"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Do Southern Baptists Believe in Free Speech Anymore? Confronting Censorship in the SBC

Written by Lee Enochs from Princeton University

“But examine everything carefully, hold fast to the truth” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

As I commence this guest post, I want to thank my friend, Pastor Wade Burleson of Enid, Oklahoma for allowing me to contribute what I believe to be an important article on the subject of Free Speech and Censorship in the Southern Baptist Convention.

I first became acquainted with Wade Burleson during the Muslim student controversy at my Alma Mater, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary a few years ago. In full disclosure, I am the student who blew the whistle on the whole matter at SWBTS and ultimately shared my grave concerns about Paige Patterson’s admittance of a Muslim student into the Ph.D. program at SWBTS.

During that time, I greatly disagreed with Dr. Patterson’s unilateral decision to wave crucial admissions requirements such as the need to be a Christian to attend a Southern Baptist and Cooperative Program sponsored seminary.

I also had concerns about allowing a Muslim student to attend a Southern Baptist Seminary our of concerns for the safety of our IMB missionaries and have first-hand experience with a Muslim who pretended to be a Christian Pastor and visited churches in America, ultimately to gain crucial information about the location of Christian missionaries in Middle Eastern countries. This was also during the time period when ISIS was savagely beheading people for being Christians and I was not sure if the Muslim student should be allowed to live on campus with us students and take classes with us. The charter and stated purpose of SWBTS from its inception in 1908, was to train “Christian ministers,” not unbelievers from an antithetical religion such as Islam which is openly antagonistic to the claims of Jesus Christ and Biblical Christianity.

When I brought my concerns up to the administration at SWBTS, I was told to “leave it alone” and commanded not to discuss the matter ever again. However, I persisted to discuss the matter amongst my fellow students and SWBTS professors. I was ultimately called into one of the dean’s offices at SWBTS and told I could not discuss the matter anymore, and if I caused Dr. Patterson any more problems, they would make it difficult for me to pursue graduate studies in Princeton, New Jersey even though I was on the Dean’s List, an academic scholarship student, President of the Southwestern Apologetics Club and on the verge of graduating at the top of my class at the College at Southwestern.

Because my conscience and understanding of Biblical discipleship would not allow me “drop the issue,” I began to anonymously correspond with Pastor Wade, under the alias “Deep Throat,” made famous during the Watergate scandal, which ultimately brought down the Presidency of Richard Nixon in August of 1974.

While I love Dr. Patterson, and greatly respect his stand for Biblical inerrancy during the conservative resurgence, I adamantly disagreed with his fiat decision to wave SWBTS’ admissions requirements that state in no uncertain terms, that a person must be a Christian to be admitted as a student at SWBTS

While I believe in submitting myself to the elders God has entrusted over me, I also believe each Christian and Southern Baptist has been endowed by God with an individual conscience, which he or she must obey, along with God’s Word to be a faithful Christian.

Thus, with fear and trembling, I blew the whistle on the whole Muslim student controversy at SWBTS by reporting it to Wade Burleson, a godly and courageous man who has taken a lot of heat over the years for his stances in the Southern Baptist Convention.

As a Southern Baptist student who fully subscribes to the 2000 edition of The Baptist Faith and Message, who is in good standing with my local church, I thought that the issue of allowing a non-Christian to attend a Southern Baptist seminary should not be decided by one man, irrespective of how powerful he is. Rather, I believe the matter should have been reported to the messengers of the SBC for open debate at the Southern Baptist Convention that year. I contended then and do so now, that it is a serious matter to admit to wave the admissions requirement of being a Christian at a Southern Baptist seminary since it could allow for a pattern of allowing non-Christians at our beloved SBC seminaries, which is explicitly not the intention of our seminary charters.

Needless to say, the administration of SWBTS did not like that I exposed the matter and I have now been banned from SWBTS, my college alma mater forever and was told by the head of campus security that if I ever stepped foot on campus again, he would use physical violence against me to violently remove me forcefully from campus with extreme prejudice.

