Samuel L. Schmidt
Pastor, Edgewood Baptist Church
An Open Letter of Support for Paige Patterson to the Trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; forwarded to the Vice Presidents and Deans of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Convention President, Steve Gaines
Brothers and Sisters of the Southwestern Board of Trustees;
I write this letter to you, not in a spirit of malice or anger, but of tremendous grief. I am burdened beyond explanation of all which has recently transpired against Dr. Patterson. Please receive this letter in the spirit of which it was written; one not of ill intent, but of a desire for wrongs to be righted. You are in the position to fix the evils of the recent wave of malicious assaults and words against a common father in the faith: Paige Patterson.
The Attacks Against Paige Patterson are Wrong
The immediate past days on Twitter have been rather interesting for us, haven’t they? Decades old comments from one of the SBCs most polarizing figureheads having been made in the 1950’s, have been circulated, examined, retweeted, and for many, have been determined to be grossly inappropriate, malicious, and downright abusive.
Of the 330 million active twitter accounts, a couple thousand individuals have taken it upon themselves to urge Southern Baptists to end the courageous leadership of Paige Patterson. Is this fair? Is this wise counsel? Should Southern Baptists heed these individuals?
The Greatest Among Us
Should I be surprised Paige Patterson is yet again the target of another string of unnecessarily evil attacks? Why wouldn’t our common enemy want to destroy Paige Patterson? Satan hates Paige. Satan despises him, and would not be content with anything less than the total destruction of Patterson. No wonder.
Patterson – with key individuals – just so happened to save the Southern Baptist Convention from liberalism and the decline of the authority and sufficiency of Scripture.
Patterson, by the grace of God, has traveled and preached the Gospel in over 125 countries, seeing untold numbers come to Christ.
Patterson holds to the Scriptural importance of the permanence of marriage, and is committed to helping couples resolve whatever tension exists in their God-ordained covenant, believing Scripture is sufficient.
Patterson, who advised Christians in chapel (the first I ever attended), “you would be better off dead than to bring dishonor and shame to the kingdom of God.” He’s right, trustees. We should all seriously consider Patterson’s words.
In such a volatile culture, journalists are often looking for the “next big story,” with which they can captivate audiences and generate clicks, likes, shares, and retweets. With the growing prominence of the #MeToo movement, any comment concerning women which might even remotely be perceived as aggressive, inappropriate, or morally unethical, has the chance of coming under tremendous scrutiny.
Paige Patterson has made numerous comments in his half-a-century ministry, many of which relate to the God-ordained institution of marriage.
Naturally, such comments in a politically correct twitterverse, are now more relevant than they have ever been, even though the culture perceived them as irrelevant many years ago.
Abuse or Marriage?
What about these comments which have gotten a few people in an uproar? While many individuals would try to steer the discussion toward abuse, they are wrong. The issue at stake here has nothing to do with abuse whatsoever and every one of you know this.
Paige Patterson strongly condemns abuse in any circumstance or situation. As a matter of fact, comments on Twitter have surfaced of late of ladies who personally attest to Patterson helping them get out of abusive relationships. Ironic that the writers of the Washington Post have yet to capitalize on these remarks of individuals who have personally been helped by Patterson in abusive relationships. Perhaps these comments do not fit their narrative and witch-hunt?
If the core issue in this discussion is not abuse, then what is it?
The issue is marriage.
Is it permanent, or can a marriage be dissolved? The root of all these arguments goes back to the ever-penetrating question; is divorce permissible?
Dr. Patterson believes marriage ought not to be dissolved in any circumstance. I, and a host of other conservative evangelicals, agree wholeheartedly. We believe Scripture agrees. To paraphrase Dr. Patterson’s recent remarks, “as ministers of the Gospel how could we believe otherwise?” Scripture is sufficient, and we need not step outside Its bounds in dealing with any matter!
Fortunately, this issue secondary to the supremacy of Christ and we can still serve together. Marriage has been an issue Christians have agreed to disagree while moving forward. Paige Patterson is the perfect example. If we have stood hand-in-hand for the sake of the Gospel before, why then, is the issue of divorce causing problems now, weeks before Dallas and the sermon slated to be delivered by Paige Patterson?
The Real Problem
The members of the Southern Baptist Convention are aware of what is happening; we can read between the lines. This is a coup to forcibly remove Dr. Patterson from his position at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary by discrediting his ministry, from outside sources who are now putting pressure on you, as trustees. This isn’t about divorce at all with many individuals, but about forcibly removing Dr. Patterson from his role, due to decades old vendettas and other personal reasons.
