When I first came to Southern Seminary to apply for the Ph.D. Program in 2001, I went to the Boyce Centennial Library and checked out a 1996 PBS documentary titled “Battle for the Minds.” Back then, it was only available on VHS, and it was not allowed out of the library. You had to watch it right there in the AV lab.
After seeing the documentary, I searched high and low to obtain a copy of this video for myself. When that proved impossible, I began trying to find a copy online and have searched for it at different times over the years. I searched and searched, and it has eluded thus far… until today. Someone shared it on YouTube about five days ago, and a friend sent it to me this afternoon.
The story of Southern Seminary’s recovery from theological liberalism is well-known at this point, but this documentary is not a sympathetic look at that recovery. In fact, the producers would not have viewed it as a “recovery” at all but as a regression. The documentary focuses on the debate over women in ministry, but through the course of the video it becomes clear that the issues were much deeper. At heart, the debate was about biblical authority, which had been shunned by many on the faculty at that time.
When the video was produced, many of the theological “moderates” hoped that there still might be a chance to stop the conservative resurgence at Southern Seminary. We all know now that this was not to be. But things didn’t seem so clear for those in the midst of the struggle in the mid-90’s. This unsympathetic video bears witness to that.
When I first watched this documentary 18 years ago, it was only five years old. Nevertheless, the documentary bore witness to a Southern Seminary far different even from what I experienced in 2001. It is certainly a world away from what Southern Seminary is now.
This is a time capsule worth the time to watch.