FORT WORTH?Paige Patterson, a key architect in the conservative theological resurgence among Southern Baptists, was inaugurated Oct. 21 as the eighth president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary amid family, students, friends and colleagues. Majestic hymns and fiery exhortations from Baptist leaders?rife with historical references to past champions of biblical integrity?characterized the service.
The son of the late T.A. Patterson, a pastor and leader among Texas Baptists, Patterson and his platform guests entered the formal environs of Travis Avenue Baptist Church adorned in academic robes and regalia.
New Orleans Seminary President Charles Kelley and O.S. Hawkins, Southern Baptist Convention Annuity Board president, charged Patterson with presidential responsibilities. Patterson’s son-in-law, Mark Howell, delivered the inaugural message.
The program included Baptist leaders such as SBC President Jack Graham and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Executive Director, Jim Richards, who greeted Patterson on behalf of the SBTC’s 1,370 congregations.
“The churches of the SBTC believe in you, Dr. Patterson, and believe in Southwestern. Our shared core values make us spiritual partners,” Richards said.
Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler, citing the faith of the church fathers and later Baptist forebears, exhorted Patterson in his signing of the Baptist Faith and Message confessional statement. Kenneth Hemphill, Patterson’s predecessor, presented Patterson the seminary’s Presidential Medallion.
Hawkins’ charge to Patterson drew applause and was defined by a rousing historical account of seminary founding President B.H. Carroll’s doctrinal beliefs.
“President Carroll, Bible in hand, did more than standardize orthodoxy in Texas; he rallied the host of Baptists to the Bible doctrines of the Holy Scripture,” Hawkins said in quoting J.B. Gambrell, Carroll’s friend and contemporary.
“Southwestern has always been known as a conservative place. Why? Because we have always sought to conserve something: the trustworthiness of the word of God, the dreams and visions of those founders.
“So we come this evening to celebrate a president of Southwestern Seminary” characterized by the courage to fight for the inerrancy of Scripture, the conviction to use confessional accountability, the consistency to hold to the Bible amid cultural change and a belief in denominational cooperation.
Hawkins then quipped, “And lest anyone in here this evening misunderstand, and lest you (Patterson) get too puffed up, I’m not speaking of Dr. Paige Patterson. I’m speaking of Dr. B.H. Carroll, the founder of Southwestern Seminary.”
Hawkins said Carroll’s writings are documented in “hundreds of printed pages that leave us the answer” as to how Carroll might respond to current theological debates.
“B.H. Carroll, though he is dead, still speaks.”
Patterson said Carroll believed in the “verbal, plenary (complete) inspiration” of Scripture.
” ‘One part is no more inspired than any other part,'” Hawkins said, quoting from Carroll’s book “The Inspiration of Scripture.” “‘It is perfectly foolish to talk about degrees of inspiration. What Jesus said in the flesh as we find it in the four gospels is no more his word than what the inspired prophets or inspired apostles said.
” ‘In other words,’ Carroll said, ‘we cannot pit the words of Christ over the words of Paul, as some seek to do today.'”
Continuing his quoting of Carroll, Hawkins said, “‘The modern cry (of) less creed and more liberty is a degeneration from the vertebrate to the jellyfish and it means less unity and less morality and it means more heresy. It is a hurtful sin to magnify liberty at the expense of doctrine.’
Alluding to debate about SBC views on female pastors, Hawkins said Carroll believed in women’s ministry and even had deaconesses who served women at First Baptist Church, Waco. But, Hawkins said in quoting Carroll, “The custom in some congregations of having a woman as pastor is a flat contradiction to the apostolic teaching and is an open rebellion against Christ our king and is high treason against his sovereignty.”
Hawkins said Carroll immersed himself in denominational controversy, in Carroll’s words, “for one purpose ? to promote unity.”
Hawkins continued. “It’s not hard when we take time to read our forefathers in their own words to see who the real denominational loyalists and preservers of Baptist heritage truly are. One must ask, ‘Who has moved from Baptist roots?'”
Howell, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Little Rock, Ark., delivered the inaugural sermon, “Why Do We Do What We Do?” from Acts 20:17-38.