"A Monthly Emagazine, Bridging Baptists Yesterday and Today"

December  2003                 Vol. 2  No. 12


Produced by The Center for Baptist Studies, Mercer University

Walter B. Shurden, Executive Director and Editor, The Baptist Studies Bulletin

Greg Thompson, Associate Director, The Center for Baptist Studies

Wil Platt, Associate Editor, The Baptist Studies Bulletin

Robert Richardson, Coordinator, Mercer Certificate Program in Baptist Studies

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Table of Contents:


I Believe . . . : by Walter B. Shurden

           A Christmas Credo

The Baptist Soapbox: by R. Kirby Godsey

          "Six Trends That Will Shape the Church for the Next Fifty Years."

BSB SPECIAL: Roger Olson Responds to Reviews

BSB Book Review Specials: Molly Marshall's Joining the Dance: A Theology of the Spirit

            Reviews by Bob Patterson and Graham Walker

BSB SPECIAL: Molly Marshall  Responds to Reviews

Baptist Firsts: by Charles Deweese

           The First Baptist Association in the South

Baptists in America and Church State Issues: by Brent Walker

           "Theological Education and State Funds"

Baptist Women in America: by Carolyn DeArmond Blevins

           "Leaders During Controversy"

Baptist Spirituality in America: by Loyd Allen

           Martyrdom, Spirituality and the Baptists

Baptist Hymnody and Worship in America: by  Harry Eskew

            "Baptist Hymn Singing in the Past Century"

Baptist Books: by Bruce Gourley

             Baptist Biographies: Gano, Gottfried Alf, and Baptist Shapers

Baptist Articles: by Phyllis Rodgerson Pleasants

             Leadership, Postmodernism, Baptist Identity and Christmas


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I Believe


By Walter B. Shurden

I believe . . .


        that all of life is rooted; that the Mystery we call God is the Source of all creation, that life as we know it is connected to Something beyond it;


        that life is broken; that human beings seek to live their lives apart from the Giver of life and in violation of the purposes of God and that this has resulted in the brokenness of all creation;


        that life is being healed; that the Mystery we call God is dynamic and not static and that this Mystery is active in human history aiding and abetting the hurting and oppressed parts and members of creation;


        that life is replete with glimpses of what it was meant to be; that the Mystery we call God is revealed throughout human history in all people to a certain extent, in some special people to a great extent, and in the life of Jesus of Nazareth to the greatest extent possible in human form;


        that life is communal and interconnected; that the Mystery we call God calls us into communities which are intended to be

          open and accountable,

                    inclusive and disciplined,

                              forgiving and responsible,

                                         redemptive and demanding;


        and that these communities are intended to reknit the brokenness and alienation of humanity and of all creation; in other words, the communities are urged to join God in the Divine process of re-creating the brokenness of life;


        that Christmas is at the very least a reminder of all these things:

        the rootedeness of life,

             the brokenness of life,

                   the healing of life,

                           the revelations within life,

                                  and the interconnectedness of all of life.


*Written in 1994 and drawn from numerous sources.

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Baptist Soapbox

The Baptist Soapbox: Invited guests speak up and out on things Baptist (therefore, the views expressed in this space are not necessarily those of The Baptist Studies Bulletin, though sometimes they are). Climbing upon the Soapbox this month is Dr. R. Kirby Godsey, President, Mercer University.

“Six Trends That Will Shape the Church for the Next Fifty Years.”*
by Dr. R. Kirby Godsey


You and I live in an era that is being defined by religious conflict. The solution for our conflicts will not be in whose religion can be the biggest bully. The truth is that religion in our world is becoming as much a source of tragedy as it is of hope. We are living in a world where religion has become evil and destructive. Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths alike have become sources of some of the world’s most profound tragedy.

So, let me tell you six trends that I believe will shape the Christian church over the next fifty years.

I.          I believe that over the next few decades, fundamentalism will be unmasked and exposed as a fraudulent form of faith. Fundamentalism in all of its expressions worldwide is barbaric and uncivilized, replacing creativity with control and manipulation. It churns out passions that breed religious hatred and bigotry and the twisted wreckage of misplaced devotion.

II.         There will be increasingly less interest in denominations, and more compelling interest in church engagement. Believe me, people are flocking to churches not because they are caught up with the power and promise of [a denomination’s financial program]. They are not. People climb their way into the sanctuary Sunday after Sunday to try to glimpse enough light and hope to find their way home, to find enough meaning to face the dread and turmoil that consumes them every day.

III.       Mark it down. Don’t ever forget it. The Church of the twenty first century will be led more by women, less by men. The twenty first century will be the century of the woman.

IV.       The Christian Church will and must become less exclusive and more relational. Christians must become more open to conversation with other world religions.

V.        The future of the Church lies with laity, not with the priests. Preachers are not, and never have been, the hope of the world.

VI.       The re-centering of the church will witness the eclipse of entertainment religion. I realize that many . . .  feel like [they] have to respond to what the culture requires. I simply urge caution. Saturday Night Life Christianity mostly represents, I believe, the trivialization of belief.


*This is an edited version of an address entitled “Re-centering the Church and Its Ministry” delivered by Dr. Godsey at the Mercer Consultation on Preaching at St. Simons, Island, GA, on September 28, 2003. To see the entire address, click here.


