Date of Award


Degree Type

Restricted Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)





“Subjectification in the Southern Baptist Conservative Resurgence,” is a sociological and philosophical analysis of the 1980s Conservative Resurgence. In the Resurgence, Baptist congregations rejected continued tolerance for “liberals,” people who did not confess the literal and inerrant truth of the Scriptures, holding positions of authority in the Southern Baptist Convention’s agencies and seminaries, and demanded that liberals be replaced by those who believed completely in the Bible. After a decade of partisan maneuvering unprecedented in the Convention, the liberals were totally ousted, and the denomination's prior trend towards alignment with mainstream American Christianity was sharply reversed. To this day, Southern Baptists are defined by the sectarian tendencies that motivated the Resurgence, and its leaders and their successors significantly influence politics and public life in the United States.

This dissertation asks why the Resurgence happened, and pursues this question along two lines. First, what benefits outweighed the significant costs involved in increasing the antagonism between Southern Baptists and their surrounding culture? This is answered by using the formal framework developed by rational choice sociology of religion. Second, what is the genealogy of the desire that made Southern Baptists prefer those benefits over the costs? This is answered by using post-structuralist processes of subjectification to explain how their preference was directed. The main object of analysis, in both cases, is the preaching of W. A. Criswell, pastor of the then-largest church in the Convention, and nationally prominent leader of the Resurgence.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.