Sunday, July 8, 2007

What The Statement Says…What It Doesn't Say

It Says: "[…The Baptist Faith & Message] is the only consensus statement of doctrinal beliefs approved by the Southern Baptist Convention."

Of course. This is simple historical fact. The Southern Baptist Convention has never adopted any other statement of faith.

It Doesn't Say: "The Southern Baptist Convention has never reached consensus on any other doctrinal beliefs beyond those contained in the BF&M"

Of course not. This would contradict simple historical fact. Consider, for example, the resolutions that we adopt every year. These often touch upon points of doctrine. Their adoption adds up to the Southern Baptist Convention expressing a consensus of approval of these resolutions, including the doctrinal beliefs specified therein. These doctrines are not contained within a "statement of doctrinal beliefs", but they are nonetheless items upon which the SBC has expressed doctrinal consensus. Consider, for example, how this resolution goes beyond what the BF&M says about both the doctrine of man (that man has dominion over the earth) and the doctrine of stewardship (that it extends beyond "time, talent, and material possessions" to now include "earth and environment"). Yet the SBC has now expressed a consensus upon these points of doctrine (which is good, because they are clearly biblical). It would be unworkable to have employees required to research and affirm every resolution ever adopted by the SBC. The resolutions are not a part of our "instrument of doctrinal accountability." But they are items of doctrinal consensus for the SBC, and as such, they deserve the notice of our boards of trustees and should guide them in their establishment of policies and practices (as should the BF&M).

It Says: "… is sufficient in its current form to guide trustees in their establishment of policies and practices of entities of the Convention."

Yes, and Amen! Trustees ought never to make any policy or practice apart from the guidance of the BF&M. Furthermore, I would make a stronger statement even than this—Trustees had better not make any policies or practices that contradict the BF&M. Wherever it speaks, I believe that the BF&M's role is even stronger than that of a guide.

It Doesn't Say: "… is sufficient in its current form to regulate trustees in their establishment of policies and practices of entities of the Convention, with the result that trustees ought not to adopt any policies or practices regarding doctrinal matters not explicitly contained within the BF&M unless and until they obtain prior approval from the SBC."

See how easy that was? I just made a motion and statement that says precisely what the folks on the other side wanted us to vote on. Simple. Plainspoken. Specific. So, because of what it says and what it doesn't say, even I endorsed this motion and voted in favor of it. If someone who authored this can endorse and vote for the statement (and I did so before the first word of debate and long before anyone cast a vote), then it doesn't mean what folks are spinning it to mean. By the way, just because I posted this, don't fail to comment on my previous post. I really want to hear your opinions.


Greg Welty said...


Excellent point about resolutions. Is the EC statement, *as parsed by many*, instructing all trustees at every entity to studiously *ignore* convention resolutions as they go about their decision-making?

On a related topic, consider:

Argument no. 1:

The BFM "is sufficient in its current form to guide trustees in their establishment of policies and practices of entities of the Convention."

Now, we either believe that the Bible is a sufficient doctrinal guide, or we do not.

Let's say we do. Then the sufficiency of the BFM as a doctrinal guide does not rule out the relevance of other doctrinal guides.

So those advocates of the EC statement who interpret it to say that it rules out consulting *any other* doctrinal guide, are implicitly denying the sufficiency of Scripture. Trustees may *not* be guided by Scripture in their decision-making, because that would go "beyond" the BFM. A bizarre position, to say the least.

Argument no. 2:

If the BFM is sufficient to guide in doctrinal decisions, and this is parsed as "excluding any other norm for doctrinal guidance," then no trustee can endorse any caveats to the BFM. For to allow caveats is to say, "the BFM guides me here, but I'm going to ignore it."

The upshot of these two arguments is that, if we parse the EC statement *the way many would want us to*, then (1) the sufficiency of Scripture is rejected, and (2) the BFM is a creed. At the very least, I think this goes contrary to how many would want to view Scripture and the BFM.

Ron P. said...

Dr. Barber and Dr. Welty,

Do you two get tired of having to repeat yourselves "ad nauseum"?

Do you go crazy trying to break down the reasoning to a level that you hope will finally be able to be understood?

