As we at Baptist Blogger approach the mid-year mark, we decided to come up with ten resolutions to carry us through December 31, 2007. We call them Blogolutions, and they are as follows:

1. We will fast from reading anything published on Baptist Press for two solid weeks. After the intial detox, we will fast weekly on Mondays and Fridays and any other day that has headlined photographs of half-naked men and transgendered persons.

2. We will not blog on Saturdays or Sundays for any reason whatsoever.

3. We will blog at least once every week about something praiseworthy in the Southern Baptist Convention.

4. We will not blog about the 2008 Presidential Election cycle, neither Southern Baptist nor American.

5. We will stop using plural pronouns as frequently when referring to ourself.

6. We will only use the word hell when speaking about a place, and we will only use damned when speaking about those who live there. When necessary, we will use “Fort Worth” as a synonym for the former and “fundamentalist” for the latter. (Example: You can tell all those fundamentalist fundamentalists to go to Fort Worth for all I care.)

7. We will conduct and publish at least one interview per month with a completely unknown pastor or layperson whose ministry is worthy of recognition.

8. We will fight the urge to publish more than one YouTube video per week. We will never publish more than two.

9. We will fast from all blogging, blogperusing, and blogcommenting on Sundays.

10. We will finally send those gifts we’ve planned to the editorial staff of the Florida Baptist Witness and the SBTexan.

Kierkegaard on the poor…

This, from the book Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard.

Disclaimer: Reading a single syllable of Kierkegaard is certain to set your little boat adrift, either to the right side of the river in ecumenism, or down the middle in neo-orthodoxy, or to the left toward liberalism. As with Liberation Theology, thar be dragons aplenty. Enter ye, who must surely meet their fate:

Christ was not making a historical observation when he declared: The gospel is preached to the poor. The accent is on the gospel, that the gospel is for the poor. Here the word “poor” does not simply mean poverty but all who suffer, are unfortunate, wretched, wronged, oppressed, crippled, lame, leprous, demonic. The gospel is preached to them, that is, the gospel is for them. The gospel is good news for them. What good news? Not: money, health, status, and so on — no, this is not Christianity.

No, for the poor the gospel is the good news because to be unfortunate in this world (in such a way that one is abandoned by human sympathy, and the worldly zest for life even cruelly tries to make one’s misfortune into guilt) is a sign of God’s nearness. So it was originally; this is the gospel in the New Testament. It is preached for the poor, and it is preached by the poor who, if they in other respects were not suffering, would eventually suffer by proclaiming the gospel; since suffering is inseparable from following Christ, from telling the truth.

But soon there came a change. When preaching the gospel became a livelihood, even a lush livelihood, then the gospel became good news for the rich and for the mighty. For how else was the preacher to acquire and secure rank and dignity unless Christianity secured the best for all? Christianity thus ceased to be glad tidings for those who suffer, a message of hope that transfigures suffering into joy, but a guarantee for the enjoyment of life intensified and secured by by the hope of eternity.

The gospel no longer benefits the poor essentially. In fact, Christianity has now even become a downright injustice to those who suffer (although we are not always conscious of this, and certainly unwilling to admit to it). Today the gospel is preached to the rich, the powerful, who have discovered it to be advantageous. We are right back again to the very state original Christianity wanted to oppose. The rich and powerful not only get to keep everything, but their success becomes the mark of their piety, the sign of their relationship to God. And this prompts the old atrocity again — namely, the idea that the unfortunate, the poor are to blame for their condition; that it is because they are not pious enough, are not true Christians, that they are poor, whereas the rich have not only pleasure but piety as well. This is supposed to be Christianity. Compare it with the New Testament, and you will see that this is as far from that as possible.

SBCOutpost, Part Deux…

We just received the following press release in our email from Micah Fries, the new editor of

June 27, 2007

ST. JOSEPH, MO — On Monday, July 2, 2007, the online conversation concerning the future of the Southern Baptist Convention will move forward as a group of prominent bloggers merge their efforts to provide a forum for ministry ideas, missionary support, church revitalization, and denominational reform., previously administrated by Pastor Marty Duren of New Bethany Baptist Church in Buford, GA, will be launched as one of the premier sites for Southern Baptist news and commentary.

