R. Albert Mohler Jr., editor Confessing the Faith: The Living Legacy of Southern Seminary’s Abstract of Principles (SBTS Press 2016, $16.99)
Three decades ago, when R. Albert Mohler Jr. enrolled as a student at Southern Seminary, some of his professors openly disagreed with the institution’s confession of faith. Written by Basil Manly Jr. in 1858 as the document on which Southern Seminary would be established, the Abstract of Principles sets forth 20 articles of faith that every professor is required to affirm and teach. When Mohler assumed the presidency in 1993, he set out to restore the confessional integrity of Southern Seminary.
In Confessing the Faith: The Living Legacy of Southern Seminary’s Abstract of Principles, 20 of the seminary’s faculty contribute chapters defending and applying the truths of each article of faith. The commentary illustrates both the convictional foundation of the seminary’s identity and the contemporary importance of affirming these doctrines. Mohler writes in the introduction that the book is evidence “the theological recovery for which we had longed, prayed, and worked has come to pass.”
“The Abstract of Principles was instrumental in the recovery of this seminary,” Mohler writes. “This volume is more than a doctrinal exposition or devotional exercise. It is the display of public fidelity to a confession of faith, to the faith once for all delivered to the saints, and the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Like other Baptist and Protestant confessions before it, the Abstract of Principles begins with an article defending the inspiration and authority of the Bible. Mohler contributes the chapter for Article I, noting this statement on the Scriptures was critical in the seminary’s establishment “as a bastion of biblical authority” and necessary for its renewal in the 20th century.
Mohler explains how the Abstract affirms the attributes of Scripture as the only “sufficient, certain, and authoritative rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience,” which was a central issue to the Reformation. The Bible is essential to knowledge of and obedience to Christ, Mohler writes. In concluding the chapter, Mohler hearkens back to John Broadus’ famous saying when he reminds the reader of Southern Seminary’s primary purpose “to produce men who will be preachers ‘mighty in the Scriptures.’”
“Theological liberalism has led to the demise of many once great churches, seminaries, and entire denominations,” Mohler writes. “This very school has had to relearn lessons that should never have been forgotten, but we stand without apology in absolute agreement with the evangelical Scripture principle, the scriptural confidence of the Reformers, and the faith confessed so clearly in the Abstract of Principles.”
The remaining 19 articles feature commentary from Southern Seminary professors, among them Bruce A. Ware on Article IV, “Providence”; Thomas R. Schreiner on Article XI, “Justification”; Gregg R. Allison on Article XIV, “The Church”; and Tom J. Nettles on Article XVIII, “Liberty of Conscience.” With confessional fidelity under attack from secular culture and even within some evangelical circles, this commentary is a vital tool for articulating and protecting the living legacy of our Baptist identity.
In addition to the commentary, the book also includes Mohler’s 1993 inaugural convocation address “Don’t Just Do Something; Stand There,” in which he announced his vision for recovering the school’s confessional identity. The book’s appendix features James P. Boyce’s “Three Changes to Theological Institutions,” the founder’s 1856 address explaining the need for a document like the Abstract for the seminary’s doctrinal preservation.
Copies of the book can be purchased exclusively at Southern’s LifeWay Campus Store. For phone orders, call (502) 897-4506.