Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary's Response to the Baptist General Convention of Texas Seminary Study Committee
by Dr. Paige Patterson
October 10, 2000

I noted with interest recently that writers for the Baptist Standard apparently consider the absence of itemized critical commentary on the recent BGCT Seminary Study Committee report to be noteworthy.  I am referring to Mark Wingfield's having twice made the statement on September 25, 2000 that "no . . . factual errors have been publicly cited ."  On the off chance that some might be misled by that comment to believe that the report is factual, I thought I should give at least some attention (certainly more than it deserves) to its rather cavalier findings regarding our SBC seminaries, and SEBTS in particular.

        The September 13, 2000, report of the Baptist General Convention of Texas Seminary Study Committee is admittedly a difficult report to which to reply.  Inaccurate, biased, and poorly researched in almost every detail, one hardly knows where to begin.  It is necessary to itemize only a few of the many inadequacies of the report to show its general undependability and complete unworthiness.  Perhaps it is best to begin with a series of rebuttals to totally unsupported general accusations.

    On my use of the term 'neo-orthodox' - I did NOT say (as alleged) that the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message was a neo-orthodox document.  I did say, and can prove, that two phrases in the 1963 article on Scripture made use of language frequently found in neo-orthodox writings, and I have also alleged that these phrases were and are frequently used by neo-orthodox Southern Baptists to evade the force of passages in Scripture that make such thinkers uncomfortable.

    On whether I believe the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 to be a creed or a restriction on local congregations Among Baptists there has never been and never shall be any creed but the Bible.  No man-made statement, limited by human frailty, could match the infallible, inerrant Bible, God's Word.  In fact, such a charge raises the larger question of integrity in the study committee since they each know that the twenty-year conflict in the Southern Baptist Convention was about the inerrancy of Scripture as over against every human opinion.  In short, I do NOT believe the document to be creedal, and the document itself states that it should not be taken as such.  Having made myself perfectly plain on the issue, I would think that any further mischaracterizations of my position by others must be taken to be purposefully misleading.

    Furthermore, no statement of faith is, for Baptists, anything more than an effort to express to a watching world what most Baptists believe.  As such, it has authority only over such churches, boards, conventions, etc. as choose to adopt it, and only then as always subject to revision to bring the confession more into conformity with Holy Scripture or to address new issues of the day in light of what the Scriptures say.  Again, the document makes these points clear as well.

    On whether the Bible is an appropriate object of worship The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 does NOT make the Bible equal to God (as the committee alleges) but neither does it allow for some to drive a wedge between God and what God says in the Bible.  Such an allegation is, in itself, the most unconscionable kind of accusation since its perpetrators know very well that conservative, Bible-believing Christians do not worship the Bible.

    On whether undergraduate study programs are new, or justify withdrawing CP support Although the study implies otherwise, the use of Cooperative Program funds for undergraduate study is NOT new, and predates the controversy that began in 1979.  The only change is not the use of Cooperative Program funds for undergraduates, but rather the development on the part of some seminaries of full college degree programs.  The report does not offer a shred of evidence for its assumptions and/or inferences that (1) such programs have been in competition with other Baptist colleges and universities, or (2) the amount of Cooperative Program funds going to such programs has substantially increased.  The report somehow fails to mention that a number of universities such as Baylor University and Hardin-Simmons University began divinity schools in clear competition with the SBC seminaries.

    On whether professors at SEBTS are from other faiths - Contrary to the committee report, the overwhelming majority of faculty employed by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary have Southern Baptist backgrounds, and all are enthusiastically faithful Southern Baptists.  Does any reasonable person believe that the BGCT study committee would undertake a comparative survey of Baylor University and Hardin-Simmons University versus Southern Baptist Convention seminaries to see which institutions have the greater number of professors with Southern Baptist affiliation and background?  You will not see such a survey because it would clearly demonstrate the unfairness of the committee's allegations.  There IS, however, a recent survey, done by a Baylor professor, that shows that 45 percent of Baylor faculty favor filling faculty positions even if someone cannot be found quickly who is sympathetic to Baylor's religious traditions!  This survey also states that 36 percent of Baylor faculty favor hiring professors of highest academic promise regardless of religious beliefs or commitments!  Why did the study committee not inform Texas Baptists of this study?

    On autonomy - Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary has NOT rejected the autonomy of local churches but rather vigorously protects the autonomy of not only the churches but also of the associations, state conventions, and the national convention.

    On the issue of women in ministry - Our Women's Studies program is not a narrowing of emphasis but a broadening of opportunities for women.  While women are welcome in any degree program at SEBTS, they also have available to them a special M.Div. in Women's Studies (the first ever of its kind).  Any woman may take courses in this area.  Only men must have special permission.  Women are encouraged to pursue their callings, including the highest calling of homemaker.  Since both a lack of precedent and a prohibition exist in Scripture for women in the pastoral office, the pastorate is not encouraged for women at Southeastern.

    On the issue of trustee micromanagement - No evidence at all is given of trustee intervention beyond policy level.  That allegation made by the BGCT study committee is unsupported and untrue.

    On whether enrollment has suffered - Graduate level education has not plummeted at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary as alleged but has grown in eight years from less than 450 to more than 1,600.

    On biblical interpretation - The BGCT report also erroneously alleges that many current Southern Baptist Convention leaders cannot distinguish between Scripture and interpretation.  As usual no evidence is supplied.  Let's have a public debate and let the people judge.  But this will not happen because the committee would be unable to sustain any such debate where people hear both sides.

    On the requirement of faculty adherence to principles - The committee further erroneously reports that Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary faculty must sign The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and The Danvers Statement.  This is false.  Faculty employed sign only the Abstract of Principles exactly as has been the case since the inception of the seminary in 1950. 

These are just a few of the mistakes in the committee report.  Now consider a few other telling facts.

    Conservative representation - The committee complained about lack of representation on seminary boards.  However, when asked about conservative representation on the study committee, the committee had to admit that there was none!  Does this strike anyone as peculiar?

    Faculty replacements - The situation is worse.  Interviews were held with former faculty of the seminaries with no report of the beliefs or lifestyles of many of those cited.  In short, there are reasons why many of these "sources" no longer teach at Southern Baptist seminaries.  Why not tell the people the truth?

    Omission of positives - Finally, the committee chose not to report to the public (1) the incredible growth at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, (2) the more than 40,000 people who have come to Christ in the last eight years through the ministry of students and faculty, (3) the 48 churches that have been planted by faculty and students in the last eight years, or (4) the spirit of missions and evangelism and high student and professor satisfaction that exists on campus.  One has to wonder why.

        Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary simply desires Texas Baptists to know that if Texas churches are interested in biblical orthodoxy, aggressive evangelism, and committed mission endeavors in an atmosphere of prayer and praise, they will love continuing to invest their Cooperative Program dollars in Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

        Texas Baptist churches will now be forced by the Baptist General Convention of Texas leadership to make choices.  Knowing that the eternal destinies of millions are at stake, I have every confidence that they will elect to continue the great cooperative mission effort together with all Southern Baptists.

 

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