Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Vision (1.30.14): A Very Brief Overview of Christian Views on Eschatology (Last Things)


Note:  Last week one of our members asked me if I would give him an overview of the various views on Christian eschatology and provide some suggested resources for study. I responded by writing him a rather lengthy email.  This week one of the students from Lynchburg emailed me, making an almost identical request.  So, I went back to the first email to edit and enlarge it.  The result is the brief essay below:

Eschatology refers to the doctrine of last things.  In general, orthodox, Bible-believing Christians hold that we are living between the first and second advents of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We live in this present evil age looking forward to the glorious new age in which Christ will finally triumph.

The doctrine of last things can be divided into two categories:  (1) personal eschatology and (2) cosmic eschatology.

Personal eschatology has to do with what awaits human beings at the end of their lives on earth.  The Biblical view of personal eschatology is succinctly stated in Questions 36-39 in Spurgeon’s Baptist Catechism.

Cosmic eschatology has to do with the end of history and creation on a cosmic scale.  When most people ask about the Christian view of eschatology, this is the category they are usually thinking about.

Basic Christian Affirmations on Eschatology:  Orthodox, Bible-believing Christians hold to the following basic teachings regarding last things:

·        There will be a final, glorious second coming (parousia or “advent”) of Christ.

·        At Christ’s coming there will be a general resurrection of the dead (of which Christ is the first fruit).

·        After the general resurrection, there will be a final judgment.

·        At the final judgment all men will be permanently assigned for eternity to heaven or hell.

·        God will create a new heavens and a new earth.

·        God will be all in all, gloriously ruling for eternity.

All these things constitute the Christian hope. They are described in chapter 31 and chapter 32 of the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689).

Various views on the timeline of Christ’s coming:  As noted, all true Christians will generally agree in affirming the basic events sketched above.  There are differences among Christians, however, on when and how Christ’s parousia will take place.  Much of the difference relates to the proper interpretation of Revelation 20, a key passage where mention is made of a thousand year reign of Christ.  This thousand year period is referred to as “the millennium.”

In the history of Christian interpretation of the Bible, there have been three major views on the timing of Christ's second coming related to the millennium:

1.  Historic Premillennialism:  This view hold that Christ’s coming will take place before the millennium, reflecting the following general timeline:

(1) Christ's return;

(2) A literal thousand year rule of Christ on earth;

(3) A last rebellion and defeat of evil;

(4) The other events of the final consummation (general resurrection, judgment, assignment to heaven or hell, new creation, etc.).

2.  Amillennialism:  This view holds that there is not a literal millennium, but that this term is to be taken figuratively as referring to this present age, reflecting the following timeline:

(1) This present age is the millennium;

(2) Christ returns;

(3) The other events of the final consummation.

3.  Postmillennialism:  This view holds that Christ will return only after the establishment of the millennium.  Some take the millennium as literally lasting a thousand years and others as figuratively referring to a substantial and extended period of time. This view reflects the following timeline:

(1) The triumph of the Christian movement eventually results in a Christian "golden age” (the millennium);

(2) Christ returns;

(3) The other events of the final consummation.

In addition to these three basic views of Christian eschatology, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century there developed a variation on the first view (“Historic Premillennialism”) that is called "Dispensational Premillennialism” which has had a significant impact within modern evangelicalism.

4.  Dispensational Premillennialism.  This view holds that Christ will return before a literal thousand year millennium.  It holds, however, that Christ’s coming will take place in two stages.  Christ will first come secretly to “rapture” the church. Then, after a seven year period of tribulation on earth during which some will be converted and, thus, become “tribulation saints,” Christ will return yet again, this time publically and universally.  This view reflects the following timeline:

(1) Christ’s secret coming and the rapture of Christians;

(2) A seven year period of tribulation;

(3) The second stage of Christ’s coming which is public and universal;

(4) A literal thousand year rule of Christ on earth which includes the building of a “third temple” in Jerusalem and the re-establishment of temple sacrifices;

(5) A last rebellion against Christ and the final defeat of evil;

(6) The final consummation (though some dispensational schemes also differentiate between various resurrections and judgments that do not correspond to the mainstream views).

