A Great Read on Southern Seminary

Southern SeminaryI just finished reading Dr. Greg Wills’ history of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and enjoyed it just as much as I did his previous book, “Democratic Religion:Freedom, Authority and Church Discipline in the Baptist South, 1785-1900.” Wills avoids the cumbersome prose that usually characterizes academic writing and manages to make 592 pgs. of seminary history interesting. Here are my immediate reflections on the book.
First, I am still amazed at the perseverance and sacrifice of the seminary’s founder and first faculty. Men of this character are rare today and their devotion to the cause of theological education for Southern Baptists was remarkable. Boyce showed promise as a theologian in his own right and probably never received the wider recognition he would have because he had to devote his time and resources to keeping the seminary afloat.
Second, it is discouraging to see how quickly liberal theology began to infect the seminary. Boyce and Broadus had staved it off, as evidenced by the removal of Crawford H. Toy, but after Broadus’ presidency the seminary quickly began to compromise with modernist professors and began the inevitable slide toward outright liberalism.
Third, I was also discouraged to read of the constant squabbles, power plays and politics between faculty and denominational personalities as they jockeyed for positions of power and prominence. It would seem that denominational politics are nothing new. However, I finished the book encouraged by the ability of grassroots Southern Baptists to maintain biblical fidelity and to demand that its representative bodies reflect that same orthodoxy.
This is a fascinating book that will be enjoyed by all alumni and current students of Southern seminary as well as all who are interested in Southern Baptist history. It also stands as a reminder that we must be ever vigilant to maintain biblical fidelity. It takes but a generation to lose what cost others so much to build.


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