Vol. 6 No. 7

  The Jesse Mercer Plaza
  Mercer University, Macon Campus 


Produced by The Center for Baptist Studies, Mercer University
A Monthly EMagazine, Bridging Baptists Yesterday and Today

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

Bruce T. Gourley, Editor, The Baptist Studies Bulletin

Wil Platt, Associate Editor, The Baptist Studies Bulletin




I Believe . . . : Walter B. Shurden

         "The Divine Gift"

The Baptist Soapbox: David Emmanuel Goatley

         "Why I Am Excited About the New Baptist Covenant"
The Spirituality of Baptist Leaders in Seventeenth Century America
Doug Weaver

         "The Spirituality of Roger Williams"

My Six Favorite Books on Southern Religion: Wayne Flynt

         E. O. Wilson.  The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth (New York:
         W.W. Norton and Co., 2006).

The World's Greatest Baptist Preachers: Thomas R. McKibbins

         "Harry Emerson Fosdick: The Greatest White Baptist Preacher in the United
          States Ever"
In Response To . . .
: Bruce T. Gourley

         "The Decline of Separation of Church and State"

Dates to Note

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23-25 September 2007

The King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort
St. Simons Island, GA

Featuring Barbara Brown Taylor

Click here for more information and registration.


I Believe

"The Divine Gift"
By Walter B. Shurden

I believe . . .
that Congressman Chet Edwards of Texas spoke precious truth. He spoke it at the Fountain Plaza of Upper Senate Park in Washington, D. C. on June 29, 2007. The occasion was a Baptist Unity Rally for Religious Liberty and a partial reenactment of George W. Truett's historic 1920 speech from the steps of the U. S. Capitol. The sponsor was one of the most important religious organizations in this Republicthe Baptist Joint Committee For Religious Liberty (BJC).
          Congressman Edwards called religious liberty "The Divine Gift." It really is!! Religious Liberty is God's gift to creation. And how we take it for granted! The political expression of "The Divine Gift" is the separation of church and state. And how that needs to be so desperately guarded in our time.
          Since its founding in 1936 the BJC has been faithfully guarding "The Divine Gift" and the wall of separation. Now the BJC needs your help to build a Center for Religious Liberty in our nation's Capital.
          Every dollar you pledge or give to the BJC for the Center for Religious Liberty will be matched by the Baugh Family of Texas. But you must act immediately! Call Brent Walker today and make that pledge. His telephone number is 202.544.4226. His email address is
          Religious Liberty, according to our Baptist heritage, is God's will for humanity. This freedom lies at the core of Baptist spirituality. Beginning this month the BSB is publishing a series of articles on "The Spirituality of Baptist Leaders in Seventeenth Century America."
The motto of this newsletter is "Bridging BaptistsYesterday and Today." When we describe the spirituality of colonial Baptist leaders and call for dollars to build a Center for Religious Liberty today, we are faithful to our bridging task.
          PLEASE read of the past work of Roger William, John Clarke, Obadiah Holmes, John Myles, John Russell, the Boston Baptists, and William Screven, but PLEASE give today to the Center for Religious Liberty in Washington, D.C.

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The Baptist Studies Bulletin Recommends

The New Baptist Covenant

More than 30 organizations representing more than 20 million
Baptists will gather in Atlanta.  President Jimmy Carter will
present a keynote address as participants gather under the
theme of "Unity in Christ" and usher in a new day for the
Baptist witness in North America.

Learn more about this exciting and historic celebration convening
January 30 - February 1, 2008 in Atlanta




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 David Emmanuel Goatley, Executive-Secretary Treasurer of the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention.

"Why I Am Excited About the Celebration of the New Baptist Covenant"
By David Emmanuel Goatley

