Mystery Man, Pt 1.

He was a native Texan.

As a child, he demonstrated a remarkable knowledge of the New Testament.

He was saved at a young age in a Southern Baptist church.

Early in his ministry, he orchestrated a successful takeover to gain control of his religious group.

He enjoyed world travel, taking numerous trips to the Holy Land to better aquaint himself with the life and times of Jesus.

During the course of his ministry, he surrounded himself with men who were incredibly loyal to his cause.

Some of his students, in time, became frustrated when they saw that he taught one set of rules for them, but practiced another set for himself.

Through the years, he had to deal with various lawsuits and court hearings related to his treatment of women.

He used the funds he raised from donors to build a large compound for his private living quarters.

His relationship with his own children was the source of much speculation and numerous rumors.

He was considered by many to be an expert in biblical prophecies, especially those found in the Book of Daniel.

He spent most of his last years working on commentary on The Book of Revelation, which he never completed.

He collected high-powered firearms and stored them in his Texas home.

He had a low regard for the federal government in general, and for the Clinton Administration in particular.

He believed the federal government was forever encroaching upon his religious freedom; and he believed that the Second Amendment was the only certain guarantee of the First Amendment.

His secret archives included tape recordings and videos that revealed much about his ministry after his death.

He told his students to resist with force any attempt to disrupt their religious community, and they did.

Those who had worked most closely with him in his final days saw him grow increasingly eccentric, even paranoid.

He never understood why his critics wouldn’t leave him alone.

He never fully recognized that the public media had turned on him, and that he would never get a fair shake in the press.

He despised it when people questioned his leadership, and he often retaliated.

Can you guess who this man was?


UPDATE: Well, since everyone was guessing this, I’ll just tell you. It’s David Koresh of Branch Davidian infamy. I was up late at my office last night studying, and I ran across an article about the psychopathology of cultic religious leaders whose teaching resulted in mass suicides. In some fields of study, this is referred to as the “Samson syndrome,” referring to the Israelite Judge from the tribe of Dan whose obsession with his own strength and manliness got himself in quite a pickle. By the end of the narrative, Samson kills himself to destroy the Philistines. He’s a classic example of “honorable suicide,” and the New Testament lists him among the greatest men of faith recorded in Scripture. Essentially, the article was exploring how psychopathic religious leaders see themselves as heroic in their efforts to oppose the “evil” they perceive around themselves. Their psychopathology is aggravated, however, when they begin to compel others to assume the same “heroic impulse” as an act of faith in God. When that happens, you end up with Jonestown koolaid, Branch Davidian bonfires, and Marshall Applewhite’s emasculation rituals. Of coures, the psychosis is not peculiar among “Christian versions” of cultic belief. It’s the same diagnosis given to Muslim extremists who plan mass bombings or hijack airplanes, or Buddhist monks who ignite themselves in public streets after taking a gasoline bath.

I’m trying to figure out, I guess, why religion attracts some of the worst crazies. Where is the avowed atheist or agnostic who commits murdering, torturing crimes against others in the name of nothing? Why the messianic language in Seung Hui Cho’s video recordings? Why did Klansmen burn crosses and recite prayers before lynching a Black man?

It’s interesting to me that the New Testament records that Jesus called only one Zealot to serve among his apostles, and on the only occasion where one of his disciples took up a sword to protect an innocent life, Jesus rebuked him and healed the assailant. Where were the Christians who stopped the stoning of Stephen? Were there no “men” to do it?

Of course, I suppose an argument could be made that Jesus committed suicide, in a sense. “Nobody takes my life from me,” he said, “but I lay it down on my own.” When he told his disciples that “greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends,” was he prescribing suicide as the highest form of selfless love?

These are questions that have me preparing for our Sunday evening service this week. On fifth Sundays, we always do an “open forum” service, when members can ask the pastor any question they like. I usually lead off with a very controversial topic to get the ball rolling, and I think I’ve figured out what this week’s will be.

