We are scholars and educators who call Baptists from across the disciplines to attend to the ways we educate for the love and glory of the triune God. Our aim is to sustain and strengthen Baptist higher education and the gift of itself to the broader academic environment.  We hope to call forth from the Baptist academy a community of scholars to join our work of preparing younger scholars for an ideal scholarly community that exhibits a theological vision inflected by Baptist communities’ practices, convictions, texts, and traditions.  We pursue these goals because of our longing for a vital, fully faithful church of Jesus Christ.

Did you know?

11: YSBA has met 11 times with more than 70 different participants.

Prague: Along with meetings in Kentucky, YSBA also frequently meets in Oxford, England and even had one conference each in Honolulu and Prague!

7: Young Scholars is an initiative supported by 7 institutions, including Georgetown College, Baylor University, the International Association of Baptist Colleges and Universities, Mercer University, Missouri Baptist University, University of Oxford, and Samford University.

Past Conferences

YSBA is delighted to honor Dr. Paul S. Fiddes, Professor of Systematic Theology at Oxford University and Principal Emeritus of Regent’s Park College. Author of ten books, Dr. Fiddes’ work spans the disciplines of theology, biblical wisdom tradition, literature, Baptist identity, and culture.  Dr. Fiddes is an ordained Baptist minister and committed ecumenist whose work reflects a commitment to both church and academy.

John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress stands alongside the West’s great books. Baptists historically have cherished it: it is their singular contribution to the canon. More than that, its dramatic allegorization of Christian life embodies abiding Baptist convictions.

Bunyan’s trope of a pilgrim’s progress aptly expresses biblically-grounded Baptist insights and practices in such varied dimensions of Christian witness as doxology, ecclesiology, eschatology, ethics, evangelism, ministry, and political economy, among others. For when we, like Bunyan’s protagonist, Christian, live as “strangers and sojourners” (1 Pet 2:11), we dwell gratefully in the land as God’s people, use wisely the resources of the earthly city without seeking to dominate it, pass faithfully through temptations posed by the Slough of Despond and Vanity Fair, and progress in hope toward loving communion in God’s Celestial City.

The intuition that the world has already or may soon go desperately awry seems to be a commonly accepted theme in both popular entertainment as well as natural and social sciences, humanities, and the arts. Dystopian films, games, novels, and music suffuse our culture without challenge from the academy. Although dystopias apparently arise in every culture and time, we live in an age of particularly pervasive anxiety about the present and future.  Dystopias do not often overtly frame the question “where is God in the midst of our suffering?” but as Christian scholars we bear such inquiry as our unique responsibility.

How does history speak to the question of Baptist identity? The peculiar story and theological richness of Baptist ecclesial practices show the importance of considering theology together with the wider historical frame in which it arises. How do historical accounts of people or events enrich our theological understanding of Baptist practices? We invite proposals focusing on the art of narrating the Baptist story and issues related to Baptist historiography and its theological underpinnings.

Baptists throughout their 400 year history have challenged received conceptions of ecclesiology, theology, interpretations of scripture, and church practices. While honoring its heritage, Baptist visions of church life continue to develop with new conversation partners such as Ecumenists and Roman Catholics. Young Scholars in the Baptist Academy invites essays that explore themes that include but are not limited to: church practices that are most significant in the development of Baptist faith, unique contributions to the larger Christian community from Baptist scholars or in relation to Baptist life, theological developments encouraging the development of Baptist faith communities, and the dependence of Baptist faith and life on a renewed understanding of scripture. The Seminar is scheduled in coordination with the Baptist World Congress in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The significance of literature for the development of Christian faith and Baptist identity is evident in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Daniel Defoe’s novels, and classics such as The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter. Because theology and literature often provide complementary visions of the world, faithful men and women frequently appeal to imaginative fiction—in the form of novels, plays, short stories, and poetry—to open the life of faith to richer expression and understanding.

Young Scholars in the Baptist Academy invites essays on the theology and ethics of peace, race, and reconciliation. Baptist voices have contributed to the religious, political, and academic discourse in America in formative ways. T.B. Maston, Glen Stassen and James McClendon represent significant strands in the developing ethical consciousness of Baptists in America. Charles Marsh’s recent work on the development of African-American ethical thinking highlights the courage needed for speaking for racial equality to a religious culture dominated by powerful supporters of segregation, many of them also Baptist. This internal conflict is one aspect of the continuing development of a Baptist understanding of ethics. Martin Luther King and Clarence Jordan and Cornel West represent the prophetic character of Baptist ethics, proclaiming the challenge emerging from their Baptist communities and roots directed to the society at large.

The influence of Baptist organizations and individuals on American and global society in advancing the common good is evident through the widespread sponsorship of healthcare, orphanages, colleges and universities, participation in politics, business and research, as well as the church, missions, and evangelism. The tension inherent in understanding the common good as a motivating force in an ecclesial body is evident in Baptist history and in our present experience. “The common good” raises rich theological, philosophical and social/political questions for the Baptist academy. We invite essays that explore the meaning and challenge of Baptists and the common good.

Protestants of various stripes including Baptists are turning regularly to the roots of their faith traditions for a richer understanding of worship and witness. The work of theologians such as Thomas Oden, Robert Webber, and Daniel Williams, the appearance of biblical commentary series such as theAncient Christian Commentary on Scripture (IVP) and the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible (Brazos Press), the dialogues between Baptists and Roman Catholics in contexts such as Evangelicals and Catholics Together, and the development of university curricula that give attention to Christian traditions indicate the extent to which Baptists have joined other Christians in affirming and appropriating that which has been “handed over” to them, in the etymological sense of traditio.

This seminar meeting focused on the promise and perils of Baptist higher education, with an emphasis on the vocation of Christian scholars.  What does it mean to be a scholar in the Baptist tradition? How can Baptist faith enrich and sustain the life of the mind? What special contributions might Baptist colleges make to the ecology of American higher education and to the life of the Church? Which distinctive Baptist practices bear directly on intellectual life, and how might they be nurtured to better effect?   While the disciplines represented by the authors range from theology and philosophy to history and biblical studies, the common virtue of these essays is the clear articulation of critical aspects of scholarship.  We confront pivotal issues for Baptist scholarship and the life of the mind by exposing deep ideological divides in Christian tradition, the practice of scriptural interpretation, the philosophical ground of Christian higher education, and more contemporary divides, no less deep, occurring within Baptist identity itself.


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