Thursday, May 31, 2007
- My biggest regret is that I so flagrantly violated the time scheduled for my session. That was rude of me. It was not intentional. It bothers me still today.
- My most cherished attribute of the conference was the opportunity to meet in person so many of the people with whom I have swapped electrons over the past year.
- I was treated with the utmost of respect and courtesy, even during the infamous "panel discussion" Q&A time.
- I think that Robin and I may have frustrated some of the folks involved by not tailoring our presentations to some sort of a preconceived concept of "cessationism/semi-cessationism." It is possible that we did not live up to our assignments, but if that is the case (and I do not know that it is), then I think what I actually did was better than what I was assigned to do. It seems to me that sometimes the folks who have tended to argue the other side of our contemporary issues would like for folks like me to step neatly into a theological box, perhaps because their arguments address the box better than they address who we really are? I do not fit into the box, nor do the Southern Baptists I know.
- I detected very little actual difference in the doctrine of the Holy Spirit among most of the presenters (although I'm not so sure that biblical glossolalia derives from the Holy Spirit speaking "frog" and "locust"). Our differences relate to how we apply our doctrine of the Holy Spirit to the specific phenomena around us. Are the specific Pentecostal/Charismatic/Third-Wave practices in view to be equated with and accepted as the genuine biblical gift of tongues, or are they counterfeits? With fear and trepidation, I violate the Art Rogers Rule and offer my bald speculation that, from my experience, most Southern Baptists do not believe that the ecstatic utterances (oh, wait, we've been forbidden from using THAT terminology now), just make that "the kind of utterances that are not known languages"…that most Southern Baptists do not belive that these kinds of utterances are what the Bible actually means when it refers to the gift of tongues.
- People who believe in non-communicative tongues struggle between two poles—on the one hand, they wish to avoid portraying tongues as useless; on the other hand, they wish to avoid portraying tongues as something that gives the modern-tongues-speaker any advantage over the non-tongues-speaker. In this conference, if there was a danger of stepping over one of those boundaries, it was the danger of presenting tongues as a gift conveying special advantages to the possessor. By a very few presenters and by many of the participants in the audience, tongues were referred to as a breakthrough-gift for spiritual advancement to the next level, that which empowers one to speak to cancers or demons to be able to effect healing or exorcism, etc. I think that the majority of the presenters deliberately wanted to avoid this kind of approach, but I think that the difficulty is inherent to the question—there is a reason why such a large number of people who have advocated the modern practice have come to endorse it as a distinguishing mark between healthy Christians and less-healthy Christians.
- I appreciate Jack Maddox, who—unlike many unnamed souls among you—actually did come and participate as a conference attendee sympathetic to mine and Robin's presentations.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Your labors will be ultimately appreciated and the page of history will do you ample justice, notwithstanding the dissentient voice of the narrow-minded of the present day. -Adoniram Judson to Luther RiceThe true Father of the Southern Baptist Convention (IMHO) never actually was a Southern Baptist.
- The driving force behind Baptists in America ever organizing churches to support mission work in the first place? Luther Rice
- The most aggressive advocate of his time for the convention method over the society method? Luther Rice
- The impetus behind the founding of a gaggle of state conventions, associations, and domestic institutions? Luther Rice
Luther Rice's Great StrengthsLuther Rice had a missionary heart. From the very day of his conversion (14 September 1805), Rice resolved to "be willing to give Deity a blank and let him fill up [Rice's] future destiny as He should please." At Williams College Rice (an exuberant Congregationalist) encountered four other young men with a similar resolve for service, and together they formed an informal accountability and encouragement group nicknamed "The Brethren." The group was entirely resolved to pursue vocations in foreign missions, even though no structure existed in North America to support them in the venture. Eventually Rice and other of the Brethren wound up at Andover College with another young Congregationalist, Adoniram Judson. The group brashly approached the Massachusetts state Congregationalist association about setting up a missions-sending structure for them, and they succeeded. When the world opposed Luther Rice's missionary vision, he went about changing the world to suit himself. Luther Rice was a tireless servant of Christ. Rice described his own ministry: "I have traveled 6,600 miles, in populous and dreary portions of country, through wilderness and over rivers, across mountains and valleys, in heat and cold, by day and by night—in weariness, painfulness, fastings and loneliness." Luther Rice really had no home but Heaven. They buried him in South Carolina simply because he happened to be there when he died. He never married. His life in its entirety was given to the Lord. Luther Rice dared to see a bold vision for the Baptist people. Once convinced of Baptist doctrine, he tenaciously clung to it. He was not the kind to dodge confessional statements, issue caveats, or wriggle out of fiduciary responsibility. Rice boldly proclaimed to the Congregationalists, "those persons only, who give credible evidence of piety, are proper subjects; and…immersion is the only proper mode of Christian baptism"—Here is the voice of a man of integrity. Rice believed that missionaries should seek funding from those who agreed with their ecclesiology, so he singlemindedly pursued Baptists in America, daring them to dream with him a dream of what they could do together with the Lord's help. Although Rice founded many Missionary societies, his vision favored the convention plan:
My mind became impressed with the importance of a general combination of the whole Baptist interest in the United States, for the benefit alike of the denomination here, and the cause of missions abroadIn 1814, after a mere two years' work by this thirty-one-year-old, Luther Rice's efforts yielded the famous Triennial Convention, an every-three-years meeting of American Baptists designed to serve as Rice's "general combination of the whole Baptist interest." Notice, by the way, that this former-Congregationalist was quite content with simply a "combination of the whole Baptist interest." Luther Rice loved to see young people called out and trained into the Lord's work. In 1815, Rice recognized the potential of John Mason Peck. In response to Rice's encouragement and tutelage, Peck embarked upon missionary work in Missouri and became the father of Baptist home missions in America. Rice founded Columbian College (now George Washington University) in order to train Baptist laborers for the harvest.
