1963 Confession



It is, therefore, quoted in full as part of this report to the Convention.

(1) That they constitute a consensus of opinion of some Baptist body, large or small, for the general instruction and guidance of our own people and others concerning those articles of the Christian faith which are most surely held among us. They are not intended to add anything to the simple conditions of salvation revealed in the New Testament, viz., repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.

At the very beginning of the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message, its authors reject the concept of creeds or creedalism. A creed is technically defined as "a statement of belief—usually religious belief—or faith. The word derives from the Latin credo for I believe." More than that, though, creeds also tend to be used as authoritative statements of faith. If a person who claims to be a believer does not accept that creed, then in many instances he is identified as a heretic. Instead of being an authoritative expression of belief, a confession according to the first sentence in statement #1 is a "___________ of ____________________ of ________________ Baptist body, large or small." Because it is an opinion, it is never to be used as a sledge hammer upon others, as was the case for many centuries among Roman Catholics in their forcing people to accept their creeds.

(2) That we do not regard them as complete statements of our faith, having any quality of finality or infallibility. As in the past so in the future, Baptists should hold themselves free to revise their statements of faith as may seem to them wise and expedient at any time.

Are we 100% sure that our BELIEFS about the Bible are true? Or rather, are we 100% sure that we have correctly articulated our beliefs about the Bible? No, we are not. How does #2 address this uncertainty?

(3) That any group of Baptists, large or small have the inherent right to draw up for themselves and publish to the world a confession of their faith whenever they may think it advisable to do so.

Roman Catholics have what they call a "magisterium." In the Roman Catholic Church the word "Magisterium" refers to the teaching authority of the Church. This authority is understood to be embodied in the episcopacy, which is the aggregation of the current bishops of the Church in union with the Pope, led by the Bishop of Rome (the Pope), who has authority over the bishops, individually and as a body, as well as over each and every Catholic directly. According to Catholic doctrine, the Magisterium is able to teach or interpret the truths of the Faith, and it does so either non-fallibly or infallibly.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him." The magisterium provides authoritative interpretation of God's Word. How does #3 respond to the idea of a magisterium?

At this point, it appears that we just have conflicting claims: magisterium versus individual responsibility in interpreting the Scriptures. Which claim is right? Why?

It is at this point that we come to a major divergence in the 2000 BF&M from the 1963 version. The 1963 version definitely denies the validity of any magisterium. Each individual is responsible for interpreting Scripture for him or herself. He or she may be wrong in their interpretation; however, they and they alone are responsible ultimately for what they believe.

Well, the framers of the 2000 BF&M added one little letter to part of the 1963 BF&M, the letter "s", which on the surface appears harmless but which actually strikes right at the heart of this doctrine. [In fact, Mohler, who served on the 2000 BF&M committee, claimed that the belief in competency of the soul was just flat out unbiblical, claiming it had done so much damage to Baptist thought (see Mohler Criticizes Mullins’ Influence & Doctrine of Soul Competency ).] The 1963 BF&M affirms "the priesthood of the believer," whereas the 2000 BF&M affirms "the priesthood of the believers." One little letter changes the whole dynamic. In other words, we can't really trust the individual as he interprets God; rather, we need to look to a group for interpreting Scripture. Well, which group? The majority? I doubt that because many times the majority is wrong. The smartest group? I doubt that because smart people are on both sides of the issue. Well then, it must be the right group. That's right. The right group. Who is that right group? According to the framers of the 2000 BF&M, THEY are the right group. From a Baptist standpoint, this is extremely dangerous. It can lead to spiritual tyranny, the same kind of tyranny that the Roman Catholic Church exercised over Roman Catholics for hundreds of years.

In case you don't think that one little letter can change things, remember that the one Greek letter ("iota") destroyed the Roman Empire.

(4) That the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience.

Again, we see the rejection of a magisterium or creeds as being mandatory for the Christian according to Baptists. In light of what has been said before, how about church covenants? Should church covenants be binding upon Baptists in a local congregation? When COULD they be binding upon a church congregation? When COULD they be binding upon an individual?

(5) That they are statements of religious convictions, drawn from the Scriptures, and are not to be used to hamper freedom of thought or investigation in other realms of life."

