Seminary president’s report to 2007 Southern Baptist Convention

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Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is honored to be one of six ships in the Southern Baptist armada of seminaries that are fighting against the tide of liberalism, neo-orthodoxy and ecumenicalism, President Paige Patterson reported to messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention, June 12.

“We are moving upriver committed to the absolute lordship of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are moving upriver committed to the inerrancy and sufficiency and the necessity of the Bible to order our faith and our practice,” Patterson said.

Patterson addressed points of criticism that have been leveled at Southwestern Seminary. One criticism is that the seminary has become fundamentalist.

“One half true,” Patterson said. “When my automobile breaks down, I always want a fundamentalist auto mechanic, not an experimentalist one … But our fundamentalism is a fundamentalism of commitment to the fundamentals of God’s Word and not to legalism, which will kill as sure as liberalism will.”

Patterson addressed the issue concerning speaking in tongues and private prayer language. Many people have taken issue with a statement issued by seminary trustees in October 2006, which stated:

As it concerns private practices of devotion, these practices, if genuinely private, remain unknown to the general public and are, therefore, beyond the purview of Southwestern Seminary.  Southwestern will not knowingly endorse in any way, advertise, or commend the conclusions of the contemporary charismatic movement including “private prayer language.”  Neither will Southwestern knowingly employ professors or administrators who promote such practices.

Patterson said the seminary’s position follows the Scriptural instruction “Forbid not to speak in tongues.” But he emphasized that Southwestern is a Baptist seminary and there are consequences that flowed from that affiliation.

“We are not an institution belonging to the charismatic movement,” Patterson said. “Consequently, we have stated openly, and state it again, that we will not be the progenitor of charismatic doctrine whether it is what began in the troubled church at Corinth, or continued in Montanism, or is common in our present day.”

The third criticism Patterson addressed was that Southwestern is not ecumenical.

“Once again, that is a half truth,” Patterson said. “It is absolutely the case that we can and must cooperate with other people when it comes to matters of co-belligerency on moral issues ... Furthermore, when it comes to the possibility of soul-winning and evangelism, we can show the ‘Jesus’ film with anybody who believes that salvation is by grace through faith alone. But, ladies and gentlemen, when it comes to planting churches, we plant Baptist churches. They pay the bills.”

Patterson said this is nothing new for Baptists. Regardless of whether a person traces Baptist history back to England or to the Anabaptists in South Germany and Switzerland, Patterson said Baptists have historically been separatists.

Southern Baptist Convention President Frank Page allowed Patterson extra time to field questions from messengers. Patterson responded to questions about

-  Southwestern Seminary’s new homemaking concentration (“It is homemaking for the sake of the church and the ministry and for the sake of our society. Folks, if we do not do something to salvage the future of the home, both our denomination and our nation will be destroyed.”);

- How the seminary equips its students and faculty for worldwide missions (“We believe that every faculty member, first of all, ought to go somewhere to a Third World mission field at least once every four years … By the same token, we tell every student who comes that sometime in their sojourn here, ‘You will be expected to go to a Third World mission field.’”);

- What the seminary is doing to prepare for the unique challenges of the 21st century (“To establish the gospel of Christ in men’s hearts, it is still the greatest single mountain we have to climb. We can only climb it in the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are doing everything we can through missions and evangelism, but more than that, through the entire curriculum to point everybody to understand this world, meet it head-on with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and let’s take as many as we can with us to heaven.”);

- Whether trustees and employees of the seminary are allowed to sign the Baptist Faith and Message with written or unwritten disagreements or exceptions, (“To the very best of our ability, we cover everything with a prospective faculty member long before they get down to the point of signing. Then, when it comes time for their official introduction and election, in a chapel service we bring out the desk of B.H. Carroll and put it there on the platform. We bring out the chair of B.H. Carroll and we put it there on the platform. Dr. Blaising, our provost, stands on one side; and I stand on the other side. There is before him a copy of the Baptist Faith and Message. We watch as he puts just his signature, and only his signature, on it. There are no annotations.”)

A transcript of Patterson’s report to the convention, along with the questions and answers, can be found on his Web site, www.paigepatterson.info.

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