Luther Rice's Bold AccomplishmentsBy 1820, Luther Rice had propelled Baptists into cooperative foreign missions, home missions, education, and publication. Sometimes he had worked with amazing diplomacy; often he had pushed projects forward by fiat and bravado. But however he pursued it, the vision he had for Baptists in America was very similar to what Southern Baptists ultimately organized for themselves. Luther Rice was not perfect. I do not offer an unqualified endorsement of everything Luther Rice ever did. But, as I have indicated in an earlier post, I am not so naïve as to ignore the reality of human depravity. I do not expect perfection out of our denominational servants—only a spirit of respectful submission to the expressed will of those whom they serve.
The Luther Rice SlapdownMany Northern Baptists opposed the convention method, favoring the society plan instead. Those who opposed Rice's ideas and those who opposed Rice's personality coalesced into an anti-Rice, anti-Convention mob at the 1826 meeting of the Triennial Convention. Their strategy was as effective as it was simple:
- Slander, attack, and accuse Luther Rice personally, thereby emboldening those who disagree with him and demoralizing those who agree with him.
- Use the momentum from the tearing down of the man to tear down the movement.
Today's Dissentient Voices in the SBCExpect this year to see the same kind of attacks launched toward Dr. Paige Patterson. Indeed, it has already begun. I know Dr. Patterson only barely as a person, but I know publicly of his vision for a Southern Baptist Convention that honors the conservative theology of its churches and people. He has taken every opportunity to keep the SBC anchored to the Bible. In that regard, his actions have been consistent with his words. I do not strike any parallels in this post between Rice and Patterson, but between Rice's opponents and Patterson's opponents. Many don't like Patterson's ideas. Many wish the Conservative Resurgence had never happened. Many long for 1978. The best way to tear down the Conservative Resurgence in a hurry is to tear down the people who carried it forward. Ben Cole has revealed to us the alleged dire financial straits of SEBTS in 1999. Here is Paige Patterson's "Columbian College"—SEBTS allegedly on the financial ropes in 1999, and all apparently (according to Bro. Ben) due to poor presidential leadership. But wait a minute: Today is 2007. Did SEBTS go into receivership? Did the professors and staff have to forego their paychecks (not an unprecedented happening for Southern Baptist professors)? Are padlocks on the doors in Wake Forest? Did Dr. Patterson leave Southeastern sitting on the side of a North Carolina street with a beggar's cup? No. No. No. and No. SEBTS was undeniably stronger when Dr. Patterson left than it was when he arrived. Ben doesn't give the whole story. Ben Cole has revealed to us that someone once-upon-a-time sued the Pattersons claiming that they extracted a deathbed request under duress in 1982. But wait a minute: Today is 2007. What was the outcome of that lawsuit? Did the Pattersons greedily fight some poor widow to deny her a living? Was there a misunderstanding? How did the relationship turn out? TCarnes asked Bro. Ben for more information in a comment on the post, but Ben refuses to give the rest of the story. Why? I don't know. And then there was the discussion about enrollment and graduation numbers (see here, here, here, and here). In my posts I hope you see the major components of the story left out by Ben (I hate to pick on Ben, and I'll gladly stop doing so when he stops picking on others). What else does Bro. Ben have to reveal? I don't know that, either. But I expect the most salacious revelations, if there are any, to come very close to the convention meeting—too close for anyone to have time to ferret out the details. When the goal is to find the truth, you give everyone enough time to pursue the quest to its fruition. When the goal is deception, you pull an "October surprise." After all, it worked on Luther Rice. As far as I know, Dr. Patterson is not running for anything this year. I will not hazard a guess at his age, but he's older than I am and probably will not be pursuing another thirty years of denominational service. Why go after him now? Because doing so is the best chance for rolling back the Conservative Resurgence, as anyone would know who's been hanging around with Herb Reynolds, John Baugh, Bill Underwood, Jimmy Carter, et al. Will Dr. Patterson's "labors…be ultimately appreciated"? By conservatives, they will. Thank God for the Conservative Resurgence and thank God for all those who took the tough stands to make it happen. To the degree that Paige Patterson was a part of that, thank God for him. I was a conservative long before our paths ever crossed. If tomorrow's Star-Telegram publishes pictures of Dr. Patterson offering animal sacrifices to the ghost of Harry Emerson Fosdick, I'll still be a conservative tomorrow and the day after that. I don't agree with Dr. Patterson because I like him; I like him because I agree with him. Like Judson with Rice, I'm content to let the "page of history do [Patterson] ample justice." Is it possible that Dr. Patterson has ever done something that would scandalize me? Sure, it's possible. I can guarantee you that I've done things that would scandalize every one of you. We are sinners, brothers. But let us keep the convention focused on ideas, not personalities. Let us not make the SBC a forum for people to pursue personal vendettas. What is the end result of this really lengthy post? First, my stomach churns a little every time I hear Bro. Ben assure