1.1 The 1925 Confession
The Southern Baptist Convention’s confession of faith first came as an idea to prepare greetings of the convention to Baptists spread all over the world after World War I. According to Lumpkin, this greeting took a shape of a statement of faith and was sent out after the 1919 SBC Annual meeting.
The statement of faith did not cover all the implications of Christian life. Lumpkin says that, “the statement was not a complete system of doctrine, for it lacked, for example, a section on eschatology.” Therefore, new issues were being injected as they became evident in social life. One of the issues was over the evolutionary theory controversy. During the years of 1923 and 1924 several Baptist leaders got engaged in the task of refuting evolution teachings, and also in adding to the statement their position related to the issue. A committee was established “to consider the advisability of issuing another statement of the Baptist faith and message.”
This committee started an enlargement of the Statement of faith of 1919 based on the New Hampshire Confession. The New Hampshire Confession of Faith influenced many institutions, especially associations and theological seminaries in the South during the nineteenth century. However, modifications were made, such as the deletion of the articles 12 and 16, and changing of words on articles 7, 9 and 18. Plus the addition of sections on the “resurrection, the return of the Lord, religious liberty, peace and war, education, social service, cooperation, evangelism and missions, stewardship, and the Kingdom of God.”
In 1925, during the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, the new confession was presented. Even though the confession was very well elaborated, its intent was only to express the common faith of the Southern Baptists, and “it has never been looked upon as authoritative or binding.”
The Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention decided to publish the Confession as a courtesy and in the year of 1929 the entire document was printed in pamphlets entitled Baptist Faith and Message.
Four ways of response took place after its publication: 1) The Strict-Confessionalists; 2) The Anti-Confessionalists; 3) The Mainstream Denominationalists; and 4) The Non-Confessionalists.
1.2 The 1963 Confession
As Professor Dr Lefever once said to the Baptist Standard, “When we finally have adopted statements of faith, they usually have been in response to something.” And it could not be different in this case. The 1963 Confession is fruit of a controversy that turned around a sense that the Southern Baptist Convention was becoming more and more liberal. In 1962, a professor of Old Testament at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBC seminary), named Ralph Elliott, published a book called “The Message of Genesis.” The book caused a discomfort in some Southern Baptists, due to some liberal views in its content. According to Hobbs, “this writer’s opinion in the book was not so much the cause as it was the occasion of the situation which developed following its publication.” The protest emerged due to the fact that not only the seminary “belonged” to the SBC, but also the publishing house, Broadman Press. 
This crisis happened close to the annual meeting of San Francisco in 1962. Because of that, Porter Routh and Albert McClellan went to Oklahoma City to talk to the president of the convention, Herschel H. Hobbs, looking for a way to avoid major crisis during the meeting. They feared that the Convention would divide at the annual session.
During the meeting in San Francisco, the president’s address was about the crisis that reached the Convention, “setting forth the place of historical criticism in the study and interpretation of the Scriptures”
Even after the address, two motions were presented. The first one was given by a Texan named K. Owen White, to reaffirm Baptist faith, ending with “infallible Word of God.” The second was proposed by Ralph F. Powell from Missouri, to instruct the Sunday School Board to cease the publication of the book that caused the whole controversy. White’s motion was adopted, but Powell’s was withdrawn.
The “Committee on Baptist Faith and Message” was created to revise word by word the 1925 confession of faith. The intent of the committee was to revise and elaborate a confession that would be broad enough for all Southern Baptists to live happily with it. An interesting fact worthy of noting is that “every single item in the proposed statement was adopted by unanimous vote.” In order to hear the opinions, suggestions and criticisms from others involved in theological literature, a copy of the original draft was sent to the presidents of the six Southern Baptist seminaries and to the executive secretary of the Sunday School Board.
The finished version was printed in parallel columns with the 1925 version of the confession. This model was requested to make it easy for the messengers to recognize the changes that took effect.
