The 2001 Louisiana Baptist Convention Presidential Message
by T. C. French Jr.
George Barna, president of Barna Research Group, reported that a study exploring the religious beliefs of the 12 largest denominations in America highlights the downward theological drift that has taken place in Christian churches in recent years. The study found that an alarmingly high number of church members have beliefs that fall far short of orthodox Christianity. Only 41 percent of all adults surveyed believed in the total accuracy of the Bible. Only 40 percent believed Christ was sinless, and only 27 percent believed Satan to be real.
Of the Baptists surveyed 57 percent said they believed that works are necessary in order to be saved, 45 percent believed Jesus was not sinless, 44 percent did not believe that the Bible is totally accurate, and 66 percent did not believe Satan to be a real being. The Barna study did not break down the Baptist category into specific groups, so the results may not be typical of Southern Baptists as a whole. Barna said, "The Christian body in America is immersed in a crisis of biblical illiteracy."
Though these statistics are shocking, they represent only the surface of a deeper crisis of faith and practice within the Christian faith and our Southern Baptist Zion. What has gone wrong that would cause any Baptist to believe that salvation is of works or that Satan does not exist or that Jesus was not sinless or that the Bible is not totally accurate? Who or what caused this crisis of biblical illiteracy among Baptists?
God answered this question when He spoke through the prophets Hosea and Isaiah to another generation: "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" (Hosea 4:6a NKJV); "Therefore my people have gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge" (Isa. 5:13a NKJV). Our Scripture reference (Judges 2:6-10) records the transition from a godly to an ungodly generation of Hebrews that was ignorant of God's Word and of His mighty works. They were uneducated in God's Word and in their historical relationship with God. The consequences that resulted were tragic.
Recently a young pastor said, "I just preach Christ. I don't preach doctrine." How can anyone preach Christ without preaching doctrine? Have we raised up a new generation that knows nothing about the vital and fundamental doctrines of the Gospel? How can believers obey the Great Commission of our Lord if they do not know the content of the teaching (doctrine) of Jesus Christ?
How can our Baptist faith survive if we have reared a generation of Baptists who do not know the great biblical doctrines as our Baptist forefathers in the faith knew them? How will our Baptist churches be able to carry out the Great Commission if they do not know the doctrinal basis for missions and the mandate given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ?
According to the recent Barna report, it is apparent that many Baptists are without instruction in orthodox Christian doctrine, and if this trend is not checked, like the Hebrews of old, they
will be destroyed for "lack of knowledge." The failure of uninstructed believers to know and practice the vital biblical doctrines of orthodox Christianity leaves them impotent and without direction. Like helpless babies they will continue to be "tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive" (Eph. 4:14 NKJV).
What are the events that have transpired among Southern Baptists that have brought us to where we are today? Notice the parallel events that have occurred in the history of Southern Baptists that mirror the early days of the Hebrew national history.
"7So the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord which He had done for Israel. . . 10 When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel" (Judges 2:7, 10 NKJV).
We cannot ignore the parallel between the events of that day and our day, for it is written, "Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come" (1 Cor. 10:11 NKJV). "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope" (Rom. 15:4 NKJV).
The nation of Israel was consolidated under the leadership of Moses who then passed this godly heritage to Joshua and his generation. After the godly elders who outlived Joshua died, the nation made a transition to a generation that forgot God's Word and His mighty works.
The Southern Baptist Convention was founded in 1845 by Baptists who believed that the Bible was truth without any mixture of error. Of that founding generation were such notables as James Petigru Boyce, P. H. Mell, W. B. Johnson, J. L. Dagg, Basil Manly, and John A. Broadus. This heritage was passed to the generation of B. H. Carroll, A. T. Robertson, Lottie Moon, J. M. Frost, J. B. Gambrell, Annie Armstrong, and E. Y. Mullins. They in turn passed it to the generation of L. R. Scarborough, J. B. Tidwell, W. R. White, Georgia Barnett, R. G. Lee, George W. Truett, and M. E. Dodd.
They trusted in the Christ of the Bible and believed that He was the only hope of mankind. They believed that Adam and Eve were real people. Noah and the Flood was a historical fact. Abraham truly heard God tell him to sacrifice Isaac, for "He considered that God is able to raise men even from the dead" (Heb. 11:19a NASV). Moses encountered the burning bush that was not consumed. He parted the Red Sea with the rod of God and wrote the Pentateuch. The Ten Commandments were written on stone tablets by the finger of God. The iron axe head did float and Isaiah alone wrote the book of Isaiah. Jesus was born of a virgin and angels proclaimed His birth to shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem. He healed the sick, restored sight to the blind, made the lame to walk, and raised the dead. Christ died, Christ was buried, and Christ arose never to die again and His blood cleanses the sinner from all sin. He ascended to the right hand of the Father to make intercession for us and is coming again for His bride-the Church. Salvation is by grace through faith and all that call upon His name will be saved, become the children of God, and possess eternal life.