Little doubt exists that blogs have dominated the conversation in Southern Baptist life for the previous 18 months. At times, the conversation has engaged substantive issues of theology and ministry. At others, the dialogue has been shrill and divisive. With the launch of a newly reformatted blog, the chance for elevating the meaningful dialogue and limiting the intensity of contention will arrive for all Southern Baptists.

Intentionally designed as a bridge for the diverse constituencies of Southern Baptist life, will bring together denominational executives with rural pastors and church planters, missional pastors with traditional pastors, seminary theologians with Sunday School teachers, and field missionaries with their prayer partners. The day has passed for monopolies in news and information. will seek to supplement, not replace, the excellent coverage of Southern Baptist life already offered online through Baptist Press, Associated Baptist Press, and various Baptist state papers. is singularly unique, however, in the chance for reader interaction and commentary, offering a forum for the discussion about the future of culturally-informed, Christ-honoring witness and ministry paradigms for the Southern Baptist Convention. In addition to this unique format, will launch with the largest aggregate readership of any alternative news source dealing with Southern Baptist issues. The mission statement of is “to provide interactive, substantive, and reflective dialogue for Southern Baptist churchmen and women to participate in shaping the future of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

The stated intention of is to become the number one choice for discussion of Southern Baptist news and commentary, and the blog editors would like to encourage all Southern Baptist entities to include as a part of their regular schedule of recipients for all press releases, news updates, and other statements as they are released to major media sources by emailing


The taste of crow feathers…

The past year has taught us a few things about Southern Baptist life, not the least of which is the degree of schadenfreude that poisons our denominational well. We at Baptist Blogger have been encouraged along the way to keep the heat on some convention leaders, and not others. We’ve been told to back off some convention personalities, and to pursue others. Our readers have laughed or cringed depending on whether our blogtarget was a friend or enemy. Hero worship exists in Southern Baptist life, as well as the villification of one’s ideological opponent.

And yes, there are clear lines of demarcation between the two.

Along the way, we’ve had a few moments of regret, forcing us to contemplate the removal of a post. So far, We’ve only taken down one post, and that because it was crude not because it was cruel. We’ve had some time in recent weeks to reflect on the weight of responsibility that we at Baptist Blogger have as one of the most widely read dissident blogs in denominational life. Today, we owe some apologies.

But before we get to those, let us be very clear. While our blog will not publicly pursue Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and its First Couple with the intensity and regularity of the previous twelve months, we will continue our efforts to press for an accreditation review and justice for Sheri Klouda. We do not retract any syllable written about these issues or personalities, and our book will explore even more.

Second, we will not apologize for shaming our grammatically incompetent brethren. Words are the chariots that ferry the legions of men’s thoughts. If one wishes to communicate his ideas with any credibility, it is necessary for those ideas to be conveyed with clarity, literacy, and precision — at least if men would attempt to articulate those ideas in the comment threads on our blog. Incidentally, there are a number of commenters who owe us for having corrected a plurality of grammatical faux pas.

Third, we cannot apologize for accusations of intellectual arrogance. We at Baptist Blogger realize that God Almighty could remove at any moment our cerebral excellence, but we rather enjoy it while it lasts. Often, we have discovered, charges of arrogance are offered by men with various insecurities about their having wasted opportunities for scholarly pursuits. We cannot, and we will not, own responsibility for the slothful torpor of our harshest critics.

Now, for the apologies.

First, we owe an apology to Ronnie Floyd. Last year, in the heat of convention politics, we exploited an opportunity to cast unnecessary and excessive aspersions upon his character and ministry. First Baptist Church of Springdale is a great church with a good pastor. We regret having posted as we did for purposes less than noble. In honesty, our pursuit of Ronnie Floyd had very little to do with him, and much more to do with the explosive anger we experienced when denominational leaders used their institutional resources to endorse his candidacy. Our primary desire was to bust up the college of cardinals, not to harm the candidate whom they had proffered. The election in Greensboro was, for us, more about defeating Paige Patterson than about defeating Ronnie Floyd. We deeply regret that Pastor Floyd got caught in the crosshairs, and we will take an opportunity very soon to make restitution.