Dispensational premillennialism also has some distinctive additional teachings, particularly with regard to its views on Biblical hermeneutics (interpretation), including its view that the Bible teaches that history can be divided into various “dispensations.”  This includes seeing the present “church age” as a “parenthesis” in holy history.  This view leads dispensationalists to reject “covenant theology” and to downplay the significance of the Old Testament for New Covenant believers.  It does not see continuity between Old Testament Israel and the New Testament church, and it differentiates between God’s plan of salvation for Jews and his plan of salvation for believers in the “church age.”

In recent years, there has developed another significant movement within the dispensational camp known as “Progressive Dispensationalism.”  This view has been put forward by various scholars in historically dispensational schools (most notably, Dallas Seminary). It has attempted to modify some of the interpretive difficulties and peculiarities of historic dispensationalism and to reconcile it with covenant theology.  It has done so by, among other things, affirming the value of the Old Testament for the Christian life and by stressing elements of continuity between God’s plan of salvation for Jewish saints in the Old Testament and in the church today.


Though all should agree on the basic affirmations regarding eschatology sketched above, we acknowledge that men of good will may take different interpretations regarding the timeline of Christ’s second coming.  The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689), for example, does not take a position regarding Christ’s advent in relation to the millennium.  Thus, it might be affirmed by a Historic Premillennialist, an Amillennialist, or a Postmillennialist, and persons holding to any of those positions might well be part of a church holding to the confession.  There are, however significant hermeneutical and doctrinal problems with Dispensational Premillennialism that place it at irreconcilable odds with Reformed theology and the confession.  

Which ministers and theologians have held or currently hold the various views?:

1.  Historic premillennialism:  Advocates have included the church father Justin Martyr; maybe C. H. Spurgeon (his views are sometimes hard to nail down); and evangelical theologians like George Eldon Ladd and Wayne Grudem (reflected in his popular Systematic Theology).

2.  Amillennialism:  Advocates include most modern reformed theologians (e.g., Herman Hoeksema; William Hendriksen, R. C. Sproul, Michael Horton, etc.), as well as others like the Lutheran theologian Kim Riddlebarger. 

3.  Postmillenialism:  Advocates included Jonathan Edwards and most Puritan, evangelical, and Reformed theologians and missionaries of the 18th-19th centuries [the book to read here: Iain Murray’s The Puritan Hope].  The view has been revived in recent years by a number of Presbyterian and Reformed theologians including Keith Mathison and  John Jefferson Davis.

4.  Dispensational Premillennialism:  The Plymouth Brethren preacher John Nelson Darby is usually named as the founder of this view.  It was popularized by C. I. Schofield through the notes of his Schofield Reference Bible.  The view has also been popularly promoted in fundamentalistic and conservative evangelical circles by ministers and authors like Jerry Falwell (Thomas D. Ice directs the “The Pre-Trib Research Center” at Liberty University), Tim LaHaye (in the popular Left Behind books), and David Jeremiah.  Preacher and author John MacArthur is both a Calvinist and a dispensationalist!  The view has also been held by scholars like Lewis Sperry Chafer, John Walvoord, and Charles C. Ryrie, all connected with Dallas Seminary.

Here are a few books that might help get a handle on things:

General Orientation:

Historic Premillennialism:



Dispensational Premillennialism:

Progressive Dispensationalism:


I also recommend this podcast I did on Harold Camping and Rapture teaching.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Another Problem with the "Baptist Faith and Message": Failure to Define the Canon

I recently posted an article raising the question as to whether or not the Baptist Faith and Message (2000), the confessional statement of the Southern Baptist Convention, was adequately Trinitarian.  As previously noted, though I grew up and initially conducted my ministry within SBC circles, I began to have confessional concerns with the BF & M that eventually resulted in my leaving SBC life to embrace the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689) and becoming a Reformed Baptist.

Aside from issues related to its articulation of theology proper (i.e., the doctrine of God), I also see problems in other areas with the BF & M, including the doctrine of Scripture.  Article one of the BF & M is dedicated to the doctrine of Scripture:

I. The Scriptures

The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God's revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.

