“Oh, what strange effects has preaching! Many a time the preacher is thought by the hearer to be personal, to be acquainted with all that is in the hearer’s life, and to be actually describing the life of the hearer, and the hearer winces under such personal description. Time and again men have sought me out as I have left my pulpit, and have said to me alone: ‘Who told you about my condition, that you laid it bare here to-day?’ And I have said: ‘Why, I never heard of your condition. No living soul has ever breathed a word to me about your condition.’ They said: ‘What then does it all mean?’ And I have answered: ‘It means that God knows about it, and God has guided His preacher, who said: “Lord, the preacher does not know what to preach, but thou knowest. Give him the message which thou wilt take and apply to the human conscience,” and God took the message and with it found the human conscience.’ What strange effects preaching has! One wrote me this from Birmingham, Alabama, the other night: ‘I heard you when you laid bare my case in that sermon. Somebody had told you all. I went back to the hotel, in your city, but could not sleep, and I took the train and I have reached Birmingham, and here in the hotel in Birmingham, at midnight, I have found Christ, and I am writing to tell you that your sermon was not in vain. I wonder who told you about me.’ Nobody told me about him. I had never before heard of him. I did not know he was in the audience. But the omniscient God knew he was in the audience, and sent the message and fitted it home to his heart by the Divine Spirit, who shows the soul the way from darkness to light.”
George W. Truett
“We believe that the church, with all that pertains to it, is strictly a New Testament institution. We do not deny that there was an Old Testament ecclesia, but do deny its identity with the New Testament ecclesia. We do not deny the circumcision of infants under Old Testament law, but do deny their baptism under New Testament law. We do not deny that there were elders under the Mosaic economy, nor even deny the facts of uninspired history concerning the elders of the Jewish synagogue. We simply claim that the New Testament alone must define the office and functions of the elder in the Christian church. Christ himself appointed its Apostles and its first seventy elders. We not only stand upon the New Testament alone in repelling Old Testament institutions, in reselling apocryphal additions thereto, in repelling the historic synagogue of the interbiblical period as the model of the church, but to repel the binding authority of postapostolic history, whether embodied in the literature of the ante-Nicene fathers or in the decisions of councils, from the council at Nice. A.D. 325, to the Vatican Council. A.D. 1870. We allow not Clement, Polycarp, Hippolytus, Ignatius, Irenæus, Justin, Tertullian, Cyprian, Origen, Jerome, Eusebius, Augustine, Chrysostom, Erasmus, Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Henry VIII., Knox or Wesley either to determine what is New Testament law or to make law for us. In determining the office and functions of a bishop, we consider neither the Septuagint episcopos, nor the Gentile episcopos, nor the developed episcopos of the early Christian centuries.
“The New Testament is the law of Christianity. All the New Testament is the law of Christianity. The New Testament is all the law of Christianity. The New Testament always will be all the law of Christianity. Avaunt, ye types and shadows! Avaunt, Apocrypha! Avaunt, O Synagogue! Avaunt, Tradition, thou hoary-headed liar. Hush! Be still and listen! All through the Christian ages—from dark and noisome dungeons, from the lone wanderings of banishment and expatriation, from the roarings and sickening conflagrations of martyr fires—there comes a voice—shouted here, whispered there, sighed, sobbed, or gasped elsewhere—a Baptist voice, nearer than a silver trumpet and sweeter than the chime of bells, a voice that freights and glorifies the breeze or gale that bears it. O Earth hearken to it: The New Testament is the law of Christianity! Let the disciples of Zoroaster, Brahma, Confucius, Zeno and Epicurus hear it. And when Mahomet comes with his Koran, or Joe Smith with his book of Mormon, or Swedenborg with his new revelations, or spirit-rappers, wizards, witches and necromancers with their impostures, confront each in turn with the all-sufficient revelation of this book, and when science—falsely so called (properly speculative philosophy)—would hold up the book as moribund, effete or obsolete, may that Baptist voice rebuke it. Christ himself set up his kingdom. Christ himself established his church. Christ himself gave us Christian law. And the men whom he inspired furnish us the only reliable record of these institutions. They had no successors in inspiration. The record is complete. Prophecy and vision have ceased. The canon of revelation and the period of legislation are closed. Let no man dare to add to it or take from it, or dilute it, or substitute for it. It is written. It is finished.”
B. H. Carroll
“In regard to science there has often been full and cordial mutual recognition. Some eminent scientists have not failed in reverence for Christian institutions, the pulpit included; and some preachers here and there have been skilled scientists in various branches. But on the whole it must be sadly admitted that the relations between science and the pulpit have not been as friendly and mutually profitable as could be wished. If the progress of science has at times suffered from the dogmatism of the pulpit, even so the preaching of a sorely needed gospel has been sometimes hindered or harmed in effect by the dogmatism of science. Preachers have been known to assail science in an unchristian spirit, and scientists have perhaps as often denounced and discredited preaching in an unscientific spirit. Pulpit ignorance of science has been fairly matched by scientific ignorance of the aims and realities of the pulpit. Narrowness and arrogance on both sides have done their full share of mischief. It is time for a better understanding, for mutual respect, for more cordial united service between these two great agencies for human good. Reverent science seeking hidden truth should surely be no foe to earnest preaching proclaiming revealed truth; and the herald of God’s saving grace in Christ should not be the enemy of the searcher after God’s wondrous thought in creation. There is room in God’s world for both the scientist and the preacher; there should be room in their hearts for each other.”
Edwin Charles Dargan
1. We recognize the greatness and value of the service which modern science is rendering to the cause of truth in uncovering the facts of the natural world. We believe that loyalty to fact is a common ground of genuine science and the Christian religion. We have no interest or desire in covering up any fact in any realm of research. But we do protest against certain unwarranted procedures on the part of some so-called scientists: first, in making discoveries or alleged discoveries in physical nature a convenient weapon of attack upon the facts of religion; second, using the particular sciences, such as psychology, biology, geology and various others as if they necessarily contained knowledge pertaining to the realm of the Christian religion, setting aside the supernatural; third, teaching as facts what are merely hypotheses. The evolution doctrine has long been a- working hypothesis of science, and will probably continue to be because of its apparent simplicity in explaining the universe. But its best exponents freely admit that the causes of the origin of species have not been traced. Nor has any proof been forthcoming that man is not the direct creation of God as recorded in Genesis. We protest against the imposition of this theory upon the minds of our children in denominational or public schools as if it were a definite and established truth of science. We insist that this and all other theories be dealt with in a truly scientific way, that is, in careful conformity to established facts.
2. We record again our unwavering adherence to the supernatural elements in the Christian religion. The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself through men moved by the Holy Spirit, and is our sufficient, certain, and authoritative guide in religion. Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit. He was the Divine and eternal Son of God. He wrought miracles, healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead. He died as the vicarious atoning Savior of the world and was buried. He arose again from the dead. The tomb was emptied of its contents. In His risen body He appeared many times to His disciples. He ascended to the right hand of the Father. He will come again in person, the same Jesus who ascended from the Mount of Olives.
3. We believe that adherence to the above truths and facts is a necessary condition of service for teachers in our Baptist schools. These facts of Christianity in no way conflict with any fact in science. We do not sit in judgment upon the scientific views of teachers of science. We grant them the same freedom of research in their realm that we claim for ourselves in the religious realm. But we do insist upon a positive content of faith in accordance with the preceding statements as a qualification for acceptable service in Baptist schools. The supreme issue today is between naturalism and super-naturalism. We stand unalterably for the supernatural in Christianity. Teachers in our schools should be careful to free themselves from any suspicion of disloyalty on this point. In the present period of agitation and unrest they are obligated to make their positions clear. We pledge our support to all schools and teachers who are thus loyal to the facts of Christianity as revealed in the Scriptures.”
E. Y. Mullins, Presidential Address (excerpt), SBC, Annual, 1923.
“A few years ago all was darkness here; we knew not God, we were ignorant of the Savior. Our children, like our fathers, grew up in blindness of mind. Our sick had no hope, no comforter in their afflictions, and all was dark beyond the grave. Now, we are thankful for what God has done for us. We teach our children the ways of God, and many of them listen and attend. We visit our sick, we pray for them, and point them to Jesus Christ.”
Letter from Indians to Triennial Convention, 1835
Because “the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” Psalm 100:3 NIV
Congregational Polity – that form of church governance wherein the general membership of the church participates in governance by voting.
