High Point, Andy Savage, The Southern Baptist Convention, and The Gospel Coalition

On January 5, the Deebs (TWW) and Amy Smith teamed up to blow High Point Community Church pastor Andy Savage out of the water, telling the story of Jules Woodson.

High Point is a Southern Baptist Convention affiliate with NeoCalvinist ties. Savage was rising star in the NeoCal circuit, with a book slated for release this Summer.

Since then,

(1) Savage has attempted to minimize what he did;

(2) Savage has attempted to deflect blame for what he did;

(3) Savage has gone of radio to make his case;

(4) High Point provided Savage a standing ovation in their ensuing worship service;

(5) Austin Stone Community Church–where Savage’s assault of Woodson took place–placed pastor Larry Cotton on leave while they investigate his role in the Jules Woodson case;

(6) Savage has seen the loss of his book deal, as Bethany House cancelled it;

(7) Larry Cotton has also seen a book deal go up in flames;

(8) Commentators from Boz Tchividjian to Ed Stetzer have weighed in, condemning the response of High Point.

But you know what? The Gospel Coalition and The Southern Baptist Convention have been quite mum on this.

The same SBC that rightly kicked out member churches for endorsing gay “marriage”, has been silent regarding a megachurch that coddled a pastor who crossed a severe ethical line, and has not so much as provided guidance for how churches ought to respond.

And The Gospel Coalition? Also nothing but crickets.

But I’ll bet you that if High Point called a woman to be pastor, they’d be all over that in milliseconds.

While I’m opposed to women pastors, and while I definitely oppose any Church tolerance of gay “marriage” within their ranks, I also would suggest that we must call evil for what it is, even when it involves people whose theology is more in line with mine.

If anything, I’m more angered when conservatives actively or passively green-light sexual immoralities or abuses of any type.

Orthodoxy is all well and good, but if your church doesn’t take the protection of children and teens seriously, then your Orthodoxy doesn’t rise to the level of the Scribes and Pharisees.

Dee, High Point, and 22-Year-old Youth Pastors

Most of the time, I tend to be on the same side as TWW when it comes to exposing abusers and calling out a system that coddles them. In the Andy Savage/Jules Woodson case, I have had their backs 99% of the time.

This is the 1%. And I’m not talking about their take on those who slut-shame Jules–I agree with the Deebs on that one.

I’m talking about the wisdom (or lack thereof) of putting 22-year-olds, who have little spiritual mileage as adults, in an office of pastoral authority over teens.

While Dee seems to make a good case when she discusses 22-year-old teachers, 22-year-old nurses, even 18-year-old firemen, I would contend that she is comparing apples to oranges.

Teaching English or science or mathematics is not on the same par as being a youth pastor.

If I’m a school teacher, the chances of me being alone with a student are going to be pretty remote. If I’m teaching, the classroom will be full. Even if students have questions after class, it’s a simple matter to keep the door open, or only entertain questions while there are others in the room. To be alone with a student–while possible–requires effort.

When you’re a youth pastor, it’s a different ballgame.

(1) While churches often have a “two-adult rule”, I can also tell you that, in smaller churches, that is not always feasible.

That means you’re going to need a youth pastor who has reined in his lusts sufficiently that he does not see the youth to whom he is ministering as potential girlfriends or conquests. Can a 22-year-old have that kind of maturity? It’s possible. But most of the men I’ve known in that bracket–and yes, we’re talking Christians–are either (a) looking to get married, or (b) still trying to learn self-regulation, or (c) both (a) and (b).

(2) Rightly dividing the word of truth–and teaching young people how to do it–requires more knowledge than you’re going to get in a 4-year-degree.

Coming out of college, I had an aeronautical engineering degree. I also had experience working in the math and science tutoring center, and had taught physics labs. I knew algebra and calculus and Newtonian mechanics like the back of my hand. I probably could have walked into any high school math or science class and started teaching.