Gun in hand…foot in mouth…

Paige Patterson’s weird mix of guns and God has stirred an interesting series of articles, and has now hit the AP Wire. We at Baptist Blogger think it is great that Patterson’s comments, however bizarre, have caused some critical thinking on this issue. Today, we have been contacted for an “official response” to Patterson’s comments. Below is what we provided to the media:

I certainly sympathize with Patterson’s pastoral concern to protect the lives of seminary students under his care, though I believe his comments were poorly timed and somewhat bizarre. Many of us remember the tragedy at Fort Worth’s Wedgewood Baptist Church in 1999, when Larry Gene Ashbrook entered the church sanctuary and murdered seven young people. If pastors are looking for a model of sympathy and leadership in a time of tragedy, I believe they would be well advised to follow the heroic example set by Wedgewood’s pastor, Rev. Al Meredith.

I’m much more impressed with schools and administrators who are reviewing and reevaluating their emergency response plans than I am with seminary presidents who fancy themselves generals and their would-be student martyrs as Green Berets.

I hope and pray that Patterson’s cavalier charge to the seminary community does not invite the next crazed gunman to prey upon that institution. But should another such tragedy occur in our own North Texas backyard, I pray with equal intensity that men of valor find the courage and sensibility to protect innocent lives, even at the most exacting cost imaginable.”

Yes, dear readers, it is better to listen to the counsel of a man who’s led a church through the tragedy of a murdering sanctuary rampage than to heed the charge of man whose credentials stop at the perimeter of an African wildlife preserve. Or as we say in Texas, some cowboys are all hat, and no cattle.

When the Son of Man returns…

…will he find faith on the earth?

If he shows up in Arlington, Texas, the chances are pretty good.

Stuff like this gives me hope that sermons are worth it.  How it lifts a shepherd’s heart to know that his sheep are following the Good Shepherd.  I’m sure she’ll hear it in heaven aplenty.  But until then, I guess I’ll echo the refrain:

Well done, thou good and faithful servant.

Calling out the called….

Regarding the Virginia Tech shooting, and the possibility that the same scenario could play out at a Southern Baptist seminary, one of our presidents had this to say in chapel yesterday:

“Now if you’re a male student, will you just lift your hand for a moment so I can see you? Thank you for that commitment. God forbid that anything happen like this here, but each of you that just raised your hand said, ‘Never be more than two or three shots before I’m on him. Doesn’t matter how many of us he takes out. ‘ See, all you had to do was have six or eight rush him right at that time, and thirty-two people wouldn’t have died. Now folks, let’s make up our minds. I know we live in America where nobody gets involved in anybody else’s situation. That shall not be the rule here. Does everybody understand? You say, well I may be shot. Well, yeah, you may. Are you saved? You’re going to heaven. You know, it’s better than earth . . . Now one more time, how many male students are there? I’m counting on you.”

Excuse me? Did he just say that Virginia Tech students are to blame for the deaths of all their fellow classmates because they didn’t “rush him?”

Interspersed with the president’s comments was laughter from the student body. I’m sorry, folks, but I just fail to comprehend how appealing to masculine bravado and insinuating that Virginia Tech students are wimps serves much of a pastoral purpose. Because that’s what happened. Students who were afraid, faculty members who blocked doors to protect their students and took bullets themselves, dozens of innocent dead all serve as a homespun lesson in the value of the Second Amendment at Southern Baptist seminaries. This is beyond bizarre. It’s beyond callous. It’s just plain freakish. I can’t imagine how parents of the victims are comforted knowing that a gunslinging seminary president is making sure that the next generation of Southern Baptist pastors will be much more courageous than their children were.

