Friday, December 30, 2011

Aaron Weaver's "James M. Dunn and Soul Freedom" and Baptist Identity

Aaron Weaver. James M. Dunn and Soul Freedom. Macon, GA: Smythe & Helwys, 2011. List price is $18.00, but you can get a better deal than that at…just over $14.00 at the time of this post.

Weaver's seminal work has received strong reviews already from a diverse group. Here is a brief bibliography of online reviews:

Lumpkins gives the best classical review of the book, providing a good chapter-by-chapter summary of the book's content, critically assessing the most important aspects of the publication, and then concluding with his recommendation. Knox's treatment is terse. Moore's piece is more of a reflective essay upon having read the book than a detailed review.

My post today is, stylistically, more like Moore's than any of the others. I will pay Weaver's book the highest compliment: It has made me think and has prompted me to write. Before settling in on the main theme of my article, I'd like to pose a key question to my readership: How will you account for James M. Dunn in your own Christian history? I'm speaking primarily to Southern Baptists here (or erstwhile Southern Baptists, as the case may be). For those on the left in Southern Baptist life like Weaver, Dunn must be placed (ranked?) within a cadre of those ousted by the Conservative Resurgence…consequently, the Founding Fathers (er…Initial Guidance Personages?) of a new Baptist Left. Among Dilday, Valentine, Parks, Sherman, and Vestal—and a whole host of others from the Gatlinburg Gang and beyond—where does Dunn rank? For Southern Baptists on the right like myself, will we make some caricature of Dunn a stock-character bogeyman for our history, or has enough time passed for us to undertake a more objective assessment of men like Dunn as a part of our history, too. Moore's essay, by the way, represents in my view a good step toward the latter, superior, alternative.

Aaron Weaver and I have a lot in common. We're both Baptists who care about our Baptist identity. We're both alumni of Baylor University (although his Baylor athletic experience has been a great deal more enjoyable than was mine in the late 1980s). We're both staunchly committed to religious liberty. We both have a keen interest in politics, both secular and denominational. We're both academics, both focusing upon Baptist History. We're both bloggers. We both know where we fall on the ideological spectrum, and we both appear to be comfortable with that.

What fascinates me is the strange juxtaposition of these commonalities and our significant differences. I haven't voted for a Democrat since I left the party of my grandfathers in college. I'd be willing to bet that elephants are less endangered in the urban Northeast than they are on Aaron Weaver's marked ballots. He voted for Barack Obama; I voted for the candidate who was not Barack Obama. He attends the CBF, the BGCT, and the New Baptist Covenant (while supplies last); I attend the SBC, the SBTC, and the occasional BMAT meeting. He spends quality time with James Dunn; I furtively slip the occasional bite of food under the table to Paige Patterson's dogs.

We're both passionate proponents of Baptist identity, but we each understand what it means to be a Baptist with a slightly different nuance. Upon the occasion of Aaron's excellent book, I'd like to identify what I perceive as three approaches to Baptist identity, interacting significantly with the life of James Dunn as represented in the scholarship of Aaron Weaver, particularly in this book.

Soul Freedom as the Core of Baptist Identity

This is James Dunn's position. It clearly appears to be Aaron Weaver's position. Weaver accurately identifies E. Y. Mullins as the source of this emphasis in Dunn's theology. I'm content to call this the Mullins/Dunn/Weaver viewpoint. Both Mullins and Dunn explicitly identified Soul Freedom (for Mullins, "Soul Competency") not just as a plank in the Baptist platform, but as THE doctrinal conviction defining what it means to be Baptist. According to this viewpoint, all other Baptist concepts flow out of the idea of Soul Freedom.

To put it another way, this approach essentially makes anthropology (the nature of man…that he is free) the core doctrine of Baptist Christianity

One can easily see how local church autonomy and religious liberty might arise out of a conviction about the freedom of the soul. The scope of this theory, however, reaches beyond these ideas. Baptist conversionism, from this vantage-point, arises from an emphasis upon the individual choices of free souls either for or against the gospel. Baptist church membership in this tradition emphasizes individual voluntarism in the gathered church. The primary emphasis of congregationalism in such an approach is upon the "democratic processes" mentioned in the BF&M. Although I admire Weaver for his fair and consistent use of the more biblical phrase "priesthood of all believers," this is a tradition of thinking that has at times emphasized explicitly the idea of the "priesthood of THE believer."

