After 10 years of theological higher education, I'm taking what may possibly be my last classroom experience. After this semester I will be at thesis stage for my Th.M. and I'm still uncertain whether I will go on to pursue a Ph.D.
I have the privilege of having this (possibly) last class with Dr. Paige Patterson. He has been a hero of mine for nearly 10 years--since about some time during 1998. I took my very first Baptist History class at Southwest Baptist University, and we had a very brief unit on the conservative resurgence. I was interested in the topic due to my experiences as a summer missionary in Virginia (which had already at that time split into two state conventions). I heard different stories about how to explain what was going on in Baptist life at that time. Some of the people I most respected were in support of the resurgence, and most of the attitude at SBU was that it was just politics and a battle for control. It seemed to me that there must be something more to it all than that. So I decided to do my paper for the class on the resurgence and try to get to the bottom of it all.
I can't say that that paper was even very good, but the one thing that I remember about the paper is that it is where I first ran into the name Paige Patterson. Some of the sources I read said some "not very nice" things about him, yet the sources that I used that were from his actual words lead me to believe that in reality he was on my side. The arguments he made resonated with me, and it seemed that those who opposed him just wanted to criticize his methods, but they avoided talking about his theological positions. I could see that I lined up with Patterson.
As I continued my undergraduate degree I continued to learn about what had taken place in the convention--more than I could have learned from one introductory paper as a college sophomore. I became familiar with Southern Seminary and what had taken place there with Dr. Mohler. So as graduation approached I planned to go to Southern--which of course is what I did.
I loved my time at Southern. I grew so much as a person and I came to understand theology so much more clearly. While there I came to affirm the doctrines of grace, and I learned to see the importance of confessions and of historic Baptist polity. I wish everyone could experience what I did at Southern Seminary--it was some of the greatest, happiest years of my life.
Now I'm at Southwestern, and able to study under this hero of mine. I can see that if it had not been for the influence of Dr. Patterson, all the things that I love and cherish about the education I received at Southern I probably would have never experienced. Dr. Patterson can be thanked for recovering the SBC seminaries for the cause of biblical fidelity. I may not agree with every word that comes out of his mouth, and that's okay because we're Baptists, but I still wholeheartedly affirm that Dr. Patterson is my hero. I am so grateful for what he has done for Southern Baptists, and I am indebted to him for so much of the faith that I cling to. There are many out on the blogosphere that don't share my high regard for him. There are many who cannot think of any thing to say about him without criticism. However, I just wanted to take a moment to pay tribute to him and the legacy he has given to Southern Baptists. If it were not for his influence, the SBC bloggers would probably be debating an entirely different set of issues--and probably the issues that plague the other denominations (eg. Episcopal, PCUSA, United Church of Christ).
So for the sake of anyone reading my blog (which I'm sure is a very small handful of people--if even that) I just want to say, I thank God for Dr. Paige Patterson. He is my theological hero .
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