Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Guest Post: Dr. Greg Welty, Will the Real Gnostic Please Step Forward

I had not intended to have guest posting on my blog during my vacation, but a special circumstance arose. Dr. Greg Welty attempted to post the content of this entry as a comment over at SBC Outpost in response to Alan Cross, "Is There a Gnostic Creedalism Creeping into the SBC?". Dr. Welty offered his comment at 11:47 am on July 4. For whatever reason, eight hours and eight comments later, his comment is still sitting in comment moderation over there at our new bastion of frank and open dialogue. [NOTE: Micah Fries has clarified that author Alan Cross did not have sufficient privileges to approve the comment.] So, I gladly volunteered to yield the unused floor to him over here at Praisegod Barebones. He writes better stuff than I do, anyway: =================== Begin Dr. Welty's Post =================== Alan, Here's why it's extremely difficult for many of us to take your cries of "Gnosticism" seriously. First, if your argument proves anything, then it proves too much. In particular, it proves that quite a few people in your camp are "Gnostics" as well. You *talk* about the BFM as a basis for cooperation, but in reality you don't really believe that. For you and others believe that trustees and entity employees can pick and choose *which* doctrines of the BFM they shall affirm. Wade speaks of dividing up the BFM into "essentials" and "non-essentials". But the BFM says in its own preamble that the doctrines contained within it "are doctrines we hold precious and as *essential* to the Baptist tradition of faith and practice" (emphasis mine). The preamble also states that these doctrines are "those articles of the Christian faith which are *most surely* held among us" (emphasis mine). But you reject all this. Instead of a "Clear Baptist Identity," your camp believes in a "Clear Set of Essentials" that is a *subset* of the doctrines in the BFM. But where has this set of essentials been stated and agreed upon by the convention as a whole? It hasn't. But apparently, you with your Gnostic insight can discern it where others can't. You say: "there are voices of substantial weight in SBC life who are telling us that there is a 'Clear Baptist Identity' beyond what is articulated in the BF&M." But there are voices in *your* camp of SBC life who are telling us that there is a "Clear Set of Essentials" which the BFM does not articulate for us. You accuse others of going Gnostic if they draw a line beyond the BFM. But you are equally Gnostic if you draw a line *within* the BFM. If one line is invisible, so is the other. If one line lacks consensus, so does the other. You say: "many do not want to give up the power to articulate and enforce a Clear Baptist Identity as they see fit." But apparently, many in your camp do not want to give up the power to articulate and enforce a Clear Set of Essentials as they see fit. Indeed, the irony of your side's looking for a canon-within-the-canon in the BFM is that you clearly reject the wisdom of the EC statement, on *your* interpretation of that statement. That statement says that the BFM is sufficient to provide guidance on doctrinal matters. Unfortunately, the BFM itself doesn't tell us which of its doctrines are negotiable for the purposes of cooperation. So in order to ascertain those non-essentials, it looks like you, as a Gnostic, are going to have to look elsewhere for guidance (contrary to what the EC statement says about sufficiency for doctrinal guidance). If you and others don't come clean about these palpable inconsistencies in your position, it's going to be hard to take your criticisms seriously. You want the BFM to be a maximal standard, beyond which no one can go, but you can't even manage to affirm it as a *minimal* standard! Which position shows less respect for the BFM? I'll let you make that call. These are difficult matters, to be sure. But to pretend that they don't even exist precludes meaningful dialogue. Second, historical precedent doesn't bode too well for your side. You or others might say: "But trustees and employees have always been able to opt out of these piddly little claims in the BFM. As long as they're honest about what they're doing, what's the harm?" But if you go down that road, then it defeats your larger argument. As you are no doubt well aware, for the past twenty years NAMB has had a policy of not hiring missionaries who speak in tongues. This is an issue that goes beyond the BFM doctrinally, and yet there was no hue and cry when the Convention met the year after the policy was enacted. (Cf. the first two sections of Emir Caner's paper for details.) That policy certainly excluded candidates who actually subscribe to the BFM, and yet it's been in place for twenty years. So why can't someone say, "Trustees have always been able to enforce doctrinal standards additional to but not contradictory to the BFM. As long as they're honest about what they're doing, what's the harm?" And, in fact, some have made this exact point. In short, neither in principle nor historically does your argument make any sense. Dr. Greg Welty


Greg Welty said...

