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.

2 thoughts on “Serious scholarship, Oedipus, and Electra…

  1. How do we send you an email?…..we found this last month and can’t wait for each post!
    Thank you so much
    Kurt Sprenger

    1. Kurt, if you send me another comment with your contact information, I will email you directly. I will NOT publish that comment for others. So it will remain private.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s