McClain Says, "A Momentary Lax of Parameters:" I Say, "Another Step In The Narrowing Of Parameters"
Aristotle and other Greek philosophers contributed the idea that all equals should be treated equally - or if unequally, then fairly based on some standard that is defensible. According to Santa Clara University's Markkla Center for Applied Ethics, "we use this idea to say that ethical actions treat all human beings equal. We pay people more based on their harder work or the greater amount that they contribute to an organization, and say that is fair. But (if) there is a debate over CEO salaries that are hundreds of times larger than the pay of others, (it is because) many ask whether the huge disparity is based on a defensible standard or whether it is the result of an imbalance of power and hence is unfair" (emphasis mine).
One would be hard pressed to find a person within the Southern Baptist Convention who would publicly claim that women are not equal to men. Many of us are willing to give Paige Patterson the benefit of a doubt that he was joking when he responded to a reporter's question, "What do you think about women?" by quipping, "I think everybody should own at least one" (The Atlanta Journal Constitution, “Wake Forest to open Moderate Seminary," May 4, 1997, Section A, Page 14).
There can be no doubt, however, that women are treated in an unequal manner, compared to men, by certain leaders within our Southern Baptist Convention. The Sheri Klouda issue is a clear example of the inequality of treatment between male and female professors at Southwestern Theological Seminary. Sheri Klouda herself told The Dallas Morning News, "I don't think it was right to hire me to do this job, to put me in the position where I, in good faith, assumed that I was working toward tenure, and then suddenly remove me without any cause other than gender."
One might say with a fair bit of confidence that there has been no male professor in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention, at any institution of higher learning, who has been denied tenure for being a male.
Frank J. Beckwith, President of the Evangelical Theological Society, and Associate Professor of Church-State Studies at Baylor University, is one of the brightest philosophers and theologians of the modern era. In an online essay entitled "What Evangelicals Can Learn from John Paul II," this conservative intellectual commends John Paul II for believing that "human beings have intrinsic dignity because they are made in the image of God and that we ought to treat each other justly, and that this affirmation and obligation, grounded in the nature that God gave us, ought to be reflected in our laws so that the state may advance the public good. Although he (John Paul II) believes we can find these truths in Scripture, he also believes that these truths may be found in natural moral law, accessible to—and therefore binding upon—all human beings, even those unacquainted with the Christian Bible or its teachings.
Though there are some who would seek to defend the unequal treatment of female professors at Southern Baptist higher institutions of higher learning, but I believe it will be virtually impossible to successfully do so, particularly since professors are not 'pastors,' and to forbid a woman from teaching a man the Bible would be a violation of Scripture, Baptist history and the BFM 2000, so says the very committee who wrote our convention's official statement of faith. It would be quite unfortunate for those of us in the Southern Baptist Convention -- who have the privilege of knowing and cherishing the higher revelation of Scripture (which explicitly teaches the equality of men and women in Christ) -- to find ourselves being corrected by those who have no understanding of the Bible, but pay attention to their own sense of natural law for the public good.
I remind everyone, again, that the Klouda issue is NOT about 'women pastors,' which would violate our convention's official confession of faith, the 2000 BFM. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is not a church. Sheri Klouda is not a pastor. SWBTS is an institution of higher learning. Sheri Klouda teaches Hebrew and the theology. Nowhere does the Bible, the convention, or our official confession forbid this from happening. Some are of the opinion that a woman should not be in the position of professor in a school of theology, but when we let the opinions of a few select men become policy or dogma for the entire convention, then the fabric of our cooperation is ripped to shreds.
The Two Reasons I Chose To Make the Klouda Issue Public
For over a year I have attempted, through this blog, to point out the problem of the narrowing of the parameters of cooperation within the Southern Baptist Convention. That is a phrase which I have chosen intentionally. I became concerned in 2005 that this convention, known for cooperation and mutual love for Christ and the Word of God, was finding herself torn apart by the intentional removal of good, conservative inerrantists who would not conform to the narrow interpretations (or opinions) of a few key leaders.
Baptist theologian, Roger Olson, offers a useful analysis of theological categories that might be helpful to understand what I mean. Dr. Olson, in his book The Story of Christian Theology, says Christian beliefs through the years can be grouped into three levels:
(1) Dogmas – the great essential Christian convictions about the trinity, incarnation, creation, sola scriptura, et.al. These define the essence of Christian belief and are worthy of serious and heated defense.
(2) Doctrines – denominational distinctives such as the immersion of believers, eternal security, etc . . .
(3) Opinions – such as details of events surrounding the second coming of Christ, worship styles, the exact nature of angels, and dates for creation. Protestant reformers labeled this category adiaphora, from a latin term for "things that don’t matter very much."
Regardless if we use Roger Olson's theological categories or Al Mohler's theological triage, the problem in our convention is especially clear to me, and is the first reason I chose to make the Klouda issue public:
Some of our Southern Baptist leaders are demanding that everyone in the Southern Baptist Convention conform to their opinions of Scripture, and those who do not conform are removed from leadership or ministry.
This is what I call the narrowing of the parameters of cooperation. Again, it is simply the demand by some leaders that their opinion be considered dogma, and then there is exclusion or removal for those who do not treat those opinions as dogma. What may even be worse, is the inability of some leaders to admit that what they believe could be classified as opinions -- to them everything they believe is dogma -- even those things the reformers said 'didn't matter.' As Al Mohler states, "The error of Fundamentalism is that third-order issues are raised to a first-order importance, and Christians are wrongly and harmfully divided."
(1). It is the opinion of some that those Southern Baptist with a private prayer language should not serve as missionaries, and some go as far to say that if you only believe in the continuation of the gifts (without practicing them), then you ought not be given a faculty position. It would be difficult to add the number of Southern Baptists who feel called to the mission field who have been disqualified because of a demand that the entire convention, through the demands of just a few, conform to this opinion.
(2). It is the opinion of some that those who have been baptized by immersion, after having come to faith in Christ, and are currently members of a Southern Baptist Church who has received the baptism as biblical, should be rebaptized in order to be qualified for mission field service. If one is not willing to conform to this opinion, then attempts are made to remove that person from service.
(3). It is the opinion of some that women should not be professors in Southern Baptists schools of theology, even though some of the brightest theologians, linguists and academicians Southern Baptist institutions are conferring theologial degrees upon are female.
(4). It is the opinion of some that women should not serve as overseas strategy coordinators with the International Mission Board, and that opinion has been actively promoted and shared with trustees, with attempts by some to bring all others into conformity with that opinion.
There are more illustrations that I could give, but I have simply chosen to point out those issues that have already been made public. Too many Southern Baptists in the past have not spoken out when opinions have been raised to first order dogma, and as a resulty, many Southern Baptists have been hurt, and some have been removed from service.
It's fascinating to me that Van McClain, the chairman of the Southwestern Theological Seminary's Board of Trustees, told The Dallas Morning Newsthat Dr. Klouda's hiring was "momentary lax of the parameters." I would respectfully disagree. Dr. Klouda's removal was yet an additional step in the continuing narrowing of the parameters within the SBC, and I believe it is essential that the entire convention be aware of what is taking place.
The second reason I decided to post the Klouda issue is because of vow I made a year ago:
If I ever became aware of a Southern Baptist treated unjustly, or run over by a political machine for either standing up for what they believe, or excluded from ministry or service by people who were forcing others to comply with their 'opinions' that exceeded the BFM 2000, I would do everything in my power to both correct the injustice and protect the person. I believe Dr. Klouda qualifed on all counts. For the above two reasons I posted the Klouda issue.
In His Grace,