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.”

7 thoughts on “The tangled web he weaves…

  1. Fellow Press Tender,
    Say it ain’t so. Say it ain’t so. What if this vote passes today in a few hours? I think it will be a blow.

    Tongues was given very little ink in the New Testament and was the problem in Corinth anyway, so see, it’s not biblical. Where did he get his historical facts? That’s pure speculative analysis. The fact remains its authorized in Scripture despite less ink and that is was a source of contention in Corinth. Implicit reasoning gone haywire.

  2. In discussing spiritual gifts on my blog, C.B. Scott said the following in a comment: “Your spiritual gift (or gifts) are given you by the Spirit as He see fit. … Spiritual gifts are really serious in the ministry of the church. … All believers have at least one gift or they are not true believers. It is truly needful to discover one’s gift or gifts in order to do the work for which God has put us in the body to do.”

    The statement published here from Paige Patterson states: “…the whole question of the identification and exercise of the gifts is not even a major emphasis of New Testament pneumatology … the subject becomes a distraction to the great work of evangelization …”

    I suppose for myself I will have to agree with C.B. in this matter. We are on this planet for God’s purposes and not our own. Spiritual gifts are from God, and it is very disturbing to see them tossed aside as “not even a major emphasis” and determined “a distraction” to evangelism. Are we now to decide which parts of the Bible are truly important solely by the number of words given to the topic? Surely God’s own gifts He gives us are not a distraction to the Spirit as He works in the hearts of sinful men to call them to salvation. Perhaps the true distraction is a misguided belief by some that we as humans are doing this “great work of evangelization.” God does the work … God gets the credit.

  3. WOW.

    Why am I not surprised?

    What has happened to the priesthood of the believer? Local church autonomy? Oh, but wait, you can have that autonomy, but you can’t work with SBC if you’re in any way different.

    Why did he pick the AOG and Vineyard to review? Aren’t these groups a little more Charismatic? Why not the Evangelical Free Church or some group more closely related to SBC beliefs? What does EVFree do about this issue? Or is it a non-issue?

    Dr. Patterson says, “a new trustee…advocate(d) the use of private prayer tongues”

    What is this? Who brought up PPL first? Paige’s cronies! I don’t know people “promoting” this and the reason it’s been brought up is because of the narrowing of what is and isn’t acceptable to be an SBC-er. I bet people were really surprised that Dr. McKissic has a PPL. I’ve not heard anyone say that he ever spoke of it before that day in chapel. How is this advocating PPL? He was sharing what God has done in his life.

    I’ve been on the mission field eight years. The first time I EVER heard about PPL was from in IMB m. last year who was concerned about the new IMB requirements. This person has a PPL. Do they discuss this? Do they teach this? NO! The IMB people I know with a PPL don’t teach it, or encourage it and didn’t talk about it until this year.

    From what Dr. Patterson says, we’re left to conclude that a PPL must come from the Enemy…because is sure can’t be from the Holy Spirit.

    I look at my friends’ lives and I see evidence of the Fruits of the Spirit in how they live out their Christian walk.

    Now, I’m waiting for the day when the IMB policies will become retroactive and we’ll have to sign that we have no PPL or leave the IMB. I don’t have one (yet), but I don’t know that I could sign something like that. What happens between me and God in my prayer closet is NO ONE ELSE’S BUSINESS! Interesting that Paige’s recommendation is that what goes on in one’s devotional life is private unless one begins advocating PPL. WHAT? This doesn’t jive with the policies in some SBC entities, where you are ASKED if you have a PPL. How can it be private if you’re forced to answer or not proceed?

    Finally, it’s interesting to see that NOW it’s incorrect to criticize a sister agency. So what about all the criticisms that Paige Patterson has leveled toward the IMB?

    I’m befuddled,


    PS. He had to throw in the disclaimer about women in ministry at the very end, didn’t he?

  4. I would be interested is sitting down with Dr. Patterson and hearing his definition of inerrancy. It seems to me that he either does not understand the term, or does not really believe in it. It seems to me, that anyone who believes the Bible is true must look and see that our Savior condoned the use of alcohol as a gift from God to be used in a manner according to his will. One must also see that Paul gave directions for the proper use of tongues, the practice of which he assumed would continue. It sounds like Dr. Patterson has trouble believing that the maintenace of peace in the fellowship of believers really is important to Christ Jesus. It seems that Dr. Patterson has a real problem believing that God has spoken, and that we must norm ourselves to his words.

  5. Ben,
    It is written:

    1Th 5:19 Do not quench the Spirit.ESV

    W.A. Criswell, Ph.D.
    Managing Editor
    Paige Patterson, Th.D.
    1Th_5:19 The phrase “Do not quench the Spirit” may be rendered “stop quenching the Spirit,” suggesting the cessation of an action which is in progress. This verse addresses the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in one’s private life as well as in the assembly of believers. The present tense of the command exhorts them to stop bringing the working of the Holy Spirit to a halt. It is encouraging to note that God gave them repeated opportunities to be used by His Spirit (see also 1Th_4:8). The metaphor “quench” suggests that the activity of the Spirit conveys a warmth, even a fire within a fellowship. When the Spirit’s fire is not quenched, one will find a Christian, a fellowship, characterized by the positive aspects of 1Th_5:12-26.