Exodus 24:4; Deuteronomy 4:1-2; 17:19; Joshua 8:34; Psalms 19:7-10; 119:11,89,105,140; Isaiah 34:16; 40:8; Jeremiah 15:16; 36:1-32; Matthew 5:17-18; 22:29; Luke 21:33; 24:44-46; John 5:39; 16:13-15; 17:17; Acts 2:16ff.; 17:11; Romans 15:4; 16:25-26; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 1:1-2; 4:12; 1 Peter 1:25; 2 Peter 1:19-21.


The problems with this paragraph primarily have to do with its brevity.  One need only contrast it with the ten paragraphs in chapter one of the 2LBCF (1689) which also treats the foundational doctrine of Scripture.  A basic and obvious deficiency of the BF & M is its failure to define the canon.  This statement never defines what is meant by “The Holy Bible.”  Now, I know that Southern Baptist uphold the 66 (39 OT and 27 NT) books of the Protestant Christian Bible.  The framers of the BF & M, however, assume the canon without bothering to define it.  Contrast this, on the other hand, with paragraph two in chapter one of the 2LBCF (1689) which takes nothing for granted:

 2. Under the name of Holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are now contained all the books of the Old and New Testaments, which are these,

Of the Old Testament.

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I Samuel, II Samuel, I Kings, II Kings, I Chronicles, II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, The Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations,Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

Of the New Testament.

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, The Acts of the Apostles, Paul's Epistle to the Romans, I Corinthians, II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I Thessalonians, II Thessalonians, I Timothy, II Timothy, To Titus, To Philemon, The Epistle to the Hebrews, Epistle of James, The first and second Epistles of Peter, The first, second, and third Epistles of John, The Epistle of Jude, The Revelation.  All of which are given by the5 inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life.
52 Timothy 3:16

Furthermore, in paragraph three it clearly rejects the Apocrypha as being part of the Bible:

3. The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of6 divine inspiration, are no part of the canon (or rule) of the Scripture, and, therefore, are of no authority to the church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved or made use of than other human writings.
6Luke 24:27, 44; Romans 3:2


Just as we noted that the BF & M statement on God leaves open the possibility that a modalist might affirm it due to its failure explicitly to affirm the Trinity, here we might note that it leaves open the possibility that a Roman Catholic who includes the so-called Deuterocanonicals (Apocrypha) as part of Scripture to affirm the article on Scripture due to its failure to define the canon.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Ministry of Invitation

Note:  Below are notes from my Sunday afternoon message on "the discipline of inviting non-believers into the meetings of God's people."
The Ministry of Invitation

Luke 5:18-20; John 4:28-30; 1 Corinthians 14:23-25

CRBC January 26, 2014

We are continuing a short series on personal ministry.  How can a believer be useful in kingdom work?  In what ways can he lawfully serve in ministry?

How can a believer be engaged in evangelism?  One way is through the often neglected ministry of invitation, that is, the spiritual discipline of inviting unbelievers into the meetings of God’s people so that they might (1) be exposed to the witness of God’s people, (2) be under the preaching of the gospel, and (3) through this be placed before Christ himself as he is present in his gathered people and as he speaks through the reading and proclamation and through the singing of his word.  Compare:

Ephesians 4:20 But ye have not so learned Christ; 21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:

Hebrews 2:11 For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee [citing Psalm 22:22].

We need also to note that God has particularly ordained the preaching of the gospel to be the means of convincing and converting sinners:

1 Corinthians 1:21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

To demonstrate the significance of this ministry of invitation I want to look at three NT passages:

1.  The healing of the paralytic in Luke 5:18-20:

Luke 5:17 And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them. 18 And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him. 19 And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus.

Notice:  There was a man who was paralyzed and could not move.  He had friends who had compassion on him in his circumstances, and they sought means to bring him and lay him before Jesus.  They knew that his best chance for healing was to place him “into the midst before Jesus.”

2.  The Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:28-30:

John 4:28 The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, 29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? 30 Then they went out of the city, and came unto him.

Notice that this woman did not go as a preacher or teacher.  She went as an inviter.  She had the power of her own personal experience of Jesus.  By her invitation men came to listen to Jesus for themselves.

