A Sad Day for SWBTS and its Trustees

OK, so every week seems to strike up some new controversy at the seminary. Thus far there have only been two major things happen. One, they cut off a chapel speakers webcast because he confessed to speaking in a private prayer language. He also took a shot at the IMB, though not directly. And two, was the pastor from Florida would gave a political message of sorts about loving Israel and hating the Muslims who are our enemy. (I addressed this in "An Open Letter to a Pastor in Florida".) Now the latest controversy is actually a revisiting of the first controversy mentioned. The past two days at seminary the board of trustees held meetings to discuss among other things whether or not to pass a policy that would deem the school a cessasionists school. (By cessasionists, I mean they no longer believe the charismatic gifts of the New Testament are around today, namely, speaking in tongues and a private prayer language.)

Here is the statement the trustees voted on 36-1:
"The trustees pledged, '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.'"

The one person who voted against this policy was the Rev. Dwight McKissic Sr. He is a trustee and the one who delivered the chapel message about speaking in a private prayer language. (A side note here: The statement released from SWBTS stated that it was a unanimous vote to pass this policy. Last I checked unanimous meant everyone was in agreement, yet they show that it was a 36-1 vote. Here's what it says: "Consequently, at the president’s encouragement in the Oct. 16 forum, trustees adopted a statement unanimously recommended by the board’s executive committee clarifying the school’s perspective on private prayer language by a vote of 36-1, McKissic being the only trustee voting in opposition." That seems like a slap in the face to me! You can read the statement here: http://www.sbtexas.com/default.asp?action=article&aid=3262&issue=10/17/2006.)

OK, so why is this a sad day for the seminary and its trustees? Well, I believe it's a sad day because of their complete disregard for other views on the gifts. I also believe it's a sad day because their is no Scriptural evidence that warrants a belief in the cessasion of the gifts. I believe that this is merely a swinging of the pendulum in Christian theology. The Charismatic movement in America has gotten out of hand recently, and therefore, the Southern Baptist, trying to make sure they have nothing in common with that movement, have swung the pendulum back to the other extreme and say the charismatic gifts have ceased. All I ever hear from administrators and professors at seminary is that we need to use the right hermanuetics (a fancy way of saying study of the biblical texts) and right exegesis (a fancy way of saying critical, in-depth study of the biblical texts).

Now here's what Dr. Paige Patterson, president of the seminary, said in an April 4th chapel last spring:
"Preaching from 1 Corinthians 14, Patterson stated that 'Acts 2 portrays the legitimate gifts of tongues' for gospel proclamation and that the Corinthian believers were merely imitating the Acts 2 manifestation in a manner similar to pagan prophets of the time. Nevertheless, "It would be a mistake for evangelicals to forbid others to speak in tongues ... That doesn't mean that a person who is building a major part of his faith on something that is so ... downplayed by Paul should be called to be your pastor," Patterson said. He said 1 Corinthians 14 seems to give evidence of a private prayer language, but notes that Paul says such prayer leaves the mind out of prayer so that praying with the mind is preferred.

I italicized two things to note in this statement. (By the way, this was taken from a statement released today which can be found at http://www.sbtexas.com/default.asp?action=article&aid=3265&issue=10/18/2006.) First, Patterson sees the issue of tongues in 1 Corinthians 14 as an "imitation" of the Acts 2 tongues and that it was in a manner similar to that of pagan prophets of the time. OK, so my question is where in the world does he get this nonsense? Either this is poor hermanuetics and exegesis, or maybe, just maybe, it's a swinging of the pendulum. Then he states that Paul emphasizes praying with the mind over praying in tongues. What Paul actually says is that "in church" he would rather say five words with his minds than ten thousand words with a tongue. Notice where he would rather do this: in church! That is in verse 19. Now if we take a look at verse 15 he says something rather interesting. He says, "What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit (i.e. tongues), but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also." I do not believe that Paul is rebuking the Corinthians here for imitating Acts 2 or mimicing pagan prophets of the day. I believe Paul is encouraging unity in the community. He's encouraging them to build each other up, and private tongues doesn't do that. This is why he calls for an interpreter if you are going to speak in tongues in the church so that the body may be built up. The issue is not about tongues, but about how to live in community together as new believers.