With the passing of this third generation, Southern Baptists, in 1945, had grown from a small beginning in Augusta, Georgia, to a membership of more than six million with 26,134 churches. God had truly blessed those who believed His Word, proclaimed His Word, lived His Word, and were committed to carry the Gospel to every nation.
THEN THERE AROSE ANOTHER GENERATION
It came subtly like tares among the wheat, a stealth generation that flew below the radar, unseen and undetected. Like a fifth column, it was clandestine and subversive, an advocate of neo-orthodoxy and, like cancer, attacked the body from within. The hiss of the serpent of old could be heard as doubt was cast upon the Holy Scriptures by this new generation of "faux" theologians with the sneering question, "Hath God said?"
This new generation began to revise history and arrogantly declared that they were the true Southern Baptists. They cast doubt on the intellect of anyone who disagreed with them. They protected their heretical beliefs under the cloak of "unity amid diversity." They attacked the office of pastor and his authority as the overseer of the church under the guise of soul competency, shared ministry and the pseudo theological term "priesthood of the believer." (See my comments on the use of the term "pseudo theological" on page 8) They have attempted to establish a false dichotomy between Jesus and the Bible and they favor the priority of personal experience over the objective truth of God's Holy Word.
Instead of publicly declaring what they believe about the nature of Scripture, they resort to calling those who believe in the inerrancy of the Scriptures derogatory names such as Fundamentalist with a capital "F." Last summer the Texas Baptist Standard carried an article titled "Will the Real Fundamentalist Stand Up?" The article covered a June meeting of a dissident group of Baptists. A speaker accused some members of the group of being "Fundamentalists of the Left." This translates as "anyone who disagrees with me is a Fundamentalist." What is next? Fundamentalists of the middle! Is this their meaning of "unity amid diversity?"
Jude warned the early Christians "to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). He warned them about men who had crept in unnoticed and who would turn the grace of our God into that which had no regard for accepted rules or standards. In like manner Peter wrote in his second epistle, "1But there were false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies. . . 19promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption" (2 Pet 2:1,19 NKJV). Paul continues the warning to Timothy. "For the time will come when they will not endure
sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables" (2 Tim. 4:3, 4 NKJV).
That prophesied time has come for Southern Baptists with the "vertical invasion" of another generation that does not know the Bible as our forefathers knew it. They tout a "progressive Christianity," dressed up in the philosophy of humanism with Christian sounding terms. They use the sacred language of Zion but they have a different dictionary. They declare, "We believe the Bible is the Word of God," but a careful analysis of their theology reveals that their concept of biblical authority is different from that of the vast majority of Baptists. Their unorthodox views undermine the foundation of biblical authority. Once our Baptist theology has been seduced by this pattern of thought, it will have lost touch with the historical roots that have sustained and nurtured it.
We stand today upon the verge of a new Unitarian defection brought about by the widely divergent views between Bible believing Baptists and a neo-orthodox generation. It threatens to break up churches and conventions, has already robbed some conventions of their institutions, and has siphoned millions of dollars away from the Cooperative Program. A. H. Strong said that Baptists recovered from the Unitarian defection "only by vigorously asserting the authority of Christ and the inspiration of the Scriptures." We who believe in the infallible Word of God must not do less. What actions can we take to preserve our heritage and fidelity to God's Word?
WE MUST STAND FIRM ON GOD'S INFALLIBLE WORD
In June of 2000, a writer for a newspaper in Orlando warned the residents that two very different kinds of Baptists would be converging on their city. The difference was soon evident. One of the leaders said that Southern Baptists have the Bible for their authority but the Baptists of their brand have Jesus for their authority. When asked what she meant, she replied that the Bible, "may introduce us to Jesus," but we can know about Jesus independently of Scripture. This is classic Barthian neo-orthodoxy. Barth claimed the Bible has overlappings and contradictions between the Law and the Prophets, between the Gospel of John and the Synoptic Gospels, and between Paul's epistles and the Book of James. He thought that the Bible's capacity for error extended even to its religious and theological content. He argued that the prophets and the apostles were guilty of error in their spoken and written words.
Barth believed that God reveals Himself to persons in a personal "encounter" with God and not through information from the Bible. This elevates personal experience, human emotions and feelings above the objective truth of the Scriptures and opens the floodgates for many heretical interpretations of the Scriptures. This is highly deceptive because Christ and the Bible are one united authority. The two cannot be separated. Not only does the Bible tell us all we know objectively about Christ, but Christ also identifies Himself with the truths, concepts, words, and meanings of the Bible. The Scriptures are clear. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Rom. 10:17 NKJV). Jesus said of the Scriptures, "It is these that bear witness of Me" (John 5:39f NASV).
