Monday, July 13, 2009

Al Mohler and The Southern Baptist? Seminary

In the next two posts, I will reproduce parts of an article that I wrote last year in light of Southern Seminary's 150th birthday in 2009. Enjoy. I am getting close to meeting my deadline with Crossway for the book-length treatment of the subject, to be released in 2029.

More than 150 years ago, throughout the latter half of the 1850’s, James P. Boyce trumpeted the need for a new seminary that would specifically serve the needs of Baptists in the South. The new seminary envisioned by Boyce would serve the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. This would be faithfully accomplished by the seminary faculty’s adherence to a confessional document (Southern’s Abstract of Principles) and by the promise of academic excellence, comparable to Princeton Theological Seminary in the North.

Boyce and others in favor of such a seminary, after years of making their case for its establishment, finally saw the first class of preachers come to the Greenville, S. C. based school (later removed to Louisville in 1877) in the Fall of 1859. A new seminary was needed, and, by God’s direction, a new seminary was founded.

A strange call for a new seminary came some 140 years after Boyce first articulated the case for a school to train Southern Baptist pastors. This call, found in the April 25, 1995 editorial page of the Kentucky Baptist state newspaper, was made to elicit support from Kentucky Baptists for the idea of abandoning Southern Seminary. Marv Knox, then editor of the Western Recorder, wrote that, “We need a new seminary ‘for such a time as this.” Due to President Albert Mohler’s leadership and theology, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary had jettisoned its Baptist identity, according to Knox.

The Western Recorder editor held that Baptist identity was to be found in specific notions of freedom and individual autonomy. Knox wrote, “By forsaking the priesthood of the believer, Southern Seminary has committed denominational apostasy. The seminary paint crew ought to white-out ‘Baptist’ on the sign out front. Southern Seminary no longer is Baptist.” Mohler’s insistence upon returning the school to a place of fidelity to the Abstract of Principles and his unapologetic espousing of those truths articulated in the Abstract appeared to threaten what Knox held to be at the very core of Baptist identity. Thus, after laying out his case for why Mohler had deviated from cherished Baptist beliefs, he concluded his article with a less than veiled summons for readers to consider supporting a new school, a school that would counteract the apostasy at Southern Baptist’s flagship seminary – “But how can a non-Baptist seminary prepare fully-trained Baptist ministers? As we look to the future, we will need a theological school or seminary for preparing our ministers. Some will come from other free and faithful schools, but they will not produce enough. Will Kentucky Baptists step forward?”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

2029 is right around the corner..guess you shold begin to get the manuscript ready...I hope it is out sooner..