On a recent blog article the writer called into question the veracity of an SBC Seminary education. The statement went; “… to get a seminary doctorate but are who are thereby less likely to find employment in the American academy.” From that statement it appears the author does not believe that one who receives a PhD. from one of our seminaries has the academic credentials to be employed within the world of academia. This reader would humbly disagree. However, that is not what this article is about. It seems the writer of the blog mentioned earlier confessed to something that he apparently did not realize. (Of course according to this article by the blogger he has spoken truth about me.>)) Allow me to state that I am no theologian and this area of expertise is something that I am lacking. For me to discuss theologians and their philosophies would be like a first year algebra student discussing calculus. Some of the concepts are familiar but a fuller understanding of theorem is lacking.
I am not about to discuss the finer understandings of Liberation Theology. I will say only that Liberation Theology implemented outside the sterility of academia will lead to Marxism. See here for a thorough discussion on Liberation Theology. The purpose of this article is to present something that Baptist support with no appearance of concern.
Academic openness has been the proclamation of the Academy for years. I remember when Dr. Russ Bush was appointed to the faculty of SEBTS. The media and moderates began sounding the alarm that conservatives were turning their seminary into Bible Institutes. Bible Institutes were used in derogatory terms describing the lack of academic discipline. However, what many may not realize, would be Bible Institutes do turn out preachers. For example, we have in North Carolina a place named Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute. Fruitland has instructors teaching whose academic qualifications would not allow for them to teach in the world of academia. However, Fruitland turns out preachers. One thing that churches in North Carolina, South Carolina, Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee know, when you get a preacher from Fruitland you find, not only a Pastor, but you also get someone that can Preach. Dr. Kenneth Ridings has been Professor of Homiletics since 1968. Before that a little known preacher by the name of Dr. Charles Stanley taught Homiletics. One of the largest churhes in South Carolina has for her Senior Pastor, a graduate from Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute. Therefore, coming from a Bible Institute is not always a bad thing. Dr. Russ Bush has never taught at a Bible Institute, and was teaching in the Theology Department at SWBTS thus, has the academic credentials. But the moderates tried their best to paint him as unqualified for the position. Anyone that has taken Dr. Bush knows that he is more than qualified to teach in any school of academia.
According to the confessional charge of my Brother over at Baptist Blogger, the intellectual inbreeding [sic] of the SBC has created an educational degree that does not practice openness. He states that he received “no serious engagement with Liberation Theology.” I personally did not take every class that my Brother took at SEBTS, but I do remember being in Dr. Patterson’s first semester of Systematic Theology with my Brother. I do personally remember engaging Liberation Theology during a portion of that semester. Was there a class at SEBTS entitled Liberation Theology? No there wasn’t, but neither was there a class entitled Millennium Theology.
According to what I have been taught about academic openness, there is a presentation of the various arguments within the discipline then the student engages the various arguments. This leads to a student using other learned disciplines to arrive at a conclusion. Here I find the tacit confession of my Brother. His encounter with Dr. Ellis is described in this sentence. “With faculty and students hiding down the hall, my professor pounded his fists on his desk and told me that he “didn’t give a d______ (my deletion) what I thought.”
I only have three questions. Where is the engagement of academic openness? What would have been the outcry within the SBC and CBF if this would have happened at any one of our six seminaries? Where is the outcry from the Academy about a professor degrading a student in such a way based on inaccurate gossip?
An area of academic dishonest that is seen in this diatribe speaks about the culture of the SBC. “In fact, so concerned are Southern Baptists to limit exposure to these cultural influences that we are forced to consider the perennial efforts to remove our kids from public schools.” It seems that our Brother tacitly describes an education of anything other than public school is less than academic. Because a parent takes seriously their responsibility before God to insure their child gets a Christian World View we are now doing a dis-service to our children. Of course I have to remember who it is that is making this statement–a young man, never married, and not responsible for offspring.
This kind of statement reveals the academic dishonesty that is being taught within the educational system. It would appear that my Brother has bought into the age old rhetoric of the Academy. The rhetoric is such that Bible Colleges do not produce an educated minister. However, our Brother says; “Thus we may have created a vortex of ministry unpreparedness and biblical illiteracy from which we cannot extract ourselves, unless drastic measures are taken — and taken fast.” He argues for more intellectual openness and theological acumen but the he makes this statement concerning SBC education. I know that seminaries produce great educated pastors. But one thing that seminaries do not do–produce biblical literacy. I went to both a moderate University and a conservative Seminary, and at both I had to fill my electives with Bible classes.
I only have one question with two follow-up questions about academic dishonesty. Does one believe there to be a dichotomy between Biblical Literacy and an Educated Clergy? If yes, why present a need for Biblical Literacy? If no, how is the SBC inbreeding?
This area is rife throughout the entire article. Let me just show one example concerning the Liberation Theologians the author references. According to this article Dr. Gutierrez as founder of this discipline advocates:
true “liberation” has three main dimensions:
First, it involves political and social liberation, the elimination of the immediate causes of poverty and injustice.
Second, liberation involves the emancipation of the poor, the marginalised, the downtrodden and the oppressed from all “those things that limit their capacity to develop themselves freely and in dignity”.
Third, Liberation Theology involves liberation from selfishness and sin, a re-establishment of a relationship with God and with other people.
Our Brother at Baptist Blogger states; “Liberation theologians take seriously the words of Jesus, who told his disciples that the blessed poor were those for whom the gospel was intended.” Let’s see. Liberation theologians take seriously the words of Jesus, but then state the first thing that needs to take place is to change the political environment. I believe you will also hear Liberation theologians state that the government cannot mandate morality. When Jesus liberated me, He did not liberate me from culture. He presented Himself to me through the shackles of a redneck culture and liberated me from the shackles of sin. It also seems that Paul never once tried to change the political environment he found himself in and even was beheaded by Nero. Maybe someone should have told Paul about this liberation that he overlooked.
One other area of academic elitism is seen in this statement;
Those pastors and professors who contribute most to Southern Baptist life are those who have explored more diverse philosophical and theological perspectives than their counterparts of limited interaction with the mainline academy.
What appears to be said is that unless you have been widely educated and engaged all of the various disciplines you will not be able to contribute to Southern Baptist life. I need to remind my Brother that this very argument was leveled at the Conservative Resurgence. But, unlike my Brother, I began my theological studies under the former left theological leaning leadership. They taught exactly what they wanted you to know. I found conservative books and had to read them outside of class in order argue from the conservative view point. I need to remind my Brother that when the name Gleason Archer was presented to the former Administration at SEBTS the students were told he was not academically qualified to teach. When the name Carl F. H. Henry was presented, the former administration would not even respond.
It seems that we have found a confession by one that probably did not mean to confess all that came out of the article. The Academy is rife with elitism and it appears our Brother has fallen as prey to this elitism. I do pray for him and count him as one I can seek and get advice from. However, I must call him to task on his description of the SBC educational system as it is at the least not an unbiased description and at the most academic dishonesty.