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Background material

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Controversial documents of the Southern Baptist Convention:

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is the largest single Protestant denomination in the United States, with a membership of about 16 million. It is second only to the Roman Catholic church in the U.S. in size. Starting in the 1970's, they went through internal turmoil due to a conflict between moderates and fundamentalists within the organization. The more liberal wing lost the battle. One result has been the publication of a series of documents that have been criticized by some more liberal Christians, feminist organizations, theologians, and Jewish, Hindu & Muslim groups. For example, they have issued:

bulletA loyalty oath which their employees must sign in order to retain their positions. Included are theology professors who were required to affirm that the gospels were written by authors actually named Mark, Matthew, Luke and John. Some of these educators were placed in the awkward position of losing their employment if they did not sign the oath, or of losing their credibility in the larger Christian community if they assented to something that they believed to be not true.
bulletA statement on the distribution of power and the role of women within the family in which the husband is to lead and the woman to submit to her husband's authority as necessary.
bulletA series of prayer guides to help their membership pray for and evangelize non-Christians, so that they will be led to salvation. 1

 The prayer guides will be the topic of the rest of this essay.

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Beliefs of the SBC towards other religions:

The need for the SBC prayer guides is linked to their beliefs about other religions. Many, but not all, Southern Baptists believe that the fundamentalist and other evangelical wings of Christianity hold the only truly valid faith:

bulletLiberal Christianity is seen as largely heretical. As a result, most of their followers lack salvation and are destined for Hell. R. Albert Mohler, Jr , "a strategic leader among Southern Baptists" and president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, stated that the liberal wing of Christianity is no longer really Christian: "One core doctrine after another has fallen by liberal denial—all in the name of salvaging the faith in the modern age. The game is now reaching its end stage. Having denied virtually every essential doctrine, the liberals are holding an empty bag....they should give up their claim on Christianity for the sake of honesty." 2
bulletOther Abrahamic religions -- those which trace their origin to the patriarch Abraham -- contain some truth but their theology is largely invalid. This includes Judaism, Islam and the Baha'i Faith
bulletOther major world religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, etc. are mostly worthless, and are influenced or actually controlled by Satan.
bulletNeopagan religions such as Asatru, Druidism and Wicca are forms of Satanism.

Southern Baptists (and other very conservative Christians) largely base their beliefs about other faith groups on specific biblical passages, which they believe to be inerrant:

bullet1 Corinthians 10:20-21 which implies that the God(s) or Goddess(es) of other religions are actually demons.
bullet2 Corinthians 6:14-17 which states that believers should not be "unequally yoked" with unbelievers. The passage implies that followers of other religions exhibit unrighteousness and their beliefs represent darkness.

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Salvation: the prime motivation for the prayer guides:

To Southern Baptists, salvation requires that a person repent of their sins and trust Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Only through salvation can one overcome a wall of separation between themselves and God which was erected by Adam and Eve's sin in the Garden of Eden. Salvation assures the individual that she/he  will avoid Hell and of attain Heaven after death. 

There are many biblical verses, particularly in the Gospel of John and the Epistles of Paul that state plainly that the only path to salvation is through belief in Jesus Christ. There are many passages, particularly in the Gospel of Matthew and the writings of Paul which emphasize the horrors of Hell which await the unsaved.

The SBC's "Baptist Faith and Message" states that: "Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour....There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord." 1 Commenting on this text, Mark Seifrid, Associate Professor of New Testament at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary wrote: "...salvation is found in Jesus Christ and in him alone....Salvation is to be found only in Jesus Christ, whom one must know by name and call upon as Lord in order to be saved." 3 This is interpreted by many SBC members as implying that those who are not saved by trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior will be relegated to Hell after death. This would include:

bulletThose who have heard the gospel and rejected it, and
bulletThose who have heard the gospel message but have not trusted Jesus, and
bulletThose that have never heard of Christ, the gospel message, or Christianity.

Thus, most Southern Baptists view the vast majority of humanity to be literally Hell bent for destruction.  Both individually and collectively, they are motivated by this belief to snatch as many lost souls as possible from the jaws of Hell. They feel a responsibility to follow the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19. To ignore this task is seen as an act of great irresponsibility and lack of love towards the lost. To not evangelize a particular religious group is sometimes even viewed as an act of religious intolerance. 

A statement of the 'Baptist Faith and Message," adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention on 1963-MAY-9 states, in part: "It is the duty of every child of God to seek constantly to win the lost to Christ by personal effort and by all other methods in harmony with the gospel of Christ." 4

R. Albert Mohler, Jr. has stated that: "...from the founding of the denomination to the present, Southern Baptists have declared that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to be witnessed to all persons, regardless of nationality, race, gender, or religious background." 5

They regard prayer for those who are "lost to Christ" to be a powerful force which encourages evangelism and religious conversion. The purpose of the prayer guides is to help their members use prayer to promote conversion of the lost.

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Related essay on this web site:

bulletMore information on the SBC's belief about salvation

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  1. "The Baptist Faith and Message: IV. Salvation," 2000-JUN-14 revision, at: http://www.utm.edu/martinarea/fbc/bfm/4.html 
  2. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., "In the company of fellow nonbelievers: Liberal theology abandons the faith," 1998-JUL-8, "Fidelitas: Commentary on theology and culture," at: http://www.sbts.edu/fmohler.html 
  3. "An exposition from the faculty of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on The Baptist Faith and Message 2000," at: http://www.sbts.edu/resources/
  4. "The Baptist Faith and Message: XI. Evangelism and Missions," 2000-JUN-14 revision, at: http://www.utm.edu/martinarea/fbc/bfm/11.html 
  5. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., "Against the Stream: The Southern Baptist Resolutions," "Fidelitas: Commentary on theology and culture," at: http://www.sbts.edu/fmohler.html 

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Copyright © 2000 to 2003 incl., by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-JAN-7
Latest update: 2003-APR-7
Author: B.A. Robinson

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