Saturday, December 27, 2008

B.H. Carroll - Southern Baptist Pastor and Educator

Benajah Harvey Carroll was born December 27, 1843 in Carroll County, Mississippi to Baptist minister Benajah Carroll. The younger Carroll was "a dedicated infidel until his conversion in 1865" (Warren W. Wiersbe, Walking with the Giants, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976, p. 123). Wiersbe describes this self-made scholar's struggle to maintain his unbelief and Christ's ultimate victory over human wisdom and stubborn resistance (ibid., pp. 123-124). Shortly after fighting in the Confederate army (1862-64) Carroll turned to Christ and devoted his life to the Lord's service in the ministry.

B.H. Carroll had a remarkable intellect. Excelling as a debater in matters of theological controversy, Carroll rose to leadership in the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Southern Baptist Convention. For more information on these controversies see the Wikipedia article on Carroll. He was pastor of the First Baptist Church of Waco, Texas and went on to become one of the founders of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, serving as president until his death in 1914.

Though Carroll was Southern Baptist, he was not a premillennial dispensationalist. He was postmillennial, believing in the power of the Holy Spirit to convert the majority of people through the church's testimony. Then Christ would come and establish His kingdom on earth. Carroll attacked dispensationalists for "their pessimism about the success of the Holy Spirit and the success of churches" (Wikipedia).

BH Carroll's greatest legacy is probably his 13-volume magnum opus, An Interpretation of the English Bible, reprinted in 6 volumes by Baker Book House in 1973.
It is not actually a commentary; it is an "interpretation" on a grand scale. Sometimes Carroll pauses to preach a sermon; he may linger for pages on one verse, or he may skip over entire sections. I am glad the editors have not deleted his "asides," because they are sometimes the most interesting parts of a chapter! . . .

Some students differ with Carroll's doctrine of the church or his views on prophecy, but these differences should not rob them of the values of this set of Biblical studies . . . If a young pastor started reading this set faithfully and read only fifty pages a week, he would complete the set in about two years and would have a knowledge of the Word of God from which he would profit for the rest of his ministry. If you only "consult" these books, you may be disappointed; but if you read them seriously, you will be enriched.
(Wiersbe, pp. 125-126)
Happy birthday to one of the lesser known giants of the faith! At the very least, BH Carroll's example should inspire us to excel in the serious study of the Bible that we are called to live and preach.