A 1915 Perspective on Southern Baptist Doctrinal Conditions

Victor Irvine Masters, D.D.  (1867-1954) was the Superintendent of Publicity of the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. In 1914 at the Southern Baptist Convention, Masters was asked by the Corresponding Secretaries of the State Boards to write a mission study book.1 He offered an interesting observation about Southern Baptists and their history in the foreword of his study book.

It is often asserted that Southern Baptists will not read their own history, that they have been too busy making history to read it. It would be truer to say that they have been most influentially busy making history, but have shown so small a response to those who have written of their past, that the men among us of the requisite gifts have been discouraged from writing. May not the author with discretion enter here the plea that Southern Baptists should give more attention to writing and reading their history.2

Building on this point about Baptist’s and their history is further insight from Masters on Southern Baptist doctrinal conditions. 

Doctrinal Conditions. One hundred years ago the larger doctrinal differences of our Baptist sires had been settled, and the permanent articles of faith had been accepted substantially as held by the body of Southern Baptists today. Two hundred years ago American Baptists were General and Particular. The General Baptists were Arminian and the Particular Baptists Calvinistic. Whitefield’s preaching in America helped the Particular Baptists mightily to win the Arminian brethren. By the middle of the eighteenth century the victory was won. Then arose the distinctions Regular and Separate Baptists. The Regular Baptists were those who adopted the Philadelphia Confession of Faith. The Separates sprang up under the leadership of Shubal Stearns. They had more fervor than the Regular Baptists and held that believers are guided by the immediate teachings of the Holy Spirit, which are in the nature of inspiration. They were mighty as revivalists and did much to bring Baptist growth. They opposed the Establishment more than the Regulars did in Virginia. In 1787 the two branches united in Virginia, which they afterwards did everywhere. The Baptists of 1815 in the South, barring certain minor sects, were everywhere Regular Baptists.3

If Masters is correct then it seems that Southern Baptist history shows us that there is certainly room for Calvinistic Baptists in the SBC. Not only is there room, but there should be open doors to embrace those who hold to such historically Baptist theology.

  1. Masters, Victor Irvine, 1915. Baptist missions in the South: a century of the saving impact of a great spiritual body on society in the Southern States. A manual for mission study classes and an instructive story for the reader 2nd ed. (Kindle Locations 55-58). Atlanta : Townley & Company, printers.
  2. Ibid., (Kindle Locations 80-84).
  3. Ibid., (Kindle Locations 309-318).

tagged as , in Arminianism,Baptist,calvinism,Southern Baptist,theology

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 prchrbill September 13, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Excellent work.

2 SAGordon September 13, 2011 at 6:34 pm

I am ‘particularly’ encouraged by this post. 🙂

3 Mark September 13, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Bill and Scott, thanks for the encouragement, brothers.

4 David Benjamin Hewitt September 13, 2011 at 9:53 pm

So where did we go so wrong after 1915? 🙂

5 Thomas R Boroughs September 14, 2014 at 9:58 pm

I am delighted to see you quoting from my 1st cousin 4 times removed! You can also find him quoted in the “Booker T. Washington Papers”. V I Masters worked together with Rev. Richard Carroll, a black preacher and the son of a black slave and her white master. Masters stepped into a white crowd who were threatening to run Rev. Carroll out of town (Iva, South Carolina) for daring to speak at a SALUDA Association Meeting there on the 4th of July 1914. Rev. Carroll reported the incident to Booker T. Washington, as the mob thought Carroll was possibly Washington, and was know as the “Booker T. Washington of SC”.

6 Thomas R Boroughs September 14, 2014 at 10:24 pm

Forty years after Victor Ervine Masters report to the Southern Baptist Convention was published, and a year after he died, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. became involved in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. That was the perfect opportunity for the white leaders in the SBC to stand with our brother in Christ for fair treatment of blacks in America and particularly in our “Bible Belt” where the inequity was the greatest. I have often wondered how things might have been, had white Southern Baptist pastors stood tall with MLK Jr. I believe it would have saved many lives and brought much glory to our Savior.

I always thing of Esther 4:14 where Mordecai challenges Esther to go to the King to plead for the lives of the Jews, and particularly the last part,,,”and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” We don’t want to miss those opportunities!

7 Mark Lamprecht September 23, 2014 at 9:12 am

Thomas, thanks for stopping by and sharing. Fascinating! I would love to hear more history of Masters standing up for black people during his time.


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