Louisville’s Ghosts: Pt. 1


Earlier this month in what was an inaugural visit, we spent four days in Louisville, KY, on the campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. A friend from Nashville drove up on Monday, picked us up at the airport, and took us to the home we rented on AirBnB not far from the seminary campus.

Our primary purpose for the campus visit was to do research in Boyce Library, specifically to dig through a significant portion of the 110 boxes of files that comprise the Wayne Ward Papers. By his own count, Wayne Ward sat on more doctoral committees at Southern Seminary than any other professor in the school’s history. He was, by every account, one of the more influential Southern Baptist preacher-theologians during the last half of the 20th century.  But more about Dr. Ward in a subsequent post.

The dates of our planned visit happened to coincide with the week-long celebration of Dr. R. Albert Mohler’s 25th anniversary as the seminary’s president. The parking lots were overflowing. The mood on campus was vibrant. From the moment we stepped foot on campus, there was a palpable sense that something consequential was happening. Russell Kirk, who in many ways was the father of modern American conservatism, might have sensed the presence of ghosts.  In fact, it’s almost impossible to walk the campus in Louisville without sensing the degree that history has been made there, and that it’s still being made.

Perhaps, more accurately, you get a sense that these stones have meaning.

One cannot visit four of the six Southern Baptist seminary campuses in a span of several months without making some comparisons. The campus of Southwestern — particularly the buildings constructed in the last decade — lacks architectural coherence. In North Carolina, Southeastern Seminary has as its central focus the large, stately Binkley Chapel.  New Orleans, whose official logo depicts the chapel steeple, has a similar feel. Years ago on the campus of Midwestern Seminary, we noted how dated the facilities appeared. A forthcoming visit there promises to reinforce reports of new life on campus. And we’ve yet to plan a visit to Gateway Seminary’s new facilities in Ontario, Calif.

But Southern, how shall we put this?

Southern’s campus is straight out of central casting. It’s how a school that has shaped, and continues to shape the contours of evangelical theology should look and feel. It is simple, elegant, tidy, and well maintained. It’s true we were there for an important week and extra housekeeping might have been ordered, but everyone we asked — from faculty to students and staff — said that’s how it always feels on campus. It is a place where the serious work of theological formation occurs, and from chapel to classroom, coffee shop to cafeteria, there is something refined about Southern Seminary.

But enough about bricks and mortar.

To be continued . . .

Two girls and a boy . . .


On Sunday morning, June 28, 1970, the First Baptist Church of Fayetteville, Ark., had a special called church business meeting and a vote during the morning worship service. The purpose of the business meeting was to elect a new pastor.

The week before, the pulpit committee announced their selection to the church and published a brief biography of the pastoral candidate in the church bulletin. It reads:

Paige Patterson will be our preacher Sunday. He is a young man of intelligence, advanced education, and rich and varied experience in ministry. His ministry is far beyond his twenty-eight years.

He began preaching at the age of fifteen after having felt that God was calling him to preach since nine years of age. His first pulpit was a Bowery Mission in Beaumont, Texas.

After his ordination by the First Baptist Church of Beaumont, at the age of sixteen, he went on an overseas preaching mission. During that trip, he preached in Japan, Korea, Tawin (sic), Thailand, Hong Kong, and Lebanon and visited mission points in many other lands. He returned to Japan in 1963 for a series of revivals in connection with the New Life Movement.

He has pastored three churches during his years as a student. He received his B.A. degree from Hardin-Simmons University, his Th.M. degree at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and will receive his Th.D. frm (sic) N.O.B.T.S. in May, 1971.

He is a serious student of the Bible and makes skillful applications of its message to contemporary life and problems.

He has the capacity, dedication, and zeal to lead people to spiritual knowledge and application. He believes that the primary mission of the local church is reconciliation of man to God and that this will inevitably result in the Christian activity which God expects of each of us who trusts him.

His wife, Dorothy, is most attractive and pleasing in personality. She has a Master’s Degree in Theology from N.O.B.T.S. Her desire is to complement her husbands (sic) ministry. They have three children, two girls and a boy.

The Pulpit Committee has carefully considered the many persons you have suggested. After earnest consideration and prayer we believe, unanimously, that we have been led to ask Paige Patterson to preach in view of a call to be our pastor, upon your approval.

Sunday is a day of unusual significance for our church. May we all come prepared by prayer, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The Pulpit Committee.