The 1994 Southern Baptist Founders Conference
The 12th annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Founders Conference answered the question, “Is Holy Scripture enough?” with a resounding, “Yes, absolutely!” Meeting once again on the beautifully landscaped campus of Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, the conference participants heard twelve studies pertaining to various aspects of this year’s theme, The Sufficiency of Scripture.
Pastor Walter Chantry, of the Grace Baptist Church in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, spoke three times during the evening sessions of the conference (whose crowds swelled to approximately three hundred) on the Sufficiency of Scripture for: 1) Evangelism, 2) Life and Doctrine, and 3) Moral Duty. The first message was a soul-searching exposition of Luke 16:19-31 (the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus). Among other things, he pointed out that the man in hell did not believe that the Scriptures were sufficient as a tool for evangelism in the life of his brothers. The man did believe, however, that if some supernatural sign or wonder were performed before his brothers, then such “power evangelism” could not fail to bring them to believe. The point was powerfully made that Abraham flatly refused the hellish suggestion because the brothers had the Scriptures.
Pastor Chantry’s second message was taken from 2 Tim. 3 and 4. In perilous times when antinomianism abounds, it is critical for the gospel minister to remember that all Scripture is profitable and must be preached. His final message addressed Jesus’ declaration in the Sermon on the Mount that He had not come to destroy the law or the prophets, but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17-20). In closely reasoned, exegetically based arguments, Pastor Chantry demonstrated that those who would in our day assert that the Moral Law has been eclipsed by Jesus Christ must do so on the sinking sand of not hearing Jesus’ words and putting them into practice.
Rev. David Miller, founder of Line Upon Line Ministries and former Director of Missions for the Little Red River Association in Heber Springs, Arkansas, preached twice during the conference. A preacher without peer, Rev. Miller has been a favorite of conference attendees over the years. His piercing and insightful expositions have been widely used by God to bless many.
His first sermon addressed the theme, Preaching the Doctrines of Grace Expositionally, in which he urged pastors to preach the doctrines of grace as they are found on page after page of the Bible and because therein is the gospel of Jesus Christ. In his second sermon, taken from 1 Peter 1:1-5, he argued that Calvinistic Baptists have a reason to shout when they consider that they have been selected by God the Father, saved by Jesus Christ, and sealed by the Holy Spirit.
In the conferences opening exposition, Pastor Hal Wynn, of the Northside Baptist Church in Fort Myers, Florida and newest member of the Founders Conference Planning Committee, opened up Psalm 1. In a very clear and warm-hearted manner, Pastor Wynn set the tone for the rest of the week by directing attention to the power and benefit of God’s Word.
Following is a brief summary of the remaining sessions:
The Self-Verification of Scripture. Dr. Tom Nettles, professor of Church History at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, asserted the self-verification of Scripture on the grounds that the Bible is a revelation which claims our loyalty by its strong demonstration of literary authenticity and historical veracity, as well as its power and moral judgment.
The Life of R.B.C. Howell. Pastor Lloyd Sprinkle, of the Park View Baptist Church in Harrisonburg, Virginia, sketched the life of one Dr. Robert Boyte Crawford Howell, of our great Southern Baptist forefears. Howell was one of the original delegates to the founding meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Augusta, Georgia in 1845. His ministerial career was characterized as one in which he was highly esteemed by those whom he pastored and highly valued by those who labored along side of him in denominational causes. Throughout his ministry (which included serving as pastor of the First Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee for more than a quarter of a century), he was a strong advocate for Baptist mission causes at home and abroad. A noted controversialist, Howell ably took up the cause of truth against encroaching anti-mission sentiments as well as the deadening effects of the Campbellite error.
The Sufficiency of Scripture and Church Growth Pragmatism. Dr. Don Whitney, Pastor of the Glenfield Baptist Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, ably analyzed the Church Growth Movement in the SBC and its implications for the doctrine of Scripture’s sufficiency. In a very balanced and sensitive treatment, Dr. Whitney exhorted conference attendees to long for and labor toward the spiritual and numerical growth of our congregations while at the same time avoiding some pitfalls endemic to the church growth movement which tend to undermine the sufficiency of Scripture for worship and witness.
Martin Luther and Sole Scriptura. Dr. Timothy George, Dean of Beeson Divinity School on the campus of Samford University, thrilled conference participants with a stirring presentation of the life of Martin Luther as seen through the lenses of Luther’s commitment to the sole sufficiency of Holy Scripture. Dr. George presented a balanced treatment of the life of Luther, showing how ultimately Luther robbed himself of a thoroughly reformed and evangelical theology by not strictly adhering to his principle of sola Scriptura. When Dr. George had concluded his presentation, there was very little doubt that if Luther had consistently followed this chief principle of the Reformation he would have died a Baptist!
The Apostles’ Creed. Pastor Bill Ascol, of the Heritage Baptist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana, demonstrated the usefulness of the Apostles’ Creed in illustrating the Christian faith’s content and continuity throughout the centuries. He also demonstrated that an accurate, Scripturally based creed or confession of faith, rather than replacing or undermining the Scripture, actually affirms the Scripture’s sufficiency. Pastor Ascol challenged the participants to make use of the Apostles’ Creed in their ministries as a tool designed to promote the doctrinal content of the gospel.
The Sufficiency of Scripture and Foreign Missions. Dr. Steve Haines, Southern Baptist foreign missionary to the Ukraine, made a very convincing appeal to depend more upon the sufficiency of Holy Scripture and less on man-made programs and gimmicks as the one tool which God has ordained to bridge language and cultural barriers in advancing the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. Haines told the congregation that serving as a missionary in a foreign culture with limited means (and even less living space!) has heightened his sense of dependence upon and confidence in the Scriptures as the power of God for salvation.
Next year’s conference will coincide with the 150th anniversary celebration of the Southern Baptist Convention. Scheduled to be held July 25 through 28 at Samford University, the theme will be, The Southern Baptist Convention from 1845 to 1995: A Heritage for the Future. Among the featured speakers is Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.