"Who speaks for Southern Baptists? You do!"

Perhaps this needs to be amended ;-)

Bart Barber said...

Dr. Welty,

Glad you've been the first to comment. The floor is yours. I may stop back in from time to time, but as guest host, I'm going to let you field the majority of comments as well.

Greg Welty said...

Sorry; I'm teaching a four-hour class tomorrow morning. I'll check back in sometime tomorrow afternoon.

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Pristine argument as always.

Interesting that this was not posted in an open forum.

Tim Rogers said...

Dr. Welty,

It may be that SBC Outpost is afraid of the truth.


Todd Nelson said...

Greg and Bart, it's unfortunate that this guest post didn't get put up at SBCOutpost in a timely manner. I'm hoping for the best about possible reasons.

Greg, I think Wade has offered some "essentials" for cooperation -- a subset of the BFM, if you will, for the sake of cooperation in ministry and missions. His minimum list hasn't seemed to gather much traction, yet, but at least he's been forthcoming and transparent. I am wondering what you or Bart or others would add to the BFM so that adherence to all its points would be sufficient for appointment by the SBC mission boards.

BTW, as a SWBTS student in the 80s, I objected as loudly as I could to the Home Mission Board's anti-tongues policy with a letter to a State paper editor and in classroom discussions. But I was a mere seminary student, and the Conservative Resurgence was in full political swing, so nobody seemed to pay much attention to the new HMB policy.

From where I serve as a missionary pastor of an international church, I alternate between consternation and resignation at the continual feuding among Southern Baptists. I am a casualty of the fighting and the anti-charismatic views of trustees. I am not a charismatic, but I am open to the operation of all of the Holy Spirit's gifts today including tongues, prophecy, exorcism, etc. If that puts me in the minority and unacceptable to SBC agencies (and it has), then so be it.

An unbelieving and dying world desperately needs the Bread of Life. But some Southern Baptists seem intent on arguing the finer points of theology and cooperating only with those who will make bona fide Baptists out of new believers. Lord help us make disciples and trust Him with how they turn out. That's what I was taught in my missions classes about planting indigenous churches.

I'd like to be hopeful about the conversation between Malcolm Yarnell and David Rogers at David's blog. But as I said over there, I think it may wind up a draw -- agreeing to disagree about certain key points of doctrine and strategy. At least it will be a civil conversation. But if some statesmen don't rise up soon and make peace, I'm concerned that the SBC ship will splinter even further. Nevertheless, the Lord's work will get done through the SBC and the various groups or networks.

Sorry for the lengthy and ranting nature of my comment. But I feel a little better now, thanks. :-)

micah fries said...

C'mon guys. Be reasonable. I'm the only person at SBCOutpost who has the ability to approve or deny comments. I was out of the house all day due to the holiday. I just got to a computer and found what had happened. Dr. Welty's comment was held for moderation due to a check setup in our system to automatically hold any comment with more than one hyperlink listed in it. His comment happened to have two (2) hyperlinks in it.

This has nothing to do with a "conspiracy theory" and everything to do with me enjoying a holiday with my family. Next time you are convinced of a "conspiracy", why don't you go to the source first and check it out prior to open speculation?

Alan Cross said...

Nice try, Greg. But, it is you who assumes too much. In trying to place me into a "camp" with Wade and others, did you ever take the time to ask me if I agreed with him regarding your assertions? Your whole post is nonsensical if I do not believe that there should be caveats. I have heard Wade himself say that if a decision is ever made that disallows for caveats, he would resign. The present situation allows for caveats. He was open about his disagreements and was allowed to serve. Wade does not make the rules. Someone else does, and he was allowed in. Your real problem is with the trustees of the IMB, not Wade. If you disagree so much, why don't you take it up with them? They are the ones who let him serve.

I have no problem with a situation that does not allow for caveats if that is what Southern Baptists want. It is a consistent position, except for the fact that you have become completely creedal, which I have less of a problem with than others. If Southern Baptists speak on an issue and agree to something in our confession of faith, then I think that it is entirely consistent to expect everyone to follow that. I DO have a problem when a small group gets to decide on a "Clear Baptist Identity" that goes beyond our statement of faith.

