Today Dr. Walter Strickland posted an article giving context to statements reported by the New York Times last week. Dr. Strickland was elected First Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention two years ago and has served at Southeastern Seminary for 6 years, currently as Associate Vice President for Kingdom Diversity and Assistant Professor of Systematic and Contextual Theology.
Dr. Strickland’s statement includes some key quotes as follows:
Cone, however, represents a theological shift away from that longstanding tradition despite being dubbed the “Father of Black Theology.” Because of Cone’s countless books and articles, he is assumed to be the normative voice of Black Theology, but I was convinced that was not true. My PhD dissertation was a historical analysis of theological method in Black Theology, to demonstrate that James Cone does not have a monopoly on Black Theology, and with the secondary goal of elevating the status of J. Deotis Roberts…
Despite my substantive theological differences, being introduced to systemic sin in his work was an important theological insight to understand the expansive impact of the Fall on humanity and society. However, unlike Cone, I engage systemic sin in light of humanity’s Genesis 2:15 call to be vice-regents and the Fall’s effect on that command…
But I want there to be no question about my affirmation that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God and the foundational text for all I do.
Last week, in an opinion piece by Molly Worthen titled Can Black Evangelicals Save the Whole Movement? (which in other ways is a fascinating perspective), Worthen quoted Strickland about how he interacts with the ideas of theologian James Cone. Some people read those statements and took them to be saying Dr. Strickland was endorsing all the teachings of James Cone (some of which clearly fall outside of evangelical Christianity) and trying to quietly advocate for unbiblical ideas in his teaching.
Some of our team have met Dr. Strickland in the past. That narrative struck us as completely false and unbelievable. Strickland’s article today gives fuller context to the quotes from the article and details his discovery, reading, and critique of Cone’s writings. I encourage you to read the entire piece. It confirms what our team knew about Dr. Strickland: that he’s committed to full biblical orthodoxy and our confessional documents. Also that he’s a man of integrity and we as Southern Baptists are blessed to have him serving at one of our seminaries.