Another one of the participants in that meeting, an ordained minister, insisted that the Bible "is a book with the biases and traditions of biblical days." She then added, "It is a book to guide us, but it is just a book." This concept was echoed by a pamphlet I received in the mail recently. It states, "The Bible… in and of itself is paper and ink, words, and sentences, and has no life." This is more Barthian theology. Contrast this theology with what the Bible declares about itself, "For the Word of God is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword" (Heb. 4:12 NKJV).
At that same meeting of these different Baptists, the apostle Paul was derided as "a biblical scholar" who did not understand the teachings of Jesus. This statement infers that our Lord Jesus Christ selected a dunce who did not understand Him to write one half of the New Testament. This is a direct attack upon the integrity of God Himself. Those who believe such nonsense surely do not have the highly esteemed view of Jesus that they claim to have.
Crawford Toy resigned from Southern Seminary because, while studying in Germany, he embraced the Wellhausen documentary hypothesis of the sources and origins of the Old Testament and Darwin's theory of evolution. As a result, Lottie Moon broke her engagement to Toy. He subsequently became a professor at Harvard University where he grew more radical and critical in his views on the inspiration and authority of the Bible and joined the Unitarians in their heresy.
After Toy resigned, Basil Manly returned to Southern Seminary. In his introductory lecture he said, "Every school and department of the seminary is mainly valuable so it promotes the elucidation of the Word of God, and the practical application of its teachings. Nor do we fear being charged with bibliolatry in giving the Bible the central, dominant place in our system and in our affections. From the doubt or denial of God's book, the road is short to doubt and denial of God; and after that comes the abyss, where all knowledge is not only lost but scoffed at except that which the brute might enjoy as well."
One hundred years ago, Dr. J. M. Frost, founder of the Baptist Sunday School Board, wrote, "We accept the Scriptures as an all-sufficient and infallible rule of faith and practice, and insist upon the absolute inerrancy and sole authority of the Word of God. We recognize at this point no room for division, whether of practice or belief, or even sentiment. . . . Without the Bible we know nothing of Christ-the historic Christ; nothing of His life. . . His wondrous nature, suffering, death, and resurrection; nothing of His wonderful love and gracious words; nothing of His churches as to their origin or character, nothing as to His ordinances and to what they are or what they require or what they mean…nothing as to His saving grace and kingly power. All this comes from the Bible, either directly or indirectly." Not a single Southern Baptist theologian of his generation disputed what he wrote.
Let us follow the admonition of Paul to the church at Thessalonica, "Therefore, brothers and sisters, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word (of mouth) or our epistle" (2 Thess. 2:15 NKJV).
WE MUST AFFIRM PASTORAL AUTHORITY
A layman was quoted in a recent article from a Louisiana newspaper as saying, "Baptists believe in the democracy of the congregation and their ability to hire and fire a pastor. The pastor is not the ruler of the congregation." This must be true among some churches because of the number of pastors that have been hired and then subsequently fired. This attitude downgrades the office of pastor and relegates him to the role of a hireling. Jesus said, "The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. . . . and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them" (John 10:13, 12f NKJV). The under-shepherd leads the sheep, loves the sheep, cares for the sheep and gives his life for the sheep.
Baptists enjoy a congregational church government that places all the members on an equal basis in the transaction of church business, but this does not remove nor diminish the scriptural authority of the pastor. This attitude of hiring and firing pastors has no Biblical standing and demonstrates a woeful ignorance of the Scriptures on the part of some people.
Consider what the Scriptures have to say about pastoral authority. "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake" (1 Thess. 5:12, 13 NKJV). "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of special honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine" (1 Tim. 5:17 NKJV); "Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken to you the Word of God" (Heb. 13:7). "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account" (Heb. 13:17). These passages refer to pastors and claim for them an authority not belonging to other church members.
The words "rule," "obey," and "submit" mean something. This is reasonable, for pastors are chosen, not hired, by the churches over which they preside. The churches act voluntarily and the love that prompts the choice of a pastor should secure for him a special respect in the performance of his duties. Leadership is given and not taken, which means that the people in any given fellowship still hold the ultimate vote.
A cursory inspection of any standard Baptist church manual states that the pastor is the chief officer of the church as God's anointed and appointed under-shepherd. His office is a charge and sacred trust conferred by God Himself. Let it never be forgotten that God has called out a special class of men and set them apart officially and has committed to them certain official duties. The pastor has been given the title of overseer that has special duty and authority as he directs the labors of those he oversees. He is called a shepherd and is given the following charge: "Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God, and not for sordid gain but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock" (1 Peter 5:2, 3 NASV).
