COMPARING THE 1925 AND 2000 VERSIONS
OF THE BAPTIST FAITH AND MESSAGE
A Paper Submitted to Dr. Russell Woodbridge
In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for
Liberty Theological Seminary
Sunday, October 2, 2011
HISTORY AND PURPOSE OF THE BAPTIST FAITH AND MESSAGE———————–2
SUMMARY OF 1925 VERSION————————————————————————3
CHANGES FROM 1925 IN THE 2000 VERSION—————————————————5
The objective of this paper is a comparison between two significant Baptist confessions. A good place to start is a definition of “confession”, identification of the two selected and why a comparison of their meaning would be relevant.
From a dictionary point of view, a confession is defined as an acknowledement.1 Biblically, confession is used nine times in the New American Standard Bible, and defined as “with the consent of all.”2 It is used commonly in the context of I Timothy 6:12 where Paul writes they “made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses”. Another definition often applied to theological ideas is “valuable summaries of Biblical doctrine.”3 In summary, a confession is a recap of a person or group’s point of view.
Of those confessions offered for selection for this investigation, two came immediately to the top of this writer’s list. They are the original and the most recent versions of the Baptist Faith and Message, the confession of faith of the Southern Baptist Convention. It is important for Baptists to understand both the most current version of this work and its original foundation in order to gain the best possible understanding of the denomination’s point of view on the most important doctrinal and theological topics and how they may have changed over time.
What follows is a short comparison of the 1925 and 2000 versions of the Baptist Faith and Message. First the history and purpose of the document will be discussed. The original
1Dictonary.com Website, http://dictionary.com, (accessed 9/16,2011).
2Blueletter Bible Website, http://blueletter.org, (accessed 9/13/2011).
3University of Tennessee Website, http://utm.edu/staff/caldwell/bfm/versions, (accessed 9/17/2011).
1925 version will be summarized. Changes made to the original version in 2000 will be discussed. A summary of the changes will be presented with a conclusion as to the importance and relevance of the document to Baptist believers of today. The goal is that a greater understanding of the current confession, along with the path from which it came will give the reader both a deeper understanding of the Baptist’s point of view of its central beliefs and at the same time confirm the relevance of those beliefs in today’s world. Understanding the original version of the Baptist Faith and Message and its latest version will also identify “shifts in doctrinal focus” that occurred in the 75 years between the original and latest version.4
HISTORY AND PURPOSE OF THE BAPTIST FAITH AND MESSAGE
Formed in 1845, for most of its first eighty years, the Southern Baptist Convention of churches lacked a formal document giving its point of view on important theological issues. That changed in 1925 when a group led by Edgar Mullins led the convention to adopt the original version of the Baptist Faith and Message.5 As Dr. Caner has covered in the content of this class, the Bible is the only creed, or system of belief, of a free church. “The Bible is the only infallible rule of the Baptist faith, yet confessions can be valuable summaries of the Biblical
4Salty Believer Website, http://saltybeliever.com/2011/02/75-years-of-southern-baptist-faith, (accessed 9/19/2011).
5Wikipedia Website, http://wikipedia.org/wiki/Baptist_Faith_and_Message, (accessed 9/19/2011).
doctrine…and can provide important bonds of union and badges of distinctiveness” to a group or denomination.6 In 1925 that confession was made with the original version of this work.
Its purpose was to provide a public and easily accessible statement of the faith and doctrine of Southern Baptists.7 After the original version of 1925 there were revisions in 1963, 1998 and 2000. This analysis will compare the original with the latest version. The 2000 version effort was led by Adrian Rogers, a pastor from Tennessee who later became President of the Southern Baptist Convention.
SUMMARY OF THE 1925 VERSION
Presented and approved by the convention on May 14, 1925 the original version had 25 sections, each dealing with a key topic of theology or doctrine and Southern Baptists’ point of view on that subject.8 Topics were The Scriptures, God, The Fall of Man, The Way of Salvation, Justification, The Freeness of Salvation, Regeneration, Repentance and Faith, God’s Purpose of Grace, Sanctification, Perseverance, A Gospel Church, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, The Lord’s Day, The Righteous and the Wicked, Resurrection, The Return of the Lord, Religious Liberty, Peace and War, Education, Social Service, Co-operation, Evangelism and Missions, Stewardship and The Kingdom.
6University of Tennessee Website, (accessed 9/17/2011).
7Southern Baptist Convention Website, http://sbc.net/bfm/bfmchairman.asp, (accessed 9/20/2011).
81925 Baptist Faith and Message, Liberty University History of Baptist Class Resource Material
Although it is plainly stated in the first section on Scripture that the Bible is the standard
by which all other things are judged, only one of the 25 sections had a direct biblical reference. There were biblical references listed at the end of each section, but only one section with a biblical reference within the text of a main point. It was understood that the entire document was biblically based but there was just this one biblical reference from Genesis 1:27 in the section dealing with the Fall of Man.
