Welcome To The Party, [p]Al!

Dear President Mohler:

The title of this article is an adaptation of an iconic one-liner from the great Christmas classic Die Hard.

And yes, Al, you’re getting started a little late. That’s uncharacteristic of you, as you are usually quick off the blocks on so many other fronts of the Culture Wars. But, as that great philosopher, Bruce Willis, said, welcome to the party!

For years, many folks have been warning you about (a) the plethora of abusers in the evangelical and SBC ranks, and (b) their enablers at the highest levels, including the very NeoCalvinist circles that you frequent.

The abusers include pedophiles, sexually-deviant youth ministers, children’s ministers, pastors, and denominational leaders. The abuses included physical and sexual abuse, in addition to a toxic culture of church discipline reminiscent of the Shepherding Movement.

To be fair, I can understand much of your skepticism over the years. After all, most of the critics come from the left of you theologically and culturally, and they tend to criticize with agendas more in line with left-wing Social Justice Warrior (SJW) objectives that include waging war against all things Biblical.

I’m going to tell you a little of my story. You’ll find that our lives intersected at a critical juncture of your tenure.

I arrived at SBTS as an MDiv student in the Fall of 1993, just as you arrived as President. My first Sunday in Louisville, I attended Deer Park Baptist Church, which is on Bardstown Road not far from the campus. That Sunday, they stuck me into a Sunday School class with other SBTS students. The teacher was an MDiv student in his last trimester. The passage of study was 1 Corinthians 12, and the focus was on spiritual gifts.

After reading the passage, the teacher went into a diatribe about homophobia, insisting that “it is our responsibility to accept gays and lesbians into their rightful place in the Body of Christ.”

I decided to chime in: “Based on what we just read, and what you are saying, it seems that you are inferring that homosexuality is a spiritual gift.”

The rest of the class turned into a gang assault: them against me. I felt like a sniper taking on an entire platoon: I was getting good shots in, but I was outnumbered. I didn’t sign up for that, but–as you can attest–sometimes we end up having to fight battles for which we did not ask.

I had become, whether I wanted to be or not, a battlefield-commissioned officer in the Culture Wars.

That was the beginning of my baptism by napalm at SBTS.

During my time there, I saw–firsthand–your leftist critics assailing you for every offense under the sun. In their eyes, nothing you ever did, short of resigning, would be right. And they took it out on folks like me.

If you were pro-life, you were a misogynist.

If you opposed homosexuality, you were a bigot and a homophobe.

IF you accepted a high view of Biblical authority, you were a Fundamentalist (in the perjorative, not the classical, sense of the word).

If you had any Biblical reservations about women pastors, you were a sexist and a misogynist.

If you opposed bastardizing the Scriptures with inclusive language, you were a sexist and a misogynist.

They called you–and me by extension–everything short of a kitten-killer, seal-clubber, puppy-stealer, mattress-tag-remover…

All of this is to say, I understand your skepticism when their side raised accusations.

The problem is, while these types were hostile toward you, you made one mistake, and here’s what it is.

You see, during my time at SBTS, I got to know a good number of those liberals. I worked with some of them at the same side jobs. Almost all of them came from Southern Baptist backgrounds.

BC grew up in North Carolina. She had been sexually abused. While she was very intelligent, she had a number of male colleagues who wouldn’t even listen to her because she was a woman.

JK was from Louisville. She grew up in conservative SBC churches. As a college student, she was raped at gunpoint. Wanna know what kind of support she got from her church? She got BLAMED for it.

SK was from Louisiana. She grew up in conservative SBC churches. During her teen years, she was raped, at gunpoint, by a prominent church member who was also a police officer. Wanna know what kind of support she got from her church? She got BLAMED for it.

DW grew up in central Kentucky. She grew up in conservative SBC churches. In her childhood, she was sexually assaulted at church camps. No help from the church.

JD, a classmate of mind, was molested by a man during his childhood. He would struggle with sexual issues that led him to the pornography addiction from Hell. What kind of help did he get from the Church? They porn-shamed him.

These were friends of mine at SBTS. They’re still friends of mine today. As a conservative myself, their theology is not mine.

But what’s the point here?

They became liberals in no small part due to “conservative” churches whose leaders were either abusers, enablers, or simply failed to provide refuge from them in their pain.

And that brings me to a critical issue that YOU must address, because YOU are one of the champions for the model known as complementarianism.

(I believe complementarianism is a perversion of Biblical Patriarchy, and I’ll explain why some other time.)

But for the sake of discussion, let’s stipulate that you are a Patriarch. I don’t believe you are, but let’s assume that you and I are talking, Patriarch to Patriarch.

The problem is, your model of patriarchy provides no relief for those who are abused. How do I know that? For all the talk of the Biblical permanence of marriage–which is a perfectly legitimate view that I hold–your patriarchal allies have done NOTHING to keep victims safe, to ensure that offenders are prosecuted, to admonish and rebuke–even excommunicate–abusers.