Fear mongers and those who use propaganda to support their agenda like to set up straw men. One of the accusations being made, in an attempt to set up a straw man, is the charge that when a pastor exercises his biblical role as an overseer he sets himself up as a Baptist pope. Anyone who has any knowledge of Baptist polity knows this is ludicrous. During the 1920 Southern Baptist Convention, a delegate from the Inter-church Movement, a world church union organization, was allowed to bring a message. The convention heard it politely, but nervously. When the delegate finished his presentation Dr. J. B. Gambrell, President of the Convention, took him by the hand and said, "Baptists do not have popes. They never put anybody where they can't put him down…and another thing: Baptists never ride a horse without a bridle."
A pope exercises his authority over pastors and churches through an ecclesiastical hierarchy. I do not know of any Baptist minister who does this. Each pastor shepherds the flock of God in the local church to which he has been called. He will not attempt to exercise authority over another pastor or over another church.
However, there are those who will bypass the local pastor and send letters to his church leadership in a brazen attempt to undermine his authority and influence the membership. This certainly smacks of an arrogant papal attitude and assumes an authority that is not Baptist or New Testament.
When our Lord Jesus Christ commanded the Apostle John to write letters to the seven churches of Asia even He did not bypass the local pastor. He wrote to the Angel (messenger) of the church at Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicia. A study of any major commentary will show that the angel of the church to which each letter was written is the local pastor.
The Lord Jesus gives pastors to the churches to equip "the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:11). The pastor is to watch over the flock of God so they are not at the mercy of every theological tramp or religious crank that would lead them astray. I agree with Dr. B. H. Carroll who wrote, "The office of a minister must be magnified-glorified always, everywhere, and by all incumbents."
WE MUST MAKE A STRONG CONFESSION OF FAITH
Timothy George, founding dean of the Beeson School of Divinity, Samford University, wrote, "A new mythology of Baptist identity has emerged which runs something like this: Baptists are not essentially a doctrinal people. We have no creed but the Bible, which everyone should be left to interpret according to his or her personal predilection. The basic criterion of theology is individual experience. The right of private judgment in matters religious, supremely overrules fixed norms of doctrine. Baptist means freedom, freedom to think, believe, and teach without constraints." Dr. George then states, "It is a crisis of identity rooted in a fundamental theological failure of nerve." We are either too timid to go against the current secular trends because we want the approval of the world or we have forgotten who we are. This seems to be the central reason for the continuing, carping criticism of The Baptist Faith and Message statement of 2000.
We live in a time when we hear the incessant "Chicken Little" alarm of "creeping creedalism." The ringing cry of "No creed but the Bible" does not have a Baptist origin. It received its origin from Alexander Campbell, founder of the Church of Christ, whose theology was rejected by Baptists before he was disfellowshiped. If by "creed" we mean any state-imposed religious test or any human standard that is held to be equal or superior to the Bible, Baptists are not and never have been creedalists nor have they advocated creedalism.
Despite this Baptist aversion to creedalism, the idea of voluntary, conscientious adherence to an explicit doctrinal standard is not foreign to Baptists. Andrew Fuller, who died in 1815, was the most influential theologian among Baptists in both England and America. 200 years ago he declared, "It has been very common among a certain class of writers, to exclaim against creeds or systems in religion as inconsistent with Christian liberty and the rights of conscience; but every well-informed and consistent believer must have a creed, a system which he supposes to contain the leading principles of divine revelation. . . if the articles of faith be opposed to the authority of Scripture, or substituted in the place of such authority, they become objectionable and injurious; but if they simply express the united judgment of those who voluntarily subscribe to them, they are incapable of any such imputation."
A modern theologian James Emery White, writing on the inspiration and authority of scripture said, "The slogan, 'No creed but the Bible' was never meant to endorse a total lack of accountability in terms of biblical interpretation and application, but rather to say that the church's authority rests in Christ, and that our knowledge of Christ's teachings is found in the pages of the Bible."
It is not enough to say, "No creed but the Bible," for immediately there comes to mind two imperative questions-What is believed concerning the Scriptures and what is believed according to the Scriptures? The answer to these questions becomes a person's creed and confession of faith.
A creed is what you believe and a confession is a declaration of what you believe. Every person has a creed. Jesus called forth a creed from Peter when He said, "Whom do you say that I, the Son of man, am?" (Matt. 16:15) Peter answered, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:16). That is a creed and that is a declaration, or confession, of what is believed.
In 1924, E. Y. Mullins, a confessional Baptist, said, "Southern Baptists have on two or three occasions in recent years adopted some form of doctrinal statement, but the menace of materialism justifies us in reaffirming some such document as the New Hampshire Confession of Faith." He chaired the committee that wrote The 1925 Baptist Faith and Message and was its chief architect.
During this same time Northern Baptists consistently refused to adopt any confession of faith and fragmented into several competing denominational bodies while the Southern Baptist Convention remained united in its commitment to conservative theology and adopted the Cooperative Program. These two acts-the acceptance of a common confession and the consolidation of denominational giving-propelled the Southern Baptist Convention into a period of unprecedented growth and expansion.
