I was recently contacted via email by Dr. Denny Burk, Professor of New Testament at Criswell College. He brought my attention to the new issue of the Criswell Theological Review and an interview conducted with Tom Hatley, former Chairman of the International Mission Board. He said that I was mentioned prominently in the interview and asked that I respond. He graciously said he would link my response to their web site.
I wrote back and thanked Dr. Burk and expressed my strong objection that a theological journal would publish such an interview without publishing responses from Dr. Rankin and myself. I believe that every trustee should abide by the new policy that forbids the public disparaging of a sitting trustee, and my responses are simply an attempt to bring my perspective to the issue at hand. I had equal concern between the new baptism and tongues policies of the IMB, but the Criswell Journal only addresses the new tongues policy.
You may read the interview for yourself at www.criswelljournal.com. I will respond to specific statements with which I disagree with Tom Hatley. I think everyone knows that I am a conservative inerrantist who does NOT have the gift of tongues, nor desires it.
(1). Tom Hatley said: “What caused trustees to address this issue (a private prayer language) were complaints from some (not a majority) of our regions. Sources included some of our missionaries, complaints from pastors and seminary teams returning from mission trips, and observations by trustees returning from mission trips. Our President and some staff, however, dispute such problems, at least on the level claimed by these trustees.”
My response: This is the problem. We had (at the time) trustees in position of leadership who seemed to be undermining the President and his vision for our agency. This feels to me, from a corporate standpoint, to be a very dysfunctional situation. The President and staff of the IMB are disputing that there is a problem, while trustee leadership is saying there is a problem. The questions that the Southern Baptist Convention ought to ask are:
(a). Who were those trustees who said there was a problem on the field? I have no knowledge of who they were, and would like to visit with them (some may have already rotated off the Board). Many trustees have never had the opportunity to even be on the field with our missionaries. I think it would be appropriate for those trustees who felt there was a problem to make themselves known publicly. I am a trustee and I have never heard anyone say these things, but I am open to learn. I also think it would be interesting to see how many of these trustees were in leadership at the IMB and their connections to other agencies.
(b). Where is the documented evidence that these trustees have provided to the IMB President and staff that such problem exists on the field and that staff has not appropriately dealt with it (date, location, personnel, etc . . . )? I have asked for this information from the time I heard about the new policies, and have yet to receive it. I do not believe it exists. The President himself has denied in public meetings that there is a problem on the field that was not being handled appropriately under the old policy.. Nobody should be able to make such outlandish statements about problems without evidentiary support.
(c). The old policy forbad the promotion of speaking in tongues ‘publicly.’ The old IMB policy sought to restrict the speaking in tongues publicly, just as the Apostle Paul sought to restrict it. But the new policy now enters into the prayer closet of the missionary and asks the question “Do you speak in tongues in your prayer life?” Why? What is private should remain private. The missionaries are the ones being forced to make it public.
(2). Tom Hatley said: “(The Apostle Paul) would have no problem serving with the IMB (under the new policies)”.
My response: I truly don’t understand that statement.
The Apostle said, “I thank God I speak in tongues more than you all” (I Corinthians 14:18), and he said, “Forbid not the speaking in tongues.” (I Corinthians 14:30).
The Apostle Paul would be not make it through the initial consultation with the IMB.
(3). Tom Hatley said: “This IMB policy does not restrict the miracle of Pentecost, where real languages were spoken. Today we can identify language through technology. If someone has the gift of tongues they should not restrict it to the closet. What a waste that would be. If it is of the Lord, then find the language or languages you have and take a one way flight to the country where that language is spoken. The IMB will send you there if you can pass the body/mass index standards and health exam”.
My Response: According to Tom Hatley, tongues in the Bible is ONLY a language that human beings can understand. It is a known language, a real language, one that can be identified through technology.
Tom’s view that tongues were always known languages is an interpretation. There are other conservative Southern Baptists who disagree. Dr. Sam Storms, an ordained Southern Baptist pastor, writes eloquently refuting this interpretation,
“(a) To begin, if tongues-speech is always in a foreign language intended as a sign for unbelievers, why are the tongues in Acts 10 and Acts 19 spoken in the presence of only believers?
(b) Note also that Paul describes various "kinds” or “species” of tongues" (gene glosson) in 1 Corinthians 12:10. It is unlikely that he means a variety of different human languages, for who ever would have argued that all tongues were only one human language, such as Greek or Hebrew or German? His words suggest that there are differing categories of tongues-speech, perhaps human languages and heavenly languages.
