SWBTS “Mrs.” Degree, Pt. 1.

For the next few weeks, we at Baptist Blogger hope to provide some remedial homemaking assistance to the fine young ladies who are soon to flood the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.  It is our prayer that these ladies will benefit from the lessons.  Today’s lesson: “How to Thread a Kenmore Vintage Sewing Machine.”

A Month for Meetings…

It is a little after 4:00 PM CST, and I’m sitting at Chili’s Too in the main terminal of Dallas Love Field. In about at hour I will board a plane for St. Louis, where I will attend the trustee meeting of the International Mission Board and the appointment service tomorrow evening in Cape Girardeau. Several of my fellow former seminarians will be commissioned to serve overseas in restricted-access countries, and within a few weeks they will depart for the ends of the earth in obedience to the Lord’s command.

This morning was a tremendously busy morning, and I was afraid that I would have to cancel my trip at the last minute. For several weeks, our church has been dealing with an insurance claim to renovate our worship auditorium, which was filled with raw sewage earlier this month after the city of Arlington failed to maintain the lines properly. We have been forced to meet in our fellowship hall for the past three Sundays, and we will meet there for another three until the repairs/renovations are complete.

When I return from St. Louis on Wednesday, I will meet with our church for the mid-week prayer service, and then I will be in the library at Baylor University for two days at the end of the week. People often wonder how it is possible to lead a church when your travel and study schedules are so busy. The people who ask such questions do not understand, of course, what a remarkable team of lay ministers have been given to Parkview Baptist Church. With the finest, humblest, and most self-sacrificing deacon servants under heaven, as well as the many women who serve in key positions of leadership by handling our church finances, children ministries, and hospitality/grief ministry, and the ministry staff who are able to anticipate my thoughts and act accordingly, I am able to devote myself to sermon preparation, hospital visitation, evangelistic efforts, and academic pursuits.

I am in the process of finalizing a sermon that I will preach at our sister congregation, Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, at the request of their pastor, the Rev. Dwight McKissic. This Sunday evening, November 5, 2006, Parkview Baptist Church will join Cornerstone for an evening of worship. The message will be recorded, and I will make it available online.

Next week, I will be attending a session of the Annuity Board trustee meeting in Dallas, TX, and meeting with a group of North Texas pastors and laymen who share a common commitment to resisting the fundamentalist fringe in the SBC who wish to isolate, control, and excise their fellow inerrantists who believe our historic Baptist identity is regularly compromised by the well-meaning efforts of theological perverts who have arisen in these last days.

The following week I will attend the annual meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention in Austin, TX. I will leave that meeting to attend a session of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, where I have been asked to meet with a group of young BGCT pastors who will attend their first annual meeting of the SBC this coming June.

The week after that I will travel to Washington, D.C. for the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, after which I am scheduled to have a research interview inside the Beltway. The week after that is Thanksgiving, and the following week I will attend a pastor’s roundtable in Arlington.

I will be blogging from/about all these meetings, beginning tonight from St. Louis.

Just an ordinary man…

I have been invited to a halloween party tomorrow night. Everybody will be in costume, of some sort or another, and I have been struggling to determine whether or not I will attend. Tonight I decided that I will go, and I have selected a most appropriate costume. It suits my sense of style and captures something of my personality.

Tomorrow evening, I will attend a friend’s costume party dressed as an ordinary man. By ordinary, I mean an intellectual professor – a renaissance man of sorts — who speaks the English language properly, unlike his cockneyed countrymen. By man, I mean none other than Rex Harrison of My Fair Lady fame.

So without further ado, please enjoy the following video introduction to my 2006 Halloween costume. And yes, I know the words by heart and will sing them, if asked.

Dwight McKissic’s blog….and some weekend reading.

Be sure and take note of Pastor Dwight McKissic’s new blog, found here, and the sermon by Fort Worth area pastor Todd Pylant of Benbrook Baptist Church. Rev. Pylant has been serving at Benbrook for several years, having succeeded the interim pastorate of Dr. David Crutchley.

