What We Believe- Article II, God (part 1)

The second article of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 has to do with our beliefs concerning God. After a brief prologue this article breaks down into three subarticles, one for each member of the Godhead. In this post we will handle the prologue of Article II and in the following days we will go through the subarticles on God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

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.

This prologue serves as a most basic statement about the God of the Bible, the “one living and true God.” We are introduced to him first by his characteristics (“intelligent, spiritual, and personal Being”) and then by his offices (“Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the universe”). God’s infinite nature is proclaimed, as well as his omniscience. We attest God’s worthiness to be praised and obeyed. Finally, we are informed of God’s triune nature, God in three persons, as the hymn says; each part distinct and functioning, and yet at once in whole accord and coeternal unity.

Of the general descriptions given here of the Godhead there is only one thing that really sticks out to me as unusual and that being the insistence in the middle of the paragraph that “[God's] perfect knowledge extends to all things . . . including the future decisions of His free creatures.” In understanding the history of the BF&M we must know that it was simply an adoption of the New Hampshire Confession of Faith, “revised at certain points and with some additional articles growing out of certain needs” (from the Preamble of the BF&M 2000). That said, the New Hampshire Confession makes no mention of God’s perfect knowledge. Neither did the 1925 or 1963 incarnations of the BF&M.  It was only in this 2000 revision that we get talk of God’s perfect knowledge, and to such an extent. I would be curious as to the reason for this new inclusion, as I can see only two.

The first reason I would see for including this would be to combat the teaching of Open Theism. This is highly likely since the real firestorm over this idea kindled in evangelical circles around 1994 and so would have been pressing at the time of the BF&M revision. The second reason I might see for such language is to accommodate the Arminian view of election, which typically speaks of God’s foreknowledge (as seen in Romans 8.29 and 1 Peter 1.2) as God’s knowledge of our future free willed decisions, allowing proponents to say that election is simply God choosing those that he foreknows will freely choose him (an interpretation of foreknowledge which I would emphatically reject). This is likely given the makeup of the theologians assigned to update this document.  In the end, I believe it was probably both of these things that played a part in the decision to include the new sentence in the BF&M 2000.  In as much as it shoots down Open Theism I support the claim, but to the extent that it is used to argue against unconditional election I am still weary of its inclusion.

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