See the fruit in John 4:39-42.

3. The description of worship in the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 14:23-25:

1 Corinthians 14:23 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned [idiotai:  unskilled or untrained], or unbelievers [apistoi], will they not say that ye are mad? 24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: 25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.

Granted, the specific purpose of this passage is not to provide a model for how to do invitation evangelism, but it is to advocate for prophesy given in intelligible utterance versus speaking in tongues in unintelligible utterance.  However, we should not overlook what the passage teaches us about how evangelism was done in the early church.  It assumes the following:  (1) the whole church gathered in one place (i.e., this is not the lone preacher going to stand on the street corner); (2) the unlearned and unbelievers were invited into these gathered meetings (i.e., these people came to the church’s gatherings, rather than the church going out to them); and (3) these unbelievers came under conviction of their sin and were converted to become worshippers of God as they heard the gospel intelligibly proclaimed in an explicitly Christian assembly.  From this we might surmise that the normative way for the church to do evangelism is (1) to gather publically to worship, especially on the Lord’s Day; (2) to invite unbelievers into our assembly; and (3) to preach intelligibly in hopes that the unconverted in our midst might come under conviction and be saved.

Practical exhortations:

1.  We are to see the ministry of invitation as one of the ways we might be lawfully and profitably involved in personal ministry.

2.  We should bring our children to worship to hear the preaching of the word.  This is one reason we do not need “children’s church.”

3. We should strive to invite and bring our unsaved relatives and acquaintances to hear the preaching of the word.

In our CRBC membership covenant we pledge “to seek the salvation of our kindred and acquaintances.”

4.  We can place Bible passages, good Christian books, and audio recording of Christians sermons and teachings in the path of non-believers (physically and electronically through email and social media), but we should not neglect the power of the physical gathering of God’s people.

5.  We should not necessarily expect an immediate result (though God can work miraculously if he so chooses) but we must be patient and understand that for some God in his sovereignty is concealing the truth (cf. Luke 18:34:  “And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hidden from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.”).  Still we can and should offer, we can invite, and we can pray.

