The First Baptist Church of Charleston, founded in 1682, is the oldest Baptist church in the South. Next door to the church lives an 18th century ghost; so says the historical plaque. On the other side of the ghost resides the pastor of First Baptist, a rather young man. This morning, Ann Judson, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof, appeared in the midst of the morning gathering of the Baptist History Celebration. The past and present, the dead and the living, dwell together in harmony here in historic Charleston as we are surrounded by history.
Bill Leonard, now speaking, joked that the widely diverse group of Baptist historians presently gathered at FBC Charleston are able to come together because "we only talk about dead people, and they are not a threat to us." Speaking on the topic of "Understanding Our Global Witness," Leonard unequivocally declared that the late 18th century / early 19th century missions movement led Baptist Calvinists to "change their theology." And although some modern day Calvinist Baptists uphold Andrew Fuller as a staunch Calvinist, Leonard argues that Fuller and "Fullerism" opposed and presented a sharp challenge to traditional Calvinism.
I suspect that if a question and answer time were allowed following Leonard's remarks, his views of certain dead Baptists would be challenged by some in attendance this morning. Perhaps dead Baptists can be a threat to Baptists today, after all. But for now we all sit in harmony in downtown Charleston. Nonetheless, at the end of this day, Calvinist historian Tom Nettles will have today's last word. So the future has been predetermined - by someone.