What pastor would ask men in his church to raise their hands and volunteer to tackle a gunman? I’m sorry if I fail to hear the tender mercies of Christ in this odd macho mix of guns and God. I apologize if I find other valuable topics of pastoral instruction from the Virginia Tech massacre. But perhaps I’m the only person who feels this way. Maybe I’m the only one who thinks a seminary that is teaching etiquette to women and tactical terrorist intervention to men has lost its focus.

Imagine if Jesus’ teaching followed this line of reasoning:

Luke 13:1-5: “Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! They weren’t worse sinners, but they were pretty lousy men. Total wimps, those Galileans. I mean, c’mon fellas. If Pilate had tried that stuff around here, I’d have pulled out my .357 and sent him to Hell in God’s name.'”

Those poor unfortunate souls…

…who serve as pastors’ wives and have never had a chance to learn about the proper placement of silver at the dinner table, or have not been afforded the opportunity to learn couture, correspondence, and charm from beauty pageant winners, now have their chance. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary continues to blaze new trails in the preparation of women for the Lord’s calling upon their lives by hosting:

Etiquette: A Modern Manners Conference for Women and Girls
April 21, 2007, from 9:00 to Noon

Or if you prefer to hear the chapel announcement, then go to the SWBTS Chapel Archives and load the following sermons, then find the times listed below for the First Lady’s announcement.

Jeff Iorg Sermon
April 10, 2007
From minute 16:09 to 18:29

Charles Ryrie Sermon
April 12, 2007
From minute 15:48 to 17:51

And if you want to know what song was playing through my head when I read about this…

Click here.

Blogger lifeboat…

Seven bloggers on a lifeboat. You have to get rid of two of them so that the remaining five will survive. Same scenario as before: whom do you toss, and why?

1. Marty Duren
2. Ben Cole
3. Wade Burleson
4. Art Rogers
5. Dorcas Hawker
6. Tim Rogers
7. C.B. Scott



1.  Marty Duren gets to stay. Anybody who finds his home in the Appalachian wilderness for a “vacation,” marching through thickets, pines, and briars with the buoyant spirit of Burt Reynolds in Deliverance can survive a desert island. Granted, I thought it was bizarre when Marty decided to retrace the travels of Eric Robert Rudolph, but the grandaddy of SBC Blogging stays in the boat.

2.  The best reason to through me overboard is that I stand the greatest chance of surviving even in the waters.  Not even the sharks want a bite of me.  The best reason to keep me is that I have the greatest chance of making our little “three-hour tour” into a media spectacle.  We might even get our own sitcom if I pulled the right strings, and a hefty sum for the “story” to boot. :)  But yeah, I’d pretty much toss me if I was the others.

3.  Wade Burleson can’t be thrown overboard.  A fact that Chairman Tom Hatley learned the hard way.

4.  Art Rogers shouldn’t be thrown overboard, but he shouldn’t be allowed to remain in the boat either.  He should be allowed to hold to the side of the boat and pray that the sharks who won’t eat me don’t eat his legs.  Everybody knows that Art Rogers is really the mastermind behind all the blogging headaches for SBC higher-ups.  From his tiny Treo in Tulsa, Art Rogers has gripped the SBC by the throat.  Easily the most dangerous blogger, he’s steady, calm, and careful.  The good old boys would benefit greatly from his demise.  He’s also likely to let go of the boat side once he realizes that his final 30 days of life could be spent with Tim Rogers.

5.  Dorcas Hawker shouldn’t be thrown overboard, but I have a sneaky suspicion that she would jump anyway.  The Parkview Children’s minister has an irrepressible spirit.  She’s likely to jump in the water just after announcing to the world (or lifeboat survivors) that she knows she can swim to safety if she just puts her mind to it.  And she’s likely to do it just to prove that she could.  Of course, nobody would throw Dorcas overboard…so long as she didn’t try to bless them with her own rendition of “Mary Did You Know,” which is certifiably homicidal.  I have the audio-recording to prove it!

