Monday, July 31, 2006


In today's post I'm going to do the unusual. I'm going to let someone else speak for me who says what I believe better than I can say it. I'm speaking of Tim Sweatman a young pastor in Kentucky who answers an article by a leader with Texas baptists who attempts to say some pastors today don't believe the Bible is inerrant because they believe some truths of Scripture differently than do more traditional Baptists. I have tried to link you to his original post but it didn't work. Sorry Tim. But here is the heart of his fine rebuttal. I'm doing this with Tim's gracious approval.

"Certainly, one would be hard pressed to find a current leader in the SBC who would deny the inerrancy of Scripture. It might be accurate to say that the battle regarding inerrancy is over within the SBC, but can we really say that the battle for the Bible is over? Ledbetter asserts that the battle for the Bible is not over, and on this point I fully agree with him."
"As you will see, however, we have different reasons for believing this. Ledbetter is right when he says, "The battle for the Bible will not end until time does." As long as Satan is operating in this world, he will attack the inspiration, truthfulness, and authority of the Bible, because the Bible is the Word of God. So in this sense the battle for the Bible is something we will always be engaged in. We must always be vigilant against efforts to denigrate the inspiration, truthfulness, and authority of the Bible.

"If Ledbetter had stayed with this theme, his analysis would have been completely on the mark. Unfortunately, he carries his argument too far and confuses biblical fidelity with subscribing to a particular interpretation of Scripture. Ledbetter indicates that there are Southern Baptists who profess to believe in inerrancy but who are not really faithful to Scripture because they accept unbiblical doctrines. He mentions the recent, and often contentious, discussions about baptism and church membership, tongues and private prayer language, and the use of alcohol as examples that the battle for the Bible is far from over in the SBC."

"Certainly if someone denies the deity or the humanity of Jesus, or that salvation is found only through Christ, or anything else that is clearly taught in Scripture then that person is being unfaithful to Scripture, even if he or she claims to believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. However, the examples given by Ledbetter do NOT meet this standard because on each of these issues the view that is predominant among Southern Baptists does not rest on clear and unambiguous biblical teaching. These views reflect a specific interpretation of what the Bible says about each subject, but while the Bible is inerrant and infallible, our interpretations are not."

"I believe that there is a new "battle for the Bible" coming to the forefront in the SBC. Whereas during the Conservative Resurgence the battle was over the inspiration and authority of the Bible, the new battle for the Bible is concerned with the sufficiency of Scripture. The key issue for our generation within the SBC is not, "Is the Bible really the Word of God?" but "What does the Bible itself say about [insert topic]?" It is because we acknowledge that the Bible is the Word of God that we examine everything, including issues that Southern Baptists in the past have almost universally agreed upon, in light of what the Bible actually says, and also what it does not say."

"This has resulted in some contention within the SBC, as many of us have become convinced that the predominant views on some issues within the SBC are lacking in clear and unambiguous biblical support. This is certainly true for the issues that Ledbetter refers to in his article.Ledbetter and I agree on what needs to happen in our churches if we are to be faithful to Scripture. At the end of his article he says:"A systematic preaching and teaching of the whole Bible will cover everything eventually. It’s not commonly done. It is more loving for us to pass along as much of what God has taught us as possible than it is to teach to perceived needs or trendy subjects. That way our children and our other disciples can learn to love God and his truth in the same way we have.“Inerrancy” is still a good and serviceable term. It’s got to be more than that, though. If it is our conviction regarding the nature of God’s revelation of himself to all men, we’ll do something about that. We’ll learn it, love it more than other competing versions of the truth, and we’ll teach all of it to those who follow us."

"I agree with this statement. However, if we actually do this--- systematically preach and teach the whole of Scripture as it is written---I believe the results will be different from what Ledbetter expects. Ledbetter seems to think that such preaching and teaching will lead future generations of Southern Baptists to embrace the predominant views on the issues mentioned above. I believe that the opposite is true. Such preaching and teaching will result in a diversity of views on these issues, because the Bible does not address these issues with perfect clarity."

"If we teach the Bible as it is written, then we will have agreement on those issues where it speaks clearly, diversity on those issues where it does not speak clearly, and unity in the midst of this diversity. To me, this would be a victory in the "battle for the Bible."

Well said Tim. I couldn't agree more.

Paul Burleson


Bob Cleveland said...

I'm not sure that's a battle over the Bible. The Bible stands, unassailable, and I doubt anyone really wants to dispute that.