Your mistake is in confusing me with Wade on this issue. He is just playing by the rules that were set up when he came in and he is being honest about it. I respect him for that. But, we don't walk lock step on these things. We've told you guys that before.

But, I am glad that my post garnered such attention from you. Perhaps next time you'll deal with my positions instead of Wade's. :)

Tim Rogers said...

Dr. Welty,

I Brother Micah post his comment at my place. I just wanted to post my comment over here also.

Brother Micah,

You call it sad, I call it whatever! No one has sad anything in the world about a conspiracy. That is your word.

I have never claimed to be a journalist. That is what you at SBC Outpost have claimed. As a journalist, you set the parameters at SBC Outpost, not I. If you have set them as such you should know that when someone gives clear and concise information they document that information. For one to discuss and give accurate information an author will use more than one source. Therefore, if you have the hyperlink set at only one, then you have openly admitted that you do not expect people to present dialog with accuracy, you only expect people to present dialog that is "right in their own eyes".

I pray that this "hyperlink" debaucle gets cleared up, but it appears from Brother Alan Cross' response the buck is being passed. It seems that when one argues ideas now, you have to have an argument that covers the gambit. IOW, an idea that is being used in action by another is not the idea of the author?!.!? According to that logic the world owes Stalin and others an apology because we should have been attacking Karl Marx & Frederic Engels.


Bart Barber said...


The phrase "clear Baptist identity" as reflective of principles beyond The Baptist Faith & Message is, as far as I can tell, solely the language of Jerry Corbaley. David Rogers (see here) then chose to transfer Jerry's language over to everyone involved in a movement that David has styled "The Baptist Renaissance" (after an article by Dr. Malcolm Yarnell). You have now branded an entire group of people who disagree with you with Jerry's words.

At least Greg is interacting with the clear leader of the dissenting movement.

By the way, Yarnell's "Baptist Renaissance" is clearly dealing with items that are expressed in The Baptist Faith & Message but that are nonetheless in trouble in our churches.

micah fries said...


It is unbelievable to me that you wouldn't trust my response. As I stated on your blog, the following is an explanation of why the policy regarding multiple hyerplinks.


You must not have read the personal email that I sent to your home. The purpose for setting the limit at one hyperlink (which is a Wordpress standard, not my own standard) is that spamming commenters regularly attempt to post spam comments that include a series of links to objectionable sites involving pornography, gambling, etc. I receive anywhere from 40-60 of these kind of spam comments a day. The only way to protect against these kind of comments being posted with all the legitimate comments is to hold the comments using multiple hyperlinks for moderation.

Geoff Baggett said...


The hyperlink thing is for real. Any blog that uses the WordPress frame comes with the "Akismet" spam filtration feature. Akismet automatically places any comments with multiple hyperlinks (more than one) on hold in moderation.

Frankly, I am thankful for it. For, as Micah said, without it I would have about 50 porn and gambling comments and links posted every day.

The only thing that a blog administrator can do is check Akismet closely and regularly ... which is what I do.

I suppose the only thing that Outpost can do is make sure someone is always vigilant and "standing the post." Micah - no more sleeping on guard duty! ;)

*Note - This is the second time I have posted this comment. The first time it disappeared due to the unbelievable creepy-crawly slowness of blogger. Why don't you blogger guys come on over to the land of Wordpress ... where you don't have to copy your comment before hitting the publish button (just in cans Blogger eats it). ;)

Bart Barber said...

Whatever the cause and whoever the culprit, the comment was not getting through at SBC Outpost, so I posted it here. No recriminations are necessary, and none are given in my OP.

Bart Barber said...


I stay with Blogger just to irritate you! :-)

By the way, your recent series has been excellent. I love outdoor baptism.

Geoff Baggett said...


I knew it! ;)

Thanks for the kind comment on my baptism series.


Paul said...

Dr. Welty's comments may be, as Dr. Yarnell puts it "pristine," but they do not logically deal with Alan's post at all. Rather than deal with the substance of Alan's claim - that there is a secret, unwritten element to what it means to be Southern Baptist that is being determined in board rooms across the convention - this post simply diverts the issue to essentially say, "You do the same thing."

