The Rise and Fall of Paige Patterson: On the Two Year Anniversary of Patterson’s Firing at SWBTS
A Guest Post by Lee Enochs
This month marks the two year anniversary of the firing of Southern Baptist icon. Dr. Paige Patterson, former President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, the primary architect of the “Conservative Resurgence” within the Southern Baptist Convention.
This month also marks the two year anniversary of Patterson’s resignation from the board of trustees at Cedarville University.
In light of the current crisis transpiring at Cedarville University, it should be noted that both Dr. Thomas White and Dr. Anthony Moore were proteges of Patterson at SWBTS.
I studied church history at both Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Princeton Theological Seminary and in my estimation, it is doubtful there has been a more influential leader in Southern Baptist circles than Paige Patterson, who, along with Princeton University graduate and former Houston judge Paul Pressler, were responsible for turning the largest Protestant denomination in the United States back to its conservative Evangelical theological roots.
Despite his massive influence in Southern Baptist churches, Patterson was not without his many detractors.
My personal opinion on Paige Patterson is complex. While I most certainly agree with his views on the inerrancy of the Bible and the centrality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the life of the church, I entirely disagreed with his vocal opposition to Calvinism.
Patterson’s ineffectual attacks on Calvinist theology most definitely alienated me since I grew up a major supporter of Reformed theologians such as RC Sproul and Mike Horton, who is currently the G. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminister Theological Seminary in California.
I also was personally alienated by Paige Patterson’s administrative style at SWBTS. To this day, I personally do not know why he had stained glass images of himself and other Southern Baptist leaders in the new chapel windows and I thank God for new SWBTS President Adam Greenway’s removal of those stained glass windows last year.
I also don’t know why Patterson had the carcasses of dead exotic animals shot on big game hunts on SWBTS property.
During my student years at SWBTS, I also became concerned with the way he was spending seminary money and believed from the beginning that the expensive and alleged “Dead Sea Scroll” fragments Patterson brought to campus in a much-hyped exhibit, were forgeries.
Even worst than these egregious missteps, I entirely disagreed with Patterson when he waived the admissions requirement to be a Christian for a student from the Middle East.
Yet, none of these issues led to Patterson’s ultimate downfall at SWBTS. His apparent mishandling of an assault case led to his termination by the board of trustees almost two years ago. If those allegations concerning Patterson are true, then, it appears that the Trusteeship of SWBTS had no recourse but to fire Patterson in 2018. I just hope SWBTS gave Patterson due process before they fired him.
As a conservative Evangelical who believes in the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy as Paige Patterson does, I am greatly appreciative of his stand for this most important tenet of Christian theology. Yet, I reject many other things Patterson stood for and accomplished in taking over the Southern Baptist Convention.
Paradoxically, however, the Southern Baptist Convention appears to be drifting towards liberalism again. Perhaps we need some more Paige Patterson type champions of conservative theology to arise again minus the baggage Patterson brought with him. Despite Patterson’s failings, I do not think Southern Baptists are better off now than when Patterson was a major influence in the Southern Baptist Convention.
Lee Enochs is a 2014 graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a 2018 graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary. Lee is also the leader of Conservatives for California, a non-profit educational organization, dedicated to the revitalization of conservatism throughout the Golden State of California. Additionally, Lee is the author of A Biblical Defense of Capitalism.