(c) In 1 Corinthians 14:2, Paul asserts that whoever speaks in a tongue "does not speak to men, but to God." But if tongues are always human languages, Paul is mistaken, for "speaking to men" is precisely what a human language does!
(d) If tongues-speech is always a human language, how could Paul say that when one speaks “no one understands” (1 Cor. 14:2)? If tongues are human languages, many could potentially understand, as they did on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:8-11). This would especially be true in Corinth, a multi-lingual cosmopolitan port city that was frequented by people of numerous dialects.
(e) Moreover, if tongues-speech always is in a human language, then the gift of interpretation would be one for which no special work or enablement or manifestation of the Spirit would be required. Anyone who was multi-lingual, such as Paul, could interpret tongues-speech simply by virtue of his educational talent.
(f) Furthermore, in 1 Corinthians 13:2, Paul refers to "the tongues of men and of angels." While he may be using hyperbole, he just as likely may be referring to heavenly or angelic dialects for which the Holy Spirit gives utterance.
Gordon Fee cites evidence in certain ancient Jewish sources that the angels were believed to have their own heavenly languages or dialects and that by means of the Spirit one could speak them (The First Epistle to the Corinthians, pp. 630-31; see also Richard B. Hays, First Corinthians, p. 223). In particular, we take note of the Testament of Job 48-50, where Job's three daughters put on heavenly sashes given to them as an inheritance from their father, by which they are transformed and enabled to praise God with hymns in angelic languages.
Some have questioned this account, however, pointing out that this section of the Testament may have been the work of a later Christian author. Yet, as Christopher Forbes points out, "what the Testament does provide . . . is clear evidence that the concept of angelic languages as a mode of praise to God was an acceptable one within certain circles. As such it is our nearest parallel to glossolalia” (Prophecy and Inspired Speech: In Early Christianity and Its Hellenistic Environment, pp. 185-86).
The fact that tongues are said to cease at the parousia (1 Cor. 13:8) leads Anthony Thiselton to conclude that it cannot be angelic speech, for why would a heavenly language terminate in the eschaton (see his First Corinthians, pp. 973, 1061-62)? But it would not be heavenly speech per se that ends, but heavenly speech on the part of “humans” designed to compensate “now” for the limitations endemic to our fallen, pre-consummate condition.
(g) Some say the reference in 1 Corinthians 14:10-11 to earthly, foreign languages proves that all tongues-speech is also human languages. But the point of the analogy is that tongues function LIKE foreign languages, NOT that tongues ARE foreign languages. Paul’s point is that the hearer cannot understand uninterpreted tongues any more than he can understand the one speaking a foreign language. If tongues were a foreign language, there would be no need for an analogy.
(h) Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 14:18 that he "speaks in tongues more than you all" is evidence that tongues are not foreign languages. As Wayne Grudem notes, "If they were known foreign languages that foreigners could understand, as at Pentecost, why would Paul speak more than all the Corinthians in private, where no one would understand, rather than in church where foreign visitors could understand?” (Systematic Theology, 1072).
(i) Finally, if tongues-speech is always human language, Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 14:23 (“If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds?”) wouldn't necessarily hold true. Any unbeliever who knew the language being spoken would more likely conclude the person speaking was highly educated rather than "out of their mind.”
My conclusion, then, is this: NT itself provides no support for the idea that all expressions of it were necessarily human languages actually spoken by some people group. ” Sam Storms.
I, Wade Burleson, as a SBC pastor and duly appointed trustee of the IMB, respect both views. The issue I have is when people who affirm one particular interpretation seek to remove from participation and ministry in the SBC those who hold to the other view. This is what I call narrowing the parameters of cooperation within the SBC.”
(4). Tom Hatley said: ”My reasoning (for not appointing Wade to a committee) was that many had been offended and felt betrayed by Wade. Many on the board feared their comments in a meeting would end up on a blog, out of context, and under attack. They had good reason for such fears. Adding to the uneasiness was the fact that when such offenses were made known to Wade he would not apologize, nor offer a change in tactics. It is hard to be a trustee and a public critic of the trustees at the same time.”
