Seminary Professors should interpret exegetically, Baptist seminary student says

By: Jonathan Harris

I am a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. For the most part, I am very grateful that the Lord has given me the opportunity to study under some very godly and wise men who have pointed me toward Christ. I have not had Dr. Brent Aucoin for a class since he teaches undergraduates and I'm in the seminary, but it deeply disturbs me that my tuition money is also going to pay for the salaries of people like him who promote political correctness. Knowing the same leftist slant that exists in secular universities is present here used to surprise me, but now it doesn't. Its effects are evident in the student body. In a recent article in the The State, Dr. Aucoin was featured under the heading, “Confederate monuments should go to the scrap heap, Baptist seminary professor says.”

Aucoin says, "I just find it strange to venerate someone who waged war against our country." Well, I find it strange that he, as a history professor with a Ph.D. in American History, finds this strange? Obviously, before the War Between the States especially, state allegiance trumped allegiance to one's national government. It would take hardly any work to demonstrate that this was the attitude of the vast majority of the Founding Father's themselves. Those who died defending their state were in essence defending their country. I'm sure Dr. Aucoin is familiar with Lee's dilemma and decision to stand with his homeland of Virginia. There is nothing strange about this. He also assumes the national government is "our country." This would not have been the assumption of North Carolina where Aucoin teaches. In fact, just the opposite. Defending North Carolina from an invasion of a foreign government WAS fighting for one's country. A second problem with this statement is that he says the Confederates, "waged war." If self-defense against an invasion is "waging war," I need to go back and correct most of my history books. Poland did not "wage war" on Germany. They defended themselves, unsuccessfully. The same can be said for the South. Dr. Aucoin's statement is absurd from a historical point of view. Only someone effected by revisionism would make such a claim.

Dr. Aucoin again plays fast and loose with the facts as he tries to pin the South with the moral stain of fighting for the expansion of slavery. He cites "documents published at the time by delegates from the states that seceded from the Union, starting with South Carolina. Its secession delegates defined states as 'slaveholding' and 'non-slaveholding,' and said that slaveholding states had broken the contract of the union of the United States by refusing to capture and return runaway slaves."

Two things should be noted from the outset. 1) The vast majority of monuments are not to the governmental policy of the Southern states or their politicians, they are to soldiers who fought to protect their homes. 2) Even if Southern states seceded in order to perpetuate slavery, this still does not mean the soldiers were fighting for it. In fact, there are extremely good reasons to believe the perpetuation of slavery had nothing to do with the war itself. When someone confuses the causes for secession with the causes for the war (and the monuments dedicated to the soldiers of that war) you know they are deceiving you. With those two observations out of the way, let us examine the statement more closely.

Aucoin cites original “documents” as proof for the South’s nefarious reason for secession. There are two things however he does not do. 1) He does not cite the secession documents of the upper South. South Carolina, along with other lower southern states DO cite the institution of slavery as being related to their motivation to secede, but about half the states DO NOT. For instance, Virginia does not mention slavery except to refer to “slave states” as a matter of distinction between regions. The mobilization of Federal troops for the purpose of invasion had more to do with the upper South’s reason for secession. 2) He does not put the question of slavery in historical context. Slavery was not a moral question, but an economic and a political question. Long story short, as Jefferson Davis said, slavery was not the CAUSE, but rather the OCCASION for conflict. The North’s insistence on disallowing blacks from the territories in order to keep them for free white labor, the insistence of abolitionists in wanting the South to emancipate without any plan to compensate or integrate former slaves into the North, and constitutional questions of the Fugitive Slave Act and the allowance of slaves (and thereby Southern political influence) into the territories that would gain statehood, must be part of any discussion on how slavery relates to secession.