6. Tim Rogers stands the worst chance of surviving the lifeboat, simply because he’s outnumbered.  But he does argue his case until he wears down his opposition who finally quit just to get him to shut up.  Also, if the other lifeboaters will promise Tim that a trustee appointment to Southeastern Seminary or the North Carolina state convention executive board was waiting for him back at home, he’s likely to work harder than anybody else to get there.

7.  C.B. Scott is quite possibly the best hope for survival on board.  In fact, he’s been dead three or four times already, but like Johnny Cash and the Highywaymen, he just comes back again and again.  He’s also as strong as an ox, which would be quite resourceful to the survivor crew.

Keep C.B., Wade, Marty, Dorcas, and Art.  Tim Rogers and Ben Cole get the boot.  We’ll slug it out in the waters until the briny sea overtakes our tired souls.  Throw in a bottle of yo-ho-ho rum, and I bet I can get Tim to violate Resolution Number 5 on the way down.


So here’s the deal. You are on a lifeboat carrying six Southern Baptist dignitaries other than yourself. Your ship was wrecked somewhere off the coast of Benin, West Africa. Your tiny raft is drifting toward a deserted island, and you know beforehand that your rations can only sustain five of you for 30 days. You have to decide whom you will throw overboard, ensuring your best chance of survival and hope of rescue. Assuming you will spare your own life, which two of the following six Southern Baptist higher-ups will you toss?

Comment your answers and rationales. I will post my response within 24 hours.

Anyone answering, “I’d throw myself overboard before I’d live on an island with any of them” will be disqualified.

1. Al Mohler

2. Richard Land

3. Paige Patterson

4. Bobby Welch

5. Danny Akin

6. O.S. Hawkins



So here are my thoughts about the lifeboat scenario listed above. I’m going to list my thoughts about why each person should/should not be cast overboard, then I will announce my choice:

1. Al Mohler — There is no question that Al Mohler is one of the brightest minds in the Evangelical world. He’s quick and resolved. When he sets his mind to something, he is not easily dissuaded. His tenacity would be an asset to any group, though Mohler is definitely less of a team-player than some of the other candidates. He has few intellectual equals, and he knows it. Mohler would serve better as a sniper than an infantryman. He also has children still at home, which would definitely give him a will to survive that others might not possess. That desire, and the recognition that he does have kids at home, might keep others from tossing him over.

2. Richard Land is brilliant, though largely useless when it comes to using tools or doing anything normally considered as a “man’s job.” By his own admission, his wife is far more the “handyman” than he is. Richard’s strength is, without a doubt, in leadership. He can plan and execute. He’s also an overachiever with a competitive edge, and if put in a situation where he has to compete with — say Al Mohler — he would work twice as hard to win. The only person in the SBC, however, who can rein Land in is Paige Patterson. If Patterson got tossed, Land would be incorrigible.

3. Paige Patterson is a survivor. He survived the firing at Criswell. He survived some tough spots at Southeastern. He’s surviving at Southwestern. He’s not as bright as Mohler or Land, but he’s much faster. Patterson’s aim is off, but his trigger is quick. He might miss you with the first shot, but he’ll have fired off three or four rounds before you’ve even taken aim. Not only that, but Patterson has an infectious sense of humor. When misery sets in on the little deserted island, Patterson will keep things light-hearted. If nothing else, he will pick a fight between the other survivors just to make things interesting. The downside to having Patterson is that if the food runs out, he’s likely to cannibalize you. The upside is that Dorothy is twice as tenacious as he is, and if she thinks he’s still alive out there, she will pull out every stop to find you.

4. Bobby Welch is a Vietnam veteran. He lived on boot leather for a few weeks in the Mekong Delta. His “pep talks” are tiring when you don’t think you need them. But facing certain death, Welch is probably the closest thing you’ve got to a general in Southern Baptist life. Welch stays. No question.

