Introducing Southern Baptists©
C. B. Hastings
TOC Forward Chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Aftward Appendix Glossary FAQ Bibliography (Start Page)
Economic Life and Daily Work
Special Moral Concerns
A CHURCH COVENANT
Excerpt from "A Statement of Social Principles for Christian Social Concern and Christian Social Action" by The Christian Life Commission, 1979
1. Family Life
The family, God's first and most basic instruction, was written into our natures when he created us male and female. Created in the image of God, husbands and wives are partners with distinctive and supplemental roles to fulfill or functions to perform. Their relations with one another should be such that they are appropriately compared to the relation of Christ and his church. There should be a mutuality in their relationship, a mutual respect and sharing with one another, including their most intimate relationship~sexual union. Parents should love, teach and train, and properly discipline their children, bringing them up "in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." In turn, children should respect, honor, and obey their parents, although there may come a time in the lives of maturing children when they should obey God rather than their parents. Mature children should see that needy parents are properly cared for. It is difficult to know the proper interpretation of some scriptures regarding divorce, but it is clear that divorce is out of harmony with the fundamental purpose of God. His purpose is for one man and one woman to be joined together as husband and wife for life. Divorce, in the contemporary period, may seem at times to be the lesser-of-two evils but it should not be defended as something good within itself. Neither should it be treated as the unforgivable sin. Churches should not only minister to the divorced but also provide an effective prevention program by preparing young people for marriage and by promoting family enrichment opportunities for the married. Sex is a gift of God and is good. However, the only full expression of it that God am proves is the sexual union of husband and wife. This means that premarital and extramarital sex, homosexuality, and "open" or common-law marriages are out of harmony with the purposes of God. A contemporary issue that requires attention is the place of women both in society and in the churches. Women who need or choose to work outside the home should not be discriminated against while women who prefer not to work outside the home should be equally respected. Women should have an effective voice in the program and leadership of churches. The place of women in the structure of the churches, including ordination, in accordance with Baptist ecclesiology, is left to each local congregation.
2. Race Relations
There lingers among many people the entirely fallacious idea, sometimes referred to as racism, that some races are by nature inferior while others are superior. God, however, has made not innately inferior or superior races. All races have been created in the image of God. All belong to one family. This means that racial prejudice is to have no place in the life of a Christian or a Christian church. Our heavenly Father is no respecter of persons, and his children should not be. We are "all one in Christ Jesus." If we cannot pray "Our Father" with fellow believers of different colors and cultures, there is something wrong with our relation to their Father and our Father. Human distinctions such as male and female, white or black are transcended in him. He will break down the walls of prejudice that separate us if we will let him. A church that is "the church of God" cannot close its doors or its membership to anyone because of his or her race. Christians and churches are obligated to do what they can to eliminate expressions of prejudice in housing and in jolts. Housing is one of the most basic but difficult problems in the whole area of race relations. Many other problems stem from or are related to housing. Also, we should do what we can to prohibit discrimination in employment or discrimination regarding upgrading on the job on the basis of race. The ideal, in the area of education, should be that every child, regardless of his racial origin, would have an opportunity for the best possible education. Every individual should have an opportunity to receive adequate education helpful to him in his chosen vocation.
3. Economic Life and Daily Work
There is no Christian economic system. The main concern of Christians should be what a system does for and to people. A Christian's daily work should enable him to find personal fulfillment, to provide for personal and family needs, and to give through his church to the cause of Christ around the world. Profits and the profit motive are not necessarily evil, but they should be kept subservient to service and the service motive. Human values are more important than material values. Unemployment and underemployment (part-time jobs or employment beneath the level of ability and training) are particularly persistent in democratic, industrialized countries. The Christian ideal is that every employable person should be able to secure employment suitable to his ability and training. Poverty and the relief of poverty have been a continuing concern of Christians. Christians are to have compassion for the poor so as to share with the needy in the local church family and with the poor in general. Government should be supported in providing an equitable welfare system that not only enables the employable to support themselves and their families but also enables the unemployable to maintain personal dignity. The restlessness of the poor is a major factor in the contemporary world revolution and the rise of the Third World; and the whole enterprise of missions is affected by how Christians perceive these poor and respond to their legitimate needs. Individual Christians and church and denominational agencies and organizations should seek to conserve energy, recognizing that the energy crisis is critical and will be with us for the foreseeable future. Many of us as believers should adopt a simpler life style, spending less on ourselves and sharing more with our church and the needy people of the world.
Government as an institution is ordained of God and derives its authority and its purpose from him. Christians should be law-abiding citizens and should respect and pray for those in authority. Also, they should use the ballot responsibly and should actively participate in the political process. Churches should pay taxes at the very least on any and all property except that used directly for worship and education. Denominational agencies should pay taxes on property that is competitive with legitimate business. Baptists should study and understand and propagate the principle of religious liberty and its immensely important corollary, separation of church and state. Baptists should not accept government funds for our agencies and institutions except possibly for very clear cases of specific contractual "services rendered."
