Dismissiveness Toward Women Leads to Paige Patterson’s Dismissal, But Message Still ‘Not Sent’

By Tom Gilson Published on May 24, 2018

As Alex Chediak has reported, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has dismissed its president, Dr. Paige Patterson, placing him on emeritus status. The action follows strong public reaction to a series of remarks about women.

I was floored when I heard him tell a mother her son was “being biblical” when he ogled a 16 year-old girl in church and said, “Man, she is built.” I cannot imagine myself saying that in front of any other woman. I’d certainly never have done it around my late mother, and absolutely never my wife. Yet Patterson affirmed it as “biblical,” not just once, but again in the sermon excerpt you see in the video below.

His point in that message was that women are beautiful. That required no special knowledge of the Bible on his part, and no explication in front of a church — yet he pulled it out of the original Hebrew anyway. Seeking to be biblical, he should have rushed to add that God created both men and women in His image, equally human, equal in worth and dignity. Jesus very specifically condemned lustful thoughts.

Instead he affirmed a young man’s lustful comment toward a young woman. He also dismissed the other woman standing there at the time — the mom — by interfering with her act of correcting her son. That in itself was wrong. For similar reasons reason his recently publicized 1997 joke that “everyone should own one” — a woman, that is — is also astonishing.

God created both men and women in His image, equally human, equal in worth and dignity.

Not What Human Beings Are For

God made no woman to be used, either in any physical relationship outside the covenant of marriage, or even for men’s private visual lusting. That’s not what humans are for. In fact as a man, I’ve learned that’s the single healthiest way for me to respond when a woman catches my eye. Yes, she’s physically attractive, I’ll acknowledge, but I can be aware of that without using her for something God didn’t intend her for.

Patterson has reportedly apologized for some of this. He has not backed down, however, from his advice that a wife suffering abuse stay in the marriage. And he advised abused women not even to separate for a season except in the most extreme circumstances.

There is more to that statement than meets the eye. Better outcomes may result from this advice than people have given Patterson credit for. Marriage matters. Separation is a serious thing. Civil divorce is to be avoided at all reasonable costs. Even on that most-charitable-possible view, though, I still see the scope of his recommendation as far, far too broad. A woman must have some recourse to protect herself. We wouldn’t think twice about putting a man in jail for beating a woman. Why should we consider that form of separation just and proper, but reject the far simpler separation of a husband and wife, for her protection and his correction?

Adding to the offense, Patterson allegedly encouraged a rape victim in 2003 to forgive her offender (which is biblical even for the worst offenses, as Christ has forgiven us ) without reporting him to the police (which is not).

Message Not Sent

Rachael Denhollander is an attorney and gymnast who was prominent in exposing the massive sex abuse scandal involving physician Larry Nassar, U.S. Gymnastics and Michigan State University. As an evangelical, she’s also been deeply involved in helping stop sexual harassment and abuse in the Church. She told The Stream in an interview, “I think we are seeing a microcosm of something that is rampant.… Patterson’s views are not unique; they are not unique at all. It’s actually very widespread.” Speaking of the seminary’s delayed — and mild — response, she said, “I think it says a lot about how widespread his views are, and how little we care.”

Al Mohler, the highly influential president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has likewise written of how widespread this problem is. Deeply rooted, too, for as Denhollander pointed out, “The message that this is unacceptable, and this is not what Scripture teaches, has definitely not been sent.”

It’s a disturbing thought, but not one to be passed over lightly. Patterson has been speaking dismissively toward women for a long time. Has no one whispered him a private warning? What did his wife think of all this? If anyone spoke up, it would appear he paid it too little mind.

Correction: Mild and Late

Correction is no longer optional in these #MeToo days, especially for a seminary president and the former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. The school board terminated him in the gentlest possible way, granting him emeritus status with pay and a permanent place of residence.

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He’s scheduled to deliver a major sermon at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting this summer. It remains to be seen whether he’ll be allowed to deliver it. It’s hard to imagine any positive outcome from him doing so. Not unless he takes it as his opportunity to deliver a heartfelt, biblical, and above all, believable message of repentance.

I’m hopeful that good will come of this. The Church, including more than just Southern Baptists, is too willing to dismiss men’s misbehaviors while dismissing women altogether. We’ve taken a few steps toward growth and improvement in this, but maybe we needed a turning point, something that would shout out clearly that it’s wrong. May these events prove to be that turning point.

