Saturday, April 29, 2006

Baptist, What Do You Believe? #2

The Doctrine of Scripture Questions for Review 1. What are the differences between a creed and a confession of faith? 2. What does orthodox mean? 3. What is a heretic? 4. What are some reasons for Baptists to have confessions? 5. What are some reasons for Baptists to know and study their confession? 6. What are two hallmarks of Baptists? Introduction The world knows Baptists better for what they don't believe (in) than for what they do believe. "Baptists don't smoke, drink, or chew, or go out with girls that do.", is a catchy phrase I hear often at work. Especially, Baptist don't dance. When the push for the lottery a couple of years ago came to Oklahoma, the Baptists were against it. I can remember as a young adult when liquor-by-the-drink became law, the Baptist opposed it. Now I'm not against Baptists standing up against the moral ills of our society, but one has to ask the question, "Does anybody out there know what we DO believe?" Perhaps an even more important question follows. Baptist, What Do You Believe? That is the title of this series. That is my main goal in this study, to make you ask yourself what it is that you believe. In my Sunday school class I periodically grill my students with a series of questions: "What do you believe about your faith? What does it mean to be a Christian? Does it matter what you believe? Is it important to know why you believe what you believe? Can you explain to a classmate their need for a Savior, and how to repent and believe? As a Christian, where do you go to find out what your faith is all about?" I go on to impress upon them that they are going to be the future pastors, teachers, music directors, deacons, etc., etc. I have noticed, that in the past year, the reality of what kind of shoes they are expected to fill has had an effect. One of the best, most effective, systematic ways to know who you are as a Christian (first) and Baptist (second) is to study the document your Southern Baptist Convention has adopted. In doing this, they have declared "This is what we believe." Being Baptist and Being Biblical Being a Baptist has historically meant being biblical. We are known as a people of the Book. There should be no contradiction here. All of the confessions of faith from the very beginning of Baptist history have had their basis in Holy Scripture, and have dealt with the nature and importance of Scripture as their very first article. The BF&M2000 is no exception. Why is The Scriptures the First Article of the BF&M2000? The article on the Scriptures is the foundation of every other article found in this confession. Without a trustworthy source for our beliefs, how can we know that what we believe is true? Without having an authoritative standard to go by, we are reduced to all of the other religions of the world, which is nothing more than the opinions of men. Once we establish the content, quality, and purpose of the Scriptures, then we can go and confidently speak with authority on all of the other articles that follow. Note that after each article there are numerous references to Scripture that back up the statements made. Changes in the BF&M2000 1. The Holy Bible . . . is God's revelation of Himself to man. This is a strengthening of the 1963 article on the Holy Scriptures, which stated: The Holy Bible . . . is the record of God's revelation of Himself to man. The two statements sound alike, but the real difference is substantial. To say that the Bible is a record of God's revelation is to imply that its authors were nothing more than reporters and historians who chronicled the events as they happened or as they were told to them. This one word lends the idea of a second-hand source to the Bible. It leaves open the option of fallibility and errancy. This stronger statement in the 2000 revision reflects a more conservative leadership in the convention, and reflects more accurately what most SBC congregations have believed all along. 2. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. This sentence was added in the BF&M2000. Again, this addition makes a stronger first article, and reinforces Baptists' historical belief in inerrancy. 3. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation. This last sentence of the article on the Scriptures replaces a similar sounding last sentence in the 1963 confession: The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ. Again, a stronger statement has replaced a weaker. Among other things, in a very subtle way the 2000 statement comes down solidly against the Scofield style of dispensationalism. From the seed of woman in Genesis 3:15, to the offering of Isaac in Genesis 22, to Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness, to Psalm 110, to Isaiah 53, to the Alpha and the Omega of the Revelation of John, to all the others in between that I failed to mention; Christ is the scarlet thread that runs throughout Holy Scriptures. The Bible is Truth This does not mean that the Bible is exhaustive truth. God's word cannot teach us how to repair lawn mowers, or prune apple trees. It doesn't truthfully tell us everything about everything. But concerning those things it touches it is . . . truth, without any mixture of error. Article I. The Scriptures (with references interspersed)
  • The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God's revelation of Himself to man. (Exodus 24:4; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21)
  • It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. (Psalm 19:7-10; See especially Psalm 119; Romans 15:4)
  • It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. (John 17:17)
  • Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. (Psalm 119:160; Hebrews 6:18)
  • It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, (Psalm 119:89; Isaiah 40:8; Luke 21:33; 1 Peter 1:25)
  • the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. (Acts 17:9; Romans 16:25, 26; 2 Timothy 3:17)
  • All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation. (Genesis 3:14,15; Luke 24:25-27, 44-46; John 5:39; Hebrews 1:2)
Previous Lessons: Baptist, What Do You Believe? #1

