Posted by: Robin Foster | November 20, 2007

Baptist Theologians

At the Cimarron Baptist Association meeting today, I was talking with some of the pastors when I noticed some books in the corner that were for free. Every now and then someone will donate books to the association for pastors to pick up and use. Looking from a distance, I noticed a gem, “Baptist Theologians” edited by Timothy George and David S. Dockery. I had borrowed this book from a friend some time back, but with deep lamentations, I returned it. Needless to say there were joyous hallelujahs as I discovered it was available for anyone to take.

The book is out of print, but you can buy it used. It can also be purchased new as Drs. Dockery and George updated this book and changed the title to “Theologians of the Baptist Tradition

Baptist Theologians” is a concise synopsis detailing some Baptist theologians who influenced our tradition. One thing that is interesting is that the early theologians who had the most influence were also pastors. By the time we get to the twentieth century, the theologians who are featured are found in academia with some notable exceptions like W.A. Criswell and Hershel Hobbs.

Today, the up and coming theologians are a mix of pastors and academia. There is no doubt that people like Mark Dever and John Piper (both pastors) are having a theological influence on Baptist traditions today. Along with them, the world of academia is still having her influence with people like Dr. Danny Akin, Dr. Russel Moore, and Dr. Malcolm Yarnell. There is also a collaborative effort among academia and pastors with the recent release of, “A Theology for the Church” edited by Dr. Akin.

The future of theology for Baptists will be more of a collaborative effort. One reason for this is that our SBC seminaries are focusing on producing pastor scholars. As more pastor scholars are produced, greater success will be seen in leading our churches to a deeper understanding of not only what we believe, but why we believe it with a desire to bring those beliefs to practice. More men who earn PhD.s will stay in the pastorate contributing practical works that are based on solid scholarship with a practicality in application. The more pastors who will earn PhD.s will also engage with professors they were mentored by to produce works for the church. The DMin degree will transform from strict practical application discipline to a scholarship driven effort that impacts the ministry of the pastor at the church level. All these areas will bring cooperation from the world of academia and ministry.

Another reason for collaboration is that those in Baptist academia are finding a need to keep the theology relevant for the church. In other words, SBC academia is realizing that the seminary is to serve the church, not academia. For too many years some in the world of Baptist academia have sought to impress the ivy league elite with their theology. There was a push to become the next Princetonesque theologian. With this push, there was a void in the practical application of our Baptist beliefs from the local pastor to the layperson serving in their area of ministry. In some cases there was an all together abandonment of Baptist study. Case in point is that for over 60 years, no major publication was produced from 1944 to 2006 on Baptist Ecclesiology. Is it no wonder why Baptists today are at their weakest concerning theology.

The future of Baptist scholarship is bright. As collaborative efforts become more prominent, the church will become the beneficiary of great scholarship that will help in expanding the Kingdom of God.

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Responses

  1. Good steal. I prefer Baptist Theologians to Theologians of the Baptist Tradition

  2. Bart

    Ditto!

  3. Yes, associations can be a wonderful resource. Why just a few weeks ago, I found in our association’s library a signed copy of The Message of Genesis.

    You can imagine my excitement.

    On a serious note, thanks for this post as a reminder of the importance of scholarship. I have heard it suggested that the reason we are in a place where Dr. Akin can call us a “theologically illiterate denomination,” as he did in our interview, is that for the last fifty years our best and brightest have headed for the pulpit rather than the academy. The result is that the serious scholarly writing that is out there is largely done by Presbyterians and those of other traditions.

  4. Brother Robin

    You are swimming in deep water now. I can only tread for a little while. It seems that you are Brother Bart are treading quite well. I headed back to the shore to splash with my water wings.

    Blessings,
    Tim

  5. FYI – There is another book coming out “Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches” By Thomas White, Jason Duesing, and Malcolm Yarnell. (note: all from SWBTS 🙂 )

    You can pre-order on Amazon or CBD. CBD shows the release date as 01/01/08.

    Trish

  6. Robin,

    I think you are exactly right! It is clear that Pastors must be theologians….is there any other kind. I think the questions should be ….. just how fluent of a theologian is any Pastor? The church will suffer without Pastors that are not theologians, as you have aptly pointed out in the body of this topic.

    In fact, the lack of theological endeavors within the Baptist church leadership have greatly increased the lack of love for God’s doctrine. This lack of love is expressed in programs instead of education.

    What a welcome site to see the Baptist seminaries are getting a clue….and assisting. This is a dramatic and welcomed change from the previous 40 years of famine.

    In Christ Alone,
    Chris


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