I need to choose my words carefully. In five or ten years, or even tomorrow, I and they might be the subject of public scrutiny. As a Baptist historian, I have been watching the unhappy affair at Southwestern unfold over the past month with great sadness. I am grieved that Paige said some things that could have been said better or that shouldn’t have been said at all. I am sad that Paige, for reasons beyond my comprehension, hasn’t as yet seen fit to sincerely recognize his wrong words. I cannot impugn his motives. That belongs to God. But I can consider his public words. He certainly appeared to say to a woman who was being physically abused to simply pray. He said that if she did, the abuse might get worse. She did and it did. I can understand why many find his “counsel” very bad.
I grant that this advice is twenty years old. However, could it not have been said better? Who of us hasn’t said things in the past that could have been said better? I for one am glad that not all of my past sermons were recorded (thought they were in heaven, but that is another matter). I wish that Paige had said simply and early on “what I said SOUNDS bad and should have been said better.” Would a simple admission such as this not nipped this whole controversy in the bud?
Then there was the comment about the teenager. He used, by his own words, comments about the girl that I wonder why a preacher of the gospel would need to use. Again, if he had simply said “I could have said this better.” Or better yet “this sounds bad and I am sorry for WHAT I SAID.” I wonder if the storm would have subsided. His failure to clearly acknowledge any wrong has fueled further investigation. Then this week there was the allegation that a rape on campus at SEBTS that was not reported to the proper authorities and that the woman was punished for her poor judgement in allowing the man into her apartment despite campus rules. The rape should have been reported.
Because of the public controversy and other matters, Paige was retired, apparently against his will, from the presidency of Southwestern. Sadly, Paige’s most recent comments to the students there really have not helped. “We are hurt, but we haven’t compromised.” Really, he seems to be saying, “I am being unjustly judged.” Really?
Sadly, some supporters of Paige have made things worse, but Paige seems to be his own worst enemy. He is not being persecuted. Some clear acknowledgment of wrong doing would go a long way to ending this controversy. I have not heard whether he will preach in June at Dallas. I wonder if he should. Others are more pronounced in their opinion. Will this create further criticism of the SBC? Many fear that if he preaches it will. As I am not a Southern Baptist, I don’t get to vote on this. If I did, whether I loved Paige or not and even if I thought him unjustly treated, I would still encourage him for the greater good to immediately withdraw his planned sermon.
But then there are the foes of Patterson. They want him decimated. This whole thing has become really pretty ugly. I do not take comfort in the fact that I am not a Southern Baptist. This is not happening to my group to be sure, but these men and women are brothers and sisters in Christ. For the record, I have a PhD from Southern, but I am not sitting back smugly saying, “well too bad for them.” In my opinion, we Baptists, all of us, look pretty bad. What is to be gained by Paige’s head on a pike?
Thankfully some in the SBC have seen that this is a watershed moment. Al Mohler, whom I greatly respect, wrote a very thoughtful piece. But then there was this response from Alan Rudnick. Wow!?!
Surely, this whole situation could have been handled better, at many levels. Paige, part of leadership is accepting the fallout from bad decisions. Is there nothing to say publicly? Still, some of what appears on the net is really unbecoming of a Christian. There seems to be a determined effort to destroy Paige Patterson. Can we not do better? God deliver us before we plunge into utter irrelevance!
There is a lost world watching our every move. Consider the case of David . . . Nathan suggested that David had given an occasion for the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme (2 Sam 12:14). [N.B. I know the specific sin was adultery on the king’s part. I am not suggesting that Paige has this kind of guilt.] Yet how did those enemies come to find out about David’s sin? From the prophet Nathan when he rebuked the king (2 Sam 12:7) at God’s instruction. God, through Nathan, exposed the very sin that would cause God’s enemies to blaspheme (2 Sam 12:1). Seems like God was more concerned with truth than appearances.