The Bible Speaks To Current Southern Baptist Tensions -- By: C.R. Daley

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 01:2 (Spring 1984)
Article: The Bible Speaks To Current Southern Baptist Tensions
Author: C.R. Daley

The Bible Speaks To Current
Southern Baptist Tensions

C.R. Daley


It is altogether fitting that the second issue of the newly created scholarly journal of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary be devoted to a discussion of some facets of the current theological tension within the Southern Baptist Convention. Throughout our history seminary leaders and teachers have provided insight into denominational problems, and the contributors in this issue of FAITH AND MISSION are qualified analysts of past and present Southern Baptist life.

Controversy is nothing new for Baptists. Expressing individual views and fighting for them have been a way of life for us. This characteristic of Baptists has potential for good and bad. It is good when participants respect the freedom God intended for every redeemed individual in that it provides an enriching variety in the fellowship of believers. It is bad when differences become so sharp that freedom of thought is denied each other and the larger fellowship is fragmented.

The current confrontation among Southern Baptists is between the more conservative and the more progressive points of view in interpreting the Bible. More specifically it is a difference in views on the nature of the inspiration and the authority of the Bible. Is the Bible absolutely inerrant not only in the religious truth revealed but also historically, scientifically, and in every other way? Or, is the Bible an infallible revelation of God’s ways with mankind while reflecting limited historical and scientific understandings of the inspired writers?

The more conservative thinkers hold that if the Bible is not trustworthy in every area of knowledge, it is not trustworthy in any area. The more progressive thinkers hold that the reliability and authority of the religious revelation of the Bible do not depend upon its infallibility in other areas of knowledge.

This ongoing confrontation took a fateful turn in 1979 when the ultra-conservatives sought and succeeded in capturing the convention presidency and using its appointive powers to change the constituency of the governing boards of Southern Baptist Convention agencies. By now three convention presidents have been elected by this group, and the inerrancy position is being more and more represented in the agency boards.

Convention President James Draper whose tenure ends in June, 1984, has been something of a mediating influence with the two factions, but the confrontation goes on and probably will be quickened when a new president is chosen in Kansas City in June.

Is there a way out of the present Southern B...

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