Crutchley, you’ll remember, served as the Dean of Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary under the appointment of President Ken Hemphill. After Hemphill chose to reassign Crutchley, the former dean continued to serve as an esteemed professor of New Testament until Patterson forced his resignation two years ago. Today Crutchley serves as a professor of religion at Carson Newman College in Jefferson City, TN.

The following news stories from Baptist Press might be helpful to you:

SWBTS trustees elect David Crutchley on secret ballot vote.

Another article on Crutchley’s election.

Article about Crutchley soon after his appointment.

Crutchley takes heat for requiring professor signatures to BFM2000.

Hemphill reassigns Crutchley.

SWBTS trustee chairman criticizes Crutchley’s leadership.

Texas Baptists respond to Crutchley’s treatment at seminary.

Hemphill resigns…responds to allegations about trustee pressure.

David Allen elected SWBTS trustee chairman at Hemphill’s departure; Denny Autrey appointed to chair presidential search committee.

Autrey’s committee nominates Patterson for SWBTS post.

Patterson appoints David Allen as new theology dean; Autrey installed as seminary dean for Houston campus.


What Will Wiley Do….next?

Check out ABP’s new article on our 2nd Vice President, Wiley Drake. I can’t say that I would do things just like Wiley has, but I can certainly say that I’m enjoying the sense of humor that Wiley has about his convention role. I’ve received more than a few phonecalls in recent weeks from people asking me to “get Wiley under control.”

But we’ve had too much control for too long in the SBC. No Baptist minister worth his ordination certificate would try to control a man’s voice, or his prayer life, or his church, or his trustees, or his blog. And while Wiley is giving some folks headaches for his “irrepressibility,” I’m loving that somebody is out there reminding everybody that Baptists are a bunch with diverse personalities and a common commitment to making a difference for the Kingdom.

You may not like Wiley…but you gotta love him.

Faculty Recruitment…

It’s not going to be easy to find the right lady to instruct and indoctrinate the young girls preparing for motherhood through Southwestern Seminary’s new degree in homemaking. Locating a woman for the faculty who possesses the lofty credentials and elegant temperament necessary to build a credible program will prove as difficult as searching for a can of vienna sausages at Pecan Manor.

She must be family-oriented, righteously zealous for the things of God, demonstrably experienced in meal preparation, meticulous about the proper hemline/neckline/waistline of her garments (so as not to offend certain Joshua Convergers), and sufficiently concerned about the incipient forms of false teaching that now threaten the fundamentalist hegemony of the SBC.

If anybody has the resume of the lady in this video, please forward it to:

Dean Emir Caner
The College at Southwestern
PO Box 22000
Ft. Worth, TX 76122


Somewhere in Central Texas a man named Josh King and his wife, Jacki, are serving the Lord together.  I’ve enjoyed discovering their blogs, reading their thoughts, and congratulating myself on attracting such bright-minded readers to my own insignificant corner of the internet.  If nothing else, these two renew my confidence in the intelligence quotient of fundamentalist education in Texas.

SWBTS Trustee Week

The attention of the SBC has been turned, most fortunately, to the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. This is evidenced, of course, by no fewer than eight articles in Baptist Press over a seven-day period, unprecedented coverage in the nation’s newspapers, and no small bit of blogging chatter.

There is considerable speculation about the “leaking” of presidential reports to the trustees, and as much conjecture about the maneuvering and manipulation of trustees, bloggers, and seminary administrators alike. I make no pretense of understanding the trustee action(s) of the past week, either the motivation or consequence thereof. I sat in the meetings as an observer, spending most of my time perusing a scholarly periodical of one sort or another, or reading a book.

Before chapel on Tuesday, I sat nearby while Tammi Reed Ledbetter from the SBTexan reassured trustee Dwight McKissic that she “knew his heart,” while cautioning him that “others” meant “harm” to the seminary. Leaning into Dwight McKissic, looking thin and tall and matter-of-fact like Jane Hathaway, Mrs. Ledbetter warned the freshman Texas trustee that others might use him as another weapon with which to attack the school, or its president, Paige Patterson. Dwight, as always, was gracious and forgiving where I would have been insulted and taciturn. The ability to use a trustee – or a reporter for that matter – for political gain in the convention is equally possible for those who support Patterson’s agenda for the convention as it is for those who question it. Nevertheless, I’m sure Southern Baptists are quite competent to judge the degree of journalistic impartiality represented in the past week’s onslaught of Ledbetter contributions to Baptist Press.