The 1925 version was based on the New Hampshire Confession of Faith, a document published by the Triennial Convention of Philadelphia in 1833.9 It has the state name in its title because its principle author John Newton Brown, lived in New Hampshire. This organization was founded in 1814 and is considered the first American Baptist organization. A portion of this organization would later become the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845. Today the remainder of the Triennial Convention, once known as the Northern Baptist Convention, is called American Baptist Churches USA. The Baptist Faith and Message of 1925 had all of the sections of the New Hampshire Confession of Faith except two. Southern Baptists omitted sections on the Harmony of the Law with the Gospels and Civil Government. The last nine sections of the Baptist Faith and Message were additions to the New Hampshire version. Since the 1925 document expanded on the most established document of that day, it was believed to be a very comprehensive document dealing with the most important issues of the society at that time.
In this short analysis it is difficult to adequately summarize all of the points covered in the Baptist Faith and Message of 1925. It states the foundations of Southern Baptist belief.
9Spurgeon Archive Website, http://spurgeon.org, (accessed 9/18/2011).
There is one true God. The Bible is the man-written, God inspired, perfect Word of God. Man
fell from God’s grace in Genesis. The only way back into the grace of God is through belief in the death and resurrection of his Son, who freely gives salvation to anyone who desires it. A church is a group of baptized believers. Baptism is done by immersion and is a symbol of faith. Jesus will one day return to Earth. Believers should organize and cooperate with each other to support missions and other worthwhile activities. All of God’s people should pray for His kingdom. These are just a few of the 25 main points.
CHANGES FROM 1925 IN THE 2000 VERSION
Changes in the 2000 version of the document can be summarized by examining additions and portions of the 1925 version that were rewritten. There were no subtractions or deletions from the original document.10 This lack of deletions supports the “deeply held beliefs” that were expressed in the original document.11 Seventy five years did not change the original and foundational beliefs.
Seventy five years must have taught that further biblical support was needed. In the 2000 version, the number of biblical references following each of the main points nearly doubled. Several sections of the 2000 version have more than forty supporting biblical references. In the original, just a few had more than twenty. In the original the least supported point had seven references. In the 2000 version the least supported had eleven references. For the biblical student seeking support for the document the 2000 version presents much more of that support.
10Salty Believer Website, (accessed 9/19/2011).
There are many word changes also where more words are used in the updated version to
express the same point. Words were added to the Scripture section for example that give equal emphasis on the Old and New Testaments. The original version only stated “the Holy Bible” while the revision added “all Scripture.”12 There were significant word additions to the God section as well.
There were additions to clarify current social issues. In The Church section, words were added to clarify that only men could serve as pastors. There were additions to the Baptism and Lord’s Supper section that clarified baptism as an act of obedience and the Lord’s Supper as a memorial to Christ’s death, clarifications lacking in the original document. There were more specific words added to the Education section in 2000 detailing the responsibilities of a teacher in a Christian school giving much more specific guidance than the 1925 version.
There were other additions as well. Perhaps the most significant was the addition of the section on Family. There was no section on the subject in the original document. The 2000 version of the Baptist Faith and Message defined a family unit and both God’s responsibilities and expectations of the members of that family. It defines marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman, a definition more needed in 2000 than in 1925.
Through additions and rewritten areas, the newest version has 18 sections compared to the original’s 25. The 2000 version copied section grouping changes from the 1963 revision where multiple sections were condensed to create new sections on Salvation, God’s
Purpose and Last Things. The Family section in the 2000 version had been added in 1998 as a revision to the 1963 version.
The overall message of the new document is the same as the original. Much more detail and biblical support was added. The new document is an easy read that can be completed in less than an hour.
From its original publication in 1925, the Baptist Faith and Message has served to define the theological and practical point of view of the Southern Baptist Convention. Through several revisions it has evolved into the latest edition from 2000. Many words are different from the original but the overall content and message of the document are the same from the original to the current version. Any question on a significant biblical topic can find the foundation of an answer in this document. Understanding some of the detail of the original and how it has changed into the current version will help any biblical student better understand Southern Baptists and their core beliefs. This analysis has given the writer the opportunity to begin to better understand the history and the doctrine of the church attended from childhood. It has been a pleasure to research and report on this subject.
1925 Baptist Faith and Message, Liberty University History of Baptist Class Resource Material.
Blueletter Bible Website, http://blueletterbible.org.
Dictionary Website, http://dictionary.reference.com.
Salty Believer Website, http://saltybeliever.com.
Southern Baptist Convention Website, http://sbc.net.
Spurgeon Archive Website, http://spurgeon.org.
University of Tennessee Website, Professor Chris Caldwell, http://utm.edu.