Right away, you can tell that the statements in the BFM 2000 about God are longer and say more than did the statement about Scripture. The BFM comprises one statement about the godhead and one statement for each revelation of the godhead. I will consider these statements respectively.
The BFM 2000 states:
There is one and only one living and true God. He is an intelligent, spiritual, and personal Being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the universe. God is infinite in holiness and all other perfections. God is all powerful and all knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures. To Him we owe the highest love, reverence, and obedience. The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.
Concerning the godhead, otherwise the singular essence of God:
- The BFM claims that God has all knowledge—including the knowledge of His free creatures, but does not clarify what sort of freedom God’s creatures possibly have—which leaves room for all manner of religious affiliation to affirm the BFM statement. The 1689, quoted later, clarifies that God is sovereign without trying to insert something about the “freedom” of any creature.
- Further, the BFM states that God reveals Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—meaning that He may not actually exist as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One can be a modalist or Arian and affirm the BFM statement. The 1689 explicitly claims that the godhead really comprises three distinct persons and is not merely revealed as three persons—excluding modalists, Arians, and the like.
- Satan can still affirm this statement, granting that he owes God the highest love, reverence, and obedience, but not necessarily giving any of those things to God.
- The BFM majors on the personal nature of the godhead and fails to mention His transcendence. But, a god who merely reveals himself as different persons cannot be both transcendent and personal, or imminent.
- Further, the BFM contradicts itself in stating that this god reveals himself as three different person and also that the different persons have distinct personal attributes.
- Only if God actually exists in three distinct persons can each person have distinct personal attributes without division of nature, essence, or being—which the 1689 clarifies.
- God the Father
God as Father reigns with providential care over His universe, His creatures, and the flow of the stream of human history according to the purposes of His grace. He is all powerful, all knowing, all loving, and all wise. God is Father in truth to those who become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. He is fatherly in His attitude toward all men.
Genesis 1:1; 2:7; Exodus 3:14; 6:2-3; 15:11ff.; 20:1ff.; Leviticus 22:2; Deuteronomy 6:4; 32:6; 1 Chronicles 29:10; Psalm 19:1-3; Isaiah 43:3,15; 64:8; Jeremiah 10:10; 17:13; Matthew 6:9ff.; 7:11; 23:9; 28:19; Mark 1:9-11; John 4:24; 5:26; 14:6-13; 17:1-8; Acts 1:7; Romans 8:14-15; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 4:6; Colossians 1:15; 1 Timothy 1:17; Hebrews 11:6; 12:9; 1 Peter 1:17; 1 John 5:7.
Concerning the Father:
- The statements, here, are broad and overarching. No clarifications are made that distinguish Baptist thought from the thought of any worldview other than that of the atheist.
- The statement claims that God is Father in truth to those who have faith in Christ and fatherly toward all men. So, His role as Father has nothing to do with innertrinitarian relationships (because this god merely reveals himself in three persons) and everything to do with the way He interacts with all people—centering the faith on man rather than God. The 1689 delineates the titles of the persons of the Trinity as descriptions of each person’s relationship with the other persons of the trinity—having a wholly different emphasis than does the BFM.
- According to the BFM, the Father is a father even to the reprobate and those who hate Him—which encourages unitarianism and disagrees with the Bible’s description of the Father’s treatment of His enemies on this earth.
B. God the Son
Christ is the eternal Son of God. In His incarnation as Jesus Christ He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus perfectly revealed and did the will of God, taking upon Himself human nature with its demands and necessities and identifying Himself completely with mankind yet without sin. He honored the divine law by His personal obedience, and in His substitutionary death on the cross He made provision for the redemption of men from sin. He was raised from the dead with a glorified body and appeared to His disciples as the person who was with them before His crucifixion. He ascended into heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of God where He is the One Mediator, fully God, fully man, in whose Person is effected the reconciliation between God and man. He will return in power and glory to judge the world and to consummate His redemptive mission. He now dwells in all believers as the living and ever present Lord.
