The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message Revisions

by Derek Gentle


In 1925, the Southern Baptist Convention first adopted the Baptist Faith and Message as a public statement of our faith and doctrine. They used the 1833 New Hampshire Confession of Faith as a foundation, revising it at certain points and adding some additional articles. Thirty-eight years later, in 1963, the Convention adopted a revised edition of the Baptist Faith and Message. And in 2000, thirty-seven years after that revision, new blocks were laid on the old foundation. The report of the fifteen member committee was approved by the convention on the June 13-14 at the annual meeting in Orlando, Florida.

The 2000 statement and the previous two versions of the Baptist Faith and Message may be seen in parallel columns.

The first purpose of a confession of faith is to declare what the denomination believes.

"Baptist churches, associations, and general bodies have adopted confessions of faith as a witness to the world, and... We are not embarrassed to state before the world that these are doctrines we hold precious and as essential to the Baptist tradition of faith and practice."

"Baptists are a people of deep beliefs and cherished doctrines. Throughout our history we have been a confessional people, adopting statements of faith as a witness to our beliefs and a pledge of our faithfulness to the doctrines revealed in Holy Scripture." (Introduction of the 2000 Committee Report)

It is to be understood that, "they constitute a consensus of opinion of some Baptist body, large or small, for the general instruction and guidance of our own people and others concerning those articles of the Christian faith which are most surely held among us." (Introduction of the 2000 Committee Report)

Such confessions are summaries of what we believe the Bible to be teaching and are not considered authoritative in and of themselves. Baptists have no magisterium.

Local churches are not obligated by a confession adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention or any other body. Local autonomous churches may draw up, adopt, and publish their own doctrinal statements if they wish.

On the other hand, associations, state conventions, and institutions of learning, may choose to use them as "instruments of doctrinal accountability" for those in the employment of Southern Baptists. (Introduction of the 2000 Committee Report)

The reason for revisions of a confession of faith is not because the Bible or truth change, but because new issues arise which need to be addressed.

As committee chairman, Adrian Rogers, says in his cover letter, "Our recommendation is intended to clarify our doctrines for this present age, and to define our beliefs against the backdrop of modern confusion." For example, "Our Baptist ancestors of a mere generation ago could not have imagined the need to address the issues of abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, and all manner of deviant and pagan sexuality. We answer with a clear word of biblical correction."

Here is a complete listing of all the revisions and additions made to 1963 Baptist Faith and Message in the 2000 Report:

I. The Scriptures

Added:
"Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy."

Deleted:
"The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ."

And good riddance! As Adrian Rogers says in his introductory remarks in the committee's report, ". . .It has been subject to misunderstanding. Jesus Christ cannot be divided from the biblical revelation that is testimony to Him. We must not claim a knowledge of Christ that is independent of Scripture or in any way in opposition to Scripture. Likewise, Scripture cannot be set against Scripture."

The sentence has been replaced with, "All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation."


II. God

Added:
"God is all powerful and all knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures."

The introduction explains, "In the context of modern denials of the omniscience, exhaustive foreknowledge, and omnipotence of God, we have reaffirmed the teachings of the Bible and the consistent teaching of our Baptist tradition."

In the background is a controversy in our sister denomination, the Baptist General Conference. It concerns the extent of the knowledge of God and what it means to say that He is sovereign.


II. B. God the Son

Added:
The word, "substitutionary" in the sentence, "He honored the divine law by His personal obedience, and in His substitutionary death on the cross He made provision for the redemption of men from sin."

Reworded:
The '63 statement spoke of Christ, "partaking of the nature of God and of man." The revision uses historic Christian language to be more specific, "fully God, fully man."


II. C. God the Holy Spirit

Reworded:
"His presence in the Christian is the assurance of God to bring the believer into the fulness of the stature of Christ" has been strenghtened to read, "His presence in the Christian is the guarantee that God will bring the believer into the fullness of the stature of Christ."

Added:
"At the moment of regeneration He baptizes every believer into the Body of Christ."


III. Man

Reworded:

The '63 read similarly to the 1925 statement, "Man was created by the special act of God, in His own image..." That has been changed to read, "Man is the special creation of God, made in His own image."

Added:
"He created them male and female as the crowning work of His creation. The gift of gender is thus part of the goodness of God's creation."

This is similar to the 1925 statement which quoted directly from Genesis: "'So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them'" (Gen. 1:27)"

Added:
The phrase, "every person of every race possesses full dignity" replaces "every man possesses dignity" in the paragraph below:

"The sacredness of human personality is evident in that God created man in His own image, and in that Christ died for man; therefore, every person of every race possesses full dignity and is worthy of respect and Christian love."

