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Southern Religion

Building Biblical fortresses for friendly-fire battles

When Christian groups argue — and some seen to thrive on the process — advantage goes to the side which claims the “biblical” high ground. If they can hold it.

Take for example this statement by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, whose president, Paige Patterson, is a well-known veteran of the Southern Baptist controversy:

While the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is the only confessional document at Southwestern, the seminary also affirms the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. These statements clarify the seminary’s general posture on the the subjects of inerrancy and gender roles.

Several questions immediately come to mind.

If the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, is the school’s “only” confessional statement, why the other two statements?

The school says the other statements “clarify the seminary’s general posture” on inerrancy and gender roles.

The general posture?

What does that mean?

And why does it need clarifying?

If the other two statements are needed to “clarify” the school’s stance, then why not add them as confessional statements?

Or else, why isn’t the only confessional statement enough?

Yet the confessional statement is not enough, at least not enough for Southwestern seminary.

Turns out, it isn’t enough for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina either.

Tony Cartledge reported that Southeastern is making even the ministers who supervise students in practical ministry efforts sign all three statements, along with the school’s Abstract of Principles.

Cartledge is correct to say that seminaries have the right to draw their own lines of participation “as narrowly and fearfully as they want to.” But as he points out, such moves “exclude a number of capable, qualified, experienced ministers from the program, to the great detriment of their students.”

Cartledge says the Danvers statement “was adopted in 1987 by the ‘Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood,’ which consists largely of people with close connections to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.” The document, he said, “attempts a response to the perceived danger of ‘feminist egalitarianism’ by affirming a belief that husbands should be the final authority in their homes (albeit humbly), and that wives should submit to their husbands.”

A closer look at the statement raises even more questions.

For example, item number seven of the statement’s affirmations includes the phrase, “In all of life Christ is the supreme authority and guide for men and women … .” Yet, in all the biblical texts given in support all 10 items, not a one is from the gospels, the section of the Bible where the life of Christ and his teachings are highlighted.

The eighth item of the statement insists that in “both men and women a heartfelt sense of call to ministry should never be used to set aside Biblical criteria for particular ministries.” Instead, the statement says, “Biblical teaching should remain the authority for testing our subjective discernment of God’s will.”

And in this instance, the schools get to decide the criteria used to override those calls, and it is the seminarys’ teaching that becomes authoritative.

Thus the seminaries complete the construction of a “biblical” facade around their interpretation of particular passages.

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October 31, 2009 - Posted by | Religion, SBC | , , ,

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