Aucoin neglects any of the questions that would cast the political situation of the 1860s in a more nuanced and balanced light. Instead he opts to let the reader assume a black and white false dilemma, insinuating that the South was in the black. We read in the article, “‘Often times the debate over the Civil War is whether the southern states seceded because of states’ rights or because of slavery,’ Aucoin said. ‘In part, it’s both, but mainly it’s because of slavery. States’ rights is simply the basis upon which they seceded.’ Aucoin quotes from the documents’ assertions of the 'undeniable truth' that Africans were an inferior race.” As shown previously, State’s rights vs. slavery as the cause for the war is an oversimplification. Aucoin seems to admit the false dilemma, but then turn right around as if to wink and say, “But we really know it’s over slavery!” A more accurate historical way to view “State’s rights vs. slavery” is to admit that the war was over State’s rights, and secession was partially connected to the political question of slavery. The central question of the war was, “Is a state allowed to leave?” A question the 13 original colonies were fortunate enough to have answered in the affirmative in contrast with their Southern descendants. The central question of secession was, “Would the South stay in a union in which the Constitution of that union was trampled on?” The South’s rights were not secure from her point of view. The tariff, the postal crisis, denominational divisions, the American System, the question of Southern influence in the territories, the disregard for the Fugitive Slave Act, John Brown and other radical abolitionists attempts to encourage slave insurrections, all factored into this question. To oversimplify the issue and then follow up with a quote about racial superiority is irresponsible—especially for a time in which almost every American (including Lincoln) believed in a kind of racial superiority. Racism is a weight large enough for both regions of America to bear.

Dr. Aucoin continues his anti-Southern address by turning our minds toward the purpose of Confederate monuments. He states, “The monuments, along with lynchings and segregation, he said, were intended to remind African Americans in the South that, ‘This is a white man’s region. We are superior. You are inferior. You need to know your place and as long as you maintain your place, we will have peace between the races. But if you challenge white supremacy, you will pay a high price.’” This may be the most ridiculous statement of all. Dr. Aucoin has taken on an unbearable burden of proof without, well, giving any proof! Aucoin teaches at an institution that prides itself on “exegetical preaching.” In other words, letting the text speak for itself and not imposing external meanings onto the text. This is however precisely what Aucoin does with history. He imposes an outside meaning, and one that will not ride no matter how many carrots you give it. Fortunately for lover’s of Dixie, civic groups which erected monuments left no doubt as to their true intentions in the form of plaques. I’ve probably seen hundreds of Confederate monuments, and not one of them says a thing about slavery or white “supremacy.” What they do talk about are sacrifice, honor, and bravery. They are to soldiers. Those who sacrificed life and limb for hearth and home. Now the question must be asked, “Why are those who agree with Dr. Aucoin hard-pressed to furnish proof?” If they can demonstrate that the majority of monuments incorporate racially insensitive language in their plaques it wouldn’t be such a hard sell. This proof does not exist however. Dr. Aucoin’s position would require us to believe that in a culture thoroughly embedded with racism, for some odd reason the racists who lived in it were not allowed to express their “real” feelings. . . because why? If the culture is racist, there would be no repercussion. Such is the absurdity that Dr. Aucoin wants us to buy into. I can’t speak for everyone, but this seminary student will continue to interpret both Confederate statues and the Bible exegetically.
The article ends with Aucoin quoted as stating that monuments “probably should not be on the grounds of government institutions, like the one that stood outside the old Durham County Courthouse before it was toppled by protesters.” It is a sad day indeed when those defending a local community should be barred from being honored by that community. I wonder whether or not Dr. Aucoin makes a distinction between Federal, State, and local authority? I’m not sure what the answer is, but one thing I am sure of- I am concerned for the institution I am attending. Aucoin is not alone in his sentiments. I do know there are professors who disagree, but they tend to keep quiet. One told me not too long ago that if he told people what he really thought he would likely be fired. That is not the kind of environment where learning can thrive. There must be debate. There must be opportunity for challenge. There must be humility. Instead, what I’m noticing more and more is an arrogance—a pride that says, “We can slander and disregard our Christian ancestors, especially to the sound of the applause coming from the world.” If the seminary continues in this direction it will not survive. The church must be different from the world, not attempting to gain the world’s respect or acceptance.  One day Southern Baptists will learn that they will not achieve the acceptance they're looking for, this student just hopes it will not be too late.


  1. How long can a nation last when its "institutions of higher learning", its government, its media and even its "churches" constantly belittle, denigrate and spit on the proud heritage of its most loyal and patriotic citizens and those most likely to volunteer to risk their lives in that nation's armed forces????