us all that San Antonio will be "interesting." I'm steeled against the prospect of allegations and tactics that would make Dick Tuck blush. Second, I'm determined to keep my focus on the principles, not the people. I'm determined that 2007 will not be 1826 all over again. Dirty politics will only work if people knee-jerk in response to allegations. Whatever scandalous allegations or gossip we hear in San Antonio, let us retain a helping of prudence. Knowing the publicly expressed strategy of ad hominem attacks against Dr. Patterson as a diversionary tactic to cloak a push for ideological change in the SBC, let us resolve to remain committed to a conservative vision for the SBC. Knowing all of the half-stories that have been told us this year, let us investigate carefully and thoroughly any allegations that are made, and then let the chips fall where they may only after we have the whole story.
PostscriptTo help us keep up with the ad hominem attacks, I have devised something of a new award. I have set up the domain name www.I-Hate-Paige-Patterson.com, which will always point to the blog with the most recent attack upon Dr. Patterson.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Monday, May 28, 2007
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Scandalous AdmissionsI believe that people lie. I believe that people are sinners. I believe that institutions built around the suspicious assumption that people will always lie are institutions doomed to failure. I believe that institutions built around the naïve assumption that people will always tell the truth are institutions doomed to failure.
Controversial CommentaryDr. Ralph Elliott, of "Elliott Controversy" fame in Southern Baptist history, was canned in the early 1960s from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in connection with his authorship of The Message of Genesis, a tome espousing higher-critical views of the biblical book (the first eleven chapters are myth with no tangible connection to historical reality, Abraham probably existed, but certainly was not commanded by God to offer up Isaac, etc.). The book scandalized Southern Baptists so much that, in addition to giving Elliott his walking papers, the convention revised the Baptist Faith & Message (in 1963). Defending himself years later, Ralph Elliott said that a great many Old Testament professors at Southern Baptist seminaries agreed substantially with what Elliiott had written in The Message of Genesis. Elliott basically complained that he was being run out of town on a rail not for being a liberal, but for being honest about being a liberal. He even coined a term to describe the dishonesty of his colleagues: "Doublespeak." According to Elliott, his colleagues had learned to employ a nuanced terminology to express their beliefs to Southern Baptist churches and sound like they were conservative, while retaining the possibility of expressing their beliefs to the academic guild and identifying with them as theological liberals. To put it bluntly, Ralph Elliott asserted that Southern Baptist professors were lying to their constituent churches. Read what Elliott wrote:
"Doublespeak" has become an insidious disease within Southern Baptist life. Through the years, the program at Southern Seminary has acquainted students with the best in current research [i.e., higher-critical liberalism] in the given fields of study. Often, however, this was done with an eye and ear for the "gallery" and how much the "church trade" would bear. Professors and students learn to couch their beliefs in acceptable terminology and in holy jargon so that although thinking one thing, the speaker calculated so as to cause the hearer to affirm something else. When I taught at Southern Seminary years ago, we often said to one professor who was particularly gifted at this "doublespeak" game, that if the Southern Baptist Convention should split, he would be the first speaker at botn new conventions. It is my personal belief that this doublespeak across the years has contirbuted to a lack of nurture and growth and is a major factor in the present problems. The basic question is one of integrity rather than the gift of communication.Elliott is right in at least this: It is a matter of integrity, and the depravity of mankind guarantees that many people will display their lack of integrity (yes, me included, although I hope not very often). Prior to 1979, the system in place called for Southern Baptist employees to tell Southern Baptist churches what they wanted to hear, regardless of whether it was the truth (again, see Elliott's The Genesis Controversy). Throughout the twentieth century up through 1979, Southern Baptists were reassured by denominational doublespeak, but by the late 1970s, the liberalism in Southern Baptist academic institutions could no longer be hidden. Uncomfortable as it was to do so, the people of the Southern Baptist Convention had to face the difficult fact that they were being misled. I think it was Dr. Malcolm Yarnell who once described to me the thinking processes of some British professors who, in order to obtain and keep their jobs, had to affirm some statement of faith (was it the Thirty-Nine Articles? Let's assume for the sake of discussion that it was), but who sharply disagreed with the content of this Anglican statement of faith. He inquired of them how in good conscience they could sign a creed which they could not truthfully affirm? One replied along the lines of, "Well, they gave me the document, I looked it over, thought to myself, 'Yes, those are the Thirty-Nine Articles alright!' and I signed to affirm that they were indeed the genuine Thirty-Nine Articles." People