I must confess that I watch the orchestration of SWBTS trustee meetings with a jaundiced eye. It is not that I distrust the processes and personalities of trustee oversight. Rather, I know the heart of man is deceitful above all things, and I am inclined to a prime facie skepticism of institutional bureaucracies, especially when I have had the good fortune to smell the foul odor at close range and see the corrupting influence of unchecked power upon men of otherwise charitable dispositions.

I do not trust Paige Patterson to run a denominational institution without careful trustee oversight and transparent accountability before the convention that pays his salary. In fact, I don’t think any man should be allowed to lead an institution without meticulous trustee scrutiny of his spending, his appointments, and his application of trustee policies and/or guidelines. Unlike others, I do not believe that gratitude for a man’s service to the convention requires our denomination to sign blank checks for his endowment aspirations, to “put our hands over our mouths” and acquiesce to his latest agenda for the IMB or NAMB, or to yield the governance of one square inch of denominational property, the articulation of one syllable of our denominational confession of faith, or one thin dime of our denominational assets, regardless of how “conservative” the “resurgence” he led.

I believe that the interests and assets of Southern Baptists are best protected and administered in an environment of transparent trustee governance whereby the authorized boards of convention agencies and institutions are elected to preserve the sacred trust committed unto them by messengers to the annual meeting. I believe that NAMB would have been better served by more careful trustee oversight. I believe that Bob Reccord’s name and testimony would have been spared the unfortunate characterization he received because trustees did too little too late to exercise their prerogatives of governance.

One interesting detail coming out of the trustee meeting is the statement concerning private prayer languages. I’ll not labor the point of my obvious disagreement with this statement’s adoption, except to note the difference between the statement proposed by Paige Patterson, and the final statement that was adopted by trustees.

Patterson’s statement, provided to seminary trustees on Monday for discussion during the closed, informal session, included the following, curiously irrelevant sentence in the final paragraph:

“Southwestern Seminary will continue to advocate the full equality of women and men but will also continue to honor the New Testament teaching that women not hold positions teaching or ruling men in the family or the church of God.”

Yet, the final trustee statement, as reported in Baptist Press, excluded the sentence about women’s roles. I suppose the trustees recognized that Patterson’s insertion of the language concerning women’s roles was more about striking Dwight McKissic, whose church allows women to serve in ministry roles that include public proclamation, than it was about addressing the issue of so-called “Pentecostal/Neo-Charismatic” theological influences in Baptist life. I only wish they would have rejected the statement altogether, though I understand from one seminary trustee that some of them felt in the odd predicament of either “supporting the president” or “siding with bloggers.”

Of considerable interest to me was that none of the stories or press releases about the trustee meeting included an account of the new undergraduate program for Southwestern’s college. For years Southern Baptists have joked about the “Mrs.” degree, a fictitious diploma awarded to single women who find a husband and start having babies before the completion of their theological training. But the joking is over now that Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustees have approved a major degree concentration in “homemaking.”

I nearly shot Diet Coke out my nose when I heard the recommendation to begin a degree in “homemaking,” not only because it was immediately obvious that there are no limits to the absurdity of such a degree, but because it was actually suggested that four semesters of Greek or Latin will make for a better home. Included in the degree are 7 hours of “Food and Nutrition” courses, complete with a meal preparation laboratory, and 7 hours of “Design and Apparel,” with a clothing construction lab. It stretches the imagination to see how such a degree falls under the umbrella of institutional mission conceived by Southern Baptists for their seminaries. In fact, it seems quite silly.

I’m sure that the preacher boys of Southwestern Seminary will be ever so grateful that their wives have been taught sewing and cooking and child-rearing and ironing and baking and dusting by the highly credentialed faculty charged with so noble an academic assignment. And I’m sure that the wafting wind of cookies and pies, along with the soft hum of Singer sewing machines will make the campus of Southwestern Seminary a much more inviting place. But I’m equally sure that Southern Baptists have never envisioned their Cooperative Program dollars being spent to subsidize courses on the proper techniques for wearing aprons or frosting muffins or hanging drapes or serving tea and scones and clotted cream.

