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Way of Life Bible College
A Visit to a Southern Baptist Seminary
Updated April 8, 2003 (first published February 3, 2000)
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
On a preaching trip to California in February 2000, I visited Golden Gate Theological Seminary to do some research in their library. The school, owned by the Southern Baptist Convention, is located in a lovely setting overlooking San Francisco bay. I spent most of the day researching church history, but I also visited the student center and the book store and talked with some students.

There has been a conservative renaissance within the Southern Baptist Convention at the national level for several years, and some of the grosser forms of modernism have been removed from schools and other institutions at the national level. This is not to say, though, that the SBC schools are sound in the New Testament faith. THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION IS AN ASSOCIATION THAT YOKES BIBLE-BELIEVING CHRISTIANS TOGETHER WITH PEOPLE, PHILOSOPHIES, AND ORGANIZATIONS THAT ARE DISOBEDIENT TO THE WORD OF GOD. It is a mixed multitude of New Evangelicals, Modernists, and Ecumenists.

The root error within the Southern Baptist Convention is its refusal to practice biblical separation, from the world and from theological heresy. This was very evident at Golden Gate Seminary. Following are some of the serious problems I found there:


Most of the required reading for the course at Golden Gate Seminary on “Classics of Church Devotion” are books by Roman Catholic authors: Spiritual Exercises by Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Jesuits), The Cloud of Unknowing (by an unknown 14th century Catholic monk), New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton (a Catholic convert from Anglicanism), Confessions of Saint Augustine (one of the fathers of the Roman Catholic Church), The Imitation of Christ by Thomas Kempis, Selected Works of Bernard of Clairvaux, and The Interior Castle by Teresa of Avila (the latter two are Catholic “saints”).


At their best, the Southern Baptist schools are New Evangelical to the core. They refuse to practice separation from apostasy. There is no great zeal for the truth. The pacifistic New Evangelical climate of the schools is evident by the books that are sold in the bookstores. Most of the popular New Evangelical authors are prominently displayed, such as Billy Graham, Luis Palau, Tony Campolo, John Maxwell, Chuck Colson, Bill Bright, Chuck Swindoll, Bill Hybels, D. James Kennedy, J.I. Packer, John R. Stott, and many others. In the book Evangelicals and Rome I have carefully documented the role these men have played in breaking down the walls of separation between truth and error in this generation.


Visitors to the Golden Gate Seminary bookstore are bombarded with “Christian” rock & roll, and this is no surprise, as worldliness is deeply embedded within the Southern Baptist Convention. Almost 30 years ago, Evangelist John R. Rice warned, “The lewdness of the modern dance is now excused and the worldly viewpoint accepted in most Southern Baptist colleges” (“Dancing in Southern Baptist Colleges,” Sword of the Lord, Sept. 5, 1969). The worldliness is much increased today. A 1982 survey taken by Professor Furman Hewitt at Southwestern Theological Seminary discovered that 40% of the students drank alcoholic beverages (Southern Baptist Journal, Feb. 1983). A 1984 survey at Southern Baptist-supported Wake Forest University found that 90% of the students drank and 47% of them had drank so heavily in the previous three months that they could not remember what had happened to them while drinking (The Baptist Trumpet, April 4, 1984). In 1986, Southern Baptist-supported Baylor University in Texas began allowing campus dances. Speaking with the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, university President Robert Sloan described the move as exciting and said, “It’s done at other universities and we’ve wanted it for a long time.” Baylor sororities, fraternities, and other organizations had held off-campus dances for many years. In 1997, I received the following firsthand testimony about the worldliness at Southern Baptist-supported Grand Canyon University in Arizona. “If there is any type of dress code there, I have never seen evidence of it. Girls wear VERY short skirts and SHORT shorts in classes and around the campus. They wear them to my ‘Christian Thought and Perspectives’ and ‘Survey of the Bible’ classes. They wear these with tight fitting tank tops and their entire mid section exposed, and even have pierced belly buttons” (E-mail from Traci Werner, married adult student at Grand Canyon Baptist University, Nov. 13, 1997).