are depraved and will sometimes lie to you just for the sake of lying—put a job on the line and a great many people will lie to keep it. A recent study speculated that as many as 40% of resumes contain lies. As Southern Baptists, we have some differences about the five points of Calvinism. That's OK. Nevertheless, I think it is critically important that we have a realistic view of human depravity. Those who will not acknowledge the depth of human depravity are condemned to a life of naïveté. Those who do acknowledge human depravity will understand the profound need for strong accountability within the Southern Baptist Convention. And, to draw out the implications clearly, we cannot build a system of Southern Baptist cooperation upon a doctrine of Total Naïveté. "I went and spoke with that professor (missionary, denominational leader, former President of the United States, etc.), and he told me personally that he is orthodox. Therefore, he should keep his job. Therefore, we must cooperate with him. Therefore, the Conservative Resurgence was a mistake and went way too far." Yes, he said that he was orthodox. Have we learned nothing from "doublespeak"? Must we check our brains at the door and take everyone at their word, assuming that nobody ever lies? Obviously, the context of this post is the recent controversy over Jimmy Carter's particular beliefs about whether people will receive God's saving grace apart from explicit conversion to Christ. Carter has written publicly that he believes that they will. Carter has apparently assured Wade Burleson privately that he holds no such belief. In court, a cross-examining lawyer follows up statements like Carter's with the question, "So, were you lying then, or are you lying now?" That's the context of this post. But the implications of this post reach far beyond its immediate context. Indeed, it speaks to the whole controversy of the past year at some level. If the Southern Baptist Convention operates on the perennial assumption that people are always lying, then it is doomed to failure. We cannot long partner in complete suspicion of one another. I have no doubt that Wade Burleson and many of those who typically agree with him are of the opinion that such perennial suspicion is the modus operandi within the Southern Baptist Convention—that the problem is that some SBC leaders are too suspicious and are unwilling to trust people. I don't read them making this argument, but I suspect that some of them would affirm a statement to that effect. However, if the Southern Baptist Convention operates on the perennial assumption that people are always telling the truth—that we are obligated always to take denominational leaders and employees at their word—, then we are also assuredly doomed to failure. At that point, we have contradicted our own anthropology (doctrine of man, not the course at college). Such an approach only facilitates "doublespeak." The plague of "Conservative Resurgence remorse" that is spreading in some SBC circles has as one of its primary symptoms, I believe, the doctrine of "Total Naïveté" toward those on the left, coupled with an unbounded suspicion toward the leaders of the Conservative Resurgence who are willing to make the tough stands. I think that the Carter episode epitomizes what I'm talking about. The SBC contains in its upper eschelons of leadership people representing a wide variety of viewpionts on nonessentials (recognizing that this is a word defined differently by many of us—I would not put the exclusivity of Christ into this category). There is some suspicion at work today in the SBC; indeed, the experiences of the past fifty years show why some suspicion is a necessary component of our cooperative work. Excessive and paranoid suspicion is not the norm in our convention. Certainly, the kind of baffling naïveté demonstrated over the past week is no responsible cure for anything that ails us. Heaven help us if we decide to follow the leadership of the naïve.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is the third-largest disaster relief organization in the United States of America. Normally people don't crow about the bronze medal, but consider who comes in ahead of us: The American Red Cross (ARC) and The Salvation Army (TSA). Disaster relief items get top billing for those two groups, while for Southern Baptists it is decidedly secondary to the propagation of New Testament churches. Still, can you imagine ARC or TSA being on the receiving end of the tongue-wagging, finger-pointing lectures that Southern Baptist conservatives receive about not caring for hurting people, all while we're dishing out upwards of 90% of the meals that ARC feeds people in disaster situations? I don't think so.Poverty Assistance
Yesterday, while I was at the dedication of a new disaster relief unit, teams from FBC Farmersville were making repairs to the houses of two impoverished families in our community. Of course, this will slip entirely under the public radar (OK, except for this blog post). The government had no role in it, so it will not appear in their statistics. We did not alert the media to come take pictures of us being generous. In a very "Matthew 6" kind of way, we quietly and simply went about doing good.
I do see changes in the way that Southern Baptist churches assist the poor—changes reflective of overall shifts in our ecclesiological paradigm. Once upon a time with regard to missions, benevolence, etc., our paradigm was more-or-less to invite people to pay for someone else to do it. Now, although we still collect money, individual church members desire to be more involved hands-on: thus, the kind of event we had on Saturday.