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Baptist, What Do You Believe? #1

Introduction: Creeds and Confessions Creeds What is the difference between the two? A creed, such as the Apostles Creed, is usually much shorter than a confession. The main reason this is so is that the primary purpose of a creed is to define the barest minimum requirement for orthodoxy. In other words, anything outside the boundaries of a creed defined non-Christianity. A creed often arose in response to vital disputes in the church. These disputes usually dealt with the nature of Jesus. Was He truly a man? Was He truly God? How do you define the Trinity? Creeds, like confessions define what one believes. The word Creed comes from the Latin verb credo, which means "I believe". Creeds, because of their nature, defining essentials, are more binding. To not accept a creed as representative of your beliefs means to not believe in true Christianity. This is called heresy. A person in this position is called a heritic. For instance, if you do not believe that Jesus is God, as the Jehovah's Witness believe, you are not a Christian. Confessions Confessions as a rule are much more detailed than creeds. Whereas creeds usually consist of one paragraph or article, confessions have many articles, with several paragraphs each. Confessions contain the same essentials found in creeds, but they also contain what would be called non-essentials. the essentials are defined in more detail, and the non-essentials are thoroughly defined. Confessions are not so much a binding statement to insure orthodoxy, but they are more a declaration of what a group of like-minded people believe. In other words: What is it that holds us together? What is it that makes us first Christian, and second Baptist? Why Do We Have Confessions of Faith and Why Do We Study Them? Baptists from the begining of their existence have had confessions of faith. There are several reasons for this. The report in the front of the BF&M2000 explains several of these reasons.
  • "Baptists are a people of deep beliefs and cherished doctrines." If you have something you believe deeply and cherish, then you will want to defend what you believe. A confession does this by laying out in logical, systematic order what we believe.
  • "Through out history we have . . . [adopted] statements of faith as a witness to our beliefs and a pledge of our faithfulness to the doctrines revealed in Holy Scripture." This statement shows a two-fold purpose for confessions: a witness to the world, and a pledge to God and each other to be faithful to God's word.
One of the first Baptist confessions, the First London Confession of 1646 states in it introduction that it was published "for the vindication of the truth and information of the ignorant; likewise for the taking off those aspersions which are frequently, both in pulpit and print, unjustly cast upon them." Why Do We Keep Revising our Confession? Again, to borrow from the preamble to our BFM2000: "New challenges to faith appear in every age." The preamble goes on to explain the issues of the day that brought about the need for each revision and addition to the previous confession. If nothing else, language changes; words' meanings change. Is a Confession on Equal Footing with Scripture? Baptists have never held their confession up to the standard of Holy Scripture. Note in the preamble statements number two and four:
(2) That we do not regard [confessions] as complete statements of our faith, having any quality of finality or infallibility. As in the past so in the future, Baptists should hold themselves free to revise their statements of faith as may seem to them wise and expedient at any time. (4) That the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience.
Baptist Hallmarks There have been two hallmarks to Baptist belief from the very begining. They are religious liberty, and the priesthood of believers. They are cherished blessings, and at the same time the source of much dispute among baptists. Again, let's look at one of the closing paragraphs of the BFM2000 preamble: "Baptists cherish and defend religious liberty, and deny the right of any secular or religious authority to impose a confession of faith upon a church or body of churches. We honor the principles of soul competency and the priesthood of believers, affirming together both our liberty in Christ and our accountability to each other under the Word of God." Religious liberty and the priesthood of believers are not priveledges, they are responsibilities. Many people use these two catch phrases to justify reletavism. Religious liberty or liberty of conscience does not mean that every belief is true and valid, it means that I have the responsibility to respect other's beliefs, and to know what I believe and why. The priesthood of believers does not mean that I have the right to interpret God's word any way I see fit. I have a responsibility as an individual to study God's word, and with the aid of others who have gone on before me, to determine what that Word says. Long or Short? The farther you go back the longer the confessions seem to be. Is this a problem? Why is our BFM2000 barely one tenth the length of the 1689? Which is better, and why? Here is a comparason of length among two confessions, one modern and one old, and the Apostles Creed. The Apostles' Creed: 110 words Baptist Faith & Message 2000: 4044 words (3016 without scripture references), with 18 articles, and 78 paragraphs. 1689 confession: 16,806 words, with 32 articles and 707 paragraphs. One thing that makes our shorter, but not too short, confession better is that it provides breadth for many churches to come together and cooperate on issues such as missions and education. As we cover the various articles in the coming weeks we will look at how the brevity allows latitude on non-essential issues. Reference material: Preamble to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 The 1689 Confession The Apostles' Creed

