Friday, March 31, 2006
Why I Must Disagree with David Scholer
At the risk of sounding like Lloyd Bentsen, I studied under David Scholer, I knew David Scholer--David Scholer was a mentor of mine. But I disagree with him. Here is a letter from the ABCUSA website, with my comments.
February 28, 2006
Dear colleagues and friends,
There is considerable talk these days about biblical authority and soul freedom and their
relationship to each other; I would like to offer some brief reflections on this from my life
experience and study.
Both biblical authority and soul freedom have been Baptist distinctives since our beginnings in
the early 1600s; most Baptists have treasured and nurtured these commitments over the centuries in many different contexts.
Both of these commitments are important and are not opposed to each other; it is never a matter that one of them "trumps" the other. In fact, they work together to safeguard all that is precious to us – the clear and sole authority of Scripture in an environment in which ecclesiastical authorities do not dictate to us what the Scripture teaches. Soul freedom is actually, from a Baptist perspective, the commitment that guards and protects the commitment to biblical authority over against other kinds of authority.
[Comment: this paragraph doesn't make a lick of sense. Either there is divine authority inherent in the Scriptures, or I sit as judge over the over the Scriptures. There is a tension here, and any attempt to deny the same is at least limited in perspective.]
Our history makes it clear that we have recognized from our beginnings that differences arise
among us as to what the Bible teaches on various themes and in multiple contexts. We now
understand quite well that the Bible does require interpretation; that is the responsibility that
goes hand-in-hand with the commitment to biblical authority. And, as a Baptist, I embrace soul
freedom, which allows me the option of my struggle with biblical interpretation in a context in
which I want also to preserve the right of my other Baptist friends to engage in their struggles of interpretation.
[Does soul freedom extend to contesting clear Biblical teaching? If it does, then the whole faith is tohu w'bohu, without form and void.]
I grew up in the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches. When I entered my
adulthood and seminary, I realized that the commitment of the GARBC to biblical authority was
actually an enforced commitment to a particular interpretation. I found my new haven of hope in the American Baptists in 1961. I embraced the ABC, knowing both its commitments to biblical authority and to soul freedom. I learned immediately that this meant there were persons within
the ABC with whom I had substantial theological differences. But, I had the freedom to
champion my understandings of the implications of biblical authority in our denomination,
which I have done over the years (e.g., on the issue of the ordination of women and their full
participation in the ministry of the church).
[Again, the phenom of the recovering fundamentalist. Boy am I glad I was spared this background. So many people opt for tohu w'bohu after spending time with the Pharisees--or at least those they perceive as such. Why not hang steady with a faith that is both robustly filled with grace and filled with Scripture?]
I have never regretted my 1961 decision. Further, I see nothing today that is substantially
different than it was in 1961 – there were and are some substantial differences in how various
American Baptists understand biblical authority, but we have not abandoned that commitment.
In fact, our various policy statements speak to many crucial issues in the mainstream of orthodox Christian teachings on sensitive issues. It is our commitment to soul freedom that gives us the opportunity to be genuinely committed to biblical authority. It is crucial that we do not think that our ABC family has failed us in these strong, basic commitments; we do not need to enter again into the disruptions of 1932 and 1947. As a strong evangelical committed to biblical authority, I understand that we weathered those storms and built a family that is a reflection of our basic commitments, which means, of course, a family in which there are some
disagreements, but these pale in light of the commitment to love, integrity, soul freedom and
David M. Scholer
Ordained in the ABC in 1966, Roslindale Baptist Church, Boston, MA
Frequent contributor to the life of our denomination over many years
Member, First Baptist Church, Pasadena, CA
Professor of New Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA
[Dear Dr. S: things have changed. Now is the time to stand against the doctrinal, moral and ethical compromise that stabs like a wound at the heart of our Baptist family. I must respectfully, and in love, disagree.]