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Southern Baptists Affirm A “Literal Hell” For The Lost

June 16, 1988

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (AP) _ People lacking commitment to Jesus will be consigned to hell, Southern Baptists declared, while moderates marched to the Alamo and tore up a resolution they said meant a denominational dictatorship.

″Some believe that hell is not a reality, and its corollary, that all people will eventually be saved,″ said a resolution approved Wednesday by the nation’s largest Protestant denomination at its annual convention.

″We affirm our belief in the biblical truth that those without a personal commitment to Jesus Christ will be consigned to a literal hell, the place of everlasting separation from God.″

Being saved from it ″comes only by repentence, regeneration through faith in Jesus Christ,″ the resolution said. ″No one is saved apart from that transforming experience.″

The resolution, approved overwhelmingly, represents no change in doctrine by the 14.7 million-member denomination. But it was unusual since the subject of hell is rarely discussed in most mainstream pulpits or by church conventions because so little is concluded about it.

It also seemed to reflect the fundamentalist position that non-Christians must be brought to Christ or be condemned to hell, a thesis that has not been advanced by mainline churches in modern times.

A regional interfaith director for the Southern Baptist missions board in New Jersey was ousted earlier this year by fundamentalist pressure because he held that God’s covenant with Jews remains permanent and valid.

Fundamentalists have held the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention for nine years. They maintained their grip with the election Tuesday of another fundamentalist, the Rev. Jerry Vines of Jacksonville, Fla., who narrowly defeated the moderate candidate, the Rev. Richard Jackson of Phoenix, Ariz., for the one-year term.

Through presidential appointive powers, fundamentalists have brought the vast network of denominational operations under their control.

The resolution was one of several approved as the annual meeting of 32,600 ″messengers,″ as the delegates are known, neared its close today.

With the fundamentalist wing predominating, the convention also limited the historic Protestant concept of the equality of laity and clergy.

That view, expressed in the phrase ″priesthood of the believer,″ was a key concept of the 16th century Reformation, which rejected the clerical domination in the Roman Catholic Church.

The convention said the concept ″in no way contradicts″ the ″authority of the pastor which is seen in the command to the local church in Hebrews 13:17, ‘Obey your leaders, and submit to them.’ ″

After the resolution was approved by a two-thirds vote sharply divided between moderates and fundamentalists, about 200 moderates staged a protest march to the Alamo, the cradle of Texas liberty.

There they ripped up copies of the resolution and denounced it as heresy and a betrayal of Protestant heritage.

″This cuts at the soul of what Baptist congregations are all about,″ said the Rev. Randall Lolley, driven from the presidency of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary by fundamenalist-imposed controls on choosing faculty.

The resolution states that ″misunderstanding and abuse″ of the egalitarian doctrine has led to a mistaken attitude that a ″Christian may believe what he so chooses and still be considered a loyal Southern Baptist.″

It also has been used in ″undermining of pastoral authority,″ but does not contravene the ″responsibility and authority of the pastor,″ the resolution said.

Moderates shouted from the floor during the tumultuous debate that the resolution was akin to a ″papal system″ of clerical control and violated Jesus’ teaching that ministers were to be servants, not masters.

″What it’s talking about is denominational dictatorship,″ said the Rev. Buckner Fanning of San Antonio. ″It says the only way to lead is by blind obedience.″

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