The Baptist Faith and Message says, in part, about the Bible:
The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It 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.
The phrase “truth, without mixture of error” is our most popular operative phrase about Scripture. Most of us are completely comfortable describing themselves and being described by others as “inerrantists.”
The inerrant Bible, of course, refers to the original writings, autographs, not any particular translation or version. It is also understood that there are textual and interpretive issues in the Bible which have led to additional statements explaining and qualifying inerrancy. Others may criticize us for claiming to be inerrantists while we also include a good many caveats, provisos, and qualifications. No big deal here. Not everything is tidy and clean. Let the errantists declare themselves as such. I’m an inerrantist.
Over time and in regard to certain issues we have prepared additional statements that attempt to clarify, expand, and explain the Baptist Faith and Message. I don’t believe that any of these additional statements have been adopted by the SBC in annual session nor have any amendments to the BFM been made since it was passed almost two decades ago.
So, when some small group of Southern Baptists create one of these supplemental statements, the document may be helpful in some ways but there is good reason for a healty dose of caution about them. At their best, these help explain the BFM which itself has attempted to condense the inerrant Scripture into an expression of orthodoxy for those of us who cooperate as Southern Baptists. At their worst, they are documents represent the thinking of self-appointed, unelected small groups of Southern Baptists which then use them to force additional orthodoxy on Southern Baptists, orthodoxy not agreed upon by the SBC as a whole in annual session.
Entity trustees in their stewardship of our orgainzations routinely use a wide range of additional measures in their employment of workers or appointment of funded personnel. Some of these touch on doctrinal matters. Most of us would understand that if we seek employment with or appointment by one of our entities we would be subject to considerable examination beyond merely stating our agreement with the Baptist Faith and Message. This is a delicate matter and trustees should be careful not to elevate any supplemental statement of belief above that of the one upon which we are agreed by formal vote of the SBC.
We should be uncomfortable when any Baptist entity, leadership, trustees acts as if any of these supplemental statements are on the same level as the BFM. I am extremely uncomfortable if there is even a subtle indication that any of these statements are on the level of the Bible itself, which brings me to the resolution passed by our friends and colleagues in Arkansas at their recent annual meeting:
RESOLUTION NO. 4: ON THE “NASHVILLE STATEMENT”: A MANIFESTO ON HUMAN SEXUALITY
Resolved, that we find the statement without error in its declarations based on biblical truths…
Maybe the brethren would reconsider the idea of stating that any statement two steps removed from the inerrant Bible is itself “without error.” If the brethren intended the phrase “…in its declarations based on biblical truths” as a plausible caveat then perhaps they would consider that this sounds very much like that for which we stopped electing and employing liberals and moderates during the Conservative Resurgence.
This sounds more like homeopathic theology. Start with the inerrant Bible, extract some of that for the BFM, then further extract some of that for another statement. One of the things moderates tirelessly attempt to foist on the SBC is that we aren’t content with the Bible. Instead, we will accrete layer-upon-layer of supplemental interpretations and applications of both the Bible and it’s derived SBC doctrinal statement. Moderates had a point in that some groups of Southern Baptists are always in a search for perfect conformity with their own particular interpretation of Scripture, or of the Baptist Faith and Message as they read it, and now of one of these supplemental statements.
Maybe our Arkansan brethren could merely say that they agree with whatever extra-biblical statement they wish, be it the Nashville Statement, Danvers Statement, Chicago Statement, or the U. S. Constitution. Just don’t say that it is “without error” regardless of whatever modifiers are added. If one wishes to dismiss all of this as a matter of semantics, one might consider that semantics is meaning.
It is a good idea in my view to reserve “truth without mixture of error” and “without error” for Scripture alone.