When it comes to teaching Scripture, it’s a different ballgame. I was active in the Christian Fellowship Club at my alma mater. I also attended church regularly. I wasn’t a dummy when it came to Scripture–I won all those Bible Trivia games–but when it comes to teaching, it’s more complicated than, say, algebra.

In my 51 years of life, I have met only one 22-year-old whom I think would have been capable of being a good youth minister. And he was a lot like me: very un-polished, not a lot of charisma, but teaching was his gig. He also was serious about self-regulation.

When I was at SBTS, I had classmates who served as youth ministers and pastors. The ones in their early 20s were very shallow and struggled in their classwork. I often ended up tutoring them. They were in no position to be teachers to teens.

The ones older than 25 tended to be better-grounded, not just in Scripture but in their ability to provide strong counsel from Scripture.

I guess my larger problem here is with what I call the Ministerial-Industrial Complex.

It is the standard model by which churches build up their ministers. It has become a game of (a) take a young adult in or just out of college and make them a children’s minister or a youth minister, (b) send them to seminary to get an MA or MDiv, (c) have them do some part-time pastoral gigs during that time, (d) get them into a small bivocational or full-time position once they are newly-minted MDiv grads, and (e) as they “grow”, move them into senior positions, larger churches, etc.

What’s wrong with that picture?

(1) It treats the ministry like a corporate ladder. Just like the world

(2) It puts inexperienced young adults in positions of teaching teens, at a time when teens need very knowledgeable teachers who will challenge them and push them hard in these formative years.

What happens when a 10th-grader starts asking you questions about evolution? Or abortion? Are you ready to answer those matters intelligently?

What happens if a teen in your youth group tells you of the atheist teacher who is always trying to sow the seeds of skepticism? Are you ready to provide a reasonable case for Christ?

What happens when a kid tells you that he (or even she) is struggling with same-sex attraction? Or is fixated on porn? Are you ready to counsel someone in that kind of cesspool, and help such a one navigate these very unpleasant topics?

What happens when you have a youth whose home life is hell, whose parents are addicts, who asks you what “honor your father and mother” looks like in a case like that?

What if a 16-year-old girl tells you that one of her relatives is having sex with her?

Do you know the wisdom literature well enough to convey Biblical truths in ways that are understandable to a teen?

What if you have a teen who tells you she is pregnant, and her parents are trying to force her to have an abortion?

What happens when you have a youth who is struggling with drug or alcohol issues?

At 27, I could handle those things reasonably well. At 22, I would have been in over my head. The hormones of early adulthood would not have made those other challenges any easier at 22, either.

Like I said, I have only known one person in my life who, at 22, would have been qualified to do that job. And it wasn’t me.

Yes, I was a counselor at a crisis pregnancy center at age 24. But I also had a lot of supervision, too, and wasn’t too proud to hand off tough cases to more experienced counselors. The director–who had a son my age–was like a second mom to me.

(I also kept the door open when I was the only counselor in the room.)

I didn’t start teaching in church until I was on the tail end of 25. And I didn’t take on any ministerial positions until 27.

By that time, I had seen a plethora of ministers go down in scandal. I got a front-row seat to what was possible if one did not learn to master their lusts.

And while I knew of big scandals during my college days, I can tell you this much: very little discussion in church circles ever involved the reality that such things begin with very simple lusts.

Andy Savage may have understood those truths on an academic level. But there is a world of difference between that and being able to flesh that out and teach others in the process.

Nothing says “you break it, you own it” like sex. And, sadly, with sexual sin, you can’t just take it back. As King David said, “my sin is ever before me.”

Unfortunately for Savage, he understood that a minute too late.

And while that is his baggage for which he is ultimately responsible, I also say that his church bears responsibility for conforming to a paradigm that is predisposed to putting unqualified people in very critical ministerial positions.

High Point, Church Sex Abuse, and Third Party Investigations

Ann Voskamp may be right in that the Andy Savage scandal at High Point Community Church of Memphis may be the Church’s Harvey Weinstein moment.

Personally, I tend to be a tad more cynical, but one thing is for sure: it was a shot across the bow. There are a mother lode of family jewels in churches across America, including (some might say especially) otherwise “conservative, evangelical, Reformed, and Fundamentalist” churches.

