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The Ralph Elliott controversy: competing philosophies of southern Baptist seminary education.

Sydney Ahlstrom, commenting on the radical turn in religion and morals in American society in the 1960s, characterized the decade as "turbulent." He suggested that the period brought excitement to some and bewilderment and pain to others. (1) Ahlstrom's description holds true as well for a subculture known as Southern Baptists. Mirroring the nation at large, Southern Baptists experienced significant upheaval in the denomination during the 1960s, which was both exciting and painful. Southern Baptists began the decade embroiled in one doctrinal controversy concerning the biblical book of Genesis and ended the period engaged in another conflict concerning Genesis.

The focus of this paper will be upon the first of the Genesis controversies, which has also been frequently referred to as the Ralph Elliott Controversy--the professor whose conclusions and teaching methodologies were called into question by some Southern Baptists. After a brief sketch of the conflict, which erupted in the. early 1960s at the newly founded Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, located in Kansas City, Missouri, the paper will discuss how the Elliott Controversy represented the issue of educational philosophy at the seminary level. Certainly, the controversy confirmed that the nature and role of Southern Baptist seminary education as embraced by scholars in the denomination was at loggerheads with that of the parochial constituency, a constituency which, as Samuel Hill noted, was program-oriented not theologically cultivated. (2)

A Brief Account of the Elliott Controversy

Midwestern Seminary opened its doors in September 1958. In that same year, Millard Berquist, president of the seminary, invited Ralph Elliott, an instructor of Hebrew at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, to become head of the Old Testament department as well as the first faculty member of the school. (3) In July 1961, Broadman Press released 4,000 copies of Elliott's first book which was entitled The Message of Genesis. Elliott's book was attacked immediately as a product of liberal scholarship by some Baptist pastors, editors of Baptist state papers, and state denominational workers. For over a year, rank-and-file Baptists were bombarded with written materials from a variety of sources denouncing Elliott's book.

Although it was not the only issue, essentially Elliott's critics questioned his parabolic and symbolic approach to the book of Genesis that cast doubt on the historicity of Genesis 1-11.

As criticism of Elliott increased across the convention, the Midwestern trustees in December 1961 passed a resolution affirming confidence in Elliott as a "consecrated Christian, a promising scholar and teacher, a loyal servant of Southern Baptists, and a dedicated and warmly evangelistic preacher of the gospel." (4) In January 1962, the Sunday School Board met and issued a statement that defended the publication of Elliott's book. The statement urged Broadman Press to continue publishing books that would present more than one point of view. (5) The support given to Elliott, however, could not silence the critics. In March 1962, a group of Elliott's foes met in Oklahoma City to discuss the problems connected with Midwestern and to seek the election of conservative trustees at Midwestern. (6) The group was successful. C. R. Daley noted after the 1962 convention that most of the new trustees were against Elliott. (7)

When Southern Baptists met for their annual convention in San Francisco in June, 1962, the Elliott issue was on everyone's mind. According to James Sullivan, president of the Sunday School Board, the Pastor's Conference that preceded the convention meeting was highly emotional; not one single speaker or leader in prayer failed to call the name of Elliott in some way, making objective dealing with the matter practically impossible. (8) During the convention meeting, Baptists reaffirmed their faith in the Bible as the authoritative, authentic, infallible Word of God and encouraged trustees and administrators in Southern Baptist educational institutions to remedy at once those situations in which theological views were being disseminated that threatened the historical accuracy and doctrinal integrity of the Bible. (9) The convention also passed a recommendation that a special committee be appointed to present a confessional statement to the 1963 convention. (10) The convention stopped short of passing a resolution to ban directly Elliott's book, but the Sunday School Board never republished the book. (11)

