B.H. Carroll

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B(enajah) H(arvey) Carroll, (1843-1914), Southern Baptist pastor, educator, and author, was born in Carrol County, Mississippi, one of twelve children born to a Baptist farmer-preacher and his wife. The family moved to Arkansas and then to Burleson County in east central Texas when he was fifteen years old. At age sixteen he entered Waco University (today’s Baylor University) but left to enlist in the Texas Rangers when the state seceded from the Union. In 1862 he joined the Confederate Army as an infantryman and served until the end of the war. Carroll underwent a profound conversion experience in 1865, married, and was then ordained into the ministry the following year. After a few years of part-time preaching and school teaching, Carroll was eventually called to be the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Waco, Texas in 1870.

Although never having the opportunity to finish a degree, Carroll’s keen mind and interest in teaching Bible and theology led to a position teaching at Baylor in 1872, a position he would hold until 1905. A major figure in Texan Baptist circles, Carroll served on numerous committees at both the state and the national convention levels and was a prominent conservative Baptist voice in the fight for temperance, and for postmillennial views about the ultimate triumph of the Holy Spirit through the work of the church. He was also a prolific author, publishing over thirty volumes including a thirteen volume commentary on the English Bible and a long-influential collection of sermons about Baptist doctrine and polity (Baptists and Their Doctrines, 1913).

After resigning from his pastorate at First Baptist Waco in 1899 he became deeply involved in the effort to promote theological education among Texas Baptists. Upset with perceived liberalism and a drift away from Baptist principles at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky, Carroll eventually led the way in organizing Baylor Theological Seminary in 1905. In 1908 the seminary was re-chartered as Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and in 1910 moved to its present home in Fort Worth. On his deathbed Carroll summoned his successor and urged him to “lash the seminary to the heart of the Saviour.” Carroll’s concern for a conservative, practical theological education resulted in what ultimately would become the largest Baptist seminary in the world.

For further reading see Jesse C. Fletcher, The Southern Baptist Convention: A Sesquicentennial History (Broadman & Holman, 1994). 

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