Southern Baptist schools are worldly because most Southern Baptist churches are worldly. While there are still a handful of Southern Baptist churches that preach and practice separation from worldly things such as rock music, immodest dress, mixed bathing, and dancing, such congregations are rapidly disappearing from the Convention. Pointed preaching against indecent dress and worldly music and unwholesome entertainment is almost nonexistent in most SBC churches, and separation from the world is not required of deacons and other church workers. (Sadly, the same can be said for a rapidly growing number of Independent Baptist churches.) As far back as the 1970s, a survey found that a high percentage of Southern Baptists attending the annual convention rented R-rated movies. In 1984 the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission reported that 45% of Southern Baptists drink alcoholic beverages and 16% become alcoholics (EP News Service, Aug. 11, 1984). Among Southern Baptist youth, surveys revealed in 1984 that 25% have used alcohol and 9% used hard drugs. Things are even worse today. Second Baptist Church of Houston, Texas, is typical of the large churches that fuel the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program engine. Its pastor, Ed Young, was elected to the SBC presidency in 1992. “This church features rock music, Hollywood movies, and other worldly attractions to lure "baby boomers" to Sun. night services. The $34 million "Fellowship of Excitement" church plant is structured like a modernistic mall” (Calvary Contender, July 1, 1992). Dr. John Bisagno’s First Baptist Church (SBC) in Houston, Texas, had an Elvis contest and Beatles music at a 1994 event in its Solid Rock Café (Calvary Contender, Aug. 15, 1994). Dr. R.L. Hymers, Jr. relates the following in his book Preaching to a Dying Nation: “A short time ago I was driving through Houston on a trip with my family. It was Sunday, so we dropped into the First Baptist Church ... since we knew of no independent church in the downtown area. I can only describe this evening service as fully charismatic. The pulsating music went on at a deafening level for nearly an hour. The sermon, by ... Louie Giglio, was replete with charismatic ideas, punctuated by waves of people holding their arms in the air. The ushers were men dressed in shorts and caps with rings in their ears. ... We felt as out of place as we would have if we had entered a night club, a rock concert, or an opium den! ... It is considered one of the conservative churches in the Southern Baptist Convention.”


We have been told that theological modernism has been rooted out of the Southern Baptist seminaries, but books by modernist and neo-orthodox theologians are on the required reading list for several classes at Golden Gate. Following are examples:

The “Classics of Church Devotion” class uses books by
DIETRICH BONHOEFFER (The Cost of Discipleship) and by Soren Kierkegaard (Purity of Heart). Bonhoeffer is an extremely poor example of Christian piety for the students at an allegedly Bible-believing seminary. Bonhoeffer plainly rejected such cardinal doctrines as the virgin birth, physical resurrection, and substitutionary atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. According to Bonhoeffer, it is a “cardinal error” to regard Christianity as a religion of salvation. In an article at the Way of Life web site we have documented Bonhoeffer’s heresies from a 1967 edition of his Letters and Papers from Prison. (See the Modernist section of the End Times Apostasy Database --

“The Human Predicament” class uses
REINHOLD NIEBUHR’S Nature and Destiny of Man. Niebuhr was was one of the leaders of the notoriously modernistic Union Theological Seminary. In the book required in Golden Gate Seminary’s “Human Predicament Class,” Niebuhr brazenly charges Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul with error concerning the return of the Lord. Niebuhr writes, “One seemingly serious, but actually superficial, change in Jesus' own interpretation must be made. He expected the historic interim between the first and second establishment of the Kingdom to be short. In this error he was followed by both Paul and the early church, with the consequent false and disappointed hope of the parousia in the lifetime of the early disciples. This error was due to an almost inevitable illusion of thought which deals with the relation of time and eternity” (Nature and Destiny of Man, pp. 49,50).

