Tuesday, November 05, 2013


This post will mean little to many of you and I know that. It is really a statement I believe I must make for some who've known me for years.

I am a simple person. And, since I'm a Baptist, that would make me a simple Baptist, would it not! It may be that in this day however, it is my simplicity which could cause my downfall, if there is one coming, in any relationship I have to present day Southern Baptist life.

I've always prided myself, in a non-sinful way I trust, in being a "non-creedal" Southern Baptist. I've always viewed the difference between a creed and a confession of faith, which we have utilized for years in the SBC life, as, simply put,  [there I go again with this simple thing]  in a creed you have declared what is INCUMBENT UPON YOU to believe to be a part of a particular group, while in a confession of faith you have declared what you hold to in basic agreement WITHOUT COERCION of any kind from other people in the group.

The popular way of saying it when a confession of faith is embraced is, "I have no creed but Christ and no ultimate document of authority but the Bible." [An over-simplification to be sure.]

This means that as a Baptist, I have believed the Bible as I have interpreted it, under what I believed to be the leadership of the Holy Spirit, and have attempted to guard the freedom of EVERY OTHER person to interpret scripture the same way. as they attempt to hear God's voice for themselves, and to obey what he/she believes they hear Him say. That's a rather long sentence but it declares what a simple Baptist does

But I'm wondering if there might not be a present day struggle more with what being a Southern Baptist entails, than there is with what being just a Baptist entails. Our Baptist identity has always been founded on an understanding of certain fundamentals of the faith. You can name them. So can I. But our Southern Baptist identity has been shaped by our cooperative efforts in evangelism and missions with a confession of faith approach to the fundamentals of the faith. It HAS BEEN this unique cooperative approach to missions that has defined us as a the Southern Baptist Convention.

We are Baptist because of the fundamentals of the faith. We are Southern Baptist because we cooperate with people who MAY NOT interpret the scriptures exactly as I do, but, since we are not creedal but confessional, they can join us in sharing a mission purpose for the world. In the past that difference was OK. Not so much today.

It is this Southern Baptist identity that is at risk at present it seems to me. It appears to me, I say again, appears, we are shifting into a creedal approach to identifying who Southern Baptists are. My simplicity is causing me to have a great deal of struggle within me as to where I will stand if that shift from a cooperative effort in missions to a theological creed being made out of a confession of faith is ultimately accomplished. As I said, I AM a simple Baptist.

I really like what a life-long friend recently said of himself. "I'm neither a creedal Baptist, nor a conventional Baptist, but I AM a convictional Baptist." That sounds descriptive of my journey as well, except I've been willing to claim the last two while not the first. My struggle is remaining the conventional baptist in the present day. Creedalism would not allow that.

I've just re-read what I've written and I've gotten dizzy-headed trying to figure out exactly what I've said. I did confess at the beginning that I'm a simple person remember. That makes me a simple Baptist and the bottom-line is that this simple Baptist blogger is struggling with where Southern Baptists are going and whether this Baptist blogger can remain a Southern Baptist. I guess we'll see, won't we!

Paul B.


Bob Cleveland said...

Indeed we will, brother. And I think it'll be sooner than later...

Paul Burleson said...


I appreciate your comment. I appreciate your phone call even more. ;)


"Confessionalism" is compatible with being Southern Baptist as evidenced in the BF&M and the freedom we continue to have EVEN when we might disagree with it.

"Creedalism" is not compatible with being a Baptist because it infringes upon the Priesthood of the Believer in a manner unacceptable to me.

Baptist people have been non-creedal in that we have not sought to establish binding authoritative confessions of faith on one another

If ever the SBC ever establishes a Creed [you have to believe this to be] it will cease being Baptist.

Bob Cleveland said...

They'd have to trash the BF&M, on several fronts, of course. Which would automatically sever every church that confesses the truth of the BF&M.

I said at the 2006 convention that, if they didn't address a specific item, right then, that we'd be apt to come back some day and find "ICHABOD" over the door. I have seen nothing, since, that tells me I was wrong.

Aussie John said...


How I empathize with you, and Bob, on this matter. I traveled that road quite a few years ago, and for the same reasons.

When brethren in Christ are required to subscribe to creed, in the guise of a Statement of Faith, it is a denial of the freedom of soul competency of the believer.

What it meant in this country, as well as what I observed in a Baptist Church in which I attended conferences in the north of your country, is that the leaders have taken upon themselves to be mini-popes.

