Southern Baptists

Are Conservative Southern Baptists Fundamentalists?

Note: This article is reprinted from The Faith Pulpit (January/February 2004), a publication of Faith Baptist Theological Seminary (Ankeny, IA). It appears here with some slight editing.

Any fundamentalist who has kept up with the conservative resurgence within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is glad for conservatives' advances and rejoices with them in their success. There are several books and articles which have been written from various perspectives about what has happened within the SBC since 1979. Perhaps one of the most significant is The Baptist Reformation (The Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention) by Jerry Sutton, written from the conservative point of view and published in 2000 by the SBC's denominational publishing house, Broadman & Holman Publishers. The book's significance is indicated by the endorsements it has received from many of the leading Southern Baptists today, including Morris H. Chapman, James T. Draper, Jr., Kenneth S. Hemphill, Richard D. Land, R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Paige Patterson, Adrian Rogers, Jerry Vines, Ed Young, and others.

Still, fundamentalists have raised an important question: "Are these conservative Southern Baptists really fundamentalists?" The question is important, for its answer will largely determine whether those professing fundamentalism ought to embrace the SBC and its leadership. Organizations which have begun as fundamentalist in orientation, such as the Baptist Bible Fellowship International (BBFI) and the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC), are currently facing this issue. Therefore, the question is not only important, it is also timely.

Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, pastored by Jerry Falwell, has Liberty University as one of its ministries. This church is listed as both a BBFI and SBC church (see the appropriate denominational web sites), and Jerry Falwell's National Liberty Journal had as a front page headline, "Liberty University Officially Approved as SBC School" (December 1999, vol. 28, no. 12). The GARBC lists Cedarville University of Cedarville, Ohio, as one of its partnering agencies. Yet Cedarville has also "entered a partnership with the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio [SBC]. The partnership was formalized in November [2002] during the 49th annual session of the state convention when messengers overwhelmingly approved the agreement" (Baptist Press news,, January 3, 2003). And the SBC web site lists Cedarville University under its category "Colleges and Universities." Even more recently Western Baptist College in Salem, Oregon, another school partnering with the GARBC, has been endorsed by the Northwest Baptist Convention and its executive board "as an educational institution that their member churches should support financially and promote as a preferred college for their young people." The Northwest Baptist Convention is associated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

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