Polls have indicated that conservative evangelicals are among the most generous people on earth. Southern Baptists fit into that category for these purposes. But, because Congress didn't get to vote on things like our ministry on Saturday and because nobody's political coalition got to take credit for it, people chastise Southern Baptists as though this kind of ministry were not going on every week across the nation.The Eternal Gospel
Of course, I'll grant that the Southern Baptist apparatus emphasizes evangelism over the meeting of physical needs. That's exactly how things ought to be, and I will not apologize for it. If a person is going to Hell, it matters not whether he goes from a neat little Habitat house or a slumlord tenament. Southern Baptists perform a lot of ministry to physical needs, but such ministry is subservient to our efforts to share the gospel.
Ben Cole has observed on his blog:
If Southern Baptists would commit to issues of social justice with the same rallying cry that founded the Cooperative Program for the task of world missions — namely that we can do more together than we can apart — we might find the good and pleasant blessing promised of God when brothers dwell together in unity.
I'm glad that Ben has a heart for helping people. We all benefit from that spirit. But Southern Baptists are already committed to appropriate issues of social justice. I don't know that our approach has been any less effective than LBJ's forty-year-and-counting War on Poverty and whatever else the government is doing to address "issues of social justice." The image of Southern Baptists as disengaged from the plight of hurting people is simply unfounded, unsubstantiated liberal stereotyping (i.e. liberals are the origin of it, whoever may be repeating it). And one can understand the need for the stereotype, because if liberals cannot convince themselves that they are the more-enlightened, more-compassionate among us, then what do they have left?
I'm all in favor of us doing more. Let's become #1 in Disaster Relief. Let our churches be even more involved in ministering to physical needs. But frankly, I agree with Nathan Finn that our greatest need for improvement is in the area of sharing the eternal gospel, not the social gospel. I'll guarantee you that a good number of the people working on houses for us yesterday have never personally presented the gospel of Jesus Christ to anyone. But we're working on that.
Now I'll be accused of "triumphalism." :-)
Friday, May 18, 2007
Q: Your first lesson on Ephesians describes man's reconciliation to God through grace and the sacrifice of Christ. Do you believe that grace ultimately applies to people who don't presently believe in Jesus? A: Yes, I do. I remember two things. One is that in John 3:16, which is probably the best known verse in the Bible - "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son." And Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, for instance, said we should love our neighbors, but also love those who despise us and hate us and our enemies. So, the opportunity for everyone to be saved through the grace of God with faith in Christ applies to everyone. And I have been asked often, you know, in my Sunday School classes, which are kind of a give and take debate with people from many nations and many faiths - what about those that don't publicly accept Christ, are they condemned? And I remember that Christ said, "Judge not that ye be not judged." And so, my own personal belief is one of God's forgiveness and God's grace. That's the best answer I can give.So, there is Carter's understanding of the gospel. I ask you, the Southern Baptist people: Does that gospel unite you with Jimmy Carter? As for me, I would have to entitle any post about Jimmy Carter in this manner: "What Divides Us Is the Gospel of Christ"
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
- The vast host of our pastors are endebted in some way or another to a seminary professor. I'm guessing that something you use in a sermon, something you do in your church, some point of theology that is precious to you—somewhere in your ministry one can discern the impact of a professor in a seminary, if God favored you with the opportunity to go to seminary.
- All of the other categories mentioned above depend upon seminary professors. Our missions boards depend upon our seminaries for some of the credentials and qualifications for missionary service. Our executives are largely the product of our seminaries. The funding of seminaries was not a part of the original raison d'être of the SBC, but the convention came pretty quickly to realize how vital a seminary was to SBC missions endeavors.
- It is much more expensive to become qualified to be a seminary professor than to be anything else in Southern Baptist life. My expenses were greater because I pastored a church some distance away from the seminary (making my commute longer and making me take longer to finish), but I can account for $50,000 of expenses related to my doctorate. That's not counting the MDiv expenses, BA expenses, etc. Many of our future professors will get a degree for less, but I have given you a figure to take into consideration, anyway.
- Seminary professors are laboring in accountability to the Southern Baptist people. Some notice should be taken and reward should be given for a sector of employees who have admirably turned things around since 1979. I'm not saying that all is perfect at our seminaries, but the amount of progress is spectacular. Southern Baptists have nobly and ably wielded the stick, but it is time to locate that carrot.
- Yes, I am qualified to serve as a professor, have had opportunities to serve as a professor, and do currently teach adjunctively for SWBTS. No, that doesn't mean that I'm trying to feather my own bed. God has called me to be a pastor. I became aware of that calling when I was eleven. It was a dramatic and powerful experience of calling. It is going to take a pretty clear word from God to get me into anything else. Furthermore, the legacy of the pastor-theologian is a compelling one for me. I do not anticipate that I will ever be a faculty member at any of our seminaries. I see myself as just the person to lead this campaign. I am close enough to the situation to see the need, yet just far enough away to carry the need to the Southern Baptist people without appearing self-serving. Most of those who know about the problem feel that it would be inappropriate for them to say anything. I do not feel thusly constrained. By the way, my adjunct salary is quite modest, and I'm not at all certain that it would be affected by my motion.