B. H. Carroll wrote, ". . . You just might as well proclaim yourself a simpering idiot as to stand there and say, 'Oh, let's not have any dogmas, creeds, and confessions of faith; let's just have religion.' How can you have a creedless religion? You had just as well adopt as your god a jelly-fish floated up on the beach, that has no backbone, merely a pulpy mass, as to say, 'I want a religion without a creed.' " Dr. Carroll continues, "It really reflects upon the intelligence of a reasoning man to say that he has no creed or that he objects to creeds or that he objects to a confession of that creed."
Baptists at different times in their history, and to meet impending claims and conflicts, have issued their confession of faith, giving a decisive place to the Word of God as their one authority. The place we assign the Scriptures in our confession of faith is decisive for nearly all other questions of belief and practice. Dr. John A. Broadus rejected pluralism and narrowed the Baptist bond of union with his statement on "Fellowship in Doctrine." He stated that we must have doctrinal affinity, oneness of creed and confession of faith, as the expression of personal conviction concerning the fundamental doctrines and policy of the Scriptures. Baptist Associations require a church to demonstrate its doctrinal affinity with them. It must submit an acceptable confession of faith and church covenant before it can be admitted to the fellowship. For it is written, "Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?" (Amos 3:3).
Baptists have always been a confessional people, and anyone that declares we are not, truly is a different kind of Baptist.
WE MUST LASH CHRISTIAN EDUCATION TO THE BIBLE
Consider this scenario. A Baptist student graduates from high school and desires a Christian education in a Baptist college. He enrolls and attends his first religion class with great eagerness. On the first day, before the first lecture begins, the professor tells his class, "When you walk through the door and into this class you are to forget what you learned in Sunday school and church and at home about the Bible. I intend to teach you to think for yourself and to decide what you believe is the truth." What the professor is saying is, "Objective truth does not matter. Only what you believe is true." Add to this a few sneers, a little ridicule, and some high sounding phrases and the respect of the student for the sacred book has been destroyed. Four years later the student will graduate, believing that he received a Christian education but doubting the truthfulness of God's Word and spouting the mantra, "They taught me how to think."
In an effort to appear intellectual to the secular academic world, some teachers believe this is the appropriate way to educate our students. To them objective truth does not matter, only what one believes is true. In doing so they desire the approval of the world rather than the approval of God. Is this the kind of Christian education you desire for your son or daughter or a young person from your church? Is this the kind of training you would prefer for the future pastors of Baptist churches who will be preaching in Baptist pulpits?
True Christian education has been changed from education with a "Christian worldview" to education with a "Christian background." Education with only a Christian background will not lead Baptist students to make a true commitment to Baptist ideals, biblical theology, missions, and the Lord's Church. This is certainly not the purpose for which our founding fathers established these institutions of higher learning.
A Baptist college justifies its right to exist and can claim the generous support of God's people only when it lovingly and faithfully instructs the students under their care in the Holy Word of God. None but the pious can teach the Bible properly. It is the solemn duty of those that govern a Christian institution to see that it is filled with the Spirit of Christ.
A Baptist college should be an evangelical agency-a missionary institution seeking the conversion of every unsaved student. Before school began at Louisiana College this fall, through the witness of their coach, 14 football players were saved. Earlier in the year 14 other students were saved in a campus revival.
Young ministers, as a rule, are poor. God does not call many of the rich to preach. These young men must have college training. We must endow our colleges generously and make Christian education as affordable as possible for our preachers and all our young people.
Dr. J. P. Green was an educator who served as president of William Jewel College for more than 30 years. He said that sometimes teachers depart from the faith and teach things that subvert the faith they once professed. Once they are removed, they will howl about "liberty," but we should not let that influence us. When we employ teachers, they understand that they are teaching in a Baptist school, and we do not intend to pay them to pull down what we employed them to build up. The trustees and the administration have a sacred trust and they owe it to God and the brethren and the young people to keep that trust sacredly.
K. Owen White, a graduate of Southern Seminary and pastor of the First Baptist Church of Houston, said the following in his message titled "Death in the Pot": "Several great denominations in the last generation have drifted from the faith of our fathers, have lost their conviction that the Bible is authoritative and dependable, and now have little evangelistic witness." He said that the drift came from their academic institutions and literature.
Concerning academic freedom he said, "If the appeal is made for 'academic freedom,' let it be said that we gladly grant any man the right to believe what he wants to-but, we do not grant him the right to believe and express views in conflict with our historic position concerning the Bible as the Word of God while he is teaching in one of our schools, built and supported by Baptist funds." He also suggested that the convention invite men with neo-orthodox views to find a place of service with groups or denominations of like theological inclinations and to ask the trustees of our institutions to consider seriously the dangers involved in neo-orthodox views and exercise caution in their approval of faculty members.
