Serious scholarship, Oedipus, and Electra…


Buckle your seat belts. This one is going to get a little bumpy.

Truth be told, I’ve never read a single edition of the Southwestern Journal of Theology.

And truth be told, nobody else has either. Including the faculty of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Ordinarily, we would suggest our readers aren’t missing much.  But the Fall 2017 edition — published in December of last year — prompts our present and sundry observations. Having been named among “the brightest young scholars” engaging Southern Baptist life, we feel this assessment is both a matter of conscience and duty.

(Insert golf clap here)

First, I will just say it up front: Paige Patterson is — and has always been — an academic lightweight. I have never doubted his genuine love to share the gospel. Nor have I ever doubted his sincere desire that all men be saved. He even thinks women can be saved, through childbearing of course.

And he’s a nimble rhetorician. He used to be a fairly deft denominational strategist.

But a scholar he is not.

Back at Southeastern there was a running joke about Paige. It went something like this: Paige Patterson has mastered about 12 pieces of perfectly useless and potentially dubious claims of church history. You won’t know them because, well, they aren’t really important and they’re probably not true.

But he’s cagey enough to find the one part of your research where he can leverage this quasi-scholarly detritus to make you feel dumb.  In doing this, he makes himself look — or at least feel — smart.

It’s sort of the way big guns make him feel manly and big boots make him feel taller and “breaking down” young women makes him feel virile.

Allow me to prove my point:

The single Pattersonian contribution to the Fall 2017 Southwestern Journal of Theology, “The Theology of the Reformers,” comes in at 10 half pages, including a pretty and colorful cover page.

Once you wince your way through contorted and at times geographically maladroit metaphors (in America . . . as illusive as the Loch Ness Monster; intellectual pursuits in art were . . . the fuels that propelled; the tsunami named Katie Zell; Luther went through “the dungeon of despair”) and various banalities masquerading as prose (swept under the rug, etc.), things take a turn for the worse.

At our cursory count, Patterson’s flirt with the scholarly enterprise contains a meager 21 footnotes: five of which refer to a previous source; one of which is an essay by an ever-adulating Southwestern professor included in a collection of essays published in honor of Patterson himself; one cites a subsequent article in the same Fall 2017 edition; one cites a Southwestern graduate’s recent dissertation; two of which were published by academic powerhouses like Wipf and Stock and The Baptist Standard Bearer; and most of which were published between fifty and 150 years ago.

Or put another way, we wonder what might have happened had Patterson dared to submit this bibliography to the Southwestern School of Theology for thesis approval.

He would, of course, been laughed all the way to the School of Church and Family Ministries where Professor Waylan Owens, no doubt, would have supervised his work.

Now all of that was preamble to what we really want to say.

Looking past the Fall 2017 edition of the Southwestern Journal of Theology to the Spring 2017 edition, we are interested to make two observations:

  1. A male student has recently been awarded a doctorate from Southwestern Seminary for his work on “The Signature Contribution of J.M. Price (1884-1976) to Southern Baptist Religious Education.”  The male student was supervised by Patricia Nason, who by all measures seems to be abundantly qualified for this assignment.

    But we’re curious: Are women professors routinely permitted to supervise male doctoral students at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary?  Is it only the School of Theology where this is prohibited? Does female pedagogical supervision of advanced academic degrees by men in a seminary setting involve any measure of “authority” or “teaching” in violation of the biblical paradigm? Is Dr. Nason’s supervision here another “momentary lax (sic) of parameters” at Southwestern, or is this common practice under the leadership of Dean Waylan Owens? Perhaps these questions will be answered in Dallas next week.

  2. Another dissertation — this time by a female student — examines “Freud’s Anthropological Perspective on the Sexual Child.” Professor John Babler — who moonlights at nearby Birchman Baptist Church — supervised the work. The dissertation seems timely at Southwestern.  