The following years showed that Elliott’s controversy (liberal theology) was still alive. The second phase of it was the suspicion of heresy from some Professors in SBC seminaries. The third in 1969 was related to The Broadman Commentary on Genesis. The commentary used liberal theology language, especially terms such as the JEPD documentary hypothesis. The fourth phase of the same controversy turned around the inerrancy of the Bible, and took place in Houston in 1979.
1.3 The 2000 Confession
As we have seen so far, both the 1925 and 1963 confessions emerged as a reaction against “modernist controversies of the day” (the teaching of Darwinian evolution as science (1925), and the Ralph Elliott controversy (1963)).
But, the question that arises now is why was there a need for a new revision of the Baptist Faith and Message in the year 2000?
In 1999, during the SBC annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, the announcement of the formation of a committee appointed by the President (Paige Patterson), to review in its entirety, the Baptist Faith and Message doctrinal statement was made. One of the reasons for the revision concerned an article added during the meeting in Salt Lake City in 1998. The article added was about family, and this addition was the first revision after 35 years. For some leaders, it was not enough.
Again, the claim for a revision was birthed from the idea of the “fight” against cultural and societal challenges. Adrian Rogers, chairman of the committee for revision, in his report to Southern Baptist Convention, wrote:
New Challenges to faith appear in every age. A pervasive anti-supernaturalism in the culture was answered by Southern Baptists in 1925, when the Baptist Faith and Message was first adopted by this Convention. In 1963, Southern Baptists responded to assaults upon the authority and truthfulness of the Bible by adopting revsions to the Baptist Faith and Message. The Convention added an article on “The Family” in 1998, thus answering cultural confusion with the clear teachings of Scripture. Now, faced with a culture hostile to the very notion of truth, this generation of Baptists must claim anew the eternal truths of the Christian faith.
As a result, on the fourteenth day of June of the year 2000, the revised version of the Baptist Faith and Message was presented during the SBC annual meeting in Orlando, Florida. It was approved by the majority of the messengers present in the event. The new version of the Baptist Faith and Message kept the language of the 1963 BFM intact, but at the same time, several changes were made “in an attempt to close ranks and define the SBC more conservatively.”
From 1845 to 1925 the SBC had an anti-confessional disposition. Some of the forces that helped them to behave this way could be listed as: 1) Separate Baptist revivalism, 2) Campbellite criticism, 3) Landmark ecclesiology, 4) the nature of the Southern Baptist Convention, and 5) the Southern and frontier culture. Although Southern Baptists held this anti-confession feeling so strongly, they also were aware of their confessional heritage. This emerged particularly through the first Baptist association in the South, called Charleston Baptist Association, which adopted the Philadelphia Confession of Faith in 1767. It is also known as the Charleston Tradition.
Evolution, Modernism and biblical inspiration were sufficient to change the Southern Baptists mind regarding their “anti” feeling. Therefore, in 1924 a committee was created and in 1925, during the annual meeting, the BFM was presented.
2.1 New Hampshire Confession and BFM 1925
The New Hampshire Confession served as the base for the Baptist Faith and Message of the year 1925. New Hampshire is considered the “only Confession of any note produced by American Calvinistic Baptists.” This Confession was modified to amend the expression of faith held by Southern Baptists with the addition of ten new sections. As already noted in this paper, article twelve from the New Hampshire Confession which talks about Harmony of the Law and the Gospel, and article sixteen, about Civil Government, were totally deleted. The initial article that talks about The Scripture can be considered identical with New Hampshire’s article Declaration of Faith, except that the word “opinions” was changed to “religious opinion” in addition to a minor punctuation change. Hence the words “truth, without any mixture of error for its matter” was kept the same.
Considerable changes happened on article seven about Regeneration. The text was greatly modified and it is hard to make any comparison. Because of the Calvinistic characteristics of the New Hampshire Confession (softly present), article nine about God’s purpose of Grace was also modified. In article eighteen, not only was the content altered, but also the title. In the New Hampshire Confession, the article’s title is, Of the world to come, whereas in the Baptist Faith and Message its title is Religious Liberty. Another characteristic that was already pointed out here is the inclusion of several new articles, such as, Education, Social Service, Cooperation, Evangelism and Missions, Stewardship, the Kingdom of God, and etc.