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Downloading Sermons by Series

I have just put up a new link near the top of the side bar which makes it much easier to browse and download the audio sermons that we have available at Bulldogs and Piggies. I only have two categories at this time, BFM2000 and Guests, but I will add pages as time permits featuring other sermon series. I hope that this "series" arrangement will make browsing and downloading audio files much easier than before.
  • The BFM2000 page features an 18-part study of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, which was delivered by Pastor Rod Harris on Wednesday evenings.
  • The Guests page contains the five sermons preached by Pastor Wade Burleson preached here in early April, 2006, during special meetings. Our audio equipment gave us fits during these meetings, so the audio leaves something to be desired on several of the messages. Our apologies.
Please feel free to download these sermons and distribute them where ever you see fit.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

You Were Grafted In

It has been such a warm spring, and yesterday was so beautiful, I got up early before work and grafted a young pecan tree so that it would bear paper-shell pecans in the future. Every time I graft I think about Romans 11. What a wonderful, startling, and fearful picture of being included in God's gracious covenant. I took pictures to show the process. You can view the slide show if you like. Update: I failed to mention that this is called a four-flap banana graft, and the variety being grafted on is "Pawnee". Yes, I know, in Romans 11 Paul is referring to olive trees. Even though I am sure the type of graft was different, the same principle applies. I guess the illustration that grabs me is the fact that that little "dead" piece of scion wood gets its life from the stock, or "root". Simply amazing.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Extend Resurrection Day

Here are a couple of ways to bring Resurrection Sunday with you into this new work week:
  • Listen to our pianist, Rebekah's offertory special from yesterday. You can find the audio file to Hear the Bells Ringing, They're Singing in the sidebar. The audio is a little rough, but that's because it's live. Listen to it soon; download it if you like; the file will be traded out with whatever she plays next Sunday (if it's not a copywrited tune).
  • Listen to Pastor Rod's sermon, Resurrection Hope from yesterday. Wade Burleson's preaching was very good last week, but I feel like Dorothy in Oz: "There's no place like home. . . There's no place like home. . . There's. . . ." Again, the audio is a bit rough, but that was because our #1 lapel mic went on the fritz, so the old back-up had to be pressed into service. Listen to the message and not the audio quality, and give God the glory for a risen Savior.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Wrapping up Pilgrims Progress

Well, last Sunday the young men in my Sunday-school class finished reading the Pilgrim's Progress. During our discussion time, we talked about how much was made over Christian and Hopefull by the heavenly host (Luke 15:7)Nas they were being escorted up into the Celestial city. I also mentioned to class how it was expressly pointed out how an opening to Hell existed even near to the Clestial city, ever so much as one existed near the begining and in the middle of the pilgrim's journey. We also discussed the contrast between the reception of Christian and Hopefull, and that of Ignorance; how he could not produce his scroll, and that the Lord of the place would not even see him, and how he was carried away to the opening of Hell.

This Sunday I am confident Pastor Rod will present an excellent Easter message, so in Sunday school we are going to wrap up Pilgrim's Progress by looking at the life of John Bunyan. I did that a bit at the begining of our reading several months back, but I have found some more material from an audio biography by Dr. Piper on the life of John Bunyan that has aired this week in four parts, so I am going to give a bit more detailed info on Bunyan's life. I also began reading Tom Nettles book, By His Grace and for His Glory, and have just gotten to the chapter that discusses Bunyan, so I plan to use some of that too.

The week after Easter I will begin taking the class through The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, article by article. I will be leaning heavily upon Pastor Rod's notes from his recently-finished Wednesday-evening lessons on the same subject. If you would like to hear those audio tapes, they are available online at Bulldogs and Piggies. They began back in October and you can find them under the title "What Does It Mean to be Baptist? (#'s 1-18).

Christ is Risen!
He is Risen indeed!

Have a blessed Resurrection day.
Wayne Hatcher