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2007.05.06

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peter lumpkins

All,

Dr. Dement's position, in my view, represents perhaps the most balanced view possible pertaining to emphasizing the need for confession while at the same time retaining Scripture's rightful place as final authority for faith and practise. He writes:

"Personally I do not cherish a high regard for anyone who is unable or unwilling to state what he believes concerning the great doctrines of our faith and to stand by his convictions in calm and storm, in life and death. But we must guard with holy jealousy any statement of truth as a rival of the New Testament."

Similar to the good Professor, my own view is to deny credal status to any faith document by appealing to it as least as possible in matters of authoratative faith. For me, appeal to epistemic authority should ultimately rest in the New Testament alone--and the Old Testamnet interpreted in light of the New.

I do, however, think a study of both confessions and creeds is helpful in the interpretive process, mostly to assist us in what the Church *has* believed in distinction from what the Church *must* believe.

Grace today. With that, I am...

Peter

Luke

Peter,

Please grant me the latitude to think out loud for a moment. The quotes from Dr.Dement are profound indeed, and yet, I am presently at loss then to understand the slide into classical liberalism and neoorthodoxy. Dr. Dement said, "On the other hand, many claim to accept the word of God and yet put such interpretations upon its teachings that our Christian charity is strained to believe in both their intelligence and sincerity." It would be a far stretch to say that a "statement of faith/creed" could have prevented this, but would it not be fair to say that it could have "restrained" or helped to "reign" it in? Surely a person who denies the literal physical resurrection of Jesus would fit the "strained to believe in both their intelligence and sincerity."

Like I said, I am at present thinking out loud. While I would certainly like to believe that "we have no creed but the Bible" would be effective 100 percent of the time, to me that is simply a utopian hope. Not that God's Word changes, but simply because man's interpretation of God's Word changes and some of those changes are more than tertiary, sometimes, in my opinion, they do cut to the core of the NT and what is reasonable.

So, I do think there is great value in creeds, more than just understanding history, but certainly not if the creed is meant to take the place of the Word of God.
Thanks again for such a timely post Peter.

Luke

Scott

Peter,

I notice that Dr. Dement refers at least three times to the New Testament as authoritative, yet he makes no mention of the Old Testament. Do you have any insights on this exclusion? Did he by chance hold to some variety of ultra-dispensatinalism?

Scott

Scott

Peter,

I notice that Dr. Dement refers at least three times to the New Testament as authoritative, yet he makes no mention of the Old Testament. Do you have any insights on this exclusion? Did he by chance hold to some variety of ultra-dispensationalism?

Scott

peter lumpkins

All,

Thanks for the comments. I'm caught on the run and will join in later. Grace to all of you. With that, I am...

Peter

peter lumpkins

Luke,

Thanks, Luke, for the candid remarks. I hear them well.

If I may point out, however, I'm unsure that Dr. Carver and those who argue for "no creed but the Bible" assert that it is 100% effective. Indeed I possess even less confidence that those who argue for confessions, as did Dr. Dement, argue as well that confessions offer a fool-proof way by which to rid ourselves of doctrinal error. No such precaution exists, in my view, when we add to the equation the reformation doctrine of the priesthood of believers, a doctrine of which historic Baptists have fully adhered.

Also, Luke, I remain skeptical that confessions, at least as Baptists have historically employed them, served as instruments to "reign in" or "restrain" not only other believers but even other *Baptist* believers. The 1925 BF&M is remarkably clear in its insistence that "That [confessions] constitute a consensus of opinion of some Baptist body, large or small [and that] any group of Baptists, large or small, have the inherent right to draw up for themselves and publish to the world a confession of their faith whenever they may think it advisable to do so." For them, confessions served more as an identity mark rather than a control mechanism to "reign in" or "restrict."

And realize, Luke, I am surely open to correction on this perception as I claim absolutely no expertise as a Baptist historian.

Grace always. With that, I am...

Peter

peter

Scott,

I trust your day has been grace-filled. I do not think at all Dr. Mullins possessed reservations pertaining to the OT Scripture. "In the Scriptures, we have all the truth required for the religious life of men" he wrote of the sufficiency of Scripture in 1912. And "Behind this sufficiency and authoritativeness of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments is their inspiration." (Baptists Beliefs, p.11 and p.13 respectively).

Yet, Dr. Mullins does seem to make a razor sharp distinction between the two testaments. He saw the OT only as partial revelation. That is, unfulfilled apart from the NT. He writes:

"The Old Testament is the record of the preliminary revelation. The New Testament is the completion of the record. Through these New Testament
Scriptures we maintain connection with the historical facts on which Christianity rests. These are our sufficient and authoritative source of
knowledge for the great deed of the redeeming God who entered humanity to save through Jesus Christ our Lord." (The Christian Religion in Doctrinal Expression p.47).

Hope this helps. With that, I am...

Peter

Luke

Peter,
I am really thinking about what you said and I am prompted then to ask this question. There is the "perception" by some that the 2000 BF&M was "restrictive". Are we then seeing a change, before our eyes, of what "confessions" were initially intended to be? In other words, are there "some" who are now intending to use the BF&M as a "restricting" tool or has this been a charge thrown out at every new confession? I must confess that I am really weak on church history, which, is one of the reasons I'm drawn to this site. Peter, you cut out the fat and leave just the meat and that helps me to see the main flow of things. Thanks.

