Southern Baptists and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Southern Baptists have often been faulted for being on the wrong side of the issue of slavery and, later, on the issue of civil rights.  While it cannot be denied that the Civil War came about as a result of Southerners demanding the right at the state level to determine the issue of slavery, it should also be remembered that many Southerners worshiped together in congregations with slaves before the War split them apart (See Greg Wills’s great book, Democratic Religion, published by Oxford).

It is true that Southern Baptists were on the wrong side of the slavery issue. So, it is fitting that Southern Baptists openly and publicly repent of their sins against black Americans.

Baptists in history have not always acted in perfect accord with the Christ who bought them. Though we have always readily

Martin Luther King, Jr. Visits Southern Baptist Seminary

accepted our Lord’s salvation, we have not always heeded His instruction.  It is very encouraging to remember, however, that the Seminary in which I teach theology from time to time was on the forefront of the Civil Rights movement.

Many do not realize that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. visited Southern Seminary and spoke in a chapel address and in lectures to students in the classroom in 1961 (three years before civil rights legislation passed through Congress).  And, according to King, he had visited that chapel two or three times prior to this address.

I am proud of Southern Seminary’s history on this issue and its future on nearly every other. It is a great beacon of light for America and beyond.

You can actually listen to Dr. King’s chapel address here:

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Address Southern Seminary

Grace and Controversy

Presently, a small group of Southern Baptists have stirred a mini-controversy over the issue of Calvinism (just in time for the convention).  This group (mostly affiliated with the seminaries in New Orleans and Fort Worth) have undertaken an effort to exclude or diminish the impact of Calvinism from “traditional Baptist soteriology.” I have strong opinions about the foolishness of their efforts, and I wrote a piece expressing my opinions. However, under the advice of godly people close to me, I chose to keep my opinions to myself rather than publish them for others to see. Basically, my decision was made by following the age-old adage: “If you can’t say anything nice. Don’t say anything at all.”

Fortunately, two godly men have published very helpful pieces in response to this controversy. If you are unfamiliar with the controversy, or if you are sorting your way through the details of it, you would do well to read these two pieces.  Dr. Mohler’s article is remarkably gracious and generous (read it here).  And Dr. Tim McKnight’s piece offers historical perspective which might ameliorate much of the animosity if heeded.  Of course, many folks have responded to the Statement made by SBC Today (authored by Erick Hankins). The pro-Calvinist responses I have read have been filled with both truth and grace.  I am severely unimpressed with the position statement authored by Hankins.

Again, I could not be as generous as Dr. Mohler nor as patient and cool-tempered as Dr. McKnight; so I have chosen to say nothing about the current controversy.  Both of these pieces are excellent.  Take confidence through the controversy that the Lord Himself will judge in grace and truth.  May truth indeed prevail and may the flock of God be shepherded and protected by Spirit-filled preachers.