Battle for the Bible will never be over

If the Lord allows me to make it to Baltimore June 10 and 11, I will be in attendance for my 33rd consecutive Southern Baptist Convention. The reason for my first convention was to cast a ballot to elect Jimmy Draper president. Five laypeople from the Boeuf River Baptist Church accompanied my wife and me to New Orleans. There was a cause.

God granted to me repentance and faith as a 17-year-old a few weeks before I graduated from high school. The Lord Jesus saved me. A few months later God clearly spoke to my heart that I was to be a preacher of the gospel. I decided to go to Louisiana College. I could go to a Baptist Christian school and play baseball, too. I was not prepared for what I would encounter there.

The Old Testament professor questioned the virgin birth. While studying Isaiah 7:14 the professor said it was a plausible theory that Jesus was the illegitimate child of a soldier from Gaul stationed in Palestine. The New Testament professor had a rabbi lecture our class. He said if the rabbi didn’t go to heaven he wouldn’t want to be with a God who wouldn’t let him in. This was an obvious denial of the exclusivity of salvation through Jesus Christ.

The last straw was in a chapel service during my junior year. The song “American Pie” blared as we filed into chapel. The entire presentation by the professor bringing the message was based on the analogy that “music” mentioned in the song was Jesus. He said it didn’t matter whether music resurrected from the dead. What mattered was whether music lived in our hearts. This was a blatant rejection of the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

Often I would raise my hand and lower my grade in class. Eventually the president of the school asked me to leave. I told my pastor about the liberalism. I spoke to several churches. No one would believe me or had the courage to challenge the status quo. Oiling the machine was more important than confronting error. Disappointed but not deterred my ministry continued with a renewed conviction that the nature of the Word of God was the foundational belief for followers of Jesus. I had never heard the word “inerrancy” but I believed it. The Bible is totally true and trustworthy.

When the Conservative Resurgence began I was ready to do my part. By God’s grace we were able to see the Southern Baptist Convention saved from a theological downgrade. Without the Resurgence the SBC would be where the former mainline denominations are. The mainlines are now on the sidelines because they departed from biblical inerrancy.

State conventions are autonomous like all Baptist bodies. Fortunately, most state conventions followed the course correction set by the Southern Baptist Convention. The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention was formed by loyal Southern Baptists who wanted a state fellowship that would affirm biblical inerrancy. The SBTC is a confessional fellowship basing our work together on the Baptist Faith & Message 2000. God has shown his favor. He honors those who honor his Word.

The Southern Baptist Convention is not facing theological problems of the proportion it did in 1979. There are issues but nothing of that magnitude. Eventually a commitment to biblical inerrancy will be challenged. The battle for the Bible will never be over until Jesus comes.

While liberalism is not the major concern, the SBC is at a crucial life-threatening place. Greater numbers of younger pastors are needed to embrace the common giving channel, the Cooperative Program. A renewed passion for old fashioned soul-winning in the local church  is necessary. Natural affinity groups will continue to develop. If those affinity groups can find value in a larger circle of common effort, part of the problem will be solved. Now is the time for us to stay together!

The SBC is worth our involvement. Our six seminaries are teaching in accordance to our faith statement. Both mission agencies are sending God’s choicest servants to present the gospel. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is standing for right to life for the unborn and marriage between one man and one woman. The Executive Committee is leaner after cutting some bureaucracy. The SBC is worth the investment.

If God permits me to make the trip to Baltimore I plan to vote, fellowship, and participate. We have a common belief. We have a quality giving plan. As long as the SBC honors God’s Word, I will enthusiastically support it. Join me. Let’s stay stronger together.

Executive Director Emeritus
Jim Richards
Southern Baptists of Texas Convention
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