A seminary degree in cookie-baking is about as useful as an M.Div. in automotive repair, if you ask me. Nevertheless, SWBTS has to do something to pull out of the enrollment slide that has marked the early Patterson tenure if they are going to reach the president’s goal of 6000 students by 2010. By reading the seminary press releases, however, it doesn’t appear that they intend to market the degree with much visibility. How many girls, if any, will jump at the chance to translate The Iliad while ironing pantaloons and icing petit fours might surprise the churches of the convention who entrust Southwestern Seminary with the heavy task of robust theological preparation.

Now all of that aside, I must admit how much I enjoyed the excellent chapel sermon that Patterson preached on Tuesday. The seminary president is, without a doubt, one of the finest preachers in the country. His simple outline, coupled with his rich exposition and moving appeal, reminded me how much I love to hear Patterson preach. I remember well those days back at Southeastern when Patterson, full of emotion, would appeal for students to surrender their lives to the task of foreign missions. Inevitably, young couples with children — sometimes infants — would make their way down the aisle to surrender to the call. On those occasions, Patterson’s usual jolly countenance would turn to a frown. His eyes would water and his face would redden. Burying his head in his hands, Patterson would cry at the sight of their sacrifice and obedience. Seeing him like that would usually get me to crying too, and until this day there is a soft place in my heart for missionaries who follow God’s call to foreign fields of service.

On Tuesday, it wasn’t the appeal to serve the Lord overseas that brought tears to Patterson’s eyes and a choking break to his voice. It was, rather, the recitation of hymns about intimacy with the Lord in prayer that moved the heart of the man. Watching him there, from the highest point in the balcony, I thought to myself.

With a Bible in his hand, and a tear running down his cheek, the president of Southwestern Seminary was able to put aside all the conflicts, all the schemes and strategies, and for half an hour he stood before men bearing a word from God to lift their souls to the sublime. It is there, behind that pulpit, that Patterson is at his best. The sincerity in his voice and the earnest expression on his face eclipse all the denominational politicking, and for a moment, a complex man with a simple faith yields to the better angels of his nature.

Southwestern Seminary trustees have their work cut out for them. Patterson once told me in his Wake Forest office that “all power in heaven and earth had been given unto him.” He prefers a monarchy over an oligarchy, and he will take as much power as the trustees will surrender. In this, he is not alone, for such is the tendency of all those with similar office.

Blogging may be regarded by some as a damn curse, but if the medium has served to open up the governance of SBC institutions to greater scrutiny, then it is also part blessing. How long the influence of blogging will continue is anybody’s guess. For now, it is clear that trustees read the blogs, and are much more careful in the execution of their fiduciary responsibilities to protect the interests of the Southern Baptist Convention. That, I suggest, is never a bad thing.

Seventeen years…

At 6:25 PM tonight, my dad will have been dead for seventeen years.  It’s odd how this day is more easily remembered than his birthday, or any birthday for that matter.  My dad was a good man with a tender heart.  He could cry easily, but he was strong.

For years he was a top narcotics officer with the Gregg County Sheriff’s Department in Longview, TX.  His arms were solid like granite.  He loved fishing and hunting.  I remember many Saturdays running in front of his mower to pick up sticks and pine cones.  He was a country boy, and could survive.  He taught me how to shoot a pistol and a shotgun, how to aim a rifle, and how to skin a buck or a squirrel.  He loved to cook things like stew or chili or gumbo, and he could split wood with one swing of an ax.

He knew how to dance.  I remember watching him grab my stepmother spontaneously with some country ballad playing in the background and spin around the kitchen or the living room.  I remember when he threw me a “sock hop” in our garage, and deejayed the event himself.  I remember my embarrassment at watching him demonstrate to my sixth grade friends the proper way to mash potato or twist.  I’d give anything to see him lively and happy like that again.

I was with my daddy when I smoked my first cigarette, just because I asked him if I could try it.  I was with him when I opened my first beer, and took my first shot of Southern Comfort.  I remember my dad catching me kiss Courtney in our back yard, and I remember hiding in the bushes down the street when he drove the block at midnight to check and see if Corey and I were causing trouble.