Fifty-five years ago I became a Baptist by CONVICTION. I ceased being so by CONVICTION.

You're in good company: "John Clarke was shocked at the persecution of Anne Hutchinson, mother of fourteen and leader of a home Bible fellowship, in Boston in 1638. He wrote in his diary:

A year in this hotbed of religious tyranny is enough for me. I cannot bear to see men in these uttermost parts of the earth not able to bear with others in matters of conscience and live peaceable together. With so much land before us, I for one will turn aside, shake the dust of Boston off my feet, and betake me to a new place. There I shall make a haven for all those who, like myself, are disgusted and sickened by the Puritan dictatorship. I shall make it a place where there will be full freedom of thought and religious conscience".(from Introducing Southern Baptists
C. B. Hastings)

I know how Clarke felt.

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

Powerful story and deeply appreciated. It was unknown by this blog writer, but will not be forgotten. Thanks.

Rex Ray said...

Aussie John,
You said, “I traveled that road quite a few years ago, and for the same reasons.”

You’re not alone on that road as the OLD Conventions of Texas and Virginia NEVER accepted the BF&M 2000 but stayed with the BF&M 1963 for the reasons Paul stated.

Since fundamentalists, with their ‘stolen name’ Conservatives, could not control Texas and Virginia, they started their on conventions.

The Baptist Standard (11-18-98) quoted the president of the new Texas convention, Miles Seaborn:

“Every one of us is a warrior to preserve God’s inerrant word and he would not give another nickel of his tithe to anywhere he thought was ungodly.” (Later he was put on the Board of SBTS)

The Baptist Standard also quoted their Vice-president, Jim Richards:

“Theological agreement will be the first foundation of the new Convention. Those who depart theologically will be identified and called to repent. To the foes of Southern Baptist of Texas, we say, we’re not in competition with you, but we’ve been called to contrast you.”

His “contrast” consisted of a smear campaign to win churches to join them. Their news journal, Plumbline October 1998 stated the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship had leaders that:

1. Deny deity of Christ, need for His death, importance of virgin birth.
2. Call for the ordination of gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons.
3. Proclaim Bible does not condemn all forms of homosexual behavior.
4. Call for the ordination of women as senior pastors.
5. Refer to God as “mother”.
6. Defended the reproduction and distribution of child pornography.

Paul, do you remember Richards won Vice-President of the SBC in 2007 when your son was backing David Rogers, son of Adrian Rogers?

I was surprised David commented on my ancient blog a long time ago. I don’t believe he shared his father’s ‘controlling nature’ such as when Adrian spoke of seminary professors:

“If we tell them that pickles have souls, then pickles have souls.”

Our government should head Adrian’s advice of: “You can’t multiply wealth by dividing it.”

Paul Burleson said...


Like most organizations, the SBT, as well as the CBF, have some good people within trying to make a difference even with disagreements they might have with the organization of which they are a member. I know many people who are a part of each organization mentioned above and do just that. Struggle to some degree..I hope that can be said of me and my association with the SBC.

My post is simply speaking of a line that I have drawn for myself. I'm not attempting to say whether or not others should/shouldn't do the same. That would violate the very principle, for me, that I say I stand on.

I knew Miles Seaborn WELL. I knew Adrian Rogers
WELL. I knew Page Patterson's dad WELL. I know Page, slightly and I know Daniel Vestal WELL. I have my disagreements with any one of them and still love them. But the flag I fly is not a person or persons thing. It is a principle thing.

I have to leave it with that.

Rex Ray said...


The principle you sand on:

“My post is simply speaking of a line that I have drawn for myself. I'm not attempting to say whether or not others should/shouldn't do the same. That would violate the very principle, for me that I say I stand on...The flag I fly is not a person or person’s thing. It is a principle thing.”


Did your 56 years in ministry have the same “stand”? Another Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race…”

In my opinion, your ‘stand’ would demote Paul’s fight to shadow boxing and his race to jumping up and down.

How is it that we seem to be at odds with each other when I agree with your post 100%?

Please don’t say I’m debating which you don’t indulge in. :)

Paul Burleson said...


I won't say that. ;)

Aussie John said...


Your words to Rex,"....... speaking of a line that I have drawn for myself. I'm not attempting to say whether or not others should/shouldn't do the same. That would violate the very principle, for me, that I say I stand on."

Hear! Hear!

Rex Ray said...

Good reply! :)

Aussie John, what’s going on?

