Baptist Distinctives

Who are we? Our church is taking time this summer to walk through the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. Some truths make us Christian, like the deity of Christ and salvation by grace through faith. But what makes us Baptist? Many years ago, I asked my mom what made us Baptist. She quickly said, “The Priesthood of the Believer and the Competency of the Soul.” If you were to ask me, I’d list the following six tenets as Baptist distinctives.

  1. Autonomy of the Local Church – The local church is an independent body accountable to the Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the church. By autonomous, I mean self-governing. No hierarchy outside the local church dictates a church’s beliefs, actions, or practices. Colossian 1:18, 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, 19, 23
  2. The Priesthood of the Believer – Every believer is a priest of God and may enter into His presence directly through our High Priest, Jesus Christ. We have a shared responsibility to minister to each other. This belief does not support individualism, but a corporate reality that the believer needs the church, and the church needs the believer. Jesus is the only mediator between God and man. Therefore, every Christian can read Scripture, pray, worship, and share the gospel. We all have equal access to God. 1 Peter 2:5,9; 1 Tim 2:5; Revelation 5:9-10
  3. Competency of the Soul – E.Y Mullins calls this the “Freedom of the Soul.” Others call it “Individual Soul Liberty” or even “Soul Competency.” No matter what you call it, the idea is that whether a believer or unbeliever,[1] each person has the right to choose what they believe is right in the realm of religion, and they are responsible to God. Baptists have always opposed religious persecution. We believe that every person, believer, and unbeliever alike, is created in the image of God and accountable to God; each person will give an account to God. Unlike the Priesthood of the Believer, this belief is true for every person who has been created. Hershel Hobbs writes on the competency of the soul, “Thus man is a person endowed with understanding and the privilege of choice. He is a person, not a puppet. God does not coerce man against his will.”[2] Romans 14:5, 12; 2 Corinthians 4:2; Titus 1:9
  4. Believers’ Baptism leading to a Believers’ Church – Baptism is reserved for those who have confessed their faith in Jesus. Therefore, the church is made up of regenerated members. In the Great Commission, Jesus tells the people to make disciples and to baptize “them” (Matthew 28:19). Who are the “them?” They are the disciples of all nations. There is no example in the New Testament of anyone but a regenerative person being baptized. Therefore, membership is reserved for those who are regenerated and believe. As taught in the New Testament and modeled in the early church, baptism is by immersion. Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:41-47; 1 Corinthians 12:12; 2 Corinthians 6:14; Ephesians 4:13
  5. Separation of Church and State – God has established the church and the civil government. God gave each its individual sphere of influence and operation. The government’s purpose is outlined in Romans 13:1-7, and the church’s purpose is in Matthew 28:19-20. The government should not control the church, and the church should not control the government. The church is not building a Theocracy. As Baptists, we believe the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the power and influence given to the church to affect change and hope in our society. Matthew 22:15-22; Acts 15:17-29
  6. Religious Freedom or Liberty – Every person can exercise their faith and religion without the government’s interference. Current SBC President, Bart Barber, says, “A person enjoys religious liberty if he may change his religious beliefs or religious affiliation without changing his relationship with the governing authorities over him.”[3] I agree with Barber when he says, the “religious liberty is a Baptist distinctive.” In the article cited, Barber gives a good historical account of why Baptists hold to this distinctive. This belief goes hand in hand with the competency of the soul. Matthew 13:24-43; Romans 14:12; Matthew 12:36

I didn’t mention things like the Cooperative Program and our mission agencies. All of these have a very distinct Baptist feel. How about you? What do you think are Baptist distinctives? In conclusion, consider the words of Timothy George “Yes, by all means, let us maintain, undergird, and strengthen our precious Baptist distinctives…but let us do this not so that people will say how great the Baptists are but rather what a great Savior the Baptists have, what a great God they serve.” I wholeheartedly agree with his words. May Christ be exalted, the gospel proclaimed and may God be praised.

