Wade Burleson, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Oklahoma, has posted some disturbing information about the #DOWNGRADE at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary under the directives of Paige Patterson. In the Istoria Ministries Blog, Burleson alleges that Paige Patterson – contrary to the admissions policy at SWBTS – instituted a unilateral directive as of 2012 to allow the admission of devout, practicing Muslims into the School of Theology.
Please note the mission statement for the School of Theology:
“Our purpose is to provide graduate theological education for students preparing for Christian Ministry [emphasis mine]. To accomplish this task a curriculum is composed of basic biblical, historical and theological and practical disciplines, designed to prepare the student for effective pastoral ministry and other ministries of the church and to correlate the content and practice of the Christian Faith [emphasis mine].”
According to Burleson, Patterson warned the faculty in a meeting held in 2012 that any faculty member challenging him on the admission of non-Christian students to the seminary would be in jeopardy of punitive consequences. This has not sat well with certain of the faculty, according to Burleson who writes…
The campus is abuzz. Many faculty are upset. Yet, most are afraid to say anything because of ‘repercussions.’ I’ve been told by students, “I don’t want my transcripts blocked for speaking out” and many of the faculty are concerned for their jobs. All the while, Dr. Patterson acts as if there is nothing wrong with Southern Baptists, through the Cooperative Program, funding the theological education of practicing Muslims. He is intending to enroll a father/son Muslim team in the near future. Dr. Patterson is turning SWBTS is school without Christian distinctive.
One such student is Ghassan [Last Name Withheld**] a PhD student from Egypt, studying archeology. Burleson reports a terribly alarming account of IMB missionaries shock in not only finding out a devout Muslim was a student at Southwestern, but that their lives were then put in jeopardy because their identities were made known to some one who’s not exactly on our side.
At a prayer breakfast this past fall, several International Mission Board missionaries and employees from foreign countries were invited to participate, along with students at Southwestern Theological Seminary. As introductions were being made, Ghassan introduced himself as “a Muslim” at Southwestern. Thinking that he had said “a minister to Muslims,” one of our IMB missionaries responded, “And where do you minister to Muslims?” Ghassan responded, “No, I AM a Muslim. I believe there is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.” Immediately, our IMB missionaries began removing their name tags. Some of those missionaries were in Security Three zones where their very identity is supposed to be protected.*
A single Muslim enrolled at a Southern Baptist Seminary may not seem like a huge matter. Trust me; it most certainly is. We’re not talking about an undergraduate program an SBC-affiliated liberal arts college. We’re talking about an institution of exclusively Christian education funded by Southern Baptists to train ministers in various fields to advance the cause of Jesus. Southwestern, like the other five seminaries, are funded by Cooperative Program dollars given by local churches. In fact, a whopping 22% of all Cooperative Program giving funds our seminaries. And these funds are going to subsidize the education of a practicing, devout Muslim so that he can oppose the cause of Christ.
Think about it for a minute…
Why would an Egyptian-born Muslim studying archeology need to study at a Southern Baptist seminary in the state of Texas? SWBTS doesn’t even rank in the top 200 for archeology programs worldwide, nor does it register on the list of top archeology programs in the United States.
Let me reverse the question…
Why would a Texan-born Southern Baptist believer study archeology in an Islamic culture and context while living and learning from Muslims regarding that culture and context? There’s only one reason. He would have to be an intentional, cross-cultural evangelist or missionary. Studying archeology to substantiate the historical claims of your faith tradition, while doing it in and among the very people that you hope to evangelize so that you can understand their culture and better enable their conversion.
Ladies and Gentlemen, our Southern Baptist Seminary is training Islamic missionaries.
[UPDATE:] Thanks to a certain Pulpit & Pen contributor, I was put in touch with student at SWBTS who has substantiated for me in detail the following facts:
(1) Ghassan is a practicing Muslim, although he says that “devout” might be too strong a term.
(2) Ghassan is most certainly not a believer in Christ, nor does he confess to be.
(3) Ghassan was a student from
Egypt Palestine, in Palestine in Egypt, and while there met a team from SWBTS and his PhD focus of study interested a professor or administrator in the SWBTS archeology department and so he was invited to attend SWBTS.
[UPDATE:] I have removed Ghassan’s full name and his photograph, so as to protect him from any repercussions that he may experience in the Middle East for being at the center of the controversy.
[UPDATE:] Patterson has responded. You can read his statement here. I’ll provide a brief excerpt:
“One of these young men from a Muslim background loved our people and asked to study with us. He accepted the necessity of abiding by our moral code of conduct. He is a man of peace, and we agreed to admit him into the archeology program.”
Patterson said he has made similar exceptions on rare occasions during his presidencies at Southwestern, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Criswell College. He estimated having done so four or five times in his nearly 40 years of academic administration. His intention for the exceptions each time, including this one, was based on a desire to see these individuals understand the good news of Jesus Christ.
“This man’s progress has been good,” Patterson said, “and we are especially grateful for the close relations that have been forged with peaceful Muslims and the opportunities that we have had to share biblical truths with them. In all of this there is not even a hint of compromise of our historic position.”
In short, yes – Patterson has admitted into SWBTS an observing Muslim whose education is being subsidized by Cooperative Program dollars given to advance the cause of Christ by training Gospel ministers.
Patterson notes, however, that the man agreed to the moral code of conduct. Does that make anyone feel better? There’s nothing like a little moralism to make that Islam go down smoother!
Patterson acknowledges that he has made similar exceptions. This is called rule-bending the last time I checked. Is Patterson allowed by the trustees to unilaterally break the admissions policy?
Notice Patterson’s reason, it was “based on a desire to see these individuals understand the good news of Jesus Christ.” To train non-believers in programs designed for believers is to give the enemy inside-training into how Southern Baptists operate and propagate the Gospel and accomplish our mission. Does this sound like a good idea to anybody else? No wonder this is against the rules that Patterson had to break. But like with Caner’s lies, if he did it with good intentions, it gets a pass. Right?
Patterson says “this man’s progress has been good.” What does that mean? Is he more moral now? If he hasn’t repented of his false religion and declared Jesus God, what kind of progress would you consider “good”?
Notice, Patterson speaks of thankfulness for the opportunities to share biblical truths. That sounds good, doesn’t it. Oh, yeah – except for one small thing. This controversy isn’t about reaching Muslims for Jesus. Is about training them and teaching them as though the already know Jesus. When this man graduates, we will be able to say that SWBTS has trained an observant Muslim in (no doubt Islamic-oriented) archeology with money provided through the CP to advance the cause of Jesus.
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