[15]
In America the Second London Confession of the Particular Baptists was destined to give theological direction to American Baptists.[16] As already mentioned, the Philadelphia Confession was an adoption of the Second London Confession by the Philadelphia Association. However, the Calvinism of the Second London Confession would begin to be modified in subsequent confessions among American Baptists especially after Andrew Fuller of England “significantly altered the doctrine of the atonement and helped break the hold Calvinism exerted over the Baptists.”[17]
There is some disagreement as to whether Fuller in his modification of Calvinism is to be viewed as teaching a general or particular atonement. Richards saw Fuller’s modified Calvinism as a rejection of one of its fundamental assumptions, namely, particular or limited atonement. Richards also noted that Thomas J. Nettles placed Fuller in the Calvinistic camp and that Nettles showed Fuller’s orthodox Calvinism.[18] The fact remains though, that after Fuller modified the Calvinistic doctrine of the atonement, subsequent Baptist confessions of faith in America began to take on a more moderate Calvinism. In particular, two confessions that gained wide acceptance among Baptists in America, the Principles of Faith and Practice of the Sandy Creek Association and the New Hampshire Confession of Faith, both of which reflected a moderate Calvinism.[19] McBeth stated, “The first covenant of the Sandy Creek church reflected a moderate Calvinism, including particular election of grace by the predestination of God.”[20] It was some twenty-nine years later, from 1816 when the Sandy Creek Association adopted its first covenant to 1845 when it adopted its second covenant, that the early Calvinism of the Sandy Creek Association gave way to more emphasis on human freedom and responsibility.[21] The New Hampshire Confession was a restatement of Calvinism in moderate tones by the New Hampshire Convention.[22] According to Torbet the New Hampshire Confession was drawn up to offset Arminian teaching in New England.[23] Lumpkin agreed and saw it as a restatement of Calvinism in moderate tones to offset the message of the Free Will Baptists that was being received with enthusiasm.[24]
The New Hampshire Confession of Faith was the most widely dispersed confession of American Baptists.[25] Before the rise of the New Hampshire Confession, Baptist churches in the south usually adhered to the Philadelphia Confession of Faith as their major doctrinal statement.[26] As a new mood of missionary expansion developed in the nineteenth century, the Philadelphia Confession receded in its adherence and the New Hampshire Confession began to gain wide acceptance among Baptists in America reflecting the missionary spirit of the age.[27]
In 1925 the Southern Baptist Convention revised the New Hampshire Confession by adding ten new sections and published it as the Baptist Faith and Message.[28] The historical context that gave impetus for the 1925 BFM was twofold having both external and internal reasons that led to this confession. Externally, after World War I, Southern Baptists sought to restore communications with the Baptists of Europe. Internally, there was a controversy over evolutionary theory instigated by J. Frank Norris, the primary leader of the Fundamentalist movement in the South, who accused Southern Baptists of “teaching biological evolution in their colleges, tolerating ‘modernistic’ views of Scripture in their seminaries, and making an idol of the denomination in their churches.”[29] These circumstances revealed the need for a more complete doctrinal statement among Southern Baptists. The 1925 BFM was the result.
In 1963 the 1925 BFM would be revisited and ultimately revised into what would become the 1963 BFM. Two internal controversies gave rise to the 1963 BFM. The first internal controversy giving rise to the revision of the 1925 BFM was the “apostasy controversy at Southern Seminary.”[30] Dale Moody, Theology Professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, “taught the possibility that one truly saved could fall from the state of grace and lose his or her salvation.”[31] This teaching was deemed inconsistent with traditional Southern Baptist views on the subject.[32] The second internal controversy giving rise to the 1963 BFM was the Elliot controversy. This controversy “all but eclipsed the Moody controversy.”[33] Ralph Elliot, a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote The Message of Genesis at the invitation of the Sunday School Board’s Broadman Press. Many of Elliot’s liberal views that questioned the Mosaic authorship of the Penteteuch and much of the historical accuracy of Genesis brought into light the liberal viewpoints that were being taught in the seminaries.[34]
In response to these controversies the Southern Baptist Convention at the 1962 assembly in San Francisco adopted a motion to form a Committee to study the 1925 Baptist Faith and Message.[35] The Committee was chaired by Herschel Hobbs, the president of the Convention.[36] Hobbs had the enormous task of preserving the organic unity of the Convention and of satisfying the conservative base that sound doctrine would be taught in the schools and published by the Sunday School Board.[37] Smith correctly observed, “These competing demands led to the formulation of the 1962 Committee on Baptist Faith and Message. These competing demands . . . also resulted in a doctrinal statement which allowed for wider latitude of interpretation among Southern Baptists.”[38] Therefore, the 1963 BFM with its wider latitude of interpretation among Southern Baptists led to another internal controversy in the subsequent years and ultimately to the Conservative Resurgence and the adoption of the 2000 BFM.
Since the 1963 BFM included language that allowed wider latitude of interpretation for the purpose of preserving the organic unity of the Convention, an ensuing controversy over biblical interpretation erupted. Richards succinctly summarized the central issue that led to the adoption of the 2000 BFM. He said:
When the 1963 version was adopted, it included language that was not to clarify what was believed, but which was made more broad and general so as not to exclude anyone. The difficulty with this was the ability to attach different meanings to words, so that two groups could use the same terminology, but have different meanings. This was central to the issue during the Conservative Resurgence. Finally, in 1999, T. C. Pinkney of Virginia made a motion to the Southern Baptist Convention to ask the president to appoint a committee to consider a revision of the 1963 document.[39]

