Originating From a Secret Bunker Dug By William Hosea Holcombe and J.B. Gambrell Somewhere Off the Square in Oxford, Mississippi
Back in November of 2016, Rick Patrick, executive director of a group called Connect 316, was allowed to speak in chapel at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX. Connect 316 is a group that has been promoting Eric Hankins’ Traditional Statement (hereafter called TS) within the Southern Baptist Convention since 2012. It is also important to note that Paige Patterson, the president of Southwestern, is one of less than .01% of all Southern Baptists who have actually signed on to the TS.
During Patrick’s talk, as you would expect, he promoted Connect 316 and by extension the TS (watch/listen here). He also attacked Calvinism, calling it a “Trojan horse.” Well okay. Southwestern is an institution of higher learning. In fairness, we would expect to hear from the other side, right? No. Instead, Dr. Patterson piled on with this:
“I know there are fair number of you who think you are a Calvinist, but understand there is a denomination which represents that view. It’s called Presbyterian.
“I have great respect for them. Many of them, the vast majority of them, are brothers in Christ, and I honor their position, but if I held that position I would become a Presbyterian. I would not remain a Baptist, because the Baptist position from the time of the Anabaptists, really from the time of the New Testament, is very different.”
After a firestorm ensued, Dr. Patterson kind of walked back his statement the next day. But this raises some serious questions. Here we have a man, Dr. Patterson, who was one of the main players, if not the main player, in the Conservative Resurgence back in the 1980s. This man knows how to play the political game (and yes it is definitely a political game) within the convention. Are we now supposed to believe that he naively invited Rick Patrick to Southwestern unaware of what was going to be said? Remember Dr. Patterson signed the TS. What was the motive for this chapel service?
A few years back, reputable people in the leadership of Louisiana College claimed that the TS was being pushed as the school’s doctrinal statement by none other than David Hankins, the Executive Director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention and Eric Hankins’ father. And Hankins might have been successful had it not been for all the other shenanigans going on at Louisiana College. So for the moment, despite Hankins’ best efforts, the Baptist Faith and Message remains as Louisiana College’s official doctrinal statement.
But it makes one wonder, was this chapel service at Southwestern another testing of the waters to see if there is finally a climate to push something akin to the TS, but this time in Texas? If so, I would guess the Connect 316ers are a little disappointed with the feedback.
P.S. As an aside, for those who think they descend theologically from the Anabaptists, please understand there is a denomination which represents that view as well. It’s called the Mennonites.
In 2013 at Louisiana College in Pineville, Louisiana, there was a dust up concerning Calvinism. (Louisiana College is a Baptist college affiliated with the Louisiana Baptist Convention.) It is believed that three professors did not have their contracts renewed there because Calvinism was allegedly being pushed on students. Additionally, Dr. Chuck Quarles, who was then Dean of Louisiana College’s Caskey School of Divinity and now teaches at the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, was forced to resign. Interestingly, shortly after leaving Louisiana College, Quarles was admitted to the Society for New Testament Studies. Only two other Southern Baptists are members of this society, which is widely deemed the most prestigious society of New Testament scholars in the world.
According to a Shreveport Times article dated March 15, 2014 (“Was Calvinism or politics at root of Louisiana College conflict?“), audio tapes have been made available to the secular press that appear to show the alleged pushing of Calvinism at Louisiana College was totally contrived. Conversely, quoting Dr. Quarles, the article also implies that the Executive Director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention was pushing the Traditional Statement as a formal doctrinal statement at the Caskey School of Divinity. The effect would have been to narrow the parameters of the Baptist Faith and Message to a place where Calvinist leaning professors would have been excluded. Please note that the Executive Director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention is none other than David Hankins, father of Eric Hankins, who is pastor of Oxford’s First Baptist Church and author of the Traditional Statement.
So what hath Oxford to do with Pineville? If the Times article is accurate, then a controversial document originating from Oxford, Mississippi, may have played a part in the forced resignation of a world-class biblical scholar at Louisiana College, who also happens to be a native of Lafayette County. To the sizable number of people from the Oxford area who signed the Traditional Statement, is this what you really wanted? Some of you know Chuck Quarles. I suspect a few claim to be his friend. Enough said.