“And may the men be always ready, as the years come and go, to carry on, with widening reach and heightened power, the work we sought to do, and did begin!” John Broadus, Memoir of James P. Boyce
That work memorialized by Broadus began formally in 1859 in Greenville, South Carolina. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary opened that fall with a class of twenty-six students. Southern Baptists like Charleston pastor Basil Manly, Sr., had long sought a seminary of the South that would train ministers. When South Carolina Baptists met in Greenville in 1856 at their annual gathering, James P. Boyce, a professor of theology at Furman University, challenged attendees to finance a Seminary. Southern Baptists answered the call, pledging one hundred thousand dollars toward the venture. Boyce then called other Southern Baptists to pledge another hundred thousand dollars. The momentum begun, attendees of the 1857 Education Convention in Louisville formally approved the motion to begin The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. One year later, Convention members selected the Seminary faculty.
The first faculty possessed strong minds and devoted faith. James P. Boyce, a native of Charleston, South Carolina, finished seventh in his undergraduate class at Brown University and later earned the Master of Arts degree from Brown. John A. Broadus began teaching classics at the University of Virginia just a year after he earned his master’s degree from the same. Basil Manly, Jr., Boyce’s childhood friend, graduated as valedictorian of the University of Alabama and later earned an M.A. from Princeton Seminary. William Williams, the fourth founder, successfully completed studies at the University of Georgia and the Harvard School of Law.
Boyce gave Southern its institutional vision. In his inaugural address to the Furman community in 1856, Boyce called for “Three Changes in Theological Education.” First, the seminary ought to provide opportunity for theological study for men without college degrees; second, that the curriculum should also meet the needs of the most advanced students; and third, that the faculty should solemnly pledge their commitment to a Scriptural “abstract of principles” to guard truth and counter heresy. The 1858 Education Convention voted to make this vision a reality.
Boyce coupled his educational philosophy with practical wisdom. He and Broadus agreed with southern educator Thomas Curtis, who said that most seminaries wrongly prioritized “the three b’s of institutions of learning: bricks, books, and brains.” First seminary location, FBC GreenvilleMany institutions, said Curtis, “spend all their money for bricks, have nothing for books, and must take such brains as they can pick up.” (1) Boyce was determined not to repeat this mistake. Instead of buying property, he located the school in the old meetinghouse of the First Baptist Church of Greenville, which granted its use rent-free. The seminary commenced with two classrooms and a library of two thousand volumes.
Southern offered its students a course of study organized into eight areas: Biblical Introduction, Interpretation of the Old and New Testaments, Systematic Theology, Polemic Theology, Homiletics, Church History, and Church Government. In later years, the seminary added a class focused on study of the English Bible, the first of its kind in an American seminary. Passing classes of any kind was no easy feat at Southern. Examinations often centered in recitation of memorized material and frequently lasted for ten hours.
Just two years after Southern’s founding, the Civil War swept over the nation, taking with it the student body of Southern. The seminary drew only twenty students in 1861. Southern closed in the fall of 1862 for the remainder of the War. Its endowment was lost and its survival in doubt. But the faculty pledged themselves to the seminary. Broadus spoke for them all: “Suppose we quietly agree that the seminary may die, but we’ll die first.” (2)
In order to secure a new endowment, the seminary would have to relocate. Boyce and the trustees considered Chattanooga, Atlanta, Memphis, and Louisville. They chose Louisville because Louisville’s civic leaders promised strong support and Kentucky Baptists offered to pay the lion’s share of the endowment. When the seminary moved to Kentucky in 1877, a remarkable 89 students registered for classes, proving the wisdom of the move.
(1) Mueller, A History of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 15.
(2) Broadus, Memoir of James P. Boyce, 239.
Southern encountered its first major controversy in 1879, when professor Crawford Howell Toy came under fire for his views. Toy was brilliant. He completed the seminary course in one year and pursued advanced studies in Berlin for additional years. He became Southern’s fifth professor in 1869. Toy initially professed firm belief in biblical truth, declaring in his inaugural address that without the Bible, man is “on a boundless ocean, wrapped in darkness.” (1) But Toy embraced Darwinian evolution and naturalistic “higher criticism” of the Old Testament. He became convinced that Scripture contained error, science trumped Scripture’s plain meaning, and conscience was the test of truth. The orthodoxy Toy claimed stood in stark contrast to the false interpretations he believed.
