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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

James Dunn & Soul Freedom: A Thesis


My thesis is finally complete, all 159 pages! I'm scheduled to defend it at the end of this month.

Here's my short abstract:

James M. Dunn and Soul Freedom:

A Paradigm for Baptist Political Engagement in the Public Arena

In the last half of the twentieth century, James Dunn has been the most aggressive Baptist proponent for religious liberty in the United States. As the leader of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, Dunn’s understanding of church-state separation was a battleground in the Southern Baptist Controversy of the 1980s. “Conservative Resurgence” leaders opposed Dunn and the Southern Baptist Convention eventually withdrew from the BJC.

This thesis analyzes the public career of James Dunn, especially his views on religious liberty. Dunn embodied and articulated a paradigm for Baptist political engagement in the public arena which was based upon the concept of soul freedom: voluntary uncoerced faith and an unfettered individual conscience before God. Dunn defended soul freedom as the historic Baptist basis of religious liberty against critics whom he believed had forfeited their Baptist identity by aligning with the Religious Right and its rejection of church-state separation.

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10 Comments:

Blogger Chad Reed said...

I got to meet Dr. Dunn a few weeks ago when I was at a CBFNC conference for campus ministry led by Dr. Emmanuel McCall held at WFU. He was just passing by and started a conversation with me. He was really nice! I didn't know much about him though until I got home and looked him up. I would love to talk to him again now that I know more about him.

12:34 PM

 
Blogger Dr. Glenn Jonas said...

Congratulations BDW! This will be a good contribution to our field. I am glad to see a younger generation of scholars studying James Dunn. He is one of the greats of the 20th century!

6:13 PM

 
Blogger texasinafrica said...

Woo-hoo! Congrats on finishing!

6:22 PM

 
Blogger sepherim said...

I've known James since the 70s when he was head of the Texas CLC. It has been amazing to keep up with his influence on religious liberty issues. It was also amazing that he had gathered the staff that worked for the CLC back then. I'm glad that someone has documented his accomplishments.

6:45 AM

 
Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Great! I didn't realize that M.A. theses were so much smaller than Ph.D. dissertations, but I hope this is soon published.

10:48 AM

 
Blogger Big Daddy Weave said...

On the whole, I think theses used to be a bit longer. I've come across quite a few theses from 15 years or more ago that are 250-300 pages. In recent years at Baylor, at least in my area, an average thesis is 120-150 pages. Four 25-30 page chapters with a 10-15 page Conclusion. Recent dissertations that I've scanned through are 250-300 with biblio. I read a dissertation from the 70s on Americans United recently and it was well over 500 pages!

I've read quite a few boring theses in the last year. But it would be rather difficult for a person to make boring any paper, thesis or dissertation on Dunn. His language is too colorful.

There have been a half dozen books that mention Dunn briefly, mostly a paragraph or at most a few pages. There's one thesis on the BJC that covers Dunn's tenure. But that author really focuses on the structure and operations of the BJC not Dunn's thought and actions. David Stricklin, author of A Genealogy of Dissent, did his dissertation in the 70s on the Texas CLC and it mentions the early years of Dunn's time in Austin. But I'm the first person to examine Dunn at length. So after this defense, I hope to find a way to get this thing published in some form.

By the way Michael, I'd like to hear more here, on your blog or in an e-mail about the book that you're working on.

3:46 PM

 
Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Aaron, I am writing a book that will profile 25 Baptist congregations in the U.S. that are "progressive" or "peace and justice" oriented, some old and some newly founded. I am trying to paint a different picture of Baptists as we approach the 400th anniversary of the movement. I hope to follow it up with a similar volume highlighting Baptists elsewhere on the globe.

I have book on the relation of Scripture and ethics outlined, but haven't begun work on it, yet. This one I'm doing is faster. I have also begun outlining a detective novel starring a fictional liberal Baptist minister, just for fun, but I don't know when I'll have time to work on that one.

12:02 PM

 
Blogger CB Scott said...

I know you have worked very hard.

I am confident you will do well when you defend your thesis.

cb

3:14 PM

 
Anonymous holyagnostic said...

James Dunn is dynamite; an explosive catalyst for the Christian ethicists of Baptist life.

His wife was in a serious auto accident in the 50's and recovered in my family's home.

He has befriended young Baptists from his W. Texas BSU days until the present and that includes this one. His influence and wise counsel at Robert Frost's two paths in the woods have made "all the difference" in this one's life.

Weave, I hope u got to know the person as well as his ideas.

Just sayin'

3:50 PM

 
Blogger foxofbama said...

Bdid:
James Dunn is a great man and I hope you have done him justice.
I am looking forward to seeing what you do with one Carter biographer's assertion Dunn was Carter's main Burns Strider of the 76 campaign in Texas; and would like to see if you resolved the question Hankins never quite resolved from a 96 or so Baylor consortium on how a fellow like Dunn gets his convictions in small town Texas if Jesus is removed from the Public square.
I am satisfied you and Dunn both have a compelling response; I just haven't seen it to date.
Dunn is a great man. He went toe to toe with the forces of Jesse Helms and the residuals of Texas Regulars in his Time. For that alone he is a great Baptist Champion in the Truett and Stewart Newman; and for that I salute the both of you.
PS: Want both of you to read, make time for Packer's great End of Conservatism May 26 New Yorker Article.
Dunn is in the shadows fighting every bit of orneriness and misguided bad political religion in that as well.
Would be an honor to all of us, I reckon, if you get these response tributes to Dunn himself.
Great company we are all in here; Glenn Jonas, Dunn and STricklin.
Good blog

10:15 AM

 

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