Following the San Francisco convention, the Midwestern trustees met in October 1962, evidently because some trustees interpreted the action of the San Francisco convention as an injunction to dismiss Elliott. Elliott reached agreement with the trustees concerning theology and teaching methodology, but he would not agree to the committee's recommendation not to republish the book. Elliott was dismissed, not because of heresy, but because he refused Berquist's administrative request to withhold the book voluntarily from republication. (12) After the dismissal, the Midwestern trustees issued a statement in which they affirmed the historical-critical method of studying the Scripture as a valid way of approaching the Bible. (13)

Elliott left, but the problem remained. (14) In April 1963, the Executive Board of the Missouri Baptist Convention passed a resolution which stated that many churches in Missouri were still concerned with the liberalism at Midwestern. The resolution stated further that since the trustees at Midwestern had not carried out completely the directive of the San Francisco convention concerning its boards and agencies, the Executive Board of the Missouri Baptist Convention urged the 1963 convention to instruct the Midwestern trustees to proceed with whatever steps were necessary to complete the removal of liberalism that was still apparent among some of the Midwestern faculty. (15) A disheartened Berquist responded to the resolution by asking certain accusers to stop harassing and intimidating Midwestern, but it did not cease. (16)

Elliott and His Critics

A number of issues emerged in the Elliott Controversy, but certainly one of the most critical issues for debate was the nature of theological education at the seminary level. An analysis of the controversy reveals that scholars at Midwestern and most scholars at the other Southern Baptist seminaries advocated a progressive approach to theological education that may be termed neoconservative (7) while many pastors and laypersons in the denomination embraced a "folk" view of theological education that one scholar has termed "grassrootsology." (18)

In 1959, Ralph Elliott delivered the first academic address at Midwestern's new campus. He declared that in past days much historical-critical study had been conducted outside of church life and as a result scholarship had stopped short, at times deliberately, of asking the meaning of what had been discovered. (19) Elliott expressed hope that Midwestern would blaze a new trail in Southern Baptist scholarship and utilize the best fruits of modern biblical scholarship to search for the ultimate meaning of texts and not just their making. (20) He stated that the seminary must be the intellectual center of the church's life and lead the denomination by "fearlessly laboring in the vineyard of theological scholarship" while at the same time understanding that such activity must take place "within the denomination, within the church, and undergirded by biblical authority." (21)

Elliott affirmed that the inquiries of theological students may take them beyond the bounds of traditional dogma but not beyond the boundary of belief that Jesus Christ is the answer to questions of human sin, error and need. He rejected the idea that the seminary was a "preacher factory" where the student was filled with "a certain substance which comes from the professor's notes" and consequently became stamped with a particular image. (22) Elliott held that this one-way process of learning was essentially indoctrination. He called for the seminary to be a community of scholars, "a thinking man's filter," where professors and students grappled together with questions that may not be raised anywhere else. (23)

In the Message of Genesis, Elliott further explained his approach. In the preface, he stated that his book was an effort "to combine head and heart by using the sound achievements of modern scholarship to ferret out and to underscore the foundational theological and religious principles of the stories of Genesis." (24)

Elliott noted that the scholar had erred at times in forgetting the religious factor involved in interpretation and that the general reader had usually erred on the other side by not taking advantage of the best of modern biblical scholarship and criticism. His stated desire was to wed academy and church; to betroth the heart of fundamentalism with the head of liberalism; to be prophet and professor. (25) In other words, Elliott wanted, to use the grammaticohistorical exegetical method as a basis for developing the spiritual message from the text.

Utilizing this methodology, Elliott concluded in his book that in light of the documentary hypothesis, no specific author or date could be established for Genesis--God was the ultimate author. He recognized that many communities and redactors molded, adapted and modified material that made up Genesis. Elliott wrote that the purpose of Genesis was not to give a scientific or literal explanation of actual events. Rather, the stories were parables intended to convey deep religious insight. The primary aim of the reader, according to Elliott, was not to question whether trees in the Garden of Eden were literal or figurative, but to see what Genesis has to tell about the revelation of God to the needs of humans. (26)

