Nathan A. Finn

Historian, Theologian, Teacher, Preacher

Monthly Archive: September 2011



September 2011



2012 Baptist History and Heritage Annual Conference: Call for Papers

Written by , Posted in History, SBC, Theology

An Open Call for Papers for the 2012
Annual Conference of the BH&HS

Theme: “Baptists and Theology”

The 2012 Annual Conference of the Baptist History & Heritage
Society will be June 7-9 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The conference will be hosted by the First Baptist Church of
Raleigh in conjunction with Campbell University.

Submit Your Prospectus by December 19, 2011

The Baptist History & Heritage Society invites submissions for papers for its annual 2012
conference to be held at the First Baptist Church of Raleigh, North Carolina, June 7-9.
This is an open invitation for paper proposals. Proposals should relate to the theme of
“Baptists and Theology” and be 500 words or less in length. Notifications of accepted papers
will be sent in January. Submit proposals to BH&HS President Delane Tew by email.

Visit the Baptist History & Heritage website to view information about
previous Baptist History & Heritage conferences.

Please direct any questions to BH&HS Executive Director Bruce Gourley.

Baptist History & Heritage Society
151 Broadleaf Drive
Macon, GA 31210





September 2011



The Southern Baptist Convention—Name that Denomination

Written by , Posted in History, Ministry, Missions, SBC

By now you’ve probably read that SBC president Bryant Wright has appointed a task force to study the possibility of changing the name of the Southern Baptist Convention. Wright’s announcement has elicited a number of responses, ranging from elation to despair. Besides differing opinions about the possible name change itself, there is an ongoing debate about whether or not Wright’s task force violates Southern Baptist polity, the stated will of engaged Southern Baptists, or both. I suspect much more will be written on these issues in the coming days.

I confess I’m somewhat ambivalent about the name change debate. On the one hand, I have no personal qualms with the Southern Baptist name and seriously doubt that people are going to hell in Vermont or Oregon simply because they object, in principle, to new church plants that affiliate with a denomination that has the word Southern in its name. Furthermore, while the name Southern Baptist Convention is clearly regional in its origin, over time our name has come to mean far more than a group of Baptist churches down in Dixie. I also have some concerns about the timing—like it or not, a lot of Southern Baptists are still upset with either the agenda or the execution (or both) of the Great Commission Resurgence.

On the other hand, I can’t say I object in principle to changing the name of the Southern Baptist Convention—no denominational name should be sacrosanct. Furthermore, we’ve been a national denomination since the mid-twentieth century and have what I believe is a godly desire to further expand our witness to those places in America that are most underserved in terms of the gospel—most of which are outside of the South and Southwest. I understand why many Southern Baptists think our regional name doesn’t accurately represent our national reality (or at least our national aspirations). Will the name Southern Baptist look silly in a generation if, say, 40% of our churches are located outside of the South and Southwest? Perhaps.

All that to say, I’m not enthusiastic about changing the name, but I’m certainly not opposed to it. I have nothing but respect for Southern Baptists with stronger opinions than mine one way or the other—I think there are good arguments on both sides. I suspect we’ll change the name at some point, even if not now. For what it’s worth, if we do change the name in the next couple of years—and I have serious doubts we will—I’d recommend something like the Baptist Convention of North America.

Having laid my own irresolute cards on the table, what I want to offer some thoughts on the manner in which we will have this family discussion in the coming months. I’m urging my fellow Southern Baptists (even those who don’t want to be called that anymore) to be as civil and Christ-like as possible. I seriously doubt that the overwhelming majority of those who want to change the name are closet Presbyterians who are embarrassed of our Convention’s southern roots. I also seriously doubt that the overwhelming majority of those who want to keep the name are redneck racists who don’t care about reaching all of America with the good news.

That said, I think it’s both inevitable and unfortunate that we’ll hear from some obnoxious voices on both sides of the debate. I’ve already vented via Twitter about anti-southern hipsters who love all things urban and are embarrassed by all things rural and southern and southwestern. Let me say now on this blog I’m also troubled by those who imply that the South and/or Southwest are somehow superior than other parts of the country because we have more Baptists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, and Republicans. I hope few voices will argue for or against the name change who represent even a close approximation to these two (admittedly exaggerated) extremes. But I suspect some will.