2.2 BFM 1925 and BFM 1963
According to Hobbs, the committee that analyzed and revised the BFM 1925 was cautious to not remove any basic truth from it. Some changes happened in order to clarify complex sentences, other changes were made to present explanations of doctrines in a more explicit statement. Another change was the reduction of the number of articles, from twenty-four in 1925 to seventeen in 1963. The articles on “God” and “Salvation” were enlarged in the BFM 1963, aiming a better explanation on each one.
The article on Scripture was simplified for reading matter. The words “We believe that” were deleted from the beginning of the statement and the statement “The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired” and “and is the record of God’s revelation of Himself to man” were added. The committee added a hermeneutical sentence about Jesus as the criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted. This sentence would be removed later on with the new revision in 2000. The article on God, the BFM 1963 added the word “Redeemer” in the introduction to the longer threefold statement on God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The article on Man kept the same “substance,” but with certain additions on the BFM 1963. The 1963 committee chose “innocent” and “innocence” over “holiness” and “righteousness”. Thus the result of the fall is that men inherit, not “a nature corrupt and in bondage to sin” as it is stated in the BFM 1925, but a “nature and environment inclined toward sin” in BFM 1963. A good observation brought by Hobbs in his article on Southern Baptists and Confessionalism, was that at the time the committee was writing the article about Man civil rights was a primary issue in United States. Consequently, the article concludes like this: “The sacredness of human personality is evident in that God created man in his own image, and that Christ died for man; therefore every man possess dignity and is worthy of respect and Christian love.”
On the article about Salvation the intention of the committee was the concision of the information of six articles: “The way of Salvation,” “Justification,” “The freeness of Salvation,” “Regeneration,” and “Sanctification.” In the matter of glorification, as mentioned in the BFM 1925, the 1963 version states “Glorification is the culmination of salvation and is the final blessed and abiding state of the redeemed.” The article on God’s Purpose of Grace became a combination of the ideas of articles “God’s Purpose of Grace” and “Perseverance” of the BFM 1925. Because of the misuse of the word “autonomy,” the BFM 1963 on the article about Church included the following statement: “This church is an autonomous body, operating through democratic processes under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. In such a congregation, members are equally responsible.” In the Article about Baptism and Lord’s Supper two sentences were added regarding baptism. The first sentence was “an act of obedience” and the second was “to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead.” In the same article, but dealing with the Lord’s Supper, one whole phrase was modified while keeping the same sense. Whereas the BFM 1925 reads “in which the members of the church, by the use of bread and wine, commemorate the dying love of Christ,” the BFM 1963 reads, “The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate his second coming.” Due to the problem of “social gospel” prevalence during the time when BFM 1925 was written, the article on The Kingdom also had a complete change in its sentences on its revised version of 1963. The article on Last Things summarized in one sentence the essence of three articles of the BFM 1925: The “Righteous and the Wicked,” “The Resurrection,” and “The Return of the Lord.” Articles on Evangelism, Education, Stewardship, Co-operation, The Christian and the Social Order, Peace and War were slightly changed, some times adding words, other times deleting them. The only article exactly reproduced in the BFM 1963 was the one that talks about Religious Liberty.
2.3 BFM 1963 and BFM 2000
Now we come to the ground of controversies. One of the things that Baptists are proud of is the fact that they are not a creedal people. The new revision came with some implicit sense which became more explicit later on of the creedal nature of the revision, especially with a statement like “instrument of doctrinal accountability.”
According to Russell H. Dilday, there are some positive factors in the revision, such as the non insertion of the controversial language of “inerrancy” like “inerrant.” Another non insertion considered a “scored point” was about eschatology, especially dispensasionalism views. Even under some criticism, the reinforcement of Baptist principles of soul competency and priesthood of believers were also a positive factor. The reaffirmation of most of historical Baptist convictions, and editorial changes, with gender inclusive language were also improvements that must be pointed out.