Unless the Church gets serious about addressing this, the reckoning is going to be orders of magnitude worse than they can ever imagine.

My take?

Deal with it now.

Bring all the scandals into the sunlight.

Expose the offending ministers.

Admit failures–from failure to exercise oversight, to failure to report when allegations surfaced, to unwittingly or even intentionally throwing victims under the bus, to protecting people who were clearly abusive and immoral.

To the extent that is possible, try to make amends with those who were wronged.

Where criminal acts may have been committed, churches need to report these to the authorities. Perhaps statutes of limitations may have run out, but this still could help nail them if there are more recent offenses elsewhere.

But make no mistake: transparency is paramount. On this front, more is better.

To Hell (literally) with corporate damage control tactics; that is how the WORLD operates. The Church is not “of the world”.

Why am I adamant about this?

1. If there is any place where children ought to be safe, it ought to be the Church. One observer noted that, in the first century, the Church was a refuge from the world: a contrast to the brutality and immorality and corruption that so defined so much of Graco-Roman society.

Jesus had very stern warnings about those who would cause children to stumble. And while I believe that child molesters can be saved, I would also point out that there is a guaranteed reckoning for those who commit such acts against children.

And if you’re a theological conservative–as I am–those warnings from Jesus should kick you in the jewels, as He is not simply talking about kiddie-diddlers.

That means parents need to take their responsibilities very seriously; that means everyone who interacts with children–especially teachers, camp counselors, chaperones, etc.–needs to have a (spiritual) “war face”.

This is not a game.

That includes teaching the Scriptures properly; that includes modeling the love of God in a way that includes appropriate discipline while not exasperating them: children should be able to taste and see that the Lord is good.

As for predators, you can bank on the fact that they are going to target churches. If you have a substantial number of children, you can almost guarantee that one or more predators are going to be lurking in your midst if they aren’t already there.

THAT’s not your fault. As I’ve said before, predators will target churches (that’s where the kids are) for the same reason the armed robber targets the bank (that’s where the money is).

What you do about that, however, is going to make or break you.

I’ve said it many times: they will have charisma; they will often be professionals; they will be very talented; they will appear trustworthy; they will be very affable.

Some offenders may not be predators, but are still sexually deviant: they have not reined in their lusts and therefore are not qualified for their positions. This is one more reason why you need to be leery of bringing on young adults into ministerial positions.

(My take: many of these youth pastors, like Andy Savage, are in this category. They don’t necessarily qualify as predators, but neither do they have the Christian maturity befitting a teacher or minister either. They have charisma, but–as I’ve said many times here–charisma is not character! Ergo, putting them in that position is a prescription for disaster. Just ask Jules Woodson.)

I’ll say it again: What you do about that is going to make or break you.

In the wake of the Andy Savage case, High Point failed about as badly as a church can fail. They not only did not do the right thing, they proceeded to do the worst possible thing.

They stood by as Savage provided self-serving spin, deflection, and even blame-shifting. They turned the worship of God into a glorification of someone who, faced with his past, could not even properly state the severity of what he did.

That Savage is on leave of absence now is all well and good; they should have done that immediately, and then fired him as soon as he started playing spin games, and–as the details of the allegations surfaced–reported the allegations to the relevant authorities.

(For the record: Savage will not face criminal charges in the Jules Woodson case, as the statute of limitations has run out on any possible offenses on his end.)

High Point has since decided to enlist a third party to investigate the Andy Savage matter.

While the Deebs and Amy Smith are (rightly) skeptical of churches hiring third parties to investigate, I’ll take a contrarian view in this case: given that criminal offenses aren’t on the table now, I think that is probably a good idea.

But I say that with the following caveats:

(1) What does High Point really want investigated?

At this point, it ought not just be about Andy Savage: his offenses–besides his spin and blame-shifting–occurred long before he came to High Point. If they just investigate what Andy Savage did, then it’s just going to be a waste of money.

(2) What does High Point hope to accomplish?