Do you get worn out after pointing out the flaws in contrived theories and get answered with personal attacks on your character and most un-Christlike comments from those claiming to be irenic?

I fear that no matter how many times it is clearly, concisely (and correctly) explained by you both (and others), it will fall on deaf ears to the coalition minions. Logic and reasoning do not matter.

The EC statement is not what they claim, but since the coalition lost convincingly in San Antonio on this and the 1st VP (Sounds of Silence), they have to pull these exasperating twists of reasoning to reach anything close to what they claim. Bart, you hit the nail on the head with this post of what it does and does not say.

I guess my real question is: if Scripture can not be used for trustees as a guide, if resolutions as they are worded (not contrived) do not matter why should logic, reason, and SBC bylaws mean anything either? Don't you get tired of trying to explain it?

I know it is actually only a few people, but God bless you both for your patience and kindness to those "irenic" (or should I say "choleric") brethren.

Ron P.

Paul said...


Were Drs. York and Land "spinning" the meaning of the motion as well? Dr. York has already posted what his comments would have been had he made it to the microphone and his understanding is a mirror reflection of what "our" understanding is. Your error is in thinking that we are "spinning" anything at all. Dr. Luter's post clearly shows not only what Dr. Luter understood the motion to mean, but what even those who did and others who were prepared to argue against the motion knew it to mean. After the vote I thought I was going to have to perform CPR on Dr. York in the hallway with all of the convulsing he was doing out there and it wasn't because, as Ron P. says, we "lost" anything, but because he clearly believed that he lost, not on your supposed meaning of the statement, but on his own understanding of the statement, which was also the understanding that everyone arguing both for and against the motion understood it to be.

You and Dr. Welty yelling more loudly that it isn't what it actually meant will not change those facts.

Paul said...

Dr. Welty,

Argument no. 1 is simply illogical as the BFM clearly states in both the Preamble and in the Statement on Scripture that the Scriptures are our authority. To be guided by the BFM is, de facto and by definition to be guided by the Scriptures as well.

Ron P. said...


I can not speak for Dr. York, or others, but many of the comments from conservatives on this issue has been the concern that the left leaning side of the boat would try and use this to make the BFM a maximal doctrinal statement. However, I will grant you that many were confused on this, based on all the comments.

The key is the text! It says what it says, no more, no less. If I had been a messenger, I would have voted against it, not because I can not support the statement as I wholeheartedly can! I would have voted no because as many predicted, it would be twisted to say something it did not.

They are not yelling more loudly, they are having to repeat themselves over, and over, and over, and over, and over... because Wade and others, keep trying to pull a fast one and falsely claim the EC statement says something it does not.

Ron P.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Ron P: So you go and tell Dr. York that he deciphered it wrong, while you are at it tell Dr. McKissic, Bob Cleveland and the illustrious Jeremy Green,who despite his excuse, stood up and in front of the cameras argued against the motion.

Paul said...

So Ron, you are saying that Drs. York and Land were confused and that every person who spoke either for or against the motion were confused and that the crowd that booed Dr. Page when he was about to call the question the first time were confused and that everyone who has argued for "our" meaning of the text was confused? Is that it? The only ones who were not confused were Drs. Welty and Barber?

Dr. Luter was not arguing that it is either a) authorial intent or b) the plain meaning of the text. He was arguing that it is both. The fact that Dr. Barber reads it differently does not automatically make his reading the correct one.

Good people read Rev. 20:1-6 differently and come to some vastly different conclusions, even after 2000 years of church history. But when someone comes up with a minority reading of that or any other passage - even when people sympathetic to their own cause obviously read it differently - then I doubt it is the majority reading that is the one that contains the "spin."

Paul said...

By the way, Ron, when you talk about the "left leaning side of the boat," who are you talking about? Bart?

Paul said...

By the way, Bart, would you not agree that intent does, in fact, matter? Does intent matter when you read Matthew 5:29-30 or do you simply read what the words actually say? By the way, if you do not have both eyes and hands I will understand if you do not respond.

AndyHigg said...