He taught me to ride a bicycle, to drive a car, and to change the oil.  I remember when he picked me up from school in a giant Mercury, and in a sporty GT convertible.  I remember the day I loaned my dad $1000.00 from my savings account, and I remember the day he paid it back.

Sitting on my desk is his Bible.  In the front of his Bible is a picture of Samson grinding out the grain in the basement of a Philistine temple.  I think my daddy felt like Samson at times, especially toward the end.  Yellowed from liver damage, weak from atrophied muscles, easy chores became difficult for him.  I remember the winter day when I found him with blood coming out of the corners of his mouth, seizing on the floor of our garage while trying to stack firewood.  I remember the night he wet the bed, as a grown man, unable to get out in time to use the bathroom.

I remember helping him shave, or tie his shoes, or comb his hair.  In the end, my father was very sick, and there were days that I was alone with him.

This morning I went out with two men from our church to pass out 300 tracts and church invitations to homes in our community.  They went together, I walked alone.  I’m kinda glad that very few people were home, because they would have seen the red, puffy eyes and the tear tracks running down my cheeks.

I wonder to myself how he would have responded to some of the things I now face.  My dad would defend what he loved with everything he had.  Like the time he broke through a locked bathroom door and pulled my stepmother off of me, releasing my arm from behind my back where she was threatening to break it.  He would spend his last dime to help a Hispanic man named Manuel and his family have a better Thanksgiving or Christmas.

In Longview, Texas, there is a grave.  In that grave is the body of a man named Stroud.  Seventeen years past have robbed me of his counsel, his correction, and his embrace.  In nine years, I will have outlived him.  But at least I have thirteen years of life with my dad to think about on days like today.  When I’m 39, will I have spent my time in such a way that somebody sheds a tear of gratitude for my love?  Or will I have wasted precious energies on fighting battles that mean nothing for eternity, or opposing men whose children cry when they read the things I write?

To those who didn’t know my dad, he was an unemployed alcoholic.  To me, he was a hero.

To me, some men are scoundrels and tyrants.  To their own children, they are daddy.

Not bad thoughts to have while trying to reach your community for Christ.

The great disservice…

With two meetings and a funeral today, I will not be posting my full response to the SWBTS actions and President Patterson’s comments until tomorrow. However, I will comment immediately on the great disservice that Patterson has done to Dwight McKissic.

Newspapers all over the nation are now carrying the story about the censorship of Dwight McKissic and Patterson’s statement regarding tongues. At this point, Patterson has been effective in labeling Dwight McKissic’s theology as Pentecostal/Neo-Charismatic. The only problem with this label is that it does not fit. Dwight McKissic is as Pentecostal as he is Caucasian. Yesterday on a 100.7FM, Scott Wilder’s call in show had a few people express concern that McKissic was teaching that “tongues was necessary evidence” of the Holy Spirit. But those of us who have actually heard McKissic’s sermon know that he repudiated such a view with clarity and certainty.

Paige Patterson, however, has censored McKissic’s sermon and kept the interested public from judging the man’s theology for themselves. “We must test the spirits,” Patterson said. On this point, he is correct.

But how can people “test” anything McKissic said when they are unable to hear it for themselves? I suppose we are supposed to trust Patterson’s judgment on such matters. If he “tests the spirits,” that is sufficient. Of course, we cannot “test” Patterson’s spirit on this matter, to see if his characterization of McKissic is accurate or reliable because we don’t get to hear McKissic for ourselves. And by “we,” I mean the general public who now has a burgeoning interest in this issue.

A great disservice is done to truth when censorship of religious speech occurs. Patterson has injured the Baptist doctrine of religious liberty, not advanced it. He has intentionally appropriated the epithet “Pentecostal” to describe Dwight McKissic’s view, aware of how unpalatable that word is to Southern Baptists. This, Patterson knows, will jade the public…so long as they cannot hear Dwight’s repudiation of Pentecostal theology for themselves.