Now anyone who knows a stitch of logic knows that that is not a logical refutation of the claim. At best it proves that both sides are doing the same thing. All that is left, then, is to determine the appropriateness of those actions. If they are inappropriate then they are inappropriate for both sides of the debate. It is no more appropriate for Dr. Welty to claim that it is okay for the IMB board to do what they have done all the while suggesting that it is inappropriate for Wade Burleson to do what he has done than it would be for Wade to say that it it is okay for him to do what he has done, but not okay for the IMB trustees to do what they have done. If consistency is what you are after then both sides need to show a little.

That, or perhaps this will move to a discussion of to what degree would those things be appropriate/inappropriate.

On another point: Dr. Welty, the phrase in the preamble of the BFM that you quote saying that these things are "essential" is, for all practical purposes meaningless.

I would imagine that the same conventions that adopted the versions of the BFM which contain that phrase did not at the same time refuse to seat messengers who came from churches that had not approved that particular version of the BFM. In fact, I imagine that the Credentials Committees of those conventions approved the credentials of messengers from churches that had/have adopted the New Hampshire Confession, the Philadelphia Confession, another version of the BFM or even a tailor-made confession of their own. The statement does not say that the things contained therein are "essential" to service on a board of trustees or for missionary service. It says that they are essential to our Baptist identity and practice. Yet they clearly are not essential to our identity and practice as Baptists because nearly every one of our churches allows members who are not faithful stewards, yet we do not consider them something other than Southern Baptists. There are many good, cooperating Southern Baptist churches who differ with the BFM on any number of points, yet we do not consider them something other than Southern Baptists. Those things, then, are clearly not - at least in Southern Baptist practice - in any way "essential" to our Baptist identity or practice. Thus, the phrase is meaningless.

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Brother Todd,

I appreciate the spirit of what you have written, but I take issue with this statement:

"An unbelieving and dying world desperately needs the Bread of Life. But some Southern Baptists seem intent on arguing the finer points of theology and cooperating only with those who will make bona fide Baptists out of new believers."

Sir, you are setting up a false dichotomy. There is no conflict between getting our theology right and sharing the Gospel well. Instead, they are complementary. We are to argue for the finer points of theology while at the same time taking the Bread of Life to unbelievers. Good theology makes for good missions and evangelism. Take the apostle Paul for an excellent example. He was making arguments like "not seeds, but seed" while also traversing the world proclaiming the Gospel.

Love in Christ,


Greg Welty said...

I've replied to most of the concerns in a new comment over here, FYI. But you can reply here if you'd like.

It may not have passed moderation yet, so give it some time.

Wade Burleson said...


Brilliant. Well said.

I would like to hear a response from Dr. Welty.

Bart Barber said...

My apologies to all for disengaging so abruptly this morning.


1. Baptists debating Pentecostal tongues-speaking is not necessarily a foray into the articulation of some "gnostic" system of "clear Baptist identity." Trustees make many decisions that are not matters of "clear Baptist identity." For you to assert that, because the issues are on the table, there must be a gnostic system of Baptist identity is simply without foundation.

2. As new issues arise (as they did in 1901 in Topeka, KS, with the historical origin of the Pentecostal phenomenon) Baptist people have the opportunity to determine a Baptist position regarding emerging issues. Although Baptists have not to this point been willing participants in this Pentecostal tongues-speaking phenomenon, quite obviously, the Baptist answer to the Pentecostal question is still in play. Someday, some position on this question will quite likely be a part of "clear Baptist identity."

3. To advocate that Baptists stake out a clear position on the question is not the same thing as asserting that they have already done so. There is no gnostic creedalism.

4. Some people will speak with reference to the Pentecostal phenomena of "clear Baptist identity" to refer to historical Baptist reluctance in these matters. Jerry's comments I would take in that vein.

5. David's attempt to tie Jerry's comments to Malcolm Yarnell's "Baptist Renaissance" is quite simply a mistake. The robust efforts to shore up Baptist identity in these days are focused upon items that are quite clearly articulated in The Baptist Faith & Message. Apart from Jerry's comment and other isolated references, the discussions about Pentecostal tongues-speaking have tended to revolve around exegesis of relevant passages and discussion of the clear historical record of the ending of biblical glossolalia by the late Patristic era, not a discussion of secret tenets of Baptist identity. Furthermore, discussions about the assertion of Baptist identity have tended to revolve around items of ecclesiology. It is an error to conflate the two discussions.

