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A Quiet Revolution Book Review

Category Book Reviews
Date August 15, 2000


“A Quiet Revolution; a Chronicle of Beginnings of Reformation in the Southern Baptist Convention” by Ernest C. Reisinger and D. Matthew Allen, pb., n.p., Published by the Founders Press, and distributed by Christian Gospel Book Service, 107 pp.

This book, written in part by the oldest of the Banner of Truth trustees, Ernest C. Reisinger, chronicles one stream of living truth that has helped to produce the remarkable change in theological direction which the Southern Baptist Convention has taken in the last twenty years. After the years of Arminianism were inevitably followed by liberalism and neo-orthodoxy taking over its seminaries, colleges and pulpits a significant number of its theological students, pastors and professors began to long for something better. There was the spread of conservative theological literature, cassettes of preaching, warm affection and trust amongst a new generation of pastors, and a growing confidence that the denomination needed to repent and could be turned into the ways of the old Baptist confessions. These convictions introduced theological and biblical debate into a church where such a mentality had become a rarity.

What had happened to the Southern Baptist Convention? There was a decline of expository preaching, a loss of vision of the holiness of God, churches became too self-centred and lost the capacity to believe in ultimate truth. The law as a necessary precursor to salvation was neglected, doctrine and theology were denigrated to be replaced by ‘practical’ themes. Most of all, the God-centredness of Calvinism was deliberately forgotten.

A fascinating dangerous figure, E.Y.Mullins, emerged as the leader of the Southern Baptists during the first quarter of the 20th century. He defined the Christian life in terms of experience rather than doctrine. Significant concessions were made to liberalism. His view of the Bible was one of less-than-full inerrancy. His vacillation and lack of precision of language permitted both conservatives and moderates in later arguments to claim him as their own. He taught that election was based upon God’s foreknowledge of an individual’s response of faith. So while Mullins fought to keep modernism from entering the front door of the Southern Baptists he allowed it to creep in through the back door.

In the 1970s hope emerged that the earlier declension could be halted, and the denomination turned around. Evangelical conservatives began to act saying enough is enough. Through humble beginnings the significant Founders movement started. In the week of July 17-21, 2,000 more than 400 pastors and church leaders met for the eighteenth annual Founders’ Conference in Birmingham, Alabama to hear a series of powerful addresses on the theme of the Providence of God. The keynote speaker each evening was the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi, Dr Ligon Duncan. Many of the men attending were young and had come for the first time.

This Founders’ movement started when the Rev Ernest Reisinger and his church at North Pompano Beach in Florida launched the ‘Boyce project.’ That is, they determined to republish “Abstract of Systematic Theology” by Dr James Petigru Boyce, the founder and the first theology teacher of the Southern Baptist Seminary and to distribute a copy to every student graduating from the six official Southern Baptist seminaries and a few more.

Mr Reisinger, with the permission of the authorities in each seminary, visited them all, spoke in the chapel when he was invited, and gave to the men a copy of the book with four questions,
Do you believe that Dr. Boyce is biblically correct in his chapter on effectual calling?
Do you think his view of the doctrine of election is the biblical teaching?

He sets forth different views of the atonement. Which view do you believe to be the biblical view?
Please comment on the chapter on the will of God (Pages were cited for these questions).

The book did enormous good, and it brought together other young men like Tom Nettles and Tom Ascol, and out of it was born the Founders Conference whose first meeting was held in August 1983. A magazine, a youth ministry, a web page – – and a press have been the next achievements.

Throughout this time the Southern Baptists have been battling amongst themselves. The conservatives, firmly and persistently, have reasserted Biblical theology and control over the colleges, seminaries and boards of the denomination. It has been a wearying process, but there has been no let-up. Many liberals have formed their own organisation and this year they met for two days at the close of the official Southern Baptist Convention to run an alternative convention. The Founders’ men have had to walk very carefully, supporting and endorsing conservative evangelical leaders who themselves were Arminian and suspicious of the resurgence of Calvinism, while not weakening their commendation of the Reformed faith. They have walked this tight-rope with great grace, encouraging their conservative brethren at every providential opportunity.

This little book, written by Ernest Reisinger and Matthew Allen, chronicles briefly the rise of the Founders’ movement. It has much to teach evangelicals in Britain and in other parts of the world involved in the good fight of faith today.


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