Academic Freedom and Southern Baptist History

By Yarbrough, Slayden A. | Baptist History and Heritage, Winter 2004 | Go to article overview

Academic Freedom and Southern Baptist History


Yarbrough, Slayden A., Baptist History and Heritage


Following the 1898 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) meeting, William Heth Whitsitt, under pressure from a threatening B. H. Carroll and at the encouragement of A. T. Robertson, resigned as president and church history professor of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

In May 1899 the trustees accepted his resignation. A century later, as Southern Baptists and their institutions stumble into the twenty-first century, one of the most significant challenges facing Southern Baptist teachers, scholars, administrators, and certainly the denomination is the issue of academic freedom. This issue is important both for persons affiliated with Southern Baptist institutions and for those Southern Baptists associated with both non-Southern Baptist denominational institutions and secular institutions.

Baptists and Academic Freedom

Academic freedom is an issue that is vital to the integrity and the advance of the denomination. For persons working in Southern Baptist institutions, the issue often relates both to academic freedom in the classroom and in the world of scholarship and to concerns over orthodoxy and heresy. Many, possibly all, of the historical case studies related to academic freedom in Southern Baptist seminaries and colleges focus on a struggle over academic freedom and integrity. As a confessional people, Southern Baptists do not stand in neutral territory. Teachings and beliefs are important concerns. The issue of academic freedom too often presents itself in the disciplines related to academic pursuit and to matters of student recruitment, development activities, individual personalities, and denominational politics and agendas.

In 1963, Southern Baptists adopted a revised confession. This action could easily be interpreted as the result of a struggle over academic freedom. The 1963 version of the Baptist Faith and Message addressed the issue of academic freedom in article XII, stating that:

   In Christian education there should be a proper balance between
   academic freedom and academic responsibility. Freedom in any orderly
   relationship of human life is always limited and never absolute. The
   freedom of a teacher in a Christian school, college, or seminary is
   limited by the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ, by the authoritative
   nature of the Scriptures, and by the distinct purpose for which the
   school exists. (1)

This statement recognized the importance and ideal of academic freedom at denominational institutions in the context of basic Baptist convictions. Thomas H. Graves, in "Freedom of Academic Inquiry," discussed Baptist ideals and academic freedom. Graves wrote, "it is tragic to note how often attacks have been mounted upon the operation of respectable scholarship and to note how often these debates have been the center of denominational controversy." (2) He traced the roots of suspicion of legitimate scholarship to the nineteenth-century environment for Baptists and described the "generally low level of education in the rural South and the rugged frontier, the parochial and insulated nature of life in much of the American South, and the intensely practical nature of life on the frontier, which left little room for academic reflection." (3) Graves rightly concluded that anti-intellectualism continues to be a part of Baptist history in the United States.

Appreciation for academic and scholarly freedom, according to Graves, is found in several Baptist principles. The doctrine of the priesthood of all believers implies freedom of faithful inquiry. Personal responsibility, the highest authority being found in God, and communal responsibility to others emanate from this doctrine and are duties of faith. Scholars have a divine responsibility to express freely their God-given skills. The freedom of academic inquiry expresses a refusal "to accept truth without exposing it to the rigors of personal struggle and assent. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Academic Freedom and Southern Baptist History
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.