Elliott explained that while the first eleven chapters of Genesis contained symbolic and parabolic material, chapters 12-50 chronicled actual events. Yet, even in these chapters sometimes the material has been "legendized." Regarding Abraham's encounter with the priest Melchizedek, Elliott suggested that Melchizedek may have been a priest of the pagan god Baal. (27) The old covenant enunciated in hope what Jesus fulfilled in fact and faith. (28)

Elliott was not alone in espousing many of these conclusions or the theory on which they were based. Millard Berquist publicly supported Elliott and the historical-critical method. (29) Midwestern professors William Morton, DeWitt Matthews, Hugh Wamble, Roy Honeycutt, and Pierce Matheney used the same approach as Elliott. (30) Three Midwestern professors, Allan Gragg, Heber Peacock, and Morris Ashcraft, published a strong protest regarding Elliott's dismissal in which they asserted that they along with most SBC seminary professors held and taught essentially the same views of Scripture as Elliott. (31) The Association of Baptist Professors of Religion passed resolutions criticizing Elliott's dismissal. (32)

C. R. Daley, editor of Kentucky's Western Recorder, observed that if Elliott was a heretic, then he was one of many among the teachers in the seminaries and that Elliott was not at the head of the line? According to Berquist, John Newport and Franklin Segler, professors at Southwestern Seminary, told him at the San Francisco convention in 1962 that most of the faculty at the school supported Elliott. Berquist also admitted receiving at least forty letters from seminary professors and Baptist university professors assuring him that they took the same approach to education as did Midwestern and that they stood with the school. (34)

Elliott's vision for Midwestern, however, was not the same as that of his critics. As early as 1960, a group of Missouri pastors publicly criticized Elliott and several other Midwestern professors for teaching, among other things, that there may have been two or more writers of the book of Isaiah and that the biblical story of the tower of Babel may not be an account of actual history, but may be a continuation of the use of parables in the book of Genesis. (35) Although initial criticisms focused on conclusions of Elliott and his colleagues, when Elliott published his book the critics not only questioned some of his conclusions; they questioned his methodology.

John Havlik, director of evangelism for Kansas Baptists, the earliest notable critic of Elliott's book, circulated widely at least three articles in July 1961. Havlik believed that Elliott had disregarded the New Testament book of Hebrews in designating Melchizedek as a priest of Baal. Havlik went on to identify Elliott with Crawford Toy and Rudolf Bultmann and accused the professor of setting forth liberal views of the Scripture. Havlik stated that the book was a biased, one-sided, liberal presentation that essentially demythologized the Bible. He also warned that an acceptance of the liberal position has always led to ineffective preaching and eventually to the demise of a denomination. He insisted that while the scholar should be aware of the findings of modern biblical critics, the scholar should remain loyal to the Bible in all his conclusions. (36)

Bob Mowrey, a pastor from Nashville, Tennessee, circulated a critical letter concerning Elliott's book to Midwestern trustees and numerous other Southern Baptist pastors and denominational workers. He claimed that Elliott's theology was a watered down, Vanderbilt patterned, Methodist modeled, mythological approach that was essentially the same as Rudolf Bultmann's demythologizing approach to the New Testament. (37) E. Leslie Carlson, former professor at Southwestern Seminary, denounced modern biblical criticism and then accused Elliott of being carried away with the provocative theories of the day. Carlson likened Elliott's approach to Bultmann's and stated that he could not accept this "myth theory" because Bultmann "is not even a Christian." (38)