Genesis 18:1ff.; Psalms 2:7ff.; 110:1ff.; Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 53:1-12; Matthew 1:18-23; 3:17; 8:29; 11:27; 14:33; 16:16,27; 17:5; 27; 28:1-6,19; Mark 1:1; 3:11; Luke 1:35; 4:41; 22:70; 24:46; John 1:1-18,29; 10:30,38; 11:25-27; 12:44-50; 14:7-11; 16:15-16,28; 17:1-5, 21-22; 20:1-20,28; Acts 1:9; 2:22-24; 7:55-56; 9:4-5,20; Romans 1:3-4; 3:23-26; 5:6-21; 8:1-3,34; 10:4; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2:2; 8:6; 15:1-8,24-28; 2 Corinthians 5:19-21; 8:9; Galatians 4:4-5; Ephesians 1:20; 3:11; 4:7-10; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:13-22; 2:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 3:16; Titus 2:13-14; Hebrews 1:1-3; 4:14-15; 7:14-28; 9:12-15,24-28; 12:2; 13:8; 1 Peter 2:21-25; 3:22; 1 John 1:7-9; 3:2; 4:14-15; 5:9; 2 John 7-9; Revelation 1:13-16; 5:9-14; 12:10-11; 13:8; 19:16.
Concerning the Son:
- This statement clarifies that the Son is eternal with God, which is good. However, since the Son is merely a revelation of God as is the Father, though the statement now cancels the allowance for modalism, affirms a modified version of Arianism—the Father and Son are revelations of God rather than persons of God.
- The explicit work Jesus did on the earth is well stated, but the demons even believe these historical facts.
- Substitutionary atonement is clearly affirmed, which is good.
- The BFM claims that Christ dwells in all believers instead of at the right hand of the Father (perhaps because he is merely a revelation of God and is not necessarily distinct from the Father), which is actually where the Holy Spirit dwells—so the claim is simply wrong.
- I might ask about a contradiction in the statement. How is it that there has been reconciliation in Christ between man and God but Christ will later judge the world? Reconciliation necessarily negates judgment (here meaning wrath).
- The 1689 reserves another section to clarify on the judgment and end-times and clarifies that the Son is of the same essence as the Father and really eternally begotten of the Father, solving the problems present in the BFM.
C. God the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, fully divine. He inspired holy men of old to write the Scriptures. Through illumination He enables men to understand truth. He exalts Christ. He convicts men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. He calls men to the Saviour, and effects regeneration. At the moment of regeneration He baptizes every believer into the Body of Christ. He cultivates Christian character, comforts believers, and bestows the spiritual gifts by which they serve God through His church. He seals the believer unto the day of final redemption. His presence in the Christian is the guarantee that God will bring the believer into the fullness of the stature of Christ. He enlightens and empowers the believer and the church in worship, evangelism, and service.
Genesis 1:2; Judges 14:6; Job 26:13; Psalms 51:11; 139:7ff.; Isaiah 61:1-3; Joel 2:28-32; Matthew 1:18; 3:16; 4:1; 12:28-32; 28:19; Mark 1:10,12; Luke 1:35; 4:1,18-19; 11:13; 12:12; 24:49; John 4:24; 14:16-17,26; 15:26; 16:7-14; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4,38; 4:31; 5:3; 6:3; 7:55; 8:17,39; 10:44; 13:2; 15:28; 16:6; 19:1-6; Romans 8:9-11,14-16,26-27; 1 Corinthians 2:10-14; 3:16; 12:3-11,13; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30; 5:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:19; 1 Timothy 3:16; 4:1; 2 Timothy 1:14; 3:16; Hebrews 9:8,14; 2 Peter 1:21; 1 John 4:13; 5:6-7; Revelation 1:10; 22:17.
Concerning the Spirit:
- Everything here stated about the work of the Holy Spirit is true.
- Notice, the Holy Spirit is recognized as dwelling in the Christian like Christ was previously described as living in the Christian (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:5). But, Christ only dwells in the person through the Spirit because He is personally at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:33; 7:55-56; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22; Revelation 3:21). The BFM is inexact and confusing, perhaps explained by the modified Arian description of the persons of the godhead—who are mere revelations of the divine essence.