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  • Chip Crawford

    “Al Mohler, the highly influential president… ” Godly, Biblically based responsible and caring leaders have a good influence, beneficial to all. I strongly appreciate Dr. Mohler’s example, his radio and other statements concerning current events from a Godly, Biblical view. This is edifying. The Patterson mode is not just another view of these matters – it is error, unBiblical and unGodly. He represents God wrongly – to the world, the Church and to would-be Christian leaders. This is a serious matter. I hope the truth of this is established in the Church everywhere, along with Baptist circles, not just treated as a differing opinion somewhat sanctioned with an early retirement. We must note the fruit of his ministry in these critical inner values as well as its lack of blessing. The Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, KY, though not touted as perfect, nevertheless thrives as do its students. These times cry out for true and wholesome products of the Gospel to shine as lights in this darkening world, not produce equally cringe worthy ignorance and practice of what is unloving and unsound.

    • Christine Wright

      “Unenlightened” is a term often used by the political left but has no biblical basis. As a general rule I don’t mind a church leader pointing out “unenlightened” things that are biblical.

      I don’t know if this leader went too far as I don’t stay up to date with what’s going on in various seminaries (and i didnt find the promised video of one sermon in question) but I do know people can take statements either spoken or written out of context and either twist the words used, or just hear something different than what was intended by the speaker.

      The above is why a pastor needs to be careful with the words he chooses, in most cases. It’s not about having an enlightened or unenlightened interpretation of the Bible as there is only one interpretation and that’s Gods.

      As a result we must look at each individual spoken or written alleged Biblical error made by this individual in full context (and full wording) and make our own judgements of what this man has done or said.. taking also his explanation into account. What matters is whether or not the Truth was spoken and whether or not this man has the capability to effectively communicate that Truth.

      The every man should own one comment could have easily been a joke. We weren’t given information on the conversation or question that led to such wording… that portion is thrown in rather oddly Into the article and it’s clear we weren’t told what led up to the statement – more information may have found us laughing, we just don’t know.

      As for the correcting the woman when she said her child was wrong, again I don’t know the whole story because I haven’t seen the promised video because it’s nowhere to be found, so i can’t make a truly informed judgement.

      As for saying that “abused women should pray for their husband’s” and only leave/separate/divorce them in extreme cases I think is a very rational statement and teaching – and I very much WAS an abused woman. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that statement. Its biblical and rational and also speaks to women today.

      I actually know a couple who had a fight, and the husband yelled at his wife. He yelled at her and then left the house to have the space and time to calm down. It was a mistake sure, but we all make mistakes sometimes. She had been yelling at him and nagging and egging it on til he lost his cool and yelled back. While wrong its at least understandable.

      She called the police and he was charged with domestic terrorism because he scared her. He didn’t threaten her.. but he was charged with domestic terrorism because she got scared when he raised his voice.

      That is what amounts to “abuse” in our day and its not abuse. Not even close. I had to have 10,000 dollars worth of facial reconstructive surgery because of one small bout of abuse once that was the least of what I lived with daily and can promise you someone’s husband yelling at them once doesn’t qualify as abuse, yet today there is a political move by feminists to change the definition of the word til it literally has no meaning.

      Girls today are growing up not knowing what abuse is, it’s to the point they assume a boy looking at them with “lust in their heart” is abuse when rather it is typical for a boy at a certain age to start being curious (and even lustful) about young girls.

      Do boys need to learn self control? Does the Bible teach self control? Why yes, yes it does.. (thank God) but it doesn’t mean it would rise to the level of abuse in non biblical terms.

      What I really think from what is presented in this article, is that this leader’s political views muddled with his religious views and he spoke in a religious context about his political views.

      The above can be considered time to take a break or step down from his position, but it’s not time for a lynching so it seems we fit in with the world better. That’s not what our job is, our job is speaking the Truth to the lost, and for our elders and pastors to lead us into a better relationship with God. The question is always are our leaders doing that..?

      That answer will determine our reponse to our pastors and leaders, not what the world thinks.

      • Chip Crawford

        Thanks for the chuckle. You must be a fan. A gymnast likely as well, attempting to twist and stretch thoughts and words to your pattern. Just some highlights: His denominational leadership is using the hook to remove him from stage. Many deem it very overdue. But you know better – that slight misunderstood reference here and there. These are not worldly people doing this. Don’t like “unenlightened?” Ignorant fits very well, which we hope is the case in preference to a deliberate carnal and non-Jesus attitude toward women. The Master never supported or endorsed or taught resignation to spousal or other abuse as a woman’s lot and place. We’ll have to ask Rev. Patterson if men are to be resigned to and ongoingly forgiving of a woman violating her vows and other abusive words and deeds against her husband. Just be patient, sir, forgive and pray when she empties the account for a gambling problem, other self-interested and lack of control behaviors. The church is not worldly when it spurns abuse of women, because God does the same. Again, no slight or passing detail here, but a pattern that is costing the witness of the Lord to the world and providing a wrong example to young people seeking to enter the ministry. It also displeases our Lord, which should be paramount with all of us. No one is condemning, but efforts to influence when not successful must be followed by definitive action for the good of all. That is exactly what God does in his dealings with man who do not respond to him after a period of grace.

