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On Revising the Baptist Faith & Message

Conservative, confessional Presbyterians adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith. Other Reformed pedobaptists still hold to the Heidelberg Confession. Many confessional Lutherans affirm the Augsburg Confession. The "capital R" Reformed Baptist movement embraces the Second London Confession. Conservative Anglicans affirm the Thirty-Nine Articles. With the exception of the Westminster Confession, which was revised by progressive Presbyterians during the 20th century, to my knowledge all of these confessions remain basically unchanged since their final drafts were written in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Not so with Southern Baptists. While most Southern Baptist churches affirmed either the Philadelphia or New Hampshire confessions in the 19th century (or abstracts of those confessions), the SBC as a denomination did not get around to adopting a confession of faith until 1925. As most readers know, it was a revision of New Hampshire. In 1963, that confession of faith was revised. It was amended in 1998. In 2000, another revision was approved. That's four changes in a seventy-five year time period, all of which were tied in some way or other to theological controversy in the SBC.

The SBC is now once again in the midst of theological controversy, albeit most of it is taking place among fellow conservatives. Some question whether or not Southern Baptists should codify in our confession a particular stance on controversial issues like miraculous gifts, alien immersion, etc. Others complain that the confession's explicit endorsement of closed communion is out of touch with contemporary Southern Baptists. Still others wish the BF&M was either more Calvinistic or revised in such a way that strict Calvinism would be incompatible. A few even want the 2000 revisions either reversed or downplayed; some want us to back off on the female preaching thing and/or re-insert Hershel Hobbs's preamble to the 1963 edition, which basically argued that confessions were important until you disagreed with them, and then you could reject them because your competent soul is a higher authority than the opinions of the believing community. But I digress.

As the SBC moves forward and seeks God's face for our corporate future, do you think we should revise the Baptist Faith & Message? If so, what areas need to be revised? If we do not revise the Baptist Faith & Message, what do you believe is the best way to address present and future theological controversies in the convention?