It is disturbing to watch the cowardly response of Dr. Paige Patterson’s colleagues as the SJW mob went after him. Patterson was a lion in Southern Baptist and complementarian circles. He was the president of two different Southern Baptist seminaries, a founding member of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), and a coauthor of the CBMW’s founding book. As Thabiti Anyabwile wrote back in 2006, Patterson led “the grassroots resurgence that moved the Southern Baptist Convention to conservative theological grounding over two decades ago”.
More important than the man, however, is the theology that was on trial. Patterson was attacked primarily because he:
- Counseled separation and not divorce in cases of serious abuse.
- Acknowledged that “abuse” is an extremely broad term and argued that a pastoral response should vary depending on the risk of serious harm.
The goal of feminists wasn’t just to destroy the man, but to get complementarians to agree that all Christians should:
- Never counsel anything short of divorce if a husband is accused of abuse.
- Accept the full breadth of the Christian feminist definition of abuse, which is anything that a husband does or doesn’t do that upsets his wife.
I won’t say there aren’t any major figures in the complementarian movement who have pushed back against these two feminist demands as the SJW mob went after Patterson, but if they exist I have yet to locate them.
The first example I’ll offer is the absolutely hysterical response from Dr. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mohler described the SJW lynch mob attacking Patterson as representing the wrath of God*
America’s largest evangelical denomination has been in the headlines day after day. The SBC is in the midst of its own horrifying #MeToo moment.
…The judgment of God has come.
Judgment has now come to the house of the Southern Baptist Convention. The terrible swift sword of public humiliation has come with a vengeance. There can be no doubt that this story is not over.
Mohler argued that the only possible response to SJW slander is to act as if the slander is legitimate. Any and every SJW accusation should hereafter result in a private third party investigation (emphasis mine):
A church, denomination, or Christian ministry must look outside of itself when confronted with a pattern of mishandling such responsibilities, or merely of being charged with such a pattern. We cannot vindicate ourselves. That is the advice I have given consistently for many years. I now must make this judgment a matter of public commitment. I believe that any public accusation concerning such a pattern requires an independent, third-party investigation. In making this judgment, I make public what I want to be held to do should, God forbid, such a responsibility arise.
Mohler closed with:
This is just a foretaste of the wrath of God poured out. This moment requires the very best of us. The Southern Baptist Convention is on trial and our public credibility is at stake. May God have mercy on us all.
But Mohler wasn’t alone in throwing Patterson under the bus for holding to a plain reading of Scripture. Three days after Beth Moore demanded that complementarians stop discouraging divorce if the wife claims abuse, CBMW President Denny Burke published an article titled What about divorce and abuse? While Burke didn’t mention Patterson by name in the article, at the time he maintained that this was a topic Evangelicals could disagree on in good faith:
Evangelicals have never been monolithic in their views about divorce. Some believe that the Bible disallows divorce altogether. Others believe that the Bible allows for divorce in certain situations (see Matt. 19 and 1 Cor. 7). There is no one view on divorce that has commanded the consensus of evangelicals. My view is the latter, and I suspect that it is the view held by the majority of evangelicals (though certainly not all).
Nevertheless, Burke explained that in his own view wives who accuse husbands of abuse should be counseled to first separate from their husband and then divorce him. This is in Burke’s words, a necessity:
In my 2013 book on sexual ethics, I argue that “abused spouses should separate from abusive situations in order to protect themselves and their children” (What Is the Meaning of Sex, p. 135). That separation is a necessity for the safety and welfare of the family. An abusive spouse has made choices that force a separation, and the abuse therefore can become tantamount to desertion. That is why I conclude that when the abuser “leaves” the marriage in this way, the “exception for desertion comes into play (1 Cor. 7:15).
This brings us to the other half of the SJW charge against Patterson; the question of the definition of abuse. Burke answers the question with a link to the CBMW’s recently revised statement on abuse:
*For more on the subject of abuse, see CBMW’s “Statement on Abuse.”
