1 See, e.g., Walter Shurden, The Baptist Identity: Four Fragile Freedoms (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys, 1993). The four freedoms which Shurden finds at the heart of Baptist identity are Bible freedom, soul freedom, church freedom, and religious freedom. These emphases are drawn from sermons delivered at the meeting of the Baptist World Alliance from 1905 to 1980 (pp. 4-5). For Shurden the essence of being Baptist is thus found in the “style,” “posture,” “attitude,” and “spirit” of freedom (p. 2). Besides deriving his points entirely from the twentieth century (when the corrosive effects of historical consciousness had ample time to be felt), and from an organization which eschews doctrinal definition, Shurden’s treatment itself seems to allow for a sharply diminished theological content of the Christian faith. This is only to be expected, since freedom without form results only in an amorphous and undefinable entity. If it is objected that in this context there is indeed form and that the freedom is not absolute, then one would like to ask: Where do you draw the theological line? When does an aberrant theological view reach the point of being outside the pale of historic Christianity? The reluctance to offer concrete answers to such questions leads one to suspect that the freedom being sought is in reality absolute.

2 H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage: Four Hundred Years of Baptist Witness (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1987).

3 Timothy George, ed., James Petigru Boyce: Selected Writings (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1989), pp. 48-56, citation from p. 56. Excerpts from this address may also be found in Robert A. Baker, A Baptist Source Book: With Particular Reference to Southern Baptists (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1966), pp. 132-137, and the Abstract of Principles, pp. 137-139.

4 Annual of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1923, pp. 19-20.

5 Annual of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1925, pp. 71-76. See also Baker, Baptist Source Book, pp. 200-205.