I think that is beyond the pale of human decency and outrageous in the extreme since I was a respected student leader, 4.0 Dean’s List student and the recipient of SWBTS prestigious “Opal Cox” academic scholarship two years in a row before reporting to Pastor Wade on the Muslim student issue. The treatment I received from Patterson and Nichols at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is bizarre and displays the absolute worst form of ruthless repression.

Despite claims to the contrary, I am a Southern Baptist too and I love my convention very much. I grew up reading W.A. Criswell’s famous book, “Why I Preach the Bible as Literally True,” and I am a great admirer of Dr. Al Mohler of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and appreciative of Dr. Mohler spending time with me during my visit to SBTS.

In full disclosure, I love Dr. Patterson very much and I miss his impact in my life. However, I am now a prodigal son, a castaway and wayward son of the Southern Baptist Convention. This breaks my heart and I want to come home.

After graduating at the top of my class from the undergraduate program at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, I became a graduate student at Princeton where I have studied political philosophy at Princeton University and theological studies at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Being an Evangelical Christian and Southern Baptist student at Princeton who believes in inerrancy and all the doctrines of historic Christianity has certainly been a challenge since these schools and community largely maintain presuppositions’ and beliefs that are entirely incongruent with historic Christianity.

Recently, Dr. Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Religious Liberty Commission was invited to speak here at Princeton and during the “question and answer” segment, televised by C-SPAN, I asked Dr. Moore why free speech is being suppressed on Southern Baptist campuses. He replied rather glibly that private religious institutions have the right to determine what should be distributed amongst the student body. I agree, but openly question if censorship of a free press is the best philosophy of education.

I believe the suppression of free speech on Southern Baptist seminary and college campuses is a grave issue and violates the principle of religious liberty that Southern Baptists have stood forever since the Danbury Baptists petitioned President Thomas Jefferson for religious liberty in the face of persecution in their home state of Connecticut in 1801.

Thomas Jefferson eloquently and benevolently responded in part to our Baptist forefathers of Danbury in part with the following eloquent words that helped establish religious liberty in the United States. Jefferson said:
“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”
I also learned the importance of free speech historically in a graduate class in political philosophy at Princeton University last semester that in ancient Greek civilization, democracy was characterized by the principles of Isonomia (ἰσονομία) "Equality of political rights, Isegoria (ἰσηγορία) “Equality of all in freedom of speech,” and, Parrhēsía (παρρησία) “The ability to speak freely and candidly”

There have been recent news reports making the rounds lately Baptist schools like Cedarville College and Liberty University have been censoring their student population and do not allow free speech or a free press.

This is troubling since Southern Baptists, at least since the time of Thomas Jefferson, have always stood for religious liberty and “Soul Competency,” The basic concept of individual soul liberty, is that, in matters of religion, each person has the liberty to choose what his/her conscience or soul dictates is right, and is responsible to no one but God for the decision that is made.

I would like to humbly ask Dr. Thomas White, president of Cedarville College and Jerry Falwell Jr., President of Liberty University if free speech is being repressed at their academic institutions.

While I believe we should submit to our elders as God’s inerrant Scriptures declare (Hebrews 13:17), I also believe we should obey we should be able to express ourselves freely without fear of recrimination or reprisal.

As a Christian, I am also aware that there could be non-believers who might read this post and want to communicate to you that the Bible is Word of God and communicates that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died on the cross for sin and rose again from the dead. According to the Bible, if we turn from our sins and place our faith in Jesus Christ, we can obtain the gift of eternal life. “For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

I am also a staunch advocate of the First Amendment which says,
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Are Southern Baptists now suppressing free speech and religious liberty on their seminary and college campuses?

