SSHAC live blog: The Meaning of Southern Seminary — Mark Dever

Communications Staff — February 18, 2009

Speaker: Mark Dever

Title: Pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church

James P. Boyce, one of the founders of Southern Seminary, wanted to develop a theological-training institution with a distinctly Baptist flavor in the south.

Denominational identity and regional focus are given in the name The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Southern and Baptist, respectively). However, these names could mislead some as to the influence and focus of Southern Seminary.

One example is the funding of the school. Many northern donors have contributed much to the development of Southern Seminary. A.T. Robertson recalled that John Broadus had become an influential speaker in many theological institutions. Broadus’ profile expanded beyond the south.

E.Y. Mullins, president of Southern from 1899-1928, recognized that being a Baptist in public life involved more than standing for believers’ baptism. Mullins served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Mullins did not have the reputation of a preacher that Broadus did, in broader circles.

John Sampey, president of Southern from 1929-1942, was also held in high regard in many theological circles beyond Baptist life, as Broadus did. Sampey was involved in the early stages of the work on the RSV translation.

Dale Moody, and other Southern Seminary faculty, stood firm in the midst of the theological liberalism that permeated many theological institutions in the 1950s-1970s.

However, many of the faculty at Southern Seminary did not stand so firm. Duke McCall, president of Southern from 1951-1982, told Southern Seminary professor Greg Wills in a taped interview that if the average Southern Baptist pastor or congregant knew what was taking place in all of the Southern Baptist seminaries 20-35 years ago, they would shut down all six immediately.

The current Southern Seminary is a strongly conservative theological-training institution, led by its president R. Albert Mohler Jr. (1993-present). The current Southern Seminary primarily serves the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. But to limit the work of Southern Seminary to simply this sphere would be to limit it to much. The seminary’s primary role is not, and has never been, its only role.

One constant of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has been its involvement with, and leadership of, churches, ministries and theological leaders, both Baptist and beyond.

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