Figures won't lie, but liars will figure. -Charles GrosvenorI am not saying that my good friend Ben Cole is a liar. In my opinion, he is among the more honest people involved in the debates of the past year. He is the Lady Godiva of Southern Baptist dissent—whatever his thoughts, opinions, and motives have been, we have all seen them in their unvarnished state. Personally, I like that kind of openness, even when there is disagreement. I hope to contribute to the total and unrestrained defeat of whatever shenanigans Ben has in store for this year's SBC meeting, but my desire for his defeat is not a desire for his disgrace or destruction. Ben has conceded (see here) that his comparison between SWBTS and DTS was less than completely accurate. A concession is in order from me. I will concede that enrollment at SWBTS has gone down. Ben's metanarrative, of course, is that Dr. Patterson is the cause of declining enrollment at SWBTS. Here is the point of my initial quote: although statistics are solid and unwavering in and of themselves, it is when people attempt to interpret them that statistics can make liars of us all. Thus, in the interests of the truth (and, of course, out of my love for SWBTS), I offer the following factors other than Dr. Patterson's presidency that must be considered in order to interpret Ben's statistics accurately.
- Ben's good friend Paul Powell (of Truett Seminary) and the fine folks at Logsdon Seminary and the B. H. Carroll Institute are hard at work every day trying to convince people to attend their schools rather than attend SWBTS. The effects of these schools are relatively new phenomena, and they would be in operation whether Dr. Patterson or even Ben Cole (insert uncontrollable shudder here) were president of SWBTS.
- Ben's good friends at Baylor University and their colleagues at a wide array of Baptist undergraduate institutions have all but sworn a blood oath to steer students away from SWBTS and to ban the hiring of SWBTS graduates regardless of their personal beliefs or qualifications.
- All of these folks and their henchmen at the BGCT have gone so far as to deny exhibit space for SWBTS at the BGCT's annual meeting—an unparalleled occurence in Southern Baptist history.
- What were the enrollment and graduate trends at SEBTS under Patterson? Could Bro. Ben enlighten us with those statistics? As I have already mentioned in another post, the robust growth of other seminaries in the Southern Baptist system cannot help but impact the numbers at SWBTS.