_________________________

About Lee Enochs: (B.A., Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary), is a Southern Baptist theologian and apologist who is currently a graduate student in Princeton, New Jersey. Lee also studied at Biola University, the Moody Bible Institute, and the Master's Seminary. Lee is an ordained Southern Baptist minister who is also the author of the books, "A Biblical Defense of Capitalism," and, "The Case for Rand Paul." Lee Enochs is also a conservative media pundit with Libertarian views in the tradition of Ron Paul and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and regularly blogs on his "Libertarian Shaman website" Since studying at Princeton, over one million people have read Lee's op-ed articles and political videos. Lee has also appeared on Fox News, NBC and several different radio broadcasts across the country. One may watch Lee Enochs' passionate defense of Free Speech in the SBC. and visit Lee Enoch's page on Amazon.com.


23 comments:

Lee Enochs said...

Thanks for letting me post Pastor Wade.

Carolyn Burns said...

Thank you Lee for sharing and standing strong in God and Constitution!

Scott Shaver said...

I did not realize that seminaries, their faculty members and administrators meet the biblical definition or genre of Christian "elders". Is that really how they should be viewed?

Lee Enochs said...

Paige Patterson is an elder and pastor in the SBC besides being President of SWBTS.

RB Kuter said...

"Free speech"/transparency, is only allowed by institutions confident in the level of their integrity.

Rex Ray said...

Lee Enochs,

First, I want to thank you for being the whistle-blower on Paige Patterson for being the one responsible for enrolling a Muslim at SWBTS.

My sister called SWBTS and said since their daughter had graduated from there they’d planned to give a Grant to them, but not if there was a Muslim attending as Wade Burleson had reported.

It wasn’t long until Patterson called her and said Burleson’s blog was nothing but lies.

“That’s good that a Muslim is not attending.”
“Oh, he’s here but we’re going to convert him.”

Needless to say SWBTS did not get a Grant from my sister.

Lee, I don’t understand how someone with so much book smarts could be blind in seeing the harm Patterson has done to Southern Baptist.

Patterson was eyeball deep in:
1.Firing Russell Dilday, President of SWBTS
2.Chicago Definition of Inerrancy. (Bible errors that can’t be explained will be seen as illusions.) To salute Inerrancy was much like the salute “Heil Hitler”.
3.Conservative Resurgence which highjacked the SBC.
4.‘Father’ of 2000 BFM (Our way or the highway which removed many missionaries)
5.Argued what held Baptist together was doctrine vs. Missions which caused the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (1900 churches) to withdraw from SB in 1991.
6.Instigated SB to withdraw from the Baptist World Alliance in 2004.
7.Wants a ‘free mansion’ in retirement.

Scott Shaver said...

The SBC is not a "church". It's a denomination. I know quite well tbe person and history of Page Patterson but first time I have heard him referred to with the New Testament terminology of "elder" in the context of a denominational collective. For me, the term has a local church rather than denominational implication. Which local church does Page actually pastor? Am not surprised by your treatment at his hands or that of his cronies.

Rex Ray said...

Scott,

You’re right, the SBC is not a church and neither is SWBTS but that’s how Patterson got out of being sued for firing a Professor that was teaching Hebrew because she was a woman.

The case was dismissed on the grounds “Separation of Church and State”. After lying to her that her job was secure, she bought a house close to SWBTS so she could take better care of her invalid husband. Without a job, she lost the house and at one time sold her blood for money.

I’ve seen Patterson twice and both times he lied:

1.When asked if “The Criswell Study Bible” explained all the errors in the Bible, he shouted to the crowd, “WE GOT THEM ALL”, but when I asked him what about the ruler’s daughter being dead in Matthew and alive in Mark and Luke, he whispered in my ear, “We got all we could.”

2.Billy Graham’s son-in-law was president of Baptist World Alliance. They were not allowed to defend themselves at their ‘trial’ because they were excluded from attending the SBC. Patterson was the last speaker before the vote that kicked them out. I heard him say, “The Baptist World Alliance is Gay friendly.”

A Puritan woman caught in adultery was forced to wear a red letter “A” on her clothing. Patterson should be forced to wear “L” for liar.

Scott Shaver said...

