“Wish you would step back from that ledge my friend…”

My good buddy and Production Assistant John Cheatham alerted me to a great article through his blog. Basically, the topic is Mark Driscoll. Recently, Mark came and spoke at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS). It seems that every time Mark comes to the seminary there is some kind of controversy. If you know anything about Southern Baptist seminaries and anything about Mark Driscoll, you know that they don't exactly fit the same profile.

Anyway, the article to which John alerted me was by Dr. Alvin Reid, a professor at Southeastern. Dr. Reid basically came to Driscoll's defense stating that all the great heroes of the faith had their flaws and we shouldn't write someone off just because they do something we don't agree with. John reproduced the whole article on his blog and you can read it here, but I want to focus in a couple of statements. 

Statement # 1: 

I have a problem with Alvin Reid. Yes, I have a problem with myself. I am pretty sure I really love Jesus and my main motive in life is to bring glory to God. I love my family, my students, and my convention. But sometimes I have added to the institutionalism and programmatic ministry that plagues us now. And I have a problem with that.

Wow. That's a solid statement and a sober admission. So many people from my generation are done with the SBC because it has become so institutionalized and programmatic. The SBC has become a well oiled machine which should be a good thing. But anyone who operates machinery knows that a machine doesn't stop for you. It's programmed a specific way and refuses to operate outside of its programming. Anyone who doesn't fit well within the pre-programmed package will get chewed up and spit out. 

That is essentially my story with the SBC and particularly SEBTS. I was an applicant to their Ph.D program. When I didn't make it in, I knew it wasn't because of my 3.929 GPA, my solid academic recommendations, or the way that I nailed the entrance exam. So I tried to inquire as to why I was not admitted, but I was met with resistance and rudeness. When I spoke with a trustee about the way I was being treated his words were that this was "not in keeping with basic christian fellowship." After several months and a review of the situation by the Dean of the Faculty (Dr. Nelson), I was told that it would not be worth my while to reapply as they had no intention of ever letting me into the program. There were several reasons stated (although somewhat veiled) for my outright dismissal. They basically all boiled down to the fact that I don't fit in very well. I was young and naive (still am) and thought maybe I could have an impact on my convention from the inside. Turns out, they don't want people like me and do everything they can to chase us away. Ironically, one of the specific complaints was that I use language that "some have deemed coarse and inappropriate." It's ironic because the seminary now seems to have such a close relationship with Mark Driscoll who has been criticized as using coarse and inappropriate language.  

Statement # 2:
I have a problem with my convention, when we… continually confuse personal preferences with unchanging truth, and when we castigate younger men who love Jesus and His truth for simply doing what we taught them to do: study and honor the Word (when they come to different conclusions than some of us on secondary issues, they scratch their heads at the response they get).

Statement #3:
I am tired of talking good younger men off the ledge from leaving the SBC.

Wow. If I had known Dr. Reid better at the time, perhaps he could have talked me back from the ledge. Instead, several months later I found myself in President Aiken's office saying these words: "I'm over you. I'm over this school. I'm over this convention. I've had enough, and I'm done." Dr. Aiken made no attempt to talk me back from ledge. To be fair, he could probably tell I had already taken the plunge.