What's at stake .. the subject of the disputes .. is man's actions vs. the Bible's authority. When we act in ways that are not supported by scripture, we're not arguing its infallibility, but rather its authority. And perhaps its effectiveness.

That's what satan attacked in the garden. He didn't really say that, did He?

We hear a lot of that, or silence, in some of the battles now. Good. The sheep and the goats are getting sorted out.

patrickbarrett said...

This is a fantastic post.

Christopher Redman said...

I've said this before as well. We've one the innerency battle for the Bible. Now, we are asking, discussing, and yes debating over what it says.

I was asked about Calvinism by the church pulpit committee that I'm now pastoring. I told them that the reason that Calvinism is being discussed so much today is because of this very issue. We now have affirmed our belief in the Word of God, now we are asking, "What does it say?"


Bryan Riley said...

This is well said. I would add that what it appears Ledbetter is claiming is not that the bible be found inerrant, but that he himself be found inerrant. That should frighten everyone. The word of God is exactly that: His perfect, infinite, infallible word. But neither I nor Ledbetter nor anyone else will get the bible right all the time. Perhaps he and those who subscribe to his views should consider a religion that teaches that people can be inerrant.

Paul Burleson said...

Thanks to all of you for your thoughts.

I have to say the line by Bryan R. "It appears _________ is claiming not that the Bible is inerrant, but that he himself be found inerrant" is the best I've heard to describe any person who insists that their understanding of the less clear areas of truth in scripture is the only correct view.

By the way, to get it from the horses mouth the blog address you need is...

Paul B.

mr. t said...

This issue is the greatest barrier to the expansion of God's kingdom. When we follow the traditions of men, rather than the teachings of Scripture, we become a hindrance to the work of the Holy Spirit. On the mission field when a disciple asks a question, our first response is, "What does the Bible say about this issue?" Many times, the answer is different than what we have historically practiced in our denomination. We have discovered many of our practices to be cultural and not scriptural.

Bryan Riley said...

Mr T., this is just another reason to minister by being avenues to the Nations, encouraging and exhorting other Christians to do missions, whether short- or long-term. Getting people out in the world, in other cultures, sharing their faith and being ministered to in those other cultures will help them see what you are seeing.

Bryan Riley said...

And, Paul, thank you for not perpetuating the name of the individual. I do not know the man and only used the name for a reference point, not as a personal attack on him, so that I would not have to have a confusing, vague pronoun. My point was that whenever anyone, including myself, makes such a claim we are in a dangerous place and likely more concerned with our own right-ness than we are God's message.

Paul Burleson said...


Your use of the name was perfectly legitimate in my opinion as you were reflecting on words he said. My point was the statement you made, which I think is so right on, and didn't need his name.

I certainly heard no personal attack in anything you said. We're discussing ideas and you do it well. Thanks for commenting.

Paul B.

GuyMuse said...


I too appreciated Tim's post and was pleased that you chose it to post on your own blog.

The "Battle for the Bible" may be over, but certainly we are only in the beginning stages of the "Battle for Interpretting the Bible".

I have been reading with interest the first few shots as the alcohol, ppl, baptism, and a few other issues have begun to hit SBC prime-time. These kinds of interpretive issues is what confronted us on the missionary field a number of years ago when New Directions came on the scene.

One of the by-products of ND was the necessity to go back to the New Testament and examine carefully exactly what Scripture says about many of the things we had always just taken for granted.

For us, the biggest of all has been ecclesiology--what is the church? ... church practice ... definition of church, etc. So much of our contemporary Churchianity is nowhere to be seen in the pages of the NT.

I predict "church" will increasingly be examined in much the same way some of the other current "hot topics" are being reevaluated today in the light of Scripture.

Paul Burleson said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bryan Riley said...

Guy, I like your comment and would love to hear from some seasoned pastors an examination of just that: what is a NT church?

deusvult2 said...

"but while the Bible is inerrant and infallible, our interpretations are not." I like that, I've been vehemently saying the exact same thing for years. There is the attitude in the SBC that the old line conservative interpretations of the Bible are infallible and if you don't agree with them you're a lesser Christian or a lesser Baptist. This is horridly bias and unfair. Until 1517 no one dared challenge Rome's interpretation of the Bible, and we know how fallible they were. I'd just hate to see our views as Baptists be dictated by a prominent few and made into creedal dogmatism for all.