This morning I will contact Dwight McKissic and urge him to release the audio/video of his chapel sermon on his own website. Surely Patterson won’t invoke copyright laws to keep McKissic from doing so? Until that time, however, I offer the following excerpts from McKissic’s sermon on August 29, 2006:

It is my belief that you cannot look to Acts for a fixed formula or a definite pattern as to how one receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. No one has the Spirit of God in a box. It is my belief that Pentecost instituted the Church, then all that remained was for Samaritans, Gentiles, Ethiopians, and Jews who were unaware of the gospel to be brought into the church representatively. This occurred in Acts 8 for Samaritans and Ethiopians; Acts 10 for Gentiles; and Acts 19 for the belated believers from John’s baptism. Once this representative baptism with the Holy Spirit had occurred the normal pattern applied. Baptism with the Spirit at the time that each person, of whatever background, believed on Jesus Christ. Baptism with the Holy Spirit is the initial experience of every believer at conversion

And again:

Now the question that many of you will have to deal with when you pastor and people join your church from various backgrounds, influenced by television ministries and what have you, is the question, “Is speaking in tongues the evidence of being baptized with the Holy Spirit?”

That’s the question that every future pastor here will have to deal with. It’s something you will have to work out in your own theological pilgrimage. And the answer to that question, based on biblical authority, as far as I’m concerned, is “no.” Speaking in tongues is not the evidence of being baptized with the Holy Spirit.

However, I believe it is not the gift of the Holy Spirit, but the Bible makes it clear that for some it is a gift that God chooses to give to believers.

One more time:

Now, I don’t believe that tongue-speaking is the evidence of the filling of the Spirit. Most of the religious scandals of our time have been led by men who practiced speaking in tongues. They certainly were not living a life that showed the evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit.

But I think it’s tragic in Baptist life when we take a valid, vital gift that the Bible talks about and come up with a policy that says people who pray in tongues in their private prayer lives cannot work in certain positions. That to me is contrary to what many of our foremost Baptist thinkers and leaders think.

In case you missed it:

So, I don’t believe it’s the evidence, but I’m here to say that as the Spirit gives me utterance I pray in tongues in my private prayer life, and I’m not ashamed of that. I’m thankful for that. I don’t believe it makes me spiritual or superior or inferior to anybody. I have no prejudice or bias against tongues; however, I must stand on biblical truth and not popular opinion.

I do believe that all spiritual gifts listed in Scripture are operable today, and by the grace of God some Christians will experience the gift of tongues when filled with the Holy Spirit, although the teaching that all Christians should experience speaking in tongues as evidence of being baptized in the Holy Ghost is unscriptural. The Scripture does not preclude speaking in tongues for some when they are filled with the Holy Spirit.

As the Spirit rushes into the corners of their lives, awakening new desires for prayer and praise, speaking in tongues will naturally flow forward in some. Whatever your spiritual gift is, if you are filled with the Holy Spirit, that gift will be used to the maximum.

Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 12:13 that all believers are baptized by the Holy Spirit, but he also makes it clear 1 Corinthians 12:30 that all do not speak with tongues. Now since all Christians do not speak in tongues, it cannot be the proof of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Dwight McKissic responds…

Tonight Dwight McKissic has issued a call for Southern Baptists to stop tightening the doctrinal noose around our own necks.  He pleads with us to stop the lynching of those who are open to the continuation of all spiritual gifts or whose private devotional lives are more intense and expressive than our own.  He begs us to let brothers and sisters like him ride at the front of our denominational bus.  He stands before us and opens his heart for everybody to hear him.

Click here to read his response to Patterson’s statement, and judge for yourselves which agenda for the SBC promises a brighter future.  There are two paths before us, and Dwight McKissic has captured the essence of the choice.

The tangled web he weaves…

The following statement from Paige Patterson was provided to Southwestern Seminary board trustees at their meeting in Ft. Worth on Monday, October 16, 2006. I will publish on this blog tomorrow an open response to Patterson’s statement. For now, content yourself with the latest bull from the Red Bishop.

“The fall semester of 2006 began with exciting evidence of the blessings of the hand of God. Chapel services have been full and for the most part have demonstrated evidence of divine visitation. Two students were saved during the first week. Mission efforts have been inundated by students wishing to participate. Faculty spirits are universally high according to a survey administered by Bob Mathis. At this trustee meeting we will provide reports on our first season of archeology at Gezer, an increase in enrollment, and incomparable monetary blessings. The faculty and the students as a whole represent the most spiritually sensitive, evangelistically active, and theologically orthodox community in many years. This amazing phenomenon is a credit to your trustee oversight and direction.

