Southern Seminary And The Reshaping Of American Culture: Retrospect And Prospect -- By: Russell D. Moore

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 13:1 (Spring 2009)
Article: Southern Seminary And The Reshaping Of American Culture: Retrospect And Prospect
Author: Russell D. Moore

Southern Seminary And The Reshaping Of American Culture: Retrospect And Prospect1

Russell D. Moore

Russell D. Moore is Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he also serves as Professor of Christian Theology and Ethics. Dr. Moore is a Preaching Pastor at the Fegenbush campus of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, where he ministers weekly. He is a senior editor of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity and is the author of Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches (Crossway, 2009).


The complicated relationship between Southern Seminary and American culture in the twentieth century can be summed up at least in part in the person and work of Jimmy Carter. By this I do not mean a direct connection between the Republic’s most famously Southern Baptist president and his denomination’s flagship seminary—although some connections exist.

Carter, after all, was a racial moderate in Plains, Georgia, right down the road from the interracial community Koinonia Farm project pioneered by Clarence Jordan—a project that began at Southern Seminary.2 When Carter ran for president in 1976, Southern Seminary professor Henlee Barnette offered “Clergy for Carter” meetings at his home, and the Towers campus newspaper reported that a majority of students at Southern Seminary supported Jimmy Carter for president in 1976, not because he was a Southern Baptist but because of his views on the issues.3 Carter was among the final commencement speakers under the moderate leadership of the old Southern Seminary in 1992.

These direct connections do exist, but more important are the less obvious correlations. I mean that the social, political, and ecclesial forces that produced the thirty-ninth president of the United States coincided with the high-water mark of Southern Seminary’s attempt to engage American culture in the post-World-War II era and to lead Southern Baptist churches and institutions to do the same. Like Carter, Southern Baptist’s leadership’s twentieth century project was to promote a progressive agenda articulated in a conservative dialect to a populist constituency; both constituencies later revolted against that leadership toward a more conservative model; and, like Carter and his administration, the Southern Baptist Convention

and Southern Seminary’s displaced leaders moved muc...

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