For a long time, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary was thought of as a bastion of liberalism. According to an article published at its own website:
“When the seminary began in 1859, founders James P. Boyce, John R. Broadus, Basil Manly Jr. and William Williams established the school with a confession of faith to define its theological commitments and to set boundaries of acceptable belief for the faculty. But, despite their precautions, as the school grew, many of Southern Seminary’s faculty members departed from the school’s confession. By the 1960s, most of the men and women on faculty were thoroughly and decidedly liberal in their theological commitments. And this progressive trajectory continued into the 1980s.”
During the conservative resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention, there was talk of just letting the liberals have the school. It was that bad. Personal accounts about SBTS from Southern Baptists of the era can be downright shocking. An account published at The Cripplegate states:
“During (the) liberal domination of SBTS, teachers disavowed the bodily resurrection of Christ, the inerrancy of Scripture, and other key tenets of the faith. Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, anecdotally remembers that there was a vivid opposition against the Gospel at Southern.”
Wayne Barber, the former pastor of Woodland Park Baptist church in Chattanooga, TN attended SBTS during it’s liberal heyday. His 2009 account is just as disturbing.
“I’ve been to seminary in the days seminaries weren’t the place to be. Thank God for what He’s doing in the Southern Baptist Convention right now, and I hear in other seminaries, as well. But He’s turned it around and made it much more solid. But in the days that I went to seminary it was the JDE and P theory. ‘Our mother which art in heaven,’ and that Browning’s works in the Old Testament were probably more inspired than most of the Old Testament. That’ll bless you. “
The director of missions in my county Baptist association, David Franklin is an SBTS alum from its liberal days. He makes it a point not to tell people that he went there. He even thinks that its current President, Albert Mohler is a liberal. Of course, Franklin’s opinion is in the minority. Albert Mohler is widely considered to be one of the most conservative men in the denomination. It is Mohler who is largely credited with purging SBTS of its liberal faculty and putting it back on a biblical track. However, Mohler, who has now been president of the school for over a quarter century, may have fallen asleep at the wheel. Currently, the admissions page at SBTS asks potential students to identify their “birth gender”…as if, biblically, there was some other kind.
There are five other Southern Baptist seminaries, NOBTS, SEBTS, SWBTS, MBTS, and Gateway. SEBTS, SWBTS , and MBTS do not initially ask prospective students for gender. Gateway and NOBTS ask prospective students for their “gender” (not their “birth gender”). Albert Mohler podcasts daily about Christian worldview issues. He has been outspoken about the effects of what he calls “the moral revolution” in American society. A primary issue of this “moral revolution” is the popular rejection of God-given binary gender. Mohler, in his podcast, has consistently taken a biblical position on gender issues, affirming that God has created humans “males and female”. Yet the admissions page at his own seminary, unique among its peers, asks applicants for their “birth gender”.
One might argue that asking applicants for their “birth gender” is an inherent rejection of the moral revolution and the very idea that one may justly choose his (or her) gender rather than accept the one God assigned him (or her) birth. SBTS only accepts “birth gender”. Conversely, one could argue that an emerging group of progressive managers at SBTS have bent the school’s admissions page to the standards of the world. The idea that one could a gender different than the one which matches one’s biological sex should be rejected. Imagine if the school asked students the name of their “opposite sex spouse”. To do so would be to imply that there exists something other than a spouse of the opposite sex. In God’s created order, there simply does not. In God’s created order gender is assigned at birth by the providence of God. Sociologically minded observers may be quick to point out that sex is a biological contract while gender is a social construct. Such a point isn’t lost on this other; such a point is deemed irrelevant.
Of course, the obvious questions should be asked, “Why would anyone who believes that he can pick his own gender be applying to a Southern Baptist college in the first place?” Shouldn’t SBTS be expecting conservative students to apply? Southern Baptists should be careful to ensure that progressives and liberals are not making their own resurgence at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Southern Baptists should also be wary of recent increases in the female enrollments of schools primarily intended to train pastors. SBTS recognizing the existence of a superfluous “birth gender” could be the first step in a movement back towards the left.
The text of SBTS’s student conduct policy in the areas of Sexuality and Gender is as follows:
Southern Seminary’s code of conduct regarding sexuality and gender identity is grounded in our longstanding institutional religious identity and is explained in the official “SBTS Policy on Sex, Sexuality, and Gender Identity.” In employment and in student life, we regard sex at birth as the identification of the given biological sex of each member of our constituency. Any blurring of the boundary between maleness and femaleness, such as identifying oneself as a transvestite, transsexual, or transgendered, is contrary to biblical standards. We must view the actions or intentions of those seeking fundamental changes of any kind from one’s sex at birth as a rejection of the biblical and theological understandings to which Southern Seminary is committed, and hence as grounds for removal from consideration for employment for an employment applicant and/or from consideration for enrollment for a student applicant, and as grounds for termination of employment for a current employee (faculty or staff) and/or termination of enrollment of a current student. The same is true for persistent or exaggerated examples of cross- dressing, or other expressions or actions that are deliberately discordant with birth sex. All students and employees are responsible for notifying the Seminary of any violation of this policy, past or present. Decisions will be handled on a case-by-case basis in a pastorally sensitive manner.
*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church of which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.