The 1925 Statement recommended "the New Hampshire Confession of Faith, revised at certain points, and with some additional articles growing out of certain needs ..." Your present committee has adopted the same pattern. It has sought to build upon the structure of the 1925 Statement, keeping in mind the "certain needs" of our generation. At times it has reproduced sections of the Statement without change. In other instances it has substituted words for clarity or added sentences for emphasis. At certain points it has combined articles, with minor changes in wording, to endeavor to relate certain doctrines to each other. In still others, e.g., "God" and "Salvation” it has sought to bring together certain truths contained throughout the 1925 Statement in order to relate them more clearly and concisely. In no case has it sought to delete from or to add to the basic contents of the 1925 Statement.

Baptists are a people who profess a living faith. This faith is rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ who is "the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever." Therefore, the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is Jesus Christ whose will is revealed in the Holy Scriptures.

A living faith must experience a growing understanding of truth and must be continually interpreted and related to the needs of each new generation. Throughout their history Baptist bodies, both large and small, have issued statements of faith which comprise a consensus of their beliefs. Such statements have never been regarded as complete, infallible statements of faith, nor as official creeds carrying mandatory authority. Thus this generation of Southern Baptists is in historic succession of intent and purpose as it endeavors to state for its time and theological climate those articles of the Christian faith which are most surely held among us.

Baptists emphasize the soul’s competency before God, freedom in religion, and the priesthood of the believer. However, this emphasis should not be interpreted to mean that there is an absence of certain definite doctrines that Baptists believe, cherish, and with which they have been and are now closely identified.

The above paragraph is HUGE and provides support for claims made in the previous paragraphs. According to the 1963 BF&M, what 3 things do Baptists emphasize?

E.Y. Mullins, who was the greatest theologian Southern Baptists ever produced and who also grew up and was baptized at First Baptist Corsicana, claimed that the first emphasis is actually the primary one upon which freedom of religion and the priesthood of the believer are based. Soul competency emphasizes that each person (soul) is individually and personally accountable to God and "competent" to relate to God without mediation through other humans or human institutions. Because each person is competent, each individual person will be judged individually by God.

This has tremendous implications:

  1. Freedom in religion: because each person will be judged individually by God, since nobody other than me will be held accountable for my life, then I must be given the right to chart my own path in religion under God. I may be wrong; you may be right; however, as long as I am personally accountable for myself before God, then I need to be able to chart my own course.

  2. Priesthood of the Believer: each person is competent to stand before God because of Christ's work on the cross. As a result, he does NOT need a mediator other than Jesus to approach God. This eliminates the idea of a priesthood as envisioned by Roman Catholics. Moreover, religiously he stands under no authority than the authority of Christ Himself. We do submit to spiritual authority as long as spiritual authority does not violate our conscience.

  3. Because each person is competent to stand before God, no man stands above another man, especially in matters of religion. The idea of a bishop dictating the affairs of a church or an individual violates soul competency. An episcopacy (a church government run by bishops or even elders) places one man above another. Each man is responsible for himself in the church.

  4. This provides for a congregational government in which the people themselves decide for the church. Since each individual is competent, each is equal to the other. Each has his or her own vote. 50% + 1 (unless approved by the majority) determines the outcome of a decision in the church. (Now the 50% + 1 in certain circumstances can dictate that a 75% or 90% vote is required for approval, but that would again be determined by the simply majority.)

  5. The Relationship Between Churches: each church is equal to each other because each church is made up of competent souls. No one person or no one body dictates what any church does. Churches may associate with each other; however, the churches themselves may comply with or reject the decision(s) of an association of churches. Christ alone is the head of the individual, of the church, and of churches which associate with each other.

Your modern democracies are based upon the concept of soul competency. Baptists played a huge role in 17th-century England in promoting not only soul competency but also democracy. A democracy is actually taking soul competency from the religious sphere to the secular sphere.

It is the purpose of this statement of faith and message to set forth certain teachings which we believe.

{List of scholars who revised the 1925 New Hampshire Confession of Faith which constitutes the basis for 1963 BF&M:) Herschel H. Hobbs, Chairman Howard M. Reaves Ed. J. Packwood C.Z. Holland W.B. Timberlake C.V. Koons Malcolm B. Knight Dick H. Hail, Jr. Charles R. Walker Walter R. Davis Garth Pybas V.C. Kruschwitz Luther B. Hall Robert Woodward Douglas Hudgins Paul Weber, Jr. R.A. Long Nane Starnes C. Hoge Hockensmith Hugh R. Bumpas David G. Anderson E. Warren Rust James H. Landes R.P. Downey.