So *can* anyone make a motion to "confine/tame" trustees to not "add to" BFM? (terms encased in quote not necessarily my opinion or position). I again go back to the point that all controversial trustee decisions should be automatically referred to the convention for endorsement.

Alan Cross said...

From someone who was at the Convention and participated in dozens of conversations, felt the tension, heard the buzz in the hall, listened to the debate, followed this issue for months, wrote a resolution on the subject, spoke to SBC leaders about it, etc., your understanding of the meaning of the motion is quite novel. Why did seminary presidents speak about it the way that they did? When the man that you quoted asked if we were just reaffirming the BF&M, why didn't you just say "yes" and move on? Why did Richard Land and Hershael York step to the microphone to speak against this? Why did Morris Chapman give the speech he gave? Why did Chuck Kelley and Phil Roberts say what they said?

This is quite a relativistic argument that you have going here, Bart. It seems that the only opinion you will listen to on this subject is your own. The real truth is relative to your perspective. Because this is how YOU read the motion, then this, and only this, is what the motion must mean. The testimony of dozens of others from BOTH sides of the argument does nothing to persuade you. We must all be stupid.

Regarding your argument about resolutions capturing the consensus will of the convention, I have a question for you: Has there EVER been a resolution supporting the IMB policies? Anything about PPL? Anything about the IMB's view of baptism? Where do you get a consensus statement by Southern Baptists on these subjects ANYWHERE? You don't.

I would be happy with some type of mechanism that allowed the Convention to speak to issues and express their consensus apart from the BF&M. We are actually asking for that. Since the resolutions and motions passed are quite easy to look up, I see no problem with creating a situation where they establish precedent for our entity boards to follow unless they are overruled. All that we have ever asked for is for the ability of the Convention to speak into these matters on issues that go beyond the BF&M. That position actually allows the entities to go beyond the BF&M, but with Convention approval.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Paul, if to "be guided by the BFM is, de facto and by definition to be guided by the Scriptures as well," would trustees making a decision/policy based on their understanding of the Scriptures (but not addressed in the BFM) be a violation (according to your understanding) of the EC/Garner motion passed at San Antonio? Why or why not?

Paul said...


That is a good question. I would answer yes, it would be a violation. The BFM also states clearly that it is neither final nor infallible, though those claims are certainly made for the Scriptures.

The BFM is, itself, an interpretive guide. The Scriptures are not an interpretive guide, but are the Scriptures themselves. For trustees to create doctrinal policy based upon their own interpretations rather than the interpretive guide of the BFM is to make that doctrinal policy based upon something other than our only consensus statement of faith. The BFM, for instance, gives much more weight to the authority of Scripture than to the authority of the BFM, but trustees are not thereby at liberty to establish doctrinal policies based upon their own interpretation of Scripture and simply say that they are appealing to a higher authority than the BFM.

Well...actually I guess they are at liberty to do so as the word "guide" does not carry the weight of the word "policy" (just see the argument over the re-wording of the IMB policy changes). If the IMB trustees are at liberty to make exceptions to their guidelines then it seems as if the trustees would also be at liberty to make exceptions to the "guide" that is the BFM if they so chose. Our recourse would only be to replace them when their tenure of service was up. In the mean time, if they all decided missionaries must all deny the virgin birth we must live with the policy until convention process takes its proper course and those trustees are replaced by others who actually believe in the virgin birth.

Les Puryear said...


I'm not sure why you insist on beating a dead horse. It's over. The vote's been taken. It is what it is.

BFM2K is a statement of "agreed-upon" doctrine of the SBC. Not a maximum, not a minimum. Agreed upon. Why is this so hard for you and Jeremy and Greg and Malcom, et al, to understand?

For goodness sake, man, even Jeremy Green knew what the motion meant. He spoke against it. That was his position until you guys straightened him out about your strategy of disinformation.

This is becoming so tiresome.



Greg Welty said...

Paul says:

"The BFM, for instance, gives much more weight to the authority of Scripture than to the authority of the BFM, but trustees are not thereby at liberty to establish doctrinal policies based upon their own interpretation of Scripture and simply say that they are appealing to a higher authority than the BFM."