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BSB SPECIAL Roger E. Olson, Professor of Theology, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University, Waco, Texas responds to reviews of his books in last month's BSB. The reviews were by Molly Marshall, Jeff Pool and Richard F. Wilson.

       I am profoundly grateful for the time and attention given to The Story of Christian Theology and The Mosaic of Christian Belief by these three fine reviewers. They flatter me and my books with such careful, critical and sympathetic examination. As the old saying goes, "Any publicity is better than none." And yet I consider each and every one of these critiques fair
and helpful both to me and to my readers. I thank the reviewers for their efforts.
        It seems that two main criticisms cropped up in the reviews. One arises
out of my treatment of the "Great Tradition" of Christian thought and teaching. The other has to do with my criticism of panentheism. I will do my best to respond to my critics on these two points.
        First, I will be the first to admit (and I think I do admit in my books)
that the "Great Tradition" of Christian thought and teaching is something of an artificial construct and that my construction of it in my books is indeed mine. My only defense is the old "tu quoque" argument: everybody does the same thing. There is no purely objective, God's eye view of anything. My account of the Great Tradition will inevitably be colored by my experiences and biases. I invite others to point out its weaknesses and then develop their own accounts to be critically examined by others. The only thing I object to is a complete dismissal of the whole idea of a Great Tradition; it cannot be dispensed with if we are to have a Christianity with shape and substance. The only alternative, it seems to me, is a situation in which every person's hat is his or her own church. That does not mean the Great Tradition is incorrigible; far be it from me to suggest such a thing. Rather, the Great Tradition is our heritage of interpretation. It serves theologians much as the tradition of Supreme Court precedents serves judges in U.S. jurisprudence. It is a guidance mechanism without which we drift in an individualistic swamp of personal preferences. Expand the account of the Great Tradition to include voices of women, minorities, the marginalized? By all means; let's do it! I only ask that documentation be provided and that invention be avoided. Remember that my accounts of the Great Tradition focus on doctrines; so long as someone can muster documentary evidence of significant influence on Christian theological and doctrinal development by women (before the last century) and minorities I am more than pleased to include their contributions in any revision.
        Second, panentheism has become a much-contested term. I believe it is
being used too flexibly by some contemporary theologians. I explain in my books that it means an ontological interdependence of God and the universe such that God could not be God without it. Hegel believed this as did Whitehead; most of their followers have promoted either dialectical panentheism (e.g., Macquarrie) or process panentheism (e.g., Cobb). I do not include in the category "panentheism" any view that affirms God's ontological self-sufficiency before and apart from the universe even when it also affirms a divine kenosis in creation such that God suffers with the world and is dependent on the world's eventual redemption for his full self-satisfaction (Moltmann, Fiddes, et al.). I do not consider such views truly panentheistic because they include a possibility of God's existence apart from the universe which true panentheism does not. Furthermore, I consider true panentheism heretical insofar as it undermines the grace of creation and redemption which I believe it inevitably does. I am confident that I have the full support of the consensus of Christian doctors and teachers of the church (to say nothing of Scripture!) in this judgment.

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BSB Book Review

BSB BOOK REVIEW SPECIAL: BSB focuses this month on Molly Marshall's exciting new book JOINING THE DANCE: A THEOLOGY OF THE SPIRIT (Judson Press, 2003). Molly Marshall is Professor of Theology and Spiritual Formation at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City.

Reviewed by Dr. Bob Patterson, Baylor University, Department of Religion.

             Christians are monotheists: we believe that God is one center of self-consciousness. We are also Trinitarian: we believe that God expresses Himself in a three-fold personal way as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The widespread revival of interest in the doctrine of the Trinity is the most exciting development in contemporary constructive theology.

            Sadly, the Holy Spirit has been out of the spotlight in this Trinitarian discussion, the overlooked “ugly stepchild.” Dr. Molly T. Marshall’s new book, Joining the Dance: A Theology of the Spirit, goes a long way in correcting this neglect. Her book is both pastoral and doctrinal, and the title is a winsome picture of how the Spirit invites humans into the relationship of mutuality that makes up the inner life of God, an inviting dance that welcomes all. Dr. Marshall lists six primary theological presuppositions that shape her pneumatology: 1. God is inextricably related to the world. 2. God gives the world creative space in which to flourish. 3. Many agents or factors are involved in the ongoing world process. 4. Divine power is mediated and shared: there is openness to the future, the possibility of real novelty. 5. God as Trinity, eternally dwelling in self-giving relationship, chooses to include all creation in redemption. 6. The Spirit is the point of contact between the life of God and the world that is yet coming to be.