The BFM statements about God open affirmation to anyone who believes in a single, creator God who intervenes in human affairs in different forms—people of many different religious viewpoints. Further, the BFM statement makes the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit mere revelations and therefore not the full embodiment of the undivided divine essence. While an orthodox Christian can affirm the BFM, it is as true that those given to heresy, other than Modalism and hard Arianism, and other religious groups can also affirm the BFM:
|Statement||Affirming Groups||Groups Excluded from SBC Affiliation|
|The Scriptures||Biblical Christians, Roman Catholic, Jehovah’s Witness, Agnostic, Seeker Sensitive, Non-Gospel, Buddhist, Hindu, Mormon, Muslim, various cults, Unitarian, Universalist, or Satan.||Atheists, because they don’t believe Scripture is authoritative or divinely inspired.|
|God and the Holy Trinity||Biblical Christians, Roman Catholic, Agnostic, Seeker Sensitive, Non-Gospel, Buddhist, Hindu (the other gods could be revelations of the only living and true god), various cults, Unitarian, Universalist, Modified Arians (who believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are revelations of God rather than God), or Satan.||Atheists, Jehovah’s Witnesses (who do not believe Christ to be eternal), Mormon (who do not believe Christ to be eternal), Muslim (who do not believe Christ to be eternal), Hard Arians (who believe the Son was created by the Father), Modalists (who believe the Son is a form of God not coexisting with the Father or Spirit).|
The 1689 clarifies the ambiguities of the BFM 2000:
1._____The Lord our God is but one only living and true God; whose subsistence is in and of himself, infinite in being and perfection; whose essence cannot be comprehended by any but himself; a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; who is immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, every way infinite, most holy, most wise, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him, and withal most just and terrible in his judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty. ( 1 Corinthians 8:4, 6; Deuteronomy 6:4; Jeremiah 10:10; Isaiah 48:12; Exodus 3:14; John 4:24; 1 Timothy 1:17; Deuteronomy 4:15, 16; Malachi 3:6; 1 Kings 8:27; Jeremiah 23:23; Psalms 90:2; Genesis 17:1; Isaiah 6:3; Psalms 115:3; Isaiah 46:10; Proverbs 16:4; Romans 11:36; Exodus 34:6, 7; Hebrews 11:6; Nehemiah 9:32, 33; Psalms 5:5, 6; Exodus 34:7; Nahum 1:2, 3 )
2._____God, having all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself, is alone in and unto himself allsufficient, not standing in need of any creature which he hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and upon them; he is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things, and he hath most sovereign dominion over all creatures, to do by them, for them, or upon them, whatsoever himself pleaseth; in his sight all things are open and manifest, his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature, so as nothing is to him contingent or uncertain; he is most holy in all his counsels, in all his works, and in all his commands; to him is due from angels and men, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience, as creatures they owe unto the Creator, and whatever he is further pleased to require of them. ( John 5:26; Psalms 148:13; Psalms 119:68; Job 22:2, 3; Romans 11:34-36; Daniel 4:25, 34, 35; Hebrews 4:13; Ezekiel 11:5; Acts 15:18; Psalms 145:17; Revelation 5:12-14 )
3._____ In this divine and infinite Being there are three subsistences, the Father, the Word or Son, and Holy Spirit, of one substance, power, and eternity, each having the whole divine essence, yet the essence undivided: the Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son; all infinite, without beginning, therefore but one God, who is not to be divided in nature and being, but distinguished by several peculiar relative properties and personal relations; which doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and comfortable dependence on him. ( 1 John 5:7; Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Exodus 3:14; John 14:11; 1 Corinthians 8:6; John 1:14,18; John 15:26; Galatians 4:6 )
The 1689 affirms the real personhood of each person rather than claiming that they are mere revelations, guarding the community of faith from heresy. It affirms the eternal generation of the Son and the innertrinitarian relationships. It affirms that there is only one God who really exists in trinity, eliminating the possibility of a pantheon of revelatory incarnations. The 1689 eliminates unitarianism and universalism by clarifying that God is wholly sovereign, not merely knowing the future free decisions of people like affirmed in the BFM. It avoids any question about the place of humanity, affirming that God sovereignly demonstrates His own glory in people rather than majoring on or defending human freedom like the BFM does without any clarification as to what it means by “free.”
The 1924 downgrade continues to reveal much about the fall of theology in the church, particularly in the SBC in the last 100 years, its 100 year turn toward inclusivity, and its apathy concerning knowing God in favor of building a vast, worldly empire. May we return to the historic, biblical Baptist belief.
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