6. The effect of the premise of your article is to suggest that there is something improper about even going through the process by which we determine how the Southern Baptist Convention will respond to these issues.

7. The difference between Dr. Welty's question and yours is that the refusal to acknowledge those points of doctrine which Southern Baptists have already resolved by adopting The Baptist Faith & Message cannot be resolved other than by positing some sort of "secret will" of the convention as opposed to its adopted and expressed viewpoint. Your accusation, however, can be explained simply as the process by which Southern Baptists resolve such issues.

8. Finally, to clear up a misconstrual that started long ago with Wade, the Baptist Faith & Message does not require either closed or close communion. Rather, it specifies that baptism should precede admission to the Lord's table, and that only immersion is baptism. A church could, for example, open the Lord's table to an believer of any denomination who has been immersed as a symbolic act of obedience, if I read the article correctly. However, its bounds would not contain the admission of an unbaptized believer to the Lord's Supper. This position is something less than closed or close communion and something more than open communion, IMHO.

Bart Barber said...


Your comment fails to note the reality of local church autonomy, which is one of the "essentials" noted in the BF&M. The convention is accountable to the churches; therefore, the role of the BF&M with regard to the churches is quite obviously different than the role of the BF&M toward fiduciaries and employees of the convention.

Furthermore, your argument from inconsistency of practice to uncertainty of meaning is specious. By that standard, there would be no such thing as Baptist identity. Regenerate church membership, for example, is plainly an essential element of Baptist identity; yet, by your argument, we could clearly remove it from any list of Baptist essentials. Indeed, the result of adopting your style of argumentation would be the utter and complete emptying of the document.

Wade Burleson said...


Finally, to clear up a misconstrual that started long ago with Wade, the Baptist Faith & Message does not require either closed or close communion.

Bart, you must be kidding. Right?

Paul said...


The BFM nowhere states that the things contained therein are essential to the accountability of fiduciaries and employees of the convention. I'll have to check my copy again, but I'm pretty sure that the document doesn't even mention fiduciaries and employees of the convention. That may, in fact, be how you are reading it but that is not what it plainly says. In fact, it says nothing specifically about its relationship to entities, agencies, trustee boards or any other thing of that sort. The closest it may come is the statement that it is an instrument of doctrinal accountability, but it does not further define exactly what that means making that statement itself wholly vague and uncertain. Doctrinal accountability for whom? To whom? Are you, as a Southern Baptist, doctrinally accountable to me regarding the interpretations outlined in the BFM? In what way? As surely as you will cite some reference to mutual accountability I will in turn cite a reference to our sole authority being the books of the Old and New Testament or some such. There are statements in the Preamble itself that could appear to be self-contradictory.

The only way my argument truly becomes specious is if we start finding people in the SBC who deny things like the Trinity, divinity and humanity of Christ, baptism by immersion, eternal security, etc. If we start finding those then I'll be very surprised. Reality is that a great many Southern Baptist churches have removed regenerate church membership from their list of Baptist essentials. I've heard Dr. Patterson say that very thing. What good does it do to say we believe in regenerate church membership, or stewardship, or any number of other things, if we are only saying them on paper? To my knowledge paper statements do not make for distinctives of any sort - other than perhaps distinctive lies - if they are not actually being practiced.

If I'm reading you correctly and you are actually saying that we can claim something to be a distinctive and yet have a whole host of individuals and churches - even a majority - who do not actually adhere to those distinctives then I would suggest that the very word "distinctive" is what has become vacuous and devoid of meaning.

Alan Cross said...


I am not against any process that encourages Baptists to define what they believe on these issues. I am actually all for it. I just want that process to be above board and out in the open where all Baptists can participate. Much of that has occurred on the blogs. The Lifeway Report that you disparaged can be seen as a part of that as well.

You seem to state that I am against the process of defining belief, but where have I ever said that? I am against a process that has a group of men impose their beliefs upon the rest of us while appealing to a "clear Baptist Identity" or by saying, "this is what Baptists have always believed" and then stopping debate by saying that they have decided. Based on what?

