Southern Religion

Batholic ‘scandal’ over Toy [Addendum]

Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, lit out after Tony Cartledge in a recent blog, for having suggested that Crawford Howell Toy was a “hero.”

Mohler argues that Toy was a “heretic” because after being, driven from Southern, Toy moved on to teach at Harvard, where he left the Baptist church to worship with the Unitarians. Baptists regard Unitarian theology as heretical. Thus, Mohler says, Cartledge’s characterization was both “tragic and scandalous.”

What Cartledge actually wrote of Toy is:

Increasingly, I have also come to admire Crawford Toy, who was no less devoted to Christ, and who was willing to suffer rejection by Southern Baptists rather than surrender to the narrow-minded demand that he forgo scholarship and limit his teaching to popularly accepted notions.

There’s more than one way to be a hero.

Bruce Prescott, a thoughtful critic of Southern Baptist conservatives, concisely argues at Mainstream Baptist that Mohler is in no position to know the late Crawford Toy’s heart and calls Mohler to account for presuming to pass judgment (Matt 7:1) on Toy (and by implication, on Cartledge). Prescott continues:

For the record, I would not hesitate to call Toy a Baptist hero. Baptists began as defenders of “soul liberty” and “liberty of conscience.” Considering the way, in Toy’s experience, Baptists had abandoned that belief, it is not hard to comprehend what made Unitarianism appealing to him. Unitarians are unashamed and unflinching in their defense of “liberty of conscience.”

Liberty of conscience is indeed at the heart of this. Cartledge, an Associate Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School and former editor of the Biblical Recorder, has long been a thorn in the side of doctrinaire and increasingly doctrine-bound Southern Baptists like Mohler.

Years ago when Cartledge was given to expressing greater hope for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), he wrote well about the dangers of the SBC conservatives’ drift into Batholicism and Cathist thinking.

Now comes Mohler, using a variant of that often Roman Catholic term “scandal” and applying the heretic brand.


Cartledge in that same blog deals with a bid by Southwestern Theological Seminary head Paige Patterson to appropriate the Lottie Moon heritage.

In a comment, Biblical Recorder Editor Norman Jameson points to a similar effort by Patterson and his allies to appropriate credit for Southeastern Theological Seminary.

In an Oct. 15, 2008, blog touching on Southeastern President Danny Akin’s introduction of Patterson for a chapel message at Southeastern, Jameson wrote:

“If it were not for Paige Patterson I would not be standing here today,” Akin said, acknowledging the mentor relationship. “And none of you would be here because you would not have wanted to attend a Southeastern Seminary the way it was,” before the changes wrought by Lewis Drummond and Patterson.

I did not attend Southeastern Seminary so I was not insulted for myself at that comment, but I felt slapped on behalf of many godly Christian men and women who attended and taught at Southeastern “the way it was” before Patterson. The list in North Carolina alone is huge.

Akin followed his comment with a short litany of the doldrums Southeastern endured before Patterson began his tenure. Enrollment had dropped to 580 students, he said, and it now serves 2,500, including a new Southeastern College. That is impressive growth.

With its clear focus, engaging leadership and development muscle some say Southeastern Seminary is becoming the epicenter of theological education among Southern Baptist Seminaries. Akin said “all the good things happening at Southeastern today are traced right back to (Patterson).”

Maybe it’s just my lens coloring it for me, but the statement about the low point and its context implied that Southeastern pre-Patterson was in the doldrums for some reason other than the convulsions of a Southern Baptist Convention adjusting to change and because trustees were undermining the leadership of Randall Lolley, president from 1974-87.

Southeastern’s own website credits significant growth during the Lolley years.

In his comment, Jameson suggested that those “notes of triumphalism have such a harsh clang they do not attract anyone to a continuing cause.” An understatement.


January 14, 2010 - Posted by | SBC | , , , ,

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