Are they just trying to cover their nether regions in the event of a lawsuit? Are they just seeking to do damage control? Or are they really serious about the type of change–seeking to get things right–that comes from repentance?

Color me skeptical, but if they were repentant, their entire ministerial staff would have been in sackloth by now. They would have apologized to Jules for engaging in blame-shifting. They would have FIRED Andy Savage. They would have censured–if not suspended–their entire worship team.

All I’m seeing from them is more akin to damage control.

Ultimately, such an investigation can only be helpful if High Point is serious about fundamentally changing their culture.

If they ARE serious, then a good investigation can show deficiencies in their leadership: what kinds of culture they need to foster going forward; how they should screen would-be ministers, teachers, and other workers; how they ought to respond to allegations; how to cultivate an environment that reflects the love of God while providing appropriate protections for those in positions of vulnerability.

But such change requires more than an investigation and white paper; it requires true contrition.

Does High Point have that?

At this time, I remain skeptical.

Rapper lives his music… and pays the price

Found out about this not long ago.

Seems there’s this minor rapper going by Montana Millz (real name Michael Persaud). One of his songs (if you want to call it that) is “Sell Drugz” (alternatively spelled “Drugsz”).

Well, he decided to do just that.

Which brings us to another of his songs: “Feds Watching”.

They were.

And he got caught.

As Amir often says on these pages, The Law of Sowing and Reaping is not up for repeal any time soon.

Andy Savage, High Point, and #churchtoo

Anyone with at least a double-digit IQ who has been following these things, knows that the Church–and that includes all shades of conservatism–has a mother lode of sexual abuse scandals, family jewels tucked under her pristine clothing.

I’m not talking about ministers who have had extramarital affairs. That is bad enough–don’t get me wrong–but that’s a different issue.

Oh noes. I’m talking sexual abuse scandals.

I’m talking about molestations and even rapes by volunteers, by teachers, and other church leaders (deacons, elders) to include pastors.

I’m also talking about church leaders who dismissed accusations, not reporting them to authorities, and enabled abusers to continue their abuses.

I’m also talking about church leaders who, instead of reporting allegations to authorities, “launched their own investigation”, or hired their own third parties to investigate–thus ensuring that the investigative bodies would be beholden to them–and, in the process, enabled abusers to continue their abuses.

I’m also talking about church leaders who, instead of reporting allegations to authorities, forced accused ministers to resign, providing them pathways to get “new starts” elsewhere, and, in effect “passed the trash” to other churches.

I’m also talking about church leaders who, because the accused person is a trusted friend, choose to do nothing because they swear that the allegations have to be some mistake.


For decades, these cases have piled up like a clogged toilet. Over the past 15 years, however, a perfect storm has been brewing.

Amy Smith, who blew the lid on such coverups at SBC powerhouse Prestonwood Baptist Church–incurring the wrath of her own family–was a major catalyst for the emerging cadre of watchbloggers. Her cause, known as Watch Keep, is a tick in many an SBC leader’s britches.

Other bloggers would come to prominence. Jeri Massi, a Bob Jones alum who worked for their publishing arm, has done a wonderful job chronicling the abuses among the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) ranks. Her devastating assessment of the Hyles Dynasty (FBC Hammond, IN) is, on its face, worth the read.

Todd Wilhelm of Thou Art The Man has blown the lid on various abuses, including Voice of the Martyrs.

Arguably the biggest contributor to the watchblog world has been Deb and Dee at The Wartburg Watch.

Over the last 5 years, I’ve followed most of these blogs. Do I agree with them on everything? Of course not. I’m an old-school Patriarch, albeit a laid-back one, and thus am in fundamental disagreement with them over the “complimentarianism causes abuse” mantra. (My view: abusive situations generally occur when accountability is nonexistent. And while that often happens in elder-run churches, there are no small number of congregational churches whose leadership is stacked with yes-men, who are prone to cover for abusive leaders. Any church government model can be–and is often–abused.)

I’ve gone back and forth with Dee–on these pages even–over a few matters. But, when it comes to exposing abusers and those who cover for them, they are doing the world a great service.

