Wednesday, August 05, 2009

From Boyce to Mohler—and Everywhere in Between

Posted by Robert Sagers

In 1988, the Trustee Board at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary gained its newest member—an itinerant country preacher without a college degree named David Miller. Miller had been alarmed at the theological and ethical aberrations being promoted within the classrooms at Southern, and perhaps especially at a specific professor's contention that abortion was merely the termination of a "glob of protoplasm."

Upon his arrival, Miller recalls in a recent issue of SBJT, he was asked to give a short testimony. Not one to waste such an opportunity, this is what the quadriplegic, wheelchair-bound preacher had to say to his fellow colleagues:
"So I began by saying, 'I had a very lowly beginning in life. I was not only a depraved fellow, I was a deformed fetus. Consequently, I get nervous around Baptist ethics professors who are pro-choice on abortion. If you think I have an agenda as I come to serve on this Board, then I commend you for your discernment!'"
Not many years later, the Trustee Board voted to elect a young, 33-year old Baptist state paper editor to serve as president of the Southern Baptist Convention's flagship seminary. That man was R. Albert Mohler Jr.

If you're not acquainted with Southern Seminary's remarkable story, you may want to check out historian Gregory A. Wills's volume, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary: 1859-2009. It's a book you may find so interesting and readable that, once opened, it could be difficult for you to put down. You can also read Carl Trueman's anticipation of the volume, and Stephen Nichols's explanation of why the book is on his summer reading list.

Wills concludes his volume by noting the significance of Mohler's presidency. "Under Mohler's leadership," he writes, "Southern Seminary was once again Boyce's seminary." Princeton-trained theologian James Petigru Boyce was Southern Seminary's founding visionary and first president. Thomas J. Nettles has just written a thorough biography on Boyce, published in P&R's American Reformed Biographies series—and it's also well worth reading.