So, for trustees, there is no higher doctrinal authority than the BFM, even though the BFM itself contradicts this view.

Again, you say:

"To be guided by the BFM is, de facto and by definition to be guided by the Scriptures as well."

Again, amazing. By definition to be guided by the BFM is to be guided by the Scriptures? And what "definition" of the BFM gets us that, pray tell? The one that identifies the BFM with the Scriptures?

BTW, I'm not "yelling". Perhaps you need to turn down the volume on your text-to-speech utility ;-)


So, according to the EC statement, the BFM is "not a maximum"? That's going to be news to quite a few people who voted for the EC statement. So who's confused on this, exactly?

If all we got in the EC statement was a reaffirmation of an "'agreed-upon' doctrine of the SBC," then that's quite compatible with the PPL policies, since said policies do not contradict this agreed-upon doctrine. Unless you think the BFM is a maximal standard, but you just denied this.

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Bart,

Do you think if I made a motion in Indianapolis to rescind this motion because of its vagueness or because it violates our constitution by allowing the EC to direct our entities, it would receive a second?


Les Puryear said...


I have no problem discussing this issue with you sometime. It's obvious you turn and twist comments with which you disagree with a fervor and intensity that is heretofore unseen outside of the "new" SWBTS.

Oh, but that's're a part of the "new" SWBTS. As an alumnus of that "used-to-be" great institution, I find your repartee unconvincing and boring.

Now if the person to whom I directed my comment (Bart) would reply, I would be most appreciative.

BTW, Greg, if you've taken over Bart's blog as you seemed to have tried to take over Wade's recently, please let me know and I will gladly reply to your attempts to discredit my comment.


Paul said...

Dr. Welty,

So you're telling me that if the SWBTS trustees determined that their understanding of Scripture required a modalistic interpretation it's ok for them to require you to teach that no matter what the "guide" that is the BFM says?

As you say: "Amazing."

I did not say there was no higher doctrinal authority than the BFM. In fact, I said that the BFM itself claims that the Scriptures are a higher authority. I thought I made that pretty clear. Yes. I just read it again. That's what I said.

"'To be guided by the BFM is, de facto and by definition to be guided by the Scriptures as well.'

Again, amazing. By definition to be guided by the BFM is to be guided by the Scriptures? And what "definition" of the BFM gets us that, pray tell? The one that identifies the BFM with the Scriptures?"

No, actually the one that clearly subordinates the BFM and every other creed and confession to the Scriptures. I believe it is in the article on the Scriptures: Article I. If the "interpretive guide" part of the BFM is a true interpretation then where the BFM speaks it is speaking Biblical truth. Are you wanting to tell us all where you think the BFM departs from Scripture?

BTW, you have an amazing knack in parsing little details you disagree with while completely ignoring the substance of people's points. Wasn't my original point that Drs. York and Land - as well as a good number of others - clearly understood the motion as those on our side of the debate did? I guess it is convenient to ignore those realities - which actually address the substance of Bart's post - and to strain at lesser gnats. I'm starting to think this is your M.O. First you do it on Alan Cross' post and now here as well.

Ron P. said...


You state: "I'm not sure why you insist on beating a dead horse. It's over. The vote's been taken. It is what it is."

You must not read Wade's blog.

Ron P.

Les Puryear said...


Wade has a practical purpose in mind with his posts on this topic. I believe he has stated his purpose. If you missed it, I would recommend you go back and read it again.

As for this diatribe, I see no practical purpose stated herein, therefore, my question.


Debbie Kaufman said...

Dr. Welty and Barber: It seems our Convention President Frank Page must have misunderstood also. It's any wonder we get anywhere being so ignorant....

Alan Cross said...

For those who will not follow Debbie's link, here is Dr. Page's take on the whole thing. Apparently, he is having trouble understanding Bart and Greg's perspective as well:


The truth is that the BFM is somewhat like the United States Constitution. It’s interpreted by everyone according to their particular perspective. The resolution is being interpreted according to everyone’s own perspective, which is understandable. I think what happened, and yes, I was very much in favor of that motion – I think what the people were simply saying was this, “We do not need to become a legalistic denomination. We are definitely conservative, inerrantist people.” And the Baptist Faith and Message, that by the way, ten years ago was seen as a fundamentalist document and people were wondering how anybody could sign such a thing, and now it’s almost seen as a Moderate document. It’s amazing at the switch that has occurred.