In the late 1870s, Toy’s fellow professors labored to persuade him of his errors. By 1879, his position was no longer tenable and he resigned. Standing with Toy just before his departure, his friend Boyce exclaimed that he would give his right arm for Toy to return to orthodoxy. Toy never returned. Afterward, he joined the faculty of Harvard University, where he founded the Semitic Languages department and attended a Unitarian church. The rise of his academic star contrasted with the fall of his theology. The man once engaged to missionary Lottie Moon authored criticism of the Bible so radical that it offended many Unitarians.
The seminary community faced other challenges. The faculty carried out constant fundraising efforts in the 1880s and traveled extensively to solicit donations. Notable successes included fifty thousand dollars from U.S. Senator Joseph E. Brown of Georgia and twenty five thousand dollars from prominent Baptist oilman J. D. Rockefeller. On the strength of these gifts, the seminary constructed its first major building, New York Hall, in 1888 in downtown Louisville. The building housed 200 people and had room for classes, dining, and personal study.
The sustenance of Southern involved continual sacrifice for the founding four. Boyce above all exhausted himself for the seminary. Having served as chairman of the faculty from Southern’s founding, the trustees elected him president in 1888. In his role, he would “for weeks in succession, begin work at five a.m., and continue, with variety, but no intermission, till eleven p.m.” (2) This schedule not only sparked the seminary to life, it spent Boyce’s own. In 1889, on vacation in Europe to restore his health, Boyce passed away.
His close friend Broadus memorialized Boyce in his Memoir of James P. Boyce: “O brother beloved, true yoke-fellow through years of toil, best and dearest friend, sweet shall be thy memory till we meet again! And may the men be always ready, as the years come and go, to carry on, with widening reach and heightened power, the work we sought to do, and did begin!” These express well the love and commitment the first faculty shared. By their perseverance, Southern came to life. This is the legacy of the founding four.
(1) Mueller, A History of Southern, 137.
(2) Broadus, Memoir of James P. Boyce, 367.
In 1889, shortly after Boyce’s death, Dr. Broadus accepted the call to the presidency. The seminary set a steady pace under Broadus as attendance rose and Southern inaugurated a postgraduate studies program. In the early 1890s, the school began offering both a Master of Divinity and a Doctor of Philosophy, in place of the “Full Graduate” degree of the past.
Under Broadus, the seminary drew a talented group of professors that constituted the second generation of Southern faculty. The group included A. T. Robertson, professor of New Testament and Greek; E. C Dargan, professor of Homiletics and Latin Theology; W. J. McGlothlin, assistant professor of Old Testament Interpretation; H. H. Harris, professor of Biblical Introduction and Polemic Theology, and W. O. Carver, professor of comparative religion and missions. John Sampey, professor of Old Testament Interpretation, had joined the faculty just before the passing of Boyce, as had F. H. Kerfoot, professor in systematic theology. These scholars shaped the denomination as they taught and worked alongside several generations of SBC leaders on various boards and agencies.
These professors began their careers in a season of change for the Christian church. Many evangelicals embraced liberal theology that recast Christian doctrines. This body of thought emphasized man’s autonomy, reason’s potency, and truth’s subjectivity. In the years that followed, numerous professors adopted aspects of its system.
In 1890, the seminary named James L. Sampey, father of professor John R. Sampey, the seminary’s first salaried librarian. Sampey administered a collection of fifteen thousand volumes, a large portion of which came from the estate of James P. Boyce, who gave five thousand books and pamphlets to the Seminary upon his death. Fellow founder Basil Manly, Jr. also gave a personal library of thirty-five hundred books to the seminary. Dr. Sampey tended the collection in the seminary’s first library, Memorial Library, following its construction in 1891.
The steadiness of the first half of the 1890s gave way to sadness when the final member of the founding faculty, John A. Broadus, breathed his last. Professor Sampey remembered the event in his Memoirs: “When we turned away and left the cemetery, many of us were wondering how we could carry on without Dr. Broadus. To whom could we go now for counsel about our problems? Who now could speak the word that would rally Southern Baptists to their task? Our hearts were sad and discouraged.” (1) It was the end of an era.
(1) John Sampey, Memoirs, 71.
Southern’s third president, William Whitsitt, was the first graduate of the school to become president. A church history professor, Whitsitt had joined the Southern faculty in 1872 when Basil Manly, Jr. left his teaching post to assume the presidency at Georgetown College. After his election to the presidency in 1895, Whitsitt oversaw the construction of Levering Gymnasium, presided over an increasing enrollment, and expanded the missions curriculum. His feud with Landmark Baptists, however, defined his term.