Friday, January 24, 2014

David Robertson on the recent arrests of "street preachers" in Scotland

Image:  American street preacher Tony Miano
I recently wrote an article which appeared in the last RB Trumpet offering a critique of the contemporary "street preaching" movement.  In recent months there have been headlines as several outsider "street preachers" have been arrested in Scotland.  This has been reported among evangelicals in the US as evidence of increasing "intolerance" and "persecution" against evangelical Christians.  David Robertson, pastor at St. Peter's Free Church in Dundee, Scotland has, however, written a couple of insightful articles that raise some significant questions about the methods of the street preachers who have been arrested in his country and how this affects  the witness of faithful local churches like his own.
Back on October 4, 2013 he wrote Persecuting Preachers in Perth, questioning the wisdom of Australian street preacher Josh Williamson's arrest in Perth, Scotland.  He closed with the following plea to Williamson:
Repent:    I mean it.  It is good when we can admit our mistakes and errors.  The Christian life is one of continual repentance.  You got this one wrong, brother.  If I were you I would go to the police and apologise for the attitude and the provocation, for refusing to do what they asked, for the recording and tell them that you accept you were guilty of breach of the peace.  Go to the shopkeeper who was so upset and tell him that you are sorry for disturbing his business and that you hope he will forgive you and not reject the Gospel just because of the way it was conveyed. Go to the churches in Perth and apologise for giving cause for the name of God to be blasphemed amongst the ‘Gentiles’.    Write to The Courier and apologise to the people of Perth and the police for bringing unnecessary opprobrium on them.   That will transform everything.
Listen:   Perhaps you do this already but it’s worth repeating anyway. Listen to what people are saying.  Listen to the local culture.  Mix amongst them.  Hear the questions, the heartaches, the blasphemies, the joys and sorrows – and weep, and learn and love.  Listen to the Lord.  I’m sure you love his Word and desire to communicate it, but don’t presuppose that you already know all that is to be known from it. Let God communicate afresh to you every day the glorious gospel again and again.  When that happens to you and I, we will be far better equipped to communicate the Good News.
Preach the Word:  Continue to do open air preaching.  You have a good voice for it. But find a suitable venue, get permission for an amplification system, take ‘rent-a-small-crowd’ from the church with you, have people handing out leaflets, don’t harangue people, learn to do dialogue, try music and drama and preach the word, in season and out of season.   And when you are opposed don’t call down fire, don’t provoke to unnecessary wrath, be prepared to both persist and to shake the dust off your feet – and pray that the Lord will grant you the wisdom to know which one to do when.  And I pray that God will richly bless your ministry and those of other faithful believers so that Perth, this ancient centre of Scotland will become a future centre of the Gospel in Scotland.
Then, on January 13, 2014 he had an article titled Crying Wolf--Is free speech being suppressed in the UK? in response to the arrest of American street preacher Tony Miano in Dundee.  The article reads in part:
However let me offer another Christian perspective - despite the fact that I know even to question the orthodoxy of the persecution narrative in the UK is to open oneself up to charges of backsliding, theological liberalism, cowardice and 'shooting the wounded'. I am a Bible believing/teaching/evangelising pastor in this wonderful city of Dundee. I have ministered here for 22 years and have seen a church of seven grow into a church of 200-plus, with an increasing gospel impact.
It is hard work. There is an ignorance, arrogance and increasing intolerance that make it so. There is a 'famine of hearing the Word of the Lord', and yet there are many opportunities to give out the bread of life. The Christian churches in this city do tremendous work in schools, on the streets, amongst the young. We preach the Word. We write in local newspapers and engage in all kinds of creative evangelism. Solas Centre for Public Christianity is based here and we have not been shy in critiquing the dominant cultural narratives or seeking to bring the Good News in the public arena. That is after all our 'raison d'etre'!
We have many problems but here is the rub. We have the freedom to do so. We are not banned from preaching the Word of God, nor are we restricted (for now) in doing so. So whatever else the arrest of Tony Miano means, it is dishonest and wrong for Christians to say this means that the Gospel cannot be preached in Scotland today.
Of course the implied criticism is that those of us who are living and working here as Christians are not a) preaching the 'full' Gospel or b) getting out on to the streets communicating it. The truth of course is that there are many churches which compromise and there are Christians who are frightened and cowardly in their proclamation. But that is not all of us. From my perspective having worked hard in this city to build up good public relations with the police, council and local community groups; having tried to overcome the narrow and ignorant stereotypes of Christians that many people have; and having sought to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ in many different ways and contexts (however imperfectly); the last thing we needed was an American preacher standing in our city centre with an amplification system, shouting out words that no-one understands, getting arrested and then finding it front page news in The Dundee Courier, the next day.
Don't get me wrong. I use the word 'American' – not because I have anything against Americans (to whom I owe a great deal), but because in our cultural context, evangelical Christianity is associated with Redneck, George Bush-like, Southern US evangelicals. Like all stereotypes, that is not fair- not least on the many fine American Christians – including those in my own congregation who are seeking to bear witness to Jesus Christ in a culturally, spiritually and humanly sensitive way. But that is the perception that the 'man in the street' has. And if we are seeking to communicate to the 'man in the street', then we need to take account of that perception.
Robertson's challenges to the methods of the contemporary street preaching movement are more pragmatic than the ones I offered in my article, which were primarily Biblical-theological, but they deserve a hearing.  Simply put, he argues that such tactics lack prudential wisdom and are not helpful for kingdom work in his country.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Vision (1.23.14): Looking Forward to 2014

Scene:  Marching in for Vacation Bible School in 2013
Note:  On Sunday afternoon we conducted CRBC’s Annual Church Conference.  Among other things, we welcomed two new members, elected our first deacon to office, approved a student internship for Spring 2014, and approved our 2014 budget [see detailed report in this Vision].  We also reflected on CRBC’s ministry in the year past and looked forward to ministry in 2014.  Here are some of the ministry goals for 2014 that we shared on Sunday:

·        Continue to conduct weekly Lord’s Day worship services in Charlottesville and continue to develop a covenanted and confessional church community.

·        Continue to broadcast sermons and teaching worldwide on

·        Continue second Sunday services at Our Lady of Peace retirement center.

