Biff and His Book

In Back to the Future IIBiff Tannen, the stories lug-headed bad guy, travels back to 1955 and hands a Sports Almanac from 2015 to his 1955 self. Biff becomes the “luckiest man on earth” and predictably quite successful. Knowing the outcome of every sporting event might make your Super Bowl party a tad boring but it’d make your wallets quite fat.

Sometimes I think about how sweet it would be to have a world almanac that would “predict” the events that were going to take place for the next sixty years. But I’ll tell you what I’d really like. I’d like a lengthy letter from Jesus that outlined all of the significant things that were going to happen in the next 2,000 something years.

You might think I’m getting ready to tell you that we have such a book and it’s called the Bible. Now go read it!

But I’m not because that isn’t true.

The Bible isn’t synonymous to Biff’s Book, no matter what television preachers with rapture charts try to tell you. It’s simply not intended to secretly tell us the outcome of world events. So if I’m going to have something like Biff’s book then I need that special letter written by Jesus.

I’d like it to include things like this:

  • I’m returning on this date: _________
  • In such and such a year there is going to be a crazy debate in the church about worship styles. Here is what I say on the issue.
  • People are going to divide over this thing called Calvinism. It’s a debate about words that we used in the Bible like election, predestination, etc. Here is what I have to say on the issue. (He then gives a helpful illustration that helps us somehow understand the relationship between divine sovereignty and human freedom).
  • Watch out for a guy named Adolf.
  • This is when the earth was created. Do the math. That’s how old the earth is.
  • This is precisely how I would like to see the church ordered… (Here he’d outline everything on baptism, the Lord’s Supper, altar calls, and everything else we’ve divided over).
  • Best way to win a debate with an atheist…
  • Some of you will have really weird and befuddling things happen in your life. Here is why they happened.
  • Some of you will have situations arise in your church that will leave you scratching your head and not having a clue what to do. Here is exactly what you need to do.
  • Some of you will be left wondering what decision you should make. Here is what you should decide in every circumstance.
  • Here are a few tips for inventions that you might want to consider. Be sure to invent them before such and such a date because somebody else will beat you too it. Invent it first and get filthy stinking rich and give your proceeds to the cause of missions.

That’d be such a wonderful letter. If we had that letter we’d be more successful than Biff and we’d do things that really mattered. We wouldn’t build Biff’s Pleasure Paradise. We would build a beautiful church that was set up exactly the way that Jesus wanted it.

But no such letter has been uncovered. We’ve blown it on inventing the light bulb before Edison and we missed the boat on watching out for that guy named Adolf.

So why didn’t Jesus write us that letter?

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. –Psalm 84:11 (emphasis mine)

Pledging My Unfriendly Cooperation

The Convention will only deem a church to be in FRIENDLY Cooperation…which…has not intentionally operated in…opposition to the doctrine expressed in the [BFM2K]. —EMPHASIS Mine

I am committed to cooperating with Southern Baptists no matter how the convention might choose to characterize that cooperation. While I prefer the designation friendly cooperation, if my choices are between “friendly non-cooperation” and “unfriendly cooperation,” then I will choose the latter, instructing our financial ministry assistant to forward all funds through denominational channels with a scowl planted firmly upon her face.

My wife and I were there in Orlando in June of 2000. We cast our ballots in favor of the BFM2K. However, in the last three churches I have served, at the time of my call, I agreed with the Search Team to abide by the custom established by each church in the matter of observing the Lord’s Supper. For the last sixteen years, anywhere from four to six times per year, I have led my church in the practice of Open Communion—intentionally operating in opposition to the BFM2K.

I know the above rule was not written to marginalize Open Communionists like me who comprise over 50% of the convention. The parenthetical example provided by the committee specifically mentions churches who endorse homosexual behavior. Unfortunately, the shotgun of the rule in question scatters fire everywhere. If the only target is truly the church endorsing homosexuality, perhaps the use of a rifle would be a more appropriate choice.

However well intentioned, I believe this portion of the article should be removed. There is much more non-compliance with the BFM2K than at first meets the eye. In fact, an argument can be made that at least three such areas of non-compliance, when combined, are capable of casting perhaps 98% or more of the convention into my Dungeon of Unfriendly Cooperation. Without time or space for lengthy elaboration, let me simply mention the three doctrines required by the BFM2K that, strictly speaking, classify the vast majority of Southern Baptists as “intentionally operating in opposition” to the BFM2K, along with rough estimates of non-compliance percentages:

  • Closed Communion—In Article 7, not only is believer’s baptism clearly a prerequisite to the Lord’s Table, thus ruling out Open Communion, but the Lord’s Supper is said to be for “members of the church,” thus ruling out Close Communion as well. (96%)
  • General Atonement—In Article 3, “The sacredness of human personality is evident in that God created man in His own image, and in that Christ died for man.” David Allen writes, in the Baptist Journal of Theology and Ministry, Fall 2012, Volume 9, Number 2, p. 48: ”The use of the word ‘man’ in context clearly indicates ‘mankind’ as a whole. The BFM does not limit the death of Christ to the elect but to the same group which is made in his image, man.” (16%)
  • Inherited Sinful Nature—In Article 3, imputed guilt is disaffirmed: “Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin. Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation.” While addressing the Traditional Statement in the Baptist Journal of Theology and Ministry, Fall 2012, Volume 9, Number 2, p. 30, Adam Harwood writes: “the verbiage for Article 2 was taken from Article 3 of the Baptist Faith and Message (BFM) 1963 and 2000. By approving the BFM in 1963 and 2000, the SBC excluded from the convention’s confession any notion of inheriting of the guilt of Adam’s sin.” (16%??)

Among the 4% of Southern Baptists who are Closed Communionists, we can assume that a certain percentage either believe in Limited Atonement, Imputed Guilt or both. If so, the percentage of Southern Baptists, strictly speaking, who are not to be deemed in friendly cooperation with the convention, quite possibly approaches the 98-99% mark.

Maybe this could lead to an entirely different kind of One Percent Challenge: “Be a part of the One Percent of Southern Baptists Whose Cooperation is Friendly!” On the other hand, perhaps we simply need to review our Baptist history, and discover anew the marvelous difference between a confession and a creed.