Luke

peter lumpkins

Luke,

I have said in other contexts that while I wholeheartedly have supported the Conservative Resurgence consistently, by now there surely are things we may more objectively observe about precisely what went on in the 70s-90s in the SBC.

Many consequences were positive--from my view. Honesty demands, however, we come clean and say some significant things were negative for Baptists. And for me, one of the most blatant, unintended consequence no one I know expected was the quantum leap toward credalism SBs made during that time.

Today's obsession with employing the BF&M to "reel" in the Trustees, for example, for setting doctrinal parameters BEYOND the BF&M as if the BF&M were our final statement of faith, stands as one obvious example of tip-toeing toward credalism. Candidly, they are only doing what I approved in the eighties with too much dependance on employing the BF&M as a battering ram to knock down other Baptist houses. Then, I was totally short-sighted of my placing an inordinate amount of power in human documents. I helped us toward this drift into credalism and didn't even know it at the time. That's the "unintended consequences" I keep speaking about. I personally am responsible for some of this drift.

In short, the more we appeal to a document for validity--whether theological validity or other--the more implicit authority we bestow upon that document.

Some like our brother Les Puryear, who posted recently upon this, appear to be open to "yearly" evaluations of the BF&M. See Les' resolution here: http://lesliepuryear.blogspot.com/2007_04_01_archive.html

For me, my stomach turns sour somewhat, placing such focus upon a document of our making. I repent with double sackcloth and triple the ashes.

In the end, I guess I'd rather possess my utopian vision of "no creed but the Bible" ;^) than to be wed to a paper with our name on it.

Peace, Luke. With that, I am...

Peter

Luke

Peter,
Thanks for your time. I want to pursue just one more angle of this please sir. I have a friend who is a staunch Calvinist who is also very Confessional minded. I realize that my next statement may be misinterpreted by some but I sincerely ask with no desire to belittle anyone. Is strict confessionalism/creedalism a side-effect of Calvinism? With the resurgence of Calvinism in the SBC, would that possibly explain the context of what we are discussing. I also see in my perusal of other blogs that many times, Calvinists are appealing to this confession or that confession and I'm wondering if the emphasis upon the BF&M isn't just a quirk of calvinistic influence? It is quite possible that there is no link at all and yet by asking the question, it should be obvious that I think there may be such a link. Is this just mindless meanderings Peter or is this possibly something that others have pointed out as well?

Thanks,
Luke

peter

Luke,

I think actually this conversation is helpful and, in my view, hopeful. Nor do I think anyone should take as offensive what you've queried about the possible link between Calvinism and Confessionalism. If so, it seems to me it could be characterized as little other than sheer pettiness.

More than once, you need to know, I've travelled down that road in reasoning virtually the same. It goes almost without saying that, at least as far as our Founders Calvinist brothers go, being wed to particular confessions is, for them, necessary.

Indeed one cannot be either a Founders Friendly church or accepted as a Founders Friend without also embracing an additional confession other than the BF&M. The choices are Abstract of Principles, 1st/2nd London Confession, New Hampshire Confession (http://www.founders.org/misc/chlist.html). Incipient in their movement, from my view, is a trend toward more theologically pendantic faith statements, which all four documents represent (perhaps the exception being New Hampshire).

My theory is--and it is only a theory--when the Conservative Resurgence began to make some serious steam in the early 80s, SBC Calvinists were glad to climb aboard since the popularized issue in the Convention was Inerrancy of Scripture, which, historically speaking, has as its most able defenders, Reformed thinkers.

And, the CR leaders welcoming all the assistence it could get, enthusiatically embraced the fledging Calvinist movement aboard their vessel, not realizing, if you will, the eventual payout.

Consequently, in the post-battle years beginning by at least the mid-90s, when the CR was simply gathering up their hard won booty, the Founders Calvinist brothers, began, as did the Grecians in Acts 6, "complaining because they were being overlooked in the daily ministrations."

All that to say this, my Brother Luke: the current situation, in part, is driven by the more recent Calvinist Resurgence, who sees itself as the natural heir to the Conservative Resurgence. For them, Inerrancy was the first stage. But, left as is, the bread remains only half cooked. Founders Calvinists--whose eyes at times seem exclusively cock-eyed only toward strongly Calvinistic Confessions--from my view, suggests pushing the SBC toward full-blown Confessionalism, with little wiggle room for dissent.

I do not believe the CR leaders knew well with whom they partnered in the early 80s and what the price would be.

As with your words, Luke, so with mine: I hope they have been gracful enough not to offend but honest enough to solicit dialog from those toward whom I have directed them. These are my thoughts about Calvinists/Confessionalism and, like all my thoughts, are completely open to correction. I love and accept my Calvinist brothers in the Lord. I covet also their brotherly love and acceptance of me, though I'm sure they possess a crayon on the issue you've raised not yet available in my box.

Grace ever. With that, I am...

Peter

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