Another Theologian, Dr. W. R. White was president at Baylor when I was completing my undergraduate degree. In his address to the university faculty on academic freedom, he said, "Academic freedom is not a one-way street. All liberties are relative. My freedom stops when it infringes on your freedom." He said, ". . . that students, trustees, and the convention have rights that are to be respected and that the classroom teacher is not the sole possessor of academic freedom, answerable to no one but himself and he is not the sovereign authority on truth for his students."
Dr. White continued, "The teacher does not have the right to be sarcastic and cynical toward the point of view of the students or of the denomination fostering the institution in which he is teaching. To make students think is not the greatest and supreme good. Thinking is not to be indeterminate, wild and reckless . . . History is replete with instances where people gave up a dynamic faith for positions presented by learned men, refuted long since by equally learned men who followed them. The apostle Paul wrote, 'Prove all things, hold fast that which is good' (1 Thess. 5:21). He did not say, junk all your convictions or preconceived ideas; start from scratch and make an objective search for the truth for yourself."
Thirty years after his death, Dr. B. H. Carroll was still revered as the most influential theologian among Southern Baptists. In his deathbed commission to his successor, Dr. L. R. Scarborough, a native of Louisiana, Dr. Carroll said, "Keep the Seminary lashed to the cross. If heresy ever comes in the teaching, take it to the faculty. If they will not hear you and take prompt action, take it to the trustees of the Seminary. If they will not hear you, take it to the Convention that appoints the Board of Trustees, and if they will not hear you, take it to the great common people of our churches. You will not fail to get a hearing then."
Let future historians record that Louisiana Baptists, in our generation, lashed Christian education to God's Holy Word and to the Cross of Jesus Christ in their homes, in their churches, in their educational institutions, and agencies.
WE MUST PROTECT COOPERATIVE MISSIONS
The concept that later became the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention was birthed by a Louisiana Baptist. In 1895, E. O. Ware of Louisiana devised a plan that suggested the churches in Louisiana would send their benevolent money to the Executive Board of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. He suggested that the money be distributed among the objects of the convention work, "State, Home, and Foreign Missions and Ministerial Education." The plan was titled "Plan of Systematic Benevolence" and called for the money to be given to one object each quarter through the year.
By 1915, the Budget Plan had been refined. The church treasurers were encouraged to send their gifts each month to the Executive Board. They in turn would distribute the funds according to a percentage to each of the Convention's interests.
In 1923, Dr. M. E. Dodd, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Shreveport, was asked to serve as chairman of an 85 member committee to develop a unified giving plan for the Southern Baptist Convention. When Dr. Dodd made the first presentation of the new program to the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting in 1924, he said the committee drew heavily from the concept set forth in the Budget Plan being followed in Louisiana.
The new plan presented was finally adopted in 1925 and was titled the Cooperative Program. Southern Baptists were unwilling to adopt this broad based and central form of mission funding without a theological basis of accountability. It needed consensus and The Baptist Faith and Message confession of faith gave that consensus and won the approval of the messengers.
The Baptist Faith and Message and the Cooperative Program were adopted in tandem at the 1925 Southern Baptist Convention. The Cooperative Program plan for carrying out the Great Commission rested upon the confessional faith statement of The Baptist Faith and Message. Without the adoption of The Baptist Faith and Message there would have been no Cooperative Program as we know it today.
The Cooperative Program supports the International Mission Board and 4,946 missionaries in 160 countries. It also supports the North American Mission Board and 5,081 missionaries, six seminaries, the Annuity Board, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and Baptist Press. One fourth of all seminary students in the United States are Southern Baptists. Southern Baptists are educating one fourth of all the future pastors, missionaries, evangelists, college and seminary teachers, and music, youth and education ministers in America. We have the three largest seminaries in the world. Of these three, the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary is the second largest.
The Cooperative Program supports our Louisiana Baptist state mission program and 188 missionaries. It supports Louisiana College, the Baptist Children's Home, the Baptist Retirement Center, the Baptist Message and the Louisiana Baptist Foundation. One dollar given to the Cooperative Program by a local church allows it to participate in every mission endeavor in which Southern Baptists and Louisiana Baptists are involved. The Cooperative Program is a gift to Southern Baptists from our Lord to help us fulfill the Great Commission and reach the lost with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Even though there does exist "another generation" of "different" Baptists that do not know or have cast aside our theological history, the vast majority of Louisiana and Southern Baptists still believe and practice the faith of our Baptist forefathers.
There are proposals being offered and actions being taken today that threaten the vitality of the Cooperative Program. A different program that is competing for Cooperative Program dollars is being offered to our churches by individuals and groups of people that have a separate agenda. They are asking Southern Baptist Churches to divert all or part of their mission giving to a shadow convention that is trying to mirror what the Southern Baptist Convention is already doing.