Second, we owe an apology to Claude Thomas. The former pastor of First Baptist Church of Euless, TX, deserved no rehashing of the circumstance of his departure on our blog. At the time, our efforts were to expose the blatant hypocrisy of Southwestern’s president more than a difficult season of Thomas’ ministry. Not only did our posting documentation related to FBC Euless hurt Pastor Thomas, but his sons — all of whom are in ministry — were needlessly brought into the injury. For this, we are truly remorseful.

Third, we owe an apology to Parkview Baptist Church. While we have made every effort to meet all of our ministry objectives, we have too often failed to make visits that were needed, prepare sermons that were fresh, and pray as they deserved. In January of this year, Parkview’s membership affirmed unanimously their pastor’s efforts in the current denominational crisis after having heard more than an hour of the documentation currently in our possession. Their affirmation, however, was followed by my personal commitment to refocus on church ministry as soon as the San Antonio convention. Their patience has compensated for my distraction. Their prayers have supplemented my prayerlessness. Their encouragement has kept me afloat.

Fourth, we owe an apology to lost people in Arlington, TX. Their eternal destinies and immortal souls are of infinitely greater importance than the passing pettiness of Southern Baptist fracases. I have only baptized two persons this year, and I have only led four to Christ. The city of Arlington is increasingly rife with crime, gang violence, economic disparity, AIDS, and moral degradation. Any pastor whose ministry is more consumed with the nonsense that occurs fifteen miles away on a seminary campus or hundreds of miles away at convention headquarters than he is with the lostness of those living within a stone’s throw of his church office is in dire need of immediate repentance and grace.

Fifth, we owe an apology to three young, beautiful ladies who’ve had the kind hearts to date — at different intervals, mind you — a very intense person who denied them the attention and interest they deserved. They tolerated a man whose conversation was too often steered toward issues completely uninteresting and superfluous. I spoke when I should have listened. I cancelled when I could have gone. I returned phonecalls from Wade Burleson, Dwight McKissic, Marty Duren, Art Rogers, and a host of others before I returned theirs. If singleness be my curse, then I owe it to my own carelessness and selfishness. This, too, will change.

Half-million and counting…

We at Baptist Blogger will reach a milestone today. The current count of site visits — as of the time of this post — is 499,719. Before noon, we should pass the half-million mark since the current counter started on October 17, 2006.

We would like to extend our sincerest appreciation to the faculty, staff, and administration of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, who have collectively been our most faithful readers. We would also like to thank Wade Burleson, Marty Duren, Art Rogers, and Sam Hodges, who have routinely contributed the greatest number of site visits with links to our blog and/or specific posts.

Furthermore, we express our sincere thanks to Bart Barber for taking it on the chin, Malcolm Yarnell for getting the jokes, Brad Reynolds for using words loosely, Robin Foster for the grammatical challenges, Tim Rogers for never turning the other cheek, Peter Lumpkins for the hemmorhoids, and Jeremy Green for the not so fresh feeling.

A few additional words of appreciation are appropriate. Thanks to Karen Scott for her steadfast prayers, Jodi Chapman for her occasional but stern reprimands, Pamela Blume for the timeliness of her encouragement, Dorcas Hawker for her loyal advocacy, Kathleen Nelson for the love that covereth multitudes of sins, Jasmine Stevenson for cutting out all the news articles, Vera McKissic for tolerating the phonecalls, Rochelle Burleson for her sense of humor, Joni Hannigan for the free advertising, and the First Lady for not having us assassinated.

Tomorrow we will post several apologies. Today is for champagne and brie. Tomorrow is for wormwood and gall.