Some changes were crucial to increase the debate involving the BFM 2000. The article on Scripture is probably where we find the centre of all the controversy. The sentence “The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ” was completely deleted, and in its place, the committee added “All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.” Adrian Rogers, chairman of the study committee and three times SBC president said that the statement change happened “because it has been the subject of misunderstanding.” He also said, “We must not claim knowledge of Christ that is independent of Scripture or in any way in opposition to Scripture. Likewise, Scripture cannot be set against Scripture.” The article on God added an entire sentence on God’s omniscience. The addition of this sentence has its motif on a new theological movement that advocates an openness of God which limits his knowledge about future events, called “Open Theism.” Another change is the word “triune” to describe God’s revelation as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Many changes take place when we come to the article on Man. One sentence and one phrase were completely replaced, and the sentence “The gift of gender is thus part of the goodness of God’s creation” is added. The article on Salvation has the addition of the word “justification” and of the sentence “There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.” Another change would be in the format of the paragraphs, having “regeneration,” “justification,” “sanctification,” and “glorification” as separate outlines.
The article on Church restructures the first three sentences and replaces the phrase, “committed to His teaching,” with, “governed by His laws.” Another addition and replacement of sentences can be found in the article Evangelism and Missions. Here, the sentence “The Lord Jesus Christ has commanded the preaching of the gospel to all nations,” was added, and the phrase “by personal effort and by all other methods,” was substituted with “by verbal witness undergirded by a Christian lifestyle, and by other methods.”
Minor changes or no change at all can be found in the following articles: “God’s Purpose of Grace,” “Baptism and the Lord’s Supper,” “The Kingdom,” “Last Things,” “Education,” “Stewardship,” “Cooperation,” “Peace and War,” and “Religious Liberty.” The article added in 1998 on the Family is the last found in the revised BFM 2000. Here one can also find content for discussion. “The language of this section supports unilateral submission rather than mutual submission”
3.1 From Anabaptist Confessions to BFM
The Baptist Confessions were among the last to be produced, appearing only in the late period of the Reformation. Most of denominational Confessions, such as Lutheran, Reformed, Presbyterian, and Congregational appeared in history before Baptist confessions. Of the many confessional statements written during the Reformation, the three most widely accepted are of the Lutheran tradition, Augsburg Confession (1530), of the Church of England, the Thirty-Nine Article (1563), and of the Presbyterians, the Westminster Confession (1646). But, according to McGlothlin, all the Confessions written prior to Baptist Confessions were “the result of grafting Baptist views of baptism, church-membership, church government, and the relation between Church and State upon a Calvinistic or Arminian stock.”
In 1527, the Anabaptist Michael Sattler wrote the “Schleitheim Confession.” Although this confession came before the emergence of the seventeenth-century Baptist tradition, some historians see affinities between Baptists and early dissenting groups, such as Anabaptists. In 1644, seven Particular Baptist congregations near London published their first confession of faith in fifty-three articles. This confession is best known as “The London Confession.” Then, during a time of great hardship, under the new Act of Uniformity (the restoration of the Stuart monarchy), the most influential confession of faith in the history of Baptists took shape. It is known in England as “The Second London Confession” (1677, 1689), but in America, its title is “The Philadelphia Confession” (1742). The Philadelphia Confession of Faith was transplanted to the Charleston Baptist Association in South Carolina, and became “the most widely accepted, definitive confession among Baptists in America both North and South.” When the Southern Baptist Convention was organized in Augusta, each of the 293 delegates was part of congregations and associations that had adopted the “Philadelphia/Charleston Confession of Faith.” In 1833, the Baptist Convention of New Hampshire published the “New Hampshire Confession” which was to have a far-reaching influence among Baptists in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Through Brown and Pendleton’s manuals (The Baptist Church Manual and Church Manual), the New Hampshire Confession became widely accepted, especially among Southern Baptists, eventually transferring the Philadelphia Confession as the doctrinal standard of choice.
