A Fortnightly report of developments in religion

The Southern Baptists had come to San Francisco. Of this there can be no doubt. As this reporter registered at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, he heard someone asking for Professor Ralph Elliott, a name currently denoting theological controversy. Emerging later into the bright sunlight of Powell Street, the first site greeting the eye was that of two former presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention clanging down Nob Hill in a cable car. J. D. Grey shouted gaily to the conductor. A frown momentarily creased Ramsey Pollard’s face. He could have been wondering about a loose cable. Or his mind may have turned to a convention battle looming ahead, undesired but seemingly as irresistible as the chilling fog of San Francisco.

Prior to this gathering of the Southern Baptist Convention (June 5–8), there had even been talk of possible schism. Southern Baptists in general were becoming increasingly aware of what even outsiders in academic circles had known for several years—that many professors in Southern Baptist seminaries no longer teach the high doctrine of biblical inspiration commonly held by ministers and laymen of the denomination. The foremost immediate trigger of controversy was a book: The Message of Genesis by Dr. Elliott, professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City. The book, published in 1961 by Broadman Press—the general book identification of the convention’s Sunday School Board, reportedly denies the historicity of the first 11 chapters of Genesis and has been the subject of many controversial columns in state Baptist papers. The pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church, K. Owen White, had charged the book with liberalism ...

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