- This problem cannot be laid at the feet of seminary administration or the boards of trustees. The problem is endemic to all of our seminaries. It has existed for a century. Thus, nothing specific to any one seminary, any one administration, or any board of trustees can tenably be alleged as the cause. I am convinced that they are doing the best they can with what they have.
- Special campaigns are not the answer. If you are raising money for a building, you can name every room, foyer, and alcove for a donor. I remember Dr. Hemphill saying about the Leadership Development Center at SWBTS, "If you see anything around here without a name on it, we'll be glad to talk with you about putting one there." People will give to put their names on structures. On the other hand, even if you endow a chair (raise money to pay a professor), you can only reasonably attach one name to that project. People just don't give for that sort of thing. Also, since this problem affects multiple seminaries, campaigns at individual seminaries will not address the problem effectively or equitably.
- Letting seminary professors supplement their income with interim pastorates is not the answer. Some of our professors are called to teach, not to preach. Nobody is more supportive than I am of a tight connection between seminary and church. But I am also supportive of those whom God has gifted for academia and called to teach. Either these denominational servants are at a serious pecuniary disadvantage, or some church in the vicinity of a seminary winds up with someone whom God intended to do other things besides preach. Neither scenario is a good solution.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
- The death of the stump-speech. If I read Pressler and Patterson correctly, one block in the foundation of the Conservative Resurgence was a simple, effective stump-speech outlining the problems with the SBC and a proposed solution. Conservatives carried this stump speech throughout the country to groups small and large, building grassroots support for the movement. A good "elevator talk" is still quite helpful, but here's how things have changed: In our world of telecommunication, your stump speech is likely to be promulgated throughout the convention the very first time you give it. On the one hand, that's a good thing, right? I mean, you're getting widespread exposure for your message. On the other hand, in a week (and I'm really stretching it by giving it a week), your stump speech is old news. You can't post the thing over and over online. When you go to deliver it in person, people will yawn. So, one of the changes before us is that the tasks of convention politics are becoming less like the activities of a vocational evangelist and more akin to the work of a pastor in a local church. You need new material on a regular basis. The "sugar sticks" will be depleted in a hurry.
- The impotence of "declarations" or platforms. When's the last time you read a stirring discussion centered on the Memphis Declaration? The authors of the Memphis Declaration stopped referencing it almost before the housekeeping staff had emptied the Coke cans (and who knows what else) out of the hotel room trash cans in Memphis. And the Joshua Convergence's Principles of Affirmation? Even less effective than the Memphis Declaration. I don't know that static documents are any more helpful than static speeches these days. People come to know what you stand for by interacting with the stream of material that you provide. Over time, the recurring themes and passing inconsistencies of your work become evident to all, and they make an assessment on that basis.
- The power of listening. Not necessarily agreeing, but listening. The most effective blogging involves fielding questions. Think Fox News, not CBS. The result is not always dialogue—people sometimes just scream their talking points past one another—but the most effective person in this platform is the one who will genuinely listen to those who disagree and then effectively rebut their arguments. I'm not talking about the kind of "listening" where we sit in a circle and hold hands. I'm talking about listening as a polemical weapon. When it becomes clear to the reader that you aren't listening to the arguments of the other side, the reader can only wonder whether you are just incapable of understanding the arguments of the other side (or worse, have no answer for them).
- The doom of insincerity. The only way that you can produce a steady stream of convincing material and be prepared to engage those who disagree in genuine dialogue is if you sincerely believe what you are saying. At least, that's the only way I can do it. Publication enshrouds; conversation probes. Eventually, inauthenticity will out. You can be riddled with inconsistencies, but they must be your inconsistencies, if that makes sense at all. One underestimated political force today is the compelling value of authenticity and transparency. Of course, there are limits. Admit to some taboos and you will get no credit for your transparency in revealing them. But some willingness to come to grips with your own foibles is almost necessary. There is a fine line somewhere between the tenacity of a bulldog and the stubbornness of a mule. The former is purposive, while the latter is mere disposition.
- The elevation of writing. Radio and television made writing of much lesser importance than speaking. People wrung their hands about the dawning of illiteracy. Blogging is all about writing. Blogging is not the only force at work in the political world, and speaking is still incredibly important. Nevertheless, blogging provides a more influential medium for writers than they have had in recent years.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Sunday, May 13, 2007
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.