There is never a right time to do the wrong thing. The wrong thing is to now bow to the culture warriors, for the sake of political correctness at the expense of the glory of the Gospel. We should not cringe at the sight of a few social-media users who have no interest in the Southern Baptist Convention, nor the Gospel, at the expense of a father in the faith. Will we shamelessly follow the leading of outside sources who have personal vendettas against Dr. Patterson and have had an axe to grind for decades? Will we stand with those maliciously assaulting Dr. Patterson or will we stand with Jesus?
Strengthen your hearts Trustees, and be courageous! Paige Patterson does not stand alone. Neither do you. Demas may have forsook Paul, but Luke was him. Even greater, stood the Lord. Some may forsake Paige Patterson, but the Southern Baptist Convention stands with him. Greater yet, the Lord stands with him all the more. God will honor this saint’s commitment and courage to the Gospel. These individuals have been incited to a mob, but as with the normal social media trend, they will die down moments after the conclusion of this matter.
I knelt by the chapel as I left graduation on Friday and I asked God to rightly judge the heart and attitude of every trustee at SWBTS and our Southern Baptist Convention. I asked Him to search our hearts, and to decisively execute a divine standard so powerful among us, all who see it would recognize His glory. I pray He does so quickly. I pray we are found on the right side of God’s mighty standard. I pray we are found standing with Jesus. I pray we are found standing with Dr. Patterson. There is never a wrong time to do the right thing.
In closing, I want to commend Dr. Patterson, for a lifetime of service he has given to King Jesus. Not content with just preaching the Gospel, he has given his ministry to defend Its glorious truths and oftentimes been found standing alone. As long as I am alive, Paige Patterson will never stand alone. Most Southern Baptists share the same sentiment. Praise God for Paige’s faithfulness.
Thank you sir. Your past victories and service to the Lord remind us we can count on you to remain faithful to the end. We eagerly anticipate your sermon in Dallas. God has a powerful word Southern Baptists desperately need to hear at this pivotal hour and it is you who must deliver it to us. Our denomination is at stake. No one else but you will do. Just as God has chosen you time and time again to be the sounding trumpet to a wayward denomination, so He has chosen you once more.
In the GREAT name of Jesus and in defense of Paige Patterson,
SWBTS MDiv, May 4, 2018
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Student, Master of Theological Studies
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Owner, Colter and Company Design
The Twittersphere has left my head summersaulting this week. Words and opinions have flowed — spewed rather — like a pipe leak that just keeps expanding and expanding until the water it holds meets no resistance at all.
I cringe at feeding into the social media runaway trains, but even more, I cringe at truth being concealed and untruths not being countered. So, I have just a few things to say.
1. Beth Moore does not speak for me.
I am saddened to hear that she has had an experience of being disrespected by men in ministry, and I wish that were not the case. My own experience, however, has been much different. Never that I can recall have I been made fun of, disrespected or shunned in seminary classes, in my church or in denominational work.
At the same time, I am one hundred percent content to fulfill the roles God has made available to me as a woman. I respect and embrace Scripture’s plan for women in ministry. I desire no more and no less, and I am confident that God will place His blessings on ministry done according to His system and setup. It is my privilege to follow His direction and not oppressive in the least.
2. The Bible does not bend to our cultural shifts.
I believe God’s word to be inerrant and inspired—God breathed. It requires no revising or reinterpreting to suit the decade or century in which we read and apply it. God and His word are the same always, enduring always, and true always.
Our culture is surging in anti-male sentiments, and it seems some of my fellow Christians are finding themselves swept up into that politically correct bandwagon. It is currently cool to promote women— to hoist them up — and often to do so by belittling men. God created men and women, both. Both are valuable, Neither should seek their confidence or identity in the demeaning of the other.
In the emotional responses to Beth Moore’s open letter, I’ve seen many Twitter users advocating that she be added as a speaker to the upcoming meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (where she is already slated to speak to pastors’ wives). As a Bible-following woman, I won’t stand silently by watching our convention, on a whim and in the flurry of what’s trending, dismiss a commitment to the authority of Scripture — a commitment that was costly in the making.
God has not left unclear the instruction that women are not to teach or have authority over men in Christ’s church. This issue is not about women, but about our following Scripture and submitting ourselves to God and His plan, even if it doesn’t make sense to us—culturally or otherwise.