In 1893 Whitsitt anonymously published an article in Johnson’s Universal Encyclopedia in which he argued that Roger Williams, founder of the first church in America, was baptized by sprinkling. Whitsitt also claimed that immersion as a practice among Baptists originated among English Baptists in 1641. When his authorship became known, the Landmark Baptists roared in response. Landmarkers believed that a succession of immersionist Baptists was necessary for the existence of true churches, and that this succession in fact existed from apostolic times until their day. Whitsitt’s claim that the practice of immersion debuted sixteen centuries after the apostles would mean that true churches no longer existed.
In public literature, Landmarkist leaders T. T. Eaton, pastor of Louisville’s influential Walnut Street Baptist Church, and B. H. Carroll, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Waco, denounced Whitsitt’s view. Taken aback, Southern’s faculty rallied to their president’s aid and publicly declared their support in September 1896. The trustees next spoke up for Whitsitt, expressing a desire “to foster, rather than repress the spirit of earnest and reverent investigation.” (1) The storm surrounding Whitsitts’ article briefly subsided.
A year later, however, the powerful Carroll revived the controversy in an article entitled Back to the Realm of Discussion published in the Western Recorder. The author proposed that the convention sever Southern from the SBC for serving as a nursery for heretical ideas. Four SBC state conventions aligned with Carroll and called for Whitsitt’s resignation.
Though Whitsitt himself wished to stay at the seminary, many forecast that his presence at Southern would cause great damage to the institution. In May 1899, the trustees accepted Whitsitt’s resignation. Though the embattled president moved on, bitterness from the fight lingered. The controversy left a lasting impression on the seminary.
(1) Mueller, A History of Southern, 165.
Following Whitsitt’s departure, the seminary trustees sought a leader possessing a statesman’s tact and a moderator’s balance to guide the seminary past the smolder of the Landmark controversy. In June of 1899, the trustees called pastor E. Y. Mullins of the Newton Centre Baptist Church of Massachusetts as Southern’s fourth president.
A distinguished graduate of Southern, Mullins oversaw shifts in the school’s academic policy as the seminary scheduled exams to last for two hours rather than for five. Despite the changes, roughly fifteen percent of all students failed. At Mullins’s instigation, in 1904 the faculty founded a journal,the Review and Expositor. According to Mullins’s biographer William Ellis, the “Seminary organ,” headed by W. O. Carver, spoke in a tone “generally friendly to liberalism” by giving positive reviews to such liberal thinkers as Walter Rauschenbausch, Washington Gladden, and Edmund A. Ross. (1)Mullins, Gambrell, and Whitinghill in Rome
Several other key events occurred in the 1900s. A. T. Robertson published an editorial in the Baptist Argus, a local paper friendly to the seminary, in which he called for a worldwide conference of Baptists. Though others had tentatively discussed the matter, Robertson’s article served to jumpstart the effort. In July 1905, the first conference met in London under the banner of the “Baptist World Alliance.” In this same period, Mullins set out to raise a more adequate endowment for Southern through the Twentieth Century Endowment Campaign, hiring fundraising agents to solicit donations. By the time Mullins’s presidency ended, the endowment had reached a hefty 1.8 million dollars.
Southern began admitting women to seminary classes in the 1900s, though they could not register as official students. The school made provision for women’s education through the Woman’s Missionary Union Training School, which later became the seminary’s Carver School of Church Social Work. Seminary enrollment climbed to 300 in 1909, representing the seminary’s full recovery from the Whitsitt affair. WMU Training SchoolThe faculty produced a good deal of literature in this period, including Mullins’s own Why is Christianity True? and the Axioms of Religion. In 1914, the community celebrated when Robertson published his Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, a project that took twenty-six years to write and a lifetime to fund. The book established Robertson as one of the world’s finest New Testament scholars.
During the First World War, Camp Zachary Taylor trained soldiers in Louisville. Members of the seminary community went there to minister to young soldiers. Old Testament Professor Sampey wrote letters for soldiers unable to pen their own thoughts and received a letter twenty-seven years later from a Kentucky veteran. In a testimony to the character of Southern men, the soldier thanked Sampey for writing to his family during his infirmity. The same spirit of vitality that spurred Sampey to minister characterized the seminary at its fifty year mark.
(1) William Ellis, A Man of Books and a Man of the People, 87.