I am not the kind of guy who gets excited often.  But occasionally, something happens that causes my adrenaline to rush.  The possibility of what the New Baptist Covenant can help to stir up among us is one of those rare things that is exciting me.
            I am excited about the possibility of an unprecedented public witness.  Thousands of Baptists in North America may actually make a pilgrimage to Atlanta next February to demonstrate our oneness in our commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed and to affirm our oneness in our commitment to ministries of compassion and capacity building among the poor.  Baptists in our part of the world are notoriously independent.  Our value of autonomy is sometimes a misguided excuse for avoiding the hard work required to build and sustain community.  If we are one in Jesus, why do we not seek to demonstrate that oneness intentionally more often?  Unfortunately, our cultural and social divides infiltrate what should be our fierce commitment to fellowship together.  We divide over race.  We divide over class.  We divide over gender.  We divide over whether we are urban, suburban, exurban, or rural.  We divide over whether we are from the east coast, the west coast, the Midwest, or the Deep South.  I suspect our real trouble is our commitment to rule rather than serve.  We too often refuse to submit ourselves to one another, to consider the other above ourselves, and to do to others as we would have them do to us.  There is a lot against us, but we have a possibility of doing something that defies human possibility.  We have a possibility of sharing together and authentic public witness for Christ and for those who struggle most.
            I am excited about the possibility of unprecedented networking.  Thousands of Baptist people might meet others who share common interests, gifts, and callings for missional living and evangelical witness.  Several focus groups will lift best practices of missional work among Baptist people and create time and space for connecting with essential and innovative ministry models.  Where else can Baptist people from North America connect with other Baptist believers across our dividing lines of ethnicity, economy, and geography?  I am enthused about the opportunity to build new relationships for shared learning, cooperation, and collaboration and the synergies that may result.
            I am excited about the possibilities that the New Baptist Covenant brings.  I am also aware, however, that this train could jump the tracks a hundred different places before we reach our destination.  We will have to manage redemptively old wounds that some of our family members are bearing.  Statements and actions that have been made in the past could rise up to hinder us. We will have to manage redemptively the lack of trust that some of us have because of events of the past.  Too many of us fail to confess our sins to one another, and too many of us fail to forgive as commanded by Christ.  We will have to manage redemptively the competing styles of different generations.  While we may share common priorities, we sometimes fail to value the energy of youth and the wisdom of age.
            I am excited about the possibilities of the New Baptist Covenant because I live in anticipation of what the Holy Spirit can do.  The Spirit can transform our issues and struggles and produce far more than we can ask or imagine.  I believe in the possibilities of the New Baptist Covenant because I believe in God.

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The Spirituality of Baptist Leaders in Seventeenth Century America
This series focuses on early Baptist spirituality, offering insight from the past for today's Baptists.  This month's contributor is Doug Weaver.  Doug is Director of Graduate Studies of Baylor University's Department of Religion.

"The Spirituality of Roger Williams"
By Doug Weaver

Roger Williams is best known for his many significant contributions to the formation of American society. He founded the first Baptist church in America in Providence, Rhode Island. He was a pioneer in establishing friendly relations with Native Americans. Perhaps he is most famous for founding the colony of Rhode Island on the principles of democracy and complete religious liberty for both believers and nonbelievers. In our day and age when spirituality is a major topic of conversation, what can be said about Williams’ spirituality? 
             Spirituality, of course, has many definitions. In popular usage, spirituality means relationship and intimacy with God or in the classic formula of the 17th century monk, Brother Lawrence, the call is to constantly “practice the presence of God.” Baptist historian Glenn Hinson adds that spirituality is the continual experience of God’s presence, a state of spiritual being that includes a “transforming responsiveness…to God.” “Being” (knowing God’s presence) results in “doing” (response, participation).
             Williams was religious at an early age and testified that “the Father of Lights and Mercies touched my Soul with a love to himself.” Coming from a Puritan background, Williams had a typical experience of Calvinistic conversion that spoke of original sin, total depravity, intense guilt of sin, and finally a free gift of transforming grace. 
              Williams had an inner piety rooted in a love for an attachment to the Bible. After his conscious experience of conversion, he often took sermon notes in shorthand and never stopped loving the Scriptures. Williams’ commitment to the Bible was seen in his later career as a prophet for complete religious liberty. His writings like the Bloody Tenent were immersed in biblical images and biblical exegesis. In 1649-50, during long absences away from home because of travels, his sick lonely wife, Mary, began to doubt her salvation. Williams wrote Experiments of Spiritual Life and Health to calm her fears, listing numerous Bible verses and offering them as fresh healing flowers. Williams told Mary that hypocrites did good deeds to be seen in public but genuine piety, which she had, could be done in secret.  He added that frequent prayer—a breathing of the soul to God—was important because it rose like perfume to God and brought holy pleasure and delight to the believer.  Williams believed that his wife had a genuine inner piety, a heart felt religion, which was the essence of faith.   
              According to Williams, personal heart-centered religious experience must be voluntary to be genuine. In other words, soul liberty was central to genuine spirituality.  Coerced faith was an oxymoron. “Knowing” God’s  presence via soul liberty provided the foundation for Williams’ clarion call for his spiritual “doing” – his public rebuke of state established conformist religion in favor of complete religious liberty for all.  
              Williams believed that the  Puritan “Holy Commonwealth” of colonial Massachusetts denied soul liberty and thus genuine spirituality. He objected to required political oaths that contained religious language because this could possibly be forcing a “wicked person” to swear or pray. Williams said that a government had no right or competence to enforce the first tablet (relationship to God) of the Ten Commandments. Its business was civil, not religious.  Jesus had refused to be a King and “thus refused to give a precedent to any king, prince, or ruler to manage both swords.” Contrary to the historical claims of the church, Williams argued that the only appropriate sword in faith matters was the sword of the Spirit and its spiritual methods of persuasion and love. When will the church realize, Williams cried, that “the sword may make a whole nation hypocrites, but it cannot bring one single soul in genuine conversion to Christ.” 
              State religion gutted genuine spirituality because it denied persons the freedom to read the Scriptures.  Williams noted the tragic irony of the English Parliament which worked to make Bibles accessible to “the poorest English houses” and urged the “simplest man or woman” to study the Scriptures, yet these readers were forced to conform to the official interpretations of the state church.  The only way to have conformity of belief was to commit “spiritual rape” against the conscience.
              Real spirituality?  Roger Williams knew that for faith to be genuine, it had to be completely voluntary.  A person must be free to worship according to the dictates of his or her conscience. 