Frank Page unplugged…

We do not frequent this website, but we have discovered an excellent interview with SBC President Frank Page. There are two parts, and the money quote follows:

The truth is that the BFM is somewhat like the United States Constitution. It’s interpreted by everyone according to their particular perspective. The resolution is being interpreted according to everyone’s own perspective, which is understandable. I think what happened, and yes, I was very much in favor of that motion – I think what the people were simply saying was this, “We do not need to become a legalistic denomination. We are definitely conservative, inerrantist people.” And the Baptist Faith and Message, that by the way, ten years ago was seen as a fundamentalist document and people were wondering how anybody could sign such a thing, and now it’s almost seen as a Moderate document. It’s amazing at the switch that has occurred.

My point is, I think the Baptists were simply saying, “We’ve gone far enough.” We don’t need to put more strict parameters on everybody. We can’t agree on everything and to constantly amend the Baptist Faith and Message will lead us into an absolute anarchy. If you’re going to put in there something about speaking in tongues, are we also going to clarify whether we are a Calvinist or non-Calvinist denomination? Where does it end? It doesn’t.

At some point we have to say, “these are primary issues.” I think that is what the Southern Baptist Convention said in San Antonio: “This is our guiding document. Please be careful.” I think it was a plea. It was not a requirement. That’s why everybody can interpret it the way they want. Please, let’s not become a legalistic, narrow-minded denomination that expects everybody to agree on every primary, secondary, and tertiary point of doctrine.

For prospective seminary students…

Please be advised of the following. Failure to observe and apply these helpful hints will deprive your seminary experience. We at Baptist Blogger would have enjoyed a more profitable seminary education if we had heard and observed all these rules. There are four or five or ten wherein we failed miserably and frequently.

1. There is no such thing as a tenant of Arminian theology.

2. There is no such thing as a tenet of Armenian theology.

3. When referencing the sixteenth century reformer, Martin Luther, it is not necessary to tell your professor that he “nailed the ninety-five theses to the church door at Wittenburg.” Your professor knows you are not referencing the 20th century Civil Rights leader. The same rule applies to all major figures in church history. Resist the temptation to explore obvious and overused facts in your writing. Write about something that few men know.

4. John MacArthur’s commentaries are great for stealing sermons. They are unacceptable for exegetical research.

5. Never, ever use an exclamation point for any reason whatsoever.

6. The unexpected death of a church member does not absolve you of weeks of procrastination.

7. Learn Turabian early, and review her often. There is no excuse for submitting research papers with homespun formatting. Trust me, you cannot intuit Kate’s ways.

8. Footnotes serve nobler purposes than mere source citations. Use them to demonstrate that you have interacted substantively with a source by elaborating an explanation.

9. The Holy Bible is inerrant, infallible, and inspired. It is not, however, an occasion for bibliographic buttressing.

10. Have someone other than your wife or roommate edit your major term papers. Ask your professor to recommend a student, and pay him for his labors. An excellent grade is worth a modest sum.

11. Learn to search for journal articles outside of JETS. If you don’t know what JETS is, do not try to find out.

12. When choosing between professors, find one that has published at least one significant monograph within the past five years. Too many seminary professors are woefully incapable of rigorous academic research, and if your professor lists a Winter Bible Study or journal article from his own seminary journal on his curriculum vitae, pass on him.

13. Do not presuppose that you will learn what you need to learn from a seminary education. Seminary, if it serves its purpose, will equip you with some of the tools you will need, not all of them.

14. Find a spot in the library away from high traffic areas and live there between classes. Stay away from the coffee shops. Do not waste your energies rutting with the spring bucks.

15. Purchase a copy of Hans Frei’s The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative and read the first 100 pages every semester.

16. Expand your knowledge base of art, literature, and music. Visit at least one museum a year, and spend the day. Attend a symphony. Read Shakespeare.

17. Serve one year as a professor’s grader. There’s nothing like reading stacks of horrible research papers to teach you how not to write.

18. Refuse to purchase every book your professor requires. Many professors think that their academic respectability among their peers is contingent on large reading lists.