I agree with you and you don’t reply but Paul does; I disagree with Paul and you reply agreeing with him.

So I ask you: did Jesus “say whether or not others should/shouldn’t do”?

Anyone want to discuss the fastest animal on earth is a cow dropped out of a helicopter?

Aussie John said...


My discussion was with Paul regarding his article and his response.

I am braking my own rule by replying to you, as I never presume to use a blog, other than my own, to have a discussion with someone who is commenting.

That's what is going on!

Chuck Andrews said...


Your post, IMHO, defines the Baptist conviction of soul competency and the priesthood of the believer with a relational definition. Which, in my view, is the only way to accurately understand Baptist.

And, if I may, without putting words in your mouth or trying to defend you (I know you need no defending), explain to Rex what I see the difference being between what you are saying, which I not only agree with but identify with, and what, appears to me, he is proposing.

From my understanding of history, it is why Baptist, historically, have never considered themselves to be officially Protestant. When the Ana-Baptist became identified it was not because they were "protesting" the establishment. They were not like Luther who came "against" the establishment with his 95 Theses. The Ana-Baptist were standing "for" soul competency and the priesthood of the believer. In believing this truth they afforded others the same courtesy without coming "against" them. Baptist have historically been able to stand “for” something while at the same time be in relationship with those who don't necessarily stand with them and they have been able to do that without coming “against” those who aren't standing with them.

So the difference I see in what you are saying and what, it appears to me, Rex is saying (I don't want to put words in his mouth either) is found in the difference between standing “for” something and coming “against” something. As priest, as in priesthood of the believer, we can stand “for” something in the competency of our own soul without actively or aggressively coming “against” those who, as priest, are standing “for” something else in the competency of their own soul. Even when others come “against” us for what we stand “for” we can maintain an attitude of being “for” without succumbing to an attitude of coming “against.”

This is also what I see may be happening in the Southern Baptist life of the present. There are those who in standing “for” something have done so by coming “against” those who don't stand with them. Now those who have been come “against” have succumbed to an attitude of coming “against” those who came “against” them. In this “against” reformation of theological differences relationships based on priesthood of the believer and soul competency are destroyed and lost. In a “for” reformation of theological differences relationships based on priesthood of the believer and soul competency are cherished and nurtured.

In an "against" mentality, it seems to me, if carried to its logical conclusion, will ultimately lead to creedal instead of confessional. A "for" mentality will lead to the opposite.

I, too, have reread this and am dizzy-headed. Feel free to delete this if you feel it inappropriate in any way.

Paul Burleson said...


Inappropriate? Delete? I should say not.

Your clear articulation not only makes even more understandable what I tried to say in my post, you made clear to me what Rex was saying, which I have to confess, I wasn't understanding adequately.

I appreciate your comment and, frankly, I think it is FAR BETTER than anything I've read in some time on the subject.

Anonymous said...

To me, it seems inevitable that the inner "confessional" approach of heart and mind will need to transpose itself into the letter of the "credal". It is the same process through which the spoken words and oral tradition of revelation were inscripturated for the sake of clarity, control and permanence.

Confessional/Credal aspects are not contrary to each other, but complementary . A creed is an attempt to answer the question : "What does the Bible teach and command us to believe"? It is a brief summary of the truth contained in the Bible.For example, we don't believe in the Apostles' Creed, as such, but rather in the truth it conveys.It is a minimum statement of essential Christian truth and teaching required for fellowship and co-operation. But is also open to much more light and life that may break forth from the pages of Scriptures.

Yes, you can believe more, but you can't believe less than the creed your group has accepted as their defining beliefs, and which they wish to preserve.. There is no group where you can have a 'free for all' set of beliefs and still maintain a unity of purpose, or gain the full support for programs set to achieve these purposes, or have any objective way of evaluating progress. It will be like a choir all singing from different hymn sheets.

We would want to avoid confusion, friction, division, chaos, sterility, duplication of resources and a drastic fall in support from the home base. Especially where missionaries are involved, we need to be very clear that our personal convictions and confessional expression aligns with those of the sending group as expressed in their credal statement of belief.
We are not free to punch holes in the vessel or to act like pirates. We are free to fish from another boat, but that is our choice.

A closing thought: everyone should believe they are protestants, that is, standing for the truth , as they interpret it.
Protestari (Latin)
pro= for, forth
testari= witness

Hence a 'protestant' is one who speaks as a witness for the truth.He is not being negative.

