James M. Dunn and soul freedom: a paradigm for Baptist political engagement in the public arena.
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Weaver, Aaron Douglas.
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In the last half of the twentieth century, James Dunn has been the most aggressive Baptist proponent for religious liberty in the United States. As the leader of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, Dunn’s understanding of church-state separation was a battleground in the Southern Baptist Controversy of the 1980s. “Conservative Resurgence” leaders opposed Dunn and the Southern Baptist Convention eventually withdrew from the BJC. This thesis analyzes the public career of James Dunn, especially his views on religious liberty. Dunn embodied and articulated a paradigm for Baptist political engagement in the public arena which was based upon the concept of soul freedom: voluntary uncoerced faith and an unfettered individual conscience before God. Dunn defended soul freedom as the historic Baptist basis of religious liberty against critics whom he believed had forfeited their Baptist identity by aligning with the Religious Right and its rejection of church-state separation.