Earl Pounds, a Missouri pastor who circulated widely a document critical of Elliott's teaching, accused Elliott of being on a crusade to indoctrinate students as well as Baptists across the nation to a critical approach to the Bible. He insisted that Elliott's activity was destructive because only those who had not been disillusioned by higher criticism were able to love, understand, and preach the Old Testament. According to Pounds, the "common people" understood the Bible without the need for historical-critical studies. Pounds concluded that since the Bible was the supernatural Word of God, it should not and "cannot be merely subjected to the normal rules of literary research. (39) Rufus Crozier, a former professor at Central, who was one of several Southern Baptist professors there to resign in 1957 after the SBC dropped financial support for the seminary, carried out a mimeograph campaign against the book in the form of a six-page letter that he circulated widely. Crozier stated that Elliott's theological approach to Genesis was not valid because it did not agree with the rest of God's word. He stated that if Elliott's book was the fruit of critical research, "then such fruit if eaten would give even a hardened sinner a stomach ache. Crozier added that Elliott was a "heretic" and suggested that Elliott was doing the work of the "Devil" who had been attending church for thousands of years and who desired to take over our seminaries. (40)

K. Owen White, pastor of First Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, wrote an influential article that appeared in many Baptist papers in which he called the book "liberalism, pure and simple!" (41) White, who became president of the SBC in 1963, claimed that Elliott's work was "poison" in that it stemmed from the rationalistic theology of Wellhausen and his followers who had led Germany to become a "materialistic godless nation." For White, "rationalistic criticism" represented the wisdom of the world and would lead the denomination to unbelief and ultimate disintegration. He denounced modern biblical criticism because it sought only to find a reasonable solution to every problem in the Bible that involved the supernatural. (42) Jack Gritz, editor of the Baptist Messenger, the state paper of Oklahoma, wrote that the book followed the old liberal line but gave it "a sugar-coating of pious orthodox phrases." (43)

In general, Elliott's opponents, and the average Baptist for that matter, embraced a precritical hermeneutic and interpreted the Scripture in a strictly literal fashion. Most of them viewed biblical criticism as destructive in nature. Although some Baptists affirmed the historical-critical method, even then it was valid only if and when it supported a traditional folkology. This approach to theological education was expressed more systematically in 1969, just before Southern Baptists entered a second controversy concerning Genesis, when Wally Amos Criswell, pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas, published his book entitled, Why I Preach That the Bible Is Literally True. In this 160-page book, published by Broadman Press, Criswell detailed why he believed in such things as a literal fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, literal miracles, a literal creation account in Genesis, and a literal second coming of Christ to earth. Criswell argued that the findings of archaeology only confirmed the historicity of biblical events. He denounced the theory of evolution and stated that the Bible was not only a book of doctrine but that it was accurate in its scientific statements as well. Criswell demanded that reason be subordinated to revelation and faith. Theology students, wrote Criswell, should study the Greek and Hebrew languages because the very words of the Bible are inspired by God; and they should preach literally, grammatically, and historically and not spiritualize biblical texts. (44)

Herschel H. Hobbs

Elliott's philosophy of education was also in opposition to that of Herschel Hobbs, president of the convention in 1962, who used his presidential sermon to deal with the Elliott controversy. In this lengthy sermon, entitled "Crisis and Conquest," Hobbs suggested that "present-day Christianity as a whole" has not answered the world crisis of godless materialism that "seeks to relegate Christ to the realm of mythology." (45) Hobbs suggested that Southern Baptists could be "God's witness" to challenge and conquer such a crisis. Yet, Hobbs asserted that in order to be God's witness to the world, Southern Baptists must avoid ecumenicity and the "by-paths which lead to theological confusion." (46) Hobbs insisted that if Southern Baptists were to fulfill their purpose as God's distinctive witness to the world and blow the gospel trumpet with a certain sound, the seminaries must lead out in this effort. (47)

Hobbs affirmed the vast majority of seminary professors as people "worthy of our trust and understanding," but declared that a few Southern Baptist theologians had embraced, neoorthodoxy, a halfway point between liberalism and conservatism, and had made attempts to adjust the Southern Baptist faith to its position. He went on to declare that Southern Baptists' greatest contribution to the theological dilemma lay not with neoorthodoxy but with a conservatism that placed the Bible alone as the center of its theology. (48)

Hobbs then outlined what he considered to be Southern Baptists' basic philosophy of education: "It is not to teach theology for theology's sake. Rather it is to teach, train, and equip men and women for the purpose of providing a Bible-centered and informed leadership for Southern Baptist churches and institutions." (49)