I am astounded at when this debate comes up how often 1 Corinthians 13 is left out. Everyone focuses on chapters 12 and 14, and all they do is bicker back and forth about the gifts. Yet, Chapter 13 is completely ignored. Paul gets done talking about the gifts in chapter 12 , and then says something rather startling for us today in the last verse of 12. 1 Cor. 12:31 says, "But eagerly desire the higher gifts. And I will show still a more excellent way." Now, Paul did not write this with chapters and verses, therefore, he's going to keep going and show us this most excellent way. The most excellent way is love! He says that he could speak with the tongues of angels, have prophetic powers to understand all mysteries, have all faith to move mountains, could give away all he has and offer himself to be burned, but without love he would be a resounding gong; he would be nothing; he would gain nothing. He then defines love, but I want to emphasize verse 8. He says, "Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away." Two things here: 1) Love never, ever, ever, ever ends, and 2) if we're going to say that tongues has ceased then we must be fair and say that so have prophecies and knowledge. Again, this is not the point of what Paul is writing about. He speaks of the ceasing of these things at that time when we who only know in part shall know fully as we are fully known (see verses 9-12). Therefore, it is absurd to say the gifts have ceased!

1 Cor. 13:13-14:1, "So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy." Why does he emphasize prophesying? Because it serves to build up the body, thus he says in 14:3-5, "On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up." The unity of the body is what's at stake here, not gifts!

If we look at the context of chapters 13 and 14, they come on the heels of chapter 12 where Paul is talking about the body of Christ being one body with many members. He says God has appointed apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, gifts of healing, helping administrating and various kinds of tongues (1 Cor. 12:28). Not everyone is each of these things he says in the next verse, but we all have a part of the body. We should all desire the higher gifts, and the most excellent way. Paul says love is the most execellent way because love "binds everything together in perfect harmony" (Colossians 3:14). So what if you can exegete scripture well, and so what if you can speak in tongues or prophesy or have all faith or give everything away. So what! Without love, you are nothing! At best you are just an annoying sound in the ears of all. My fear is that this is what has become of the Southern Baptist Convention because of ridiculous battles to be better and more right than everyone else on issues that never get to the heart of the matter. Maybe we need to spend more time focusing on the point of the Corinthian letter rather than on the peripherreal issues in it. Who cares if we can figure out what Paul really meant when he spoke about tongues, if we cannot love each other and build each other up. Our fighting says more about us than our love, and this is really sad.

The trustees yesterday made a decision draw the line out even further between "us and them." Not only are we drawing lines between us and the world, we're also drawing lines between believers. Paul deals with this earlier in 1 Corinthians, and maybe it's time we have a chapel message and a convention on that. A house divided will not stand, and at the rate things are going I'm not sure how much longer the SBC can keep it together. This truly is a sad day.


For His glory and fame among all peoples,



Psalm34-8 said...

One of the best blogs I've read today on this issue. It is a sad, sad day!

Bryan and Abbey Padgett said...

Thanks for your comment! It was encouraging. I'm curious how you found my blog? Where are you located? peace!


Ryan Ray said...

Hey Bryan! Well put. I have gone over that issue with others over and over. The fact of the matter is the pride of a person feels the need to become dogmatic on an issue that results in a disappointing picture for God to see. For the result of the controversy is a division in the body of Christ. It is sad to think that christians are willing to pull down other christians on an issue that small in comparisson to the greater glory of God. For His desire is to see His body unified through His Son. If pride is what pleases, we have truly missed Jesus. Talk to you soon!


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