From Mars Hill to Sovereign Grace Ministries and the Good-Old-Boys networks that coddle the abusers in the NeoCalvinist, Southern Baptist, and other evangelical ranks, the Deebs have been exposing them to that great disinfectant: sunlight.

Over the years, they have been effective on the margins. Sure, Mahaney is still in business. But he is a shadow of his former self. And while Matt Chandler has not been slowed in his ministry, even though he was forced to eat some humble pie for his treatment of a wife who sought an annulment from a husband who was caught viewing child porn.

But on Friday, 05 January 2018, the Deebs and Amy Smith teamed up to help Jules Woodson, a gal who, 20 years ago, was forced to perform a Lewinsky on youth pastor Andy Savage of Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church (He is now at High Point Community Church in Memphis, TN). Savage would go on to celebrity status while Woodson has had to deal with the trauma and guilt for 20 years.

On its face, they might have thought that this would be another case of abuse in the evangelical world, perhaps leading to resignations, hand-wringing, etc.

This time around, it was different.

Andy Savage tried to minimize what he did. The entire blogosphere–myself included–rained HELL on him. I know, because I followed the Twittersphere. Dee and Amy were killing it.

The story went national, even global. From Christianity Today to the Washington Post to The New York Times, the more Savage and/or High Point opened their mouths, the harder they got clobbered.

#churchtoo became the Church answer to #metoo.

And while Andy Savage is in the clear legally–as the statute of limitations has run out on what he did to Jules–he has taken quite the shellacking:

(1) His upcoming book–How To Have a Ridiculously Good Marriage–is dead. Bethany House killed it.

(2) Larry Cotton, the pastor who allowed him to resign 20 years ago, and who did not report his abuses to authorities, has been placed on a leave of absence by his current church.

(3) Cotton has also had a book deal killed.

(4) Ed Stetzer has condemned Savage’s explanation.

(5) Savage is now on a leave of absence. Hopefully it will be a permanent one.

(6) Jonathan Leeman of 9 Marks–a Neocal outfit–provided an insightful op-ed to The Washington Post. Of course, he is articulating a view that I have put forward here.

The Deebs, and Amy Smith, have triggered a very large–and necessary–earthquake in the evangelical world.

Will this be the catalyst that leads churches to confront abuses and revisit the way they have treated such matters in the past? Will this lead to Church leadership addressing this issue from the top? Will this lead to shakeups within Church bodies?

I don’t know. Personally, I think it may take a few more large shockwaves for major change to happen.

But between the Deebs and Amy Smith, they have provided a foreshadowing of something much bigger to come, unless the Church confronts these issues sooner rather than later.

A Low Point for High Point

HT to Dee at TWW and Amy Smith of Watch Keep.

And, for the record, Andy Savage (a) has not denied Jules Woodson’s account, and (b) has affirmed what he calls a “sexual incident” involving Woodson.

I’m going to put it bluntly: In legalspeak, Savage is trying to cover his ass.

He was supposed to be taking Woodson home. She did not have transportation of her own. Savage intentionally passed the proper turn, and told Woodson that where he was taking her was a “surprise”.

He took her to a secluded area, pulled down his pants, whipped out his member a la Clinton, and solicited a “Lewinsky.”

Immediately after receiving said Lewinsky, after the damage was done, he realized the gravity of his offense and asked for forgiveness and assurance that she would tell no one.

When she (rightly) told the pastoral staff, they promised they would take care of the matter. They never went to authorities–although they had an obligation to do so–and they allowed Savage to resign and go elsewhere, providing a sanitized explanation in the process.

Savage went home, “repented”, and went on to become a mega-pastor who, until yesterday, was on the verge of a book deal about, ahem, marriage. The title: How to Have a Ridiculously Good Marriage. Woodson, sadly, still tries unpack the baggage from that atrocity.

(Mr. Savage: Maybe you can begin by not wrecking other people’s chances of having such a marriage.)

