The Firing of Paige Patterson

Yesterday morning, I woke up to the news that Paige Patterson, President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was fired overnight by the school’s board of directors. He was not personally accused of any sex abuse, but still, he made some very crude comments toward young women and took a controversial stance on gender roles and domestic violence.

Scrolling through social media, I can see that friends and ministry partners are all over the map on this one. D.A. Horton tweeted “Dear #SBC18, I’m deeply grieved how power & privilege inside our convention are used to build walls of self-preservation & systemic protection.”

And a former student of mine wrote, “For months now I have been praying about this seminary and whether or not I should consider applying. Paige Patterson remained the biggest stumbling block in my decision, originally because of his disdain for the doctrines of grace, but more so now because of his more recent scandals. I am very happy with the decision that has been made.”

Meanwhile, other Christians cry foul at this decision by the Board of Directors. One seminary professor wrote, “The timing and tactics in this situation are those of the Left. This is how they take out good men and they’ll continue to do this. It’s just getting started.”

Without a doubt, there is a double-standard in morality between what the world expects of Christians, and what they expect of themselves. The left claims love and tolerance for all, yet silences intelligent design theorists and anyone with a Judeo-Christian worldview on sexual ethics. Yes, there is hypocrisy on the left. But when they identify legitimate failings on our part, we must not be guilty of the same hypocrisy. We must be swift to admit wrongdoing and model biblical repentance, not play the same cover-up tactics they are used to seeing.

This is a messy issue. Both sides need to avoid knee jerk reactions and visceral posts that social media engenders. We are not privy to full details of what went on in that Board meeting Tuesday night. I believe those board members sought God’s wisdom, and made a Spirit-led decision that would show a balance of grace and truth — neither condoning Patterson’s actions, nor ignoring his many years of faithful service.

I close by reposting what I wrote yesterday to a friend on Facebook: “Amidst a long and faithful ministry, Dr. Patterson made some unwise and offensive remarks that hurt our gospel witness and came back to bite him. He was no Larry Nasser or Harvey Weinstein, and it’s questionable whether he should have been fired for his remarks, but it’s a sobering reminder that ‘Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness’ ” (James 3:1).