MARTIN, Tenn. – Dr. Frank Louis Mauldin set out more than 10 years ago to
write a book about 17th and 18th century American and English Baptists and
their understanding of “the truth as it is in Jesus.” That book, The
Classic Baptist Heritage of Personal Truth, was published earlier this year
by Providence House of Franklin, Tenn.
“I have had a lifelong interest in truth-theory,” said the University of
Tennessee at Martin philosophy professor as to why he wrote the book. “I
am a Baptist and a philosopher who loves history, and it seemed natural for
me to explore the notion of truth as it appears in the heritage of Baptists.
“We’ve entered an era in which the Baptist heritage is slowly being eroded
and lost. The classic Baptist heritage established by American and English
Baptists places its emphasis upon the personal nature of truth.
“It’s not what we believe that counts, classic Baptists witness. It’s
rather whom we believe that counts. But, today, Baptists have generally
turned to a propositional view of truth and an emphasis upon correct
beliefs, proper experiences and an inerrant Bible.”
Mauldin, who has taught at UT Martin since 1972, traveled to Regent’s Park
College, Oxford University, in England during the summers of 1986 and 1989
to study English Baptist history. He said he was “awed” by what he found
when he began to read the primary writings of English Baptists, who
understood truth to be “the truth as it is in Jesus.”
On his return to the United States, he took up a study of American
Baptists, reading their primary writings at Southwestern (Fort Worth,
Texas) and Southern (Louisville, Ky.) Seminaries and at the Historical
Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville.
“There are different kinds of truth,” Mauldin explained. “There is
objective truth, such as we find in science, logic, math and theology.
There is also subjective truth–a truth that is truth for me.
“We can also identify a practical kind of truth. But, and this is the
thesis of the book, there is another kind of truth. There is personal
“Classic Baptists defend the theses that truth is someone real, not
something true, such as a doctrine, a belief or a creed. Truth is the
person of Jesus who said, ‘I am the truth,’ and it is the Living God who
fellowships with persons of faith in the life-world of the gospel story.”
Mauldin says the book has been well received, even becoming a source for
sermon topics by some Baptist ministers. He believes all readers will find
the book “a fresh interpretation of the Baptist way.”
“The book makes the case that personal truth is an essential part of
Baptist identity and integrity,” he said. “It convinced me that I am by
choice a Baptist. It also convinced me that there is such a thing as