In the years following World War I, an ambitious vision hastened the seminary’s advance. When the Southern Baptists launched their great fundraising effort, the “75 Million Campaign,” in 1919, Mullins announced his own campaign to raise an additional two million dollars for the seminary. While the 75 Million Campaign ultimately failed to reach its goals, Southern obtained sufficient funds from it and from its own campaign to begin several building projects, each accomplished through Mullins’s enterprising spirit.
Mullins intended above all else to relocate Southern’s campus to a thirty-four-acre estate on Lexington Road, six miles away from the Seminary’s downtown location. “The Beeches,” as it was called, did not come cheaply, however. By the time the Seminary moved from its downtown spot, the cost of the building plan had ballooned to nearly three and a half million dollars. Though some questioned the wisdom of Mullins’ push in light of the financial risk it represented, the growth of the student body, at a high of 442 in 1923-1924, necessitated action.
The seminary began a new course of study in this era, calling on Gaines Dobbins to begin teaching on church efficiency, a forerunner to the church growth movement, and Sunday school pedagogy. Southern also kept pace with the growing interest in sociology, enlisting W. O. Carver and C. S. Gardner to develop the subject’s curriculum.
In the 1920s, as evolution spread to the public schools and liberalism spread in the denominations, Southern Baptists responded by forming a seven-person committee to draft a confessional statement for the Convention, called the Statement of Baptist Faith and Message. Mullins, President of the SBC from 1922 to 1924, chaired the committee. Under his leadership, the group produced a statement that expressed Southern Baptists’ commitment to traditional Baptist orthodoxy, including God’s special creation of humanity and scriptural miracles. Mullins sought to integrate objective Bible truth with subjective Christian experience. Some Baptist leaders took Mullins’s emphasis on experience to establish a shift toward conscience as the arbiter of truth. Years later, the shift would balloon to alarming proportions.
In late November 1928, the convention leader and seminary president suffered a stroke. After several days in bed, Mullins passed away on Friday, November 23rd, leaving his city and school in mourning.
The Great Depression involved Southern in profound financial strain. In the 1930s, the spirit of America sunk into silence in the face of the Great Depression. Southern Seminary felt its full effects. Old Testament professor Dr. John Sampey, elected president in 1929, led the seminary through this difficult period.
The depression meant fewer students and lower revenues for the seminary. In addition, when Mullins purchased the new campus, Southern had assumed several million dollars worth of debt. In years to come, the Seminary community gave thanks for the initiative of Mullins and the campus his ambition secured. The burden was heavy during this era, however. With pluck and a steady hand, Sampey led the seminary as it maintained its operations and met its debt obligations in this hardest of hard times.
Sampey’s leadership style differed drastically from Mullins’s. Where Mullins’s predecessors had worked closely with other faculty members to run the school, Mullins preferred the role of chief executive. Sampey, on the other hand, soon concluded that this approach did not suit his setting. He enlisted several faculty members in the tasks of administration, calling on Gaines S. Dobbins, professor of Church Efficiency and Sunday School Pedagogy, to serve as treasurer of the Seminary. Dobbins engineered the refinancing of the seminary’s debt through Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Company of New York, an act that alleviated the Seminary’s financial strain.
During this period, the community mourned the loss of Dr. A. T. Robertson, who passed away in 1934 after suddenly growing ill. W. H. Davis took over Robertson’s chair and led the New Testament faculty. The renowned department had drawn a talented student pool that included doctoral students and future pastors Herschel Hobbs and W. A. Criswell.
The number of students attending the institution dropped from 435 in 1929 to a low point of 343 in 1933. As the depression subsided, enrollment rose as Southern drew 520 students in 1941. During this academic year, President Sampey resigned his presidential duties. He gave up his professorial work a year later later. He had carved out a legacy of service at the school, having taught Old Testament for fifty years. Sampey and his associates had rescued the Seminary from bankruptcy. By grace and perseverance, the struggle for survival was won.
After Sampey’s resignation, Ellis A. Fuller, returned to his alma mater to serve as its sixth president. He soon inaugurated a series of building projects that changed the Seminary’s campus, adding a student center, cafeteria, post office, seminar rooms, bookstore, radio studio, and classrooms during his term. Of all his projects, however, the community valued none more than the Alumni chapel, described as “a Georgian colonial structure with imposing spire,” by historian William Mueller. This initiative provided the campus with a worship place of stately simplicity. (1)
Southern’s faculty grew rapidly in this era, from eleven full-time faculty members in 1942 to fifteen in the School of Theology alone during Fuller’s tenure. Two notable additions were Dale Moody, renowned professor of New Testament Interpretation, and Wayne Oates, professor of pastoral theology. This third generation of faculty shared academic talent and a progressive bent in their theology. Along with these changes to the seminary’s corps of faculty, the seminary expanded its academic program when it opened the School of Music in 1943.
