You may be aware that Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson has come under fire over the past few days for comments he made in 2000 during a Q&A time at a meeting sponsored by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Here are the comments that are drawing criticism.
The church will never be a refuge for abused women so long as prominent leaders like Southern Baptist Paige Patterson are making dangerous statements like this… https://t.co/mOrukbKvjD pic.twitter.com/xeH2lfXe9z
— Jonathan Merritt (@JonathanMerritt) April 28, 2018
More vile comments from Paige Patterson. Perhaps worse than the first! Here the @swbts president says he encouraged an abused woman to remain with her husband. The next week she had two black eyes and he says, “I am very happy!” (Ht: @JJ_Denhollander) pic.twitter.com/F49EvoNt0h
— Jonathan Merritt (@JonathanMerritt) April 28, 2018
You can listen yourself here. And you can read Dr. Patterson’s statement here. My intent here is not to give an exhaustive analysis of everything that has transpired recently in relation to these comments, but I do wish to say a few things.
1. Abuse is always wrong.
This is a clear application of the sixth commandment: “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13). Jesus taught this truth when He said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matt. 5:21-22). If being angry with your brother/sister is a violation of the sixth commandment, it’s abundantly clear that abuse is also a violation of God’s moral law as revealed in the Ten Commandments.
But we can go back farther than that. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” God makes clear in the opening chapter of the Bible that all people are created in the image of God. Since all people are created in the image of God, it is clear that abuse is always wrong.
In addition, you don’t have to look very long throughout the Bible to see the concern of our God for those who are oppressed and taken advantage of.
2. Abuse should never be tolerated or ignored by God’s people.
Pastors should encourage the abused to call the police or offer to do so for them. Pastors and churches should counsel those experiencing physical abuse to leave or if possible have the abuser removed from the home. Churches should help in providing a safe place for the abused to go if necessary. Pastors and churches should not counsel physically abused persons to remain in the abusive situation in hopes that the abuser will change. Pastors protect the flock. Christians defend the weak (Is. 1:17). Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk 12:31). The best way to love an abused person is to protect her. The best way to love an abuser is to stop him.
The church should also discipline the abuser (Matt. 18; 1 Cor. 5). Church discipline, though, is not a substitute for involving the proper civil authorities.
3. Paige Patterson’s comments were callous and unhelpful at best and dangerous at worst.
Is there a way to interpret Patterson’s comments regarding abuse as only extremely callous and unhelpful? If so, I haven’t been able to figure it out. The statement he released on the seminary’s website doesn’t do much to assure me that I am missing something.
It is dangerous for pastors and other church leaders to have a cavalier attitude toward domestic violence. It has been reported that nearly three U.S. women are killed every day by an intimate partner. Many victims of domestic violence are already afraid to seek help. Some even feel as if there is something they have done to cause or deserve the abuse they are experiencing. Hearing a pastor or church leader speak in a lighthearted manner with reference to blackened eyes only compounds these problems.
4. The tape is old and it resurfaced because of an old foe.
This is true, but it doesn’t change what was said. Neither does it change the fact that 18 years later Dr. Patterson still hasn’t managed to clearly denounce his prior comments. Does he really not cringe when he listens to the recording of himself telling that story?
5. I am thankful that SBC leaders are speaking out.
I’ll conclude with these notable responses.
A better way forward is to think of the SBC’s future mission rather than Paige Patterson’s past success, and I hope he desires the same for the SBC he gave his life to. PP: You did the right thing when it was hard. Now, let me encourage you to do so again. https://t.co/QHAgj4LJ6U
— Ed Stetzer (@edstetzer) May 1, 2018
A statement from Thom S. Rainer. pic.twitter.com/miWmc9Bjn6
— Thom Rainer (@ThomRainer) May 1, 2018
Lots of social media convo this afternoon about spousal abuse. As the Provost of a SBC seminary and pastor at a SBC church, let me be clear: a physically abused woman should separate from her husband and have him put in jail.
— Bruce Ashford (@BruceAshford) April 28, 2018
Any physical abuse on any level is completely unacceptable in a marriage. The church should immediately step in & provide a safe place for the abused. This has been my consistent counsel my entire ministry. Any counsel to the contrary is unwise & even dangerous.
— Daniel Akin (@DannyAkin) May 1, 2018
Absolutely correct. I have NEVER advised any spouse to stay in a physically abusive situation. That only enables the abuser and is a barrier to what God could do in that spouse’s life and to advise otherwise breaks the #GoldenRule. https://t.co/zE1MUpxOrO
— James Merritt (@drjamesmerritt) April 29, 2018
*I made a mistake when I initially wrote this article that has been pointed out in the comments. I referred to the sixth commandment as the fifth commandment. That has been corrected.