I first heard Herschel Hobbs preach at Glorietta Conference Center near Santa Fe, New Mexico in the summer of 1985.
Dr. Hobbs was 78 years old and had retired from First Baptist Church, Oklahoma City, where he has served as pastor for 23 years. He was the Bible teacher for College Week. The Baptist campus minister from Mississippi State University took a group of students to the event. Each day, I listened intently as Hobbs taught from 1 Corinthians.
Many Baptists today do not remember Hobbs, but he was a giant among Southern Baptists. He was President of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1961-1963. He preached for years on “The Baptist Hour” radio broadcast. He is perhaps best known for being the chairman of the committee that drafted The Baptist Faith and Message in 1963.
In his autobiography, My Faith and Message, Hobbs said that he considered serving as chairman of the committee that produced The Baptist Faith and Message in 1963 as his greatest privilege of all his service to Southern Baptists.
Hobbs believed that the preamble to The Baptist Faith and Message of 1963 was of great significance and that without it, the convention would have never adopted either the 1925 version or the 1963 version. The preamble, in his view, protected some of our most cherished Baptist beliefs. It is from that preamble that I took the name for this blog. Here are the pertinent sentences (emphasis mine):
“Baptists are a people who profess a living faith. This faith is rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ. …… A living faith must experience a growing understanding of truth and must be continually interpreted and related to the needs of each new generation. “
Hobbs believed that a living faith is a key distinctive of Baptist Christians. A living faith is one that admits that it has room to grow in Christ, to grow to be like Christ, and to grow in our grasp of truth. As a Christian, I must humbly admit that I do not have a complete understanding of all things. My experience of God’s amazing grace cannot be boxed up in a creed and delivered to me by a church council. My faith cannot be a second-hand or hand-me-down faith, that I take as my own just because someone else told me what to believe. My faith in Christ is alive. I am to grow. I am to develop. I am to learn. I am to experience ups and downs, highs and lows and through it all I am to “walk by faith” in the ever-present Christ who never leaves or forsakes me.
T.B. Maston, who taught Christians Ethics at Southwestern Seminary for many years, said “Union with Christ is not only an initial experience (of salvation) by also a continuing and growing one.” He goes on to state that “being a Christian means primarily a commitment to and communion with the resurrected Christ. This in turn means commitment to his way of life. …. The acceptance of certain basic doctrines or dogmas is important, but more important is one’s relation to the Divine Person. Doctrines or beliefs are important, but we should keep them in proper perspective. One may be rigidly orthodox in his beliefs and thoroughly unchristian in his relationships and attitudes. … It is easier “to believe” than “to practice.”….. The good Christian is one who is so vitally related to the resurrected Christ that this relationship inevitably affects every area and relation of his life. The kind of life he lives flows so naturally from his union with Christ that he is largely unconscious of the kind and quality of life he lives (emphasis mine). This is increasingly true as he matures in his experience with Christ” (T.B. Maston. Why Live the Christian Life? Pages 64-65).
A living faith is a maturing faith. A living faith flows from one’s union with Christ. A living faith impacts every area of your life. Many have heard the saying that a person can be “as straight as a gun barrel theologically and as cold as a gun barrel spiritually” and it is a true statement. Someone can hold orthodox beliefs and still have a cold heart. Baptists like Hobbs and Maston believed in warm hearts and learning minds. A living faith was growing in Christ, learning of Christ, and most of all characterized by being conformed to the image of Christ in our daily lives.
I was only around Herschel Hobbs one other time before he passed away in 1995. He came to a small town in Mississippi to preach a revival and he met with a small group of pastors one weekday morning. Even at an advanced age, he spoke to us with wisdom and grace. He shared his beliefs honestly and humbly. His was a living faith “rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ.”
I pray that mine is as well.