Hobbs argued that the seminaries ought not ignore current trends in theological thought. Yet, he held that Southern Baptist theologians must employ every tool of investigation and research to help Southern Baptists navigate the confusing theological wilderness. Hobbs encouraged Baptist seminaries and colleges to lead the convention in shaping and guiding the conservative, "middle-of-the-road," "grass roots" theology that "speaks to both the minds and hearts of men." (50) Hobbs felt no Southern Baptist was justified in disturbing the fellowship by seeking to move Southern Baptists from the middle of the road to the shoulder of the pavement. (51) Hobbs received a standing ovation from messengers at the completion of his sermon. (52)

In his autobiography, published in 1993, Hobbs had not changed his views. He restated his philosophy that the primary purpose of the seminaries was to train leaders for Southern Baptist churches. He added that if theological students are to lead Southern Baptists, they must be "indoctrinated" to those things Southern Baptists believe and practice. Seminary students should read E. Y. Mullins and W. T. Connor alongside non-Baptist theologians, stated Hobbs. (53) Hobbs also told of meetings he had with seminary professors during the heat of the Elliott Controversy in which he attempted "to interpret Southern Baptists" to the faculty members because he felt they were out of touch with the people and told them as much. (54) In the meetings, Hobbs objected to the professors' use of academic terminology that the average Southern Baptist did not understand. He called on the seminary professors to use the "old cornbread and buttermilk" expressions in their writings and sermons. (55) For instance, the SBC president asked professors to talk about the "account" of creation in Genesis but not the "myth" of creation. According to Hobbs, his call to use more felicitous language was well received by the vast majority of seminary professors. (56)

Hobbs affirmed conservative Baptist theology but refused to denounce modern biblical criticism, viewing it as an important aspect of seminary study. Yet for Hobbs, biblical criticism was essentially a tool to be used in supporting traditional conservative Baptist theology, which held the only answers to the spiritual problems of humankind. Seminary professors and rank-and-file Baptists should be basically in the same place epistemologically and theologically. Notwithstanding, Hobbs supported an informed, utilitarian, grassroots approach to seminary education that was more amenable to the Baptist masses than that of Elliott's critics.

A New Baptist Confession

The grassroots approach to theological education was buttressed by events surrounding the drawing up of a new confession of faith. The confession was the brain-child of the established leadership of the convention, namely Herschel Hobbs, Porter Routh (Executive Committee head), and Albert McClellan (Routh's associate), who wanted the confession to unite various factions in Southern Baptist life under one statement of faith. (57) These leaders believed a new confession of faith would resolve the Elliott Controversy in much the same way that the 1925 confession resolved the controversy over evolution. Messengers at the 1%2 convention voted to approve the "Baptist Faith and Message Committee," as it later came to be called. The following year, messengers in Kansas City, after spirited debate, agreed to approve the document that became known as The Baptist Faith and Message (1963). (58)

The revised Baptist Faith and Message (1963) demonstrated a sensitivity to the internal pluralism of the denomination, yet no Southern Baptist seminary professors had a significant hand in its formation. While E. Y. Mullins, respected theologian and seminary president, made important contributions to the 1925 statement of faith, no seminary professors or seminary presidents served on the committee that drew up the 1963 statement. According to Hobbs, he intended to recommend that the committee be comprised of elected state convention presidents, so as to get as close as possible to the "grass roots of Southern Baptists," and the presidents of the six Southern Baptist seminaries. However, Hobbs stated that a group of state paper editors, led by E. S. James, editor of the Baptist Standard, met with him the night before the recommendation was to be made to the 1962 convention. James said that in the minds of many people, the seminaries are "part of the problem" and should not be on the committee; therefore, the editors would oppose the Hobbs-Routh-McClellan recommendation if seminary presidents were placed on the committee. (59) When the Executive Committee presented the recommendation that Hobbs, Routh, and McClellan had given to them, the seminary presidents were not represented on the committee. A motion was made from the floor to add the six seminary presidents to the committee, but it was defeated overwhelmingly. (60)