In 1948, the seminary transgressed the social codes of the South when it granted African-American student Garland K. Offut a degree at the fall convocation. Awarded the doctor of theology degree, Offut won a standing ovation from the seminary community. Prior to this occasion, Southern had not allowed students of color to enter a formal academic program, a practice in accordance with Kentucky state law. Seminary faculty members J.B. Weatherspoon and E.A. McDowell led Southern to reconsider its racial policy and break state law in granting Offut his degree.
Doctoral student Clarence Jordan also advocated integration and societal equity in an age of racial division. Jordan later cofounded a settlement in Georgia named Koinonia Farm that incorporated these ideals into its unique vision of community. His devotion to social justice inspired Habitat for Humanity founder Millard Fuller to begin his global housing project.
The presidency of Dr. Fuller met a tragic end in 1950 when the President suffered a heart attack while preaching in California. One year later, trustees named another Southern alumnus, Duke K. McCall, as Southern’s next president.
(1) William Mueller, A History of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 218.
Duke McCall began his long tenure as president in 1951. He was deeply committed to the Southern Baptist Convention and sought to check the modernizing impulses of the more aggressive faculty members. By the time of McCall’s presidency, most of the faculty agreed broadly with a modernist or neo-orthodox approach to scripture. McCall supported a cautious adoption of the historical-critical approach to the Bible. Though restrained, the modernism of Southern’s faculty had significant influence throughout the SBC.
In 1952, Southern opened the School of Religious Education, designed to prepare ministers for education, and secretarial work. A year later, McCall organized the academic program into three schools: Religious Education, Theology, and Music. McCall also oversaw the formation of a school for wives in the late 1950s and directed attention to the construction of a campus library. In 1957, Southern alumni promised to raise five hundred thousand dollars for the construction of the James P. Boyce Memorial Library. Completed in 1959, the new library came at a cost of 1.75 million dollars and provided the campus with a modern home for its rich repository of theological resources. Librarian Leo Crismon presided over the facility and shelved the first book in the building, a copy of the Geneva Bible donated by President Boyce.
The advent of new disciplines such as pastoral care and clinical training for chaplain candidates contributed to a rift in the school of Theology. Part of the faculty wanted the Department of Psychology of Religion to expand, while others resisted this trend, urging for the centrality of the classical theological track and pressing for more aggressive adoption of liberal scholarship.
This conflict reached its peak in 1958, when a bloc of thirteen professors opposed President McCall and his vision for the school. The seminary trustees remained supportive of McCall and in April 1958 registered their confidence in him by a 42 to 7 vote. The thirteen were unwilling to submit to McCall’s leadership and were dismissed shortly thereafter. One, J. J. Owens, gained reinstatement.
Southern further expanded its programs and its campus in the 1960s and early 1970s. In 1966, due to a generous donation to Southern from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, the seminary created a chair in evangelism named after the preacher. In 1970, the seminary instituted the Doctor of Ministry program and opened the Cooke Building of Church Music. During this period, students numbered 1,575, the highest figure recorded at Southern to that point.
The seminary community faced a collective challenge on April 3, 1974, when a tornado struck the campus and nearby neighborhoods. The campus had no heat or light for ten days and the seminary had to suspend classes for eighteen days. Estimated damage to Southern was around one million dollars.
The seminary changed its doctoral program in 1974, replacing the Doctor of Theology degree with the Doctor of Philosophy degree. Boyce Bible College also opened in this year and offered adults who had not completed a collegiate degree the opportunity to prepare for ministry. In 1975, Roy Honeycutt, formerly dean of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, became the dean of the School of Theology. Honeycutt presided over a talented faculty that counted scholars Findley Edge, Glenn Hinson and Frank Stagg among its key members.
In 1981, McCall retired. He had long mediated the uneasy discourse between Southern Baptists’ commitment to traditional orthodoxy and the faculty’s commitment to modern theology. For almost thirty years, He led Southern in a moderate direction that he thought honored both parties. McCall’s guidance drew praise from some, ire from others, and fed the building denominational tension between moderates and conservatives. This tension soon exploded in a decade of turmoil and change in the SBC.