The introduction makes mention of this change stating that, "Baptists must also make clear our affirmation of the blessing of racial and ethnic diversity, and acknowledge that all races possess full dignity by the creative intention of God."


IV. Salvation

Added:
The word "justification" was included into this sentence: "In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification."

Roger's introduction explains the reason for another addition: "Given the pervasive influence of a postmodern culture, we are called to proclaim Jesus Christ as the only Savior and salvation is in His name alone. Baptists thus reject inclusivism and pluralism in salvation, for these compromise the Gospel itself. Salvation comes only to those who call upon the name of the Lord, and come to personal faith in Jesus Christ as Savior"

Hence this sentence was added to the article on salvation: "There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord."


VI. The Church

Reworded:

The definition of the church has been slightly modified:
From: "is a local body of baptized believers"
To: "is an autonomous local congregation"

That members are baptized appears elsewhere in this article in the proposed statement and the autonomous nature of the church appeared elsewhere in the 1963 statement.

From: "committed to His teachings"
To: "governed by His laws"

From: "This church is an autonomous body, operating through democratic processes under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. "
To: "Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes." (Autonomy is mentioned above)

From: "The New Testament speaks also of the church as the body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages."
To: "The New Testament speaks also of the church as the body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation."

Rogers' cover letter addresses this last change specifically, "We reaffirm the New Testament heritage of Baptist Congregationalism in Article VI: 'The Church,' recovering the language of the 1925 Baptist Faith and Message and affirming the contribution of the 1963 statement as reflected in the last paragraph of the article. The church comprises all the redeemed, and will include 'believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.'"

Added:

"In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord."

"While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture."

This last additon, of course, is the change which received so much of the press. Of course, ordination is regarded as a local church matter and a local congregation is free to do what it pleases in this regard. Headlines about "Southern Baptist Banning Women Pastors" are inaccurate. As the article on Cooperation states, "Such organizations [as the SBC, state conventions, associations, etc) have no authority over one another or over the churches. They are voluntary and advisory bodies designed to elicit, combine, and direct the energies of our people in the most effective manner." What the statement does is to declare the overall consensus of the people in our denomination.

Cited below are two paragraphs from an article that for at time was found on the Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary site:

"It is a clarification of what we have always believed," stated Michael W. Whitehead, interim president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, in the May 19 Kansas City Star article. "Male leadership in God's created order is as old as Adam and Eve. For most southern Baptists, the committee's report is not news that God has assigned roles in the home and in the church."

Nodell Dennis, executive director of the blue River-Kansas City Baptist Association, was quoted in the Star as saying, "The denomination for the most part has always opposed women as pastors. The Southern Baptist convention leadership cannot dictate what a local church will do, but most Southern Baptist churches aren't going to call a woman as pastor. Most Southern Baptists believe the Bible teaches that women shouldn't be pastors."


VIII. The Lord's Day

Replaced and Changed:

Old: "and by refraining from worldly amusements, and resting from secular employments, work of necessity and mercy only being excepted"
New: "Activities on the Lord's Day should be commensurate with the Christian's conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ."


XI. Evangelism and Missions

Added:
"The Lord Jesus Christ has commanded the preaching of the gospel to all nations."

Reworded:
In the 1963 Statement: "It is the duty of every child of God to seek constantly to win the lost to Christ by personal effort and by all other methods in harmony with the gospel of Christ."

In the 2000 Report (new phrases with italics added): "It is the duty of every child of God to seek constantly to win the lost to Christ by verbal witness undergirded by a Christian lifestyle, and by other methods in harmony with the gospel of Christ."


XII. Education

Added:

"Christianity is the faith of enlightenment and intelligence. In Jesus Christ abide all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. All sound learning is, therefore, a part of our Christian heritage. The new birth opens all human faculties and creates a thirst for knowledge."

This paragraph is recovered word for word from the 1925 Statement.


XV. The Christian and the Social Order

Added:

The paragraph below was amended to add new social issues which need to be addressed (additions shown in italics):

"In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography."

Also added was a strong pro-life clause:

"We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death."


XVI. Peace and War

Added:

"Christian people throughout the world should pray for the reign of the Prince of Peace."

This is taken word for word from the 1925 statement.


XVIII. The Family

Added:

One phrase is added to this article added to the Baptist Faith and Message in 1998 (shown in italics):

"Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. It is God's unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race."


Tom Nettles has two articles in Founders Journal which are relevant:
The Role of Confessions in Baptist Faith by Tom J. Nettles
Are Creeds Appropriate for Bible Believing Baptists? by Tom J. Nettles