B.H. Carroll was a giant among men, and not just because of his six foot four inch frame. He was one of the most influential Baptist leaders and thinkers during his time. He was an voracious reader with an outstanding memory and also a skilled debater. One story survives that at the age of sixteen he once won both sides of a debate contest.
Benajah Harvey Carroll was born into a Baptist preacher’s home in Carroll County, Mississippi, in 1843. His family eventually made their way to Burleson County, Texas, in 1858. He would enter Waco University (the predecessor to Baylor University) but never finish his degree. He dropped out when Texas seceded from the Union in 1861.
The next few years of Carroll’s life seem to be taken straight from a western novel. He joined the Texas Rangers after dropping out of school. In 1862, he joined the Confederate army. In the Battle of Mansfield in 1864, Carroll was wounded by a Union minnie ball in his thigh, which narrowly missed an artery. He returned home to Texas to recover, but he felt the effects of this wound for the rest of his life.
In spite of his religious upbringing, Carroll struggled with skepticism. In 1865 he was at last converted and joined the Baptist Church in Caldwell, TX. He was ordained in 1866 and pastored a few small churches. In 1870, he became pastor of the First Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, where he would serve until 1899.
In spite of not completing his college degree, Carroll was soon greatly involved in education. He taught at Baylor from 1872 through 1905. In that year, the Baylor Theological Seminary was founded with Carroll at its head. This institution morphed into Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1908 and two years later moved to its present location in Fort Worth, Texas.
Carroll was an influential preacher, teacher, and writer. He penned a 17 volume Bible commentary titled An Interpretation of the English Bible. Many other lectures and sermons have been collected and printed, including very popular works on Baptist doctrine.
Carroll suffered from ill health throughout the final years of his life. He passed away on November 11, 1914, in Fort Worth.
B.H. Carroll has become one of my favorite authors to read. His sermons and teaching stir the heart and challenge the mind. Even when I disagree with his position (his postmillenialist views are an obvious example) I still find myself appreciating the structure and bases for his arguments. Carroll was largely a self-educated theologian, who went from being a skeptic of Christianity to one of its ablest defenders. His teachings on Baptist principles and ecclesiology are some of the best ever produced. – MBG
- More to come!