If you believe in the permanence of marriage–and you should–then the Church needs to provide the resources to keep families together as they address very difficult and complicated baggage.

If you believe that children need to be protected–and I believe you do–then you need to be all over the evangelical world, pushing them to report abuses, provide relief to victims, and calling out leaders–some of them very popular–who are guilty of either participating in abuses or enabling the abusers.

I realize that you have gone to great lengths to defend your friend C.J. Mahaney. And I can certainly understand why: Sovereign Grace Ministries has put out some great resources over the years. My church uses SGM music, which is very solid.

At the same time, Rachael Denhollander–the Louisville attorney who blew the lid on Larry Nassar and provided a Gold Standard presentation of the Gospel at his sentencing–has provided a devastating assessment of SGM. Her husband, Jacob, is a PhD student in your school. They offered to reach out to you on this. You should take him up on that. You need to have them over for dinner and listen to them.

Cleaning up the mess in the SBC is no longer about liberals and conservatives. We won that front of the war.

Unfortunately, the SBC is infested with abusers and enablers. You didn’t ask for this battle–just as I didn’t ask for it on that Sunday morning in 1993–but it’s your duty to fight. Sadly, that is going to require taking on longtime friends, professional associates, and even popular ministers with letters after their names. It will be tougher than taking on the liberals.

But, recalling the theme at your inauguration, you are where you are for such a time as this.

Get ready for war, Al. And, once again, welcome to the party!

10 thoughts on “Welcome To The Party, [p]Al!

  1. Albert Mohler’s statement is a start, but I’ll take him more seriously when he publicly rebukes and distances himself from C.J. Mahaney and disassociates himself from T4G. In the meantime, I think he should seriously consider resigning as president of SBTS. There are plenty of other Baptists out there who could keep SBTS on a theologically conservative course without Mohler’s personal baggage or the baggage of complementarian doctrine.

    • I’ve been calling for Mohler’s retirement for a long time.

      But yeah…that’s what I was getting at: he’s going to need to have the stones to confront some of his longtime friends–like Mahaney–and professional associates, not to mention some very popular ministers. What will make it difficult is that a lot of these guys are very popular, and they have large swaths of friends who will not believe that [X] is guilty of [Y].

      But just as Paul called out Peter “to his face”, Mohler is going to need to do the same to guys like Mahaney, Steve Gaines, Jack Graham, and possibly even John Piper.

      He’s also going to need to do some work on his complementarian model and (a) walk back some of the dogmas they impose, (b) shelve ESS–as that involves taking a VERY controversial view of the Trinity–and (c) flesh out the responsibilities of church leaders with respect to making the Church safe for children and folks who are otherwise at disadvantage.

      Right now, the only people safe in complementarian churches are abusers and their enablers.

  2. I have warned about the Southern Baptist Churches for a long time. Ever since Ergun Caner was allowed to do what he did under the protection of the intelligentsia of the SBC, I have said that I wouldn’t go to an SBC seminary if you paid me.

    The real problem is the problem of intellectuals. Since Dr Mohler is wondering what happened in the SBC, I would point him to this video:

    https://youtu.be/Wln6lNTxVpY

    While the video discusses the role of intellectuals in American society, the same principles *easily* apply to the church as well.

    The idea is that these people like Patterson and others are so intelligent, that if we just give them all the power, they will be able to take us to a Christian utopia. The idea that intellectuals don’t have their own interests, sexual and otherwise, is absurd and dangerous. You don’t think people will use this kind of power to abuse people to get what they want?

    Even if they have good motives, as Sowell mentions in this video, they will have a tendency to mouth off about things they know little to nothing about. I have come to believe Mohler had good intentions in supporting the courtship movement, and declaring that there are sins of delay of marriage and deliberate childlessness. In the former case their really were problems with hookups, and in the latter case, there really is/was a declining fertility rate. However, the courtship movement had a huge number of practical problems with it, to the point where, not only did it contribute to the delay of marriage by destroying intimacy between single men and women, claiming that there was “inappropriate intimacy” when scripture never forbade that intimacy, but Harris himself has abandoned it. There have been other factors in the breakdown of male and female relationships, to be fair, but solving these problems by using the doctrine of sin and reading scripture through the lens of cultural problems rather than searching for the real problem helps no one, and can make things worse, as is the case with concocting sins of delay of marriage and deliberate childlessness.