The Mullins/Dunn/Weaver approach of elevating Soul Freedom has had a distinguished history in Southern Baptist life. It harmonized well with previous similar, if not exactly identical, Baptist emphases upon religious liberty. It held utter hegemony in Southern Baptist theological thinking for most of a century. It established a platform upon which widely disparate Baptists were able to unite through organizations like the Baptist World Alliance.

Nevertheless, this approach faces challenges today. The most important challenge that it faces is the fact that Soul Freedom, in the sense that Mullins, Dunn, and Weaver seem to employ the word, is difficult enough to support as a biblical doctrine at all, much less as a doctrine that ought to serve as the central, defining conviction of any group of Christians. Dunn considered the concept of Soul Freedom to be "axiomatic" (and Mullins's approach to theology involved identifying such axioms). Dunn did volunteer the imago dei in Genesis 1 as the unnecessary biblical justification for the doctrine of Soul Freedom, but this is hardly satisfactory—how, precisely, people exist in the "image of God" is a topic with a wide variety of interpretations and with very little guidance from the text. No strongly persuasive reason exists to conclude that this doctrine relatively absent from the remainder of the Bible is, in fact, the real meaning of the imago dei.

The waxing influence of Calvinism among young American Christians also poses a threat to this philosophy. Although the Mullins concept of Soul Freedom seems to entail something more than a mere psychological freedom—a sense that the freedom of the soul is, if not the highest good, at least one of the great goods of creation and is an umbrella doctrine in the Bible—Soul Freedom does depend upon an idea of human freedom and an emphasis upon human freedom that seems to be at odds with most understandings of Calvinistic determinism.

Even if a concept of the freedom of the human soul were retained as a theological conclusion drawn from other premises, I do not see a robust future among Baptist biblicists for Soul Freedom as an axiomatic postulate from which to draw all other conclusions.

The Gospel as the Core of Baptist Identity

If Baptist biblicists cannot enthusiastically embrace Soul Freedom as the core doctrine of their common faith, whither shall they turn? One answer that is presently increasing in popularity is to emphasize the gospel as the bedrock concept of Baptist identity. Perhaps the clearest articulation of this point of view has come from Nathan Finn, who, although he was never a Baylor Bear, shares every other commonality with Aaron and me that I listed earlier in this post. Finn authored a nine-post series developing a framework in which the gospel is the core doctrine of Baptist identity. The best starting-point for the series is here.

Like Soul Freedom, the gospel as the core of Baptist identity depends heavily upon the individual experience of conversion. The concept of Soul Freedom approaches this experience explicitly from the human side of the equation, emphasizing human autonomy and choice. Finn's theory, in contrast, emphasizes the transformation of the individual by divine initiative and power. God's transforming action in the gospel, rightly understood and fully realized, adapts people to be members of Baptist churches. Baptist baptism best illustrates the gospel. Finn's series suggests that religious liberty can only claim biblical support by means of (presumably eisegetical) proof-texting, but affirms it nonetheless on other-than-biblical grounds. Religious liberty is not the highest good, but is instead a mere adaptation to sinfulness, destined to perish along with the rest of the curse at the final restoration. Religious liberty is good in a utilitarian sense—because we have discovered through the lessons of history that the best opportunity to spread the gospel occurs in contexts of religious liberty.

Soteriology, not anthropology, becomes the core doctrine of Baptist Christianity in this approach.

I predict that Finn's approach will increase in popularity. The major challenge that it faces is that many people who want to emphasize the gospel are also people who view Baptist distinctives as threats to the form of evangelical ecumenism that they desire (as Finn himself acknowledged in the series). Also, the clear implication of making the gospel the core doctrine of Baptist identity is that those who are not Baptists are defective, not merely in their ecclesiology, but in their soteriology, in at the very least some secondary way.

The Lordship of Christ as the Core of Baptist Identity

Malcolm Yarnell shares many of the same commonalities that link Barber, Weaver, and Finn. He has argued for the Lordship of Jesus Christ as the central doctrine of Baptist identity (for example, see his essay here). According to this theory of Baptist identity, the experience of regeneration in the gospel is coupled with a surrender to the lordship of Christ. Church polity is an exercise in following Christ's lordship. Local church autonomy is a refusal to put in lordship over the church any office other than those instituted by Christ. Religious liberty, in the style of Roger Williams, arises out of the question of the boundaries of authority given by Christ respectively to the state and to the churches. Because Christ is Lord over all and over everything, those to whom He has delegated authority (the state, the churches) must not overstep the boundaries of authority that He has set for them.

