Young Scholars

Salt of the Earth: Baptist Witness in a Post-Constantinian Age

July 16-20, 2013

Salt of the earth

In interviews given before becoming Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger observed:

“[T]he church will, in the foreseeable future, no longer simply be the form of life for the whole society…there won’t be another Middle Ages, at least not in the near future. It will always be what you would call a complementary movement, with respect to the prevailing world view…

“The church…will assume different forms. She will be less identified with the great societies, more a minority Church; she will live in small, vital circles of really convinced believers who live their faith. But precisely in this way she will, biblically speaking, become the salt of the earth again. In this upheaval, constancy—keeping what is essential to man from being destroyed—is once again more important, and the powers of preservation that can sustain [man] in his humanity are even more necessary.”

Baptists exemplify a history that fulfills the pattern described here. With origins as marginalized dissenters and non-conformists in England and as poor, agrarian disestablishmentarians in America, Baptists’ self-understanding has often been one of faithful witness amidst the compromises of their culture.

Young Scholars in the Baptist Academy will convene a select group of participants across academic disciplines to explore what it means to be the “salt of the earth” in a world in which neither Baptists nor any expression of Christianity comprises the “form of life for the whole society.” We invite essays that explore this theme in various ways, including but not limited to:

How should Baptists think about the relation of the church to the secular order and its economic, political, cultural and social expressions? For example, should the church continue, as Paul Ramsey once said, to issue advice to states as if they were Christian kingdoms, even in a post-Christian era? What exemplars might we point to in this regard (e.g., the Community of Sant‘Egidio)? What historical figures and periods will be of the most use (e.g., pre-Nicene Church Fathers, Reformation leaders, or third-world figures)?

What historical, literary, and theological contributions have Baptists made that can help Christians at the end of modernity bear witness to the superior claims that Christ’s Kingdom makes upon the faithful?

Where within Scripture or history may we find exemplary instances of God’s people being the “salt of the earth,” and what implications do they have upon the form of ecclesial life in a post-Constantinian age?


Barry A. Harvey, Professor of Theology, Baylor University – Senior Scholar

J. Bradley Creed, Provost and Executive Vice President, Samford University – Consultant 

Planning Team— Andy Chambers (Missouri Baptist University), Douglas Henry, (Baylor University), Sheila Klopfer, (Georgetown College), Elizabeth Newman (Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond), and Roger Ward (Georgetown College)



The seminar will be held in a partnership with Regent’s Park College in the University of Oxford, located in “the city of gleaming spires.” Prospective participants may apply by submitting a 750-word abstract and CV by March 1, 2013. Submissions are welcomed from any scholar identifying with the Baptist tradition, with preference given to junior level faculty at Baptist colleges and universities. Seminar participants will receive a $1000 stipend or qualified travel support, lodging, and meals. See for general information or contact about specific questions.

Now Available!

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The Scholarly Vocation and the Baptist Academy: Essays on the Future of Baptist Higher Education is the product of a group of Baptist scholars interested in critically examining the history, challenges, and possibilities of a scholarly life in the Baptist Academy. The underwriting project is assessing the fruitfulness of a notion like the “Baptist Academy” for their self-understanding and institutional identity. Authors include Thomas Kidd, Adam English, Stephen Chapman, Chad Eggleston, Doug Henry, Barry Harvey, Elizabeth Newman, Roger Ward, Scott Moore, David Gushee, and Paul Fiddes.


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