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Who was W.H. Whitsitt?

By admin | April 9, 2009

Recently, a friend pointed me to Michael Haykin’s review of James Slatton’s new biography of William Heth Whitsitt, the 3rd president of Southern Seminary. Whitsitt is an important figure in the history of the SBC, and the story of his firing by the Seminary suggests several important points (such as the influence of Landmarkers on the leadership of the convention and SBTS at the trun of the 20th century; the theological commitments of those leaders in the appointment of E. Y. Mullins; even the understanding of confessional commitment to the Abstract of Principles).

According to Dr. Haykin’s review, Whitsitt was not the man many have assumed him to be. He seems to have hidden his own unorthodoxy while possessing a sour personality. The combination seems to have been toxic. Micahel admits that much of this information is new to him; it is new to me as well. I have viewed Whitsitt as an important figure because he was largely correct in his views of the recovery of believer’s baptism among the Particular Baptists in the 1640s. But this new information causes deeply troubling doubts about Whitsitt the person. Was he really as courageous as he seems to have been?

Dr. Haykin’s review does two things for me–things that a good book review ought to do: 1. I want to read the book; 2. It reminds me of how little information we often have about our predecessors. There is a lot more work that needs to be done! But before drawing firm conclusions, I have to do my work–reading Slatton’s book, and perhaps doing what we academics often can’t resist: tracking down the sources. History is like detective work, and it’s great fun.

Topics: Baptist History, Confessions, Seminary | Comments Off

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