19. Every semester, look over the doctoral reading lists. Spend the time you would have spent reading the frivolous assignments in your Master’s level courses to read the stuff of which Ph.D.’s are made.

20. Listen attentively to the names of theologians — Evangelical or otherwise — most often criticized and ridiculed by your professors with flippant, unsophisticated one-liners. Choose these men as the subject of your major research paper for their classes.

21. Find a well-worn copy of Helmut Thielicke’s sermons on the parables. Devour it.

22. Befriend an international student. Listen to him.

23. Skip chapel most of the time for early lunches off campus with friends. Hooky is liberating.

24. Search for nursing homes and retirement communities that will let you preach or teach Bible studies. The single greatest deficiency in most young pastors is the inability to interact with senior adults. Eat their cookies and pies. Take them flowers. Ask them to pray for you.

25. Write at least one unassigned paper during your time at seminary.

26. Tithe.

27. If you are not pastoring, do not attend the church most frequented by seminary students. Find a church 20 miles out of town and join it.

28. Do not huddle near your seminary president at the end of class or chapel. If you can manage to get through seminary without his knowing your name, you have truly accomplished something.

29. Attend associational pastor’s conferences as often as possible. Drink coffee with older pastors. Ask lots of questions.

30. Date your wife. If you’re not married, date as many girls as will go out with you.

31. Offer to babysit for a seminary couple so they can comply with #30 above.

32. Pay close attention in your church administration class. Keep copies of every handout. Compile a notebook of church policy and procedure manuals.

33. Have a little wine for thy stomach’s sake.

34. Smoke a cigar, preferably this one.

35. Peruse every issue of National Geographic, Time Magazine, and Psychology Today. Cull them for sermon illustrations.

36. Ask no more than three questions in class per semester.

37. Completely fill out all professor reviews at the semester’s end. Write substantive comments and honest appraisals of the professor’s performance.

38. Sneak into chapel alone at odd times and preach a sermon to no one.

39. Wear shorts, flipflops, tshirts, and ballcaps to class. There’s plenty of time in ministry to wear suits, ties, and dress shoes.

40. Cultivate the closest relationships with students headed for the mission field.

41. Avoid “accountability groups” of fellow seminarians at all cost.

42. Contact the chaplain’s office of a local hospital. Offer to visit people who have no minister.

43. Sit in a different spot every week.

44. Invert the seminary course plan. Save classes like evangelism, the scripture introductory courses, pastoral care and counseling for the end of your degree.

45. Join the seminary choir for one semester. Learn to read music.

46. Join a protest — at least once — in front of an abortion clinic.

47. Write anonymous notes of encouragement to fellow students. Slip a ten dollar bill in the envelope.

48. Burn at least one textbook in a ceremony of private dissent. Most books on leadership make for good kindling.

49. Dye your hair or shave your head or both. Do something counter-cultural.

50. Pay all your bills on time.

Rules For Blogging…

1. Try to post daily, but not too many times a day. The greater number of posts you put up in a day, the shorter each post must become.

2. Do not expect people to read your blog because you think your ideas are brilliant. If your readership isn’t increasing, it’s probably because you don’t have anything to say regardless of your insistence otherwise.

3. Be personal, but maintain privacy. There are plenty of freaks out there who have no need to know the most intimate details of your life.

4. Be honest. Do not exaggerate or conceal the facts. You will be caught.

5. Under no circumstance should you use emoticons. Ever.

6. Blog for yourself, and not for others. This is the only way to make sure that your blog is truly yours, and not some projection of what others want you to become.

7. Make a point to check your sitemeter only once a day, if at all. Blog statistics are addictive like crack cocaine, but much less socially acceptable.

8. Respond to commenters with infrequency. If you aren’t careful, your blog will become a place where others determine the subject of discussion. If people start coming to your blog for the comments rather than the main post, you may as well delete your blog entirely.