My point is, I think the Baptists were simply saying, “We’ve gone far enough.” We don’t need to put more strict parameters on everybody. We can’t agree on everything and to constantly amend the Baptist Faith and Message will lead us into an absolute anarchy. If you’re going to put in there something about speaking in tongues, are we also going to clarify whether we are a Calvinist or non-Calvinist denomination? Where does it end? It doesn’t.

At some point we have to say, “these are primary issues.” I think that is what the Southern Baptist Convention said in San Antonio: “This is our guiding document. Please be careful.” I think it was a plea. It was not a requirement. That’s why everybody can interpret it the way they want. Please, let’s not become a legalistic, narrow-minded denomination that expects everybody to agree on every primary, secondary, and tertiary point of doctrine.

Bart Barber said...

Ron P's point is an excellent one. We are in an intractable debate on this one. I am both tired and nauseated, Ron. Our processes will bring eventual clarity to this issue.

Bart Barber said...


The statement is vague. The ongoing debate is tiresome. Without ceding the field, I suppose we must find a way to walk away from it until we have a productive forum in which to pursue it. Our present medium is merely debate with no hope of resolution, right? This is why we have conventions.

Bart Barber said...

To all: Today I traveled out of town to hear Dr. Russ Moore, one of the SBC's brightest stars. Someone asked him point-blank about the meaning of the statement. His view seems to be much closer to mine than to those on the other side of the aisle.

Les, is he a part of the "new SWBTS"? :-)

Les Puryear said...


No. I'd say he is part of the "new" SBTS. :)

BTW, when did God's ministers become "stars"?


Bart Barber said...


Since right about here.

Greg Welty said...


How does one "take over" Bart's blog by posting, umm, one comment a day at most? As for Wade's blog, I booted it from my RSS reader a few days ago. I don't read it anymore. I said goodbye. But even then, it had been a very long time since I had commented. Again, how does one "take over" a blog by posting a few comments? Is this a toggle in the Blogger software I've accidentally tripped? ;-)

If you don't want me to reply to your comments to Bart, even though you've posted them on a public blog, then perhaps you should email them privately to Bart. Are you saying certain comments posted here are off-limits to commentators-who-are-not-Bart?

Finally, I was hired under Ken Hemphill's tenure. Do I still qualify as part of the "new SWBTS"?


Actually, modalism is a pretty bad example for you to come up with, vis-à-vis the BFM. There are many who think the BFM statement on the Trinity is so terse, it's quite compatible with modalism (though of course it does not *require* belief in modalism). It posits the Trinity as a matter of the personalities by which "God *reveals* himself to us as" (emphasis mine).

But in any event, no, trustees shouldn't make policy that *contradicts* the BFM. But that's not what you said. What you said was: "trustees are not thereby at liberty to establish doctrinal policies based upon their own interpretation of Scripture." That precludes more than just doctrines that conflict with the BFM. That precludes doctrines that are compatible with the BFM, but are based on their own interpretation of Scripture rather than based on the BFM. I find this amazing. So if the Scriptures give wisdom on a topic not specifically addressed in the BFM, the trustees are to *ignore* the wisdom of Scripture, because they are not "at liberty to establish doctrinal policies based upon their own interpretation of Scripture." I'm trying to get you to see how far-reaching your understanding of the EC statement is. It's not only, as Bart pointed out, that the trustees should ignore the consensus of the convention as stated in *resolutions*. It's also that the trustees are to ignore the wisdom of *Scripture*. (BTW, it's interesting that no one has bothered to reply to Bart's first point in this post, about trustees studiously having to ignore convention resolutions.)

Yes, I know you *agree* that the Scriptures are a higher authority than the BFM. Yes, I know you said that. My point is that your interpretation of the EC statement is in conflict with this.