To take your argument piecemeal, I have never stated what you accuse me of in point #1. I am fine with issues being on the table. But, please come up with a solution that represents the views of all Southern Baptists, not just the ones that you happen to know.

#2 - I think that coming to a theological position on a matter is a fine idea. When have I ever been against that? I just don't want 50 people doing it and forcing it upon the rest of us when it goes beyond the BF&M. If you think that it is not forced upon us, then what missions agency should we now send our people to if they happen to have a PPL or if they were baptized in an non-approved church? Not the one that we send our money to, apparently.

#3 - If someone were just advocating that we stake out a clear position then there would be no problem. But, the IMB, NAMB, and SWBTS have ALREADY staked out a clear position. Again, based on what? Their opinion. Where does this opinion come from in Baptist life? The BF&M? No. Any other consensus statement of Baptist belief? No. You saying that there is no gnostic creedalism does not make it so. I trump your "na ah" with a "yeah huh." Although, I clearly do not carry as much weight as you do, so your "na ah" probably wins.

#4 - Baptist reluctance does not make for a Clear Baptist Identity. Baptists were also reluctant to free the slaves and end segregation. Should we say that was a part of our clear Baptist Identity? Some would say yes. I would be charitable enough to say no because we never officially articulated that type of racism in our Confession of Faith. And, praise God we didn't. So, Baptist tradition or experience or lack thereof can be wrong, and frighteningly so. This is where the Bible comes in handy.

#5 - I am not conflating two discussions. Those two discussions have been intimately tied together since the beginning and have revolved around the appropriateness of Jerry Rankin being the president of the IMB. You know this, Bart. There has been an oft stated belief that we are relaxing our ecclesiology and that we are also opening the door for charismatic influence. Since many charismatics allow for women pastors and have a looser ecclesiology, the two issues were tied together. It can even be argued that the people that were targeted in the baptism policy were former pentecostals and charismatics who came from Arminian leaning churches. The IMB trustees themselves have used the term "Clear Baptist Identity" in describing what they are promoting. This did not start with Jerry Corbaley and David Rogers.

#6 - I think that you already said something similar, but I am not saying that at all. PLEASE go through proper channels, but do not foist something upon us that goes beyond our agreed upon statement of faith without giving Southern Baptists a chance to agree with it or not. You and I have had this discussion many times, and we have actually agreed. I am not against the process, but I would hope that it would be out in the open where debate can take place. When decisions are made in Executive Session and a clear Baptist Identity is pointed to, my question is again, where is this clear? Says who? When have Baptists made this statement? When has this been a consensus belief of Southern Baptists?

Is this something that needs to be in the BF&M? Was there a problem with charismania before? Where was the abuse? Where were there problems? No one can answer that question because there is no answer. At the end of the day, we have a decision made by a few people that went beyond the BF&M but affected the whole SBC. THEY are the ones who threw us into turmoil. If that is the process, there should be no wonder why people are upset. Can you imagine a committee in your church deciding that it would adopt stricter doctrinal standards than the church at large or other committees for it's ministry? But, that's right - the entities of the SBC are autonomous. And, they must have autonomous ways of being funded and staffed as well.

#7 - I am having trouble understanding what you are talking about here. If you are saying that the way that Southern Baptists decide what they believe is that 50 or so people come up with a policy and then they enforce it upon all Southern Baptists for no good reason, all the while pointing to a "Clear Baptist Identity" that doesn't really exist, but that they are making up as they go, then the system is broken and it ripe for abuse by whoever can lay their hands on it. But, that fact is no secret to those who have gained power, now is it?

#8 - I think that we read it the same way, but I was under the impression that what you described is called "close" communion.

Basically, as I stated before, our difference is that you think that the current situation is appropriate and I do not. I think that an appeal to a "clear Baptist Identity" that has never before been articulated is disingenous. I also believe that it points to a secret belief that can only be known by the initiated, since it is nowhere written or previously agreed upon in Southern Baptist life. Our leaders are claiming some type of Baptist consensus in bringing in these new positions, but that consensus has never been proven except anectodotally. When the Lifeway Report came out, you dismissed it. But, it absolutely confirmed by experience in Southern Baptist life. I have known an equal number of cessationists and continuationists. Why is your experience more credible than mine? It only is if you are a part of or agree with the elite group that holds the power.

Ben Stratton said...


