Benajah Harvey Carroll

Benajah Harvey Carroll, known as B. H. Carroll (December 27, 1843 – November 11, 1914), was a Baptist pastor, theologian, teacher, and author.

Benajah Harvey Carroll
1st President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
In office
Preceded byNone
Succeeded byLee Rutland Scarborough
Personal details
BornDecember 27, 1843
Carroll County, Mississippi
DiedNovember 11, 1914(1914-11-11) (aged 70)
Waco, Texas
ParentsBenajah and Mary Carroll
Alma materBaylor University
OccupationTheologian, Seminary President, Author, Pastor, Educator
Military service
Allegiance Republic of Texas
Branch/serviceTexas State Militia
Confederate States Army
Years of service1862-1864 (C.S.A)
Unit17th Texas Infantry
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War


Carroll was born near Carrollton in Carroll County in north central Mississippi,[1] one of twelve children to Benajah Carroll and the former Mary Eliza Mallard. His father was a Baptist minister. The family moved to Burleson County, Texas in 1858.[2]

Carroll served in the army of the Confederate States of America from 1862-1864.[2] In 1865, at the age of twenty two, he converted to Christianity at a Methodist camp meeting after taking up a preacher's challenge to experiment with Christianity.[2] In 1866, he took as a second wife the former Ellen Virginia Bell.[2] The first wife was divorced for her infidelity while Carroll was at war.[2] After her death, he married the former Hallie Harrison in 1899.

Carroll was a denominational leader both in the Baptist General Convention of Texas (of which he was a leading founder) and the Southern Baptist Convention. Much of his rise to prominence developed through proving himself a formidable foe in controversy - including debates with Texas politicians, standing for board policies and convention authority in the Hayden controversy in the Baptist General Convention, and opposing the president of Southern Seminary during the Whitsitt controversy[3][4] at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. While Carroll had Landmark tendencies, he was not the champion of the Landmark Movement some have made him to be. Of the four major controversies involving Landmark ideas, Carroll sided against the Landmarkers in three of the four.[5] Only in the Whitsitt controversy did Carroll side with Landmarkers and, for Carroll, that controversy was about trustee authority, not Landmark beliefs.

Carroll's theology can best be described as moderately Calvinistic, postmillennial, and thoroughly Baptist. His postmillennialism was associated with neither the social engineering of Walter Rauschenbusch, nor the expectation that every soul in every community would be converted. Instead, Carroll held such a strong confidence in the work of the Holy Spirit, Christ's Vicar, that churches who accepted their role as God's instruments on earth would not ultimately fail in the Holy Spirit's mission to bring about the conversion of the vast majority of humanity, at which time Christ would return to fully institute His kingdom on earth.[6] Carroll vehemently attacked Roman Catholicism for the papal claim that usurped the Holy Spirit's role as Christ's representative,[7] dispensational premillennialism for their pessimism about the success of the Holy Spirit and the success of churches,[8] the Restoration Movement for their reliance on human apprehension and denial of direct revelation, and modernism for the over-reliance on scientific method to the exclusion of Divine revelation and historical evidence.[5] He led in founding the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas in 1908, which moved from Waco to Fort Worth in 1910.[9] He served as president of the seminary until his death.

Carroll's younger brother, James Milton Carroll, was also an important Baptist leader in Texas. His son, B.H. Carroll Jr., would later become Tarrant County school superintendent and the namesake of the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake, Texas.

Carroll published 33 volumes of works, and is best known for his 17-volume commentary, An Interpretation of the English Bible. Benajah Harvey Carroll died November 11, 1914, and is buried at the Oakwood Cemetery in Waco, Texas.

Southern Baptist conservative resurgence

While Carroll was known for his expositional preaching and had agreed with the first article of the New Hampshire confession of faith, which said that the Scriptures contained "truth without any mixture of error for its matter,"[10] the doctrine of Scripture was not the most notable tenet of Carroll's theology and work. His work on the subject, inspiration of Scripture, was compiled and published posthumously by J. B. Cranfill in 1930. Beginning in the late-sixties and having its height in the late-seventies and early- to mid-eighties, the conservative resurgence looked toward Carroll as a foundation for their own arguments and as an example of the historic Southern Baptist position on the inerrancy of Scripture.

Harold Lindsell extensively outlined Carroll’s position in one of his works.[11] Lindsell also stated, "This volume [Inspiration] should be republished today and read by tens of thousands of Baptists so that they would better understand the theological roots from which they have sprung."[11] The year after Lindsell published those words, Thomas Nelson reprinted Inspiration, including two additional prefaces. One was by Paige Patterson, a leader in the resurgence and future successor to Carroll as president of Southwestern.

The other preface was by W. A. Criswell, who in that preface saw the reprint as "timely," and coming at "a crucial time in our history."[12] Criswell had earlier served as a catalyst for the resurgence in his publication, Why I Preach that the Bible Is Literally True, in which Criswell had referred to Carroll.[13] Other members of the conservative resurgence also included Carroll in their defenses of the inerrancy of Scripture.[14]

The historian Joseph E. Early, Jr., assistant professor of theology at Campbellsville University in Campbellsville, Kentucky, maintains that Carroll had an overbearing, even "bullying", tendency and rarely failed to gain his way in matters of Baptist faith and practice. For instance, Carroll worked through the trustees to obtain the separation and removal of the seminary from Waco to Fort Worth in 1908, while Baylor president Samuel Palmer Brooks was away from the campus. He constantly quarreled with the editors of the Texas Baptist Herald even though the denominational newspaper published his sermons. He did not hesitate to remove erring churches from the denomination.[15]


"Keep the Seminary lashed to the Cross. If heresy ever comes in the teaching, take it to the faculty. If they will not hear you and take prompt action, take it to the trustees of the Seminary. If they will not hear you, take it to the Convention that appoints the Board of Trustees, and if they will not hear you, take it to the great common people of our churches. You will not fail to get a hearing then." deathbed commission to Lee Scarborough, his successor as president of Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary.

