Today it was my great pleasure to spend the morning with Dr. Emir Caner, Dr. Thomas White, Dr. Malcolm Yarnell, and several other of the diligent scholars at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Tonight, nearly eight hours after my return home, I'm still giddy with excitement about the things that we discussed. History is going to be made in the next few months, and if God is willing, the Southern Baptist Convention will never be the same again.
Next Fall, the Center for Theological Research will open the Office of Landmark Studies. The purpose of the office will be to develop and disseminate scholarly resources to begin the work of rebutting the fifty years of virulent anti-Landmark inaccuracies that have been foisted upon the Southern Baptist people by bitter academicians. Several factors make the timing of this action fortuitous, IMHO:
- Landmarkism was among the more resilient inoculations against liberalism in the SBC 100 years ago. With the most popular and powerful blog in the Southern Baptist Convention having become the leading standard bearer for the liberal position on the question of women pastors, there is a need for an organized and intensive voice in defense of sound Baptist theology. The Office of Landmark Studies will be able to employ the resources available at BaptistTheology.org to provide online rebuttals, while the Southwestern Journal of Theology will provide a presence in the academic world.
- The Office of Landmark Studies will have an opportunity to refine and correct antebellum and turn-of-the-century Landmarkism, reinvigorating its stronger points while cutting away some of its weaker aspects. For example, nineteenth-century Landmarkism was generally open to interaction with some Baptists affiliated with what is today the ABC. The intervening years have revealed Northern Baptists to be liberals—in large part, heretics. A renewed Landmarkism will be able to consider carefully the developments of the past century and have a more informed and critical view of so-called "Baptists" outside of the Southern Baptist Convention. Also, Graves-Dayton-Pendleton-type Landmarkism, like all of Southern Baptist history except for the past few years, was entirely beholden to the Democratic Party. Now that we have broken free of the stranglehold that the Democrats once had upon us, we have no intention of going back. Freed from these impediments, a new Landmarkism will be able to flourish like never before.
- I'm hoping that the founding of the Office of Landmark Studies will foreshadow an expansion of the Church History program at SWBTS. The core curriculum that you and I studied at SWBTS in the 80s or 90s was built around the idea of teaching four hundred years of Baptist History. The Baptist Heritage class needs to be split into two sections and greatly expanded to instruct students more fully about the English Baptists' robust antecedents who lived and served throughout the Patristic and Medieval periods.
- Southern Baptists have shown greater attention in recent years to the doctrine of the Kingdom of God. A still-ongoing program in SBC life is entitled "Empowering Kingdom Growth." But what is the Kingdom of God? Now—in the face of Barna's "Revolutionaries" and in the light of our own emphasis—is the time to remind the body of Christ that the Kingdom of God consists of the aggregate of New Testament Baptist Churches.
I attended the meeting in an advisory and encouraging role, but am thrilled to have walked away with a more tangible method for contributing to the project. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of SWBTS's relocation to Fort Worth, the seminary plans to release a revised and expanded edition of James Milton Carroll's classic work The Trail of Blood. I have agreed to edit this revision, which I hope to have in print and on the shelves at your local Lifeway Christian Store by mid-2009.