    In her analysis, the student surveys the psychoanalytic work of Austrian neurologist and frequent cocaine user Sigmund Freud with particular attention to the evolution of his “traumatogenic theory of causation for hysterical neurosis.” Freud most frequently associated this diagnosis with libidinal immaturity and impotence.

    Noting that Freud discarded his “traumatogenic theory of causation for hysteria,” Babler’s student explores a “biogenic theory . . . which minimized abuse and allowed abusers to blame victims for their own suffering.”

    In other words, Freud turned abuse on its head. Abusers — particularly of the sexual sort — are the victims. And the real victims, as Freud would have it, are the perpetrators. One is curious exactly how many women Freud had to “break down” to reach this conclusion.

Nevertheless, we are left with a pressing curiosity that warrants additional inquiries. For instance, is it possible that men who abuse their authority in pursuit of “victim shaming” are trapped in Freud’s Oedipus Stage of psychosexual development. Are the women who enable them similarly suffering from an Electra Complex?

Or put another way: Are men that regularly refer to their wives as “mother,” and whose wives reciprocally refer to their husbands as “daddy” sufficiently matured in their psychosexual development to lead institutions of theological education?

Fortunately, Southern Baptists will no longer have to ask that question.

Breaking down seminary retirement


When Robert Naylor retired from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary at age 69, there were more 4,000 students and the seminary was training approximately 20 percent of the entire M.Div. student population in the evangelical world.  He’d spent 20 years at the school, built a top-tier faculty, expanded the campus debt-free, and cultivated a strong reputation for the school and his administration.

People who knew Naylor knew he could be tough, and he was never given to prevarication. Even after retirement, he loomed large as a statesman in Southern Baptist life.  When the Baylor Board of Regents voted to self-perpetuate, Robert Naylor was called on to serve as chairman of the committee that sought peace.

His office wall had no dead animals. He had no conceal-and-carry permit and refused bodyguards. He never tried to “break a woman down,” and while he had various students and faculty criticize him through the years, his open-door policy was no pretense. People knew where they stood with Naylor. There was no hidden agenda.

When he took flack for building the president’s home on campus — then half the size it is now — he went to chapel and opened up for questions.  When he retired, his lawyers didn’t try to negotiate a severance package.

In fact, when Naylor retired, all the seminary gave him was a car, a trip to the Holy Land, and $10,000. In today’s money, that’s about $40,000.  His salary at the time would have been around $160,000 in 2018.

Oh, and there’s one more thing.

Dr. Naylor used to tell Southwestern students that they’d “be better dead” than if they brought dishonor to the seminary.

Bringing dishonor to the school sure seems to pay more than it used to.

Click here to listen to Dr. Naylor talk about retiring from Southwestern.

NY Times: W.A. Criswell considered “abuse” grounds for divorce


From the June 9, 1985 edition of the New York Times:

. . .Criswell says that the biggest change he has seen in his lifetime is the growth and influence of the electronic media. They have changed society and changed the ministry.

”The idea of a church when I came 40 years ago,” he said, ”was a cracker box with stained glass windows and George Truett” – his predecessor – ”preaching.”

The church now is an island in a vast un-Christian world, he said. It must minister to all of the needs of people, from fitness and health to psychological counseling and social activities.

”The church is a thousand times different from what it was. The preaching of the Gospel is just one facet of many, many facets.”

His own preaching has changed. He seldom preaches of the fire and brimstone that threaten the unbeliever, he says. Perhaps he should more, he reflects.

He has seen more divorce than he could ever imagine when he was growing up in a small west Texas town. His own daughter has been divorced twice. The New Testament is explicit about divorce, he says. The grounds for divorce are adultery. But he recalls a magazine article he read once in an airplane, whose message was about other kinds of infidelity than sexual. The writer had a good point, Criswell said. Maybe it is possible to be spiritually unfaithful: ”Here is a man who beats up his wife and is a terror to his children and doesn’t go out to a whorehouse. You can’t help but be sympathetic.”

Click here to read the full article.

“A bruised reed he will not break.” — Isaiah 42:3