Today, in the United States, there exist over nineteen Baptist denominations. Not only is the Southern Baptist denomination the most prominent, in recent years it has become the most “controversial,” at least through the lens of the media.
I’ve been affiliated with Southern Baptist churches and their convention (SBC) most of my life. I’ve attended their seminars, retreats, and camps and regularly subscribed to SBC literature for personal growth and corporate worship. While I don’t believe that Baptists, specifically Southern Baptists, are a better “brand” of Christian or “closer to God” than others, I do believe that their theology and teaching best aligns with my biblical beliefs and convictions and most importantly, with the Word of God.
Throughout the last century, the SBC has been criticized for a number of long-held beliefs and practices, some unapologetically true, but not all. For example, do Southern Baptists believe that the Bible is 100% without error and still applicable to modern society? Does membership in Southern Baptist churches actually exclude those who profess different beliefs about salvation? Are women viewed as oppressed and inferior to men with limited opportunities to serve in the church? Let’s dive into these three often misunderstood topics to sort truth from error about what Southern Baptists really believe and practice, based on their interpretation of Scripture.
True: Southern Baptists Believe in the Inerrancy and Infallibility of the Bible
God’s Word is the final authority for believers; Holy Scriptures provide a perfect, divine blueprint for the Christian life. Simply put, the Bible isn’t capable of being with error; as the SBC states, the Bible is “Written by men and divinely inspired. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and Truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter.”
The belief in Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) united Southern Baptists for decades. However, by the mid-1920s, their colleges and seminaries began subscribing to a more liberal approach to the interpretation and authority of Scripture. The Inerrancy of the Bible became a significant source of conflict between the denomination, prompting the SBC to write its first confession of faith, The Baptist Faith and Message. Since its origination in 1925, the BFM has been amended on three separate occasions in response to a cultural crisis or unbiblical teaching that has crept in and begun to permeate Baptist theology.
The latest update was in 2000, which inserted, “Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy.” As members of the SBC, churches avow that all Scripture is accurate and trustworthy. However, not all congregations endorsed the complete revision of the BFM 2000. The inerrancy of Scripture was just one section in the document.
Why is it so important to be united on the authority and trustworthiness of Scripture? By not asserting that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16), man ceases to be held accountable to an absolute standard of righteousness. Truth becomes relative and manipulated through personal beliefs, opinions, and perceptions. Humans are most fallible, incapable of discerning Truth on our own; therefore, holding fast to God’s Word as the one and only infallible source of Truth, and relying on the Holy Spirit to reveal to us all we need to know therein, is at heart and center of Southern Baptist theology.
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