I know some of you might read this and think, “Well, this was a long time ago, and he has suffered for what he did, and I have no doubt that he is sorry, so why dredge all of this up now?”

Fact is, whatever Savage has ‘suffered’ as a result of the knowledge of what he did, it pales in comparison with the metric ton of demons that Woodson has had to face down from that night. She has spent almost 20 years fighting a battle for which she did not ask, while (a) Savage has not had to face the music, and (b) the church that should have done right by her effectively blamed her for his sins and crimes.

And while I have no doubt that Savage truly is sorry for what he did, it is very sad that he has tried to minimize the severity of his actions. It is also sad that High Point, of all churches, has all but blamed the victim.

But yes, this kind of thing is what pisses me off, and on multiple levels.

(1) High Point failed to do the right thing. High Point, a NeoCal outfit affiliated with the Gospel Coalition, has not even so much as put Savage on leave, even though the allegations against him carry potential civil, if not criminal, consequences. If the statute of limitations has not run out, Savage could be on the hook for one or more felonies.

(2) High Point not only failed to do the right thing, they probably did the worst possible thing in response to the allegations. This past Sunday, God was not the center of the worship at High Point; Andy Savage was. The music leaders went completely off the rails and called for a standing ovation in support of Savage.

To their credit, Austin Stone Community Church of Austin, TX, has placed pastor Larry Cotton, who was allegedly complicit in the coverup of Savage’s abuse of Jules, on leave and has enlisted an independent third party to investigate Cotton’s role in the coverup. And Bethany House, which had been set to publish Savage’s book this Summer, has cancelled the publication of that book.

(3) Aside from the well-deserved pounding that Savage is taking from Amy Smith, the Deebs, Todd Wilhelm (Thou Art The Man), and other watchbloggers, I am going to add this…

First, the disclaimer: Nothing I am about to say, in any way, lets Savage off the hook for what he did. If the law allows for it, he should face prosecution; he should also face civil penalties for any quantifiable damage that Woodson has suffered. And while I am not happy that his wife and family will suffer in this process, I would also add that this is a sad consequence of the actions of their husband and father. As I’ve said many times here: Sexual sin is The Gift That Keeps On Giving. If this were a mere act between consenting adults, it would have been bad enough. But given that it carries potential civil and criminal liabilities, the score has gone up.

Having said all of that…

Looking at the circumstances of Savage’s acts, I cannot help but question the wisdom of putting Savage in the position he had in the first place.

(1) He was in his early 20s. He was either a college student or a recent college graduate.

(2) In spite of his lack of spiritual mileage, he was a YOUTH PASTOR.

I don’t care how smart you are in your early 20s. At age 23, I had an engineering degree, with memberships in two different honor societies, and, even in my inexperience, knew my Bible better than the average bear. Even then, I can tell you without hesitation: I WOULD HAVE HAD NO BUSINESS BEING A YOUTH PASTOR.

There is a difference between understanding the narrative flow of the Bible, and really knowing, on a personal level, the dynamics that play out in the life of the believer as well as those outside the Christian fold. The knowledge I am talking about is not something you learn in a classroom: it is spiritual mileage that comes from (a) confessing and repenting, often, of your own sin, (b) getting the log out of your own eye, (c) working for a living and dealing with various personalities, (d) managing complex relationships, (e) navigating through hard times.

Reading the Bible and studying it are very important; fleshing out the truths that you learn is every bit as important. The latter does not happen in a day!

Moreover, at that young of an age, and I say this as a guy, let’s just say that you are still learning to reign in the lusts driven by hormones that race at Mach 9. Putting it bluntly, Andy Savage was a horny young adult who still needed to learn the self-regulation that leads conduct becoming a minister of the Gospel. Even worse, he had not gained the understanding that–whatever one’s hormones–there are some places you must never, ever go.

We know that young people, in the throes of puberty–that time where the blood rushes from the brain to the lower extremities and remains there for about the next 70 years–will experiment. I’m not endorsing the practice, just acknowledging the fact.

99% of the time, that experimentation will be on one’s self. I’m not saying it’s right–it’s not–but it is what it is.

