Happy Birthday Sandy Creek

Several have pointed out the Baptist Press story on the celebration of the famous Sandy Creek Baptist Church. The so-called “Sandy Creek tradition” has been less than accurately represented by some who would like to suggest that the Separate Baptists who came from that church and association were opposed to Calvinism. Often this is done by speaking of the Sandy Creek tradition as being committed to evangelism and the Charleston tradition as being committed to Calvinism, and these two (or more) traditions combining to form the Southern Baptist Convention. Such historiography misrepresents the Sandy Creek tradition and is suspect at best. It actually follows a thesis developed and popularized by Walter Shurden and Fisher Humphreys–men that no SBC “inerrancy leader” would ever confuse with being conservative. I find it strange, then, that someone like Paige Patterson would uncritically espouse this theory in explaining Southern Baptist origins.

I have written on this in different places–once in a brief overview of the reformation heritage of the SBC and once as a response to comments and challenges that Dr. Patterson made to students and faculty at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In the latter, I wrote this:

“The evangelistic fervor of the Charleston tradition is only one side of the evidence which refutes the skewed historical interpretation that Charleston and Sandy Creek were separated by Calvinism and missionary zeal. The implication that the Separate Baptists of Sandy Creek were somehow anti-Calvinistic is, at best, a thesis which is difficult to defend. Indeed, there is ample evidence to suggest that Separate Baptists were just as convinced of the Reformed understanding of salvation as were their Regular Baptist brethren.” (read the article)

In addition to these two sources, Josh Powell has written an excellent article entitled, “Shubal Stearns and the Separate Baptist Tradition.” It was published in the Founders Journal (Spring 2001). An excerpt and link follow below.

“The year was 1758 and God had richly blessed the gospel strategy of the Separate Baptists in North Carolina. Just three years before, a group led by Shubal[1] Stearns had settled at Sandy Creek and constituted a church. Within those short three years with “a few churches having been constituted, and these having a number of branches which were fast maturing for churches,…” (read the article).

Each of these articles is well-documented. Read them and check the footnotes for yourself. Then decide if the old Shurden-Humphreys-Patterson thesis about Sandy Creek is historically sustainable.

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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