      • Chip Crawford

        I don’t follow the left’s word usage or allow them to take over words in the language. Ignorant would work as well if you’ve allowed enlightened to be appropriated by them in your own mind. Please note that Rev. Patterson’s spiritual oversight authority is essentially removing him from his place. That consequence is the result of his own failure to make a needed change after a period of grace. You have read the reports of noticeable physical abuse and the inadequate response. Rev. Patterson is in a real sense denying married women support and protection which even worldly laws afford. His position misrepresents the word, love and cause of Christ, making for a very poor witness to a hurting world. This is also adversely affecting the call of those desiring to enter the ministry.

        • Christine Wright

          I do understand that the oversight committe let him go. The point of this article is that letting him go wasn’t enough, but rather something akin to a mob dictating to the committee what should happen (a mob that doesn’t know the fullness of each situation) to him is more in order given how each situation could possibly be twisted by non believing feminists and the hard left.

          My entire point was along those lines. The far left should never dictate our behavior, but rather, we should be led by only the truth and seek the appropriate way to deal with situations.

          This isn’t going away, it will only get worse over the next decades to come. We have to decide if we will change us, in order to please them? Or if we will simply judge according to the truth?

          I think the committee, being closest to the situation, dealt with what happened as appropriately as possible and I see no reason to second guess that..

          The church is not a political entity, and we cannot allow the political to rule our behavior.

          • Chip Crawford

            You appear to hold this person and this situation in esteem, and I understand that. I try to picture someone I have admired and followed and held in esteem for their many gifts, contributions and length of service being disqualified for a fault. Noting that your responses are not unreasoned as a pattern, I can only understand this one in the above light. The denial is patent. Or do you have proof that those victimized by spouses seeking relief from counsel related to Rev. Patterson are posing? Or do you agree with counsel that a beaten and abused spouse has no recourse and that to seek such is leftist and worldy?

          • Christine Wright

            Your misunderstanding me (purposefully?) and asking that I explain what I’ve already clearly explained. I can think of no better way to say it atm and have zero desire to go in circles.

            Perhaps take a nice break and read what I’ve already said another day with a clear mind and heart and I’ll do the same.. perhaps one of us will see what I’ve said differently that way..

            If I see a better way to explain what I’ve said another day then I’ll do so.

          • Chip Crawford

            You need to prove your statements, not share your suspicions. Opinions and facts don’t conflate. God is a God of truth, and we are not entitled to our opinions over his Word and actual events, but to be truth tellers in all matters. This is the justice and integrity of his own nature. His children are called to this high standard regardless of what the world does.

          • Chip Crawford

            We cannot witness to and share truth with the world if we cannot produce accuracy and truth in our statements. They expect pre-judging from us, and it does not serve the cause of Christ to give it to them. Did you not rather make a leap to a conclusion that this matter was carried out due to worldly pressure? The Baptist have a good record for sticking with the Word, maybe legalistically in some cases, and this was a long time coming.

            You also question, or second guess, even seem to deny the accounts in the article. The author is experienced in his craft and an honest Christian who would verify his sources of information. It is contrary to the very nature of God to not relieve an animal, much less any person being harmed and abused, and then counsel them to buck up under it. Just because the world, at this point, wouldn’t even stoop to requiring someone to absorb that kind of abuse, doesn’t mean the Church should do the opposite.

          • Christine Wright

            Look, I will say a couple things and then back out, as your seem overly upset, angry and to be honest I haven’t a clue as to why, so I find that worrisome.

            Yes, we are all Christians here, but it seems since the writer is in the business of judging the actions of Christians, namely of the committee who dismissed Dr. Patterson, this puts us in the position to decide who is correct, the writer, or the committee. It is the author himself who placed you and I in this position – so yes I can question him and it doesn’t harm my integrity as a Christian.

            Believing every word that comes from his mouth as he speaks against other Christians WOULD harm my integrity as a Christian, gossip IS a sin, as I’m sure you know.

            I gave my conclusions based on what was provided in this article, the outside links and the opinions in the article itself. I concluded there wasn’t enough information to conclude the committe didn’t go far enough – which was the conclusion the writer wanted us to come to, yet I simply could not.

            It is also not contrary to the nature of the God I worship to allow suffering. Trials make us stronger, and God does not prevent us from trials. According to HIM we are like gold being refined in fire while in this world, that is why trials are called “firey” trials, and we become better Christians in them.

            God says in 1 Peter 2:19-20

            For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.

            If you notice, God allows us to suffer, suffering is a part of life and God isn’t changing that because suffering teaches us. Nearly all of the early Christians were killed in unimaginably horrific ways for their faith. God allows suffering.

