Baptist Faith and Message 2000: Critical Issues in America’s Largest Protestant Denomination. By Douglas K. Blount and Joseph D. Wooddell. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007. 233 pp. $24.95.
Douglas Blount, professor in theological studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, and Joseph Wooddell, professor of philosophy at Criswell College, combined forces in their book, Baptist Faith and Message 2000, to defend the revisions made to the 2000 edition of the Baptist Faith and Message and explicate its eighteen articles of faith which Southern Baptists so vehemently uphold. Employing the expertise of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (BF&M 2000) committee members, as well as other contemporary influential Southern Baptists, Blount and Wooddell walk through the eighteen articles elucidating both the meaning of the article and the cause for revision to the article from that of the 1963 edition. This review will both summarize the contents contained within Blount and Wooddell’s Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and offer a critique as to its clarity in explaining the need for revisions.
Blount and Wooddell’s book appropriately follows the structure of the BF&M 2000. After reading a brief word by Tom Nettles on the history of Baptists as a confessional people, Blount and Wooddell turn to discuss the eighteen articles. Following the order of the 2000 edition, Wooddell commences the discussion of the BF&M 2000 with Article I, The Scriptures. Wooddell is an ardent defender of the inspiration of Scripture. He draws out the implications of the change made in the 2000 edition to remove “record of God’s revelation” and replace it with “[Scripture] is God’s revelation” (6). Next, Blount himself discusses Article II, God. Blount demonstrates that a simple change in the 2000 rendition that Christ is “fully God, fully man” more appropriately identifies the incarnate Christ as opposed to the 1963 version which states that Christ partakes “of the nature of God and of man” (14). This revision thus affirms the Baptist belief that “the Christ of Chalcedon is the Christ of Scripture” (6). Article III, Man, is overseen by Robert Stewart. Stewart explains that the minimal rewording of the 2000 edition intends “to make explicit what many believe was implicit” in the 1963 edition such as distinguishing that God’s global mission extends to all nationalities of the human race and are not limited by geographic locations.
Albert Mohler in Article IV, Salvation, eloquently explains that salvation is an act purely of God’s working and that once a person tastes of that salvation, his eternal salvation is forever secured. Daniel Akin follows suit in Article V, God’s Purpose of Grace, by punctuating what Mohler stated regarding a believer’s eternal security. Next, Malcolm Yarnell discusses The Church in Article VI. Yarnell clearly outlines appropriate church polity, discipline, structure, and ministry according to the biblical mandate. He spends a concentrated section on differentiating the universal church from the local church. Next, John Hammett elucidates the proper understanding, administration, and qualifications for both Baptism and the Lord’s Supper in Article VII. As the two ordinances Christ commanded his bride to perform, Hammett reflects upon the importance of baptism by immersion and partaking of the Lord’s Supper within the context of the local congregation. Briefly, Hammett continues in Article VIII, The Lord’s Day, by exploring the history of how Christians came to worship on Sunday.
Article IX, The Kingdom, attracts little controversy, but Russell Moore nevertheless argues for the sovereign rule and reign of Christ over all creation. Though a work in progress, the kingdom of God will be fulfilled at the parousia of Christ. Continuing with the discussion of eschatology Paige Patterson, in Last Things, deduces twelve confessions Article X affirms about the eschaton and then systematizes an eschatology based upon the Scriptures given to support the doctrine of last things. Next, Keith Eitel concisely offers a summation of the import of personal evangelism in Article XI, Evangelism and Missions. Steve Lemke in Article XII, Education, focuses on Baptists continued conviction to serve God by being good stewards of their minds by properly educating themselves. Similarly, Barry Creamer in Article XIII, Stewardship, reconciles the Old Testament doctrine of tithing with the New Testament concept of offering. Next, Article XIV, Cooperation, though not attracting much controversy, is nevertheless explicated by Chad Brand by demonstrating from Scripture the principle of local church cooperation. Later, Ben Mitchell fabulously explains how Christians are to engage the culture around them for Christ yet not confuse this “salt and light” with a social gospel in Article XV, The Christian and Social Order.
Continuing, David Cook discusses the Baptist perspective of just war theory in light of ever present warmongering nations in Article XVI, Peace and War. Jerry Johnson defines the roles of church and state in Article XVII, Religious Liberty. In this section, Johnson explains that the state has obligations to the church and vice versa. Finally, Dorothy Patterson in Article XVIII, Family, defines the roles of husbands in relation to their wives and children according to the mandates of Scripture. Here she stresses that gender and sexuality are a gift from God and must be embraced with humble submission.
