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W.H. Whitsitt: The Man and the Controversy (Jim N. Griffith Series in Baptist Studies) [Hardcover]

By James H. Slatton (Author)
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Item Number 172303  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   348
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.1" Width: 6.1" Height: 1.4"
Weight:   1.55 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Feb 1, 2009
Publisher   Mercer University Press
ISBN  0881461334  
EAN  9780881461336  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Nurtured in a Baptist home, the grandson of a pioneer Baptist preacher and church starter, William Whitsitt grew up knowing and admiring the principle leaders of Landmarkism. His Civil War experiences and studies brought him to broader views and converted him to the historical-critical approach to historical and biblical studies, placing him at odds with narrow denominationalism and the popular myth of an unbroken succession of Baptist churches all the way back to the New Testament. Whitsitt was a key leader in the original effort to mobilize the white Baptist churches of the South into an effective and centralized denominational organization to support missions and Christian education. Whitsitt's diaries and letters reveal a man ahead of his times, whose opinions on such matters as the temperance movement, tobacco, professional evangelists, the history of religions, and Baptists exclusivism would have shocked his contemporaries.

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More About James H. Slatton

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! James H. Slatton was a Texan participant in the youth revival movement of the 1950s, graduated from Baylor and of Southwestern Seminary (Th.D.) in church history, and held pastorates in Texas and Virginia for more that fifty years, concluding with thirty-one year pastorate at River Road Church, Richmond, Virginia. He was also an organizer of Baptists Committed and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. He has three children and two grandchildren.

James H. Slatton currently resides in Richmond, in the state of Virginia.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
W.H. Whitsitt: The Man and the controversy  May 15, 2009
An excellent and informative treatment by a careful author from many previously unavailable autobigraphical sources
The Other Side of William Whitsitt  May 9, 2009
James Slatton has done Southern Baptists a service by offering us a fascinating portrayal of one of the Southern Baptist Convention's most notable (and notorious) leaders. W.H. Whitsitt: The Man and the Controversy recounts the fascinating story of Whilliam Whitsitt, the third president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, a leader who found himself at the center of a controversy that raged for the last two decades of the 1800's.

The Whitsitt controversy surrounded a "discovery" that Whitsitt made regarding the origins of the Baptist movement. Whitsitt wrote in an encyclopedia that Baptists "invented" immersion in the 1600's. Of course, as a Baptist himself, Whitsitt did not intend to imply that Baptists were the first to baptize adult believers, only that they recovered the practice.

But Whitsitt's discovery came at the time when the Landmark movement was gathering steam. T.T. Eaton, B.H. Carroll and other Baptist leaders were arguing that there had been an apostolic succession of Baptist churches (and thus baptism by immersion) since the first century. Whitsitt argued that the historical documents indicate that Baptists recovered the practice and that the idea of succession could not be sustained historically.

Slatton's biography is a fascinating look at Whitsitt's life. Whitsitt remains a pivotal figure in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention. He was the bridge between the founding generation and the second generation of Southern Seminary leadership.

Slatton was given access to Whitsitt's personal documents and his "secret" diary. Surprisingly, Whitsitt comes across as quite arrogant. He calls James P. Boyce, the first president of Southern Seminary a "dunderhead." He goes off on people who disagree with him, and he expresses disdain for friends as well as enemies.

But readers must also keep in mind that Whitsitt also talks about himself negatively. Many times, after preaching a sermon, he will dismiss his own delivery and content as sub par. He seems to be rather self-deprecating, so that his harshness with others is also reflected in his harsh treatment of himself.

Most interesting is Whitsitt's sympathy for his colleague and roomate, Crawford Howell Toy, who left the seminary because of his unorthodox views of inspiration. Whitsitt appears to agree with Toy, even though he remained at the seminary.

Usually, after reading a biography, I better sympathize with the protagonist. Not so with Whitsitt. Before reading this book, I had seen Whitsitt as a good man and conservative scholar who became involved in an unfortunate controversy over Baptist history. Since Whitsitt was right on the issue of Baptist origins, I had seen him as a beleaguered hero of academic freedom.

Now that I've read this book, I am glad that Whitsitt left the seminary. The attitude he reveals in his diary, the sympathy he confesses for a colleague who became a Unitarian, and his disdain for his Baptist brethren have caused me to lose respect for the man himself. Southern Baptists were wrong to oust Whitsitt for his views on Baptist history. But perhaps the seminary was actually better off because of his removal.

Slatt recognizes the complexity of Whitsitt:

"He was a complex man. At one time he predicted Baptists eventually would drop their insistence on immersion - and should. In his most important published work, however, he identified immersion as their defining practice.

He agonized over the narrowness of his fellow Southern Baptists and whether he could stay with them in good conscience. Later, when the issue was joined, he took his stand as a Baptist to the bitter end - and a Southern one at that!

He argued that he had been assailed for the mere assertion of a mere historical fact, and that the issue was not doctrinal. Yet he consistently argued that at stake in the controversy was the essential Baptist doctrine of the universal spiritual church, and that it was the foundation on which the Baptist vision of the church stood! - surely a doctrinal issue." (327)

W.H. Whitsitt: The Man and the Controversy gives us the long-overdue biography of a man at the center of a theological and denominational storm. James Slatton's work is an unflinching portrayal of Whitsitt and his research is a gift to all Baptists who wish to learn lessons from Baptist history.

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