But one person's protestant is another person's heretic, so the aspect of opposition 'against' is inevitable. I suppose it is like the Sooners playing the Cowboys !

Thanks for the discussion, Paul.


Paul Burleson said...


I hear what you're saying and would agree that it makes sense logically. But my problem is I see a different stance as I look at the biblical materials.

Simply put, I believe a local church, as a group in any given region, is called upon biblically to function with other groups based on a unity that has already been created by the Holy Spirit, that reaches across racial, gender, economic and other boundaries that normally divide people. No one is excluded in that local group because of a matter of honest theological disagreement among the members. Unity is not maintained because all of that local group's members dot the same i's and cross the same t's theologically, but because they have aligned themselves with the King and His Kingdom, through believing the gospel.

Having a desire to extend that Kingdom through sharing that gospel, they choose to believe that agreement on the theological issues that are enough "to get that job done" is what is necessary, and those are the truths concerning Christ and His Cross work, which involves and includes His resurrection, and they may or may not choose to put those in confessional fashion.

I just don't see unity as something that is created by people but by the Spirit and that unity, as is everything else the Spirit does, is centered around the Person and Work of Christ.

I too appreciate the great dialogue and the spirit of it all. Thanks.

Rex Ray said...


When Keith Parks was president of Foreign Missions, the glue that held Baptists together was MISSIONS, but when fundamentalists took over, that glue was changed to DOCTRINE.

Letter in part to the Baptists Standard—February 11, 2002:

“IMB President Jerry Rankin has precipitated an agonizing choice for many missionaries. Give up their historic Baptist convictions that “we have no creed but the Bible” or give up their calling (Feb. 4).

…A confession becomes a creed when others determine the beliefs one is forced to sign.

…fundamentalist leaders have changed the very nature of the SBC…Their highest priority is not missions. It is doctrinal conformity.

…We must not lose the very heart of the gospel and the distinctive mission’s commitment of our heritage. We must find a way to be true to both. The IMB no longer provides that option. Keith Parks—Richardson, TX

Paul Burleson said...


I remember that letter and remember the controversy quite well. I agree TOTALLY with the last statement you quoted from Parks and tend to even agree with his [Parks] conclusion, except that I have family and some friends that are currently serving under the IMB who did not and do not embrace certain requirements philosophically.
that the leadership holds to. [Not written policies as of yet.]

So, some currently serving ARE serving with an ability for being true to both. Whether the leadership of the IMB is true to both is another question.

Anonymous said...

My problem with the superficial statement,made by some missionaries, that "we have no creed but the Bible", is that it opens the door to doctrinal vagueness, relativism and to situational beliefs, without accountability to others within the organisation.

This is not consistent with our calling to hold fast to sound doctrine and to teach the same to converts (2Tim 1:13 and 2:2).

Almost every heretic and apostate will agree that they have no creed but the Bible...Mormons, JW, RC, fallen Episcopalians, lapsed Methodists, dry Baptists, etc.

The important thing is: how do we interpret what we read in the Bible? And this is where a creed becomes a very useful instrument to clarify and preserve our confessional convictions. Without it, it leads to a confusing and divisive free for all.

It is known that some missionaries have such a broad definition of 'mission' that they are easily diverted into prioritising a social and political gospel. Others have majored in demonstrating spectacular material accomplishments to woo the poor locals. And some would compromise sound doctrine to accommodate the local customs and beliefs, for the sake of acceptance by the natives of the area. We should note that the Devil tempted Jesus in the same manner to divert His mission(Matt4:1-11).

In a very few cases, one could even question whether some are really missionaries , or whether they have been sent as intelligence agents to a foreign land. It has been known to happen.

Mission managers have a difficult and responsible task to ensure that all personnel pull together to reach the set goals. They can't permit radically different doctrinal confessions to wreck the work.

In my experience, there is room for individuality, but not for freelancing in any given missionary society. Convictions committed to the confessional creed, help to reduce confusion and conflict at the mission station.


Paul Burleson said...


You said..."And this is where a creed becomes a very useful instrument to clarify and preserve our confessional convictions."

I would slightly alter it this way...And this is where a confession becomes a very useful instrument to clarify and document some of our convictions."

With this I concur.

I don't know whether I'm straining at a gnat or not, but, honestly, it's something I have to say borders on being a conviction in and of itself. But I'm open to any persuasion to the contrary that I can believe is the Spirit doing His work.

Thanks for your gracious manner of dialogue.

Rex Ray said...