Although the first draft of the statement was sent to each seminary president who was to meet with seminary professors to suggest any changes, only one professor, Wayne Ward of Southern Seminary, suggested a change in the document. (61) Hobbs believed that in this instance silence meant that seminary personnel approved wholeheartedly of the statement. One may find it amazing that Southern Baptist theologians were placed on the periphery in the formation of such an important theological document in Southern Baptist life. Without the input of Southern Baptist scholars, the Baptist Faith and Message (1963) was not as potent as it could have been. (62)

San Francisco Motions

Messengers at the San Francisco convention also passed several motions which indicated that most Southern Baptists advocated a populist approach to theological education as well. First, the messengers adopted unanimously the motion made by K. Owen White, one of Elliott's harshest and most outspoken critics, "to reaffirm their faith in the entire Bible as the authoritative, authentic and infallible Word of God." (63) By about a two-thirds majority, messengers passed White's second motion, which was essentially an expansion of the first motion:
 That we express our abiding and unchanging objection to the dissemination
 of theological views in any of our seminaries which would undermine such
 faith in the historical accuracy and doctrinal integrity of the Bible, and
 that we courteously request the trustees and administrative officers of our
 institutions and other agencies to take such steps as shall be necessary to
 remedy at once those situations where such views now threaten our historic
 position. (64)

This second motion affirmed the "historic position" of Southern Baptists as the literalist position, rejecting the idea that there was a healthy diversity in Southern Baptist thought. The motion underscored that belief and teaching must conform to populist understanding.

Hugh Wamble argued that the demand that belief and teaching must conform to grassroots understanding has dangerous implications in that consensus stands at least equal or superior to Scripture and does not need to come under the judgment of Scripture; that eternal truth is coterminous with current consensus; and that "grassrootsology" is infallible and authoritative. (65) A number of rank-and-file Baptists, on the other hand, argued that theological education that was not grassroots oriented was destructive to the denomination as well as to the spiritual lives of individuals.


In the Elliott conflict, Baptists were confronted with two basic approaches to theological education. In Manichaean fashion, however, Southern Baptists were led to choose between education that was perceived to be liberal or neoorthodox, and theological education for the rank-and-file Baptist that was considered constructive. They were unable to cope with subtle differences. Elliott's book, which was a concrete representation of his philosophy of theological education (and that of Midwestern), actually stood in the conservative tradition of biblical scholarship, holding that the Bible was authoritative and dependable. Yet Elliott viewed Christ, not the Bible, as the ultimate authority. (66) Elliott may have utilized hermeneutical methodologies associated with theological liberalism, but his rationale in using the methods was to encourage Southern Baptists to embrace an intellectually responsible faith, not to confute basic conservative theology. Elliott's approach to theological education then may best be designated neoconservative. C. R. Daley stated that the decisions made in the Elliott Controversy would likely determine the destiny of the SBC. (67) Perhaps he was right. Since this conflict, one of Southern Baptists' enduring sources of significant strife has been over the nature and role of theological education.


(1.) Sydney E. Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People, vol. 2 (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Co., Inc., 1975), 599-602.

(2.) Samuel S. Hill, "The Story Before the Story: Southern Baptists Since World War II," Southern Baptists Observed: Multiple Perspectives on a Changing Denomination, ed. Nancy T. Ammerman (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1993), 34-37.

(3.) "Biographical sketch on Ralph H. Elliott printed by Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, September 1962," TMs [photocopy], (Ralph H. Elliott Papers, American Baptist Historical Society, Rochester, New York).

(4.) Report to be recommended to the board for adoption and release by the special committee, board of trustees at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, December 1961," TMs [photocopy], 3 (Elliott Papers).

(5.) James L. Sullivan, "Broadman Press and The Message of Genesis," Facts and Trends March 1962, 2.