9. Avoid with all due diligence the temptation to employ arbitrary and excessive rhetorical flourishes.

10. Do not seek attention for your blog by posting frivolous comments on other blogs only to generate readership. All such commenters are to be hanged at dusk.

11. Do not send out email updates that you have posted something new. If people want to track your blog, they can use rss feeds.

12. Do not beg for comments. Do not whine for attention. Do not promote your blog. If your blog is worthy, others will pass it along.

13. Some people’s comments should never see the light of day. Idiots are the lepers of the blogosphere. Treat them as such.

14. Realize that many things you find funny are quite unfunny to others. Of course, you must also realize that some people do not have any sense of humor and will cry foul at the faintest hint of sarcasm, wit, or satire. Disregard them.

15. Only on the rarest of occasions should you allow another person an editorial privilege before publishing a post. Own your own words.

16. Blogs are the new porn. Your spouse will feel like there is another woman in your life if you spend too much time reading them.

17. Most bloggers tell more than they know. Be the exception. Always tell less.

18. Do not announce your absences from blogging. It is nobody’s business why you aren’t posting.

19. Do not post your own sermon outlines or notes. Your own congregation can barely get through your sermon without falling asleep. Don’t suppose that your blogging brethren are any more interested than they.

20. If your blog is controversial, embrace it. Do not attempt, however, to make your blog controversial for controversy’s sake. People like watching train wrecks, but will never favor a man who tries to wreck the train.

Morris Chapman, unplugged…

We at Baptist Blogger make no bones about the fact that Morris Chapman and Danny Akin are our favorite denominational executives. We also make no bones about the fact that we have observed that Texans serve as a majority block of entity presidents. Chuck Kelley, Paige Patterson, Jeff Iorg, Morris Chapman, Jerry Rankin, Phil Roberts, Danny Akin, and Richard Land are all native or adopted Texans.

We think that is nice.

Oh, go read Morris Chapman’s latest blog about the BFM Statement. And in case Jim Smith stops by this little blog of ours, we provide the following disclaimer:

We at Baptist Blogger claim neither authorial nor editorial participation in the aforementioned blog post.

(HT: Art Rogers)

Bob Roberts on the Collaborative Program…

The pastor of the growing Northwood Church in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and author of the book Glocalization, Bob Roberts, has posted a prospective and provocative agenda for the future of the Southern Baptist Convention, and in particular the Cooperative Program.

Check it out here.

The money quote:

The old paradigm of pray, give, and some go must change – and it is changing with new and younger pastors across the country – and as the early 20’s come into leadership it will change even more because they are more global and hands on than any generation we’ve ever seen. This is good not bad for us – it insures we’ll have a narrative and leaders – if we allow them to play ball. People want to be a part of an exciting story. It has to be their story – it can’t be someone Else’s story of someone who lived a hundred years ago, or who is doing it now. They want their hands dirty – they long to be hero’s and we should as “religious” leaders use all we can to make them the heroes, not us. But, if they can’t because the funding issue prevents them from being involved because they have to give x % to the denomination, or they give the money but their members can’t be involved, – what is left for them to give. The CP has become very expensive for local churches wanting to do missional things. It comes to feel like a tax, I don’t think we’ll ever see a Baptist tea party – I do think young pastors will just quietly ease out in favor of playing ball with other networks and groups that allow and even encourage local churches to engage aggressively.

On intellectual inbreeding and Southern Baptist education…

Southern Baptists are perhaps inordinately fearful and thoroughly ignorant of Liberation theologies. Whether the Black liberationism of James Cone, or the Roman Catholic liberationism of Gustavo Gutierrez, or the Feminist liberation of Rosemary Reuther, or the Gay liberation of Marcella Althius-Reid, or the Jewish liberationism of Marc Ellis, Evangelicals as a whole, and Southern Baptists in particular avoid investigating and assessing the contributions and dangers of Liberation Theology, much to our own peril.

During my entire course of study at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and briefly at Southwestern, I know of no serious engagement with Liberation Theology. There was the passing reference in Systematic Theology, and an occasional mention in Church History, but when it came to actual study, we were all woefully uninformed. When it was mentioned, Liberation Theology was characterized as an aberrant Marxist political agenda unworthy of serious consideration.