Sadly, in the course of that experimentation, folks will use media–which, today, is available in high-def and for free–that is akin to adding rocket fuel to a barbecue grill. That causes the lusts–already nasty–to burn beyond all recognition.

Are those things responsible for what Andy did? No; I’m sure those elements didn’t help him. And it sure as heck didn’t help that he was in a position of leadership–for which he was not qualified–and in a position of responsibility over women who, because he had not learned to master his lusts, became targets in spite of his ministerial obligation to them.

Had Savage truly been interested in Jules, he could have dated her: he could have had her move to another class, and pursue her in a way that was God-honoring.

But he wasn’t interested in making a future with her; he saw her as a path to getting his rocks off. And given the circumstances, he may have crossed into criminal territory.

At the very least, High Point owes Jules the mother of all apologies.

And they need to fire Savage.

And they need to hold him accountable.

And this needs to be a teachable moment for a number of things. Because this is a culmination of all that is wrong with American evangelicalism.

Biblical Counseling “Authorities” Hijack Luther

Dee at TWW tipped me to this.

I’ll elaborate more later this week, but–dang–Heath Lambert runs totally off the rails.

Using his reasoning, no one should ever accept any form of modern medicine for anything, because its prescription never mentions Jesus.

The issue here isn’t Biblical Counseling, but rather this inane cabal that purports to put constraints on it.

Fact is, you can provide the best, solid Biblical counsel to a client who is determined to know the truth. But if that client does not have his or her faculties–and sometimes that requires meds, and sometimes those meds must be taken for the duration of one’s life–then such a client lacks the capacity to begin to receive the counsel.

Ergo, medications may be complimentary–bringing a client to the place where he or she can “come reason together” in the first place–to Biblical counseling.

We can argue all day about the origin of certain disorders–bipolar, schizophrenia, chronic depression, etc. I would not deny that sin is often an exacerbating factor, if not a contributory factor, to clients with some of these conditions. At the same time, that does not change the reality on the ground: many clients, without taking psychotropic medications as-directed by a physician, are simply not going to be able to receive counsel, whereas with the meds, they are able.

I have seen this dynamic up-close and personal, more time than I can dare count. These folks have included good friends, people I’ve known from work, as well as people I’ve known in various Church and parachurch settings. I am not a licensed therapist, nor am I a “certified Biblical counselor”. I am a Christian who is a serious student of Scripture who, as I get older, continue to gain great appreciation for the severity of the impact of sin, and the consequences of the Fall, including the curse of the earth, on all aspects of our humanity.

To suggest that this cannot impact brain chemistry–and that there is no place for medical therapy in the process of recovery–is ludicrous.

My question to those who subscribe to Jay Adams and Heath Lambert: given a client who is bipolar who clearly does not have his or her faculties, would you rather (a) have them go to a doc and get his or her meds straightened out and then, once they gain their faculties, reason with them; or (b) let them continue in their irrational patterns, and potentially wind up doing something incredibly destructive, potentially including suicide and/or murder?

Paul Pressler, the SBC, and the Conservative Movement

Those who are regulars here know that I attended SBTS from August 1993 to May 1994. I was there when Mohler was inaugurated, and was there as the seminary became Ground Zero in the war over the direction of the Southern Baptist Convention. There was a major fight within the seminary, as–at the time–the faculty ranged from centrists to far-left on the theological spectrum. The previous President–Roy Honeycutt–had been a center-left type, and his predecessor (Duke McCall) had been even further left.

Over the years, SBTS had implicitly told the whole world: conservatives need not apply.

How liberal was it at SBTS in the fall of 1993?

(1) You couldn’t have a rational discussion about women in ministry. If you expressed any Biblically-based reservation against women pastors–and those are perfectly legit–then you were a sexist and/or a misogynist.

(2) You couldn’t have a rational discussion about the authority of Scripture. The powers that were insisted that, if you subscribed to a conservative model of Biblical reliability (i.e. inerrancy), you might as well be guilty of putting the MENTAL in fundamentalism.