I'll retract my commentary on your claim that "To be guided by the BFM is, de facto and by definition to be guided by the Scriptures as well." There's a way of parsing this that's quite innocuous, and in charity I should have imputed it to you. One simply believes that the BFM is an accurate summary of many biblical teachings, and leaves it at that. The more important issue, I think, is whether the trustees can *in addition* be guided by the wisdom of Scripture in areas which the BFM *does not* address. What do you say about that? Does the EC statement exclude the relevance of Scriptural wisdom at this point?

If you'd like me to comment on your point re: York and Land, I'd be glad to. (Though perhaps Les might think that would be rude, as you didn't specifically direct your comment to *me*, but explicitly to Bart :-) On my view, the EC statement is so vague that it admits of a variety of interpretations. This is one reason (among many) why I myself wouldn't have voted for it (sorry, Bart). I think Land and York are well within their rights to interpret the statement as they do. I also think there is room for Mohler to also sincerely hold his view of the statement, which as I understand it is that the BFM is sufficient to guide us in all the areas to which it speaks, but it is not sufficient to guide us in those areas to which it does not speak. I don't think either York or Land or Mohler are "confused," though they take differing views of the EC statement. I think they are trying to make sense of a vague statement. As you (probably) know, I already offered three parsings of the statement on Wade's blog: rigid sufficiency, flexible sufficiency, and loose sufficiency.

Part of my goal here is not to deny that you can take the EC statement exactly as *you* take it, but to rather bring out some of the ill consequences *for you and others* if you take it that way. I don't think many proponents of the statement have clearly thought through the consequences of applying the language of "sufficiency" to the BFM rather than to the Scriptures. In order to reconcile the EC statement with our traditional understanding of sola scriptura, you've got to scale back the understanding of "sufficiency" in the EC statement. But once you do that, the agenda many have behind the statement falters. That's *my* larger point, in case anyone is wondering.


On the contrary, there's no need to accuse Frank Page -- or anyone else -- of "misunderstanding" the EC statement. What is clear is that very intelligent and reputable men are disagreeing as to its implications, and how it ought and ought not to be used. Interestingly enough, Akin seems to agree with Mohler. Now are both of these gentlemen just power-maddened, mendacious tyrants? Are they "confused"? No. They just see the implications of the statement differently. However, I'd be willing to bet my entire life savings that if Les Puryear's resolution got passed, there's no way Mohler could take the view of *that*, which he takes of the EC statement. I think that's significant.

Les Puryear said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Les Puryear said...

An Apology.


Paul said...

Dr. Welty,

Thank you for your most recent reply (not that I don't thank you for the others. But I do think this one begins to get us somewhere further down the line than previous discussion - at least in my opinion).

Actually, you are correct in how you are understanding the statement, "trustees are not thereby at liberty to establish doctrinal policies based upon their own interpretation of Scripture." I believe trustees are at liberty to set policy based upon the BFM's interpretation of Scripture. That seems to me to be one of the reasons we have the BFM. To explain why we believe what we believe. Does that exclude Scriptural wisdom in other areas? Yes, if those are doctrinal areas. BTW, with all due respect to Dr. Hadaway, I do not consider things such as BMI and other ethical matters primarily doctrinal. Note, I am not saying they are not doctrinal. But there is a difference between the doctrinal statement of the Trinity and a practical statement on something such as abortion or homosexuality (both of which, by the way, are addressed in the BFM, as we know).

What would a trustee board need to establish a doctrinal policy about that is not already covered in the BFM? Well, we have two examples in the IMB policies: ppl and linking baptism with eternal security. Of course, baptism and eternal security are mentioned in the BFM, and for some reason no one has ever read the Scriptures so as to link those two together as they have written our confessional statements.

I have said for almost two years now that that is the policy that bothers me the most, so let me address it. Missionary appointees already had to affirm the BFM. That means that they already had to affirm believer's baptism. They also had to affirm eternal security. What could have brought about a sense that the policy needed to be "tweaked?" It is obviously an interpretation of Scripture that goes beyond the BFM. It appears that there is a theological agenda at work.