In fact, I think that Southern Baptists have been denied a rewarding opportunity to explore themes of social justice and hermeneutical emphases highlighted by men like Gutierrez, Cone, Ellis, and others. Embracing the study of Liberation Theology does not require embracing the central tenets thereof, but the anti-intellectualism of our fundamentalist fathers inhibits any honest reading of the primary theological influence found in the Southern Hemisphere, and a minor, yet very real influence in the Northern.

Essentially, Liberation Theology is guided by a concern for the poor and oppressed. Liberation theologians take seriously the words of Jesus, who told his disciples that the blessed poor were those for whom the gospel was intended. Whether our exorbitant materialism or our latent classism and racism have kept us from seeing this major New Testament emphasis, I do not know.

Liberation theology is concerned with revolution, both political and ecclesial. The powers of governmental and magisterial authorities have been allowed to flourish on the backs of the worker. The widening gulf of economic disparity has closed our eyes to the epidemic poverty, and people for whom Christ died are shuffled aside in our efforts to reach the “target groups” of our evangelistic strategies.

I owe my initial substantive exposure to Liberation Theology to my Baylor professor, Marc Ellis, a man listed among the most dangerous intellectuals in the American academy by David Horowitz. At first, Ellis and I had a strained relationship. He is an agnostic Jew with strong Democratic leanings and complete disdain for aggressive proselytization. I was an insufferable proponent for the need for Evangelical parity in the American academy, with a holdover belief that Baylor was a stronghold of theological and political liberalism.

When we first met in seminar, Ellis made no bones about his frustration with the fresh crop of Evangelicals entering Baylor’s doctoral program. Our reputation on campus among the tenured faculty was tainted by early and uncharitable discourse with our liberal counterparts. Before any engagement occurred, Ellis demanded a meeting with me. With faculty and students hiding down the hall, my professor pounded his fists on his desk and told me that he “didn’t give a damn what I thought.” In a scene reminiscent of A Few Good Men, Ellis asked me if “we were clear?” I responded, “crystal,” and left his office.

Over the course of a semester, I grew in profound appreciation for Ellis’ tenacity, intellectual commitments, and pedagogical method. He made you angry, knowing that your anger would force you to listen to him more attentively in order to argue with him. He welcomed dissent, when the time came for discussion, and forced us to dialogue with students who had other personal and scholarly commitments. He busted up our Evangelical caucus, and we are all the better for it.

I will never forget the day Ellis assigned me to a small group with two students, one of whom was a Roman Catholic and the other a lesbian. In what seemed like the introduction to a joke – three students walk into a bar, etc. – we engaged one another in collegial conversation about the ethical and moral questions raised by Christian higher education. For once, on a Baptist university campus, I felt like the minority.

I think that was Ellis’ point: to force Christians to sense some degree of oppression, harassment, and ridicule that other religious and irreligious groups feel on the campus of a Christian university. You don’t get that in a seminary education, and it is understandable that a confessional institution would limit such free exchange of ideas.

Nevertheless, I think some of Southern Baptist insensitivity to the perspectives of Latino immigrants in border states, legal or otherwise, impoverished Blacks along the Mississippi Delta, ethnic Jews in New York, Chinese Buddhists in San Francisco, and even the Gay and Lesbian sense of legal discrimination, owes to the fact that most of our preachers are never exposed to the cultural varieties available in a graduate program of non-Southern Baptist commitments. Of course, Southern Baptists will not graft many of these perspectives into our own, but we are fooling ourselves if we think our churches are better served by cultural isolation that inhibits meaningful dialogue with these groups.