(6.) "Theological Problems Aired at Informal Baptist Meeting," Baptist Standard, 21 March 1962, 12; "Oklahoma City Group Weighs Current Crisis," Arkansas Baptist Newsmagazine, 22 March 1962, 3; Ross Edwards, "Midwestern Seminary Situation," Swope Park Baptist Voice, 31 January 1963, 1-2; Ross Edwards, "Introductory Statement at Oklahoma City Caucus Meeting, 8 March 1962," TMs [photocopy], 1-3, (Files of the SBC Executive Committee, Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, Nashville, Tennessee).

(7.) C. R. Daley, "A Decision of Destiny," Western Recorder, 27 September 1962, 4.

(8.) Sullivan, Baptist Polity As I See It (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1983), 141-42.

(9.) Annual, Southern Baptist Convention, 1962, 65, 68.

(10.) Ibid., 64.

(11.) Ibid., 71, 73.

(12.) Letter from Millard Berquist to all Midwestern Seminary Students, 31 October 1962 (Elliott Papers);' Malcolm Knight, "An Interpretation of the Decision," Word and Way, 20 December 1962, 5; Ralph H. Elliott, The "Genesis Controversy" and Continuity in Southern Baptist Chaos--A Eulogy for a Great Tradition (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1992), 121-23.

(13.) Reuben Alley, "Trustees Dismiss Professor Ralph H. Elliott," Religious Herald, 1 November 1962, 11.

(14.) C. R. Daley, "Elliott Goes, Problem Remains," Western Recorder, 8 November 1962, 8.

(15.) "Missouri Board Petitions SBC," Maryland Baptist, 2 May 1963, 2.

(16.) Millard Berquist, "Quit Harassment of Midwestern, President Asks," Maryland Baptist, 2 May 1963, 11.

(17.) Elliott's critics placed him in the camp of theological liberalism. Elliott was a "new" conservative, however, because he was enthusiastic about "the authentic and authoritative Bible," and because he viewed Christ as the ultimate authority while at the same time attempting to interpret the Bible and the life of Christ using modern biblical criticism. He was not an absolute inerrantist but a qualified one. See Elliott, The "Genesis Controversy," 93.

(18.) G. Hugh Wamble, "Baptists, The Bible, And Authority," 16-17 (Elliott Papers). Wamble presented this academic address at the Spring Convocation of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 3 January 1963.

(19.) Elliott, "Direction in Old Testament Studies," 28 (Elliott Papers). Elliott presented this academic address at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 8 September 1960.

(20.) Ibid., 33.

(21.) Ibid., 8, 13.

(22.) Ibid., 9-10.

(23.) Ibid.

(24.) Elliott, The Message of Genesis (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1961), 81.

(25.) Ibid., vii.

(26.) Ibid., 1-15, 18-25, 36-51, 61-74.

(27.) Ibid., 113-16, 136.

(28.) Ibid., 202-4.

(29.) Letter from Morris Ashcraft to a closed number of personal friends, 21 November 1962, TLS [photocopy], (Elliott Papers); Letter from Millard Berquist to William Fallis, 24 April 1961, TLS [photocopy], (Elliott Papers). Berquist never rejected Elliott's approach to theological education. He asked Elliott not to publish the book in October 1962 only as a means of resolving the controversy.

(30.) Ibid.; Sally Rice, "Controversial Figure Among Southern Baptists," paper presented to the Duke University Department of Religion, Durham, North Carolina, 1963, 103-4. Rice secured class notes from the courses of Honeycutt and Matheney to demonstrate that their teaching approach and that of Elliott was basically the same; Morton and Matthews and the Midwestern faculty in general were accused by some Missouri pastors of being liberals. See Mack Douglas, "Message From Your Pastor," 7 December 1961 (Executive Files of the Sunday School Board, Dargan Research Center, Nashville, Tennessee); Letter from Mack Douglas to Herschel Hobbs, 21 November 1961, TLS [photocopy], (Hobbs Papers, Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives).