3.2 BFM 1925, 1963 and 2000
In 1925, the SBC adopted its first denomination-wide confession, called “The Baptist Faith and Message.” The Baptist Faith and Message helped Southern Baptists to remain united in commitment to conservative evangelical theology, while the Northern Baptists were fragmenting into several competing denominational bodies due to their unwillingness to publish a confession and inability to agree on one.
As one can notice, the adoption of a Confession was very positive for Southern Baptist life. The preamble of the BFM had five points that made clear the nature of that document, as they say, “we do not regard them as complete statements of our faith, having any quality of finality on infallibility.” In opposition to any form of creed/confession for Southern Baptist, John J. Hurt wrote a short article entitled, “Should Southern Baptists Have a Creed/Confession? – No!” His main point rested on (besides the non creedal nature of the Southern Baptists) the insertion of phrases and sentences every time some moment of tension appeared in history. He says: “There have always been tensions of the moment which fade with history. Would we be inserting phrases, sentences and paragraphs from time to time as conventions looked at these?”
Perhaps he was right. In 2000, another revision of BFM was made, but unfortunately, with some controversial modifications. Dr. Russell H. Dilday, lists twelve controversial points in the 2000 revision. 1)The deletion of the Christocentric criterion for interpretation of Scripture; 2) The diminishing of the doctrines of soul competency and priesthood of the believer; 3) The trend toward creedalism; 4) The diminishing of the doctrine of autonomy and freedom of the local church under the leadership of the Holy Spirit; 5) The trend toward Calvinism and mistrust of personal Christian experience; 6)The trend shifting Baptist identity from its Anabaptist, free church; 7) The narrow interpretation of the role of women in marriage; 8) The narrow interpretation of the role of women in the church; 9) The “Pandora’s box” concern – a fear of repeated future revisions to include favorite opinions; 10) The trend toward including a catalogue of specific sins; 11) The false accusation of neo-orthodoxy; and 12) Inconsistency.
All the problems listed above could be diminished if and only if this new revision did not have the intention to force or induce enforcement on people to believe in it. One issue would be when an individual sees something that they consider doctrinally wrong and it is ignored. Another totally different thing is when one is forced to believe in something he/she disagrees with (under the charge of being cast out). According to Charles Deweese, “a confession is a document to which there is a voluntary response.” He also said, “A creed is a statement of belief which is in sense forced on a body – there is an attempt to achieve a level of uniformity or conformity.” Professor Dr Lefever adds, “A confession is something you use to find a common ground, and creed is something you use to force agreement or uniformity. That’s the difference in a nutshell.”
Unfortunately what all feared happened, and little by little, missionaries, professors, seminaries, pastors, churches and also conventions were being asked to sign an affirmation of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. As expected, some of the people and institutions listed above did not sign the affirmation and were cut off from the SBC. A missionary couple who lived in Germany for more than 20 years could not come back to Germany as SBC missionaries because they refused to sign the document. In a recent letter to missionaries who have refused to sign the new BFM, Jerry Rankin who was the president of International Mission Board, wrote: “Allowance is provided for stating areas of disagreement. However, there cannot be flexibility in being unwilling to be doctrinally accountable and assure Southern Baptist that we will work in accord with our confession of faith and not contrary to it. To do so would erode the credibility and support of the IMB and bring into question your colleagues around the world.” He then added, “You are now serving in the 21st century, and it is important to recognize and support the organization and positions of the denomination with whom you serve, even if there are some areas of personal disagreement.”
In response to several misunderstandings about whether Southern Baptists should or should not have a creed/confession, Joe T. Odle, published an article in 1979 exposing some points that gave SBC support for having a statement of faith. His points are summarized as follow: 1) adopting a statement of faith amounts to taking a doctrinal position, and taking such a position is scriptural; 2) it is a distinctive interpretation of the Scripture which makes people Baptists, and a statement of faith is needed to make that position clear; 3) Baptists never have hesitated to make their doctrinal position clear and have done that through the issuance of confessions setting forth their beliefs; 4) a confession of faith is needed for the teaching of our own people; and 5) a statement of faith is needed for the unity and fellowship of our people and a clear differentiation from others who do not believe as we do.
