The New York Times on Southern Baptist Colleges

The New York Times reports today on the struggle between Baptist Colleges and the state Baptist conventions that run them. Many people are aware of the conservative resurgence that began in 1979 in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). That resurgence returned the convention’s institutions and seminaries to conservative evangelical principles.

That battle was all but completed in the 1990’s. Now the struggle has moved to the state conventions as various state conventions have tried to return their institutions and colleges to conservative Christian principles. The New York Times covers some recent developments in this ongoing battle for Baptist colleges.

Southern Baptist colleges are affiliated with the state conventions, and it does not make sense to many members of the conventions to provide significant annual subsidies to Baptist colleges that they view as out of tune with conservative positions on central religious tenets, including how to interpret the Bible. “I did feel that Georgetown was not on the same page as most Kentucky Baptists,’’ said Dr. [Hershael] York, who was president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention last year (source).

The heart of the matter is this. If Baptist Colleges want to be subsidized by Baptist churches, then they need to be in harmony with the churches that support them. In other words, they need to be confessional institutions even as they pursue academic excellence. Faithfulness to biblical truth and academic excellence need not be contradictory aims. But too many Baptist college presidents think they are.

Source: “Feeling Strains, Baptist Colleges Cut Church Ties” – New York Times


6 thoughts on “The New York Times on Southern Baptist Colleges”

  1. Isn’t interesting that the mainstream media has discovered this strain most Baptist evangelicals have known about for decades? What do you think: is there a closet evangelical working for the New York Times?

  2. I absolutely agree that “faithfulness to biblical truth and academic excellence need not be contradictory aims,” but the reality is that they are at most places. Indeed, it seems that few academics but even fewer orthodox believers (and they sometimes yell the loudest) actually think that real biblical truth and academic excellence (as well as freedom) can be reconciled. It’s anti-intellectualism rearing its ugly head, and so many evangelicals love it.

    We have seen all of this rather close to home at Louisiana College, about which I’ve recently blogged.

    This New York Times article quotes Candler’s David W. Key putting his finger on fundamentalism: “In fundamentalism, you have all the truths. In education, you’re searching for truths.” I think that is indeed the clash we’re seeing–many clergy and lay people don’t think truth is something we need to search for, but academics think there’s still some searching to be done.

    There’s a difference in truths not one often made by the more fundamental and litigious boards. I’d boil it down to this: the Bible is authoritative and sufficient regarding most essential matters, like salvation, but it’s not complete regarding, say, matters of poetic meter, and there is yet more searching and learning to be done outside of the biblical record about that subject.

  3. Hey Dr. Burk!
    Just wanted to ask what book you will be using other than the New Testament in Greek this next semester for your Greek class? I’m trying to get ahead in some of my reading so that I won’t be so swamped this next semester. Thanks for any help,


  4. I agree Jen, and I’d add that there is even more searching to be done in biblical studies, too. I think it is ultimately stifling to create an environment where students feel that everything is already known and its just a matter of memorising the bullet-points. It creates a false confidence that makes the young student feel they are ready for the world. No wonder many go through a tailspin when they leave that environment. I think Christian education ought to invite questions, and encourage students to ask the most difficult, yea, the most unorthodox question. I believe in the same things that would be characterised as ‘evangelical’ by most, but I also believe it more fruitful for the academic exercise to allow questions of the deepest kind. Personally, my faith has been more solidified through my own process of asking those questions. Indeed, if evangelicals believe they have ‘the truth’, why then are many so frightened by students searching for it? If we know that the Scriptures are trustworthy, why discourage someone to ask the most difficult questions, staring the challenges right in the face?

  5. “If we know that the Scriptures are trustworthy, why discourage someone to ask the most difficult questions, staring the challenges right in the face?”

    Indeed. If the Gospel is so powerful as it claims to be, then why do we fear asking hard questions? We should indeed fear being deceived, for the heart is yet unsearchably wicked, and we should aim for perfection so that we might be real human beings while we yet live and are being saved. But if we just sit around on our duffs and wait for sanctification to appear to us in a well-organized outline handed down from above, I think we shall wait a long time.

    There’s work to do, after all. Hard problems to think through, like war and violence and hunger and homelessness. Let the fast (Isa 58) begin.

  6. Col 1:16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through Him and for Him.

    At the root of all things, if looked at closely enough, we will find Jehovah Elohim. Let us begin to search for the truth and in that quest we will find God, the God of the Bible.

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