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My Six Favorite Books on Southern Religion
  Wayne Flynt, retired Distinguished Professor of History at Auburn University, is a world-renowned historian of the American South whose contributions to the study of religion in the South are immense.  For the second half of 2007, Dr. Flynt shares with the Baptist Studies Bulletin his favorite volumes on the subject of Southern Religion.

E. O. Wilson.  The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth
(New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 2006).
By Wayne Flynt

E. O. Wilson is arguably the most influential evolutionary biologist in the world.  He has won two Pulitzer Prizes and virtually invented the new science of sociobiology.  I am proud to share  Alabama ancestry with Wilson, who was born in Birmingham and grew up  in Mobile. 
            Wilson’s book reminded me how fortunate I was to attend undergraduate school at  Samford University.
            Whereas Wilson attended the University of Alabama at a time when religion was not  part of the curriculum,  I was taught by religion professors and scientists who retained mutual respect for each other, who sought to rationalize their differences, and who were convinced that God could work through scientific processes as well as through single, dramatic acts of creation.  Having not experienced that kind of education, Wilson assumes  too much uniformity in evangelical thinking. 
             My  take on the situation is this.  Two intellectual communities,  scientists and theologians,  write parallel explanations of the universe.  At their best, they coexist and communicate in tolerant good will despite their respectful disagreements.  At their worst,  they coexist in arrogant self-importance and confidence in one way to truth (always, of course, it is their way that provides the surest footing on that journey).  Wilson tries to bridge the gap.  He admits the completely irreconcilable different hypotheses about creation.  He then tries to argue his case respectfully for common environmental ground.  Unfortunately, he sometimes slips into condescension, assuming that someday theists will inevitably be persuaded by the superior logic of evolutionary biology.   The logic of this inevitability seems less obvious to me than it does to Wilson.  I do not see all knowledge converging into the intellectual black hole of sociobiology.
              As Wilson points out repeatedly, America is the scientific leader of the world.  On issue after issue America leads the way.  Hence, if his hypothesis of inevitable convergence of knowledge (or, to put the matter differently,  when religion, a form of human primitivism,  gives way to science, which  will  ultimately provide better answers) is tested by social scientists,  one would expect the first convincing evidence to emerge in America.  But that seems not to be happening.  Gallup polling data indicates that Americans are more likely to believe in God than the population of any other industrial nation. 
              What explains this disconnection?  Have scientists no articulate spokesmen for their cause?  That cannot be the answer, as Wilson himself demonstrates.  Anyone who has read his books or heard him speak knows there are few more brilliant minds or better writers or speakers.
              So, is their knowledge at too preliminary a stage to be convincing?  Wilson argues quite the opposite premise, that scientific evidence about the disaster before us is huge and rapidly accumulating.
              Have theologians found a parallel intellectual universe that seems more relevant and satisfying to millions of Americans, including a good many scientists, such as the coordinator of the human gnome project?  More than a few of them have traveled a reverse path from Wilson, who was baptized at Pensacola’s First Baptist Church but who now describes himself as a non-believer and secular humanist.  Those who traveled from atheist to theist, or even from theist to atheist and back to theist argue that the questions that matter most to them are the theological nature and destiny of humanity, the earth, the origins and destiny of history and time, the possibility of a spiritual cosmos beyond the material and physical one.  They know that overindulgence on the material world of science has often produced a witches’ brew of trouble: eugenics; scientific studies that compared races and found Negroid peoples inferior; deeply flawed studies of inherent intelligence.  Science, like theology, can be and often is wrong.  Just as mistaken assumptions about God may misinform jihadists and cripple the teaching of science in public schools, mistaken scientific assumptions can lead to compulsory sterilization of mental patients. The history and application of both science and theology to the human community affords plenty of argument for humility within both camps. 
              In short, in the American marketplace of ideas, either Wilson and his colleagues have not made sufficiently convincing arguments to win their target audience, or theologians have made better arguments that are more germane to the needs of that  audience. Perhaps the questions of theology are more compelling than the issues of science.   Perhaps the emptiness of the human soul transcends the material and natural world and trumps it in interest to most Americans.   Or,  perhaps science and theology can be harmonized into a meaningful unity despite their dissimilarities of viewpoint, assumption and focus.  At least Wilson raises that possibility on one of the critical issues facing humanity, the fate of our natural environment.  For issuing the challenge to people of faith, Wilson deserves the gratitude of his former Southern Baptist brothers and sisters.