Now, after this historical and contemporary exposition of the Baptist Faith and Message from both sides of the coin, we as Baptists are responsible to make our own choice based on our own conscience in faith, whether we will follow the confession or not.
 W. L. Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith (Valley Forge: The Judson Press, 1969) 390.
 Walter B. Shurden, “Southern Baptist Responses to Their Confessional Statements,” Review & Expositor Winter 1979: 72.
 Herschel H. Hobbs, “Southern Baptists and Confessionalism: A Comparison of the Origins and Contents of the 1925 and 1963 Confessions,” Review & Expositor Winter 1979: 56.
 W. L. Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith (Valley Forge: The Judson Press, 1969) 391.
 A good analysis of these four responses mentioned above can be found in the article written by Walter B. Shurden, “Southern Baptist Responses to Their Confessional Statements,” Review & Expositor Winter 1979.
 Mark Wingfield, “Baptists have debated creeds & Confessions for centuries,” Baptist Standard 26 Jun. 2000.
 Hobbs 57.
 Ibid 58.
 H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage (Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1987) 680-681.
 Mark Wingfield, “Baptists have debated creeds & Confessions for centuries,” Baptist Standard 26 Jun. 2000.
 Mark Wingfield, “SBC to review Faith & Message,” Baptist Standard 23 Jun. 1999.
 The Baptist Faith and Message Study Committee. “Report of the Baptist Faith and Message Study Committee to the Southern Baptist Convention” June 2000: sbc.net Official website of the Southern Baptist Convention. 14 March 2006 <>.
 “Do Good Fences Make Good Baptists?” Christianity Today 07 August 2000: 36.
 Walter B. Shurden, “Southern Baptist Responses to Their Confessional Statements,” Review & Expositor Winter 1979: 69.
 Ibid 71.
 McGlothlin, Baptist Confessions of Faith 299.
 James Leo Garret, “Biblical Authority According to Baptist Confessions of Faith,” Review & Expositor Winter 1979: 43.
 Herschel H. Hobbs, “Southern Baptists and Confessionalism: A Comparison of the Origins and Contents of the 1925 and 1963 Confessions,” Review & Expositor Winter 1979: 61.
 Hobbs 62.
 Hobbs 65.
 Ibid 66.
 Russell H. Dilday, “An Analysis of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000,” Baptist Standard 30 Apr. 2001.
 Ken Camp and Dan Martin, “Baptist Faith & Message changes touch on Bible, gender, sexuality,” Baptist Standard 20 May 2000.
 Baptist Faith and Message Booklet, “1963 and 2000 Baptist Faith and Message Statements: Comparison and Commentary. 14 Mar 2006
 Timothy George and Denise George, Baptis Confessions, Covenants, and Catechisms (Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996) 5.
 McGlothlin, Baptist Confessions of Faith xi.
 Timothy George and Denise George 9.
 Ibid 11.
 Ibid 12.
 Hobbs 57.
 BF M, 1925.
 John J. Hurt, “Should Southern Baptist Have a Creed/Confession? – No!” Review & Expositor Winter 1979: 87.
 Russell H. Dilday, “An Analysis of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000,” Baptist Standard 30 Apr. 2001.
 Mark Wingfield, “Difference between creeds & confessions seen in application,” Baptist Standard 26 Jun. 2000.
 Charlie Warren, “Sign BF&M or don’t return to field, furloughing missionaries told by IMB,” Baptist Standard 21 Oct. 2002.
 Joe T. Odle, “Should Southern Baptist Have a Creed/Confession? – Yes!” Review & Expositor Winter 1979: 90+.
Note: Copy of this material is allowed and free, since the source is cited / A reprodução dos textos é permitida e gratuita, desde que citada a fonte.