For almost a decade, the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest
Protestant denomination in America, has been at war with itself. The
combatants are the Moderates (the ins) and the Fundamentalists, or In-
errantists (the outs). Fundamentalists charge Moderates with liberalism
that manifests itself in divergent views over biblical interpretation, the
role of women in the church, academic freedom, church-state rela-
tions, birth control, creedalism, and other issues.
Moderates deny the charge of liberalism, and in rebuttal they accuse
Fundamentalists of being the real deviants from tradition. By attempt-
ing to impose on all Baptists a creedal statement based on their narrow
interpretation of Scripture, Fundamentalists, Moderates claim, are de-
parting from the most distinctive of Baptist principles, namely, the doc-
trine of "soul liberty," the right of individuals and local churches to in-
terpret the Bible for themselves.
Each year since 1979, Fundamentalists have been gradually taking
control of the denomination by manipulating (legitimately, but none-
theless manipulating) the election of the convention presidents. By a
partisan use of their power of appointment, the Fundamentalist presi-
dents have succeeded in stacking the convention boards with members
sympathetic to their cause.
Why are the highly successful and respected Southern Baptists expe-
riencing this internecine warfare? Moderates tend to view the contro-
versy as primarily power politics. Fundamentalists explain it theologi-
cally. Barnhart sees the struggle as a contest between contending world
views. The Fundamentalists cannot accept the fact that Christianity is
declining in relation to the non-Christian religions of the world. They
see in liberalism a scapegoat for their failure. If only the liberals with
their modern views of the Bible and society could be rooted out, then
Fundamentalists could "win the world for Christ" with the old-time
Barnhart sees no happy solution to the controversy. Moderates are
not likely to accept complete Fundamentalist domination, and Funda-
mentalists are showing no signs of compromise.
Baptists and everyone else interested in this tragic phenomenon
should read this book and be grateful to Barnhart for his efforts.
Baylor University RUFUs B. SPAIN
Saint Edward's University: A Centennial History. By William Dunn, C.S.C.
Foreword by Romard Barthel, C.S.C. Afterword by Patricia A.
Hayes. (Austin: Nortex Press for Saint Edward's University, 1986.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101211/. Accessed September 17, 2014.