Your replacing “creed” with “confession” is what it is all about.

Webster defines “creed” two ways.

I believe Gordan thinks of “creed” like this:

1. “An accepted system of religious or other belief.”

In firing missionaries and others, the present SBC has used Webster’s other definition:

2. “An AUTHORITATIVE formulated statement of the chief articles of Christian belief.”

Rex Ray said...


This was written on your son’s blog that I believe hit the nail…

Ron West was a long time missionary and wrote:

Truth of Conservative Resurgence (CR)
I have lived in a country where the centralized authority was similar to that in Russia. There was a centralized authority that controlled everything, especially information. I have thought several times of some similarities with that authoritarian control and what we have seen in our convention. For example, one of the priorities for Pressler and his followers was to take control of the Baptist Press.
As far as the “nationwide organization of loyalists that was prepared to swat down those who challenge the ruling party,” in my home state of Arkansas at one time there was a network of loyalists with at least one in each association assigned to work with the pastors and one with the lay people. Then there was a district leader over several associations to receive the reports from the associational organizer. The district leader then reported to the state leaders. These men in the association would report names of those who could be counted on to be loyal to the CR organization and those who were not on board. From this report it was decided who was worthy to serve on SBC trustee boards and other convention appointed positions. It also allowed them to know who to keep off boards and to be prepared to call them liberals if necessary. They also let people know who they were to vote for and get out the vote at the state and national conventions.
You did not even have to be a dissenter to be considered dangerous. If you were not actively supporting the CR organization and calling those outside the organization liberals, you were under suspicion for not being sufficiently conservative.
The greatest sin would be to support an SBC presidential candidate not endorsed by the CR leadership. For example, Winfred Moore and Richard Jackson were strong theological conservatives who would have appointed conservatives to positions of responsibility in our convention. However, if you dared to vote for either of these men you were a disgrace to the CR organization. That is why I have always said, even though for some individuals the issue may have been theology, but for the CR organization the issue has always been power and control.
Fri Dec 26, 10:07:00 AM 2008

Rex Ray said...

Ron said...
Anonymous former leader in the CR,

Thank you for your candid testimony of your experience with CR leaders where you said the following:

"I sat in on numerous meetings with the highest level of conservative leaders (among them Paige Patterson, Adrian Rogers, and Charles Stanley) and at those meetings it was always stressed that we should attack the liberals for: their weakness on inerrancy and their softness on homosexuality. It was decided that this would play well in the pews so it became the plan of attack. Sadly, it was carried out quite well. The worst part was that it was plainly stated that if there were not facts to substantiate an allegation, just make them up. Seems that ungodliness arises when power, money, and position are our goals."

Your testimony affirms what I have heard others say and what I could clearly see as an outsider of the CR as early as 1979. I remember that early on they also wanted to use other issues like the virgin birth. On issues like inerrancy and homosexuality there are many shades of belief there and you can find something to attack even if they just use different words than you to describe their beliefs. Women in ministry did not become an issue until much later. Now days you would think the most basic issue that defines us as Southern Baptists is that women cannot preach in the pulpit.

I think the most significant thing about what you are describing is they set out with a goal of attacking and destroying peoples’ lives and reputations first then tried to find some means to accomplish their task. Conservative theology was not the goal. It was only a tool to use to get control for their party. They were able to use the fact that many Southern Baptists are uniformed about our convention and are easily persuaded to believe their lies. That is why I have always said the CR is about power and control and not theology.

I don’t know you situation today or if you could be harmed for speaking out on this issue. I wonder what would happen if you followed Wade’s example and spoke publicly about this and gave names and facts about what has been said. There would be a price to pay as Wade can testify. However, these people have been protected by operating in secrecy and darkness for 30 years. That is why blogs like Wades are important because they shine the light of truth on the CR.
Ron West
Sun Apr 05, 08:25:00 PM 2009

Anonymous said...

Howdy Paul,

I must compliment you on the way you handle your blog. It is easy to be good in your company, and its a pleasure to exchange ideas with the other young men, and ladies, on your blog. It keeps my old cocoanut ticking over !
I should point out that I am speaking in general about creeds, etc., because I have very little knowledge of SBC history and culture. "Just as well", I can hear Rex Ray saying !


Paul Burleson said...



You make a great addition to this written conversation and my personal journey as a Southern Baptist has been quite a journey... to say the least.

Thanks for your very good insights and they are welcome on ANYTHING I ever post on this blog, I assure you.