    1Th 5:19 – Quench not the spirit. By which is meant, not the person of the Spirit, but either the graces of the spirit, which may be compared to light, and fire, and heat, to which the allusion is in the text; such as faith, which is a light in the soul, a seeing of the Son, and an evidence of things not seen; and love, which gives a vehement flame, which many waters cannot quench; and zeal, which is the boiling up of love, the fervency of it; and spiritual knowledge, which is also light, and of an increasing nature, and are all graces of the spirit: and though these cannot be totally extinguished, and utterly put out and lost, yet they may be greatly damped; the light of faith may become dim; and the flame of love be abated, and that wax cold; the heat of zeal may pass into Luke warmness, and an indifference of spirit; and the light of knowledge seem to decline instead of increasing; and all through indulging some sin or sins, by keeping ill company, and by neglecting the ordinances of God, prayer, preaching, and other institutions of the Gospel; wherefore such an exhortation is necessary to quicken saints, and stir them up to the use of those means, whereby those graces are cherished and preserved in their lively exercise; though rather the gifts of the Spirit are intended. The extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, bestowed on the apostles at the day of Pentecost, are represented under the symbol of fire, to which perhaps the apostle may here have respect; and the more ordinary gifts of the Spirit are such as are to be stirred up, as coals of fire are stirred up, in order that they may burn, and shine the brighter, and give both light and heat, 2Ti_1:6 and which may be said to be quenched, when they are neglected, and lie by as useless; when they are wrapped up in a napkin, or hid in the earth; or when men are restrained from the use of them; or when the use of them is not attended to, or is brought into contempt, and the exercise of them rendered useless and unprofitable, as much as in them lies. And even private persons may quench the Spirit of God, his gifts of light and knowledge, when they hold the truth in unrighteousness, imprison it, and conceal it, and do not publicly profess it as they ought.
    To quench the Spirit means to resist His influence, like trying to smother a fire. One of the fundamental rules of walking with God is that we should not say no to the Spirit of God.
    Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians is that they may be sanctified in all aspects of their life, spirit, soul, and body. Every part of a Christian’s life should bear evidence that he or she is set apart as holy to God. This will result in being blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Christians are already saints in the sense that they have been set apart to God. Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to express holiness in this life so that the Lord would approve of their conduct upon His return. Blameless does not mean sinless, but free from causes for reproach and regret.
    Word Focus
    (Gk. pneuma) (1Th_5:23; Luk_8:55; 1Co_5:5) Strong’s G4151; soul (Gk. psuchē) (1Th_5:23; Eph_6:6; Phi_1:27) Strong’s G5590; body (Gk. sōma) (1Th_5:23; Mat_6:22; Heb_4:12) G4983: This is the only place in the New Testament where the tripartite being of a person is implied. Yet in this passage, all three constitute a person in his or her entirety. The spirit enables a person to contact the divine Spirit and is that part of a person that the Spirit quickens at the time of regeneration (Joh_3:6; Rom_8:16). The Greek word psuchē, translated soul, means “life.” The New Testament writers use this word to speak of a person’s personality or inward, animating essence. Finally the New Testament writers identify the body, a person’s physical being, as separate from one’s soul or spirit. As this verse indicates, God works from the inside out, sanctifying our entire being so that we can live with Him forever.

    Mat 15:8 “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;
    Mat 15:8 – This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth,…. The preface to these words, or the form in which they are introduced by the prophet; “wherefore the Lord said”, is left out in this citation, being unnecessary here, though of the greatest importance there; partly to show, that what was about to be said, was not the prophet’s own words, but the words of the Lord, of which the Jews in Christ’s time made no doubt; and partly to give a reason why that judicial blindness, threatened in the context, should be inflicted on them, which is no part of Christ’s design here; but which is only to show, that the description here given exactly agrees with them, and so proves, and confirms the character he gives of them as hypocrites. They approached the ordinances of God, and drew nigh to him, and attended him in outward worship; they prayed unto him publicly, and constantly, in the streets, in the synagogues, and temple, and with much seeming devotion and sanctity:

    and honoureth me with their lips: they owned him to be their creator and preserver; they made their boast of him, and of their knowledge of him, as the one only living, and true God, and as the God of Israel; they brought their sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, even the fruit of their lips, unto him, for their many peculiar mercies, privileges, and favours, as a nation, church, and people, and with much seeming sincerity and affection.

    But their heart is far from me; they had no true love to God, nor faith in him, nor fear of him; they were not at all concerned for his presence with them, or for communion with him, or for his honour and glory; their hearts were in the world, and after their covetousness; they made religion a tool to their secular purposes, supposing gain to be godliness; sought the applause of men, and contented themselves with bodily exercise; having no regard to internal religion, powerful godliness, or where their hearts were, so be it, their bodies were presented to God in public worship; and what they did it was to be seen and approved of men, not caring what the searcher of hearts knew concerning them, or what he required of them.

    In His Name

    Wayne Smith

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