Read Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, and Part Five.
Three Aspects of the Core Values
The previous posts are merely a sketch of the four core values held by the CBF and therefore affirmed by its affiliating churches. However, three more aspects of these core values should be noted. First, there is nothing in the core values offering a statement about salvation, the gospel, or baptism except the phrase “Lordship of Christ.” At the very least, Baptists have historically been known for their belief in believer’s baptism. By not including a statement about baptism, the CBF makes a significant departure from previous Baptist groups.
Second, as the CBF refuses any statement of faith or creed, the four core values have come to describe and define what it means to be affiliated with the CBF. In this way, they serve the same function as a creed or statement of faith. For example, Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines a creed as “a brief, authoritative, formal statement of religious beliefs. The word ‘creed’ comes from the Latin word credo (I believe).” Comparing the 1993 statements to the current 2021 statement, one can see how the language of a creed, almost by necessity, creeps into the core values. From 1993:
- Bible freedom is the historic Baptist affirmation that the Bible, under the Lordship of Christ, must be central in the life of the individual and church and that Christians, with the best and most scholarly tools of inquiry, are both free and obligated to study and obey the Scripture.
- Soul Freedom is the historic Baptist affirmation of the inalienable rights and responsibility of every person to deal with God without the imposition of creed, the interference of clergy, or the intervention of civil government.
- Church Freedom is the historic Baptist affirmation that local churches are free, under the Lordship of Christ, to determine their membership and leadership, to order their worship and work, to ordain whom they perceive as gifted for ministry, male or female, and to participate in the larger Body of Christ, of whose unity and mission Baptists are proudly a part.
- Religious Freedom is the historic Baptist affirmation of freedom OF religion, freedom FOR religion, and freedom FROM religion, insisting that Caesar is not Christ and Christ is not Caesar.
- Soul Freedom — We believe in the priesthood of all believers and affirm the freedom and responsibility of every person to relate directly to God without the imposition of creed or the control of clergy or government.
- Bible Freedom — We believe in the authority of Scripture. We believe the Bible, under the Lordship of Christ, is central to the life of the individual and the church. We affirm the freedom and right of every Christian to interpret and apply scripture under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
- Church Freedom —We believe in the autonomy of every local church. We believe Baptist churches are free, under the Lordship of Christ, to determine their membership and leadership, to order their worship and work, to ordain whomever they perceive as gifted for ministry, and to participate as they deem appropriate in the larger body of Christ.
- Religious Freedom — We believe in the freedom of religion, freedom for religion, and freedom from religion. We support the separation of church and state.
A comparison of the differences highlights how the CBF has moved from declaring “historical” Baptist principles to declaring a statement of their beliefs. It is unclear how their statement as currently presented differs from a creed or confession.
Finally, this brief analysis shows how the lack of a statement of faith has resulted in a continual reassessment of what these four core values actually mean. By not having a statement of faith, the fellowship is not bound to any particular interpretation of how to express or understand these core values, leading to progressive changes in how they are applied in light of what is happening in contemporary culture. We will see these changes in the following posts in regard to two key social issues of the last thirty years.
 David W. Bebbington, Baptists Through the Centuries: A History of a Global People (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2010), 46.
 Ronald F. Youngblood, F.F. Bruce, and R.K. Harrison, eds., Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary: New and Enhanced Edition (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2014), 279.
 Shurden, The Baptist Identity, 9, 23, 33, 45
 https://cbf.net/who-we-are. Accessed August 19, 2021, emphasis added.
Note – This article was co-written by Terry Delaney and Dr. Gary Shultz, Jr.
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