  2. While I appreciate the thousands of lives lost to the Confederacy in those brave men defending their ideals they were willing to die for, let's not lose sight of the main issue here. Even right down to Lee, they knew what they were doing, and that was defending the indefensible which was the brutal enslaving of human beings to do their work and bidding. That was their "ideal". It was so wrong on so many levels that it simply cannot be accepted even in the light of past American History. This is not something to be revered. Should it be remembered? Yes, as a reminder so we never go back there. Exalted? Never.

    1. Horse manure.
      No one dies solely for the right to enslave anyone. And no one fights as Confederates fought so that other men could enslave. They DO, however, fight as Confederates fought against the godless Yankee liar and invader. You do not have to agree that the Confederacy was right in the politics of their day (of which slavery was but one issue out of many). The SLAVERY brush was shorthand for a sectional divide in which there were MANY divisions. You, Doc Lynch, and those who think as you do, are bereft of reason and - at best - dwell in a hateful fantasy that demonizes the Confederacy for a host of non-rational reasons that this country saw through as they finally cast the radicals upon the dustbin of history.
      And now, we must again see through this radical idiocy as the power-grab by the corrupted without anything better to offer than theft, rape and plunder. Let us remember the lessons of history and interpret the people's reasons in truth, without the projection of hatred and lies that posters like Doc Lynch insist upon.

    2. DocLynch, you read the article then put your spin on it. Lee and others did not like slavery. Thats understood. However, no one in the north or south fought for or against slavery

    3. Doc seems to be part of the problem of spreading lies and smearing true history. I would like to know what type of doc they are!

    4. Doc Lynch, Since West Virginia was admitted to the union as a "salve State" during the War and the members of the union army from Maryland, Delaware, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, as well as other locations in which slavery was completely legal; does that mean that the north was fighting for slavery? Grants wife owned slaves that were not freed until the ratification of the 13th Amendment - was Grant fighting for slavery. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions but no one gets to manufacture facts. Well, I guess if you win a war and control the wealth and resources of the conquered you can get pretty close to inventing your own version of 'truth'.

  3. It's never been about Confederates. It's always been about taking white Europeans, our culture, and our society down. This is why media, government, and higher education continue to stoke hatred, fear, and resentment of white people.

  4. Very well written, Jonathan Harris. Seems that you have educated this professor. Lee was a very religious man and did not own slaves himself. After the war, those whom his wife inherited from her father were all freed as well. Sadly, it seems that those who use slavery as the basis for "the cause" of the war, want to pin in on the south without stopping to consider that there were more slaves in the north and that Lincoln himself stated in his ignauation address that although he was an abolitionist who did not believe in slavery, he had no desire to abolish the instituion of slavery...that tells you that slavery wasn't "the cause" of the war since the north invaded the south. The south had no intentions of fighting the north but when push comes to shove, you will defend yourself, your family, and your property and that is exactly what the south was forced to do yet we are to pretend the sacrifices and loss of life as a result of the northern invasion didn't matter?? That is why monuments exist today!

  5. Mr. Harris, your thoughts in this article are well thought out, and exhibit a rather educated and mature approach to this subject. Your points remind us that the same old "good side v. bad side arguments used by Union apologists is a dog which just will not hunt. One tip, if I may. Please review the article for a few grammatical and punctuation errors, because Dr. Aucoin and those who reason as he does will be sure to use that against your presentation. Otherwise, fine job. I wish I had written it myself.
    Daryl Coleman, B.A., ThM

  6. Readers of this forum might like to read my series of email exchanges with a history professor, who was a colleague of mine for six years at a college in Horth Carolina. Here is the last round of our exchanges; http://dcdave.com/article5/150727.htm. You can trace back to the beginning--and more--through that article's links. We began teaching there at the same time, fresh out of graduate school. I thaught economics. I left after six years. He taught there his entire career and still lives in the community. His father was from New England, but he was raised in a major university town in North Carolina where his father was also a history professor. All my ancestors of whom i am aware were born in either North Carolina, as I was, or in Virginia. You can read about their connection to the war by reading the exchanges.


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