And Just WHY Isn't It a Creed?
Now, I'm familiar with creeds, as I've been a member of Evangelical United Brethren, Methodist, United Methodist, United Presbyterian, Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod, Presbyterian Church in America, and Southern Baptist Convention churches. And I've, for 40 years, been one to pursue what we believe, so I've read lots of creeds. So I do understand what they are.
It never occurred to me that the BF&M was really different from that until the recent controversies arose. That got me to studying the BF&M, with particular attention paid to what it doesn't say ... and lately, a curiosity WHY it doesn't say it.
I'm no historian, but I'd guess that the 1925, 1963 and 2000 publications were all written after the Westminster Confession of Faith was published. If that's so, then I'm also guessing that the men who drew up our statements of faith knew what a comprehensive, sort of "all inclusive" creed looked like. I'm also assuming they were rational, and if they didn't write such a creed, it was because they did not intend to. So if the BF&M is loose in certain areas, they apparently meant it to be.
I doubt that we're such geniuses now, that we think we've noticed a bunch of stuff in the Bible that those writers didn't. And the Word of God is unchangeable, so I doubt we need to change our belief system because of what the devil's wreaking on earth.
I hear a lot about preserving Baptist traditions. How about the guys who were trusted enough by their contemporaries, that they were asked to formulate our statement of faith? And how about the fact that, when it came time to publish it, they included a preamble which you (should) have to read before you even get to the statements about beliefs?
The BF&M covers enough detail that I'm led to believe the writers included all the traditions within the BF&M, that they thought worthy of inclusion. Modes of baptism, meaning of communion, salvation by faith, these were all things (along with many others) that I'm sure were settled within the churches at the time, but they were spelled out nonetheless. And there were other traditions, I'm sure, that the writers purposely omitted. Worship styles, speaking in tongues, and who has to baptize you had all been dealt with, I'm sure.
Churches had settled on what they believed, likely with variations, and the writers of the BF&M were silent on them. So why are we raising traditions now, which may not even exist, to the level of the BF&M? And, as if to solve problems which don't exist either?
The Preamble says the BF&M is not binding on the conscience; I'm thinking that refers to the individual. So I'm free to disagree with it, I suppose, if it interferes with my conscientious application of scripture to my own life.
It also says that any group of Baptists is free to get together and publish their own statement of faith; the context indicates, to me, it's meant that groups can do that and remain Baptists. You don't need to give permission to folks, for them to disagree and leave.
We've heard a lot about upholding Southern Baptist traditions. But how about the tradition of steadfastly and repeatedly refusing to publish a creed .. a widespread description of our beliefs, to which members and bodies must adhere .. and repeatedly publishing a consensus statement of faith which explicitly gives believers, assembled and scattered, the liberty to listen to God with the counsel, but without the filter, of denominational hierarchy.