This is my own view, although I appreciate the strengths of the other approaches. I must confess that some elements of the preceding paragraph arise as much out of my own thinking as out of Dr. Yarnell's writing. The effect of this approach is to make Christology, and specifically the intersection of Christology and ecclesiology, the central doctrine of Baptist Christianity.

I believe that this approach has the strength of allowing for a strong biblical defense of religious liberty, rooted in Jesus' own statements about the extent and location of His kingdom, as well as in passages like the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. Because Jesus has made statements about His authority and the manner in which He has delegated it in matters of faith and politics, we can derive from those statements a doctrine of religious liberty.

I will leave it to others to identify the weaknesses of this approach.


In many cases, I believe that those who follow any of these three approaches might arrive at precisely the same conclusions on various questions with approximately the same fervor. Should the United States of America have an official established church? Should the proclamation of the gospel and conversion to Christianity be considered capital offenses in Afghanistan? Should churches be required to follow all federal anti-discrimination practices in hiring pastors? Dunn, Weaver, Finn, Yarnell, and Barber would all arrive at the same conclusions on all of those questions.

A few more difficult cases would probably put on display the nuanced differences among the three approaches.

This much is important to me: Conservative Southern Baptists must be no less vigilant in embracing and defending religious liberty than are our more liberal brethren. Aaron Weaver's excellent homage to James Dunn challenges us who support the Conservative Resurgence and who remain in the vital core of the post-1979 SBC: Who are our zealots for religious liberty? Names certainly come to mind, for Richard Land is committed to religious liberty and Paige Patterson refers to it as the First Freedom. Nevertheless, the historic Baptist commitment is vulnerable on both the left and the right flanks, and Southern Baptists must take care that the move away from the thought of E.Y. Mullins does not result in any erosion of our historic defense of the liberty of all people to practice their faith, even if they do so wrongly, or not at all.


CB Scott said...

I intend to read the book. I have always liked Aaron Weaver, although I disagree with him on many issues. Thank you, Bart, for your review.

Nonetheless, I must continue to contend that the doctrine of the Trinity is the core doctrine of Baptist identity and orthodox Christianity at-large.

If a man misses the doctrine of the Trinity as the foundational doctrine of Christianity, on what foundation does he build?

R. L. Vaughn said...

Thanks for the post and the mention of the book, and your good thoughts you achieved through your meditation on it. I know Aaron Weaver only through blog-dom and discussion forums, but have seen his passion there. I am acquainted with Dunn only through books.

The discussion and interaction on Baptist Identity is an important one. Weaver and Dunn's vision is ultimately a very different one from mine. In some sense religious liberty is a by-product of our Baptist identity and not the core of it.

I have thought along these lines, though not as deeply as some. I am at a disadvantage in not having yet read Malcolm Yarnell's article. But immediately it jumps out at me that he is on the right track in arguing for the Lordship of Jesus Christ as the central doctrine of Baptist identity. In all things we strive to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, whose will is mediated to us through His word (which is inspired, all-sufficent and our only rule of faith and practice). If Baptists lose their ecclesiological moorings, they lose their "Baptist-ness" (Baptist identity). I saw this first hand when I attended the BGCT as a visitor this year. Soul liberty as the core of "Baptist Identity" will destroy Baptists as we know them historically and theologically.

But "Conservative Southern Baptists must be no less vigilant in embracing and defending religious liberty than are our more liberal brethren." Amen! I see a tendency among conservative and fundamental Baptists to not fully embrace religious liberty as did forefathers such as Roger Williams, John Clarke, Isaac Backus, and John Leland. Often Baptists in their social/political agendas quote early American forebears who believed in state churches rather than men who "gave their backs to the smiters" to stand for religious liberty.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for this excellent post.

I remember James Dunn. I remember the arguments he made and the positions that he took during the CR. I opposed his vision for the SBC in some, but not all, respects. As a practical matter, I am very glad that the SBC defunded the agency Dunn oversaw and gave its program assignment to the CLC, now ERLC.

You have done a a fair job, I believe, of summarizing the position of Dunn and those who agree with him regarding Soul Competency and the primacy of that concept in their thinking.

That primacy exists today. So much so that the CBF has never, and will never adopt a doctrinal confession.

It seems to me that while I agree with Dunn on some church-state issues, really important ones, too, I do not believe that Soul Competency should be or has ever been the primary and only principal around which Christians, and Baptists, unite.

