FIRST-PERSON: The three 'Rs'
TAYLORS, S.C. (BP)--In my short tenure as president of the Southern Baptist Convention I have been privileged to travel to several places around our country.
A part of the blessing of this position is being able to speak at various colleges and seminaries. To date, I have been blessed by the opportunity to preach at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., as well as Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (my alma mater) in Fort Worth, Texas.
I am scheduled to speak at our other Southern Baptist seminaries over the next few months. In both of the seminaries in which I’ve already spoken, I had the special privilege of spending time with the presidents, their wives, as well as staff and faculty from those institutions. Honestly, both of those experiences were exceedingly positive and encouraging!
Part of the message I have been sharing is that I would like for us to focus upon what I call the "three Rs." They are: rightness, relevancy and revival.
In this column I’d like to focus upon the first of these -- rightness. I often am asked by the press about my theological stance. I have done my very best to share honestly who I am as a believer, where I have led my church as a pastor, and where I would like for our convention to be in the arena of theological perspective. I have stated over and over that I am a conservative. This is who I am and who I have been. What do I mean by that? I am well aware that labels are used with great differences in application. I am cognizant of the fact that the relative nature of theological definitions causes much confusion. Let me try to speak to the issue of rightness from my own personal belief system.
In Matthew 13, Jesus tells the parable that is often called “The Parable of the Sower and the Seed.” He also tells a similar story in Mark 4:1-20. In the Mark passage, Jesus says something very interesting. In Mark 4:15 Jesus says that where the Word is sown, on occasion, Satan comes and takes away the Word that was sown. Other scenarios are outlined. In verse 20, Jesus talks about the seed that is sown on good soil. In that instance, the word is heard, accepted and produces a great crop.
While most people haven't used this passage to talk about theological correctness, I believe that it is very applicable. I believe that the good soil in which the Word of God needs to be sown is a heart of receptivity. I believe that this receptivity is enhanced by correct understanding. God’s Word is right! It is without error! To use other words with which you may be familiar, I believe that it is inerrant and infallible.
I told someone recently that I was an inerrantist before I knew what that word meant. Even though there have been times in my life (and probably in yours) when my interpretation of the Word was less than mature, I have always believed that God’s Word was the very basis of proper understanding. While I teasingly tell my people that almost every passage is my favorite, most would know that I affirm Isaiah 40:8 as my very favorite verse, for it says, "The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever."
God’s Word finds its beautiful ability to do its greatest work of righteousness in minds that understand clearly its power, hearts that understand clearly its relevancy, and lives that are ready to follow its application.
The Parable of the Sower also teaches that there is always a hostile power in the world, seeking and waiting to destroy the good seed. I believe that a lack of trust in the integrity of the Word of God is used by the evil one to create doubt, to give the illusion that one can pick and choose what he or she wishes to glean from the Bible, as well as an overall weakness in the Christian walk. Certainly, this does not mean that all those who have a high belief in the integrity of the Word always live righteous lives. However, Satan can use a lack of belief and trust in the voracity, validity, and relevancy of the Word of God to short-circuit a person’s growth, witness and power.
Southern Baptists desperately need to maintain vigilance in the area of doctrinal “rightness.” I have said before and I say again that I thank God that the battle for inerrancy was fought and won. While we will talk in coming days about many other battlefronts which must claim equal passion, let us never forget that God’s word is our primary authority in life and in faith.
Frank Page is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C. Visit his website at www.sbc.net/PresidentsPage.