Weekly Update

We are a people of the Book

Jun 19, 2024

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16, NIV)

As I look at the social media posts of churches conducting their VBS, I smile with nostalgia. I remember attending VBS as a child with fondness. Among my memories is the reciting of pledges at the worship rally. One of those pledges was to the Bible:

I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God's Holy Word. I will make it a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path, and will hide its words in my heart that I might not sin against God.

This was a reminder to me of why we were in Vacation BIBLE school. We were there to learn the Bible and to treasure it as a guide for living.

As Baptists, we are a people of the Book. Article I of the Baptist Faith and Message (1963) states,

… [The Holy Bible] is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. It reveals the principles by which God judges us; and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried...*

That is what we believe! That’s what we teach. The Bible is what guides us, teaches us, corrects us and equips us under the illumination of the Holy Spirit and in relationship with Jesus Christ.

In the current discussions about the SBC and how Texas Baptists relate, one of the terms I see used frequently is “biblical fidelity.” Of course, we desire to be faithful to the Scriptures. However, it seems to me that sometimes people are using this term to refer to doctrinal uniformity.

While doctrine is immensely important and doctrinal affinity is necessary for cooperation among churches, total agreement with a statement of faith is not always the same thing as biblical fidelity.

The religious people of Jesus’ day had a set of traditions. It was the way they interpreted and applied the Law of Moses. However, when they conflated the two, Jesus showed them not only the incompatibility of some of those but also the inability to receive God’s revelation (Luke 5:33-39).

When Martin Luther stood before the Diet of Worms, he was faithful to the Scriptures. He was protesting against the church’s dogma. The magisterial reformers sought to be true to the Bible while challenging the human constructs of the established church. Our forefathers, the Anabaptists, did the same in the Radical Reformation.

The Baptist Faith and Message, in any of its versions (1925, 1963 or 2000), does not compare to the traditions of the Pharisees or the dogma of either the Roman Catholic Church or the Protestant State churches. But we must admit that it is still a human document that is not divinely inspired.

Here I am, not arguing for or against any particular doctrine in the Baptist Faith and Message; I am just calling us to integrity in our language. If we speak about biblical fidelity, let’s talk about the 66 books that make up the Old and New Testaments, which are divinely inspired.

Let us not elevate the Baptist Faith and Message to the level of the Bible. It is possible to be faithful to the Scriptures and disagree on certain aspects of a declaration of faith, whether it is about church leadership, Reformed theology, dispensationalism or other such doctrines.

Let us be thankful for those who have given us the Baptist Faith and Message. It tells others who we are, and it helps us teach and cooperate. Let us uphold the Scriptures as our authoritative, trustworthy and true standard of doctrine and ethics. Let us follow Jesus, and let our biblical fidelity produce in us Christlikeness.

Thank you for your partnership with Texas Baptists. We are a people of the Book.

*The 2000 version of the Baptist Faith and message has all of these words in Article I as well.

Dr. Guarneri is the 21st executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. He holds degrees from Texas A&M University Kingsville, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Dallas Baptist University. He has more than 39 years of ministerial experience and is passionate about sharing the Gospel with the nations and cross-cultural missions and ministry.