        In eight chapters in the book, Dr. Marshall works out the implications of these presuppositions. In the chapter on “Vivifying all Creation” she traces the presence of the Spirit in the Old Testament in gathering and forming the people of Israel into a community. In the chapter “Empowering the Christ” she explores how the Spirit empowered the Messiah as God’s own invitation to humans to join in the dance with God. The Spirit empowered Christ to make God present with us through Christ’s compassion, suffering, and resurrection. In the chapter on “Birthing the Church” we see how the New Testament community of the Spirit became the enfleshment of God, a uniting voluntary community characterized by fellowship and mutual delight. Through baptism and the Lord’s Supper the Spirit incorporated and sustained the believer in an enlivened spiritual life. In the chapter “Transforming Unfinished Presence” we see how the Spirit continues forming believers today after the likeness of Christ through spiritual formation. This spiritual formation (“bearing the image of God”) is both an abiding friendship with God and a mutual relationality with others. The Spirit gently leads us to be fully what God created us to be (truly ourselves) and fully God’s dance partner. The chapter “Winnowing the Harvest” is a discussion of how to discriminate between authentic and fraudulent claims for the activity of the Spirit in service (all believers are gifted for service), discernment (certain practices violate the Spirit’s movement in the world) and liberation (lifting the burdens of those suffering social death). The chapter “Honoring Faith’s Presence” asks the question, “What remains for the Spirit to accomplish?” The answer is that the lovingly attentive Spirit is bringing the creation to its ultimate realization, its eschatological Goal. The Spirit raised Christ from the dead and the Spirit will raise individual believers from physical death for eternal life. Furthermore, the Spirit will transfigure our world from destruction, bondage, and lack of fruition, and this includes the work of the Spirit in the less mature ways of faith that are outside the Christian camp. The Spirit is inviting all creatures and creation to join in the dance that characterizes God’s life of internal fellowship. 

            Dr. Marshall never denies that a serious study of the Holy Spirit is a bewildering exercise, but she truly believes that the Spirit is a proper door through which to consider the being of God. Like the little letter of Philemon in the New Testament, this small book of 185 pages radiates with powerful implications. Bible students will be gratified to find that she cites 103 Old Testament scriptures and 158 New Testament passages. Theology students will be happy about her bibliography, 220 of the best journal articles and books on the Holy Spirit. In her “notes” at the end of each chapter (all 393 notes) she carries on a lively discussion with other authors and this is an education in itself. The “notes” alone are worth the price of the book. Dr. Marshall, keep up the good work.

Reviewed by Dr. Graham Walker, McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University.

         Molly T. Marshall, Professor of Theology and Spiritual Formation at Central Baptist Theological Seminary, has cut through the thickness of Christian tradition to uncover a gem of possibility for the contemporary North American church, a reappraisal of a theology of the Spirit.

         In an almost playful manner Marshall uses the metaphor of dance throughout the text as her organizing principle. Marshall set the metaphor in bold relief by recounting the episode at the 1991 World Council of Churches Assembly in Canberra (5-6). Korean theologian Chung Hyun Kyung began her address to the assembly with dance calling upon the spirits of the living and the dead to "voice the cries of creation and the cries of the Spirit within it." In a provocative display that resulted in "passionate applause" and "passionate silence" the agenda had been set. Chung Hyun Kyung dared to challenge the docile image of the Spirit and so does Molly Marshall in "Joining the Dance: A Theology of the Spirit" by Judson Press.

         According to Marshall, the purpose of the book is to "reconfigure the sphere and character of the Spirit's action in order to provide a more holistic pneumatology" (6). In order to accomplish this task, Marshall begins with a foundational reassessment of the nature of God. She utilizes the classic theological discussions of "perichoresis" to guard against images of God as tritheistic or subordinationist and the political and social accouterment that accompany these heresies even today. "Perichoresis" is a key term for understanding Marshall's work. The term originates in theological discussion in the writings of the fourth century Cappadocians and was expanded by John of Damascus in the eighth century. The concept involves a mutual relationship in which all members of the Trinity draw their identity from each other. Marshall does not restrict this mutuality of identity to the inner life of God alone. She states "perichoresis" is the "dancing, self-giving, outward flowing of the Trinitarian life of God [that] invites the participation of all creation" (6).

         An "invitation" is exactly the way the author intends the reader to approach this book. Marshall does not see her work as an exhaustive treatise on pneumatology or the final word on the topic (the text is 161 pages). She clearly raises far more issues than she can address in this first step. Marshall acknowledges the constraints of this present study: the role of the Spirit's mission in the world, the Spirit's call for justice, and the Spirit's care within the world economically, ecologically and politically (160) and we the readers must wait with anticipation for her future elaboration. Marshall presents her work as a "prayerful oblation" (xvi) to God's people, a summons to reconsider the place that the Spirit occupies in the domain of faith and she is at her best uncovering the prominence of the Spirit in Scripture.

         Marshall choreographs the flow of the book under nine chapters and the title of each chapter begins with a gerund ("ing" word). Marshall consciously intends this as a means of "accenting that when we speak of the Spirit, we are preeminently speaking about movement… the Spirit is God's enlivening action, both within the triune God and encompassing all that God has made" (160). Marshall further delineates her theological presuppositions in six succinct statements: 1. God is inextricably related to the world. 2. God gives the world creative space to flourish. 3. Many agents or factors are involved in the ongoing world process. 4. Divine power is mediated and shared; there is openness to the future, the possibility of real novelty. 5. God as Trinity, eternally dwelling in self-giving relationship, chooses to include all creation in the "oikonomia" (economy) of creation and redemption. 6. The Spirit is the point of contact between the life of God and the world that is yet to be. (11-13)

         This movement toward a Spirit-conscious vision of God has drawn attention from across the theological community in recent years. From Wade Clark Roof, who examines religious trends in North America, to research by Harvey Cox profiling pentecostal movements in the two-thirds world the vocabulary of the Spirit has stepped into center stage. In this vein, Molly Marshall is an adept guide for the Baptist community to join the dance.

