My final, foundational point about the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is this: The convention is here because our churches believe the Bible is true in all that it affirms, on every subject it addresses.
This is a simple thought, but not so simple in its implications.
God has spoken. When we affirm the authority of Scripture, we are saying that God’s expression (inspiration) of his will is authoritative. The converse is true—if the Bible is not accurate or authoritative then God has not spoken authoritatively. It goes to the nature of God; denying a thing he has said in Scripture undermines even the things we choose to not deny.
God’s authority is thorough. This impels our relationship with schools like Criswell College and Jacksonville College. Those who teach math or biology in these schools have affirmed the same statement of faith affirmed by the theology professors. The converse is true—the SBTC has no working relationship with institutions that teach in any discipline that the Bible is only partly or mostly true. Our fellowship of churches and the staff that serves this fellowship are likewise committed to honor the authority of Scripture in every outgrowth of ministry. This is why we have not maintained the affiliation of churches that have female senior pastors or affirmed any other doctrine clearly against the teaching of Scripture.
God’s Word is objective. It is not provable to a skeptic’s satisfaction—our trust in God’s Word is our trust in God. Belief in God is a matter of faith, an assumption from which we see all other things. But God’s written Word protects us from mystic, subjective nonsense. “I think God wants me to rob a liquor store.” He doesn’t. He has said so clearly in his Word, no matter what you think about it. The same is true of many other things we must or must not do.
Objectivity also protects us from thinking that our opinion of the Word is decisive. It is not pertinent if I decide to sign each page of the Bible or only most of them. Some things God says won’t fit my preferences or my understanding. Doesn’t matter. God has spoken.
Objectivity also speaks to the truth of a biblical teaching. Bible verses have a single meaning, say a thing that is true. They also have many applications for our diverse lives. The Bible objectively says that children are a blessing from the Lord, for example. Nothing makes having children as such a bad thing, then. But how this verse affects your life may be different from how it affects mine. Does this mean you should marry and have a bunch of kids? Adopt? Stay single and affirm families larger than yours? Your application may vary but none of us can pass judgment on the truth of what God has said. Submitting to the truth of inerrancy is more than an academic exercise; it has daily implications.
Inerrancy is denominationally significant. It is the story of Christianity to see churches and groups of churches struggle to define orthodoxy. At almost every juncture of a denominational split, there is a group or person trying to replace biblical authority with something lesser and another group unwilling to do that. As Jim Richards says in his interview, the battle for the Bible is never over until we see Jesus. So inerrancy is crucial to the idea that churches will join together for gospel reasons. Your fellowship, just like your church, will become something more akin to Habitat for Humanity if biblical authority is not your standard for belief and order. Denominational groups that tolerate or justify unbiblical doctrine soon become irrelevant to our Great Commission work.
After 23 years of growth and work, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is in essence where it started—a fellowship of churches that takes its marching orders from God’s written Word. May our Lord find us in this same place at his return.
… and a personal note
This is my last column as editor, although you may see my byline from time to time throughout 2022. It’s been an honor and a pleasure to tell the stories of churches doing well for the past 21 years. Thank you!
I want to mention some outstanding managing editors who made the TEXAN grow and develop: Tammi Ledbetter (two times!), Melissa Deming, Jerry Pierce, Keith Collier, Josh Owens and Jane Rodgers. These talented folks served us all well.
I commend our new editor, Jayson Larson, to you. The new format will be attractive (Russ Lightner will continue to do his stellar work), and the content will be practical. Jayson is the man to lead the TEXAN into the future. I’ll be pleased to assist in an advisory role as the new TEXAN
God bless you all,