Overall, the contributors of Blount and Wooddell’s book adequately explained each article of the BF&M and offered appropriate commentary on the need for the 2000 revisions. Of course not all articles of the 2000 edition incurred revision and therefore serve primarily as historical background information from earlier versions. Those with substantive changes were carefully crafted. The contributors delicately handled each revision in a well structured defense of the need for changes. However, special attention is directed to the articles by Mohler, Yarnell, Paige Patterson and Dorothy Patterson.
First, Mohler, as a reformed Baptist, is quick to draw careful attention to the fact that the 1925 BF&M adopted, as the basis of its article concerning salvation, the verbiage from the New Hampshire Confession. Expressly stated, the New Hampshire Confession, replicated in the 1925 BF&M as well as subsequent revisions to the BF&M, maintains Calvinistic underpinnings in modified tones. Though not necessarily implying a reformed ordo salutis, Mohler highlights that the moderate Calvinism of the 1925 BF&M was strengthened in the 1963 revision by placing the discussion of regeneration prior to repentance and faith. This change “effectively shifted the confession in a more explicitly Reformed direction” (41). Later, Mohler exceptionally explains the exclusivity of salvation through Christ alone. This is perhaps the central revision to this section and distinguishes Baptists from many other denominational assemblies.
Second, Yarnell’s explication of the church is thorough and practical for today’s pew sitter and pastor. Yarnell offers some helpful insights while discussing controversial matters. Dealing with two controversial issues, Yarnell clearly takes a stance of a “one elder-led” congregation based upon an examination of the Greek. However, Yarnell understands the role of the single elder as one cog in the greater wheel of church polity for the “church is ruled by Jesus Christ, governed by the congregation, led by pastors, and served by deacons” (60). Second, he builds a case for the mere potentiality of the universal church and not its present actuality. Scriptural passages which draw analogical conclusions for familial relationships based upon the reality of the universal church (e.g., Eph 5:23) must be reckoned with in light of Yarnell’s thesis.
Third, falling in line with mainstream denominational belief Paige Patterson draws special attention to the previous Baptists heroes and interdenominational preachers who were both pre-millennial and pre-tribulational. After detailing the particulars of this belief, Patterson expounds upon twelve confessional truths which Article X affirms. However, Patterson seems to contradict himself in his third affirmed truth by directly claiming that the world was not created to be eternal (101), but later in his ninth affirmed truth, he indirectly claims that it was sin which caused the world and mankind to lose their eternality (103). In his conclusion, Patterson rightly states that the most remarkable facet of the BF&M 2000 is the consensus among Baptists to affirm God’s judgment in Article X despite the influence from this postmodern generation to skirt the issue altogether.
Finally, Dorothy Patterson’s section on wives and motherhood is particularly relevant in a growing society of feminism which seeks to destroy the nucleus of the family. Patterson knocks the breath out of the feminist argument that submission equals subversion by demonstrating etymologically that submission is a choice, not coercion. She accurately captures the conduct of a man’s responsibility for a woman by the phrase servant leadership. Only one statement requires more explanation. Patterson comments that a “deviation from God’s plan for marriage mars the image of God” but perhaps the space constraints of the chapter prevent her from addressing, as she has deftly in many other venues, the issue of how this happens in conjunction with her definition of the image of God (186). Since the linchpin of the equal but distinct relationship between a husband and wife rests on the image of God, this reviewer would love to have seen Patterson address it here even though that might not have been possible in a single chapter.
As a seminary student and, Lord-willing, a future pastor, Baptist Faith and Message 2000: Critical Issues in America’s Largest Protestant Denomination exposed the need for preachers to stand firm against the slippery slope of lax theology so prevalent in America’s Baptist pulpits today. By disclosing the verbiage concerns within the articles of the BF&M 2000 and the need to clarify the conservative position within the convention, this book serves as a plum-line for both theology and polity within the local church. I strongly urge pastor and layperson alike actively to mine the biblical nuggets from this volume, not passively peruse through its leaves. This volume will benefit the pastor by keeping the local church functioning according to the New Testament example, and the layperson will better grasp the distinguishing marks that make him a Southern Baptist.
Brent A. Thomason
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary