Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
SBJT 4:4 (Winter 2000) p. 92
A Hill on Which to Die: One Southern Baptist’s Journey by Judge Paul Pressler. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1999, xi + 362, $24.99.
Whether it is Teddy Roosevelt’s famous assault on San Juan Hill or the infinitely more costly battle of Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima, the picture of a battle staged on a prominent outcropping for a compelling cause is inevitably a memorable event. Paul Pressler’s memoirs of his own experiences of the last twenty years is thus entitled A Hill on Which to Die. There are at least four applications of the title that arise naturally out of the reading of the book.
First, the title suggests a certain importance void of triviality. The issues over which the Southern Baptist Convention struggled for the past twenty years were, in fact, the very issues about which other denominations had struggled much earlier. The health of those denominations was inevitably determined by the outcome of those crucial conflicts. In the earliest centuries of Christian history, the struggle was primarily Christological— the question of defining who Jesus Christ of Nazareth is. The conflict of the Reformation was essentially a question of salvation —How exactly do we come to know Christ? The question of the period beginning with the Enlightenment has been the epistemological question—How do we know that what we say in Theology is true? And this question of how to know the truth is the question that defined the hill on which Judge Pressler staked his life and reputation.
A second intention of the title is that it suggests an uncertainty of outcome. If an assault is to be made on a hill, it will, like Iwo Jima, almost always be costly to all participants. At the beginning of the ascent there is no way for the army on the offensive to know whether it can or will win. One may very well “die” on the mountain to be climbed. At the outset of the struggle for the return of the Southern Baptist Convention to the faith of its fathers, the outcome was anything but certain, and the possibility of paying a very high personal price loomed large.
A third meaning of the title highlights the fact that even in victory an enormous cost will almost inevitably be paid in such an effort. This subtitle of the book is “One Southern Baptist’s Journey.” That subtitle introduces the reader to the cost and the sorrows of heart involved in one man’s experience on the slopes of the “Southern Baptist mountain.”
Finally, the title A Hill on Which to Die suggests specific focus in a conflict. Every knowledgeable participant in the Southern Baptist conflict, on whatever side he found himself, knew that the conflict involved a great many issues—some theological, some moral and some politica...
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