Benajah Harvey Carroll was born on December 27, 1843, in Mississippi, USA as one of 12 children.
Even though his father was a Baptist minister, supporting his family as a farmer, young Carroll was “a dedicated infidel”.
He moved with his family to Arkansas in 1848 and Texas in 1858. He entered Baylor University at age 16 and when the American Civil War began, he joined the Texas Rangers. In 1862 he joined the Confederate for the duration of the war.
He struggled with scepticism which yielded to faith when he was 22. Some friends dared him to attend an old-fashioned Methodist camp meeting, and there it was he met the Saviour.
In November, 1866, he was ordained to preach the gospel, and that same year he married Ellen Virginia Bell who bore him nine children.
At the age of 28, in conjunction with his pastoral duties, he was lecturing theological students at a nearby Baptist University. However things were tough for young Carroll, as he had war debts to pay off and his ministry was to small churches. He spent several years as a school teacher, paying off his debts.
From 1870 to 1899 he pastored First Baptist Church, Waco, Texas, but throughout that time he was devoted to higher education. He taught theology at Baylor University and later organised the Baylor Theological Seminary (1905).
In 1899, following the death of his first wife, he married again, to Hallie Harrison, who bore him a son.
In his 60’s he founded the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1908) and became its first president, which office he held until his death.
This 6’4″ man of God, with flowing white beard and a powerful voice, was said to resemble an ancient prophet. He would read and remember 300 pages every day, and 33 volumes came from his pen.
“When you hear this silly talk that the Bible ‘contains’ the Word of God, and is not the Word of God, you hear a fool’s talk,” he wrote. “I don’t care if he is a Doctor of Divinity, a president of a University covered with medals … it is fool talk. There can be no inspiration of the book without the words of the book” (Baptists and the Bible”, page 309). As a result of his dynamic evangelical leadership the Southern Baptist movement grew to be one of Christendom’s great soul-winning denominations.
B.H. Carroll died on 11 November, 1914.
This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com
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