"These modern devotees of higher criticism must wait each week for the mail from Germany to know what to believe or preach, to find out how much, if any of their Bibles remains." Theological Seminaries and Wild Gourds

"The modern cry 'less creed and more liberty' is the degeneration from the vertebrate to the jelly fish, and means less unity and less morality, and it means more heresy." An Interpretation of the English Bible

"It is a positive and hurtful sin to magnify liberty at the expense of doctrine." An Interpretation of the English Bible

Speaking of his false conversion as a child: "I did not believe, in any true sense, in the divinity or vicarious sufferings of Jesus. I had no confidence in professed conversion and regeneration. I had not felt lost, nor did I feel saved. There was no perceptible, radical change in my disposition or affections. What I once loved, I still loved. What I once hated, I still hated." My Infidelity and What Became of It

Speaking on the humanistic philosophies he studied before his true conversion: "They were destructive, but not constructive. They overturned and overturned and overturned; but, as my soul liveth, they built up nothing under the whole heaven in the place of what they destroyed. I say nothing. I mean nothing." My Infidelity and What Became of It

See also


  1. J. B. Cranfill, "Life Sketch of B. H. Carroll," in Sermons and Life Sketch of B. H. Carroll, ed. J. B. Cranfill (Waco, Texas: American Baptist, 1895), 7.
  2. Spivey, James (2001). Timothy George and David S. Dockery (ed.). Theologians of the Baptist Tradition. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman. pp. 164–165.
  3. The Worst Decision B. H. Carroll Never Made: Southern Seminary, the Whitsitt Controversy & the Quest for Institutional Accountability
  4. The Other Side of William Whitsitt
  5. Macklin, George Benjamin (2007). Pneumatology: A Unifying Theme in B. H. Carroll’s Theology. PhD dissertation, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. pp. 154–161.
  6. Carroll, "Interpretation of the English Bible-15," 29-30.
  7. Carroll, "Galatians, Romans, Philippians, Philemon," 34,247-8.
  8. Carroll, "Biblical Addresses and Educational and Religious Addresses," ed. and comp. by J.W. Crowder (n.d.) 67.
  9. Spivey, James (2001). Timothy George and David S. Dockery (ed.). Theologians of the Baptist Tradition. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman. p. 169.
  10. Philip Schaff ed., The Creeds of Christendom: With a History and Critical Notes, 6th ed., ed. David S. Schaff (1931; repr., Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 2007), 3:742.; Benajah Harvey Carroll, Inspiration of the Bible, ed. J. B. Cranfill (1930; repr., Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 1980).
  11. Lindsell, Harold (1979). The Bible in the Balance: A Further Look at the Battle for the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan. pp. 128–138.
  12. W. A. Criswell, foreword to Inspiration of the Bible, vii.
  13. W. A. Criswell, Why I Preach that the Bible Is Literally True (Nashville, Tennessee,: Broadman 1969).
  14. Russell H. Dilday Jr., The Doctrine of Biblical Authority (Nashville, Tennessee: Convention Press, 1982), 100.; Richard Land, response to "A Brief History of Inerrancy, Mostly in America," by Mark Noll, in The Proceedings of the Conference on Biblical Inerrancy, 1987 (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman, 1987), 38.; L. Russ Bush and Tom J. Nettles, Baptists and the Bible: The Baptist Doctrines of Biblical Inspiration and Religious Authority in Historical Perspective (Chicago: Moody, 1980), 21, 305, 306-316, 321,347, 400, 411, 421, 432, 433.; Robinson B. James and David S. Dockery, eds., Beyond the Impasse?: Scripture, Interpretation, & Theology in Baptist Life (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman, 1992).
  15. Joe Early, Jr., "B.H. Carroll", East Texas Historical Association and West Texas Historical Association annual meeting in Fort Worth, Texas, February 26, 2010


  • Carroll, B.H. Interpretation of the English Bible.17 vols. Edited by J.B. Cranfill. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1947.
  • Carroll, B.H. Biblical Addresses, and Educational and Religious Addresses. Edited and compiled by J.W. Crowder. N.p.:n.p., n.d. Held in the B.H. Carroll Collection. J.T. and Zelma Luther Rare Books and Special Collection of Roberts Library, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.
  • Encyclopedia of Southern Baptists, Vol. 1. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman, 1958.
  • Early, Joseph E. Jr. A Texas Baptist Power Struggle: The Hayden Controversy. Dallas: University of North Texas Press, 2005.;ISBN 1-57441-195-0
  • George, Timothy and David S. Dockery eds. Theologians of the Baptist Tradition. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman, 2001.
  • Jonas, Glenn. "The Political Side of B. H. Carroll." Baptist History and Heritage 33, no. 3 (Autumn 1998), 49-56.
  • Lefever, Alan J. Fighting the Good Fight: The Life and Work of B. H. Carroll. Austin, Texas: Eakin, 1994.
  • Macklin, George Benjamin. "Pneumatology: A Unifying Theme in B. H. Carroll’s Theology." PhD diss., Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2007.
  • McDaniel, George W. A Memorial Wreath: World War Martyrs, Lee's Veterans, B. H. Carroll, J. B. Gambrell. Dallas: Baptist Standard, 1921.
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