We untie around some very specific beliefs about Christ and several doctrinal issues. Soul Competency is one of those doctrinal issues, but it is not the only one. And Soul Competency does not legitimately allow people to believe whatever they want to believe about every other doctrine and yet still claim to be a faithful disciple of Christ.

Dunn and others like him apparently believe this, even though it is illogical and has no real basis in Christian theology or logic. It is simply asserted.

I look forward to reading the various reviews about Weaver's book. I, too, find him to be a good writer and I have had fun talking with him in the blog world.


Anonymous said...

G'day Bart,
Thank you for such a good article.

May I raise some minor issues;
Soul liberty is not axiomatically opposed to Calvinistic determinism.

Soul liberty; that government must not enforce religious beliefs but sectarian religious beliefs must be individually and personally accepted free from Government imposition of sectarian beliefs please note that I did not say that Government should not by law uphold a general Christian belief structure, rather the point of the division between church and state was not to kick religion out of the public square to be replaced by secularisation of our government institutions, but rather that the State was not to support by law any sectarian interests) and Soul Competency, that each individual is held personally responsible for their actions with regard to the gospel, whether to believe or not believe.

(John 3: 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” .. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. )

John Calvin writes, “This means that there is no other remedy by which any human being can escape death; or, in other words, that for all who reject the life given to them in Christ, there remains nothing but death, since life consists in nothing else than in faith. …. For though it is true that there never was any other remedy for escaping death than that men should betake themselves to Christ, yet as Christ here speaks of the preaching of the Gospel, which was to be spread throughout the whole world, he directs his discourse against those who deliberately and maliciously extinguish the light which God had kindled.

“All think it harsh that they who do not believe in Christ should be devoted to destruction. That no man may ascribe his condemnation to Christ, he shows that every man ought to impute the blame to himself. The reason is, that unbelief is a testimony of a bad conscience; and hence it is evident that it is their own wickedness which hinders unbelievers from approaching to Christ.”

While Calvin's Geneva may have looked like state support for a sectarian interest, it may be true that Calvin's interest was actually the gospel, and not imposition of a state religion to replace Catholicism.

Gill reminds us that believers are believers because “they are wrought in God; or "by God"; by his assistance, and gracious influence, without which men can do nothing; for it is God that works in them both to will and to do: or, "according to God", as others render it; according to the will of God, both for matter and manner”

This idea of human responsibility of course means that there is a sense in which every soul is therefore competent and responsible to believe the light that they have. And they will be held responsible when they do not respond to that light because of the depravity of the human nature wrought by sin. Unless God counters it, they will not respond. However, being responsible means there is a necessity to declare to all men the gospel. And to declare that all are responsible and held accountable for their response to the gospel is the nature of soul competency.

This is where monergism departs from historic Calvinism in minimising the accountability responsibility and soul competency of the unbeliever.

Anonymous said...

I would be partial to Nathan’s Finn’s viewpoint, however, I would rather place the emphasis not on the conversion process but on the historic reality of the cross itself as the core Believer’s principle. In the final analysis the greatest event ever was the incarnation of God into human flesh with the purpose of the Lord Jesus Christ dying as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. While conversion is distinctly pictured in believer’s baptism, believer’s baptism is still a retelling of the gospel of the Saviour’s atoning death and resurrection which initiates and effects our own death to sin and resurrection to new life. The historic reality of the cross and resurrection is the central theme of the gospel. It is the gospel!
1 Cor 15: 1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

This would lead us to a creedal perspective.

It is important what we believe. We are united or divided by what we believe. Baptists are people of “like faith and practise.” We associate together voluntarily on the basis of our creeds and beliefs , and most assuredly our beliefs about the gospel of Christ. Because we recognise the gospel as the core of our beliefs we therefore with soul liberty choose to associate with others who see the gospel as the core of their beliefs. The principal of voluntary associationalism around distinctive core beliefs is closely related to the idea of soul liberty.

Whilst the Lordship of Christ thesis builds into this central core, it does however leave itself open to almost a schizophrenic Law/Gospel antithesis.

