Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Feminism in SBC Seminaries

During my years at Southeastern, I've been pointed towards some amazing illustrations of what went on in SBC seminaries in the 1980s. What I link to here is only a sample.

The first link is to an article that follows up on the lives and ministries of women doctoral students at Southern Seminary in the pre-Mohler years. Well, actually it was during the Mohler-as-student years, which you'll see described rather colorfully if you read closely. The link to download the document is about 2/3 down the page under the title "Once There Was a Camelot."

The second link is to a blog that transcribes a liturgy titled "Celebration of the New Humanity" that was read (or whatever you do with liturgies) in the Southeastern Seminary chapel in 1983. Oops, now I see that you "recite" a liturgy. Both of these snapshots of the past are absolutely fascinating and have reminded me of how great a gift is a God-centered education, and what an empty religion is that which is man-centered (oops again, "person-centered").

Perhaps I should mention, for those who believe that SBTS and SEBTS are still theologically liberal, that Southeastern has preaching in chapel now. That preaching uses the Bible in a remarkably similar way to how it is used in fundamentalist institutions.


Nikolai Francis said...

Why sarcastically disparage liturgies like that? Totally unnecessary. I presume you want to be taken seriously by more than just your fellow fundamentalists? Christians of almost every other stripe than your particular tradition use liturgy.

Ben said...

I don't have anything against liturgies, per se. I do think this one is pretty bad though. Do you disagree?

Or are you talking about my read/recite thing? I'm actually poking fun at myself for not knowing.

Nikolai Francis said...

It's not too great ;) I concur. Though some of the statements were Biblical, the application was aberrant in many respects. Did you read the research article that was also on that link which was a summation of a series of interviews of female doctoral candidates from Southern in the late 70's/early 80's. Pretty interesting if not a bit repetitive. Anyway, glad to hear you were poking fun at yourself and not at liturgy. Sorry I jumped the gun. I encourage you to visit some liturgical churches...see what you might be missing...

Josh Otte said...

How could anyone possibly think either Southern or Southeastern are theologically liberal? That is laughable. What kind of circles do you run in and/or frequent your blog?

Jim said...


For those of you who don't want to read through the 25 page article on female Southern Seminary graduates, here are some of the highlights:

1) On what they learned from Southern:

"I would not have learned to feel God's love and love myself."

"I like the changes that seminary brought about in me personally. I'm more open-minded and less judgmental about myself and about other people."

"It moved me from organized religion. It moved me toward a much broader view of God than I ever could have imagined, toward my own sense of worth and self-acceptance."

2) On describing who God is:

"comforting presence... guiding presence, beloved voice, awakening breath, merciful presence."

"I believe in God. I'm just not sure I believe in God in a real personal sense as in 'His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He cares for me.' I'm not sure about that."

"I don't know. I mean, I really don't know anymore. I think I have more questions than answers about who or what God is."

"I have no use for images of God that are discriminatory, that are overpowering, that are punitive."

"I say the word God a lot less than I used to. I say the spirits, the divine, the powers of the cosmos."

3) On Jesus Christ... well actually there was no mention of Jesus Christ in the article.

Ben said...


Thanks for the summary.


I am a Baptist but not part of an SBC church. My church is what is often called "independent Baptist." When independent Baptists think of the SBC, many of them still think in a 1980s seminary paradigm. They think theologically conservative SBC churches are anomalies if not oxymorons. I know this is true. I've talked to them and had them give me strange looks when they heard I went to SEBTS.

On the other hand, many Southern Baptists hear the term "independent Baptist" and think fire-breathing, KJV only, Arminian, Old Scofield (two ways of salvation) dispensationalists. I also know this is true. I've talked to them at SEBTS and had them give me strange looks when I told them I was an independent Baptist. That's also why I usually call myself an unaffiliated Baptist now.

Or maybe there is another reason I frequently get strange looks . . .

Ryan DeBarr said...

Independent Baptists get strange looks at Southern Seminary as well. It's not just you nor is it a Southeastern thing.

In fact, if you walk into just about any Southern Baptist church and say "I'm Independent Baptist", 75% of the people won't know what that is and the other 25% will chuckle.

But that's all kind of odd when you consider that Southeastern had a chapel service honoring John R. Rice a couple years ago.

I think we need take into consideration the Southern Baptist experience with Independent Baptists. The Fundamentalist/Modernist controversies of the 1920s were a Northern thing that didn't have a lot of impact on Southern Baptist churches. When Southern Baptists think of Fundamentalism, they're not thinking about J. Gresham Machen or W.B. Riley, they're thinking about J. Frank Norris. If you realize that, then you can understand why they view you as a freak- even northern Fundamentalists recoil in horror from J. Frank Norris.

Josh Otte said...

Thanks for clearing that up Ben.