If you follow the link, you will find that practically speaking the CBMW statement defines abuse as anything a husband does or doesn’t do that upsets his wife:
- We believe abuse can be defined as any act or failure to act resulting in imminent risk, serious injury, death, physical or emotional or sexual harm, or exploitation of another person.
- We condemn all forms of physical, sexual and/or verbal abuse.
This was a near perfect victory for Beth Moore and the SJWs, but they still hadn’t managed to get Burke and the CBMW to agree that Patterson’s views were unacceptable. For that they would have to wait until Southwestern Seminary forced Patterson out. On that same day (May 23rd), Burke responded to Patterson’s dismissal with an article on the CBMW website titled A Time for Moral Clarity. In this article Burke repeatedly stated his agreement with Albert Mohler, implying that the SJW lynch mob against Patterson was sent from God:
Evangelicals have been facing a moment of truth concerning abuse and misconduct in our own ranks. Recently, attention has been focused on Southwestern Seminary and its president. The controversy centers on past remarks about pastoral counsel to an abuse victim and about the objectification of a teenage girl.
As Albert Mohler declared earlier today, it really does seem to be a time of reckoning. But it is not only that. It is also a time for moral clarity from all followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, especially as we consider the sobering words of 1 Peter 4:17: “It is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”
Burke closed the article with:
If you still haven’t read the essay Mohler wrote, you need to. I resonate with it deeply and believe it to be a tremendous display of denominational statesmanship.
Note that while Burke doesn’t have the courage to say it outright, by agreeing with Mohler he left no room for good Christians to hold that separation and not divorce should be counseled in the case of abuse. Nor did he leave room for good Christians to disagree with the feminist definition of abuse, which is anything and everything that upsets a wife.
Along with the CBMW, the other big complementarian organization is The Gospel Coalition (TGC). TGC Council member Thabiti Anyabwile responded to the SJW mob’s ousting of Patterson with an article titled Sin on CP Time. Like Mohler and Burke, Anyabwile declared that the SJW mob victory was good and Patterson’s deviance from feminism was theologically unacceptable (emphasis mine):
…Consider the pastors whose sins have crawled out of dark secrecy recently to speak against them on spotlit stages. Praise God most of these pastors have not been as heinous as Cosby or Nasser, but that doesn’t mean their failings aren’t serious.
This morning the trustees at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary issued a statement announcing that Paige Patterson will no longer be president of that institution. Though the statement doesn’t mention the swirling controversy over Patterson’s comments about a young girl’s body or unbiblical counsel to women in abusive situations, the decision is at least linked by timing. Patterson’s comments were flat-out wrong and a pretty serious misrepresentation of the Bible he defended. This marks the sad end to a long and at times valiant career in service to the church and the gospel.
Anyabwile says it would have been better for Patterson if his sins against feminism had been exposed at a young age. As it stands, Patterson’s long career has now ended in total disgrace:
It’s also better to deal with these things while we are young. Older people fall harder and get up slower. We can spend our youth attempting to avoid these things, hoping they won’t shipwreck a ministry or a career. We can then spend our ministry ignoring these things, justifying them by pointing to our apparent “success.” Then when we’ve passed through middle age into retirement, we can justify continuing silence by saying, “Why ruin a good reputation?” Consequently, the weight of long life, perhaps the added weight of some success, gain crushing force when our sins come to light later and our good reputations are harmed.
As SJW’s like to say, there is no room in the world of complementarians for men or women who believe that separation, not divorce, is the biblical solution to serious abuse. Nor is there room for men or women who don’t wholly accept the feminist definition of abuse. Paige Patterson’s beliefs were thought crimes against feminism, and the leadership of the complementarian movement is proud to have made an example of him
Related: Step up, so they don’t have to.
- Reader TMAC pointed out a May 30th Statement by the Southwestern Theological Seminary announcing that the board decided to strip Patterson of all remaining status and benefits.
- Deep Strength linked to a post by Dr. Norman Geisler titled: Why Firing Paige Patterson from the Presidency of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary was a Serious Mistake
- Reader YS linked to a defense of Patterson titled The untold truth: Facts surrounding Paige Patterson and his removal from SWBTS By Sharayah Colter