3. Paige Patterson is one of the most godly humans I know.
He is intelligent, but more importantly, He is wise. He genuinely seeks God. He pours himself out — completely out — to carry the message of the gospel to literally the ends of the earth. His ministry has the anointing of God, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he leads more people to Christ in a month than most of us do all year. Or more.
His heart and mind are set on things above. He shows great care for women day in and day out. He has clarified comments taken out of context, explained that he has never counseled a physically abused woman to remain in a dangerous situation, and in fact has so fought for abused women that he has hidden them from dangerous husbands to protect them.
Any conclusions other than that are simply those of people not willing to give an honest reading and consideration of his statements and heart. Certainly that is each person’s prerogative. But let the record show, I fully support Paige Patterson, a man who has respected me, educated me and propelled me to follow and share Christ with zest and urgency.
Lastly, let us all remember that we perform for an audience of One. I know many who read this will not only disagree but be quite angered. The Twitter trolls will prove that true, I’m sure. But my allegiance is to Christ and His word and His truth, and it’s in that spirit that I share these thoughts.
For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me. (Philippians 1:29-30)
I have known Dr. Paige Patterson for over three decades. He is a lightning rod for controversy. His Irish blood mingled with his genetic inclination for practical jokes, his staunch stance on truth, his high tolerance of pain, and his Wild West “good fight” mentality is a mixture that draws even the most insignificant of lightning strikes. Anyone who has known Dr. Patterson for any length of time is vividly aware of his proclivity to draw controversy. But this time he may go too far in his response to the controversy.
In the past I have personally watched him return good for malicious attacks on him. I was in his home when he was falsely accused and attacked as President of The Criswell College. As a young student called into ministry, and on account of my friendship with his son and daughter I had the privilege of watching this sage kneel to his knees one evening and pray for those who were attacking him. As a small group of us joined him, I heard him: 1) plead to God for forgiveness for the times he had failed his God; 2) honestly admit his sinful nature was far worse than the false accusations which were being spread about him; 3) ask God to give him the grace he needed to love and pray for those who were falsely accusing him; 4) ask God to protect his family, the school, and the Kingdom; and 5) ask for truth to prevail.
This scene was intrinsically woven into the sanctification of this young ministerial student. As were light-hearted moments, like seeing him slide in socks across his kitchen floor doing his best lip-sink rendition of Tom Cruise singing “Old Time Rock and Roll.” Fortunately, for all, he was not dressed like Tom Cruise was in the Risky Business scene. I am especially fond of the time when the love of his life called to him from their library “Paige, don’t eat all of those chocolate chip cookies…those are for the students.” With cookie in hand, he smiled at us and said to his bride “Yes, Ma’am.” Ah, but she knew him too well. Next we heard, ”You have one in your hand now, don’t you.” To which, he responded, after cramming it in his mouth, a barely audible “no, ma’am.”
I learned so much from Dr. Patterson. I grew up in a divorced home. From junior high into college I only got to see my dad every other weekend. When I arrived at The Criswell College I was the product of public education, eighties football locker room education and a single parent home. My view of women was influenced by pornographic magazines (to which I was first exposed in the fifth grade at my public school), public education, and locker room chatter. My mom was used incredibly by God, to minimize these influences, but male mentors were largely missing, and thus I was a mess!
However, at The Criswell College, my understanding of how beautifully God created women, not as possessions, but as possessors of His image, grew immensely. In large part, this sanctification, was not just because of the intrinsic worth and immeasurable value which Scripture places on women, but also a result of how the Holy Spirit used what was modeled before me. The way Dr. Patterson viewed his wife and daughter as beautiful precious diamonds of priceless worth was not missed on this poor preacher boy from a broken home.
Nevertheless, this current controversy differs from the ones I saw Dr. Patterson endure decades ago. This current controversy is being fueled not just by his enemies but his “friends.” This time, I imagine he will handle it more graciously than ever before. He will probably go too far in his grace, wisdom, mercy and kindness. I have read the apparent epistolary grenades which have been launched his direction. It might prove beneficial to review these firecrackers dressed up as grenades, before making predictions of what will come.
Apparently, Dr. Patterson, gave some advice years ago regarding prayer for a lost husband, which he has since clarified with respect to both the context and his beliefs. In fact, he has made clear that he “has never…condoned abuse of any kind.” He further stated that he even had his very life threatened for helping a woman get out of an abusive home during one of his pastorates (something many of these tweeters have probably never experienced).