5. Danny Akin is courageous and resourceful. There has never been a hill up which he will not climb. There’s never been a challenge from which he ran. Faced with unsurmountable odds, Akin will find a way to surmount them. He’s perhaps the most physically fit of the group, which would serve your cause of survival well. He’s also quite disciplined personally. If an ally is what you need, Akin is among the most formidable. I really can’t think of a reason not to keep Danny Akin. He’s the youngest of the bunch, and he’ll carry his own load and then some. Akin stays.

6. O.S. Hawkins is a friend to everyman. He’s a remarkably fixed star in this shifting constellation we call the Southern Baptist Convention. You don’t have to worry about O.S. knifing you when your back is turned. He gets labeled by some as an “elitist,” but that moniker doesn’t really play out. He may wear perfectly tailored dress-shirts, but he knows how to roll up those French cuffs and get his hands dirty when necessary. He’s also among the most forgiving of the group, which means he will likely not hold it against you when you toss one of his friends. In a pinch, O.S. might even sacrifice himself for somebody else. You know, greater love hath no man and all…

So what is my decision?

If push came to shove, I’d try to assemble a team with the best chance of survival. I’d keep Welch and Akin without a second thought. Patterson would stay because he’s got the most basic survival instinct known to men. I’d keep Hawkins just because I know he’d work as hard to get off the island as he would to keep the group from murdering each other. I’d probably toss Mohler because he’d swallow the bitter pill a little easier than the others, believing in exhaustive divine foreknowledge and providential sovereignty like he does. Land would go overboard because, well, you don’t really need to vote values on a deserted island.

Of course, I’d be doing the SBC a bigger favor by keeping them all to decide among themselves who gets tossed, and jumping ship myself.

Now there’s an idea…

Policy to prevent child abuse…

Having pastored two churches in the past where serious cases of child sexual abuse occurred — both prior to my tenure — I have become a stickler for the adoption and implementation of policies that serve to protect children from predatory parishioners and clergy.  In the earliest months of my tenure at Parkview Baptist Church in Arlington, TX, I led our congregation to implement a “Policy For The Prevention Of All Forms Of Abuse, Including But Not Limited To Sexual Abuse and Child Abuse.”

A team of church members drafted the policy with my direction, and the church voted to unanimously approve the policy.  Every person who works with children in our church has undergone a thorough background check, and our ministry staff is scrupulous to check sex offender databases regularly to familiarize ourselves with sex offenders who live in our immediate area.

Should you wish to read our policy, you can find it here.

I hope this helps others address the growing crisis of child abuse.

Southern Baptist pastors to address clergy sex abuse…

DALLAS, Tex. — April 12, 2007

In response to the recent exposure that the nation’s largest Protestant denomination has received concerning clergy sexual abuse, Oklahoma pastor Wade Burleson of Enid’s Emmanuel Baptist Church and Texas pastor Benjamin Cole of Arlington’s Parkview Church intend to ask the Southern Baptist Convention to address the issue.

“Southern Baptists must be proactive when it comes to protecting children under our ministerial care. Our convention cannot retreat behind claims of ecclesiastic polity, and we are encouraged by SBC President Frank Page’s tough stance on clergy sexual abuse,” Cole said of his and Burleson’s initiative.

Burleson, a former convention president for the State of Oklahoma, intends to bring a motion to this summer’s annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in San Antonio calling for “a feasibility study concerning the development of a database of Southern Baptist ministers who have been convicted of sexual harrassment and abuse.” The motion will request that the Executive Committee of the national convention, headquartered in Nashville, TN, be charged with the responsibility to report its action at the next annual meeting in Indianapolis.

“There is no credible reason why Southern Baptist churches cannot look to our convention headquarters for assistance in scrutinizing candidates for ministry positions,” Burleson said. “What was once believed to consist of a few isolated cases has emerged as a more serious threat to our convention’s ministries and our churches’ health.”

