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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
In most "Articles of Faith" concerning the Word of God, they say, "We believe that the Word of God is perfect, without error, inspired, in the originals." Are they really saying anything at all? Who wouldn't believe the originals were perfect, without error, and inspired. But the problem is, we don't have the originals and if they were the only ones perfect and inspired then we don't have a perfect or inspired Word of God for today.
Only in the last 100 years or so, have we had the problem of "in the originals" appearing in Baptist Articles of Faith, of which during this time almost all of the modern versions have come on the scene, and that has caused confusion concerning inspiration and preservation. It is nothing to say, "I believe the Word of God is inspired, perfect, and without error 'in the originals.'" But it is something to say, "I believe the Word of God is perfect, without error, and inspired of which we have preserved for us, the English speaking population, in the KJV of which is perfect and inspired. What did the Baptists believe concerning the Bible before the new versions came on the scene?
Out of the book entitled, Church Manual, published by the American Baptist Pub. Sec., first published in 1867, we read in chapter III:
DOCTRINES OF A CHURCH
All who believe the Scriptures to be divinely inspired consider then the fountain of religious truth.
The Bible contains the revelation of God to man. It is the supreme standard of faith and practice.
Whatever conforms to this standard is right — whatever deviates from it is wrong. It is a duty incumbent upon all to "search the Scriptures" and learn what they teach. This duty can not be faithfully performed unless prejudices and preconceived opinions are laid aside. Alas, how few study the Bible in this way. But for human imperfection there would doubtless, be uniformity of belief as to what the Scriptures teach. There is not uniformly, but a deplorable variety of religious opinion throughout Christendom. Different sects, professing to take the Word of God as their guide, contend as earnestly for their distinctive views as if they had different Bibles.
Various constructions are placed on the teachings of the Sacred volume, and multitudes of passages are diversely interpreted. Owing to this significant as between the religionist and the infidel, it signifies nothing as between those who receive the Scriptures as the word of God. For they differ as to the import of the inspired Oracles; and the meaning of the Bible is the Bible.
As there is such a diversity of opinion in the religious world, it is eminently proper for those who appeal to the Scriptures as the fountain of truth to declare what they believe the Scriptures to teach. To say that they believe the Scriptures is to say nothing to the purpose. All will say this, and yet differ as to the teachings of the Bible. There must be some distinctive declaration.
What a man believes the Bible to teach is his Creed, either written or unwritten. And though it has sometimes been said that creeds have produced differences of religious opinion, it would be nearer to the truth, logically and historically, to say that differences of religious opinion have produced creeds.
As to the declarations of faith, it must ever be understood that they are not substitutes for the Scriptures. They are only exponents of what are conceived to be the fundamental doctrines of the word of God. Among Baptists, as their churches are independent, it is optional with each church to have a declaration or not, as it may think best.
Each church too may adopt a declaration of its own. Its independence gives it this right, nor can it be alienated. While Baptists glory in their form of church government — which recognizes every church as a little republic in itself — they are perhaps as nearly united in their views of the truths of the Bible as most other denominations. The following Declaration of Faith expresses, substantially, what Baptists believe concerning the topics mentioned.
DECLARATION OF FAITH
I. OF THE SCRIPTURES.
We believe that the Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired, and is perfect treasure of heavenly instruction; that it has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture of error for its matter; that it reveals the principles by which God will judge us; and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the world, the true centre of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions should be tried.
Not only does the article state "Among Baptists, as their churches are independent," a statement which can no longer be made. But there is also something missing pertaining to the Declaration of Faith concerning, "of the the Scriptures." You will not find any mention of "the originals." Why? Because they believed as any true Independent Baptist believes, that the KJV is perfect, without error, and yes, inspired.
Pastor John Reaves, Sr.