In the midst of these blessings an issue has arisen, which, in the view of the president, is most unfortunate. A new trustee of SWBTS used the platform of the chapel to advocate the use of private prayer tongues and to question policies adopted by a sister Southern Baptist Convention agency. In the view of the president of the seminary, this action was ill-timed, inappropriate, unhelpful, unnecessarily divisive, and contrary to the generally accepted understandings and practices of Southern Baptists. As a consequence, the president elected not to continue the video-streaming of the message in an attempt to avoid further misunderstanding or the impression that the seminary in any way endorsed “private prayer language” as a legitimate expression of the charismata of Holy Scripture.

The message itself was not interrupted; the preacher was treated with Christian courtesy and kindness before, during, and after chapel. The message remains available for purchase for those who wish to hear it. The video-streaming of chapel, however, is a public relations ministry of the seminary begun this fall. The president must have the prerogative, operating within designated trustee guidelines, to make a determination of what may or may not be in the best interests of Southwestern and to act accordingly in this venue as well as in the overall operation of the seminary. The president’s theological views on these matters are well known. Indeed, they were recently articulated with as much clarity as I am capable of providing in a series of ten chapel messages on the person and work of the Holy Spirit. For my convictions and resulting actions in support of those convictions, I make no apology. But, trustees deserve further explanation, which follows herewith.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is a seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention. Most Southern Baptists both acknowledge and advocate the practice of spiritual gifts as described in the New Testament. However, in an attempt to be faithful to the entirety of the New Testament, Southern Baptists have also been persuaded of the need to “test the spirits” to see if they are of God (1 John 4:11). In exercising this spiritual responsibility, we often discover within the contemporary neo-charismatic emphasis sincere misunderstandings and misreadings of Scripture, excesses, and sometimes apparent deliberate deception. Southern Baptists and Southwestern Seminary have always, and I pray, will always resist these errors as we seek to be both a lighthouse for the gospel and a stronghold for biblical theology.

Southern Baptists have always recognized true brothers and sisters in Christ within various charismatic groups and denominations. In keeping with our historic Baptist convictions, we affirm the right of all to believe and promote the convictions of their hearts. However, this must also include the right of Southern Baptists to be true to biblical instruction as understood by our best efforts to interpret the message of the Bible, while taking into account the positions of Baptists from the past. Neither in the past nor in the present have many Baptists believed that the Pentecostal or Charismatic movements represented an accurate representation of New Testament doctrine and practice.

Recently, the issue of one expression of the charismatic movement, namely, “private prayer tongues” has been vigorously discussed among Southern Baptists in several venues. The unusual nature of the discussion arises from the obvious fact that if the practice were genuinely “private,” then it would not come to anyone’s attention let alone to public discussion!

This fact alone is exacerbated by the additional observation that the whole question of the identification and exercise of the gifts of the Spirit is not even a major emphasis of New Testament pneumatology, to say nothing of the overall doctrinal structure of the New Testament. In fact, the amount of space the subject is accorded on the pages of the New Testament is largely due to the misuse and abuse of the gifts in Corinth, where the practice was proving poignantly divisive just as it almost always has in Baptist churches and again just as it has here. Thus the subject becomes a distraction to the great work of evangelization in which Southern Baptists have so much enjoyed the blessings of God. My own persuasion is that Baptists need to address such distractions in the words of Nehemiah, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down” (Neh. 6:3).

Added to all of this is the hermeneutical problem. None of the lists of the “gifts” make any mention of a “private prayer tongue” or anything approximating this. In every case the “gift of tongues” seems to be a reference to the remarkable miracle of Acts 2 in which God made it possible for some believers to speak in clear languages never previously studied for the purpose of communicating the gospel of Christ. There is, therefore, no convincing reason to believe that “private prayer tongues” constituted a spiritual gift, even if one wished to argue that the lists in the New Testament were not intended to be comprehensive. (If they were not comprehensive, what is the standard for determining what is or is not a “spiritual gift”?) Furthermore, the “gifts” are to be employed for the “edification of the church,” which is not possible if a gift is being exercised “privately.” The church is instructed to prefer prophecy above tongues.

