Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Dr. Albert Mohler on the Abstract of Principles' Origin

In this blogpost, I highlight three quotes from Dr. Albert Mohler. These quotes are all from early in Dr. Mohler's career as President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary [SBTS]. When these quotes were given, Dr. Mohler was engaging in the struggle of reformation at SBTS, returning the institution to biblical fidelity, as expressed in its confessional basis: the Abstract of Principles. I highlight both the historical origin of the Abstract and the history of reformation at SBTS with three prayers in mind: 1) that the Southern Baptist Convention [SBC] can experience unity in truth, while engaging in gospel-focused theological education and missions; 2) that the churches in cooperation with the SBC will experience continued reformation, hearing the doctrines of God's sovereign grace ever more clearly proclaimed from our pulpits; 3) that SBC-affiliated churches could find increasing opportunities for cooperation with [other] Reformed Baptist churches outside the SBC.

On April 8, 1993, when he was president-elect of the seminary, Dr. Mohler participated in a question-and-answer forum at SBTS chapel. [You can view the entire forum HERE.] In this forum, he said the following about the Abstract of Principles:
"The Abstract of Principles is the confessional document of this institution, and it is (in fact) a contractual document. Every elected member of the faculty has affixed her name or his name to that document, going all the way back to the founders in 1859. As a part of my election as President, and the search process, all of the finalists were asked to present to the Search Committee, and then to the Board of Trustees, an interpretation (a very brief interpretation) of the Abstract... [the Abstract] is the bedrock of this institution. When Basil Manly Sr., who was the first Chairman of the Board of Trustees of this institution, wrote to James Petigru Boyce [the first SBTS president] anticipating the founding of this school, he told Boyce, 'There must be a confession; you must state what you believe and what you will teach.' ... All of us who are assigned responsibility and submit ourselves to the Abstract agree to teach 'in accordance with, and not contrary to' that document... The Abstract is a very straight-forward document. It was written very carefully, based upon the Second London Confession, the Philadelphia Confession, and later recensions that came into Southern Baptist life directly. It was written so that it would be straightforward, and without great ambiguity."
Upon his convocation, on August 31, 1993, Dr. Mohler delivered the famous address, "Don't Just Do Something, Stand There!" setting forth a vision for reformation at Southern Seminary, according to the institution's confessional basis, the Abstract of Principles. Concerning the origin of the Abstract, Dr. Mohler said:
"The most critical role in bringing the Abstract of Principles to final form was served by Basil Manly, Jr., another of the four founding faculty... At Princeton, both Manly and Boyce had studied under the imposing figure of Samuel Miller, a stalwart defender of Presbyterian theological and ecclesiastical standards, who argued the 'The necessity and importance of creeds and confessions appears from the consideration that one great design of establishing a Church in our world was that she might be, in all ages, a depository, a guardian, and a witness of the truth.' 
"That same conviction drove Boyce, both Manlys, John A. Broadus, and those who deliberated with them, to propose an Abstract of Principles based upon the Second London Confession, which was itself a Baptist revision of the Westminster Confession. The Second London Confession had been adopted in slightly revised form by the Baptist associations in Philadelphia and Charleston, and had thus greatly influenced Baptists of both the North and the South."
In 1995 the Founders Journal released a special issue, commemorating the sesquicentennial of the SBC. This issue was handed out to messengers of the 1995 annual meeting of the SBC. In this issue, Dr. Mohler, who was still in the heat of the controversy regarding the reformation of SBTS, wrote an article titled, "To Train the Minister Whom God Has Called: James Petigru Boyce and Southern Baptist Theological Education." In that article, Dr. Mohler wrote:
"The Abstract of Principles came primarily from the editorial pen of Basil Manly, Jr., who had been assigned the task of drafting the confession. Manly drew from the very finest and most faithful Baptist tradition by turning to the Charleston Confession and its Reformed Baptist orthodoxy. The Abstract of Principles stands as a brilliant summary of biblical and Baptist conviction. It is solidly based within the confessional tradition of the Baptists and was, as acknowledged by those who set it in place, a faithful repetition of the central truths found within the Westminster Confession. 
"Thus the great truths of the sovereignty of God and the doctrines of grace were incorporated within the heart of Southern Baptists’ first theological institution. Here was to be found no lack of doctrinal clarity and no ambiguity on the great doctrines which had united Baptists to this date. Sincere and earnest Southern Baptist who wish to understand the true substance of our theological heritage need look no further than the Abstract of Principles for a clear outline of the doctrines once most certainly held among us. Let there be no doubt that in the years to come Southern Seminary will be unashamedly and unhesitantly committed to these same doctrinal convictions as set forth in this incomparable document."

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