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Molly Marshall, Professor of Theology and Spiritual Formation, Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, KS responds to reviews of her book in this issue of BSB.


          I am pleased that my theological colleagues Patterson and Walker have given attention to my recent constructive work on the Spirit. I appreciate their warm affirmation of my attempt to broaden our reflection on Trinitarian Pneumatology, which I believe holds considerable promise for addressing key theological issues such as spirituality, feminist theology, relating to other ways of faith, and ecology. To my surprise, neither reviewer commented upon the implications of my study for those concerns.

            Both reviewers note the prominence of the biblical terrain in the book. One could not expect otherwise from a student of Wayne Ward, Dale Moody, Marvin Tate, and John A. T. Robinson! In their tradition, I continue to interrogate the scriptural narratives as I purse theological construction. Too often scholars have settled for too easy a harmonization of disparate texts on the Spirit or some sort of false dichotomy between the testaments. Patterson and Walker have rightly observed the challenging task of engaging the wide-ranging biblical contours.

            I appreciate Patterson’s observation about my ongoing discussion with contemporary writers in the field of Pneumatology. While some contemporary works were neglected (such as Clark Pinnock’s winsome Flame of Love), I certainly sought to consult a representative sampling. To my regret, Kilian McDonnell’s long-awaited study, The Other Hand of God, was released just a few weeks ago. I certainly would have engaged his work at length. He was a helpful conversation partner when I spent a sabbatical at the Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research, Collegeville, Minnesota, where much of the research for the book was completed.

            I am delighted with Walker’s perceptive analysis of how my work fits into the larger ecumenical discussion. He rightly grasped that my narration of the presentation by Chung at the World Council of Churches in Canberra sharpens many of the questions that inform my writing. He also sets my contribution into a larger interpretive framework, where the discussion about the Spirit is flourishing.

            I appreciate Baptist Studies Bulletin giving space for reviews of my book. I am deeply grateful for my reviews, their scholarship and their abiding friendship—graceful expressions of the Spirit.

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Baptist Firsts

Baptist Firsts: Charles W. Deweese, Executive Director-Treasurer of the Baptist History and Heritage Society, writes this section of BSB. He identifies some of the “firsts” in Baptist life in America.


"The First Baptist Association in the South"

By Charles W. Deweese


        On November 4-5, 1980, Walter B. Shurden, then Dean of the School of Theology and Professor of Church History at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, presented The Carver-Barnes Lectures at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. One of those lectures, "The Southern Baptist Synthesis: Is It Cracking?" has become a classic, regularly referenced by Baptist historians of the South.

         Shurden's lecture identified four distinct traditions that emerged among Baptists in the South in the 1700s and 1800s: The Charleston, The Sandy Creek, The Georgia, and The Tennessee. The Charleston Tradition emphasized "order, which provided denominational connectionalism, a theological consensus, and, while never neglecting evangelism, facilitated ministerial education as an important object of the Redeemer's Kingdom. Charleston provided leadership and stability for an emerging denomination. It gave us a churchly identity."*

         The Charleston Baptist Association was organized on October 21, 1751, and clearly played a major role in shaping Baptist life in the South. Oliver Hart, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Charleston, served as the prime mover behind its origins. He led the association to adopt confessional views and forms of operation similar to those of the Philadelphia Association (formed in 1707) in which he had participated actively for several years.

         In 1755, the Charleston Association approved both a program for home missions and a fund for the education of young men preparing for the ministry. In 1767, it adopted the London Baptist Confession of 1689. In 1773, it adopted a statement of discipline.

         The Charleston Association provided a major impulse for subsequent associational developments in the South. It emphasized order. Today, many Baptist associations deal with disorder as moderate/fundamentalist conflict affects their constituencies, funding, leadership, programming, priorities, and sense of direction.

         What can we learn from Charleston? Local-church cooperation through associational structures is an effective way to achieve goals. However, goals must be grounded in the historic values of Baptists in order to justify cooperation. Put another way, Baptist cooperation should never be an end in itself; it is useful only when it advances biblically based Baptist principles.


*Walter B. Shurden, "The Southern Baptist Synthesis: Is It Cracking?" Baptist History and Heritage, 16 (April 1981), 8.


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Church State Issues

Baptists in America and Church State Issues: a column on hot button  issues related to religion and government written by J. Brent Walker, Executive Director, The Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, Washington, D.C.


"Theological Education and State Funds"

by J. Brent Walker


        Should states be required to provide college scholarships for theological education? The Supreme Court was presented with that question this week. Its answer may have breathtaking ramifications that far exceed the narrow question presented in Locke v. Davey.

        The Supreme Court has held that aid in the form of scholarships to prepare for the ministry does not violate the First Amendment’s no establishment clause. The Court has reasoned that such aid is only indirect and flows to students who make independent choices about where to attend and what to study. But, the state of Washington has a more stringent no establishment provision in its own constitution that expressly bans funding for sectarian education. Those who pursue theology programs to train for ministry do not qualify for the scholarships.