Finally, the possibility of a “private prayer language” is an interpretation of certain phrases in 1 Corinthians 14 about which there is much disagreement among evangelicals. Whether such a thing exists at all or, if it does, whether or not Paul commends it or thinks of it as helpful is all standard fare for debate. Three things are absolutely certain. First, whatever was happening in the exercise of tongues at Corinth was profoundly problematic resulting in Paul’s construction of extensive rules to restrict and govern the practice.

Second, while the precise nature of what was happening at Corinth is sufficiently unclear as to remain vigorously debated, clearly Paul considered the matter to be of little significance in the edification of the churches. And finally, Paul states that “God is not the author of confusion but of peace in all the churches of the saints,” thus raising significant questions about the divine origins of frequently divisive personal emphases and practices such as “private prayer language.”

Sisters and brother, this is not an issue about the president of Southwestern Seminary, at least not at this point. Neither is it about a much esteemed and greatly loved pastor and newly elected trustee of this board. Rather it is an issue of what Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has been and is at the present time. It is also an issue of Southwestern’s trajectory for the future. The question is whether we shall be clearly identified as Baptist or “baptistic.” Before us is a choice as to whether we will remain distinctive in our convictions or whether we will succumb to the neo-ecumenism of the time, embracing, as it certainly does, many of the doctrines and emphases of Charismatic theology.

Recently examining statements of faith from the Assemblies of God and from the Vineyard, nothing could be more apparent than to say they are “baptistic” Both advocate believer’s baptism by immersion! But, they are not Baptists. We can favor the unity of God’s born-again saints, which does not involve compromise; but we cannot countenance any ecumenical movement, whether it be National Council of Churches or the pressure of the contemporary neo-charismatic perspective.

Every seminary, like every church, faces “incidents” every year. My hope is that this unfortunate incident would be just that — an incident. Regrettably, a letter to the Southern Baptist Convention as well as other public letters have left me with no other obvious choice but to request trustee action regarding an appropriate response for Southwestern Seminary. I suggest the following as a “response” rather than a “policy” from the trustees. The more policy you have, the more you have to govern — always contrary to my Baptist-Irish heritage. However, this is a decision for trustees. Please note the following:

The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is a school affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention for the sole purpose of training men and women to understand the Bible in all its ramifications in order to facilitate the assignment of Christ as provided in the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20). We wish to remain faithful to the biblical witness and its emphases, taking into careful account the historic positions of Baptists in general and Southern Baptists in particular.

As it concerns private practices of devotion, these practices, if genuinely private, remain unknown to the general public and are, therefore, beyond the purview of Southwestern Seminary. Southwestern will not knowingly endorse in any way, advertise, or commend the conclusions of the contemporary charismatic movement including “private prayer language.” Neither will Southwestern knowingly employ professors or administrators who promote such practices.

Southwestern Seminary will continue to advocate the full equality of women and men but will also continue to honor the New Testament teaching that women not hold positions teaching or ruling men in the family or the church of God. Southwestern will remain focused on historic New Testament and Baptist doctrine and will lend its energies to the twin tasks of world missions and evangelism. Thus, we intend to sustain these emphases, which were characteristic of our founders, B.H. Carroll, L.R. Scarborough, and George W. Truett.”

Timmy Brister on “A Baptist and his Stock Portfolio.”

Go read Timmy Brister’s post on the issue of inconsistency in Southern Baptist investments. I don’t have a problem with SWBTS investing its endowment in Coors Brewing Company. Everybody knows that the Coors family are staunch Republicans, and fellow members of the Council for National Policy with SWBTS President Paige Patterson, as well as two other SWBTS trustees.

But, like Timmy Brister, I have a hard time seeing how such investments can be intepreted as anything other than supporting the “manufacturing, advertising, distribution, or consumption of alcoholic beverages.”

It’s a good thing that SWBTS will make the $90 million transfer of portable funds on October 30, just in time for Jerry Vines’ sermon on “A Baptist and His Booze” at FBC Woodstock.