Theological education has once again come under scrutiny as a result of the 12-year-old internal conflict within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The latest move in the Baptist theological war was initiated by trustees of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the denomination’s oldest seminary, located in Louisville, Kentucky. Late in September, trustees voted 36–14 to require new criteria for hiring, promoting, or granting tenure to faculty.

Previously, faculty members were required to sign the Abstract of Principles, the seminary’s confessional statement since the school’s founding in 1859. The trustees’ action means the faculty will now have to subscribe to affirmations established in a 1987 report developed by a special “Peace Committee” that had been formed to bring unity to the troubled denomination.

That report addressed the extent to which Scripture ought to be interpreted literally. It outlined four examples of what “most Southern Baptists” believe about Scripture, and urged seminaries to build their faculties with like-minded people. The four examples are: (1) that Adam and Eve were real, historical people; (2) that biblical attributions for authorship of individual books are accurate; (3) that miracles described in Scripture did occur as “supernatural events in history”; and (4) that “historical narratives given by biblical authors are indeed accurate and reliable as given by those authors.”

Those who have led the conservative takeover of the SBC maintain that without such specific affirmations, the fundamental authority of Scripture is ultimately in question. Most moderate Southern Baptists would distinguish between the truth of ...

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