The History of the Baptist Faith and Message

The Baptist Faith and Message (hereafter and evermore termed BF&M) was adopted by the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in 1925. The Committee on Statement of Baptist Faith and Message had previously been charged with the task of considering “the advisability of issuing another statement of the Baptist Faith and Message, and report at the next Convention.”

Under the leadership of E. Y. Mullins, the committee recommended that the Convention of 1925 adopt the New Hampshire Confession of 1833 with some revisions. The New Hampshire Confession was a statement of faith that had already experienced wide circulation throughout early Southern Baptist life, and as such was a natural choice for promoting unity of faith throughout the denomination. Some distinctive articles that were revised in the New Hampshire Confession for Southern Baptist use were those articles that promoted a strict Calvinistic view of the Doctrines of Grace and the article which defined a Gospel Church. (Instead of linking all the revisions and expansions here, there are links at the end of the post where comparisons can be made.) The reason for all the revisions made to the New Hampshire Confession were for the needs of the day. In some cases the need of the day was greater clarity (the New Hampshire confession was 92 years old at the time), while in other cases the need of the day was for less division for the sake of the Great Commission. The result was a Statement of Faith which, in my opinion, suited the denomination well, but was not necessarily a Statement of Faith that would outline the particular distinctives of the Church on the local level.

The motion passed and the BF&M (1925) was adopted. Along with the adoption of the BF&M (1925), another statement was adopted. This was a statement of the Baptist conception of the nature and use of confessions of faith.

Baptists approve and circulate confessions of faith with the following understanding, namely:

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 conditions of salvation revealed in the New Testament, viz., repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.

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 Baptist should hold themselves free to revise their statements of faith as may seem to them wise and expedient at any time.

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.

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.

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.

These five points (especially points 1 and 2) are important for many of the debates that are taking place today about the scope and authority of the BF&M. Subsequent revisions (1963 and 2000) of the BF&M have always upheld these five points without revision.

Point number two was taken under advice by the Convention of 1962 and a committee to revise the BF&M (1925) was formed. The next year the revision of the BF&M (1963) was adopted by the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Kansas City.

In 1998 the BF&M (1963) was amended to include an article on The Family.

Another complete revision to the BF&M was made in 1999. This revision was adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention in 2000 and is the current version in use today.

For a comparison of the 3 versions of the BF&M, click here.  To see the New Hampshire Confessio, from which the BF&M was adapted, click here.


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