Celebrating Our Culture  



“Spiritual School”
  Concepts of a Southern Bible-based faith
 by Robert L. Hall

Deep in the comfortable setting of Oxford, Mississippi, past home to William Faulkner and location of the University of Mississippi, a small school that usually runs an attendance of about fifteen per semester has been supplying the pulpits of the American Baptist Association with pastors on a regular basis.   Oxford Baptist Institute, in operation 25 years and under its fourth President, Brother Ron Provence, leads the student body in studying Bible courses, languages, evangelism and courses geared toward the ministry and pastoring churches.

Staunchly conservative, with a dress code consisting of shirt, tie and dress jacket (when the heat permits it), and no beards or “evil-appearing” facial hair, this school is no-nonsense in its promotion of the Gospel and the producing of men of God.

Formed around the turn of the century, the American Baptists who support the school, came out of the Southern Baptists and were fiercely fundamental in following the “landmarks” or established truths of the Bible.  In doing so, the denomination (although you will find that the brotherhood and sisterhood call it a “faith” instead) traces its lineage back to the Middle Ages and the ancient Anabaptists that refused to accept the baptism of the more liberal churches of the day.  They existed side-by-side with the Catholic religion for hundreds of years but have scant documentation due to the efforts of the predominant religion to erase them literally from the face of the earth.

Distinctively Southern, they are a modern-day anachronism.  Their home base consists of Texas and Arkansas, with churches scattered throughout the South. I recently sat down with Brother Ron, the President of the school and we talked about the school and some of the issues of the day.

Brother Ron, tell us a little about the courses and what the staff is trying to relate to your up and coming pastors.      

Well, the courses are designed to cover each book of the Bible separately first, and are studied as to how the books relate to each other and the whole.  The issue of word change and usage in the modern world is discussed along with the study of ancient customs. 

What about the relevancy of the Bible, Ron?  We hear some say that it is too old-fashioned or does not speak to us today. 

Through the ages when something is needed, God allowed it to happen.  When the church needed deacons, it was allowed.  Most churches today have deacons today.  This is one example.

Or, Moses said to give a wife a certificate of divorcement, but Jesus said that practice was not right, except for the cause of adultery.  Today we get away with a lot of things: drinking, smoking, looking at pornography and God doesn’t kill us.  Only we are punished, and God himself said that we would be punished and we are for our sins.  No one is above that!

But God said, “I’m a jealous God.”  He will not allow another thing above himself.  That goes for then. . . and now.      

Students are not taught public speaking or debating.  How are these skills assimilated? 

They are taught how to use their voices and care for them.  This is mandatory.  Then in the course, Sermonizing, everyone who is in that course has to get up and preach to the class.  How to build an outline, preach within that outline and keep to a certain time limit - these things are taken into account. 

What about counseling for modern problems such as alcoholism, drug addiction, mental problems and marital difficulties?    How are these touched upon at the school? 

Very little right now. We have one course that has been offered for the last four years in counseling.  We cover humanism, Satanism, etc., as well as what you have just mentioned.  You have to be careful what you counsel.  You may be sued in court as a result.  So we are taking it slowly and carefully.  We can offer advice out of the Bible, spiritually.  We can also encourage the advice of professional counselors that we know personally and who have a Christian background. 

This is a big issue.  We need professional counselors who will go to school and get a degree in that field to work beside us. It is very important.  But they have licenses for that and malpractice insurance.  

What do you tell your students at the Institute about the danger of humanism to the church? 

A lot of humanists go to church!  This is because it is politically correct, especially for a politician.  Humanists believe that there is a God inside you and they don’t believe in Creationism.  They are usually avowed animal rights and endangered species advocates.  I heard the other day that it is against the law to swat a certain fly in California.  This is what we have come to with humanists in charge.

They are supremely “I am” people.  It is a subtle mix of Eastern Mysticism, Satanism and idiocy, as far as I’m concerned.  They refuse to look into the heavens and see that God is there, even when the Bible says that nature itself teaches us otherwise.  Either this is because it convicts them, or out of ignorance, or of fear.

This reminds me of one leader who was terrified of hell.  So he began a religion that did away with hell, renaming it “Hades” (representing the grave only.)

If you can’t teach about hell, you can’t teach about heaven.  If you can’t teach about heaven, can’t teach about salvation.  

In the American Baptist churches we hear a lot about the “Nominal Christians” that come to services only on Easter and Christmas.  What are they all about?      

The nations that fall are destroyed from the inside.  The United States is falling apart not from the outside influences, but from us.  A church does the same thing.  People get involved, get baptized, then someone says something that hurts their feelings, and they don’t come back.  They don’t live what they should during the week as a result. 

Christians are a separate people.  (Ron imitates a man pouring liquid into a container as he speaks.)  You take one drop of sewage and drop it into a jar of clean water; no one wants to drink it.  Similarly, you can’t mix the world with the church.  God let us know that, as in Revelation, he is not above coming to the church and removing his candlestick from it, meaning his spirit.           


Why do the American Baptists and your school have missions in other states in this country as well as foreign nations?

A lot of places in this country do not have solid Bible teaching.  Our preachers go out into some states with no ABA church in the entire state.  They do not know about salvation by grace, or closed communion, or the simple truths of the gospel.  They have heard a lot of fancy high-toned mumbo-jumbo that is not correct.  Seminaries are guilty of trying to make show-offs with Hebrew and Greek proficiency, but no teaching.  That is why we teach our students simple truths.  We tell people about the Lord.  “Preach it like you would to a child,” I tell them.  Children are a very precious commodity to us.  It is just as important that they understand as well as the adults.  Without them we would perish as a religion. 

What are some issues today talked about that were not discussed in past years due to the change in the average lay person’s lifestyle?      

Well. . .(He laughs) the average lay person spends more time in front of TV than outside.  Unfortunately, we have to battle the television.  That’s our number one battle.  Satan is using that (uh) so it pushes homosexuality and like things and it so reinforces that.  It is a job trying to undo that type of brainwashing.

You know, television is perfect every time a show is broadcast over the airwaves, with paid professionals.   We, on the other hand, are just regular people and we do the best we can.  It is good to remember that television is just not real.   People are!

Like I tell people that are looking for a perfect church: “Don’t you go and join a perfect church, cause when you join, it won’t be perfect anymore!”  Now that’s the truth! 

The church and politics, should they mix?          

The country was founded on religion.  The Bible was the foundation of the government.  The church should promote good morals.  But, you know, today the church is not allowed to endorse any candidates or their tax exempt status can be taken away.  If churches had done what they should have in the past and followed Biblical examples, we wouldn’t have come to this.  We are becoming a liberal godless nation. 

You know it is a shame that we can have homosexual marches and the million-man march go right down Main Street, but we can’t put up a manger scene in town square because it is against the law. 

If you are interested in obtaining information or attending classes at the Oxford Baptist Institute, you may contact Ron Provence, the President at: 

2885 S Lamar Boulevard
Oxford, MS 38655-0534
or call: 662-234-2327

Article is by Robert L. Hall - raised in and currently living outside Memphis, TN., writes crime mysteries and tales of a youth with adventures in horsemanship. His books are Mid-South based. Mr. Hall also is a contributing writer for the on-line journal, When Falls the Coliseum , a self-described “Journal of American Culture (or the lack thereof)” at www.wfthecoliseum.com.

A trained musician with a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Memphis and Master of Music degree from Florida State University, he is staff pianist at Trinity Baptist Church in West Memphis and has taught music courses at three institutions of higher learning.

© 2000 Robert L. Hall, All Rights Reserved