Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Southern Baptist Seminaries

J.P. Boyce (1827-1888)
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary was organized in Greenville, SC, in 1859. Because of financial problems in South Carolina after the War, the seminary relocated to a better economic climate in Louisville, KY, near the Ohio River and railroads. The founding president was James Petigru Boyce from First Baptist Church, Charleston, SC.

Southern Seminary has been the site of several SBC controversies. In 1879, professor of Hebrew and Old Testament, Crawford H. Toy, earlier a two-time fiancé of Lottie Moon, was thrown out for heresy, but the exact issue was not publicized at the time.
Crawford H. Toy (1836-1919)

Influenced by European higher criticism of the Bible and Darwin's new theories, Toy began to question biblical inspiration and defied his President Dr. James P. Boyce, who asked him not to teach doctrines contrary to the school's Abstract of Principles.

The breaking point came with Toy’s April 1879, article in The Sunday School Times outlining his liberal views of Isaiah 53:1-12. The next month, the seminary president took Toy to the Louisville train station and put him on a train headed out of town. Soon after, Toy went to Harvard as professor of Hebrew and Semitic languages, and joined the Unitarian Church. The effect of Toy’s teaching later caused two young missionaries to be dismissed from the Foreign Mission Board for holding his views.

William H. Whitsitt (1841-1911)

In 1898-99, a second controversy developed at Southern Seminary in Louisville. This one was over Baptist history. President William H. Whitsitt got in trouble for publishing in an encyclopedia his view that Baptists did not immerse before 1641 when they contacted Dutch Anabaptists. He got in hot water because at the time most believed Baptists had always been around since John the Baptist. When called before the trustees, Whitsitt denied he wrote the article, but later the trustees found out he had lied. Whitsitt was called again before the trustees and fired. For liberals, Whitsitt was a martyr of academic freedom, but in reality he was fired because he lied to his trustees.

One of those trustees was a man named Benajah Harvey Carroll, pastor of First Baptist Church, Waco, TX. He was not a fan of the higher critical method of interpretation which denied biblical inspiration, remarking, "These modern devotees of higher criticism must wait each week for the mail from Germany to know what to believe or preach, to find out how much, if any of their Bibles remains." Ten years later, Carroll would decide to start a new seminary in Texas.
B.H. Carroll (1843-1914)

In 1908, B.H. Carroll formed Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and moved it to Fort Worth two years later. Carroll was a man’s man, a Confederate veteran, and pastor of First Baptist Church, Waco, TX. He had a photographic memory, a charismatic personality, and strong opinions. His deathbed commission to his Southwestern presidential successor, Lee Scarborough, was prophetic of the late 20th century’s conservative resurgence: “Keep the Seminary lashed to the Cross. If heresy ever comes in the teaching, take it to the faculty. If they will not hear you and take prompt action, take it to the trustees of the Seminary. If they will not hear you, take it to the Convention that appoints the Board of Trustees, and if they will not hear you, take it to the great common people of our churches. You will not fail to get a hearing then."

While he was teaching in the religion department at Baylor University in Waco, the religion department grew very large, but the Baylor administration did not like him. So Carroll took the religion department he had grown and left to form Southwestern Seminary, saying, “It’s a shame that Southern boys must go up north (meaning Louisville) to study to teach Southern churches.” The idea caught on, and in 1917, the Baptist Bible Institute of New Orleans was formed, changing its name to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1946-47.

In 1950, two seminaries formed – Golden Gate Seminary in the San Francisco Valley and Southeastern Seminary on the old campus of Wake Forest College in Wake Forest, NC. Many Southern Baptists in the armed forces had relocated and expanded the SBC reach to the West Coast during World War II, creating a need for an SBC seminary in California. Southern Baptists in the deep South who disliked going north to Louisville for their education began to search for sites for an SBC seminary in the South. They looked in Atlanta and Charlotte, but a campus came available in Wake Forest, NC. In 1940, the R.J. Reynolds family endowed Wake Forest College with a campus in Winston-Salem. The SBC purchased the old campus in Wake Forest, NC, for $6.8 million. The College did not leave until 1956, and Southeastern’s President Staley had to spend $600,000 to clean and repair the campus.

In 1959, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary opened in Kansas City, MO. Southern Baptist students had been attending the American Baptist Convention’s Central Baptist Seminary there in growing numbers until they outnumbered the Northern students, causing friction with the ABC, so the SBC started its own school. Another school formed as an alternative to the growing liberalism in Southern Baptist seminaries in the mid-twentieth century, Mid-America Theological Seminary almost became an SBC school in the mid-1990s, but in the end they refused to join the SBC.