I grew up in a situation where the liberals in my Australian Baptist denomination (i.e. Dr. Athol Gill), emphasised the Lordship of Christ in the individual’s personal relationship with Christ, and at the same time denied the atoning, propitiatory sacrifice of Christ and cast aspersions upon His physical resurrection. All that mattered to these folk was the spiritual relationship of the believer to the christ (however he perceived him, and with all the diversity that such ‘soul liberty’ brings). All that was necessary for unity and association was the statement “Jesus is Lord.” There was an antipathy to any creedal statement as to who this christ may be. In fact, in many ways, “Discipleship” replaced devotion to Christ in response to His atoning sacrifice. It became a gospel of works.

Anonymous said...


Biblical Discipleship is a response to the atoning sacrifice of Christ! We love Him because….
…. He first loved us!!

In fact any discipleship that is not a grateful response to the gospel of Christ, is indeed a doctrine of works.

By the nature of your conservative resurgence, the gospel itself has again become the central focus. Preachers like Vines, Rogers, Criswell and Patterson made the atonement and resurrection the hill on which to die! And liberals, whilst being put out for denying the innerrancy of scripture, were highlighted in their differences of belief abut the core central concepts of the gospel. The atonement and the resurrection were again emphasised as the core principles.

In this manner a more creedal belief structure has percolated throughout the SBC, driven rather by devotion to Christ than from a legalistic substitute.

I am not accusing Malcolm of being legalistic. I am certain that he agrees with much of what I have written here and is as aware of the
difficulties of the "Lordship controversy" of the 90's as anyone. I am certain he would agree that any sense of discipleship not motivated by the gospel is another shadow of legalism.

I think that emphasising the historical reality of the atoning propitiatory death and glorious resurrection of Christ is the motivating factor to effective discipleship.

See from His head His hands His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down,
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet
or thorns compose so rich a crown.
Were the whole realm of nature mine
that were an offering far too small,
Love so amazing so divine
Demands my soul, my life my all.
It is also effective in evangelism.
For this reason, I believe we should support Together for the Gospel initiatives, whilst respecting and maintaining our Baptist distinctives.
(Please forgive some of the leaps o faith in reasoning...)
Blessings Bart, and a happy New Year in 3 hours time.

Bart Barber said...


I think there is room for the core Baptist distinctive to be something different from the core doctrine of orthodox Christianity. In other words, we might identify a central doctrine that, being embraced fully, would necessarily make someone a Baptist.

I believe that a particular view of the unmediated Lordship of Jesus Christ is the sort of doctrine that would push someone toward a Baptist view in many doctrines.

Bart Barber said...

Thanks, Bro. Vaughn! I appreciate your readership and your thoughtful interaction with this post. I regret that my responsibilities as an Upward Basketball coach will, again this year, preclude me from being able to participate in the singing.

Lurk around an SBTC meeting in 2012 instead of a BGCT meeting, and perhaps our paths will cross.

Bart Barber said...

Thanks, Louis, and take care in your exercise regimen in the morning.

Bart Barber said...


By "Soul Freedom," Dunn and Weaver have (if I have understood them correctly) meant something deeper than merely religious liberty. I agree with you that Calvinism is not necessarily incompatible with religious liberty (although, apparently, John Calvin was). I also think that it would be an interesting study to examine how compatible Mullins's "Soul Competency" was with Calvinism. But I believe that Dunn's "Soul Freedom" is indeed incompatible with Calvinism.

By saying so, I am not saying that Calvinism is incompatible with Religious Liberty. Soul Freedom and Religious Liberty are not the same thing. The former is the cause of / argument for the latter.

Bart Barber said...

Also, Steve, I think that Dr. Finn's work in his series was exemplary. As you yourself have surmised, I believe that Dr. Yarnell's emphasis upon the Lordship of Christ is by no means to the exclusion of Christ's work on the cross.

It is simply that the crucifixion, by itself, offers very little logical foundation for religious liberty, congregational church polity, local church autonomy, etc. The Lordship of Christ, on the other hand, fits well as a source of all of those doctrines. That's why I think it is a better answer to this particular question.