[1] As you consider the Priesthood of the Believer and Soul Freedom, note the Priesthood is only for the believer, but soul freedom is directed to all people created in the image of God. The sphere of influence is the biggest difference between the two.  

[2] Herschel H. Hobbs, The Baptist Faith and Message, (Convention Press, 1994), 8.


SBC Sexual Abuse Report

I have been numb all day. I’ve had so many emotions. I’ve been angry, hurt, heartbroken, and downright mad. For over 24 hours, I have been processing the findings of the Sexual Abuse Task Force report on sexual cover-up within the Southern Baptist Convention and by the Executive Committee in particular. I can’t express how heartbroken, sickened, and crushed I felt as I read the report. In short, the allegations from victims of sexual abuse in the SBC were true, and the power brokers in the convention were lying. For years, there has been cover-up, lies, and sexual sin. On May 22nd, the investigative firm Guidepost Solution report came out concerning sexual abuse and cover-up in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

Russel Moore gives a good summation of the report:

The conclusions of the report are so massive as to almost defy summation. It corroborates and details charges of deception, stonewalling, and intimidation of victims and those calling for reform. It includes written conversations among top Executive Committee staff and their lawyers that display the sort of inhumanity one could hardly have scripted for villains in a television crime drama. It documents callous cover-ups by some SBC leaders and credible allegations of sexually predatory behavior by some leaders themselves, including former SBC president Johnny Hunt (who was one of the only figures in SBC life who seemed to be respected across all of the typical divides).

And then there is the documented mistreatment by the Executive Committee of a sexual abuse survivor, whose own story of her abuse was altered to make it seem that her abuse was a consensual “affair”—resulting, as the report corroborates, in years of living hell for her.[1]

The report found that many people were victimized at the hands of pastors, teachers, and leaders of the SBC and a cover-up followed. Instead of protecting the victims, the Executive Committee protected the perpetrators. This cover-up has gone on too long and must be stopped. As I consider the findings, I try to imagine if my daughter had been a victim. What if these monsters sexually abused my granddaughters, and a group of powerful men covered up the gross immorality and illicit, illegal activity? My heart breaks for the many victims. We must do everything we can to ensure every church is a haven for everyone. Let me also offer my sincere thanks to the women who so courageously stood for truth and were not only sexually abused, but also had to suffer further abuse at the hands of self-righteous men. Thank you.

In full disclosure and to help you know more:

The complete report can be found here.

The Albert Mohler response can be found here.

Russell Moore’s entire reply can be found here.  

Christianity Today’s Article can be found here.

What are the next steps?

Our first step must be one of lamenting and repenting. The SBC is guilty. This is personal repenting and a time of convention-wide corporate lamenting. It can not only be a personal season. There must be a corporate season of confessing and repenting. This is not OK, and we cannot allow these actions to continue. As Mohler concludes, “This is a moment for sackcloth and ashes. That is where we have to start. The gospel of Christ makes clear that’s not where the story can end. But we are going to be wearing sackcloth for some time to come.”

Secondly, at the SBC Annual Meeting in June, we must swiftly vote to incorporate all the suggestions the report handed down to us. We must, with due diligence, create the necessary standard so victims have a voice and the guilty are held responsible. Together we must be agents of change. We must do everything possible to keep people safe in our ministries and prevent such horrific events.

Third, every church must continually look for ways to create a safe environment. At First Southern Baptist in Salina, we continually look for ways to create safe environments. All of our workers are screened, we have video recordings in many strategic parts of the church, and our goal is to have two teachers in each room when possible. And all our church members keep a vigilant lookout for any suspicious behavior. We must continue to be diligent in this work. We can not tire of doing this work. I was very proud of the Kansas Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists which created and passed an important resolution on Sexual Abuse. If you would like to see it, please contact me.

Finally, please contact us if you have been involved in sexual abuse and need help. We can find someone to talk to and walk with you through a time of healing. At FSBC, we genuinely care about you. Days like this make my heart yearn even more for heaven where there will be no more pain, suffering, or sin. Until then, may we do everything to do the right thing? Help us, Jesus.