·        Continue Sunday evening “preaching point” in Lynchburg and work toward development of church plant.

·        Renew monthly men’s meeting (study of 2LBCF)

·        Continue mission giving to Andy and Beth Rice (Zambia) and Trinitarian Bible Society.

·        Consideration of joining the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches in America (ARBCA).

·        Run a new “Grace Points” radio campaign in the spring of 2014.

·        Conduct another “Puritan” Vacation Bible School tentatively scheduled for June 23-26, 2014.

·        Support thirteenth annual Keach Conference to be held September 26-27, 2014 in Warrenton, VA.

Of course, to all these things we must add DV for Deo Volente, “God willing.”

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Is the "Baptist Faith and Message" adequately Trinitarian?

In a recent Dividing Line podcast, apologist James White cites controversy over the contemporary Christian singing group Phillips, Craig, and Dean.  The members of the group apparently come from one-ness Pentecostal backgrounds and have been dogged by charges that they deny the Trinity.  The group recently released a carefully crafted statement (pdf here; sometime in January 2014, though the statement is not dated) in which they deny they are modalists or Sabellian but affirm their “heritage” while never clearly and positively affirming the doctrine of the Trinity.

The odd thing about this is that they further claim to affirm the Baptist Faith & Message (2000) statement of the Southern Baptist Convention.    I grew up among Southern Baptists, went to an SBC seminary, served as a missionary of the SBC’s International Mission Board, and served two SBC afiliated churches.  I even led the latter of these to adopt the 2000 revision of the 1963 BF & M through much blood, sweat, and tears. Hearing of the PC & D controversy reminded me of some of the doctrinal concerns I began to have about the BF & M as I ministered in an SBC context and which eventually led to my leaving the SBC for Reformed Baptist life.

How can PC & D not affirm the Trinity and yet affirm the BF & M (2000)?  Here is chapter two of the BF & M (2000) statement on the doctrine of God:

II. God

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.

A. 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.

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; 53; 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.

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.

Notice about this statement:

1.  It never uses the classical theological term “Trinity” in its definition of the doctrine of God.  My guess is that this comes from a basic Biblicist impulse in SBC life, which includes a tendency to use only explicitly Biblical language, however inconsistently this might be applied.

2.  It likewise does not use classical creedal language of “one God in three persons.”

3.  One could see how a modalist might be able to affirm the line at the close of paragraph one:  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.  In fact, it sounds like the language preferred by some one-ness Pentecostals like T. D. Jakes who speak of God “manifesting” himself as Father, Son, and Spirit.   I was struck as I re-read this by a surprising lack of stress on the unity and oneness of God.  This may seem a radical critique, but I am not sure but that this statement might even possibly be interpreted as tri-theistic.

In contrast, compare the statement on God from chapter two of the Second London Confession of Faith which is explicitly titled:  “Of God and of the Holy Trinity”:

Chapter 2: Of God and of the Holy Trinity

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 all-sufficient, 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 )

Notice about this statement:

1.  The explicit use of the term “Trinity” both in the title and the closing affirmation:  which doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and comfortable dependence on him.”

2.  Though it prefers to speak of “subsistences” rather than “persons” the classical creedal Trinitarian language clearly undergirds the statement.  Compare the Westminster Confession of Faith here, however, upon which the 2LBCF is based, which more explicitly uses the classical Trinitarian language of “persons”:  In the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.

3.   The statement could in no way be twisted to allow modalism or tritheism.


The PC & D Trinity controversy exposes a major weakness in the BF & M as a confessional statement and leaves Southern Baptists open to the charge of not being adequately and explicitly Trinitarian.  It leaves open questions like: Can one deny the Trinity and yet still affirm the BF & M?  Are Southern Baptists classically Trinitarian in their view of God?  Perhaps this will lead Southern Baptists to revisit their confession and strengthen it.  In the meantime, SBC churches which desire to be orthodox would do well to adopt a supplementary statement or confession which explicitly affirms the Trinity.

The doctrine of the Trinity is an essential test of Christian orthodoxy, and a church is best served by adapting a confessional statement (like the Second London Baptist Confession) which clearly affirms this fundamental doctrine.