Comments on Baptist Fundamentals: Opening Address

Don Johnson

Today I’d like to highlight some passages from the article published yesterday in order to offer some contemporary commentary. In the introduction of the article, I said this: “The old connection to the Northern Baptist Convention (now American Baptist Convention) is long gone, but the concerns and goals remain the same.” In today’s article, I want to emphasis some of that continuity with the past that marks our fellowship today.

The purposes or ambitions of the Fellowship

The constituency of this Conference is purely a voluntary one. It is not a delegated assembly. It is not responsible to any one. We are here because we have chosen to come. Our deliberations and conclusions will be those we voluntarily reach. The design of the Conference is to furnish a forum open to all Baptists in the interests of the time-honored, historic fundamentals of our Baptist and New Testament faith.

Our purpose today is similar, we maintain a fellowship of individuals, not a denominational body, in order to promote the values of faithful orthodox Baptist and New Testament faith. Compare the above with our present Mission and Vision statements:

Our Mission: FBFI’s mission is to provide a rallying point for Fundamental Baptists seeking personal revival and the opportunity to work with committed Bible-believers in glorifying God through the uncompromising fulfillment of the Great Commission.

Our Vision: FBFI’s vision is to perpetuate the heritage of Baptist Fundamentalism complete, intact, and undiluted to succeeding generations of fundamentalists.

The opening address made much of the concerns of the organizing committee about the schools of its day:

Regarding the reason for and timeliness of this call to conference, we who issued it are assured that some of our treasured historic fundamentals of the faith are in jeopardy. The situation in our schools and seminaries is critical. The faculty of a school or seminary may be nine-tenths sound, sensible, and spiritual, but if such school permits the presence and the unrestricted teachings of even one or two men in the faculty who undermine the faith, upset the convictions, and alienate the hearts of the students, that institution becomes and remains unsafe until it has purged itself of that source of pernicious percolating poison.

The efforts of the Pre-Convention Conference were doomed to failure. The concerns of the committee about the schools were shown to be all too true. All of the schools of that day were lost to the compromise of modernism and some of them are scarcely recognizable as Christian schools at all in the present day. In our times, we are thankful that God raised up several schools where the ancient faith is still defended, the gospel is still preached, and whose objectives are to train young people for faithful service in local churches.

Nevertheless, the schools of Fundamental Baptists remain a concern. Some have been forced to close their doors for various reasons. These losses are much regretted. Schools that remain are under constant pressure to compromise the message for the sake of enrollment. Fundamental Baptists remain vigilant and concerned for the future of faithful institutions. The reason for this concern is ably expressed by the opening address, which said:

For the schools are the fountains from which all our youth must slake their thirst for knowledge and receive the life refreshings of their intellectual and moral faculties. To change the figure, our schools are the hotbeds from which we must in future years continue to transplant the individual slips that in the field of our activities will grow into the leaders of our denominational life. What should be done in this situation? What can we do? Let us take counsel together.

When fundamentalists raise concerns, objection is often made to tone or to timing. What are we to say to such objections? The opening address said:

When we are advised that a protest now is inopportune, we ask, When shall we call attention to the situation and make a stand against it? When all our schools have been captured by liberalism? When our denominational machinery is under the control of the modernists, and when our people generally have been delivered to the teachings of the radical theologians in their pulpits?

The questions answer themselves. When shall we call attention? Now. When shall we take a stand? Now. When is the opportune time? Now.

It is a sad old world in which we live, where the forces of secularism and the God-denying faiths of moderns assail us on every hand. It is wearying to be always on our guard, but what other stance may we take in our world? The words of the addresses to the Pre-Convention Conference in 1920 have dated historical referents, to be sure. But the philosophy of ministry and the cause for concern make their sentiment as important today as when they were first voiced almost one hundred years ago. May God help us to remain faithful in our churches and in our personal lives so that we can proclaim a clear message to our lost and dying world.

Don Johnson is the pastor of Grace Baptist Church of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada.