Vol. 3, No. 3 July 2000 Editor: Bruce Prescott
Better than the 2000 BFM
The SBC's 1946
Statement of Principles
From time to time through all our modern history, Baptists have declared their principles which define their meaning and mission in relation to the gospel and in relation to the world. Surely, now when the world is writhing in terrific crisis we are under obligation to restate our principles, to make clean that our faith is good news for all mankind. It is with this sense of obligation and with this purpose that the Southern Baptist Convention, at its Centennial meeting, undertakes to state afresh the basic principles that we must proclaim to the whole world in our day.
Our distinctive belief is our Doctrine of Man in the personal order of life, that is, what God says concerning man.
Out of this doctrine of the individual grows the Baptist conviction concerning all aspects of religious experience and life.
First, this religious experience of regeneration and conversion is the beginning of the Christian life and is prerequisite to church membership.
Second, the local church, a voluntary fellowship of baptized believers, is responsible directly and only to Christ, the Creator and Head of the church. It is a democratic body in which all the members are equally free and responsible participants. Its divinely called ministry is chosen by the church itself under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Third, the one and only authority in faith and practice is the New Testament as the divinely inspired record and interpretation of the supreme revelation of God through Jesus Christ as Redeemer, Savior and Lord.
Fourth, this basic belief demands the separation of church and state. Each must be left free to serve in its own divinely appointed sphere for the welfare of mankind; but neither undertaking to control the other or to be supported as such by the other.
Fifth, the comprehensive statement of all these doctrines is contained in our insistence upon religious liberty. By this we mean, and must mean, not only freedom of individual worship and fellowship without interference by the state; but we mean also specifically and insistently the right of propaganda through evangelism, education, and the development of Christian institutions. This we claim not as for ourselves, but for all men of all religious beliefs and of all theories of social order which are not obviously immoral or detrimental to the common welfare of men; and we demand this not as a concession or toleration, but as a basic right under God.
Fields of Application
These basic principles find the spheres of their operation in all the principal concerns of humanity. The Christian movement is not isolated from the common concerns and life of mankind, but as a declarative, prophetic movement charged with a gospel for men in all relations, is a leavening and instructing agency in the midst of society for the good of the human race and the glory of God in the coming of His Kingdom.
It is especially urgent therefore, at this time, that these principles should be recognized when we are face to face with the necessity for the reconstruction, the rehabilitation and the reorientation of the lives of all peoples and the corporate life of humanity. Upon the Christian forces lies the responsibility for introducing now the gospel, the purpose and the power of God unto salvation for all men.
There can be a Christian order only as it is constituted of and by genuine Christians. Neither the world nor any part of the world can be organized and conducted on Christian principles except as there are Christians incorporating these principles. Here lies the imperative for an immediate undertaking for worldwide and thorough evangelizing of all peoples. Christian missions must be comprehensive, thorough and universal. New men are essential to a new world.
The preceding report submitted by the committee on Statement of Principles:
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