Churches in two state conventions have rejected this attempt to divert money away from the Cooperative Program and have formed new state conventions that are loyal to the Cooperative Program and the Southern Baptist Convention. Last year the Baptist General Convention of Texas cut the funding of our Southern Baptist seminaries in the amount of four and one-half million dollars and gave it to seminaries not supported by the Southern Baptist Convention. Texas churches rose up and sent their Cooperative Program dollars directly to the Executive Board of the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville and restored full funding to our seminaries.
These same groups have cut all funding of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Baptist Press and the Executive Board of the SBC and are now threatening to cut the funding of our North American and International Mission Boards. We must not allow this to happen in our Louisiana Baptist Convention. We have more than 10,000 missionaries to support and 14,029 seminary students to educate.
Recently Dr. Leon Hyatt, former Chairman of the Board of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, related to me an exciting example of cooperative mission work in Zimbabwe. He and his wife Ann were assigned to evangelize a township named Kuwadzana. An interpreter was assigned to them along with a group of four singers and they were told to go to a crushed rock parking lot in the middle of town and start a church.
The first night the singers began to sing to an empty parking lot over a loudspeaker system powered by a generator. By the third song about 25 people had gathered, and when it came time for Dr. Hyatt to preach, there were about 100 people standing in the parking lot. As he began preaching through his interpreter, the people got excited as he told them of the love of Jesus and His death on the cross for our sins. At invitation time 75 people responded. Thinking they must not have understood, Dr. Hyatt preached his message again and when he gave the invitation they responded again. The mission team wrote down the names of those who had been saved and asked them to come back the next night.
The next day the team visited in some of the homes of those who had accepted Christ. One lady invited them in and then immediately left them saying she would be back in a few minutes. Fifteen minutes later she returned with her cousin and asked Dr. Hyatt to tell her cousin about Jesus and how He can save her. The cousin accepted Jesus upon hearing the Gospel.
One day a man approached Dr. Hyatt in the middle of a dirt street and said, "I understand you can tell me how to be saved." As he began to tell the man the Gospel through his interpreter, a dozen men gathered around to listen. Dr. Hyatt asked the man if he understood the message and was he willing to trust Christ. One of the men who had gathered around to hear Dr. Hyatt said to the man, "Go ahead. Do it. I did it last night in the parking lot and it is real. Do it now!" Not only did that man accept Christ as his Savior, but all of the other men who were there trusted Christ also.
Night after night more people came and more were saved. One evening as Dr. Hyatt began to preach his message, a drenching rain began to fall. Everyone was soaked but no one moved so he just kept preaching. Finally someone pointed to a shelter on the side of a bar room. As the crowd moved to the shelter, some people came out of the bar to hear the Gospel. That night 26 more people gave their hearts to Jesus.
At the end of the week, Dr. Hyatt challenged the believers to meet regularly under a huge oak tree that stood near by and read and discuss their Bibles. He told them that although they did not have a pastor, the Holy Spirit would help them to understand what they read. The next Sunday they met for worship under that tree and continued doing so for two years.
They built a rough little church building with their own hands in which to worship. In the third year they called a pastor and have now started several other churches. What made all this possible? The Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention.
One week after the September 11th terrorist attack against our nation, Dr. Paige Patterson, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, gave his report to the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. Southeastern Seminary has grown from 500 students to 2,200 students under Dr. Patterson's leadership in only seven years.
Dr. Patterson told of a conversation he had with a seminary student who was enrolled in the "two by two" program. This is a program that permits ministers to spend two years in seminary training and the next two years on the mission field while completing their degree through a long-distance learning program. The young man and his wife, who have two small children, had made a commitment to go to Afghanistan as missionaries. Dr. Patterson said to the young man, "Son, I suppose you have had to change your plans in light of the present situation and the war that is about to begin." The young man replied, "No, sir, Dr. Patterson, we have not changed our plans. The Lord has called us to Afghanistan and my wife and I are determined to go regardless of the circumstances." Dr. Patterson said, "I cannot even tell you his name because it would put him and his family in great danger."
Dr. Jerry Rankin, President of the International Mission Board, said God did not tell us to take the Gospel to the nations that would permit us to send missionaries or to where it is safe. He told us to take the Gospel to every nation. We have young men and women listening to the call of the Holy Spirit and following our Lord's command regardless of where He leads them. The Scripture declares, "How shall they preach except they are sent" (Rom. 10:15). Why would any Southern Baptist Church divert its mission support to another group when we have young people with this kind of commitment? The Cooperative Program makes it possible to both educate and send these dedicated missionaries to the nations of the world.
Recently, I read the new slogan of the Baptist Message: STICK TOGETHER-ACCOMPLISH MORE. We must continue to walk in the footsteps of our Southern Baptist forefathers and the apostles. Let us march on together as tried soldiers of Christ in the conflicts and successes that await us, for we have the certain knowledge that the work in which we are engaged is not our own, but God's.