            Mr. Davey claims that Washington’s refusal to fund his studies violates his free exercise rights under the federal constitution. Stated differently, he argues such aid is not only constitutionally permitted, but constitutionally required!

            Mr. Davey is wrong. The Baptist Joint Committee filed a brief saying so. Here’s why:

(1)    The federal constitution provides a floor of basic rights; it does not erect a ceiling. Thus, states are ordinarily free to adopt measures that expand those rights–in this case providing more stringent protection against using tax dollars to subsidize religion. About three-dozen other states have similar provisions. A ruling in favor of Mr. Davey could nullify all of those state constitutional provisions in one fell swoop.

(2)    Not everything that is permitted by the no establishment clause is automatically required by the free exercise clause. The two provisions are not that tightly drawn. There is, in former Chief Justice Warren Burger’s words, “room for play in the joints productive of a benevolent neutrality which will permit religious exercise to exist without sponsorship and without interference.” Washington does not subsidize ministers. It should not be forced to pay to train ministers either.

(3)    The right to exercise one’s religion means government cannot prohibit, suppress, or obstruct its practice. But, rarely, if ever, does one have the right to insist that government pay for it. As the Supreme Court itself has observed, the free exercise clause is written in terms of what government cannot do to the individual, not in terms of what can be demanded from government. The logical implication of Mr. Davey’s argument is that, if government funds public education, it must fund parochial schools. If government provides grants for social services, it must give grants to religious charities too.

(4)    Even if Mr. Davey has a colorable free exercise claim, Washington’s interest in maintaining a higher wall of separation and avoiding subsidies for religion is sufficient to override it. Principles of federalism and a state’s right to ratchet up constitutional protections for everyone’s religious liberty by refusing to subsidize religion demand no less.

Judging from their questions and comments, the Court appears to be evenly divided (4-4), with Justice O’Connor poised to provide the swing vote. Although I am loathe to predict how she will vote, Justice O’Connor seemed to be troubled by the potential sweeping impact of Mr. Davey’s argument. Stay tuned. A decision is expected by June.


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Baptist Women

Baptist Women in America: a column on the specific role of Baptist women in America by Carolyn DeArmond Blevins, Associate Professor of Religion, Carson-Newman College, Jefferson City, TN.


"Leaders During Controversy"

By Carolyn DeArmond Blevins


Twice women led the American Baptist Convention when controversy confronted the delegates--in the 1920s and the 1940s. In 1921 when Helen Barrett Montgomery was elected President of the Northern Baptist Convention (as it was called then), many fundamentalists did not consider her a modernist. Her biblical scholarship was respected by many Northern Baptists. So when fundamentalists charged the seminaries and some missionary candidates with heresy, they were surprised by her response. Montgomery declared both the schools and mission boards innocent of the charges.

         Montgomery surprised them again. The fundamentalist effort to get the Convention to adopt a confession of faith also failed and Montgomery was blamed. Chester Tulga, a fundamentalist leader, said that she tipped the scales against the proposal in the President’s address to the Convention. He insisted that many delegates were prejudiced against the effort because Montgomery was so partisan. He also noted that it was difficult to criticize a lady “for chivalrous reasons.”

         Anna Canada Swain was the president of the Convention in 1946 when the Conservative Baptist Missionary Society was denied acceptance. Tulga charged that Swain influenced the delegates against the Society. Swain confided to a friend that the political “conniving” at that convention made the Republicans and Democrats look like “angels of light.”

         Tulga observed that these two women presided over the Convention when significant decisions were made that defeated conservatives. The historical record confirms his observation.

        (See Fundamentalism and Gender: 1875 to the Present by Margaret Lamberts Bendroth for additional discussion.)

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Baptist Spirituality

Baptist Spirituality in America: a column on the distinctive spiritual emphases of Baptists in America by W. Loyd Allen, Professor of Church History and Spiritual Formation, McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University, Atlanta, Georgia.


Martyrdom, Spirituality and the Baptists

by W. Loyd Allen


            Baptist spirituality is better understood if seen in relation to the essential example of Christian spirituality expressed in martyrdom. In the first three centuries of Christianity, martyrs were the primary models of Christian perfection. As most Christians know, the word martyr comes from a Greek word for witness. Martyrs were the prime witnesses to what it meant to be Christian.

Martyrs did not witness that Christianity required death, but that life in Christ meant putting the world and death in their proper and penultimate place. Life itself could rightly be surrendered for the sake of following Jesus and his values. Prototypical Christian spirituality is founded in the theology of suffering revealed in the living and dying of faithful martyrs, the first and foremost of whom was Jesus of Nazareth. Christian faith, according to these witnesses, is not a life lived in expectation of worldly success, nor one longing for purifying persecution; it is a life, as Baptist Clarence Jordan put it, lived “in scorn of the consequences.”

