Founders Journal


1The 1988 SBC resolution on "Priesthood of the Believer" has provoked a firestorm of controversy. Among the many discussions in Baptist state papers, see V. Davis, "Southern Baptists and 'Priesthood,'" Florida Baptist Witness, July 14, 1988, and T. George, "Priesthood of the Believers-Refocusing the Debate," Florida Baptist Witness, October 1988. See also W. B. Shurden, Priesthood of Believers (Nashville: Convention, 1987).

2J. M. Frost, "Introduction," Baptist Why and Why Not (Nashville: Sunday School Board, 1900) 12.

3Mullins referred to soul competency as the "religious axiom," and regarded it as the basis for the Baptist rejection of infant baptism. E.Y. Mullins et al., The Faith and Its Furtherance (Nashville: Broadman, 1936) 51-64.

4W. T. Conner, Christian Doctrine (Nashville: Broadman, 1937) 17. Cf. the following statement by J. P. Boyce: "the recognition and contemplation of such a [self-existent spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable] . . . awaken reverence and fear . . . and lead men everywhere, when in danger or distress, to call upon God . . . ," Abstract of Systematic Theology (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1899) 30. See also A. Hovey, Manual of Christian Theology (New York: Silver, Burdett, and Co., 1900) 33-40.

5Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (eds. J. T. McNeill and F. L. Battles; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960) 43-51 [I. 34].

6B H. Carroll, Baptist and Their Doctrines (New York: Fleming Revell, 1913) 15.

7Thomas Helwys, A Short Declaration of the Mystery of Iniquity (London 1612) 46. For a fuller treatment of Helwys in the context of the early Baptist literature of toleration, see T. George, "Between Pacifism and Coercion: The English Baptist Doctrine of Religious Toleration," MQR 58 (1984) 3049.

8Baptist Confessions of Faith, ed. W. L. Lumpkin (Valley Forge, PA: Judson, 1959) 245.

9Ibid., 230-32.

10E. S. Morgan, Roger Williams: The Church and the State (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1967) 28. Morgan, along with P. Miller in his Roger Williams: His Contribution to the American Tradition, has attempted to rescue Williams from the modern liberal historians who read their own agenda back into his life. Along this line, C. Wright has placed Williams' debate with John Cotton in its proper 17th-century context. See his "John Cotton Washed and Made White," Continuity and Discontinuity in Church History: Essays Presented to George Huntson Williams (eds. F. F. Church and T. George; Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1979) 338-50.

11H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage (Nashville: Broadman, 1987) 517-18.

12H. H. Hobbs, The Baptist Faith and Message (Nashville Broadman, 1987) 17.

13Quoted J. M. Dawson, Baptists and the American Republic (Nashville: Broadman, 1956) 221.

14Hobbs, Faith and Message, 3.

15Proceedings of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1845 (Richmond: H. K. Ellyson, 1845) 19.

16J. P. Boyce, Three Changes in Theological Institutions (Greenville: C.J. Elford's Book and Job Press, 1856) 35. This address has been reprinted in T. George, James Petigru Boyce: Selected Writings (Nashville: Broadman, 1989).

17Ibid., 44.

18J. A. Broadus, Memoir of James P. Boyce (New York: Armstrong and Son, 1893) 140. T. J. Nettles, "Creedalism, Confessionalism, and the Baptist Faith and Message," The Unfettered Word (ea. R. B. James; Waco: Word Books, 1987) 138-54, has shown how deeply rooted in Southern Baptist history is the appeal to clear confessional guidelines. For example, he quotes B. H. Carroll who declared, "The modern cry, 'Less creed and more liberty,' is a degeneration from the vertebrate to the jellyfish, and means less unity and less morality, and it means more heresy . . . It is a positive and very hurtful sin to magnify liberty at the expense of doctrine." Ibid., 148. W. B. Shurden, on the other hand, has interpreted the growing confessional consciousness in Southern Baptist life as a threat to traditional Baptist freedoms. See his "The Problem of Authority in the Southern Baptist Convention, "Rev Exp 75 (1978) 219-33. A similar opinion is expressed by J. J. Hurt: "Should Southern Baptists Have a Creed/Confession?--No!" Rev Exp 76 (1979) 85-88.

19J. P. Boyce, "The Doctrinal Position of the Seminary," Western Recorder, June 20, 1874.

20Annual, Southern Baptist Convention, 1923.

21K. Barth, Church Dogmatics I/1, 630. For a fuller statement of the role of theology in this process, see T. George, "Dogma Beyond Anathema: Historical Theology in the Service of the Church," Rev Exp 84 (1987) 691-713.

22W. S. Hudson, ea., Baptist Concepts of the Church (Chicago: Judson, 959) 215-216.

23Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther (Philadelphia: Fortress, (1966) 314.

24LW 36, p. 140.

25C. Marney, not known for his traditionalism, understood correctly the communal character of Luther's emphasis: "There, where you and They are--you, all of you are the ministry of the Word. This does not mean that you are competent to deal with God for yourself. It means rather than your are competent and responsible to deal with God and for the neighbor. It was a gross perversion of the gospel that inserted a bastard individualism here and then taught us that the believer's priesthood meant that 'every tub must set on its won bottom.'" Priests to Each Other (Valley Forge: Judson, 1974) 12.

26LW 39, pp. 154-55. This quotation is from Luther's "Answer to the Hyperchristian, Hyperspiritual, and Hyperlearned Book by Goat Emser in Leipzig" (1521) which contains his fullest development of the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers.

27D. W. Torrance and T. R. Torrance, eds. Calvin's Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963) 12.144: Comm. Heb. 10:25. Cf. also T. F. Torrance's Royal Priesthood (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1955).

28C. Eastwood, The Priesthood of All Believers (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1960) 80. The renowned Baptist theologian, R. Aldwinkle, made a similar point in his address on "The Nature and Purpose of Our Freedom," which he delivered at the Baptist World Alliance meeting in 1965. "Yet in our claims to freedom . . . Baptists need to be on guard against a serious misunderstanding of the priesthood of all believers as this was understood by the Protestant Reformers. When Peter applies the phrase 'an holy priesthood' (I Pet. 2:5) to the whole body of believing Christians, he reminds us that we are priests only as members of the Christian fellowship. The priesthood of all believers does not mean only the right to private judgment and intellectual freedom, which Socrates and Bertrand Russell would also stoutly maintain, but the freedom within the community of believers to be, as Luther said, Christ to our neighbor, to show forth the special kind of love and compassion which flows from Christ and works in those who are members of His body, the church. When we assert freedom from priestly dominance in a sacramental sense, we are not claiming freedom of thought necessarily in a general sense, though this may be important even to Christians. We are claiming freedom to love, as Christ loved, all those for whom He died, and claiming this freedom as members of His fellowship of believers. In repudiating a certain understanding of the church, we are not repudiating entirely the importance of the church as the redeemed community through which God works." W. B. Shurden, ed., The Life of Baptists in the Life of the World (Nashville: Broadman 1985) 214.