Vol. 2, No. 4 September 1999
Why Fundamentalists Object to the
Baptist Faith & Message
by Dr. Bruce Prescott
Fundamentalists were never satisfied with the BFM that Hershel Hobbs and his committee produced in 1963. Like the 1925 committee, Hobbs’ committee avoided using theologically loaded words like “inerrant” and “infallible” in the article on the scriptures. Particularly unsettling to Fundamentalists were statements that Hobbs and his committee added to the 1925 article.
The 1963 BFM committee added a clause that said the Bible “is the record of God’s revelation of Himself to man.” and a sentence saying, “The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ.”
The first addition served to safeguard Baptists from a chief danger of Fundamentalism — Bible idolatry. Baptists love and respect the Bible, but we don’t worship it. Our faith is in Jesus, not the Bible. Jesus is God’s perfect revelation of Himself. The Bible is the “record” of God’s revelation of Himself and a “perfect treasure” of divine instruction.
The second addition tried to steer Baptists away from a second danger of Fundamentalism — arrogance. No mortals can presume infallibility for their interpretations of the Bible, “The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ.” Christ alone is the infallible interpreter of scripture. Every interpreter and every interpretation will fall short when measured by Jesus.
Hobbs and his committee underscored this principle of interpretive humility in their preface against creedalism. For Baptists, confessions of faith are not creeds — they are not a criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted. Jesus Christ is the criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted.
Fundamentalists sensed that the 1963 BFM article on scripture challenged them at the very core of their convictions. At the heart of Fundamentalism is the same desire for the security of a substantial basis for faith that underlies all idolatry.
Lapses into idolatry have plagued God’s people throughout history. Living by faith has never been easy.
Ancient men sought security in forms fashioned from wood or stone or precious metals and jewels. Pharisaic Judaism sought security in the form of universal laws and divine precepts. Modern Fundamentalism seeks security in the form of perfect parchments and “inerrant” manuscripts.
SBC President Paige Patterson, who appointed the committee to revise the BFM, boldly proclaims that "The path to salvation is not an easy one to follow, . . . It begins with accepting the Bible as infallible and inerrant."
Patterson’s words clearly reveal the idolatrous nature of the Fundamentalist’s faith. For them, the Bible is a mediator between God and man. You have to put your faith in the book before you can have faith in Jesus. Faith in the Bible is prior to and prerequisite to faith in Christ.
The Bible never says you have to believe in “inerrancy” or “infalliblity” to be saved. Fundamentalists say that. That is why they call Mainstream Baptists, “infidels,” “false prophets,” and “wolves in sheep’s clothing” — we refuse to bow down to their idol.
The Bible does say “whosoever believes in Him (Jesus) should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:15-16)
Long before the gospels were written, people believed in Jesus of Nazareth. A century and a half before the text of the Bible was compiled, people were believing in Christ. A millenium and a half before Bibles were printed and widely distributed, people believed that Jesus was the Christ. For nearly two millenia before Fundamentalists exalted the Bible and called it “inerrant,” people believed in Jesus Christ.
Almost all of those were saved the old fashioned way — through the witness and testimony of people who freely and faithfully shared their personal experiences with the living Christ.
Pray for those who have been deceived by Fundamentalism. Pray that they will set aside their idolatry and return to worshipping the one true God. Then plan to attend the BGCO Convention and help other Mainstream Baptists face fundamentalism.
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