Sectarian use of the public schools should be avoided. Also, Christians should be sensitive to the threat of a cult religion that tends to equate our national way of life or the culture of a particular region or group with the kingdom of God. As Christians we should be concerned about war and peace. Our aim should be peace and not war. We should do "the things which make for peace." Some military preparedness may be deemed necessary; but it should be kept under careful citizen scrutiny and civilian control. Nuclear proliferation, the multiplying of instruments of death and mass destruction, should be avoided through the concerned and active involvement of Christian citizens. Baptists, if consistent, will defend the right of the conscientious objector to war, even the selective conscientious objector. Basic to the biblical ideal of citizenship is the idea of democracy which magnifies the worth and dignity of the individual person. In contrast totalitarianism or stateism or unrestrained nationalism considers the individual an instrument, whose worth is to be judged by his contribution to the program of the party or state. Democracies, religious or political, in contrast to totalitarian regimes, operate as open societies. The effective operation of a political democracy is dependent on a relatively strong democratic Christian movement. We are in the midst of a world revolution of major proportions. Christians should be sympathetic with the restless multitudes of the world, approving, in the main, their basic goals of freedom, self-determination, and fundamental human rights while disapproving some methods sometimes utilized in striving to attain those goals. Civil disobedience including acceptance of governmental punishment may sometimes be required, for Christians owe their ultimate allegiance not to government (Dan. 6:~10) but to God (Acts 4:1~20).
5. Special Moral Concerns
On the basis of these and related principles, the hunger of any human being anywhere should be the concern of Christians everywhere, and efforts to relieve the hunger of the world should include ways to increase production of food and to reduce its consumption in countries where over consumption is a serious health problem, including the responsible limitation of population growth. We should also be concerned about crime and should work for a more enlightened and effective penal system where the emphasis is primarily remedial or custodial rather than merely punitive. There should be no place for capital punishment in a remedially oriented penal system because capital punishment is discriminatory in that most persons put to death are the very poor and the underprivileged from minority groups and because there is no clear evidence that capital punishment is a deterrent to crime. Christians should be deeply concerned about the lack of integrity in much of business, government, and society in general. Law and order, on the one hand, and justice, on the other, must be kept in proper balance if we are to have a healthy society. Christians should be careful not to become defenders of regimes that maintain order at the expense of justice for the people. Freedom of the press is constitutionally guaranteed in some countries; but there is no absolute freedom and no freedom without responsibility. Christians should support efforts to limit the publication and distribution of pornographic literature and the flagrant portrayal of sex, violence, alcohol abuse, and materialism in television programming. Pollution of water and air is a problem of major proportions in our society. Also, total abstinence from gambling, smoking, and alcohol and other harmful drugs is a preferable position for a Christian in our culture today. On the other hand, Christians should have a concern and compassion for the victims of these and other destructive habits. Some of the most pressing and perplexing moral problems in the contemporary world are in the big-medical area. Among these are abortion, euthanasia, organ transplants, and genetic engineering and experimentation. There are moral as well as legal aspects of these problems. Christian doctors, scientists, and others should ask, "Is this right?" as well as "Is this legal?" One thing that will help in relation to many issues or cases will be a respect for life in general and human life in particular. In regard to abortion, euthanasia, and organ transplants, the decision at times is in the gray area when the choice may be between the lesser-of-two evils. Baptists generally believe, for example, that an abortion is justified only under very serious conditions: when there is a clear threat to the health or life of the mother or possibly in the case of a pregnancy as a ret suit of incest or rape or manifest deformity of the fetus~cases that are extremely rare. It is important that the pregnant person should have competent Christian counseling with an opportunity to weigh her options, viewing abortion in moral and spiritual as well as physical terms. A distinction should be made between positive and negative euthanasia, with possible acceptance of the latter when it simply means the withholding of artificial means to keep a terminally ill person alive. In contrast, positive euthanasia, the actual taking of life, is wrong. Genetic engineering is potentially very dangerous. There is no reason to condemn organ transplants as long as there is proper regard for the donor as well as the recipient. Another moral issue is the health, including the mental health, of all the peoples of the world. The Christian ideal is that adequate medical service should be available to all.
A CHURCH COVENANT
This Covenant is one which has commonly been used by Southern Baptist churches in recent generations. It was written by J. Newton Brown and adopted by the Baptist Convention of New Hampshire in 1833 together with the widely used "New Hampshire Confession of Faith." The Covenant is not a creed, nor a statement of doctrinal beliefs, but a fellowship pledge by which members enter into Christian community and accept its disciplines. Each church is free to modify or write its own Covenant. In earlier years the Covenant was read at frequent intervals in the year and used as a basis of church discipline. Such use has presently greatly declined. However, one cannot understand Baptist polity apart from its covenantal nature (this is not to be confused with "covenantal theology" as taught by the Reformed churches and others).
Having been led, as we believe by the Spirit of God, to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, and on the profession of our faith, having been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, we do now, in the presence of God, angels, and this assembly, most solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with one another, as one body in Christ.
We engage, therefore, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, to walk together in Christian love; to strive for the advancement of this church, in knowledge, holiness, and comfort; to promote its prosperity and spirituality; to sustain its worship, ordinances, discipline, and doctrines; to contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the gospel through all nations.
We also engage to maintain family and secret devotions; to religiously educate our children; to seek the salvation of our kindred and acquaintances; to walk circumspectly in the world; to be just in our dealings, faithful in our engagements, and exemplary in our deportment; to avoid all tattling, backbiting, and excessive anger; to abstain from the sale and use of intoxicating drinks as a beverage, and to be zealous in our efforts to advance the kingdom of our Savior.
We further engage to watch over one another in brotherly love; to remember each other in prayer; to aid each other in sickness and distress; to cultivate Christian sympathy in feeling and courtesy in speech; to be slow to take offense, but always ready for reconciliation, and mindful of the rules of our Savior to secure it without delay.
We moreover engage that when we remove from this place we will, as soon as possible, unite with some other church, where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God's Word.
Tuesday, December 29, 1998
©Copyright 1998 All rights
Reserved. C.B Hastings
Text was scanned and OCRed from Introducing Southern Baptist ©Paulist, Press 1981.
Library of Congress Number: 81-80052