How do you really feel about the misadventures of PP Rex? ;)

The "CR" unfolded to the letter in harmony with the warning/prophecy of Russell Dilday.

Christiane said...

I would always want to see any Christian entity support the concept that a person must follow their conscience, especially in matters of religion.

But perhaps Patterson wanted to do what he did on the Q.T. so as not to alarm any nay-sayers or lose out on any monies coming in to SWBTS by taking in a Muslim student. That is conjecture on my part, but it does look like 'keeping quiet' was very important to the powers-that-be at SWBTS.

Currently, there seems to be a LOT of ambivalence in the SBC concerning Islam and that may not be such a bad thing as much is being brought to the fore for discussion now. I think there is a real need for that.

But what Patterson did was not about being open and up-front, much less bringing something to do with Islam forward for an open discussion, no. He was not wanting his endeavor to be openly known or criticized, as if evident in how Lee Enochs was treated.. . . the intimidation, the rejection . . . it all speaks of 'fear' on the part of Patterson and possibly of something else that is even more negative. I think money might have been the lure for Patterson, but it is certain he wasn't open or proud about what he was organizing.

In my Church, we worship with people of other faiths openly. We acknowledge the 'Abrahamic faiths' that worship the One God, the Creator of all things. We have Muslim professors in Rome at our theological colleges and in some of our great universities in this country. We don't have the same concerns as evangelical Christians about Muslims, but we do believe very strongly that a person MUST be allowed to follow their conscience, especially in matters of faith.

I feel sad for how the author of this post was treated. I hope that someday, all will be made right so that he can 'go home' to SWBTS and be received as someone who lived according to his conscience, even though it cost him dearly. Following one's conscience can sometimes be a lonely road, but there is no other option for any Christian soul if he/she wishes to remain in the peace of Christ, no.

Scott Shaver said...

By the way Rex, your comparison of Hitler loyalty to the shibboleths of "inerrancy" during the "CR" is spot on accurate and still reverberates through the latest generation of SBC pastors and denominational leaders.

Scott Shaver said...

With all due respect to our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters....We ain't Roman Catholic in the excercise of our Christian faith for some pretty darn good reasons in history.

Christiane said...

Hi Scott Shaver,

Many Protestant denominations were able to pray together with other faiths at the memorial service for the murdered Sandy Hook Elementary children. But some denominations were not willing to join the rest.

I think it was a matter of conscience and I certainly don't think anyone should be 'expected' to pray with someone if they are not at peace with that practice;
but there are times when I do wish that 'unity in diversity' was more understood among all Americans . . . maybe, in time . . .

your thoughts?

Scott Shaver said...

I have no problem praying or gathering for a common purpose with any stripe of Christian. Qualifier is my understanding of soul competency of THE BELIEVER (singular).

Scott Shaver said...

And as an opinionated non Calvinist, here is where I fear I digress; God will recognize and acquit the redeemed.

Headless Unicorn Guy said...

"... and have first-hand experience with a Muslim who pretended to be a Christian Pastor and visited churches in America, ultimately to gain crucial information about the location of Christian missionaries in Middle Eastern countries."

i.e. An Infiltrator/SPY.

everette said...

When I attended NOBTS, I was told that we, as Baptist ministers, should be "above reproach." But then, I learned that the same seminary, like all SBC entities, hides behind the religious exemption clause for non-profits and does not release the salaries of its administrators. And so their 6-figure salaries, free cars, free trips, free housing, etc., all escape the public eye.

Ditto for the "good old boy" culture at SBC schools, where free trips, free rent, free scholarships, etc are available for the students who appeal to certain administrators, but there is precious little aid for those students who apply through official channels.

By the same token, I knew professors who had been tenured for 20 years who were afraid to openly voice their opinion of the administration.

Contrast this with public, secular universities where everyone's salary--from the president to the janitor--are matters of public record, because they are all state employees. Tenured professors can and do voice their criticisms of the administration even in class, and the campus newspaper, which is financially supported by the school, is free to say what it likes about the powers that be.