My Response: This is the beauty of blogging. Every word, sentence, paragraph and post remains on the internet since last December. I think that any fair-minded person who reads this blog will see that I have fastidiously done three things:
(a). I have never attacked a person, but expressed my love and respect for everyone, including former Chairman Hatley.
(b). I have been fastidious to report only those things that are public and have never violated any confidential information.
(c). I write very intentionally, represent my perspective, nobody else’s, and will not change tactics because I believe the SBC is a better convention with MORE information about what is going on in our agencies --- not less.
(5). Tom Hatley said: ”A second reason for my decision regarding Brother Wade is that he was not handling sensitive information well, even before his blogging began.”
My Response: I am the chairman of two foundations, I have served two terms as the President of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, I have presided over Executive Sessions of several board meetings, and I have led countless training sessions that instruct others on how to deal with the matters of privileged and sensitive information. I understand how to handle sensitive information, and would propose that Tom’s general accusations, without evidentiary support, are without basis.
(6). Tom Hatley said: “When this passed at the committee level a demand was made by Wade Burleson and Dr. Rankin that this must be voted on at the full board level. I think they thought that with the public pressure that was brought upon the board that the vote would be different. Instead the vote was nearly 75% in favor of the policy.”
My Response: I cannot speak for Dr. Rankin because we never discussed this issue of full board approval. I can only speak for myself. I take my trusteeship very seriously and before I attended my first meeting, I read every word of the IMB bylaws. I realized after my first trustee meeting, when I heard about the new “guidelines” or “policies” that the Personnel Committee had approved the previous meeting (corporate law makes no distinction between policies and guidelines), that they did not have authority to pass policy without full Board approval. I had been appointed to the Personnel Committee, and when I told the chairman that the committee did not have authority to pass policy without full board approval, I was told that I did not know what I was saying. Subsequently, the attorney issued an opinion that I was correct. Of course, I was subsequently removed from the Personnel Committee.
Tom Hatley is asked by the editor: One of the concerns of the younger pastors, especially those trying to do evangelism in a postmodern context, is that by narrowing the doctrinal lines on secondary issues, the SBC is moving out of the mainstream of evangelicalism and is becoming the new voice of fundamentalism. Would you agree with this characterization, and why or why not?
(7). Tom Hatley said: ”I do not agree. I think Southern Baptists as a whole have not significantly moved at all. I do feel that evangelicalism is drifting left and as it drifts we will appear to be less in the mainstream due to no fault of our own. . . . seminaries and I have a great deal of confidence in these young pastors. Most are not like the few that have of late made a name for themselves by stirring strife among the brethren. Most have no SBC agenda but only the desire to build a doctrinally sound, missions-minded, soul-winning church.”
My Response: I do not know to whom Tom is referring, but if it is me, he is greatly mistaken. I have no personal desires for leadership in the SBC. I have never sought a position of service in our state and national conventions. I am committed to see that we do not lose this young generation of young pastors by becoming the bastion of Fundamentalism to the neglect of the gospel and the people in need of a Savior.
(8). Tom Hatley said: ”At the core of recent criticism is the theory that trustees are part of a conspiracy of a few people in the Convention who are trying to control everything in the Convention, including the replacement of Dr. Rankin.”
My Response: I would be happy to be proven wrong that there has been no manipulation in the past of the Nominating Process of the Southern Baptist Convention by sitting trustees seeking to appoint their replacements by contacting, vetting and bringing on board like minded trustees. I would be happy to be proven wrong that a sitting agency president of one of our SBC institutions not attempted to control the doctrinal requisites, personnel hiring, and future direction of the International Mission Board, in contradistinction to the sitting President of the IMB. I would be happy to be proven wrong that a certain few who are in control of the trustee system of our agencies are attempting to bring uniform conformity on interpretation of doctrines NOT addressed by the BFM 2000. I would be happy to be proven wrong in all these areas and will await the official report of to the Southern Baptist Convention on these matters by the IMB.
It is my belief that many of these problems have been corrected since last May. The trustee meetings since then have been filled with praise reports, prayer requests, and mission work. As you are aware, I have said nothing in the meetings. There is no need. We are doing the work the SBC has called us to do.
I want to thank the Criswell Theological Review for linking to this response.
I have not spoken for Dr. Rankin at this time, believing that he does far better representing himself than others who try to do so.
The Lord’s continued blessings to the Southern Baptist Convention, and may we be forever vigilant against narrowing the parameters of cooperation within the SBC.
In His Grace,