On the first Monday of this semester, I received an email at 5 p.m. informing me that one of my classes (a Tuesday/Thursday class) had been cancelled for the semester due to a lack of interest. The name of the class is Southern Baptist Heritage, and it's a required class for my degree. After freaking out, I attempted to find another open class, but had difficulty since, well, school had started and classes were full or conflicted with my work schedule. Fortuantely, I was able to talk to the professor of the closed class and work out an independant study. There will be not class time or tests, just six books to read and a paper. This is good.
I began my reading (albeit begrudgingly, as I wasn't too interested in Southern Baptist history) with a book called Baptist Battles. Some researchers from Emory University did a study on the Southern Baptist Convention - it's history, the divisions among the members, what they believe, and how that has affected the course of the SBC. It's been fascinating to learn about where the SBC came from and why certain divisions and disagreements exist. I've really enjoyed it.
The interesting part is finding out which category of Southern Baptists I fall into - because it seems that I'm a bit of a weirdo. I don't seem to fall in line with any particular side. I'm definitely not fundamentalist, and I'm far from being completely liberal. Yet, I'm not completely in the middle, because some of my views are strikingly fundamentalist, while others are quite liberal, and still others fall somewhere in between. Therefore, I'm going to be taking some time over the next few weeks to discuss my stance on particular Baptist issues, possibly more for my own benefit than for yours, because . . . well, do you really care what I think? I didn't think so.
The Inerrency of Scripture
I believe that the 66 books of the Bible that we have were written by men that were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Each of these men had motives what they were writing and undoubtedly had their own agenda. I have no problem with this, because I believe God used each of these men to get across what he wanted to. I take the Bible literally, although not completely. I mean, Jesus saying that He is the door does not that he really is a door. There are certainly stories, metaphors, poetry, and many other things that are to be taken in their context. This is why I believe it is important for Christians to learn these different writing styles and the context of each writer to better understand what the writer intended.
I do not believe that Scripture is to be read in a way that it means whatever someone wants it to. Certainly, the writers had a point when they wrote and weren't just writing so that we could take whatever we wanted from it. No, all of Scripture has an exact meaning, and we should work dillegently to understand it.
All of this being said, I firmly believe that it is preposterous to claim to have the Bible compeltely understood. It would be absurd for us to treat others with different understandings of Scripture as idiots. I'll give a few examples:
I believe in a literal six day creation. I feel that I can give a very good defense for it, but not a complete defense. Nor do I believe that one can be sufficiently made. I have good Christian friends who believe that the world was created over the course of several thousands/millions of years. They have no less of a defense than I do. Yet, to make such a claim about the world not being created in six days is enough to be labeled a liberal and a danger to the inerrency of Scripture.
I am a five point Calvinist. I don't agree with everything about John Calvin, but I do hold to his five TULIP points. I have very good Christian friends who are Arminian and believe in human free will to an extent to which I cannot. I belive the Bible is clear on these issues, but yet I went years of my life believing the opposite. While I can give a defense of my beliefs in this area (and regularly do) I find it nearly impossible to "convert" someone to Calvinism based on any argument that I can give.
My point is, God is the one who makes the Scriptures clear to us, not ourselves. I believe that there is a right and a wrong to each issue, but for anyone to claim that their way is competely right and inerrent is just silly. Each of us is capable of error and misunderstanding. This is why I think kindly dissent and decent conversation is so important among Christians - especially Southern Baptists. Perhaps if we were more willing to listen to our brothers and sisters in Christ instead of attacking anyone who differs from us, we might become more open to understand God through his Word in a new and different way - after all, it is all about him right?