Prayer language (cont'd)

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Thu Oct 26 12:49:31 UTC 2006

Southwestern Seminary issues policy on Pentecostal/charismatic doctrine
Published: October 26, 2006

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)-Fixing its focus on historic New Testament and
Baptist doctrine to guide students in the tasks of world missions and
evangelism, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary will not knowingly
endorse contemporary charismatic practices such as a private prayer
language, nor hire professors who advocate the practice, according to a
statement issued by trustees Oct. 17. Earlier this semester one of the
seminary's new trustees preached a chapel message in which he defended the
practice of a private prayer language. In an Aug. 29 sermon, Texas pastor
Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, took
issue with the International Mission Board policy refusing to appoint
missionary candidates who engage in the contemporary neo-charismatic

SWBTS President Paige Patterson, in the midst of what he told the Southern
Baptist TEXAN would be a report on "exciting evidence of the blessings of
the hand of God" on the seminary, expressed as "unfortunate" the need to
address an action that was "ill-timed, inappropriate, unhelpful,
unnecessarily divisive, and contrary to the generally accepted
understandings and practices of Southern Baptists." Consequently, at the
president's encouragement in a closed-session forum Oct. 16, trustees
adopted a statement unanimously recommended by the board's executive
committee clarifying the seminary's perspective on private prayer language
with only one member, McKissic, voting in opposition.

The statement referenced the seminary's affiliation with the Southern
Baptist Convention for the sole purpose of "training men and women to
understand the Bible in all its ramifications in order to facilitate the
assignment of Christ as provided in the Great Commission," citing Matthew
28:18-20. "We wish to remain faithful to the biblical witness and its
emphases, taking into careful account the historic positions of Baptists
in general and Southern Baptists in particular," the trustees stated. "As
it concerns private practices of devotion, these practices, if genuinely
private, remain unknown to the general public and are, therefore, beyond
the purview of Southwestern Seminary." The trustees pledged, "Southwestern
will not knowingly endorse in any way, advertise, or commend the
conclusions of the contemporary charismatic movement including 'private
prayer language.' Neither will Southwestern knowingly employ professors or
administrators who promote such practices."

Southwestern's trustees expressed a resolve to devote the seminary's
energies to "the twin tasks of world missions and evangelism," emphases
which "were characteristic of our founders, B.H. Carroll, L.R.
Scarborough, and George W. Truett." Patterson told the TEXAN he expressed
in the Oct. 16 forum a desire to be "true to biblical instruction as
understood by our best efforts to interpret the message of the Bible,
while taking into account the positions of Baptists from the past." Most
Southern Baptists both acknowledge and advocate the practice of spiritual
gifts as described in the New Testament, he explained. However,
faithfulness to the entirety of the New Testament requires the need to
"test the spirits" to see if they are of God, he said.

Patterson said "sincere misunderstandings and misreadings of Scripture,
excesses, and sometimes apparent deliberate deception" sometimes occur. He
pledged that the seminary will always resist such errors in an effort to
be both a lighthouse for the Gospel and a stronghold for biblical
theology. "Southern Baptists have always recognized true brothers and
sisters in Christ within various charismatic groups and denominations,"
Patterson told the TEXAN. "In keeping with our historic Baptist
convictions, we affirm the right of all to believe and to promote the
convictions of their hearts." Based on "best efforts" to interpret
Scripture, Patterson added, "Neither in the past nor in the present have
many Baptists believed that the Pentecostal or charismatic movements
represented an accurate representation of New Testament doctrine and

Patterson said he told trustees the issue is not about the president of
Southwestern Seminary nor "a much esteemed and greatly loved pastor and
newly elected trustee." Instead, it concerns "Southwestern's trajectory
for the future - whether we shall be clearly identified as Baptist or only
baptistic." He described the choice as "whether we will remain distinctive
in our convictions or whether we will succumb to the neo-ecumenism of the
time, embracing, as it certainly does, many of the doctrines and emphases
of charismatic theology." While statements of faith from the Assemblies of
God reveal they are "baptistic" based on their advocacy of believer's
baptism by immersion, Patterson said they are not Baptist. "We can favor
the unity of God's born-again saints, which does not involve compromise,
but we cannot countenance any ecumenical movement, whether it be the
National Council of Churches or the pressure of the contemporary
neo-charismatic perspectives." Trustee chairman Van McClain of New York
indicated no further statement would be made regarding the subject.


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