Sadness over Southern

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I can hardly put Gregory Wills’ history of Southern Seminary down, and I’m willing to call it a must-read for conservative evangelical and fundamentalist seminarians.

It was thrilling to read of Boyce and Broadus’ doctrinal rigor and foresight, and it’s been deeply saddening to read how quickly all their life-spending labors were co-opted by the “mediating” theology of E. Y. Mullins. How different our whole country might be if the SBTS founders’ vision and doctrine had maintained control at their institution!

I thought this little paragraph about Mullins, who began his tenure right at the turn of the twentieth century, was telling and tragic:

Southern Baptists relinquished Calvinism in the early twentieth century due largely to the influence of pragmatism, experiential theology, and a growing emphasis on the priority of individual freedom. E. Y. Mullins provided leadership in all three areas. (p. 240)

Wherever you stand on Calvinism, lovers of the gospel will agree that when it went out the SBTS back window into the bluegrass, a lot of good things went with it.

Incidentally, the way Wills tells the story, the conservatives lost the presidency to Mullins in part because of the sinful vanity of Boyce and Broadus’ successor, William H. Whitsitt. Personal sin led to institutional downfall.

Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.


  1. Todd Jones on September 3, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    Gregory Wills? and whose vanity? The first is for my inner editor, and the second is for my inner seminarian.

  2. Mark L Ward Jr on September 3, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    1. Done! Greg Wills wrote a book on Augustine I have in my library.

    2. Ok, I’ll add it…

  3. Todd Jones on September 3, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    Ah, Whitsitt’s vanity. Sorry–should have Google-Booked first instead of afterwards.

  4. Todd Jones on September 3, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    Mark L Ward Jr :
    1. Done! Greg Wills wrote a book on Augustine I have in my library.
    2. Ok, I’ll add it…

    This does sound very good. Good recommendation!

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