Now, prior to Nov. 2005 the couple in our church who came to us from a Free Will Baptist background, who's baptism was examined by us and found to be not only acceptable to our local church, but in full agreement with the baptismal statement in the BFM, would have been eligible to serve as international missionaries through the IMB (everything else being equal). However, after Nov. 2005 they were no longer qualified, based upon the decision of those trustees.

Now, if the SBC is in agreement with the IMB board and our local church is out of step with the SBC on that matter then I have no problem. But I have no way to know that.

If the issue is that vital to the work of the IMB and our cooperating churches then those changes should not come easily. In fact, we are told that they did not. We are told that the IMB board studied the issue for two years prior to adopting the statement. But if they could wait two years from the time the issue was first addressed until the time the policy was actually enacted, then it seems that there was time to bring it before the convention as well. What's one more year in the process? In the end they spent another year on the process anyway - and there is the possibility that they may spend more time on this.

So, study it, bring it to the board and then have the board bring it to the Convention. Knowing how those things tend to work, I think that the board, telling the messengers that they had spent two to three years working on this, presenting it with all their ducks in a row, it would have had a better than good chance of passing. After all, on the whole we want to trust our leaders and believe that they are working in the best interest of our churches. Had that happened we might not have any such thing as "Baptist blogging" today.

I simply can't imagine a single doctrinal issue that would face one of our boards that would be so pressing that we either hadn't already addressed it in the BFM (where we list all of our "essentials," remember?) or where there would not be an opportunity to bring it before the convention at the next annual meeting.

That is not micromanaging our boards. We trust them with the ongoing operation of our entities. But we're not talking about who they hire, what they pay their employees or how the overall mission of the institution is accomplished. We are talking about doctrinal matters that the convention as a whole should have the right to speak to.

In the end I believe it is also the wisest course of action and the one which has the greatest chance of avoiding a good bit of the rancor which has so characterized the past two years.

Sorry to be so long-winded. I am a preacher. ;)

Paul said...

By the way, I missed your parsings of the EC statement on Wade's blog (I don't usually have the time to read through all of the comments), but appreciate what you have said here. I will still contend that if both proponents and opponents of the motion can seem to so clearly understand the meaning it is not the statement itself that is lacking. I will grant that it could have been clearer, but as Dr. Chapman has recently said, they did not produce that statement in order that it might be adopted by the convention and had that been their intent they might have worded it differently.

At the same time, I think it flies in the face of the evidence to suggest, as Bart seems to be doing, that it actually meant something other than what the majority have obviously understood it to mean. It is obviously vague enough that we now have at least these two interpretations of it, but when the weight is so heavily in favor of a particular understanding it can't be that vague, right?

Greg Welty said...


You say, "Does that exclude Scriptural wisdom in other areas? Yes, if those are doctrinal areas." I'm sorry, but I just can't accept the idea that trustees are to studiously ignore the wisdom of Scripture in their decision-making, ever. In addition, your position seems to imply that they are to ignore the resolutions the convention passes. So they can't even consult Scripture *or* the resolutions, even as a *guide*? If this consequence had been explained to the messengers prior to the vote, do you really think the vote would have been roughly the same? :-)

Perhaps this is just a fundamental difference between us, and you're willing to bite that bullet whereas I am not. If so, at the very least it's helpful that we've gotten some clarity as to what that difference actually is. Interestingly enough, the EC statement says that the BFM is not "a complete statement of our faith." Nor is it "final". That would seem to mitigate against the application you are drawing. On your view, the BFM *is* a complete statement of our faith, which is why the trustees need no further source of guidance for any of their decisions, whether Scripture or convention resolutions.

The example you give of the IMB baptism policy is evidence that it is indeed controversial. As I have said on more than one occasion, while I believe that the IMB trustees had the right to make that decision, I wouldn't have made it. So the question is how best to respond to these policies.

There was an excellent discussion between Les Puryear and Alan Cross, on the one side, and Bart Barber, on the other side, back in April. It was one of the few genuinely illuminating discussions of this issue that I have seen in the blogosphere. It would probably be ridiculous for me to copy-and-paste all of Bart's comments here, but I really think these two comments have quite a bit of merit.