I want to plead with you, whatever your opinion might be on a name change, to call down the strident and unhelpful voices that share your perspective. Don’t let the mean or arrogant or irascible or elitist or ignorant tones dominate this conversation. For the sake of our collective witness, let’s mortify the name-calling, motives-judging, power-grabbing tendencies that appear almost every time we engage in some sort of public debate. Let’s agree to act like Christian grownups and love one another on the other side of this debate, whatever our name may be. And let’s agree to continue to cooperate together for the sake of the gospel, even if we don’t get our way when it comes to our denomination’s name.

(This post is cross-published at Between the Times)



September 2011



North Carolina and the Marriage Debate

Written by , Posted in Culture

On Monday and Tuesday, the Republican-controlled North Carolina General Assembly voted to move forward with a statewide vote on a proposed marriage amendment to the state’s constitution. If approved, the amendment would bar legal recognition of any union besides traditional heterosexual marriage, including civil unions and domestic partnerships. North Carolina would then become the 31st state in the nation to protect marriage in their state constitution. The proposed amendment will be put before voters on the presidential primary ballots next May 12.

To read more about the proposed constitutional amendment, as well as the debate surrounding the initiative, check out the following links:

N.C. Senate joins House in backing same-sex marriage amendment (Raleigh News and Observer)

N.C. Senate joins House in backing same-sex marriage ban (Charlotte Observer)

Gay marriage ban will be on May ballot in N.C. (Durham Herald-Sun)

Marriage Amendment Passes House (North Carolina Family Policy Council)

Senate Approves Marriage Amendment (North Carolina Family Policy Council)

North Carolina Puts Gay Marriage Ban On May 2012 Ballot (Huffington Post)



September 2011



Consistent Communion: Baptism as Prerequisite to the Lord’s Supper

Written by , Posted in Ministry, SBC, Theology

My latest blog post for Credo Magazine is now available online. My topic, which isn’t in any way controversial, is the relationship between baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Many readers know where I’m coming from on this issue, but just in case you don’t, I’ll give you one snippet from the heart of the post:

For my part, I advocate the view that has variously been called closeclosedstrict, or restricted communion—that baptism is prerequisite to the Lord’s Supper. This is, in fact, the position affirmed by virtually every Christian tradition because it follows the New Testament order. The pedobaptist’s quarrel with the closed communion Baptist isn’t really over who gets to celebrate communion, but rather is over what constitutes valid Christian baptism. I coined the phrase consistent communion to describe this view because it recognizes a consistency in the celebration of the ordinances that I believe is lacking among my open communion Baptist brethren who argue that we should follow the New Testament pattern for baptism, but not the Lord’s Supper, thus severing the ordinance of initiation into the faith from the ordinance of continuation in that faith.

I’d encourage you to read the whole article, where you’ll also find links to my lengthier writings on this important topic as well as links to other helpful resources.



September 2011



Sound Advice for Prospective Ph.D. Students

Written by , Posted in Links, Theology

John Stackhouse of Regent College in Vancouver has a wonderful resource on his personal blog for Christian collegians and seminarians who are considering research doctoral studies in theology or related fields. The article is titled “Thinking about a Ph.D.?” I heartily commend it to you.

The only thing I’d add is that I encourage students to prayerfully consider what type of ministry they wish to pursue on the other side of doctoral studies. Some students desire to be a professor in a teaching-oriented seminary, Bible college, or liberal arts college (that was me). Others wish to serve in a more research-intensive position, likely at a university or perhaps a think-tank. Still others want to earn a Ph.D. or similar degree and use their research and writing skills in “non-academic” ministry setting such as pastoral ministry, missions, denominational service, or parachurch ministries. And of course many students are open to a variety of options, especially if they are paying gigs! In some, but not all cases, what one desires to do post-Ph.D. can help a student settle on the doctoral programs to which he or she wishes to apply–every program has strengths and weaknesses.

For what it’s worth, Southeastern Seminary offers a Ph.D. that might be a good fit for some readers. I supervise doctoral students in the areas of modern church history, modern historical theology, and Baptist studies. You can read more about the Ph.D. program at Southeastern Seminary on the program’s website. But before you do, read the Stackhouse post to see if Ph.D. studies are right for you.