I urgently call on all Louisiana Baptists: STICK TOGETHER-ACCOMPLISH MORE.
I gratefully acknowledge my indebtedness to Carole Maynard who proofed this manuscript and made valuable suggestions. I am sincerely grateful to Cathy Smart, my Administrative Assistant, who corrected the manuscript and prepared it for printing and for my oral presentation. I am especially grateful to Mary Harrell French, my wife, who has been my encourager and constant companion during the preparation of this message.
The writer does not claim any originality in the preparation of this message. The information in this message has been taken directly from a study of the books in the following bibliography.
Nancy Tatom Ammerman. Baptist Battles. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1990.
Robert A. Baker. A Summary of Christian History. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994.
Paul A. Basden, ed. Has Our Theology Changed? Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994.
Paul Basden and David Dockery, ed. The People of God. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1991.
Henry T. Blackaby and Henry Brandt. The Power of the Call. Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1997.
Robert H. Bork. Slouching Towards Gomorrah. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.
John A. Broadus. Baptist Confessions, Covenants, and Catechisms. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996.
John A. Broadus. Selected Works of John A. Brodus. 4 vols. Cape Coral: Founders Press, 2001.
B. H. Carroll. An Interpretation of the English Bible. 6 vols. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1973.
B. H. Carroll. Baptists and Their Doctrines. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995.
B. H. Carroll. Inspiration of the Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1980.
J. L. Dagg. Manual of Theology and Church Order. Harrisonburg: Gano Books, 1982.
Russell H. Dilday, Jr. The Doctrine of Biblical Authority. Nashville: Convention Press, 1982.
Charles W. Deweese. Baptist Church Covenants. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1990.
David Dockery, Kenneth Mathews & Robert Sloan, ed., Foundations for Biblical Interpretation. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994
James T. Draper Jr. Authority: The Critical Issue for Southern Baptists. Old Tappan: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1984.
Roy T. Edgemon. The Doctrines Baptists Believe. Nashville: Convention Press, 1988.
Al Fasol. With A Bible in Their Hands. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994.
Jesse C. Fletcher. The Southern Baptist Convention. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994.
J. M. Frost. Baptist Why and Why Not. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996.
Timothy George and David S. Dockery, ed. Baptist Theologians. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1990.
Stanley J. Grenz. Theology for the Community of God. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994.
James Randolph Hobbs. The Pastor's Manual. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1962
Judson Baptist Association. Constitution and By-Laws. Wolfe City: Southern Baptist Press, 2000.
W. L. Lumpkin. Baptist Confessions of Faith. Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1969.
H. Leon McBeth. A Sourcebook for Baptist Heritage. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1990.
H. Leon McBeth. The Baptist Heritage. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1987.
Basil Manly Jr. The Bible Doctrine of Inspiration. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995.
Herbert J. Miles. The Evangelical Dilemma. Dallas: Criterion Publications, 1987.
Joe Nesom. Be Sure What You Believe. Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 1999.
Thomas J. Nettles. By His Grace and For His Glory. Nashville: Baker Bookhouse, 1986.
J. M. Pendleton. Baptist Church Manual. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1966.
James E. Reed and Ronnie Prevost. A History of Christian Education. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993.
Franklin Segler. Broadman Minister's Manual. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1976.
Ralph L. Smith. Old Testament Theology. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993.
James L. Sullivan. Baptist Polity As I See It. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1983.
R. A. Torrey. The Fundamentals. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1958
The Proceedings of the Conference on Biblical Inerrancy 1987. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1987
The Proceedings of the Conference on Biblical Interpretation 1988. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1988.
Pamphlets, Papers & News Articles
Russell D. Moore. Chicken Soup for the Baptist Soul. Theological Chaos at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, 2000.
Russell D. Moore. Observations from the October SBC Life. The Question I Have-Are There Really Baptists, 2000.
Bruce Prescott. Mainstream Baptists and the Bible, 2001.
Bruce Prescott. The 2000 Baptist Faith & Message-An Unconscionable Confession. Printed by Mainstream Louisiana Baptists.
Pastor T. C. French Jr. is a graduate of Baylor University (B.A., 1954) with a double major in history and religion and minors in Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics and French. He is also a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (B.D., 1957; M.Div., 1969.)
Permission is hereby granted to reproduce this document in its entirety without alteration. Scripture quotations not otherwise identified are from the King James Version of the Bible.
Note on the term "pseudo theological." I use the term "pseudo theological" because the doctrine growing out of the Reformation is "The Priesthood of All Believers." It is not a doctrine that describes a lonely, isolated seeker of truth but rather a band of faithful believers united in a common confession as a local, visible congregation. This glorious doctrine has been denigrated today into the ideology of "every tub sits on its own bottom" and "every man's church is his own hat." November 12, 2001