Hard cases make bad law. It seems to me that this attempt [Les Puryear's resolution] to undo two policies at IMB would have implications throughout the entirety of the SBC system. Why not just address those two issues directly, and leave alone a system that has worked very well for 162 years?

Above comment here.

It seems to me that another way to handle it is this: If the SBC disagrees with policies set by trustees, it can vote to express its disagreement. The trustees then know for certain that they have passed a policy for which they do not have the blessing of the convention. Although theirs is the job of governance, they now face a choice: Tailor the policies to meet the expressed will of the messengers, or face the consequences. If they do not yield to the will of the convention, then I myself will personally make the motion to de-fund any rogue institution until it complies with the will of the convention.

It seems to me that, with the two policies in question, we are on a trajectory that will lead to precisely that process.

Does that meet both of our needs?

Above comment here.

To summarize:

[1] The convention cannot instruct boards of trustees, but it can communicate with them, such that consequences re: defunding are pretty clear.
[2] It would be far better for the convention to directly respond to the two controversial IMB policies, than to fundamentally alter a system that has worked well for 162 years.

Please don't go off of my summary, though. Read the linked comments above and let me know what you think. Actually, read the whole debate. I'm not sure I can contribute anything new :-)

Finally, in your second comment you say you "will still contend that if both proponents and opponents of the motion can seem to so clearly understand the meaning it is not the statement itself that is lacking." Actually, my examples were meant to undermine that thesis. Some of those who accept the EC statement (Mohler, Barber, etc.) impute to it a different set of implications than others of those who accept the EC statement (Burleson, Littleton, etc.). So I don't think you've identified a consensus as to the meaning on *either* side of the proposition.

So when you speak of what "the majority have obviously understood it [the EC statement] to mean," I don't think you have access to anything like this. To be sure, you have a majority *vote* for the EC statement. You also have the stated views of *some* of those who voted for it. But do you really have access to how the majority *understood* it? Were there detailed exit polls I'm missing here, or what? ;-)

Paul said...

Dr. Welty,

I believe you are reading more into my statement that what I'm actually saying - and perhaps reading more into the EC statement as well. While the EC statement notes that the BFM is not final or a complete statement of our faith, it does say that it is a sufficient guide for our agencies and institutions. I am not saying that no one can draw any Scriptural conclusions outside of the BFM. I'm specifically saying that I do not believe trustee boards should view the BFM as insufficient for their work, doctrinally speaking. And I'm still not hearing what dangerous doctrinal issues are so pressing that they cannot be dealt with on the convention floor. Where, exactly, is it insufficient? Most all of the examples I have heard are either ethical issues or doctrinal issues already addressed in the BFM.

How do you think it is wisest to deal with the following hypothetical situation? Let's suppose the IMB board was made up of a majority of Calvinists who enacted a policy that all missionary appointees must be Calvinists. They could appeal to Baptist distinctives and an historical Baptist identity. That policy would clearly go against the majority of opinion within the SBC. Nevertheless, there it is. Do you think people would be arguing to "let the trustee system work?" Would people wait eight years to turn over the trustee body to remedy the situation? Would that be the wisest course of action?

As to responding to the trustee decision (summary #2), I thought that was exactly what we were doing. ;-) I'm not sure how threatening to defund those institutions is somehow a less drastic move than the path we have taken. In fact, we (I) have never had a goal of kicking trustees off of boards or proposing a convention-wide defunding effort just because of these policies. We're (I'm) simply asking the trustees we have to consider us, the churches, when they make these doctrinal decisions. The trustee system may have worked well for 162 years, but it has not worked so well for the past 2.

As for exit polls, obviously no one has those. What I do have are all of the statements from the floor debate, both for and against as well as the stated understandings of others who wished to speak to the motion but were unable to, plus the statement prior to the vote from Morris Chapman about its meaning, which all weigh heavily on my side. What it seems Bart has is his own rather unique view of the statement along with one anecdotal account of a messenger in the hallway afterward - and we're not even certain what that person's final impression was of the statement one way or another.

What I'm saying is that I believe the burden of proof that people did not understand it as it was intended rests with Bart and not with the 58% (or the 42% who voted against. Did they misunderstand as well?)