Strict//EN" ""> EAGLES' REST: What's All This Baptist Identity Garbage?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

What's All This Baptist Identity Garbage?

I confess real amusement over this issue, but I swear, I just don't understand it.

Up front: I don't have any problem with folks who are concerned about it, or with folks who aren't. To each his own. But, while I'm not a life-long Baptist like seemingly everyone else ... well at least a lot of others act that way ... I've learned some stuff about being Baptist, particularly Southern Baptist. And I think I'd like to show my twisted take on some of the stuff I've learned.

Most of the upset seems to be coming from folks who don't like what somebody else is doing. I guess I understand that, but my pastor finds it amusing whenever I bring up the stuff I see going on in the BlogBog (it doesn't seem organized enough to call it a BlogTown .. or clean enough, either); when I bring up some of the stuff .. the Family Worship thing ... ESS ... the BI thing ... he just says that none of that stuff affects our church, that we're autonomous.

And he says it like NONE. And PERIOD.

Nonetheless, I find one aspect of the B.I. thing (controversy, mess, movement, you pick a descriptive term) really amusing. Follow my disjointed thoughts, if you would.

First, our common confession of faith is the Baptist Faith and Message. 1963 or 2000. And it says, for instance, that ....

"A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers...."

and ....

"The Lord's Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming."

It also says: "Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

SO ... we have the open/closed communion controversy, with some viewing the closed variety as applying only to members of the particular congregation. I've seen some of those discussions get pretty, shall we say, enthusiastic. There's the question as to whether a church should allow communion participation to someone who has not been baptized, or should restrict it to people who have been immersed but not sprinkled, or might even share communion with members of churches which practice sprinkling, like Methodists or Presbyterians. And some folks seem to go beyond describing what their own congregations do, and want to indicate how a Genuine Southern Baptist church ought to view it. Which brings me to the other part of my thoughts....

All that stuff the BF&M says, I like. I agree with it. But I also agree with the other stuff it says. Including the Preamble (which seems to set the ground rules for the whole thing; otherwise, why have a Preamble at all...). And that says, in part:

  1. That they constitute a consensus of opinion of some Baptist body, large or small, for the general instruction and guidance of our own people and others concerning those articles of the Christian faith which are most surely held among us. They are not intended to add anything to the simple conditions of salvation revealed in the New Testament, viz., repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.
  2. That we do not regard them 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.
  3. That any group of Baptists, large or small, have the inherent right to draw up for themselves and publish to the world a confession of their faith whenever they may think it advisable to do so.
Now I'm sure everyone has read that before, as I have, but I just noticed something I hadn't really honed in on, before. #1 says this is a consensus statement of the body assembled for that purpose, but #2 and #3 go on to say that Baptists can (apparently) disagree on some point or other and publish their own statements of faith, as Baptists! I don't see a statement in the Preamble that says you have to agree to every point in there, no exceptions, or you can't be Baptist. Or that you can't cooperate if you do disagree and publish your own statement of faith.

I fail to see why it would be objectionable to one church for another to allow non-immersed Christians to take communion. I don't see why a church which allowed non-immersed people to join ... people who sincerely believed they followed the command by being sprinkled ... and trusting the Holy Spirit to lead them to a desire to be immersed as Jesus was ... a church which allowed people to take communion where they'd just been saved and hadn't yet been baptized ... would meet with disfavor with other churches who seem to think they have a lock on the One True Meaning of the BF&M.

I just don't see where the BF&M doesn't allow such freedom in a local body.

To be blunt, I think there are a lot of people who were baptized NOT out of obedience to Jesus command, but simply in conformance with the local church's requirement for membership.

I wish more folks would act like we believe what the BF&M says.

Some folks have expressed the thought that God might not like the arguing going on now in the SBC, over various issues. Perhaps it is, that the arguing and infighting is actually a result of God's dislike for things that have gone on in the SBC, in past years. The CR and the way it was handled, the firing of professors (male and female), the embezzlement from the IMB and the terrible judgment (in my opinion) on the part of trustees in covering it up, the firing of certain seminary employees who dared point out questionable financial (or maybe I should say automotive) transactions; perhaps all these things are less indicative of problems in the SBC, and more indicative of God's having left the house.

I think maybe He wrote something over the door when He left.


At 10:06 PM, December 09, 2008, Anonymous Lee said...

I am what you might call a first generation Southern Baptist. I came to know Christ at age 22, and was baptized in an SBC congregation in what they once called a "pioneer" state, because the Southern Baptist churches there were relatively new on the scene, and mostly small. I had been raised going to Sunday School, Training Union which then became Church Training, Sunbeams (now Mission Friends), R.A.'s, and just about everything you could do, including youth camp. I went to a Southern Baptist related college, and got a minor in Christian Studies. I studied Baptist polity and Baptist history under professors who all had long pedigrees in Southern Baptist higher education. The one thing that I have always been taught related to the core of Baptist identity is that independent, autonomous church, and the fact that Baptists are generally free from any kind of ecclesiastical regulation or control. Period.

So I don't get a lot of this stuff from the Baptist Identity movement, either. The very thought of attempting to pin down a Baptist identity, and exclude Baptists who don't exactly fit that mold is, frankly, very un-Baptist.

At 1:23 PM, December 11, 2008, Blogger Tom Parker said...


I think this group of people have gotten into the the habit of excluding people and they just do not know how to stop. I'm not really sure they like to play nice either. Whatever it takes to exclude people they will do it. It will most likely destroy the SBC.

At 10:14 PM, December 11, 2008, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Lee; right you are.

Tom; I suspect it's like that iceberg that sank the Titanic. And we haven't nearly seen all of it, IMHO.

At 6:15 AM, December 12, 2008, Blogger CB Scott said...


I don't think there are really any BI guys.

I think that was a name given to some guys by some other guys who differ on some things from the first guys 'cause most of those guys called BI guys differ on some things with each other just as much as they differ with the guys who lumped the guys together they are calling BI guys.

Does that make sense?:-)


At 6:54 AM, December 12, 2008, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...


Your comment concerns me greatly, but NOT over the fact that there might not really BE any Baptist Identity guys. Nope.

Rather, your comment does make sense to me, and THAT worries me. :)


At 10:33 AM, December 12, 2008, Blogger Rick said...

To quote the pitiful, but well-meaning words of the great West Coast philosopher and 15 minute fame grabber, Rodney King, "Can't we all just get along?"

I don't understand the incredible divisiveness that this BI thing has brought. I tend to think that anything that divides is not of God.

That's my two cents.

At 11:04 AM, December 12, 2008, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...


I agree .. within one particular limit. There might be some times when God wants to divide, to grow. But this thing ain't it, to my way of thinking. I don't think God's deal would prominently feature collateral damage.

Every time the "Lower Ups" send forth some edict that causes another "Us & Them" mentality to arise, damage is done to the work, IMHO. At least to the part we're supposed to be doing.

Thanks for looking in and commenting.

At 11:21 AM, December 12, 2008, Blogger Rick said...

I was coming from the notion that Satan divides; God multiplies...

Just a figure of speech, of course, but I think we're on the same page!

I like your "collateral damage" comment, too. I think that definitely works in here somewhere.

As a pastor, I am only concerned about this stuff when I read it; like your pastor said, it doesn't affect my church ONE IOTA!

I'm concerned that what is being done in the name of preservation is actually BAD for the Kingdom. Who is is REALLY helping? Pastors? Members? The lost? Nope; nope; and nope. I think it just makes them "feel good" to talk about it.

At 5:53 PM, December 12, 2008, Blogger CB Scott said...


:-) :-)



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