            There is nothing contrary to the nature of God about that – Jesus Himself suffered. If it was contrary to the nature of God to allow suffering then none of us would ever suffer, Jesus wouldn’t have died on the cross and no Christian would have died for their faith.

            I will leave this conversation for the reasons I said in the beginning of writing this post. I wish you well.

          • Chip Crawford

            Dear Madam, you are astonishing the way you impose your judgments on one and all, that regardless of what officialdom, regulated bodies, persons connected with the circumstances and those verifying those, indeed Biblical instruction — you know better. I won’t even touch the mishmash of theology. As for being angry and all that, I can see how you would habitually draw that reaction from people and come to expect it. But don’t assign attitudes and motives to me. I’ll pray for you, as “wishes” fall very short in reality and truth, which is the only realm in which God operates.

          • Christine Wright

            I was talking about third party commentators saying the committee (which dismissed Patterson) didnt go far enough in their dismissal. That is what I was talking about from my first response to you. That is the “mob” I was referring to – one of third party commentators who weren’t there.

            I was attempting, inadequately, to have a conversation, a discussion not a debate. I didn’t do a good job of it, but that was my intent.

          • Chip Crawford

            God bless you.

          • Christine Wright

            You do realize how absolutely insincere that sounds at this point? It’s why I didn’t tell you I would pray for you, because I wasnt invoking God and be seen as using that in a manner that was anything but sincere.

            However, I have already prayed for you this morning, and will continue to keep you in my prayers. I say that with the utmost of sincerity.

          • Chip Crawford

            At what point?

            You do realize how absolutely self-righteous you sound …
            Go ahead and have the last word, since no doubt you must, but please respect my right to move away from what has become an absurd exchange – at this point
            I don’t invoke God, but live with him through it all. Don’t criticize what you don’t understand.

            Be advised I will flag you for moderator intervention if you persist in a pattern of pressing your obsessive commentary AT THIS POINT

  • Hmmm…

    We are speaking of Southern Baptists when we refer to these specific ministers and seminaries mentioned in this article. It is the matter at issue with Rev. Patterson, which in major part, has caused some of their old allegiances in individual churches to separate from them and join Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and other groups. Many have women taking more active ministry roles, including portions of service in readings, prayer, homilies and yes, ordained to the ministry. I know of a church making this move about 12 years ago due to too much stringent insistence on matters at issue in the scripture, which has done very well. Note that Paul was averse to women teaching men, etc., but after he actually heard Priscilla teach, from then on referred to the pair as Priscilla and Aquilla, in that order and opened his ministry to theirs, always referring to both of them. When you’ve heard women of God teach, preach, pray, counsel with authority and conviction with an unmistakable gift, you’ll just have to argue with the Giver of the gift(s). That these women participate in accountable affiliation is of course as essential as it is with men.

    • Charlene

      So Paul was wrong and you are right?

      I think Paul is more of a spiritual authority.

      • Bryan

        I think that was Paul was wrong then Paul was right. Also Paul wasn’t so right before he was Paul. Even canonized saints aren’t perfect.

      • Hmmm…

        I quoted Paul. He made an adjustment. It’s called growing

  • Ben Welliver

    In cases like this, I never judge. Any “he said / she said” situation is fully known only to the people present, and to God.

    • Chip Crawford

      This is so non applicable that I think you may be “responding” to the wrong article.

  • bbb

    Genderism is the chic topic of the day.
    With schools teaching homosexuality and child sex rings daily “discovered” by sex-driven media personalities, there is no doubt that “crotch” babble is everywhere and not likely to go away anytime soon.
    It’s gone too far and if people were honest rather than PC, Genderism is becoming really boring.
    A pastor or elder who encourages a young man to ‘ogle’ the opposite sex and maybe express some interest in a female rather than a male could well be reacting to ‘Genderism’.
    Mom wants her kid to be a gentleman, the church rep wants a boy to be a boy.
    If the girl in question was highly offended she is also suffering from ‘Genderism.’ If she laughed it off or just ignored the whole thing she is normal.
    Is this the worst possible thing that can happen to any of the people involved?
    Is this incident worthy of punishing anyone? Is this a sign of heresy in the church and equal to adultery or murder?
    Even the suspended pastor or elder or usher in a PC scenario can benefit from time to analyze what is happening to Christ’s people in today’s hyper-sensitive, hyper-surveilled new socialistic society.
    At some point people need to put the PC snake back in its cage.
    Read the Bible cover to cover, Genesis to Revelations at least three times. Then you will know what is really important, eh?

    • Chip Crawford

      The focus of the article is the issue of counseling abused, battered married women to just forgive it and pray for their husbands and not to report it or separate.

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