These two opposing groups are generally labeled as either moderates or conservatives.[40] Their major differences were over inerrancy, the doctrine “that the original manuscripts, generally referred to as ‘autographs,’ were without error and that the Bible is true in all respects.”[41] Ultimately this led to the Conservative Resurgence, a battle between Moderates who held to a nonliteral interpretation of the Bible and Conservatives who held to a literal interpretation of the Bible.[42]
The moderates holding to a nonliteral interpretation of the Bible were also in control of Convention affairs. Both sides were agreed on this assessment. Nancy Ammerman wrote:
Both moderates and fundamentalists agreed that moderates had been the people most active in Convention affairs for the previous generation. Fundamentalists said that moderates had staked out their territory—in part based on seminary connections—and had excluded fundamentalists from participation. Moderates thought that fundamentalists were merely showing their lack of interest by staying away.[43]

In the hands of the moderates the SBC schools were drifting into liberalism.[44]
The SBC took a major turn with the election of Adrian Rogers as Convention president in 1979.[45] If the SBC were going to change it had to start with its president. The president was the key to the entire appointment and nomination process by which trustees were given oversight of the denomination’s agencies.[46]
With the election of Adrian Rogers as the SBC president, 1979 marked the beginning of the Conservative Resurgence in the SBC. Dan Martin for Baptist Press wrote, “His election was regarded as the opening gun in a campaign to turn the 14.4-million-member denomination to a ‘more conservative’ direction.”[47] The conservatives succeeded in sustaining electoral victories, controlling convention meetings and controlling the appointment and election of trustees that were charged with governing the agencies and institutions of the denomination.[48] By 1986, the conservatives were able to begin setting the policies that would change the SBC entities. Without the Conservative Resurgence, Jerry Sutton says that “the Southern Baptist Convention would have found itself drifting to the left and eventually would have been in the same anemic theological condition as the mainline Protestant denominations, powerless to effect change in our spiritually starving world.”[49]
The conservatives won control of the SBC by setting their sights on the Convention’s infrastructure.[50] The Conservative Resurgence that began in 1979 culminated with the revision of the 1963 BFM in the year 2000. The BFM 2000 consisted of eleven primary revisions that displayed theological solidarity with both the 1963 and 1925 versions and closed the unintended theological loopholes that resulted from the imprecise language of the previous versions.[51] Although charges were made, that the 2000 BFM was a move away from the theological heritage of Southern Baptists, its theological solidarity with its predecessors proved otherwise.[52]
The history of the formulation of Baptist confessions of faith reveals not only diversity in soteriological viewpoints among General and Particular Baptists but also several modifications that allow for both liberty of conscience and unity of labor by both groups. This in no way implies that Baptists are doctrinally loose. Instead, there is a mutually beneficial symbiotic benefit that arises from both General and Particular Baptists working together. L. Russ Bush and Tom J. Nettles noted that “the diversity of theological ideas within the Baptist framework has kept Baptists from becoming theologically stagnant.”[53] However, before they began to cooperate, both General and Particular Baptists did become theologically stagnant.

