W. A. Criswell, one of the most influential Southern Baptists of the 20th century, died January 10. He was 92.
Criswell was twice elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant body in America. He was pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas for more than 50 years before becoming pastor emeritus in 1995.
Criswell is widely considered the father of modern conservatism in the SBC. He preached biblical inerrancy and wrote Why I Preach the Bible Is Literally True (1969) when many Southern Baptist institutions were theologically moderate or liberal. He founded Criswell College and encouraged an emphasis on biblical preaching and exposition.
"For him to call attention to [inerrancy] as a watershed issue really began to galvanize some of the concerns that had begun to surface in the convention among conservatives," says C. Richard Wells, Criswell College president. "That proved to be a catalyst for a slowly developing movement that finally resulted in what is called the conservative resurgence."
During his tenure, First Baptist became the largest church in the SBC with about 28,000 members. Criswell also founded a private school, a homeless shelter, and Christian radio station KCBI.
Known as a passionate expository preacher, Criswell wrote 54 books based on his sermons. The Dallas Morning News says Billy Graham once called him "the best preacher I ever heard anywhere."
Also appearing on our site today:
CT Classic: Preaching Through the Bible | How W.A. Criswell grew his church through 18 years of exploring the scriptures cover-to-cover.
The Criswell Foundation Web site has extensive information on the life and work of Dr. W.A. Criswell including a short bio and video documentaries. The site ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more