            Monasticism institutionalized this primary spirituality model of life lived at risk of total loss in the world’s terms for the sake of Christlikeness after church and state wed under Constantine. Monasticism assimilated the spirituality of renunciation for Christ’s sake that had formed the core of the early martyrs’ examples. John Burchill, O.P., in “The Gospel Life: One Family, Many Gifts,” correctly says: “At their core, the two models [martyrdom and monasticism] are the same.” Not coincidentally, monasticism proved the main vehicle for the furthering of classical Christian spiritual disciplines throughout history.

            How are Baptist spirituality and this tradition of martyrdom/monasticism related? There is no direct connection, but certain close parallels exist. Some say the minority, dissident spirit of martyrdom/monasticism, forced underground by the Protestant reformers’ rejection of religious orders, resurfaced in the Anabaptists, with whom Baptists share a number of similarities. Author Kenneth Davis noted the following ascetic characteristics common to both monasticism and the Anabaptists: Both are Christocentric, laicized, detached from society, simplicity-seeking in lifestyle, communal, and covenanted by adult vows.

Though neither Baptists nor Baptist spirituality is dependent upon Anabaptist heritage, early Baptists held some similar traits with the Anabaptist tradition encountered by John Smyth and Thomas Helwys in the early seventeenth century: a dissident minority in a lay-led, believers’ community guided by personal prayer and scripture study to live on the margins of state-run religious establishments.

            As with the early church, Baptist dissidents have produced a persecuted minority with its own martyrs. Martydom usually brings to the Baptist mind missionaries such as the three assassinated in Yemen in 2002. Though undeniably valuable as a witness to Baptist values in regard to Christian mission, the persecution of Baptists in the cause of religious liberty is more distinctively Baptist in nature. Original Baptist pastor Thomas Helwys, for example, died in jail, incarcerated for holding Baptist principles. In America, notables Roger Williams and Obadiah Holmes, as well as a multitude of lesser lights, suffered for their beliefs.

            Without embracing this history of persecution, Baptists cannot embrace their legacy: a spirituality that, for freedom’s sake, lets goods and kindred go, and this mortal life also. By this spirituality, Baptist Christians may best set life’s spiritual and material priorities in a world threatened by coercive political systems, each claiming divine favor for its assault on basic human freedoms.



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Baptist Hymnody

Baptist Hymnody and Worship in America: a column on historic worship practices of Baptists in North America and their contemporary relevance for Baptist life written by  Harry Eskew, Emeritus Professor of Church Music, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.  Dr. Eskew taught at NOBTS for almost four decades and is a prolific writer on Baptist hymnology.


"Baptist Hymn Singing in the Past Century"

By Harry Eskew


        In this series on Baptist hymnody and worship in America we began with the earliest Baptist hymnal and its focus on the church ordinances. We then dealt with the strong influence upon Baptists by the English hymnists Isaac Watts and John Rippon. Our third and fourth segments focused on Baptist pastors and hymnal compilers and Baptist singing school teachers whose tune books have preserved a rich heritage of American folk hymns found in hymnals of today. The fifth segment dealt with Baptists and the gospel hymn tradition, perhaps the most influential tradition of hymn singing in most Baptist churches.
        As we come to the twentieth century, what were the key hymnals used in worship in Southern Baptist churches? Who were some of the representative Baptist hymn writers of the past century who made significant contributions to our heritage of hymnody? Although the Baptist Sunday School Board published hymnals for SBC churches beginning in the first decade of the twentieth century, the dominant publisher of hymnals through the 1930s was a Baptist layman, Robert H. Coleman, the song leader serving with pastor George W. Truett of the First Baptist Church of Dallas. Coleman published both gospel songbooks and full sized hymnals, such as The Modern Hymnal (1926) and The American Hymnal (1933). Coleman’s music editor, B. B. McKinney, became the leading hymn writer among Southern Baptists in the first half of the century. McKinney’s hymns, reflecting the gospel style of Bradbury and Bliss, include “Have Faith in God” and “Wherever He Leads I’ll Go.”

        In 1935 McKinney became the first music editor at the Baptist Sunday School Board, and under his editorship in 1940 the board published the most influential Baptist hymnal of the century, The Broadman Hymnal, the first hymnal to be used by a majority of SBC churches. It was a multi-purpose hymnal, including duets, solos, and choir selections, such as Stainer’s “God so Loved the World” and Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” From 1941 until his untimely death in 1952 McKinney headed the Board’s new Church Music Department, which promoted congregational singing and a greater knowledge of hymnody through graded choirs and the Hymn of the Month program.

        The Broadman Hymnal was the Board’s last major “one-man hymnal.” The three major hymnals to follow were produced under the guidance of large hymnal committees: Baptist Hymnal (1956, ed. by W. Hines Sims), Baptist Hymnal (1975, ed. by William J. Reynolds), and The Baptist Hymnal (1991, ed. by Wesley L. Forbis). Although still strongly influenced by the gospel hymn tradition, these three major hymnals have provided SBC congregations a hymn repertory closer to the main stream of American Protestantism.

