In new journal, Patterson recounts conservative renaissance

FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – A new edition of the Southwestern Journal of Theology tells the story of Southern Baptist theology in the twentieth century. Alongside other essays, the journal contains a three-part, eyewitness assessment of the “conservative renaissance” written by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president Paige Patterson.
“The Southern Baptist Convention at the end of the twentieth century was characterized by growth in mission and excitement over theology,” writes Managing Editor Malcolm Yarnell, associate professor of systematic theology at Southwestern. “This journal is an appropriate venue for rehearsing Southern Baptist theology in the late twentieth century, because Southwestern Seminary often took center stage in that doctrinal drama.”
In an introductory essay, Southwestern Seminary graduate and Union University president David S. Dockery describes the “coming of age” of Southern Baptist theology.
“It is not possible to understand the issues and challenges we face in Southern Baptist life in the second decade of the twenty-first century,” Dockery writes, “without understanding what took place in the SBC from the time of the adoption of the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message to the 2000 Orlando Convention where the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message was overwhelmingly affirmed.”
In two essays, Distinguished Professor Emeritus James Leo Garrett Jr. investigates the theological legacy of 20th-century Oklahoma pastor and denominational leader Herschel Harold Hobbs. In his major 2009 publication, Baptist Theology: A Four-Century Study, Garrett “treated Hobbs’s theology as that of one of the two most influential Southern Baptist pastor-theologians of the twentieth century.”
In the final three essays, Patterson, whose leadership in the Conservative Renaissance is beyond dispute, evaluates this struggle to uphold biblical inerrancy within the Southern Baptist Convention. His first essay provides a background to this battle by tracing the story of trends within the convention from the Civil War to 1979. The second essay recounts the “renaissance plan” and its outworking.
In the final essay, Patterson asks a question: Should conservatives rejoice at their victory in reviving the doctrine of biblical inerrancy in the SBC? He answers that conservative Baptists have much to be thankful for, but they must be vigilant. His concerns for 21st-century Baptists include ecumenical trends and the “failure adequately to seek the face of God” and to “distinguish between the holy and profane.” Many Baptists have also forgotten their heritage. Additionally, “quick access to knowledge” on the Internet discourages people from training for the ministry in Bible colleges and seminaries, and there exists a “general tendency” in many places toward “the overall dumbing down of pastoral preparation.”
Such issues, Patterson writes, “raise serious questions about what the churches will look like in twenty years.” Patterson has concerns for Southern Baptist churches, but he also has hope.
“Every generation has its own battles, and not infrequently, resurrects conflicts from the past,” Patterson writes in his conclusion. “The next few generations of Baptists, being a free people, will debate fiercely. But the reliability and authority of God’s Word that guided Baptist life for the first 100 years of the Southern Baptist Convention will likely now guide the next 100 years if Jesus delays His return. … We have given our children, grandchildren, and sons in the ministry a chance to live under and to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ by preserving the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. May the grace of God attend them and keep them faithful. We gladly pass the torch to the next generation!”
Alongside these essays, this edition of the Southwestern Journal of Theology contains nearly 50 pages of book reviews, covering recent publications in biblical studies, theology, church history, philosophy, ethics and pastoral ministry.
The Southwestern Journal of Theology is a publication of Southwestern Seminary. To order a copy of the spring 2012 edition of the journal, contact the editorial assistant at P.O. Box 22608, Fort Worth, Texas 76122, or by email at The editorial and one essay from this edition of the journal may be viewed on, a website of Southwestern’s Center for Theological Research.

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