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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Soul Freedom and the New Baptist Covenant

The November/December issue of the Baptist Joint Committee's Report from the Capital came out today.

In this exciting issue, your truly provides the Guest View. Last month, Dr. Jimmy Allen penned the first part in a three-part series on the New Baptist Covenant. My article is part 2 of this series and is entitled Soul Freedom and the New Baptist Covenant. So, check it out.

Here's a snippet:
Just 100 years ago, Baptist minister Walter Rauschenbusch, the father of the Social Gospel Movement, penned a series of five brief articles titled "Why I Am A Baptist." Rauschenbusch wrote: "We may be Baptists by birth, but we must become Baptists by conviction. ...I began by being a Baptist because my father was, but today I am a Baptist, because, with my convictions, I could not well be anything else."

Like Rauschenbusch, I too am the son of a Baptist minister. And like Rauschenbusch, I was also "born" a Baptist. But even after experiencing the coercion and forced conformity of fundamentalism firsthand, I remain a Baptist because of my convictions. At the heart of those convictiosn is what prominent early 20th century Baptists, E.Y. Mullins and G.W. Truett, referred to as "soul competency," and James Dunn dubbed "soul freedom." Walter Shurden has stated that soul freedom is the "stackpole around which Baptist convictions develop." In the words of Rauschenbusch himself, "The Christian faith, as Baptists hold it, sets spiritual experience boldly to the front as the one great thing in religion." Indeed, if there is one tie that binds us Baptists together, it is our belief that each person has the freedom, ability, and responsibility to respond to God directly without a human mediator. No priest. No bishop. No magisterium. And definitely no spiritual masters....

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Blogger foxofbama said...

Congrats: Google up Dorrien for great pieces in Century on Rausch; two pieces one back in May and another just last week.

And you and Hankins will want to take a close look at Wills on Rausch in American Christianities.
Check my comment in the Gushee blog, and my challenge to him for Atlanta on the politics of Abortion

7:03 PM

Blogger D.R. said...

The biggest problem I have with the idea of "soul competency" or "soul freedom" is that I have never seen it definitively defined, though I have seen it misused. Historically, it seems to be the companion to the Reformation idea of the "priesthood of all believers", just as "once-saved-always-saved" is the Baptist companion to the Reformation teaching of the Perseverance of the Saints.

So, it might be helpful to define the term by pointing to Scripture and history as examples of the doctrine and indicating just exactly how you and others think that it has been lost. It seems you and other moderate Baptists view the SBC as having lost this idea, but I have never seen this adequately discussed. Even if you could point to an article on the internet or a book that really discusses this, it would be helpful.

1:58 AM

Blogger Dr. Glenn Jonas said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8:14 PM

Blogger Dr. Glenn Jonas said...

E.Y. Mullins' "Axioms of Religion" is a good place to start for defining soul freedom. Then, pick up a copy of Walter Shurden's "The Baptist Identity: Four Fragile Freedoms." Those two should give you a good dose of what soul freedom means to the Baptist tradition.

8:16 PM

Anonymous Chuck said...

Big Daddy and D.R.,

According to Herschel Hobbs, on p. 10 of his commentary book "The Baptist Faith and Message" (1963 version for you, Big Daddy), one thing the doctrine never meant was that one could interpret Scripture and believe just any way he chooses, and still be Baptist. The collective conscience of believers through the years, and sound interpretive principles aren't to be ignored or violated.

When I pointed this out to a certain NewBapCov blogger who was defending Jimmy Carter's reported pluralistic views on the grounds of soul competency--"That's between him and God,"--he didn't allow my comment.

Must have hit a nerve.

5:56 AM

Blogger D.R. said...

Thanks Dr. Jonas, I will go and check those out.

9:53 AM

Blogger Greg said...

Big Daddy Weave,

I read your complete article in the actual newsletter. Perhaps it is fair enough that only bodies affiliated with the North American Baptist Fellowship are invited to the New Baptist Covenant convergence in January. It is my understanding, however, that the NABF has denied membership to the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America and the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists – both progressive and inclusive Baptist bodies. Therefore, both the BPFNA and AWAB are not invited to this alleged “display of Baptist unity.” Sounds to me like even we progressive Baptists have yet to live into an authentic gospel of inclusion, and yet to practice what we preach about soul competency and freedom of individual conscience. When it comes to the inclusion of God’s lesbian and gay children – well, even many progessive Baptists are just not there yet.


12:28 PM


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