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SBC leaders challenge assertion of ‘no factual errors’ in Texas study

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A claim that “no factual errors” have been cited in a Texas study committee’s report on the Southern Baptist Convention’s six seminaries has prompted a response by the SBC’s immediate past president, Paige Patterson, that the study is “inaccurate, biased and poorly researched on almost every detail.”

Patterson, a Texas native who now is president of one of the SBC’s six seminaries, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina, noted that the “no factual errors” claim first appeared in the Baptist Standard newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Texas on Sept. 25.

Patterson’s response, citing “just a few of the mistakes” in 11 areas, is posted on the Internet at the Southern Baptist Convention’s www.Baptist2Baptist.net website.

Other challenges to the accuracy of the Texas study also are posted at the website, including responses by R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky; the staff of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas; and Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

The study committee report is the cornerstone of a proposed $5.3 million cut in BGCT funding aimed primarily at the SBC seminaries, but also extending to the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Committee and the Executive Committee, to be voted on during the BGCT’s Oct. 30-31 annual meeting in Corpus Christi.

Among Patterson’s responses to the Texas study:

— On the Bible: “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 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 seminary enrollment: “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 the hiring of faculty: “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 anti-SBC sources cited in the Texas report: “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 the positive: “… 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.”

Mohler, among his responses to the Texas study committee, noted that “the report claims that the removal of the 1963 [Baptist Faith and Message] language identifying Jesus as ‘the criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted’ transforms the BF&M ‘to the status of a creed.’

“This statement is ludicrous in several ways,” Mohler said.

“First, the statement was not simply eliminated. It was replaced with a sentence that is far more in keeping with historic confessions of faith. The new sentence affirms that ‘All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.'”

Mohler noted that the 1963 wording “is not found in any historic confession of faith, nor did it appear in the 1925 Baptist Faith and Message as adopted by the SBC. … The BGCT distorts history and makes reckless claims with this accusation.”

Mohler also stated that the 1963 wording “has been used to deny the inspired status of Biblical passages. For example, some have claimed that the 1963 language allows an interpreter to deny that God really ordered the conquest of Canaan or that Paul’s writings on women in the church carry full Scriptural authority.

“If the BGCT committee really believes that such interpretations are legitimate, its members should have the courage to tell Texas Baptists what they believe,” Mohler said.

The 2000 revision of the Baptist Faith and Message is even more Christ-centered that the 1963 version, Mohler added. “In keeping with historic evangelical and Baptist theology, we understand that every single passage of the Bible, in the Old Testament or in the New Testament, is a testimony to Christ. Every word is true, every word is fulfilled in Christ, and Christ affirmed every word of Scripture as fully authoritative.”

Mohler noted, “Without a confession of faith there is no legal or disciplinary procedure for accountability. This was a point frustratingly lost on the committee in our discussions. A faculty member can be removed only for cause, and that cause must be established by an objective document that is signed by the professor as a condition of employment. Following the BGCT committee’s advice, it would be impossible to remove any professor for any theological reason, regardless of what he or she may teach.”