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The World's Greatest Baptist Preachers
: This special biographical series reaches around the globe in search of the greatest Baptist preachers.  Here you will meet preachers who have had a tremendous impact upon their respective continents.  This month's contributor is Tom McKibbens, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church, Worcester, Massachusetts, an American Baptist congregation.

"Harry Emerson Fosdick:  The Greatest White Baptist Preacher
in the United States Ever"
By Thomas R. McKibbens

            No less a preacher than Martin Luther King, Jr. called Harry Emerson Fosdick “the greatest preacher of this century.”  Newsweek referred to him as “the model of the Protestant preacher.”  The Atlanta Constitution called him “the greatest preacher in America during the last 100 years.”  Even Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and one who considers Fosdick a heretic, said that “In terms of influence, impact and recognition, Fosdick was a phenomenon not likely to be repeated.” 
            By the close of the 20th century, a major study showed that Billy Graham had become better known than Fosdick, but as for the greatest white Baptist preacher in the United States ever, there is in my mind hardly a question that Harry Emerson Fosdick stands securely in the preeminent position.   His published sermons so influenced generations of preachers that one of his friends once expressed mock pity for Fosdick because “he was the only preacher in the nation who could not crib from Dr. Fosdick.”
            Born in 1878 in Buffalo, New York, Harry Emerson Fosdick was a child of the Victorian era, but became the leading preacher of the modern era.  His parents’ Baptist faith was, according to Fosdick, “so persuasively transmitted by contagion rather than by coercion that I recall in my childhood no revolt against it, only a cordial acceptance and a sensitive response.”  He was baptized in 1886 and became a member of his childhood Baptist church.
            Fosdick grew up on the cusp of a new era in which the scientific approach to the study of the Bible was threatening long-held beliefs of many Christians.  As a college student, Fosdick struggled with biblical literalism and the modern approach to the study of scripture.  By the time he graduated from Colgate University in 1900, he had come through the struggle, and would eventually become the chief spokesman for what became known as “modernism.”
            After his graduation from Union Theological Seminary in New York City, he became pastor of the First Baptist Church of Montclair, New Jersey, where for eleven years he ministered to a growing church.  While in Montclair, he also began to teach Baptist Principles and Homiletics at Union Theological Seminary.  When in 1915 Fosdick was promoted from associate professor of homiletics to the newly established Morris K. Jesup Chair of Practical Theology, he resigned from his Montclair pastorate with deep affection for the church.
            His life as a professor at Union Seminary provided him ample preaching opportunities, including a preaching mission to the front in 1918 during World War I, an experience which would deeply influence him and would play a role in his famous sermon preached on Armistice Day, 1933, entitled “The Unknown Soldier.”  For six years he was the guest preacher at the First Presbyterian Church of New York City, and in 1926 he assumed the pastorate of the Park Avenue Baptist Church, which would become the Riverside Church, where he served until his retirement in 1946.
            Fosdick, like all great preachers, had both friends and enemies.  His role as a leader of the modernist position in the fundamentalist/modernist controversy in the 1920s assured that he would have his vehement detractors.  Yet even his opponents recognized his extraordinary preaching abilities.  He became well  known both nationally and internationally with 40 published books, including his autobiography, The Living of These Days, and a national weekly radio audience.  He is also remembered for his well-known hymn, “God of Grace and God of Glory.”
            Although he retired in 1946 and died in 1969, the popularity of and interest in Harry Emerson Fosdick is clear when one accesses the popular web site  There are 1,595 books listed either by or about Harry Emerson Fosdick.  The best biography is Harry Emerson Fosdick; Preacher, Pastor, Prophet by Robert Moats Miller. 