Suppose First Presbyterian Church of Jackson, Mississippi, gave one million dollars to the Southern Baptist Convention and that the Convention accepted this generous gift. Subsequently, First Presbyterian Jackson asked to cooperate officially with the Convention so that her members could be sent as messengers to the SBC and could serve as committee members or trustees within the SBC. Should the Convention receive First Presbyterian Jackson as a cooperating church and entitle her to messengership and service because of her financial gift to the Convention’s work?
Article III, Composition, of the SBC Constitution says, “The Convention shall consist of messengers who are members of Baptist [emphasis added] churches in cooperation with the Convention.” In the above hypothetical scenario, though First Presbyterian Jackson gave a generous monetary gift to the work of the Convention, the church would neither be given official cooperating status nor the privilege to send messengers to the Convention because she is not a Baptist church.
Baptists believe certain and definite things that make them Baptist. For example, Baptists do not practice infant baptism and hold that only those who can repent and believe should be baptized and made members of the church.
Congregational governance under Christ’s Lordship is another distinguishing mark of a Baptist church. A church may be baptistic in every other aspect, but if she does not have a form of congregational governance, she cannot be counted as a Baptist church.
The Second London Baptist Confession of 1689 is clear that the general membership of the church should participate in church governance by voting: “The way appointed by Christ for the calling of any person, fitted and gifted by the Holy Spirit, unto the office of bishop or elder in a church, is, that he be chosen thereunto by the common suffrage [i.e., voting] of the church itself.”
The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 upholds congregational governance: “Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes.” A “democratic” process must include the ability for the general church membership to vote; otherwise, the process cannot be described as “democratic.”
Unlike the hypothetical gift from First Presbyterian Jackson, Harvest Bible Chapel in Elgin, Illinois, actually does give to the work of the SBC and is listed in the SBC directory of cooperating churches. As a result, Harvest Bible Chapel is entitled to send messengers to the SBC and her members and leaders are eligible for election or appointment to various committee and trustee positions within the Convention. And while Harvest Bible Chapel is baptistic in various points of doctrine (she practices believer’s baptism and regenerate church membership), she does not practice a form of congregational governance.
The Harvest Bible Chapel Bylaws, Article 6.01, Membership, state, “Members of the church do not participate in governance by voting.” Only the elders vote; never the congregation. This extends even to the election of other elders and the senior pastor, as demonstrated by Article 8.04, Senior Pastor, which reads, “The Elder Board will then make a final consensus decision [i.e., vote] on the candidate and if approved shall then direct the Executive Committee to proceed with hiring the nominee as the new Senior Pastor.” The general membership of Harvest Bible Chapel can ask questions and offer feedback, but they never vote. In terms of church governance, Harvest Bible Chapel appears to practice a form of episcopal governance, which is in no way congregational. For this reason, Harvest Bible Chapel cannot and ought not be regarded as a Baptist church, which, based on SBC’s Constitution as cited above, ought to exclude Harvest Bible Chapel from formal affiliation and the from privilege of sending messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention.
Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville is another such church. She holds to some Baptist beliefs but does not practice a form of congregational governance, as stated in her membership packet: “…we are not congregational…” Although she, like Harvest Bible Chapel, cannot be characterized as a Baptist church, she is currently affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and maintains the privileges of sending messengers to the Convention and having her members and leaders elected or appointed to various committee and trustee positions within the Convention.
In 1994, the Convention voted in favor of a resolution that began, “WHEREAS, As a people of God committed to congregational polity….” Is this still true? Currently, the Southern Baptist Convention has allowed affiliation by churches which clearly do not practice any form of congregational governance. Harvest Bible Chapel and Sovereign Grace Church are merely two recent examples.
If it is true that we Southern Baptists are “a people of God committed to congregational polity,” and historically we have been, why, then, do we receive churches who openly reject that form of governance which we hold to be intrinsically Baptist, and above all, biblical?
Let us test our commitment to congregational polity at this year’s Convention by asking the Credentials Committee not to seat as messengers members of non-congregationally-governed churches. If the Credentials Committee fails the test and will not uphold that form of polity to which we say we are committed, then let an appeal be made to the messengers and let the Convention’s commitment to congregational polity be put to the test.