(31.) "Protests Voiced Over Elliott's Dismissal," Western Recorder, 15 November 1962, 16. Peacock later resigned in protest.

(32.) "Bible Professors Protest Elliott's Dismissal," Capital Baptist, 3 January 1963, 1.

(33.) Daley, "A Decision of Destiny," 5.

(34.) Letter from Millard Berquist to Porter Routh, 19 June 1962, TLS [photocopy], (Files of the SBC Executive Committee).

(35.) Letter from Ralph Elliott to John E. Steely, 4 March 1960, TLS [photocopy], (Elliott Papers).

(36.) John Havlik, "A Further Criticism of the Book," Baptist Digest, 9 September 1961, 1,5,7.

(37.) Letter from Bob Mowrey to Ralph Elliott and Others, 24 July 1961, TLS [photocopy], (Elliott Papers).

(38.) E. Leslie Carlson, "Dr. E. Leslie Carlson Issues Statement Relative to Elliott Book," Rocky Mountain Baptist, 27 April 1962, 6.

(39.) Earl L. Pounds, "The Message of Genesis, an Evaluation," July 1961, TMs [photocopy], 1-10. See also Letter from Earl Pounds to chairman of the board of trustees at Midwestern Seminary, July 1961, TLS [photocopy], (Hobbs Papers).

(40.) Rufus Crozier, "The Message of Genesis: An Evaluation," 1961, TMs [photocopy], 1, 5 (Elliott Papers).

(41.) K. Owen White, "... Death in the Pot," Baptist Standard, 10 January 1962, 6.

(42.) Ibid.

(43.) Letter from Jack Gritz to James Sullivan, 25 August 1961, TLS [photocopy], (Executive Files of the Sunday School Board).

(44.) W. A. Criswell, Why I Preach That the Bible Is Literally True (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1969), 30-53, 61-75, 95-107, 114, 119, 132-45, 153.

(45.) Herschel H. Hobbs, "Crisis and Conquest," Religious Herald, 7 June 1962, 22-23.

(46.) Ibid.

(47.) Ibid.

(48.) Ibid.

(49.) Ibid.

(50.) Ibid.

(51.) Ibid.

(52.) Hobbs, My Faith and Message (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1993), 240.

(53.) Ibid., 250.

(54.) Ibid., 231-32.

(55.) Ibid.

(56.) Ibid.

(57.) Ibid., 236.

(58.) Jesse E. Fletcher, The Southern Baptist Convention: A Sesquicentennial History (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994), 208-10.

(59.) Hobbs, My Faith and Message, 236-37.

(60.) Ibid.

(61.) Ibid., 242-43. Ward wrote a letter to Hobbs in which he suggested that in the confession's statement about God the Son identifying completely with humankind that the committee should add the words "yet without sin." Of course, the committee added those words.

(62.) A distinguished cadre of Southern Baptist scholars recently critiqued the Baptist Faith And Message (1963) noting the strengths of the document but also highlighting some glaring weaknesses of the statement. The Baptist professors also made proposals for the improvement of the document in future revisions. For example, William Hendricks called for a reversal of the first two articles of the confession so that belief in God would precede belief in Scripture. See William L. Hendricks, "God, the Bible, and Authority in The Baptist Faith and Message (1963)," Sacred Mandates of Conscience, ed. Jeff B. Pool (Macon, Ga.: Smith & Helwys, 1997), 116.

(63.) Annual, Southern Baptist Convention, 1962, 65.

(64.) Ibid., 68.

(65.) Wamble, "Baptists, the Bible, and Authority," 16-17.

(66.) Elliott, The "Genesis Controversy," 93.

(67.) Daley, "A Decision of Destiny," 5.

Jerry L. Faught II is instructor in religion, Oklahoma Baptist University, Shawnee, Oklahoma.
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Author:Faught, Jerry L., II
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Date:Jun 22, 1999
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