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In Response

In Response to
. . . : 
The Associate Director of the Center for Baptist Studies, Bruce previously served as a campus minister and professor of Church History.  In addition, he is an Internet entrepreneur and photographer, and is ABD in his doctoral studies in American History at Auburn University. 

"The Decline of Separation of Church and State"
By Bruce T. Gourley

           Two weeks ago leaders of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and American Baptist Churches-USA gathered near the steps of our nation's capitol and read portions of George W. Truett's famous 1920 speech on separation of church and state.  Truett's defense of this hallmark Baptist belief continues to resonate in the face of the challenges facing America and the world in the 21st century.  Congressman Chet Edwards (D-Texas) noted, “Our religious freedom must be protected by each generation.  There are politicians in each generation, in the name of religion, who would do it great harm.”
           Twenty-six years ago, Republican Senator Barry Goldwater, by then an outspoken champion of the separation of church and state, accused the Moral Majority and other members of what he termed the "New Right" and "New Conservatism," of waging war on the Constitution and basic American freedoms by violating the separation of church and state and using the ''muscle of religion towards political ends." The Religious Right he described as a "divisive element that could tear apart the very spirit of our representative system" (see New York Times, September 16, 1981).  Eleven years after Goldwater's stern warning, a religious educator aligned with the Republican Party told the House of Representatives that the separation of church and state was a historical myth.  That man, who to this day has no academic training in the field of history, was David Barton, a self-proclaimed expert on the history of religion in America who espouses Reconstructionist theology
           Earlier this year, a New York Times editorial examined the manner in which the Bush administration employs large numbers of religious extremists, especially Regent University graduates (some 150, according to the University; Regents' Law School advocates for Christian Reconstructionism), in an effort to help the Religious Right quietly increase its power in Washington.  Finally, just last month the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that American citizens "do not have standing as taxpayers" to challenge the constitutionality of the Bush administration's promotion of government funding of religious organizations.
           Barry Goldwater's warnings of twenty-one years ago have, unfortunately, come true: the Constitution is increasingly sidestepped as the current administration, aided by the Supreme Court, ushers the separation of church and state toward the back door.  As one columnist noted, "President Bush will leave us with a system of church-state entanglements on an epic scale."
           What can we do?  Re-reading our Baptist leaders of yesteryearsuch as Truett and John Leland―is helpful.  Contributing to current efforts to defend the constitutional separation of church and state―such as the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty's Center for Religious Liberty―is also important.  But let me also suggest that we need to openly discuss, within our own local congregations, the importance of separation of church and state for our generation and the generations to come. 

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Recommended Online Reading for Informed Baptists
Compiled by Bruce Gourley

Studies in Baptist History and Thought
BWA History and Heritage Commission

"Baptists form one of the largest Christian communities in the world, and while they hold the historic faith in common with other mainstream Christian traditions, they nevertheless have important insights which they can offer to the worldwide church. Studies in Baptist History and Thought will be one means towards this end. It is an international series of academic studies which includes original monographs, revised dissertations, collections of essays and conference papers, and aims to cover any aspect of Baptist history and thought. While not all the authors are themselves Baptists, they nevertheless share an interest in relating Baptist history and thought to the other branches of the Christian church and to the wider life of the world."

Online Searches of Congressional Records
Useful for locating information on religious liberty

"The Congressional Record is the official record of the proceedings and debates of the United States Congress. It is published daily when Congress is in session. GPO Access contains Congressional Record volumes from 140 (1994) to the present. At the back of each daily issue is the 'Daily Digest,' which summarizes the day's floor and committee activities." The database is useful for searching on issues relating to religious liberty which have appeared before Congress. Try search terms such as "religious liberty" and "separation of church and state."  Also, a second searchable database is available online at


Dates to Note

August 1-3, 2007, Baptist History Celebration, First Baptist Church, Charleston, S.C.  Leaders from 20 Baptist groups have planned this event, which will commemorate the 300th anniversary of the oldest Baptist Association in America - the Philadelphia Baptist Association. Click here for more information, including registration.

September 23-25, 2007, Mercer Preaching Consultation 07, St. Simon's Island, Georgia.  Featuring Barbara Brown Taylor." Click here for more information, including registration.

September 28-29, 2007, 180th Anniversary Celebration of First Baptist Church, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Click here for more information, including registration.

January 30 - February 1, 2008, The New Baptist Covenant, Atlanta, Georgia.  Be a part of an historic display of Baptist unity around the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

If you know of a Baptist event that needs to be added to this list, please let us know.  For a full calendar of Baptist events, visit the Online Baptist Community Calendar.

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