*Newspaper article (c) Courier-Journal
Following the retirement of President McCall in 1981, Roy Honeycutt, Southern’s eighth president, took office in 1982. Two years later, Southern celebrated its 125th anniversary and opened the Carver School of Church Social Work. Anne Davis directed the school and became the first female departmental dean of the Seminary. Enrollment reached an all-time peak in 1986. In 1990, Southern saw its twenty thousandth graduate receive his diploma. Southern’s endowment reached roughly 56 million dollars in 1992, a remarkable advance from the six hundred thousand dollars President Mullins set out to raise at the turn of the century. This income allowed Southern to open a new 104,000 square foot campus center, replete with classrooms, cafeteria, bookstore, and gymnasium.
Statistics aside, the mission and message of Southern had changed. Although professors like Timothy George Timothy Georgeand David Dockery defended the inerrancy of the Bible and other conservative doctrines, most professors repudiated biblical inerrancy. Many rejected such doctrines as the sanctity of unborn life, the sinfulness of homosexuality, and the call of qualified men only to the pastorate. The faculties of the other SBC seminaries held similar views.
The movement that reversed this trend and restored biblical faith and practice at Southern began in a battle for control of the SBC in the 1980s. Conservative leaders Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler organized Southern Baptists of all backgrounds to reclaim control from denominational progressives. While moderates, who had controlled the SBC for decades, called for accommodation within the SBC, the vast majority of Southern Baptists had grown weary of paying the salaries of professors who undermined student’s confidence in the Bible and taught them error. Conservatives insisted that belief in the inerrancy of the Bible was prerequisite to denominational service. Most Southern Baptists agreed and elected inerrantists to the presidency of the SBC, who in turn appointed inerrantists to the Committee on Committees, who in turn nominated inerrantists for the Committee on Nominations. The Committee on Nominations then proposed inerrantists to serve as trustees. These moves, based in the ballots cast by thousands of laypeople, turned the direction of the convention. After Rogers was elected president of the convention in 1979, conservatives won the SBC Presidency in every successive year.
The resurgence returned the convention to its roots. Soon, it would reach Southern’s campus and bring with it restoration of sound doctrine and resuscitation of a mission to the church and the world beyond.
The effects of the resurgence first appeared on the Board of Trustees. By 1990, conservatives were the majority of the board. President Honeycutt had long fought this shift, and in 1985 declared a “holy war” against conservatives in his Convocation address. Honeycutt alleged that conservatives were departing from the heritage of Baptist freedom and compromising the denomination’s reputation. Though he spoke against the SBC’s shift, he could not stem it. Neither could moderate Southern professors, who departed in droves from the seminary during this period. Upon Honeycutt’s retirement in 1992, the seminary was poised for further transformation.
In this crucial moment, Southern needed a leader of conviction and courage. The trustees determined that two-time alumnus Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., editor of Georgia’s Christian Index, possessed the conviction, courage, and vision necessary to lead Southern. Elected in 1993 to serve as the seminary’s ninth president, Mohler had a profound trust in the Bible, a bold vision for the seminary, and a deep devotion to the SBC.
Mohler’s election signaled the reemergence of commitment to Scriptural inerrancy at Southern. Mohler gave first priority to the Word of God. Under his leadership, all faculty would be required to believe that the Bible is without error and that the Abstract of Principles, the seminary’s confession, and the Baptist Faith and Message, the SBC’s confession, faithfully expressed the teaching of the Bible. Second, Mohler sought to draw faculty to Southern who excelled both as scholars and as servants of Christ. Mohler added such distinguished professors as Dr. Tom Nettles, Dr. Bruce Ware, Dr. Tom Schreiner, and Dr. Robert Stein to the faculty. Third, Mohler oversaw the formation of the Billy Graham School of Evangelism, Missions, and Church Growth and the reorganization of the School of Church Music into the School of Church Music and Worship. Dr. Thom Rainer served as the Graham School’s first dean. Fourth, Mohler spearheaded the transformation of the physical plant, the renovation of Norton Hall, Alumni Chapel, the construction of a new cafeteria and banquet hall, and the transformation of Rice and Judson Halls into a conference center.
In another significant move, Mohler restructured Boyce College, which had since 1974 functioned as an adult education center. Under Mohler’s direction, Boyce became a four-year accredited Bible college that now draws growing numbers of students training in their collegiate education that is founded on the Bible and oriented toward Christian service.
Southern has recommitted itself to the vision of her origins. The men who first charted her course prayed often for “heightened and broadened” kingdom work at the seminary. For this cause they gave their time, their energy, their lives. By the grace of God, their vision and sacrificial service bear fruit anew. Today, we speak through time to our founders that Southern marches on.