Preparing SEBTS Students for the SBC Annual Meeting

As many readers will know, the SBC Annual Meeting will gather in Houston on June 11–12, 2013. In conjunction with the Convention, I teach an elective travel course at Southeastern Seminary titled The Southern Baptist Convention. The course is divided into three components. First, we meet on campus for one full day to discuss Southern Baptist history, theology, and polity, as well as specific information related to the upcoming annual meeting. Second, the students read several books and articles and listen to numerous audio resources related to these themes. Finally, the students attend the SBC Annual Meeting itself. While at the Convention, the students attend most of the proceedings, meet a couple of times with key SBC leaders, hobnob at the SEBTS booth, and attend the SEBTS Friends and Alumni Luncheon. Most also attend auxiliary events such as the Pastor’s Conference, Baptist 21 Luncheon, and 9 Marks at 9 events, among others.

I thought I would pass on to you some of the resources I use to prepare students for the SBC Annual Meeting. Obviously, we spend quite a bit of time walking through the Convention program, which, along with numerous other helpful resources, is available online. In addition to my lectures and guided class discussions, the students also watch or listen to several lectures, sermons, and panel discussions. This year, I’ve required them to watch the various Baptist 21 panel discussions from previous years (available at the B21 website), which are a helpful gauge of the “hot topics” in the SBC in recent years. I also required the students to watch one of the panels from last year’s 9 Marks at 9. The panel, which included Mark Dever, Al Mohler, and Danny Akin, discussed Fred Luter’s presidential election, the nature of SBC cooperation, and Calvinism, all of which remain important topics a year later.

I also point the students to four lectures or sermons. They watch David Dockery’s fine sermon “Participants and Partners in the Gospel,” which was preached in SEBTS chapel back in February. The sermon is vintage Dockery, calling for denominational unity around the gospel and basic Baptist orthodoxy for the sake of the Great Commission. Students also listen to Dockery’s lecture “The Southern Baptist Convention since 1979,” which helps to orient them to recent Baptist history. The final two lectures are Timothy George’s “The Future of Baptist Identity in a post-Denominational World,” which remains a timely topic, and Al Mohler’s “The Future of the Southern Baptist Convention,” an address that every Southern Baptist needs to listen to at least once.
The students read two books and over a dozen journal articles or book chapters. The first book is Roger Richards’ History of Southern Baptists (Crossbooks, 2012), which is the most recent history of the SBC. The second book is a helpful collection of essays titled The Great Commission Resurgence: Fulfilling God’s Mandate in Our Time (B&H Academic, 2010), edited by Chuck Lawless and Adam Greenway. The latter volume touches upon most of the current tension points in the SBC from a perspective that advocates unity for the sake of gospel advance.

Unfortunately, for reasons of copyright I can’t make most of the additional essays I require available outside of the class. The students read chapters, articles, and booklets written by SBC leaders and thinkers such as Danny Akin (on the Great Commission Resurgence), David Dockery (on Baptist theology), Nathan Finn (on Baptist identity, Calvinism, and the future of the SBC), Timothy George (on Baptist theology), John Hammett (on regenerate church membership and the ordinances), Chuck Lawless (on Calvinism), Al Mohler (on Baptist identity), Paige Patterson (on the Conservative Resurgence), Ed Stetzer (on missional churches), and Malcolm Yarnell (on the priesthood of all believers).

One resource that I can make available to you is Dr. Patterson’s e-booklet “The Southern Baptist Conservative Resurgence: The History, the Plan, the Assessment ” (Seminary Hill, 2012). In this booklet, was which was originally published as three separate articles in The Southwestern Journal of Theology, Dr. Patterson offers a first-hand account of the Conservative Resurgence. It is a helpful look at recent Baptist history from one of the most important shapers of that history. It is also a reminder that Dr. Patterson needs to publish a volume that brings together his collected articles and essays, a topic I have pestered him about in the past. (And again, now, on a public blog . . .)

Anyway, I hope you find these resources helpful. And I hope that many of you will consider attending the 2013 SBC Annual Meeting in Houston. Perhaps I will see many of you there.

(Note: This post was cross-published at Christian Thought & Tradition)online game car

The Conservative Resurgence: An Annotated Bibliography


Adrian Rogers (1931-2005)

Since the early 1980s, dozens of scholarly or semi-scholarly books, dissertations, articles, and essays have been written about the Conservative Resurgence (CR) in the Southern Baptist Convention. The CR in the SBC began with the Houston Convention in 1979 and lasted through the end of the century. I would argue that the best ending date for the CR is 2000, the year the Baptist Faith and Message was revised. Though the “national” CR ended over a decade ago, statewide versions of the CR continued in some areas throughout the first decade of the twenty-first century.

The CR goes by many different names, depending upon one’s interpretation. The period has also been called the “Inerrancy Controversy,” “The Fundamentalist Takeover,” “The Fundamentalist-Moderate Controversy,” or simply “The Controversy.” Each of these labels contains some truth, though I opt to call the period the Conservative Resurgence because I believe this label best captures the heart of the issue. Grassroots theological conservatives, displeased with the leftward drift of many denominational servants, used democratic means to effect a leadership change in the Southern Baptist Convention.