This same "good old boy" network applies at the academic level as well. Promising Masters' degree students are strongly pressured to remain at their BTS to obtain their PhDs. If they don't, they frequently find their advisors significantly less willing to help them with publishing papers, attending conferences, etc. Those folks who succumb to this pressure wind up with PhDs that make them barely employable outside the BTS system, and thus hardly in a position to object to the pitiable salaries they will later be offered as professors.

Beyond the injustice to the students, this is back for the school, because students are not exposed to the new ideas and ways of thinking that they would receive elsewhere. This is why most top-tier secular schools do not allow people with undergraduate or masters' degrees from the school to apply for PhD's at the same institution.

It would be far better for the BTS's if they encouraged their most promising students to get PhD's elsewhere, and then return to the BTS system to share their new-found knowledge--or perhaps, you know, be a witness for the Gospel at secular schools that may want to employ them in the future.

To be fair, this rot is not unique to SBC entities--it is pretty much across the board, which is why I will strongly encourage my own children to attend a secular university if and when they decide to go to college. My experiences in seminary of the nepotism and greed behind the scenes of the SBC severely tested my faith. My faith grew greatly while I was in the minority at a secular school, but it was almost destroyed by being an institution run by Christians corrupted by wealth, power, and prestige.

Rex Ray said...

Everette,

Are you getting up or going to bed? :)

Google said this about NOBT (New Orleans Baptist Theology Seminary)
http://www.studentsreview.com/LA/NOBTS_comments.html?page=2&d_school=New+Orleans+Baptist+Theological+Seminary

66.7% of students said they would return; 33.3% said they would not.

A freshman girl wrote this in 2008: “I did enjoy my time at NOBTS but never felt challenged by the curriculum or the professors. I thought the school as an institution was conservative and close-minded (not that I thought they should be open-minded to the extent of immorality). Some of my professors tended to be a bit more open and liberal in their teaching and thinking than I expected but I felt that, if I had stayed, I wouldn't have been given a degree that was worth much more than my high school degree. Some of the work we were given to do was entirely too simple and juvenile and just not very challenging at all. I felt like quite a few of the students were self-righteous and thought they had it all together. “

Everette, I suppose you are in the 33.3% group. You had said you “loved” Patterson; how do you feel about him now?

everette said...

I work overseas, hence the time zone difference.

I am not the author, and have never had any respect for Dr. Patterson. I greatly respected Dr. Kelley until I attended his school.

My distaste for NOBTS is not theological--I don't agree with them on every issue, but I can respectfully disagree with someone without making it personal.

But unlike most students, I was a member of the campus police for four years, so I was privy to a lot of dirty secrets that most students don't know about--for example, registering the new luxury cars that certain administators got every two years on the school's dime, etc. And I have friends who are now faculty there and I know how they are treated. Hence my disdain for the school.

Baptist Blogger said...

https://baptistblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/11/and-the-oscar-goes-to

RB Kuter said...

We should not hold Presidents like PP as being solely responsible for such unethical, non-Christian, behavior. We instead should hold responsible the Trustees who select and manage them. We should hold the Presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention accountable who are responsible for our having unqualified Trustees in office! Actually, we should attribute the cause to the inept, inappropriate basis for choosing the President of the SBC as being the root cause of our problems!

It's not only Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary that has a problem. Trustees of Boards like the International Mission Board routinely initiate and allow all manner of actions that are contrary to what most Southern Baptists would intend for them to do.

IMB Trustees selected David Platt as President over the biggest, Protestant, international mission organization in the world. David had zero experience in serving as an international missionary living abroad. He had zero experience of being required to learn a second language as his functional language. He had zero experience in creating or implementing a strategy to plant churches in a culture that was not his. He had zero experience in managing an organization with more than that of the staff of a local church, much less a team of 7,000 members (staff and missionaries).