Moreover, he has admitted that, he does not counsel women to divorce abusive husbands, but rather, to get away from the abuse and apparently remain separated until the husband gets saved and changed. Whether one agrees with this counsel or not is a different topic, but to somehow construe this counsel as Patterson condoning abuse is as intellectually dishonest as it is evil. Even to hint, on Twitter, that Patterson believes such, is wrong. We all know how this game is played: news breaks that a leader said something evil about women decades ago. Then, everyone, gets out their Twitter birds to state how wrong it is to ever speak evil about women before the person is given a hearing explaining the context. It is as if we passively judge a person guilty before hearing the full story.
If one wants to grasp what Dr. Patterson believes about abuse, one should look no further than the statement to which he clearly stated he agrees with ENTIRELY: “We condemn all forms of…abuse…We believe…abuse is a hallmark of the devil….We believe that the local church…(has) a responsibility to establish safe environments…(and) to report abuse to civil authorities.”
This is the background to the current controversy. There are some in this controversy who have deservedly earned a reputation for being dirt diggers. For those of us familiar with the SBC, we have come to expect such behavior from them. Our expectations for them to couch half-truths in as bad of light as they can find, seem to always be met.
There are other so called “leaders” in the SBC for whom we seem to consistently lower our initial high expectations; and sadly, they seem to consistently fail to meet the ever-lowering expectations.
Ten years ago I would have expected some of these leaders to:
1) Stay above the fray. One leader (Dr. Stetzer) seems to imply that staying above the fray has been done by past leaders because of fear of retribution. I am disheartened he thinks so little of our past and current leaders. I have always felt, the ability to stay above the fray had more to do with wisdom and consideration of the kingdom than some sort of fear of man.
2) Recognize that casting stones is unbiblical. Sure, we can and should stand up for truth. I try to, and I do not mind calling out names (without a desire to get personal) when I am responding to things which have been said. However, standing up for truth is not the same as falsely or passively implying that something Dr. Patterson said almost twenty years ago in a totally different context (he was not speaking about abuse), is the advice he would give in abusive situations. I am certain many of these same leaders would cringe if someone took the time to research and publish things they may have said twenty to thirty years ago in a sermon or around a table. We all have sins in our past for which we are ashamed. To pick up stones to throw at Dr. Patterson as if he said these things yesterday, or as if he believes women should stay in abusive relationships is precisely the action Christ warns against in John 8. I wouldn’t even cast stones at those casting stones, for I am aware of my own sinfulness.
3) Be objective about facts rather than cowering to the latest societal fad. The men involved who actually know Dr. Patterson KNOW FULL WELL that he has always held the highest view and protection of women. To not objectively acknowledge this, when they take to social media, begs numerous questions. Moreover, the fact, they have not gone after Dr. John Piper (when his comments were much more recent and much more transgressive) also begs numerous questions. One would expect that those who were soo offended by Dr. Patterson’s comments would be even more offended by Piper’s comments. Their silence concerning Piper speaks much louder than their tweets. Sure they will say Piper issued a clarifying statement. As did Patterson! Again, this begs even more questions regarding consistency and credibility.
I am fully aware as I write this that I am a nobody in the SBC. I am also aware that truth doesn’t need a name behind it to be true. Logic and truth stand on their own. With this in mind here are my predictions and hopes.
I predict that those who enjoy stirring stuff will continue to do so. My grandmother often said “the more you stir (manure), the more it stinks.” Only, she didn’t say “manure”:) Apparently, some have grown accustomed to that smell. Nevertheless, I have hopes they will mature from the manure.
I also predict some so called “leaders” will continue to passively cast dispersions. My hope would be that these men would apologize to Dr. Patterson, as well as their readers, as loudly as they implied their misrepresentation of the situation, but I have my doubts.
Finally, my prediction concerning the aged reformer of the SBC is that he will, like the eighty plus year old prophet, Daniel, kneel to his God and pray “just as he has always done.” I feel the Holy Spirit will prompt the Southwestern sage to forgive as he has done so many times in the past. I am confident God will again close the mouths of the lions.
While many of us, wrongly, desire the Irish to come out in this man. I have an inkling that rather than the stench which has been stirred in this controversy, when Dr. Patterson rises from his prayer time we will once again see wisdom, love, joy, peace, patience and self-control. This fruit smells so much better. I have a feeling he will go further than before with this sweet-smelling aroma. Oh, for more wisdom like that.