Friday, May 11, 2007
Monday, May 7, 2007
Sunday, May 6, 2007
- Evangelical is just the kind of adjective that is in favor these days—it is void and without form. ETS's definition of Evangelicalism apparently (up to this point) has room within itself for denying the foreknowledge of God. Now, not just an Evangelical pew-sitter, not just a member of ETS, but the president of ETS has converted to Roman Catholicism. But the straying of a lone Evangelical is not the real issue here, so much as the fact that it is not a settled matter that he has strayed at all. Francis Beckwith apparently regards his Roman Catholicism as not being at odds with his status as an Evangelical. Indeed, other than for the public-relations issues that it might have caused, Beckwith thought it might be perfectly appropriate theologically for a Roman Catholic to lead the ETS. And according to Beckwith, it was not a foregone conclusion that others among ETS leadership would have any problem with his continuation as president under these circumstances. If "Evangelical" does not mean at least "not Roman Catholic", then what does it mean? And if the president of the ETS doesn't know what Evangelical means, then who does?
- Beckwith cites his desire for unity as a strong motivation in his decision. Ultimately, Evangelical Ecumenism must concede to broader forms of ecumenism, for if it is conceded that unity trumps doctrine, then no firm stopping place can be asserted successfully for long. Look carefully at what Beckwith has written in the aforementioned blog post about justification.
- Here's the perfect illustration of my differentiation between Roman Catholicism as cult (which I think it is not) vs. Roman Catholicism as false and apostate church (which I think it is). Had Beckwith joined the Mormons, I would conclude ipso facto that he is not a Christian. Having joined the Roman Catholics, I am prepared to do no more than to suspect that he has been educated beyond his intelligence and is in gross disobedience to Christ (Yes, to all of you scandalized by this statement, I am concluding that it is not Christ's will for anyone to be a Roman Catholic).
- All this at what was once the world's largest Baptist university (and is still my alma mater). Beckwith teaches church-state studies at Baylor. Let us pray that the Lord will not tell Helwys, Williams, Clarke, Backus, and Leland that a Roman Catholic is being paid by Baptist churches to lecture Baptists about the proper relationship between church and state!
- These observations illustrate why our mission boards and seminaries must strengthen their resolve to be Baptist (and to plant only Baptist congregations), not merely Evangelical. We must couple that resolve with a vigorous effort to make certain that we all know precisely what it means to be Baptist.
Saturday, May 5, 2007
We Love You, Wes!Keep calling them like you see them. As I have already stated, I believe that your most recent article reflects responsible, diligent blogging. And for all of the rest of us, Bob Allen has promised a follow-up piece on Monday with regard to the Wiley Drake situation. I have no idea whether it will consist of retraction, substantiation, correction, or genuflexion. Aaron Weaver, last I read him, is much more skeptical of Drake's denial than about the SPLC's story. SPLC has not returned my phone calls. They represent the big question mark—a major national organization with a huge axe to grind on the one hand but a huge reputation to protect on the other hand. Did the former get the better of the latter with regard to these accusations against Drake? Where will this story go next? We'll get the next installment on Monday.
Friday, May 4, 2007
First, the Silver LiningDo you believe in Romans 8:28? But for the eruption of blog activity yesterday, the charges against Wiley Drake would have continued unrefuted. These charges were on the Internet and being discussed long before yesterday.
- Intelligence Report, a publication of the Southern Poverty Law Center of civil rights fame, reported in their Spring 2007 issue (no specific date of publication was readily visible on their web site) that Wiley Drake had affirmed the actions of James Kopp, an anti-abortion-motivated murderer. See the article here.
- Friday, April 27, 2007
- Bob Allen posted an article on Ethics Daily largely repeating the details from Intelligence Report. See his article here.
- Friday, April 27, 2007
- Aaron Weaver, proprietor of the blog Big Daddy Weave, posted an article the same day as the Ethics Daily piece. Weaver entitled his article "SBC 2nd Vice President Supports Doctor Killer". I commented in the response thread on this article. In the comment thread Weaver specifically and emphatically asserted that Drake had already been contacted about these allegations.
- Friday, April 27, 2007
- William Thornton over at BaptistLife discussion board, opened a thread in response to the Ethics Daily story. See the thread here
- Monday, April 30, 2007
- Wade Burleson entered the ongoing thread at BaptistLife and posted comments affirming Drake's philanthropic ventures but attempting to style him as the prototype of what "many in current leadership" in the SBC would make of us all.
- Wednesday, May 2, 2007
- Aaron Weaver posted a second time, chiding us all for not taking this story more seriously than we had. See his second article, "The Sound of Silence Surrounding Wiley Drake". In his article, Weaver pointed us to several similar philippics against folks in the SBC. If Bro. Aaron wanted a stronger reaction from SBC bloggers, then he certainly got it!
- Wednesday, May 2, 2007
- Wes Kenney began to contact people about publishing a blog article on the Drake situation. I am one of many whom he contacted. Wiley Drake was among those whom Wes tried to contact. When Wes contacted me, I replied that I had seen the whole story reported at Big Daddy Weave and Ethics Daily more than a week ago—that this was old news (i.e., that Wes's article was well written and worthy of publishing, but that he was not breaking anything that had not already been broken). I told him that I had already commented about Caligula's horse over at Big Daddy Weave, but that I might post something along those lines on my site. I'll let Wes comment on his own, but I think he was as bothered by Wade's attempt to push all of this off onto SBC leadership as by anything else.
