Heresy is Not Heroic

Al Mohler asks today in his Conventional Thinking blog, “Is Crawford Howell Toy a Baptist Hero?” You may remember that Toy embraced modernist theology, resigned from Southern Seminary, and then became a Unitarian. You can guess Mohler’s answer to the question. Toy is not a hero, despite the ongoing accolades he has received from the Baptist Left over the years.

I think it is interesting that Mohler has written on this timely subject around the same time that the new 9 Marks ejournal is raising concerns about liberal currents among self-confessed evangelicals. Here’s to hoping that the Lord will preserve Southern Baptists (and evangelicals in general) from succumbing to all the various types of neo-liberalism that would threaten to undo our gospel purity and our commitment to the Great Commission.

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  1. Big Daddy Weave   •  

    I don’t consider Toy a Baptist hero. However, it should be stated that Toy did not resign from Southern and immediately join a Unitarian church. In a tribute piece published in the Harvard Theological Review in 1920, a former student mentions that Toy was a member of a Northern Baptist congregation in Cambridge during his first 8 years at Harvard Divinity. This was notable because Toy was the first non-Unitarian to join the faculty at Harvard Divinity.

    Also, what does it mean that Toy “became a Unitarian.” Clearly Toy “became a Unitarian” in the sense that he eventually joined a Unitarian congregation in Cambridge. However, Mohler implies that Toy – like a good Unitarian – denied both the deity of Christ and the Trinity. Where’s the proof though?

    We know that Toy had liberal views on biblical inspiration. But I’ve not seen anything by Toy or others which claim that he came to deny these essential Christian doctrines. What we do know is that Toy left the Northern Baptist denomination after recognizing that his presence was no longer welcome.

    Southern Baptists didn’t want him nor did Northern Baptists. So, Toy joins the Unitarian church where all of his fellow faculty members at Harvard were members. If there is evidence that his views on these doctrines changed while at Harvard, I’d be interesting in seeing it.

  2. Big Daddy Weave   •  

    Tony Cartledge, who called Toy a Baptist hero, has issued this clarification on his blog:

    “In any case, let me clarify that my comments were not intended as a commentary on or approval of Toy’s later beliefs (or lack of them). I was really speaking from the perspective of Toy’s departure from Southern, and to express appreciation for his integrity. Who knows, if he had felt welcome to stay at Southern — or had made it to the mission field as he had desired — instead of spending the rest of his career at Harvard, his beliefs may have gone in a different direction.”

  3. Louis   •  

    You, and Dr. Mohler, are right. Dr. Toy’s fall from faith serves as a warning. He was and is not a hero.

    I cannot understand why someone would cite him as an example. Even if it were only for the purpose of standing up for one’s convictions, aren’t there better examples to be used?


  4. Nathan Finn   •     Author


    I cannot speak for Mohler. Personally, I am aware that Toy did not immediately become Unitarian. But he did become one. And whether his views on the divinity of Christ changed or not, he still publicly identified with a group that denies the divinity of Christ. He opened himself up to the suspicions.


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