Monday, October 18, 2010

Of Bapto-Catholics and Baptist Historians

The recent public give-and-take between Bapto-Catholic theologians and Baptist historians continues.

A student from Baylor explains that he is a Baptist because of the historic Baptist commitment to individual freedom of conscience, while a self-proclaimed Baylor Bapto-Catholic professor (who denies individual freedom of conscience) explains that his mission is to turn Baptists into Catholics.

Meanwhile, a growing list of Baptist historians, theologians, ethicists and ministers from Cooperative Baptist, Southern Baptist, American Baptist USA, National Baptist USA, and Canadian Baptist life have become additional endorsers of "An Affirmation of Common Baptist Themes."

Today, Steve Harmon argues for the recitation of the ancient creeds in Baptist worship, claiming that prior to the 19th century, Baptists embraced the early Church creeds.

Here is my reply (as submitted to Steve's blog, with the assumption he will eventually approve the comment):

Baptists are certainly free to choose to recite a creed or creeds if they wish ... but one cannot in good conscience reconstruct our faith history to suit one's own agenda.

I am aware that you anchor your Baptistness on the early English Baptist confessions, which some of your colleagues claim affirm the ancient creeds of the Church. Yet, only one early English Baptist confession even mentions the ancient creeds, the Orthodox Creed (so named at a time when Baptists used the words "creed" and "confession" interchangeably when referencing their confessions of faith), a statement that was signed by 54 men and never affirmed or adopted by any Baptist community of faith.

On the other hand, early English Baptist confessions frequently affirmed that scripture alone was their source of faith and practice ... and rarely, if ever, recited the ancient creeds in worship. (Which makes me wonder why you seem to want to take Baptists to a place they have never been, historically?)

From early English Baptist confessions:

“the Holie Word off God, which onelie is our direction in al things whatsoever.” (A Declaration of Faith of English People, Remaining at Amsterdam in Holland, 1611; section 22)

“The Rule of this Knowledge, Faith, and Obedience, concerning the worship and service of God, and all other Christian duties, is not man's inventions, opinions, devices, laws, constitutions, or traditions unwritten whatsoever, but only the word of God contained in the Canonical Scriptures. In this written Word God hath plainly revealed whatsoever he hath thought needful for us to know, believe, and acknowledge, touching the Nature and Office of Christ, in whom all the promises are Yea and Amen to the praise of God.” (First London Confession, 1644, sections VII and VIII)

“The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain and infallible rule of all saving Knowledge, Faith and Obedience …. The Authority of the Holy Scripture for which it ought to be believed dependeth not upon the testimony of any man, or Church …. The whole Councel of God concerning all things necessary for his own Glory, Mans Salvation, Faith and Life, is either expressely set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture; unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new Revelation of the Spirit, or traditions of men …. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: And therefore when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold by one) it must be searched by other places that speak more clearly. The supream judge by which all controversies of Religion are to be determined, and all Decrees of Councels, opinions of ancient Writers, Doctrines of men, and private Spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Scripture delivered by the Spirit, into which Scripture so delivered, our faith is finally resolved” (Second London Confession, 1677, Chapter 1)