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
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I Believe . . .
: Walter B. Shurden
The Baptist Soapbox: David Emmanuel Goatley
I Am Excited About the New Baptist Covenant"
The Spirituality of Baptist Leaders in Seventeenth
"The Spirituality of Roger
My Six Favorite Books on
E. O. Wilson. The Creation: An
Appeal to Save Life on Earth (New York:
W.W. Norton and Co., 2006).
World's Greatest Baptist Preachers:
Thomas R. McKibbins
"Harry Emerson Fosdick: The Greatest White
Baptist Preacher in the United
In Response To . . .
: Bruce T. Gourley
"The Decline of Separation of Church and State"
Dates to Note
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"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 Republic―the
Baptist Joint Committee For Religious Liberty (BJC).
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
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 Baptists―Yesterday
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 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.
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
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
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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.
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,
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
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
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.
reminded me how fortunate I was to attend undergraduate school at Samford
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.
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
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
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
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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
"Harry Emerson Fosdick:
The Greatest White Baptist
in the United States Ever"
By Thomas R.
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.
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
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.
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.”
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
www.amazon.com. 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.
Table of Contents
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
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,
freedom must be protected by each generation. There are politicians in
each generation, in the name of religion, who would do it great harm.”
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
Earlier this year,
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.
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
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 yesteryear―such
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.
Table of Contents
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
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
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
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.
Table Of Contents
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