David only served for two years before recently resigning to return to his true passion; preaching and writing Christian books. Yet David served long enough as President of the IMB to diminish the size of our IMB missionary force from approximately 5,000 to 3,000; 40%! This 40% reduction was primarily made up of the most seasoned, devoted missionaries.

David justified this decision by citing the over-expenditures of IMB finances. Trustees rubber stamped all he proposed without serious investigation or consideration of options. In reality, there are MANY exorbitant, non-essential, expendable costs which should have been addressed long before consideration of cutting the missionary personnel. Yet this was the first option considered and taken. It was like cutting the heart out of an obese person to reduce their weight! This was the one option and initial measure taken; cut out 40% of the heart of IMB. The fat remains.

We should not place the primary blame for the making of counterproductive, uninformed decisions upon David Platt. He did not know. Choosing him as President of IMB was like choosing Rex Ray to be the Director/Instructor for "Pink Lady Dance Studio". David probably did the best he could given his qualifications. The Trustees and the past SBC Presidents who chose the committees that choose Trustees are the cause of this shortcoming and those of SWBTS.

What's the answer that could clean up all of our SBC institutions?

We have another Annual SBC meeting coming up. Another SBC President will be chosen. He will be elected based upon his reputation as being a celebrity, dynamic preacher, one who has seen his mega-church explode in growth of "American"citizen-members. In essence, his qualifications will be that he is a "good ol' boy" preacher. He will serve for only TWO YEARS in what should only be considered a "symbolic" role as President of SBC. But instead of it functioning only as "symbolic", his position will give him the reins to control, direct, change, and administer the entire 40 million member SBC with all its institutions.

The President will choose similar "good ol' boy" preachers to serve as the Committee on Committees which will choose other "good ol' boy" preachers and church members they know to serve on other committees which will ultimately choose the same to serve as Trustees of multi-million dollar SBC institutions. The current structure will not accommodate the changes that need to be made.

Complain about PP? Like boxing the wind. The only meaningful solution would require an enormous and dramatic re-structuring of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Rex Ray said...

Everette,

OK, different time zone. :)

Why did you say, “I am not the author, and have never had any respect for Dr. Patterson” when in your seventh paragraph, you wrote: “While I love Dr. Patterson, and greatly respect his stand for Biblical inerrancy during the conservative resurgence…”

You also wrote “…I am a great admirer of Dr. Al Mohler…”

Did you know Al Mohler and Patterson wrote the IMB a letter demanding that women missionaries be removed from any position over men?

And yes, RB, the IMB President, Jerry Rankin, ‘countered reply’ was, “Why, we all believe in inerrancy.” :)

Everette, I believe you thought you were friends with kitty cats, but learned they were polecats.

Baptist Blogger,
Your link made me laugh my head off. :)

Rex Ray said...

Lee Enochs,

Your story reminds me some of an experience I had visiting my brother-in-law’s church. After the service I was ‘escorted’ past a policeman and out of the church to my car in their parking lot.

I was told, “If we ever see your car here, it will be impounded.”

The ruckus started when I gave the pastor this slip of paper:

1. Leadership Board dissolved the Colleyville Senior Adult Bible Explorers Class on 11-6-05.
2. The teacher was fired because he would not promise to always support the Senior Pastor.
3. However, about 50 long time members have continued to meet with their fired teacher.
4. Consequently, they have been denied Sunday school literature and a Christmas party.
5. If the Board rules their disobedience is “disruption”, they may be eject from the church.
6. Is it sad the new bylaws prevent anyone standing for them? Outsider, Rex Ray 11-27-05.

The pastor told his three ‘bodyguards’, “I know this man; he is evil.”

My brother-in-law, and three others were ejected.

The pastor told the church he could not give the reason of their ejection because it was “too embarrassing.” (three men and a woman). The woman was a widow who had given 30 acres of land for the church to be built on and was a trustee at Dallas Baptist College.

The next year, my brother-in-law was voted ‘Citizen of the year’, and the pastor was fired.