This list of resources is not intended to be exhaustive, but it does represent some key works for those interested in studying the CR in greater detail. For the sake of space, I have not included any dissertations, though plenty have been written. Since my personal theological sympathies are with the resurgent conservatives who gained control of SBC leadership during the CR, my bias is reflected in my comments about these sources.

Primary Sources

Walter Shurden and Randy Shepley, eds., Going for the Jugular: A Documentary History of the SBC Holy War (Mercer University Press, 1996). This is the best place to start if you want to read sources such as press releases, excerpts from key sermons, resolutions, etc. The editors are moderates, so the introduction reflects their perspective.

Paige Patterson, Anatomy of a Reformation, 2nd ed. (Seminary Hill Press, 2004). Patterson was one of the three key leaders among conservatives, along with Paul Pressler and Adrian Rogers. This pamphlet reflects Patterson’s personal thoughts on the CR, including the major issues at stake and the rationale for the conservative strategy.

Paul Pressler, A Hill on Which to Die: One Southern Baptist’s Journey (B&H, 1998). This book is Pressler’s autobiography. The latter half focuses on the CR. A personal anecdote: I was flirting with becoming a CBF-friendly moderate in college until I read this book. It literally changed the direction of my ministry.

Cecil Sherman, By My Own Reckoning (Smyth & Helwys, 2008). Sherman was perhaps the most important moderate leaders in the 1980s and 1990s, so the second half of his autobiography provides an interesting counterpoint to Pressler’s aforementioned memoir.

Grady Cothen, What Happened to the Southern Baptist Convention? A Memoir of the Controversy, 2nd ed. (Smyth & Helwys, 1993). Cothen was a vocal moderate leader and a former president of the SBC Sunday School Board. Another insightful memoir.

L. Russ Bush and Tom J. Nettles, Baptists and the Bible, 2nd ed. (B&H Academic, 1999). Bush and Nettles argue that most Baptists have historically affirmed biblical inerrancy, though the term “inerrancy” is of recent vintage. This book, which was first published by Moody Press in 1980, has the distinction of being a secondary study in historical theology that functions as a primary source for one studying the CR.

Walter Shurden, ed., The Struggle for the Soul of the SBC: Moderate Responses to the Fundamentalist Movement (Mercer University Press, 1994). In these essays, key moderate leaders discuss why they formed alternative ministries to compete with SBC denominational ministries in the aftermath of the CR.

In 1985 and 1988, the journal Theological Educator published special editions dedicated to “The Controversy in the Southern Baptist Convention” and “Polarities in the Southern Baptist Convention,” respectively. Articles were written by key figures on both sides of the controversy. Theological Educator is the former faculty journal of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Conservative Secondary Sources

Jerry Sutton, The Baptist Reformation: The Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention (B&H Academic, 2000). This is probably the most widely-used history of the CR written from a conservative perspective. It is triumphalistic in tone and relies too much on interviews with key conservative leaders, but it’s still essential reading.

James Hefley, The Truth in Crisis, 6 volumes (Hannibal Books, 1986-1991). This series provides a journalistic account of the CR written from a conservative perspective. Though clearly biased and largely uncritical in nature, Hefley gets some of the “human stories” of the CR that are missed by most other studies of the era.

Jason G. Duesing and Thomas White, “Neanderthals Chasing Bigfoot? The State of the Gender Debate in the Southern Baptist Convention,” Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood 12, no. 2 (Fall 2007): 5-19. This article focuses upon the gender debate in the SBC, which is closely tied to the CR.

Nathan A. Finn, “Baptists and the Bible: The History of a History Book,” in Ministry By His Grace and For His Glory: Essays in Honor of Thomas J. Nettles, eds. Thomas K. Ascol and Nathan A. Finn (Founders Press, 2011), pp. 3-16. This essay focuses upon the reception and influence of the book Baptists and the Bible.

Gregory A. Wills, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1859-2009 (Oxford University Press, 2009). The changes at Southern Seminary were some of the most explosive events related to the CR. Wills covers this material in chapters 10-13.

David S. Dockery, ed., Southern Baptist Identity: An Evangelical Denomination Faces the Future (Crossway, 2009). Several of the essays in this book discuss the CR and its legacy for Southern Baptists. See especially the essays by David Dockery, Al Mohler, Stan Norman, Greg Wills, and Nathan Finn.

Adam Greenway and Chuck Lawless, eds., The Great Commission Resurgence: Fulfilling God’s Mandate in Our Time (B&H Academic, 2010). Another collection of essays that includes several chapters related to the CR. See especially the essays by Thom Rainer, Al Mohler, and Nathan Finn.

The Summer 2003 edition of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, the faculty journal of Southern Seminary, was dedicated to “Theology, Culture, and the SBC.” The articles interact with Barry Hankins’s book Uneasy in Babylon, which is discussed below. The Spring 2005 edition of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology was dedicated to “The Conservative Resurgence in the SBC.”