“Urban Social Change/ Introduction to Church Planting” uses

“Introduction to Pastoral Care” uses the Great Divorce by
C.S. LEWIS. Even Christianity Today observed that Lewis was “a man whose theology had decidedly unevangelical elements” (Christianity Today, Sept. 7, 1998). Lewis was turning to the Catholic Church before his death. He believed in prayers for the dead and purgatory and confessed his sins regularly to a priest. He received the Catholic sacrament of last rites on July 16, 1963. Lewis also rejected the doctrine of bodily resurrection (Biblical Discernment Ministries Letter, Sept.-Oct. 1996) and believed there is salvation in pagan religions. Lewis denied the total depravity of man and the substitutionary atonement of Christ. He believed in theistic evolution and rejected the Bible as the infallible Word of God. C.S. Lewis used profanities, told bawdy stories, and frequently got drunk with his students (World magazine, May 19, 1990). He denied the biblical doctrine of an eternal fiery hell, claiming, instead, that hell is a state of mind: “And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind—is, in the end, Hell” (Lewis, The Great Divorce, p. 65).

The “Old Testament Introduction II” class at Golden Gate Seminary requires the students to use the
NEW OXFORD ANNOTATED BIBLE. This is based on the liberal Revised Standard Version and is edited by Bruce Metzger and Herbert May. The notes are modernistic to the core. The Old Testament is described as “a matrix of myth, legend, and history” (New Oxford Annotated Bible, Introduction to the Old Testament). The opening chapters of the Old Testament “are not to be read as history” (New Oxford Annotated Bible, “How to Read the Bible with Understanding”). The Genesis flood is described as a “heightened version of local inundations” (Note on Genesis 2:4b-3:24). Job is described as an “ancient folktale.” The meaning of “they pierced my hands and my feet” in Psalm 22 is said to be “obscure.” We are told that Isaiah was written by at least two different men. Jonah is called a “popular legend.” Metzger and May deny that Peter wrote 2 Peter or that Paul wrote the pastoral epistles.

This is the unbelieving nonsense that is required reading for students at Golden Gate Theological Seminary.

There are also modernistic teachers still holding tenure at Golden Gate. On August 13, 2001, Pastor R.L. Hymers visited Golden Gate and discovered that one of his old teachers is still there. Hymers is a fundamental Baptist pastor who graduated from Golden Gate in 1973 before he left the Convention. Following is Dr. Hymer’s testimony about this visit: “I spoke with Dr. Jay Noh, associate professor of New Testament studies at the seminary. He told me that Dr. Clayton Harrop is still teaching full time at the seminary. Dr. Harrop is the head of the Th.M. program and also teaches courses on a regular basis to the Master of Divinity students. Dr. Harrop was one of the professors whom I studied under at the seminary. He is an unbelieving liberal who teaches Redaktiongeschichte (an extreme form of liberal German criticism of the Bible). Dr. Harrop shreds the New Testament on a regular basis. He teaches that II Timothy, II Peter, Jude, and other books of the New Testament are forgeries, not written by the Apostles. He teaches that the Book of Revelation is a tissue of lies. He teaches that Paul was psychologically imbalanced. He teaches that there are uncounted hundreds of errors in the four Gospels. Dr. Harrop does not believe in the Second Coming of Christ. I can footnote and prove it if you are interested in that information. This man is currently teaching every student that goes through Golden Gate Seminary, and is in charge of the Th.M. program as well! . . . If there is that much liberalism at the Southern Baptist seminary I visited yesterday afternoon, how much liberalism may there be at the other five seminaries as well? We have been told repeatedly that Golden Gate was now conservative. That statement is wrong, as you can see . . . It makes me wonder if what they said about the other five seminaries is true. It makes me wonder if there isn’t at least that much liberalism in all six of the Southern Baptist seminaries, as well as the colleges and universities . . . This is no time for independent Baptists to have anything to do with the Southern Baptist Convention, in my opinion.”

While some progress has been made at the national level, overall the Southern Baptist Convention has not been rescued from liberalism; and even at the national level, there is much theological liberalism that remains deeply embedded in the seminaries.

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