In fact, so concerned are Southern Baptists to limit exposure to these cultural influences that we are forced to consider the perennial efforts to remove our kids from public schools. Southern Baptists are so increasingly fearful of non-Southern Baptist college education that all of our seminaries have launched colleges to provide a confessional uniformity and indoctrination program to further avoid intellectual cross pollination. Once we keep them from a university setting by attending our Bible colleges, we enroll them in our Southern Baptist seminaries for more intellectual inbreeding. Those that keep their grades up are encouraged to apply for Southern Baptist doctoral degrees. Most of our professors are graduated and hired from Southern Baptist schools, primarily because they can’t get academic jobs outside of Southern Baptist contexts with their seminary doctorates.

Speaking of which, what on earth is a doctoral degree in evangelism or ministry supposed to offer? Can anybody explain with any substantive and convincing argument why we need seminary degrees in homemaking, sports evangelism, jazz music, or the like? I’m quite convinced that there is nothing academically valuable, ministerially profitable, or intellectually stimulating about these silly and superfluous disciplines.

Call me an elitist, though elitism is the only reason that Southern Baptist pastors even consider that empty pedigree called a D.Min. Call me a liberal, though Southern Baptists have never fully realized that our congregational polity, our trustee system, even our commitment to church-state separation – decreasingly esteemed as it is – are informed by the liberal tradition.

Those pastors and professors who contribute most to Southern Baptist life are those who have explored more diverse philosophical and theological perspectives than their counterparts of limited interaction with the mainline academy.

Honestly, I believe that our seminaries are doing a disservice to the convention by operating those colleges, which are technically a violation of their charters, and I can think of no reason to continue them, unless it’s because we need to supply jobs for the men and women who we’ve convinced to get a seminary doctorate but are who are thereby less likely to find employment in the American academy. In fact, if our convention would ever get the nerve to merge our seminaries under one trustee board, streamline our curriculum and course offerings, and elect a chancellor of theological education, we might be able to refocus our institutions on the reason for their existence, which is not, incidentally, to provide alternatives to secular undergraduate and graduate programs of theology.

Or maybe we’re supposed to expect that a homeschooled boy with a Bible college undergraduate, a seminary degree in counseling, and a doctorate in evangelism is supposed to be a better equipped churchman. And just maybe a homeschooled girl with a bachelor’s degree in homemaking, a seminary degree in women’s studies, and a nonresident Th.D. from the University of South Africa is supposed to make a better housewife.

Moreover, if this is all we can expect from our seminaries, we’re better off burning them to the ground, collecting the insurance, and establishing an endowed scholarship fund to send our brightest and finest to secular graduate programs for more a more vigorous and circumspect academic preparation. It seems to me that more harm than good is done to Southern Baptist churches by ministers who are trained in environments divorced from service to the churches. Instead of addressing the need for more pastor-theologians — men like Buddy Gray of Hunter Street Baptist Church in Birmingham or Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C. — we are content to populate our pulpits with men more thoroughly trained in F.A.I.T.H. or the history of the Cooperative Program than the sacred art of hermeneutics, biblical exposition, and classic pastoral care. Thus we may have created a vortex of ministry unpreparedness and biblical illiteracy from which we cannot extract ourselves, unless drastic measures are taken — and taken fast.

How Southern Baptist seminary administrators and educators expect to influence the culture without training their students to understand and even appreciate (gasp!) the cultural influences with which they will contend is beyond me. Decrying secular humanism, feminism, postmodernism, and relativism does not an education make. Fear-mongering about possible drifts toward ecumenism, Neo-orthodoxy, or liberal Protestantism may elicit shouts of amens, but it does very little to address the diminished evangelistic returns that the Conservative Resurgence now faces. In fact, I’ve found that most Southern Baptists who speak about these things comprehend very little of the intellectual underpinnings and cultural appeal of these worldviews.

Klouda presses on…

Without commentary, I am supplying a copy of the latest filing in the case of Sheri Klouda vs. Paige Patterson, SWBTS, et al. Readers will notice that a sexual discrimination cause has been added, as well as tightened language regarding the principal liability of Leighton Paige Patterson. We also understand that the United States District Court issued a subpoena for Paige Patterson on June 15, 2007. A copy of the subpoena is forthcoming.