Theological Ambiguities in the Statement on Scriptures in the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message -- By: Rod Gilbert

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 16:1 (Fall 1998)
Article: Theological Ambiguities in the Statement on Scriptures in the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message
Author: Rod Gilbert


Theological Ambiguities in the Statement on Scriptures
in the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message

Rod Gilbert

Th.M. Student
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, NC 27587

Introduction

Assessing the theological milieu of the second half of the twentieth century, one could surmise that the statement on the Scriptures in the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message was a mishap of vague conclusions that truly depicted the shifting foundation of the Southern Baptist Convention in the middle of the century. The drafters of this confession allowed subtle additions which reflect the neo-orthodox infiltration into the Southern Baptist leadership. According to the records of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1962, the purpose of the revision (or reassessment) of the 1925 Baptist Faith and Confession was to inoculate the convention from the onslaught of neo-orthodoxy.1 Whether the Committee on the Baptist Faith and Message understood the ambiguities or not is certainly an intriguing inquiry, which may never be known; however, the physical result of its work was a failed attempt to reach the goal. This research assignment is not to be misunderstood as a personal attack against the individuals who served on the committee; rather, the current writer seeks to describe the theological matrix found in the influential circles of Southern Baptist life from the middle fifties to the early sixties.

From the presupposition that a confession is not an unchangeable, infallible creed, this writer will attempt to describe the mishandling of the theological vernacular and the repercussions of that mistake in the 1963 Confession. “Holy Scripture alone is God’s perfect touchstone of revealed truth. But confessions of faith may rightly be used both as a joyous affirmation of corporate commitment to Christ and as a safeguard against doctrinal error and unconcern.”2 Baptist confessions succinctly describe the current mindset of the Baptists in light of their worldly environment.3 Therefore, an investigation into the authorial intent and future interpretations of the 1963 Baptist Faith and Messaage will provide an understanding of the theological parameters of Southern Baptists.

For all practical purposes, the general consensus is that Hershel Hobbs, the SBC president from 1962 to 1963, was the driving force behind the revision. In order to understand Hobbs’ rally in 1962, this paper will chronologically examine the seminary writings that appear to have started the questioning. Then an analysis of ...

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