Isn't it amazing! I'm writing you from the past. A note from 2011 is on its way to you, who is already in 2012. Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your thoughtful and kind response Bart. Blessings on your birthday!! Same day as my dear wife and grandson!!
Yes I understand your concept, that if the Lordship of Christ is maintained as inclusive of the atoning work of Christ and his resurrection and the call to personal faith then there is the ability to maintain freedom of conscience (sorry for using other similar terms). However, if the gospel is central and the call to faith in the gospel by deliberate decision is central it still effectively does the same thing. There can be no sense of personal faith without soul liberty, religious liberty, etc.
Conversion to Christ isn't the distinctive doctrine of Baptists (as every other denomination would claim the same) however, we see that conversion to Christ worked out more thoroughly in other areas than others do. Baptists are the more consistent reformers, who working from the gospel principal of conversion to Christ by faith see that worked out in the consequences of this conversion:

If we call people to conversion, then there needs to be soul liberty for all i.e. the religious liberty providing the conditions for all to make the same decision to faith,
Believers Baptism, as a demonstration of personal faith.
Lordship of Christ, as continuing the process of that personal decision into discipleship.
Priesthood of all Believers recognising that all who are disciples of Christ may be directed by this same Lord as He wishes them to be directed.
Autonomy of the local church, where groups of believers assembled together may be distinctly guided in their church meetings in patterns and ways dissimilar to other congregations.
Tithing or giving to support the local church's costs

It is the sense that we as Baptists are more thoroughgoing reformers that comes out of a Biblical understanding of conversion. Hence the gospel itself and the call to conversion to Christ should always be central.
I believe we are saying the same thing in essence, I am just concerned that the terminological emphasis upon Lordship of Christ may not adequately convey the freeness and grace of the gospel of the Christ who saves, and who calls to discipleship as a grateful response to the forgiveness and mercy we have already received giving us eternal life by free grace.

Alternatively my position of maximising the manwardness of the gospel (funny coming from a Calvinist eh?) itself we lose the sense of the divinity of Christ in our terminology.
I guess the choice in terms really highlights what we perceive to be our greater dangers; are Baptists in greater danger of losing the grace of God and becoming legalists, or are Baptists in greater danger of losing the divinity of Christ and becoming slack JW's!

I think we are always in more danger of becoming legalists, and that from very right motives; we are in danger of being legalists because we want to be right!!

I am not making assertions or ascribing motives to anyone whatsoever here.. I am merely speaking my thoughts out loud.
What do we need to protect most among Baptists?
I think from my brief preaching in the USA, that the danger is that Baptists assume they have saving faith, when all they have is conversion to the local church (in which they often grew up) and its beliefs, rather than denying themselves and their own righteousness and seeking the alien righteousness in Christ alone (Phil 3), and its consequential discipleship of the whole life to the Lordship of Christ.

Thankyou for your patience Bart,
I will put up a part of a paper on my website that looks at the nature of conversion as central to a Baptist perspective.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Wish you could be there, but I understand.

I was "lurking" at BGCT alright. I actually went to the TBHS meeting which was in conjunction with it. Maybe we might bump into one another on neutral (but pleasant) ground -- the BMAT. :-)

I agree that Dunn, et al. mean/meant something different than religious liberty with "soul freedom". Also agree that a fundamental doctrine such as the Trinity cannot be the core doctrine of Baptist identity. Else why would Baptists really be any different from Protestants who hold this core doctrine? I don't get that, CB.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the review (and acknowledging my own contribution, reflecting on Aaron's book). I think he did an outstanding job. Though obviously writing as a "friend" and supporter of Dunn, Aaron nonetheless maintained a reasonable amount of objectivity in cataloging Dunn's life and contribution to our Baptist heritage.

With that, I am...

Big Daddy Weave said...

As I told Dr. Finn following the posting of Moore's review, if only all these kind words from you conservative folks could lead to a job opportunity or two for a soon-to-be new PHD!! :-)

Christiane said...


Congratulations on the book.
Had you thought about becoming an academic . . . a professor ?
You have the necessary intellectual rigor for that, I'm sure. And the discipline. And . . . you're 'published' . . . something that colleges prize as an accomplishment in their faculties.

You might have to start out as an assistant instructor, but that too has its advantages.

Is your heart set on ministry right now?

Hope you find you 'niche' when the time comes, and
take the encouragement of others to heart and continue writing.

Staying 'in' the Southern Baptist fold is admirable . . .
you can speak for many people who share your views,
and provide a 'balance' that both connects to the Baptist past and provides for a diversity that can only strengthen the SBC by keeping it more visibly connected to the Body of Christ.
I'm thinking of another scholar who is now teaching . . . Emily Hunter McGowin. She likely will have to remain an academic, but she is always going to be the 'smartest person in the room' in most settings. She is keeping her Southern Baptist identity, and will make a 'difference' with her contributions, I'm sure.

Good wishes for your future.

Bart Barber said...


I think you'll not have much trouble securing employment. At least, I'd be surprised…