Cole, the Texas pastor who has worked with Burleson over the past eighteen months to promote reform in the national convention, will introduce a resolution “On Clergy Sexual Abuse” for consideration at this year’s annual meeting.

Recognizing that “ministers are expected to maintain the highest standards of personal conduct as it relates to children,” the resolution reads, “Southern Baptists must spare no effort to preserve the integrity of our witness and the security of our children from the tragic consequence of our own potential neglect.”

In a related move, Alabama pastor C.B. Scott of Westmont Baptist Church in Birmingham will offer a resolution calling on Southern Baptists to “intentionally utilize the resources of our churches to rescue victimized children from abusive homes.”

Since beginning his pastorate in Alabama two years ago, Scott and his wife have taken in four children to their home, serving as foster parents for the two girls and two boys whose ages range from five to fourteen years of age.

“Jesus told his disciples that the worst kind of judgment was reserved for those who victimized children. Victimization occurs in two ways: one is by the abuser who harms kids, and the other is by the bystander who does nothing to stop it,” Scott said. “I’m going to do everything I can to stop it.”

In recent weeks, Southern Baptists have scrambled to respond to a rising number of its ministers who have been arrested for abusing children. The president of the national convention, Frank Page of Taylors, SC, issued a statement this month calling on “every local church to develop written policy guidelines for the care of children and youth . . . [and] to have a system or policy in place to deal with any accusations made.”

“Even one instance of sexual molestation is one too many,” Page added. “Jesus set the example in His deep love and care for the innocent, the young and the hurting. Let our churches be an example of Jesus’ ministry.”

The Southern Baptist Convention will meet June 12-13 in San Antonio, TX.

Copies of the Burleson motion and Cole Resolution follow:

Burleson Motion Regarding the Development of a Convention Database of Sexual Predators

“I move that the Southern Baptist Convention requests the Executive Committee to conduct a feasibility study concerning the development of a database of Southern Baptist ministers who have been convicted of sexual harrassment and abuse, and that such a database be accessible to Southern Baptist churches seeking to maintain the highest standards of sexual ethics for its ministry candidates.”

Cole Resolution on Clergy Sexual Abuse

WHEREAS, the Lord Jesus Christ has instructed his church to exercise attentive care and prioritized concern for the well-being of children (Mark 10:14-16; Matthew 18:5-7), and

WHEREAS, millions of children are mistreated each year in the United States by those who have been entrusted by God to care for them, and

WHEREAS, God has designed the family and founded the church to be a place of safety and security for children to grow in a nurturing environment of spiritual wisdom and moral purity, and

WHEREAS, the Bible calls upon ministers — whether they are pastors, counselors, educators, missionaries, chaplains, or others — to preserve the witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ by maintaining the highest standards of personal conduct as it relates to children, and

WHEREAS, the tender consciences of little children are irreparably scarred by the negligence of Southern Baptist churches who fail to examine carefully the moral integrity and ethical history of ministry candidates, and

WHEREAS, Southern Baptists have not fully explored every option to protect our churches and our children from the threat of potential victimization and abuse at the hands of predatory clergy; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in San Antonio, Texas, June 12-13, 2007, call upon our member churches to pursue every possible avenue in determining the moral character and ethical conduct of ministry candidates; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we urge our convention agencies, institutions, and commissions to take bold steps to educate Southern Baptists concerning the indications associated with and the reporting of child victimization; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we appeal to all churches dealing with the tragedy of negligent care for the interests of those abused by predatory clergy to address the growing crisis of child victimization by implementing ministries of pastoral care for victims of clergy abuse; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we pray for those who have been harmed physically, emotionally, and spiritually by ministers in our own convention who have violated their innocence through evil acts of sexual sin against them; and be it finally

RESOLVED, that we acknowledge the immediate need for our convention churches, agencies, institutions, and commissions to act with sincerity and urgency in this matter, sparing no effort to preserve the integrity of our witness and the security of our children from the tragic consequences of our potential neglect.