- Thursday, May 3, 2007
- Wes posted his article (see here). I posted an article going back and dredging up my previously reported negative thoughts about Drake's initial election (see my article "Incitatus"). Wade Burleson posted an article distancing himself from Wiley Drake (see here). When things started to get out of hand, and due to my own concerns that Wes Kenney was being labeled a fundamentalist, that Wiley Drake was eerily silent (words rarely spoken about Wiley Drake) regarding the whole matter, that Wade Burleson was not being given credit for having distanced himself from Drake, that a conversation with a Baptist journalist did not yield confirmation of the allegations, etc., I posted a more moderating post (see my post entitled "Wiley-Gate?", and please note the question mark).
- Thursday, May 3, 2007
- Blogger-Of-The-Week Art Rogers tracked down Wiley Drake and discovered that Drake denies the whole thing. Kudos to Art.
- This story is not about irresponsible blogging. Wes tried to contact Wiley Drake. I assume that he is among several. Wade Burleson has a reputation of trying to contact people first-hand when allegations are coming forward. We know that Wade has known about these charges at least since Monday. If Wade was unable to get in touch with Wiley Drake about them until late last night, then we can understand why Wes had trouble getting through to him.
- If you are going to comment publicly on current events, sooner or later you are going to need to retract and apologize. Most bloggers are capable of doing so. Some seem constitutionally incapable of doing so. I leaped to the conclusion that Drake was guilty, even if I did not post that conclusion. For that, I publicly apologize. I remain at the end of all of this just as unsupportive of the Drake election as I ever was before any of this broke, but I am much, much more sympathetic toward him if these charges are indeed unsubstantiated.
- The huge losers in this may be Ethics Daily and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Shame on them if they are gossip columns. Nevertheless, they deserve an opportunity to try to defend their stories. I've tried to contact the SPLC, but to no avail. Art, you seem to be the man—can you help us there?
Thursday, May 3, 2007
- This controversy ought not to be about Wes Kenney. Wes merely did what bloggers do—he commented on events that have been reported in a denominational press organ relying upon an advocacy newsletter. Wes did not break this story. Wes is one of the most evenhanded bloggers in Southern Baptist life. I cannot help but wonder where the vantage point is from which Wes Kenney is so far to the right of you that he looks like a fundamentalist. Wes is not the issue here.
- The election of Wiley Drake ought not to be about Wade Burleson. Bro. Wade is responsible for comments that he has made about the SBC "deserving" Wiley Drake (see here) and for pretending that the endorsement of murder (or whatever else he might have meant to typify by reference to Drake) is somehow the logical result of being a conservative Southern Baptist (see here). But unless he colluded with Ben Cole and Bill Dodson, the only responsibility he has for the VP election is his own vote, however, he voted.
- I am anxious to hear from Wiley Drake. It would be nice to have these charges either confirmed or denied.We have heard from Wiley Drake! Art Rogers (see here) was finally able to get through to Drake. Drake denies ever having visited the site in question. Now, I'm REALLY anxious to hear from Bob Allen over at Ethics Daily, who broke the story last week into Baptist life.
- I have regarded Drake's election as a disrespectful action since I learned of it. Whatever he is and whatever he believes, he was elected as a lark. That's not the right way to select our leadership. Frankly, it is the kind of petulant stunt that political movements ought to avoid if they wish to be taken seriously.
When Suetonius recorded the life of the Roman Emperor "Caligula" (Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus), he provided one of the more stunning portraits of reckless abusiveness in the history of human leadership. The Roman throne had hosted ambitious manipulators and ruthless generals, but none of them proved to be more dangerous than a self-absorbed, egomaniacal, pampered-from-birth, pompous, dynastic cynic—Caligula. His reign only lasted from 37 to 41, when his own guards assassinated him.
Frivolity and disrespect were the weapons Caligula wielded to try to destroy the empire. Caligula despised the senate for daring not to yield to his wishes, and he reserved the most ridiculous of his acts of disrespect for the senate. He auctioned off the wives of Roman senators, daring them to object. Suetonius even reported that Caligula considered appointing as Consul his favorite horse, Incitatus.
Consul was not the most important office in the empire, but it was an important office. It wasn't the equivalent of a presidency—more like a vice-presidency.
Don't misunderstand Caligula's motives. He loved his horse, but Caligula did not have any high estimation of his horse's capacity for governance. Caligula was not endorsing anything his horse had done or planned to do in public service. Caligula's actions revealed nothing about his agreement or disagreement with his horse on any sort of political platform.
Nevertheless, Caligula's action is historically significant. Although it reveals very little about Caligula's opinion of his horse, it reveals a great deal about Caligula's opinion of all of the Roman government except for himself. He did not take the government seriously. He disrespected it. As far as he was concerned, the senate deserved to have to deal with his horse Incitatus.