    I also consider the way intellectuals in the SBC have abused “the sufficiency of scripture” to mean that you don’t need practical knowledge of human relationships or other factors in applying scripture. Luther and the other reformers would *never* have accepted that definition, because they understood that the intent of one’s actions depends upon the context of one’s actions. You are not following scripture when you think you are upholding one section of scripture all the while violating another section of scripture because you don’t have the background knowledge to understand what effect your advice will have on others. In fact, the abuse of that phrase has done more to stop criticisms of this teaching on gender than anything I can think of. They can dismiss the limitations on their own knowledge and the damage mouthing off about things they know nothing about will cause with “the sufficiency of scripture.”

    All in all, the SBC has to recognize that this mentality of intellectuals as leaders is a dangerous thing. Certainly, *not* all intellectuals will fall for these traps, but simply giving someone power just because they are intelligent and charismatic is dangerous. Not only can people use the facade of sin, holiness, and righteousness to line their pockets with money or sexually abuse others, but they can cause major damage by mouthing off about things they know nothing about. The SBC needs to shift their focus from intellectuals to the laity. Ministering to and equipping the laity should be the #1 priority of leaders in the SBC, and the success of the leaders should be measured by how well they minister to and equip the sheep…not their intelligence and verbal virtuosity in the pulpit.

    • Actually, the problems in the SBC are a confluence of a number of things, many of which are several decades in the making.

      Sex scandals are not a new phenomenon in the evangelical world, let alone the SBC. And while complementarianism is a recent construct, it has been in functional practice in conservative circles for a long time. Patterson’s attitudes toward women are reflective of a large swath of Southern Baptists, and that precedes even the conservative resurgence (CR) that began in the late 1970s.

      The leadership of the SBC, even before the CR, has always been a good-old-boys network. While the CR was good in that it pushed out the liberals who were dominating every SBC entity to include the seminaries, the problem is that they replaced a left-leaning good-old-boys network with a right-leaning one. So even though they solved their theology problem, they failed to address their cultural problem, even as they repackaged key entities (such as the Sunday School Board, which is now LifeWay; and the Foreign Missions Board, which is now the International Missions Board; and the Home Missions Board, which is now the North American Missions Board). The good-old-boys network remained.

      In effect, accountability, which never existed before, continued to be absent.

      Mohler’s fundamental issues in particular have been (1) his failure to address severe immoralities and coverups by his colleagues, and (2) his failure to practice vigilance to root the same out within SBC ranks.

      He believed that “it can’t happen here”, because–like other conservatives (some of whom are hard Calvinists, too) I know–he bought into the idea that “these kinds of sins are the result of bad theology”. As a result, he tacitly bought into the idea that “since our theology is golden, we don’t have that problem.”

      Now, they have a critical mass of wolves and snakes that have infested the convention, from local churches to the highest echelons of leadership. And Mohler is just now coming to terms with that.

      He has a lot for which to repent here, as the tsunami that he is facing is one that he could have prevented.

      • Amir, while I certainly agree that there have been many influences on Patterson, I simply cannot help but see the centrality of his power in what happened at SWBTS. Consider the following Christian Post news article:

        https://www.christianpost.com/news/paige-patterson-scandal-female-alumni-recount-toxic-environment-2003-rape-victim-speaks-224468/

        In the first place, you have a man engaging in egregious behavior. You can read the actual first hand account of the story here:

        https://sbctoo.wordpress.com/2018/05/26/why-the-removal-of-paige-patterson-isnt-enough/

        Notice how even the chief of security guards believed the women, and the boy was going to be punished…until Patterson got involved. Read this other firsthand account, and you will see the same thing:

        https://speakingthetruthofherheart.wordpress.com/2018/05/28/the-journey-begins/

        Notice the Pattersons had the attitude of you either being all in with them or they labeled you as the enemy. That is typical of intellectuals, and when they don’t know what they are talking about or their own sin causes damage (or, in this case, a combination of the two), they have knack for blaming someone other than themselves. Often, it is the women who are blamed for things like “immodesty,” even though it sounds like their standards of modesty were absurd. The result is the intellectuals can say, “See, we were right all along!”

        I am not someone to just believe women, especially after the Duke LaCrosse case. However, these stories are remarkably consistent, and point to serious deficiencies in the knowledge and character of Paige Patterson. The idea that people should be given power simply due to their knowledge and charisma is dangerous. It has happened in politics with all these scandals, and it looks like it has happened in the church too. If we don’t start seeing the danger of giving power simply due to intelligence and charisma, this kind of thing will keep on happening. Man is corrupt…even intelligent men are corrupt. They are also limited and finite, and, although they may be brilliant in one area of theology, they are absolutely handicapped when you get them out of their specialty. Yet, I cannot help but see just such a person in Paige Patterson at the center of power in all these stories. That is quite dangerous.

  3. The problem is it isn’t just Patterson. He represents an entire faction of Southern Baptists. The trustees at SWBTS finally fired him, but only after the public outcry was so loud that they could no longer cover it up.

    The downside: I’m not at all convinced that the other SBC faction–the NeoCals–is materially better. They may even be worse.

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