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.”