T.B. Maston - Conscience for Southern Baptists
Today at the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University, I will be presenting a paper entitled The Impact of Social Progressive T.B. Maston Upon Southern Baptist Life in the 20th Century. T.B. Maston was one of the most significant Southern Baptists of the twentieth century. More than any other figure, Maston was the preeminent shaper of Christian ethics and Christian social concern among Southern Baptists. His emphasis on applying the gospel to all aspects of life made his name synonymous with Christian ethics in the Southern Baptist Convention. A student of Richard Niebuhr at Yale, Maston taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1922-1963. Upon retirement, Maston continued to lecture at colleges and universities around the world. His 27 books and hundreds of periodicals have been widely read.
During his four-decade long teaching career at SWBTS, T.B. Maston taught around 10,000 seminarians. Several thousand of Maston's students took three of more of his courses. Many of his students served in high-ranking denominational roles. During the years of 1977-1978, three of the top elected officials to the Southern Baptist Convention - Jimmy Allen, Olan Runnels, and Lee Porter - were former students of Maston. Also during this period, four of the six presidents of SBC seminaries were former students: William Pinson, Russell Dilday, Milton Ferguson, and Randally Lolley. Many of Maston's students became professors and taught in virtually every field of study at the six Southern Baptist seminaries.
49 doctoral students at SWBTS received their Th.D. in Christian Ethics under T.B. Maston. Almost all of Maston's doctoral graduates have served as pastors, denominational workers, professors, or administrators in higher education. This influential list of ethicists includes 47 pastors, 21 denominational executives, 15 seminary professors, 15 college professors, 13 missionaries, 4 government officials, and 2 military chaplains. High ranking denominational executives among Maston's doctoral graduates include two seminary presidents, two college presidents, and four presidents of state Baptist conventions, two-vice presidents, and one president of the Southern Baptist Convention. All but two of Maston's doctoral graduates remained active Southern Baptists. 17 of the 30 professional Baptist ethicists working full-time for the SBC CLC were heavily influenced by Maston in its first thirty years of existence. In Texas, 3 of the first 4 directors of the BGCT's CLC received their doctoral degrees under Maston - Foy Valentine, Jimmy Allen, and James Dunn.
And a snippet from the paper....
Bill Moyers, former aide to President Lyndon B. Johnson and internationally known journalist who studied with T.B. Maston once said, “When I’m asked to define Christian ethics, my best answer is Tom Maston. What the Old Testament prophets taught, he lived. He showed us that the theatre of Christian ethics is not the pulpit, the classroom or the counselor’s corner, but all of life.” William Pinson, another former Maston student, added “Frequently, he served as a conscience for Southern Baptists troubling us regarding our racism, materialism, and provincialism.”
T.B. Maston was clearly a pioneering progressive on selected social issues for Southern Baptists. As early as 1927, Maston challenged the racial orthodoxy of the South. Based on the biblical premise that “God is no respecter of persons,” Maston urged Southern Baptists to accept the gospel truth that all races are equal. Consequently, he contended that spiritual equality involves social equality and churches should take the lead in integrating themselves and opposing racial discrimination.
As a voice for freedom of conscience and religious liberty, Maston continued the Southern Baptist emphasis on the principle of separation of church and state. His focus on religious liberty helped to keep Southern Baptists thinking about what their cherished principle meant. For example, he argued for a progressive application of church-state separation in his opposition toward tuition tax credits for students of private schools.
The impact of T.B. Maston upon Southern Baptist life is best seen in his influence upon subsequent Southern Baptist leaders and institutions. T.B. Maston was an integral player in the formation of the Christian Life Commissions of both the Southern Baptist Convention and the Baptist General Convention of
. In the 1960s and 1970s, when moderates dominated Southern Baptist life, the Christian Life Commission of the SBC followed in the footsteps of Maston’s progressive social ethic. Foy Valentine, the leader of the SBC CLC, was deeply influenced to his former professor, T.B. Maston. From its inception, the Texas CLC has articulated some progressive social views that were first voiced by T.B. Maston. James Dunn, who led the Texas CLC from 1968-1980 and who then went on to promote religious liberty for the Baptist Joint Committee in the 1980s has acknowledged his indebtedness to the teachings of T.B. Maston. When students of Southern Baptist history analyze leading figures of the 1970s and 1980s, the names of Maston’s students are everywhere to be found. In addition to Foy Valentine and James Dunn, the list includes, but is not limited to, Jimmy Allen, Randall Lolley, and William Pinson. Texas
In 1979, then president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, William Pinson said “few men have been as widely known or as deeply loved as T.B. Maston. Few have blended ethics and evangelism, scholarship and pietism, a conservative theological outlook and a progressive social concern as well as he.” At the dawn of the 21st century, however, Pinson’s words are likely no longer true. Many, and perhaps most, Baptists in the South have forgotten the contributions and impact of T.B. Maston upon Southern Baptist life in the 20th century. His progressive social ethic combined with a traditional evangelistic orthodoxy, is now seen as a position that is inherently contradictory. It is time once again for Baptists to review the contributions of T. B. Maston as they reflect upon the meaning of Baptist identity.
 Dunn, The Christian and the State, 29.
Baptist Contributions to Ethics, 18. Pinson, Texas
 Oral Memoirs of James Milton Dunn,
, 1974, Baylor University Institute of Oral History, 1-5. Waco
 Dunn, “Through Graduates,” 94-95. Throughout his ministry, Jimmy Allen served in various roles: Executive Director of the Texas Christian Life Commission, Executive Director of the Radio and Television Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, President of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the pastor of the First Baptist Church of San Antonio, Texas. Randall Lolley served as President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1974 to 1988. William Pinson served as the President of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (1977-1982) and as the Executive Director of the Baptist General Convention of
Baptist Contributions to Ethics, 17-19. Maston protégé, Jimmy Allen, demonstrated what his teacher taught: a strong evangelistic ministry (500 baptized his first year) and a strong social ministry while the pastor of Pinson, Texas , First Baptist Church . Joe Trull, interview by author, San Antonio, Texas 27 April 2007, . Waco, Texas