For those of you who are team-sport enthusiasts, you know that one of the essential items in the repertoire of a team is the “playbook.” The team wins or loses on the basis of its playbook. It is much more than “x’s and o’s.” The playbook states the mission and the goals for the team. Then it is the playbook that articulates what to do or how to act in certain scenarios.
When doing life, many wish, “If I only knew what to do.” The truth is, as followers of Christ, we do have a playbook and it is the revealed, infallible, inerrant Word of God, the Bible. Although the skeptic and the “no god for me” folk would call this simplistic thinking, I beg to differ.
The God who created us, the God who has a purpose for every life, has chosen to show Himself powerfully in the life of the person who receives, believes and acts on the truths of God’s Word. Through difficult times, broken times, hallelujah times, all times in life, all of God’s Word is ever true for every culture all the time: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 HCSB).
There are those who struggle with the authority of Scripture. There are some who are convinced that Scripture holds only kernels of truth, and the whole of Scripture is not relevant to contemporary culture. There are some who think that because the Bible appears inconsistent with macro evolution, technology, and contemporary social trends, then it needs an adjustment to accommodate the needs of people in today’s culture.
The vast majority of Missouri Southern Baptists know the Scriptures need no adjustment. The bulk of us believe the Bible is literally true—that historical texts teach historical truth and should never be taught as myths or parables or dramas or mere suggestions. We never cease to learn the invaluable, inexhaustible truths in God’s Word. We will not be intellectually victimized by elitists who think followers of the Lord Jesus are unenlightened. We may lack in humanistic enlightenment or cleverness, but we know that the Word of God reveals God’s purposes and plans for people in whatever context we find ourselves.
2019 marks the 40-year anniversary of the Conservative Resurgence—40 years of bringing SBC and state convention institutions back from the brink of a theological train wreck to rediscovering the power of God’s plans and purposes for our personal lives, our cooperative ministries and contemporary culture. It is not a secret, but a recorded historical fact that Missouri Southern Baptists have been leaders in this movement.
The retired president of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, Morris H. Chapman, wrote a position paper for Baptist2Baptist.net titled, “The Root of the Controversy.” He said, “What motivated these Baptists to risk personal criticism, jeopardize careers, lose friends, and embroil the Southern Baptist Convention in a controversy that could have eventuated in its disintegration? Was it power lust or right-wing secular politics or an affinity for fighting as some have accused? Absolutely not — these accusations are totally unfounded.”
Chapman continues to write, “The central issue that spawned and sustained the movement was the nature of Scripture and its significance for the practice of Christianity as expressed through Southern Baptists. The controversy was ignited by the diminution of confidence in the Bible as the accurate and trustworthy written Word of God. Scores of God-called young people who had been birthed, baptized, and discipled in Bible-believing Southern Baptist churches went off to Baptist institutions of higher learning where they were robbed of their faith in the truthfulness of Scripture by the very folk who were being paid by Baptists to strengthen their faith and prepare them for vital ministry. Many of these potential leaders abandoned Christian ministry. Worse yet, some remained to poison the churches with the same false doctrine. What tragic results of this lamentable epoch of unfaithful teaching! Gratefully, many of the young preachers weathered the assault on their Bible and their faith and were the very ones who led the Southern Baptist Convention to return to its roots.”
It is not enough to give lip service about the Bible or to collect factual knowledge about the Scripture. A follower of Christ demonstrates his/her actual belief in the Word of God by the way he/she lives. While the previous sentence is true, there is an imperative also to live out an orthodox view of Scripture and not someone’s existential rationalization or accommodation with the secular world.
In 1979, when the respected Adrian Rogers was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Southern Baptists drove a stake in the ground to say:
We are a people of the Book;
We live by the Word of God;
We teach by the Word of God;
We do church by the Word of God;
We are compelled by the Word of God to cooperate in missions and ministry;
We obey what the Lord has spoken in the Word of God to take the exclusive gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.
We are the people of God on mission with the God who has chosen to reveal Himself through His Word.
His Word is our one and only “playbook” for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-21 HCSB).