        Beginning with the 1975 hymnal, a number of Baptist authors and composers of hymns were published, such as Eugene M. Bartlett (“Victory in Jesus”), Eugene M. Bartlett, Jr. (“Tell the Good News”), T. Mark Blankenship (“As We Gather Around the Table”), Regan Courtney and Buryl Red (“In Remembrance”), Thomas A. Jackson (“We Are Called to be God’s People”), Hugh T. McElrath (We Praise You with our Minds, O Lord”), Milburn Price and A. L. Butler (“Stir Your Church, O God our Father”), and William J. Reynolds (“Share His Love”). Other Baptists added in the 1991 hymnal include Wesley L. Forbis (“Break out, O Church of God”) and Terry W. York (“Worthy of Worship” with music by T. Mark Blankenship).

        Although Negro spirituals had been sung by Baptists for many years, the 1975 hymnal was the first to include several of them, including “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord,” “We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder,” and “There Is a Balm in Gilead.” The 1975 hymnal also added more early folk hymns from the Southern shape-note tradition, such as WONDROUS LOVE (“What Wondrous Love Is This”) from Walker’s Southern Harmony and BEACH SPRING (“Come, All Christians, Be Committed”) from White and King’s The Sacred Harp.  Although the hymn texts and tunes written by Baptists in twentieth-century America have been readily accepted and sung in Baptist churches, only one hymn text written by a Baptist has gained broad ecumenical acceptance. The American Baptist pastor and renowned preacher Harry Emerson Fosdick wrote a hymn for the dedication of his church, the Riverside Church in New York City, in 1930. During the more than seven decades since the advent of this hymn and its subsequent inclusion in practically every major American hymnal of the latter twentieth century, the world has experienced a world war, major shifts in political power, and the revolution of the personal computer and the internet. Yet this hymn, an impassioned prayer for wisdom, courage, and empowerment, remains as current and relevant as it was at its inception:

God of grace and God of glory,
On thy people pour thy power;
Crown thine ancient church’s story,
Bring her bud to glorious flower.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
For the facing of this hour.


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Baptist Books

Baptist Books: brief book notes written by Bruce Gourley, a former campus minister, author of The Godmakers, the present Online Editor of Baptists Today, and a Ph.D. student in Southern History, Auburn University.


 Albert W. Wardin, Jr., Pioneer of the Baptist Movement in Poland (Brentwood, Tennessee: Baptist History and Heritage Society, 2003), 112 Pp. 

Largely lost in the revolutions and wars of Eastern Europe of the early 20th century, 19th century Polish Baptist pioneer Gottfried Alf (1831-1898), a distant relation of author Wardin and leader of emerging Polish Baptists, has been rediscovered for the 21st century.

         Alf’s persecutions rival those experienced by Baptists in Western Europe and Colonial America in the 17th and 18th centuries. Enduring prisons, beatings, and stonings, Alf became a trailblazer among Polish, Russian, and German Baptists. Upon establishing a Polish Baptist presence, Alf organized mission work throughout the larger region, making effective use of scant resources. He also served as first president of the Union of Baptist Churches in Russia.

         Easily readable and well documented, Wardin’s treatment of Alf is brief yet engaging. This small volume is a fitting tribute to an unsung Baptist hero as well as a good introduction to the early Baptist movement in Poland.


James E. Tull, Shapers of Baptist Thought (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 1984), 255 Pp.


Originally published in 1972, Tull’s classic volume is an excellent introduction to crucial figures throughout Baptist history. While any attempt to create a short list of influential Baptists is certain to elicit spirited discussion, Tull’s criteria of identifying Baptists that represent significant turning points in history is especially helpful. Although all nine of the author’s selected Baptists (Smyth, Williams, Backus, Fuller, Campbell, Graves, Clarke, Rauschenbusch, King, Jr.) are familiar names, Tull provides helpful background information, placing each individual within the context of his time while tracing the development of his views which shaped Baptist heritage. In addition, Tull allows each individual to speak for himself through the employment of generous quotations. Furthermore, the Notes section is a treasure trove of primary resource references, although the secondary sources are now dated.

         The absence of women in Tull’s list is glaring, but is understandable given the original date of publication. Regardless, each of the nine chapters is a good starting point for gaining a foundational understanding of both that particular Baptist figure, and the larger stream of Baptist thought which the individual represented.


Terry Wolever, The Life and Ministry of John Gano, 1727 to 1804, Volume 1 (Springfield, Missouri: Particular Baptist Press, 1998), 453 Pp.


This volume is one of a number of titles published by Particular Baptist Press, a small publishing house which exists for the purpose of elevating Reformed Baptist thought in the modern era by mining Calvinistic Baptists of old. John Gano, like many significant historical figures from early Baptist history, held to the tenets of Calvinism. In addition, Gano was missionary-oriented in his pastorates in New England and the South. This volume provides a wealth of primary material on Gano, including his Biographical Memoirs and documentation from his ministries in New Jersey and North Carolina, with a cutoff date of 1760.

         Properly speaking, the volume is a sourcebook with commentary rather than a biography. As such, the material is of importance to Baptist historians, and Particular Baptist Press is to be commended for publishing these source materials in a useable format. Nonetheless, the publisher’s agenda of providing an historical apologetic for Reformed Baptists is rather blatant, as evidenced by the author’s assertion that “we’ve no doubt … Southern Baptists would have been a greater spiritual body” had they remained committed to Particular Baptist doctrine (pp. 317-318) Accordingly, the reader is advised to mine the primary sources while approaching the commentary with caution.