(3) If you were pro-life, or supported the Biblical case against homosexuality, then you had few allies among the faculty. The most “pro-life” ethics professor had been part of Ron Sider’s Evangelicals for Social Action.

(4) Along the lines of (3), if you didn’t support some form of communismliberation theology, then you were cruel and heartless, and didn’t side with Jesus. Because, after all, everyone knows that socialism is in the Bible, even if it isn’t.

(5) If you didn’t support re-translating the Bible to remove gender-specific references to God, then you were a sexist who wanted to make women feel excluded. As a result, feminist theology was very popular among the student body, and the theology department tacitly fanned those flames.

(6) If you were a Young Earth Creationist, or even a skeptic of macro-evolution–I identify as the latter–then you were anti-science, and all legitimate debate over this was settled.

What do I mean when I say you couldn’t have a rational discussion of these matters?

It means that the professors typically stacked the deck to exclude balanced discussions of such hot-button issues, and none of them–not even the professors I otherwise liked–were on your side. They didn’t dock your grade for disssenting–thank you for that, as I was one B short of straight As–but it was a hostile classroom nonetheless.

It was slow-motion indoctrination. And to any conservative–which I am–this needed to change.

Enter R. Albert Mohler, circa September 1993. His inauguration had been the culmination of about 10 years of change on the SBTS board of trustees: as left-leaning board members dropped off, the Executive Committee of the SBC would nominate right-leaning board members. Eventually, there were a sufficient number of conservatives to really make big changes.

Honeycutt saw the handwriting on the wall, and retired, making the way for Mohler. I have my issues with Mohler, but I won’t take away from the fact that he brought a very necessary housecleaning to SBTS.

But the rise of Mohler at SBTS would not have been possible without a powerful Texas judge and lawmaker: Paul Pressler.

In fact, it was Pressler–who recruited a young firebrand, Paige Patterson–to enact a strategy for a conservative resurgence that was nothing short of brilliant.

The resurgence itself was possible in no small part because it was, if nothing else, very popular among mainstream Southern Baptists, who were–with pockets of exceptions–more conservative than what was coming from leadership.

Pressler and Patterson would use that populism to get conservative SBC Presidents–such as Adrian Rodgers and Charles Stanley–elected. Those Presidents would, over time, fill the Executive Committee with right-leaning appointments, and the Executive Committee would, over time, stack the boards of every SBC entity–from the Home Mission Board (now the North American Mission Board) to the Foreign Mission Board (now the International Mission Board) to the Sunday School Board (now LifeWay) and every one of the seminaries–SBTS, GGTS, NOBTS, SEBTS, SWBTS–with conservative board members.

Those would bring in new leaders who would fundamentally reshape the face of those entities, and the SBC itself.

For his part, Patterson would become President at two SBC seminaries: Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS).

But it was Pressler’s strategy and Pressler’s vision that fomented that change. No modern-era SBC leader, from Patterson to Mohler to current SBC President Steve Gaines, would have had such an impact on the SBC but for the work of Pressler.

This is why the SBC powers that are have torn a page from North Korea and dedicated stained glass tributes at the SWBTS Chapel to Dear Leaders such as Pressler.

That is why the current lawsuit against Pressler and Patterson–accusing Pressler of sexual abuse and Patterson of knowing about it and doing nothing–is a big deal.

If the allegations are true, then Pressler–now 87 years old and otherwise long-retired–has much to answer for. It also would beg the question: what did other SBC leaders know about this? And if they knew anything, what did they do with that knowledge?

While a skeptic can reasonably argue that this could be a witch hunt driven by the #metoo bandwagon, it is also possible that we have a smoking gun, especially if the story is true that Pressler has settled a prior claim. The details of that are sealed, but–in a trial–those details will become unsealed, assuming it gets that far.

My take: I’m all for Due Process. Let the facts come out, let the cross-examinations begin, and, if there are family jewels, lay them out for all to see.

And if heads must roll, then off with their heads.

And if they molested children–or covered for those who did–then I say start with the smaller heads…