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Advancing Progressive Orthodoxy: William Owen Carver and the Reconciliation of Progress and Southern Baptist Tradition




Wilson, Mark

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One of the most important debates among scholars of southern religion concerns the reaction of white southern evangelical Protestantism to the modernizing influences that prevailed outside the region from the end of the nineteenth century to well into the twentieth century. William Owen Carver (1868-1954), longtime professor of Missions and Comparative Religion at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, lived his professional life between two worlds: the conservatism of southern denominationalism and the liberalism of mainstream Protestant thought and practice. Carver responded with guarded optimism to important theological issues such as ecumenism, liberalism, evolution, and the social gospel, and he challenged Southern Baptists to incorporate the best of modern thought into Southern Baptist theology. Carver endured several major controversies throughout his career, but he always managed to silence his critics. His career shows how challenging the reconciliation of progress and Southern Baptist tradition can be.