You wrote: "the Baptist Faith & Message does not require either closed or close communion. . . A church could, for example, open the Lord's table to an believer of any denomination who has been immersed as a symbolic act of obedience, if I read the article correctly."

While what you have wrote is technically true, it is also true that this language was put into the BF&M with the purpose of teaching strict communion. Back in 1925 95%+ of Southern Baptists believed and practiced strict communion. Even William Whitsitt was a strong defender of close communion. It is also interesting that when you read the books on the Lord's Supper writing by Baptists during the 1800's they all deny that immersed non-Baptists should be allowed to partake of the Lord's Supper because of the divisions and confusion it will bring to the church.

The point of all this is while one could make the argument you made about the BF&M allowing modified open communion, you can't really make this argument when you understand the historical perspective of the BF&M.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Paul wrote, "Reality is that a great many Southern Baptist churches have removed regenerate church membership from their list of Baptist essentials."

I believe Paul is correct in this statement (though not sure about the "great many" part). IMO, those who have removed regenerate church membership from their list of Baptist essentials lack that much being Baptists.

Paul said...


By "great many" I am referencing the fact that the SBC claims over 16 million members yet only 6 or so ever give even the basic evidence of attendance in worship as evidence of their regeneration. The churches that count those as members are, I believe, obviously lax in holding to "regenerate" church membership. And as those numbers are so large (in the millions) I think it would be safe to say it is an overwhelming majority.

I've also seen those figures that 20% of the people pay 80% of the bills. Seeing as how the BFM states that stewardship (not only in money, but in time, talents, etc.) is an "essential" to our Baptist identity and practice we are now 0 for 2. As we go down the line how many "essentials" can we give up and still call ourselves Baptists? It seems to me that Dr. Welty's argument (and Dr. Barber's agreement) would tell us that we can give up none of them because they are all "essential."

R. L. Vaughn said...

Paul, thanks for your explanation of the "great many".

Many other Baptist groups also have a problem in this area of faith and practice.

Paul said...


You are correct. That's why I think the word "essential" is a drastic overstatement. I don't find that the same can be said of other statements in the BFM (e.g. the Scriptures, God, Man, Salvation, God's Purpose of Grace, etc.).

Greg Welty said...


I think that you really need to write longer comments, because otherwise irreverend fox will be deeply disappointed ;-)

Todd Nelson said...

Dear Jeff,

I'm just checking in after the weekend and noted your comment in reply to mine. Thanks for engaging my observation.

First, I don't think I made a dichotomy between theological debate and gospel ministry (false or otherwise). I didn't say that arguing Baptists don't witness, or that we should only witness and not debate.

I merely pointed out that *some* Baptists will only cooperate in ministry with others who will also make good Baptists of their converts. When it comes to missions, I suggest we make disciples rather than Baptists with a capital "B" -- disciples with baptistic convictions like ours, fine; but disciples who are also free to study and grow as the Spirit leads them in their own culture and context.

Second, evidently we have different perceptions of what's happening when Southern Baptists argue over the Bible, theology, and Baptist identity. You call it "getting our theology right" so we can "share the gospel well."

More often than not, however, I see feuding, sarcasm, and condescension that is unbecoming to people who are called to bear the fruit of the Spirit and reflect the Light of Life. Such speech undercuts the very gospel we are supposed to be spreading. I'm reminded of the contradiction James mentions in ch. 3 of his epistle: the same tongue praises God and curses others. "Surely, this is not right!"

I was taught by warm-hearted Baptist scholars and witnessed (and participated in) good-natured debate on theological matters. And there is still such debate going on in the SBC. I just wish it were the norm rather than the exception. But maybe I'm just revealing my limited perspective, or reading too many blogs!

I suppose the $20,000 question is, "How right does a brother have to be in his *Baptist* identity before I'll stop arguing with him and start (or continue) cooperating with him in gospel ministry?" (Of course, this question includes our Baptist sisters as well.)

BTW, I used to live and pastor in your neck of the woods, in rural Delta County of NE TX between Paris and Sulphur Springs. And I have a daughter named Abigail like you do -- but only two daughters. Wow, you have a quiver full of kids according to your profile! How blessed you are with all your A's!

With you, for Him, in love,
Todd in Malaysia