[1] R. Albert Mohler Jr.,  Southern Baptist Identity: An Evangelical Denomination Faces the Future, “Is There a Future?,” edited by David S. Dockery (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2009), 26-27; Torbet, History of Baptists, 31. Mohler only identified the emphases of a regenerate church membership, believer’s baptism, and congregational church government.
[2] Torbet, History of Baptists, 31.
[3] McBeth, Heritage, 677.
[4] Torbet, History of Baptists, 36.
[5] William L. Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1959), 114.

[6] Lumpkin, Confessions, 115.
[7] Lumpkin, Confessions, 115.
[8] Lumpkin, Confessions, 144.
[9] Lumpkin, Confessions, 144-145; Torbet, History of Baptists, 45.
[10] Richards, Winds, 18.
[11] Lumpkin, Confessions, 235-236; Richards, Winds, 37.
[12] Richards, Winds, 11.
[13] Lumpkin, Confessions, 295.
[14] Lumpkin, Confessions, 41, 295. Lumpkin identified Melchior Hoffman with Docetic Christology (41). 
[15] Lumpkin, Confessions, 296.
[16] Torbet, History of Baptists, 213.
[17] Richards, Winds, 45.
[18] Richards, Winds, 55-58.
[19] Richards, Winds, 46.
[20] McBeth, Heritage, 229.
[21] Lumpkin, Confessions, 357; McBeth, Heritage, 229.
[22] Lumkin, Confessions, 360.
[23] Torbet, History of Baptists, 514.
[24] Lumpkin, Confessions, 360.
[25] Lumpkin, Confessions, 361; Richards, Winds, 46.
[26] McBeth, Heritage, 242, 677.
[27] McBeth, Heritage, 677; Richards, Winds, 45-46.
[28] Lumpkin, Confessions, 361; McBeth, Heritage, 677; Smith, 1963 Baptist Faith and Message, 102.
[29] McBeth, Heritage, 677.
[30] Smith, 1963 Baptist Faith and Message, 19.
[31] Smith, 1963 Baptist Faith and Message, 19-20.
[32] Smith, 1963 Baptist Faith and Message, 19.
[33] Smith, 1963 Baptist Faith and Message, 22.
[34] Richards, Southern Baptists, 6878 of 9258.
[35] Smith, 1963 Baptist Faith and Message, 37.
[36] Smith, 1963 Baptist Faith and Message, 154,
[37] Smith, 1963 Baptist Faith and Message, 39.
[38] Smith, 1963 Baptist Faith and Message, 39.
[39] Richards, Southern Baptists, 7494 of 9258.
[40] Nancy Tatom Ammerman, Baptist Battles: Social Change and Religious Conflict in the Southern Baptist Convention (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1995), ix. Ammerman preferred the terms fundamentalists and moderates rather than conservatives and moderates.
[41] Richards, Southern Baptists, 6999 of 9258.
[42] Richards, Southern Baptists, 7013 of 9258.
[43] Ammerman, Battles, 156.
[44] Timothy C. Seal, “A Comparative Analysis of the Theological Heritage of the 2000 Revisions to the ‘Baptist Faith and Message’ in Relation to the 1963 and 1925 Confessions,” (PhD. Dissertation, Mid-America Theological Seminary, 2003), ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, http://search.proquest.com/pqdthss/docview/305248265/13A2745AE96D42ECB7/4?accountid=133490 accessed August 14, 2012, 18.
[45] David S. Dockery, Southern Baptist Consensus and Renewal: A Biblical, Historical, and Theological Proposal (Nashville: B & H Academic, 2008), 10.
[46] Ammerman, Battles, 168.

[47] Dan Martin for Baptist Press, “Rogers Willing to be Nominated” in The Christian Index: The Georgia Baptist Convention News Magazine (April 17, 1986), 3.
[48] Ammerman, Battles, 212.
[49] Jerry Sutton, The Baptist Reformation: The Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention, (Nashville, Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 3.
[50] Ammerman, Battles, 215.
[51] Seal, “2000 Revisions,” 1-3.
[52] Timothy Seal made a scholarly case in his dissertation, “A Comparative Analysis of the Theological Heritage of the 2000 Revisions to the ‘Baptist Faith and Message’ in Relation to the 1963 and 1925 Confessions,” that no theological deviation occurred in the 2000 BFM.
[53] L. Russ Bush and Tom J. Nettles, Baptists and the Bible: The Baptist Doctrines of Biblical Inspiration and Religious Authority in Historical Perspective (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 18.