Moderate Secondary Sources

Walter Shurden, Not A Silent People: Controversies that Have Shaped Southern Baptists, 2nd ed. (Smyth & Helwys, 1995). Chapter 7 offers the best brief introduction to the CR written from a moderate perspective.

David Morgan, The New Crusades, the New Holy Land: Conflict in the Southern Baptist Convention, 1969-1991(University of Alabama Press, 1996). This is probably the best history of the CR written from a moderate perspective. Though I frequently disagree with Morgan’s interpretations, he does the best job of any author in describing conservative activism in the decade prior to 1979.

Nancy Ammerman, Baptist Battles: Social Change and Religion Conflict in the Southern Baptist Convention (Rutgers University Press, 1990). This is one of the most important books to come out of the controversy. Ammerman is a moderate sociologist who demonstrates the significant theological and cultural differences between conservatives and moderates.

Bill Leonard, God’s Last and Only Hope: The Fragmentation of the Southern Baptist Convention (Eerdmans, 1990). Another standard moderate history. Leonard does the best job of describing what SBC culture was like prior to the CR, though Ammerman also covers some of this ground.

Bruce Gourley, The Godmakers: A Legacy of the Southern Baptist Convention (Providence House, 1996). This is not really a purely historical work because Gourley critiques the theological and especially ethical motivations of the “fundamentalists” who took over the SBC. For Gourley, the CR was more about power politics than theological renovation.

Barry Hankins, Uneasy in Babylon: Southern Baptist Conservatives and American Culture (University of Alabama Press, 2003). In this important book, Hankins argues that SBC conservatives were at least as concerned with a socially conservative political agenda as they were biblical inerrancy. I’m sympathetic to Hankins’s thesis. The Summer 2003 edition of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology included several articles that interacted with Uneasy in Babylon, including a rejoinder by Hankins.

The October 1993 edition of the journal Baptist History and Heritage was dedicated to the CR. The contributors wrote from a mostly moderate perspective.

The Conservative Resurgence and Southeastern Seminary

Nathan A. Finn, “The Story of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1950-2000.” This short essay recounts the history of SEBTS during her first six decades, including the tumultuous years of the CR.

Thomas Bland, ed., Servant Songs: Reflections on the History and Mission of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1950-1988 (Smyth & Helwys, 1994). This collection of essays, written by moderate ex-SEBTS faculty members, provides a surprisingly candid account of what Southeastern was like prior to the conservative takeover of the trustee board in 1987.

Jason G. Duesing, “The Reclamation of Theological Integrity: L. Russ Bush III and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1989-1992,” Christian Higher Education 9.3 (July 2010): 185-206. This fine journal article describes how former SEBTS dean Russ Bush implemented conservative changes at SEBTS prior to Paige Patterson’s presidency.

The Fall 2012 edition of The Outlook includes several popularly written articles about the CR at Southeastern in particular and among North Carolina Baptists in general.


If you’d like to download a slightly different version of this bibliography in PDF, then see Nathan A. Finn, “The Conservative Resurgence: An Annotated Bibliography.”

(Image credit)



Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism

In October 2009, Union University hosted a conference titled Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism. The conference was held in conjunction with the four hundredth anniversary of the Baptists. It also revisited an oft-asked question: what is the relationship between Southern Baptists and American evangelicals? You can listen to the conference audio at Union’s website.

For those who are interested, the proceedings of that conference are also now in print. Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism (B&H Academic, 2011) is a collection of essays edited by David Dockery, Ray Van Neste, and Jerry Tidwell. Between the Times contributors Danny Akin, Ed Stetzer, and yours truly spoke at the conference and contributed essays. You can see the full list of chapters and contributors below.

  1. So Many Denominations: The Rise, Decline, and Future of Denominationalism – David S. Dockery
  2. Denominationalism: Is There a Future? – Ed Stetzer
  3. Denominationalism and the Changing Religious Landscape – D. Michael Lindsay
  4. The Faith, My Faith, and the Church’s Faith – Timothy George
  5. The Future of Evangelicalism (and Southern Baptists) – Duane Litfin
  6. The Care for Souls: Reconsidering Pastoral Ministry in Southern Baptist and Evangelical Contexts – Ray Van Neste
  7. Awakenings and Their Impact on Baptists and Evangelicals: Sorting Out the Myths in the History of Missions and Evangelism – Jerry Tidwell
  8. Recovering the Gospel for the Twenty-first Century – Harry L. Poe
  9. Emergent or Emerging? Questions for Southern Baptists and American Evangelicals – Mark DeVine
  10. Reflections on 400 Years of the Baptist Movement: Who We Are, What We Believe – James A. Patterson
  11. Southern Baptists and Evangelicals: Passing on the Faith to the Next Generation – Nathan A. Finn
  12. The Future of the Southern Baptist Convention – Daniel Akin
  13. Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism – R. Albert Mohler Jr.

If you are interested in the storied history and future prospects of Southern Baptists, American evangelicalism, and/or denominationalism in general, I’d highly encourage you to pick up a copy of this important new book.