The Future of Baptist Theology according to Timothy George

Timothy George ranks with Al Mohler as one of the SBC’s leading intellectuals. In a volume co-edited with David Dockery titled, Theologians of the Baptist Tradition, George writes the opening essay entitled “The Future of Baptist Theology.” The whole thing is worth reading, and I give you these snippets to whet your appetite:

“What are the benchmarks for shaping Baptist theological identity in the new world of the third millennium? Rather than put forth subtle speculations or a new methodology, I propose that we look again at five classic principles drawn from the wider Baptist heritage. These five affirmations form a cluster of convictions that have seen us through turbulent storms in the past. They are worthy anchors for us to cast into the sea of postmodernity as we seek not merely to weather the storm but to sail with confidence into the future God has prepared for us” (p. 5).

The “Identity Markers” George then identifies are as follows (he writes more on each of these points than I will quote—what I transcribe is just to give the flavor, from pp. 5–10):

1. Orthodox Convictions. “Baptists are orthodox Christians who stand in continuity with the dogmatic consensus of the early church on matters such as the scope of Holy Scripture (canon), the doctrine of God (Trinity), and the person and work of Jesus Christ (Christology).”

2. Evangelical Heritage. “Baptists are evangelical Christians who affirm with Martin Luther and John Calvin both the formal and material principles of the Reformation: Scripture alone and justification by faith alone.”

3. Reformed Perspective. “Despite a persistent Arminian strain within Baptist life, for much of our history most Baptists adhered faithfully to the doctrines of grace as set forth in Pauline-Augustinian-Reformed theology. . . . Baptists would do well to connect again with the ideas that inform the theology of such great heroes of the past as John Bunyan, Roger Williams, Andrew Fuller, Adoniram Judson, Luther Rice, and Charles Haddon Spurgeon.”

4. Baptist Distinctives. “One of the most important contributions that Baptists have made to the wider life of the church is the recovery of the early church practice of baptism as an adult rite of initiation signifying a committed participation in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In many contemporary Baptist settings, however, baptism is in danger of being divorced from the context of a decisive life commitment. . . . We must also guard against a minimalist understanding of the Lord’s Supper. . .”

5. Confessional Context. “Baptists have historically approved and circulated confessions of faith for a threefold purpose: as an expression of our religious liberty, as a statement of our theological convictions, and as a witness of the truths we hold in sacred trust.”

4 Comments

Filed under Bible and Theology

4 responses to “The Future of Baptist Theology according to Timothy George

  1. Thanks for the brief from Dr. George. Ecumenism is at the forefront of of my thought these days.

  2. Joe Barton

    Regarding #2, in what way is Scripture formally sufficient as the sole rule of faith – especially since there are so many Protestant denominations with contradictory doctrines on issues such as baptism, communion, once-saved-always-saved, and a boatload of others?

  3. Joe, I might ask what you suggest would be sufficient in lieu of scripture? I suppose it would be “Church Tradition” from the way you frame your question. To that I would ask how can tradition be sufficient when there are the Eastern Orthodox, the Roman Catholic, the “Nestorian” Churches, the Tridentine Catholics who reject the Pope, and the creed of Nicea with the flioque and without the filoque? What about all the various orders within Romanism? Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans…each with their different emphasis on what the “truth” is or how is should be emphasized according to the groups particular calling and charism. It is not much different than all these Protestant denominations you bemoan.

    Three break away bishops and a consecration ceremony doth apostolic succession make…

    This allusion to “so many Protestant denominations” as a basis for the rejection of the Protestant Principle only holds up when the illusion of uniformity within some other tradition is allowed to go unchallenged. It’s a myth, a shadow, a smokescreen.

  4. Joe,

    I might not be much help to you here, but I’m a Baptist because I believe the Bible is the only infallible rule of faith and practice. We believe what we believe because of what the Bible says, and we do what we do because of what the Bible says.

    If we become convinced that the Bible teaches something we’re not doing, we repent and start doing what the Bible says, and so it should be if we find the Bible forbids something we are doing.

    This is what drove the early Baptists to separate from churches who had no biblical warrant for baptizing babies.

    Hope this helps!

    JMH

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