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Baptist Articles

Baptist Articles: Notes of journal articles: what they say, don’t say, almost say, and mis-say about Baptists. The following periodical notes are written by Phyllis Rodgerson Pleasants, John F. Loftis Professor of Church History, Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond.


"Leadership, Postmodernism, Baptist Identity and Christmas"


From his study of King David, Frederick J. Gaiser writes an editorial about leadership entitled “The Privilege of the Rooftop” (Word and World: Theology for Christian Ministry, Fall 2003, Vol 23, No. 4, pp. 355-356, the entire issue is devoted to King David). The rooftop is the privileged position of a leader where the leader can feel her or his power and see the vulnerability of others “below” them. To meet the temptation to exploit those one is called to lead Gaiser writes: “the rooftop is a seductive and dangerous place. Don’t go there alone. Go only fully aware of the community of Christ’s people who remain ever present, even if unseen. Go only while maintaining the counsel of colleagues. Go only with the Scriptures firmly in hand, especially cognizant of their many frightening admonitions regarding the responsibility of leaders. And go only mindful that there is a rooftop above your own from which the Judge of all the earth watches – sometimes, alas, through tear-filled eyes” (p. 356).

           Yet another article on postmodernism! Matt Kelley takes a different approach in this one, “Postmodernism: Why It’s Not a Bad Word” (Youthworker, November/December 2003, pp. 22-26, Kelley analyzes postmodern characteristics such as being honest about the ability to understand and articulate truth; desiring to rediscover older tradition and ways of thinking while at the same time affirming modern attitudes and philosophies; seeking to learn from others’ experiences of the divine; recognizing the value of tradition; exploring worship with an increased emphasis on the experiential and participatory and identifying evangelism as the sharing of souls rather than indoctrination. At the conclusion Kelley writes: “Whether or not we recognize it, we all have the inherent subjectivity of postmodern thought in our own lives. Postmodernism encourages us to have the self-awareness to be honest about what’s already there. While some may see this as an affront to faith, others see postmodernism as a return to faith. It’s a willingness to engage the mystery that’s an implicit part of the Christian faith” (p. 26).

           Baptists Today includes an extensive conversation with former President Jimmy Carter where he discusses four principles of Baptist identity that he holds to regardless of the situations in which he finds himself including teaching Sunday School with people from all over the world of all faiths in attendance: the authority of the individual’s direct relationship with Christ; pastors as servants of the congregations not the rulers; separation of church and state; all people the same in God’s eyes. The interview could serve as a refresher course in the lived reality of Baptist identity. (Baptists Today, Nov 2003, Vol. 21, No. 11, “A Baptist-to-Baptist conversation with Jimmy Carter,” John Pierce, pp. 2, 3, 16, 17)

Also in this issue of Baptists Today is an article by Mark Wingfield entitled, “With churches, one size doesn’t fit all, Barna says” (p. 25) After analyzing the various reasons why people choose large or small churches the articles concludes: “Jesus did not die on the cross to fill up church auditoriums. He died so that people might know God personally and be transformed in all dimensions of their life through their ongoing relationship with him. Such a personal reformation can happen in a church of any size.”

           The October/December 2003 issue of Baptist World (Vol. 50, No. 4) included articles on the celebration of the centennial of Mexican Baptists (pp. 5-6), the tremendous growth of Baptists in the Ukraine (pp. 6-8) and the BWA Council Meetings in Brazil (pp. 10-14). The pictures are joyful and the focus on the worldwide work of Baptists is inspiring. An interesting statistic is that in the last twelve years in the Ukraine a Baptist church has been planted every two days making the Ukrainian Baptist Union the largest in Europe, replacing Great Britain (p. 7).

         In this time of Advent there are two articles that could be the subjects of individual or small group reflection. Tony Cupit wrote an article, “A Call to Peace,” for the October/December issue of Baptist World (pp. 15-16), which is an excerpt from his book, Peace I Leave with You: Bible Studies for Churches on the subject of Peace published by the BWA Division of Study and Research. Cupit wrote that the need to understand the biblical teachings of peace is as urgent today as it has ever been and concluded: “The New Testament is clear that when God enabled people to find peace through the death of God’s Son, this amazing event had community, geographical, eternal and cosmic proportions” (p. 15).

        The second article. “Transparent lives,” is by Eugene H. Peterson, author of The Message and is found in the November 29, 2003 issue of Christian Century (Vol. 120, No. 24, pp. 20-27). Peterson writes that the contemplative life, the transparent life, is the congruent life where who we are, how we live and what we say are one, where there is “congruence between what we do and the way we do it.” (p. 21) He analyzes how this transparent life is incongruent with American culture and how that incongruence affects congregations' and Christians’ use of scripture. It is a challenging article that calls all Christians to self-examination in this season of preparation.


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Baptist Myths: A New Pamphlet Series

A series of eleven pamphlets that address negative perceptions held towards Baptists in popular American culture. These pamphlets are suitable for individual study, church classes, and academic courses. They are jointly published by the Baptist History and Heritage Society, The Center for Baptist Studies of Mercer University, and the Whitsitt Baptist Heritage Society. Editor: Doug Weaver; Associate Editors: Charles W. Deweese & Walter B. Shurden.

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