SBCOutpost.com has just learned that Defendant Paige Patterson refused to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” at the beginning of his deposition Monday. Conveniently, Southwestern Seminary’s president has determined that the New Testament forbids the taking of oaths. Of course, we are curious if this encompasses all oaths (Boy Scout, Hippocratic, Presidential, etc.), or if it only applies to the kinds of oaths where your testimony could suffer impeachment at trial?
For further reading, refer to page 100 of Joel Gregory’s page-turning tome, “Too Great a Temptation.” An excerpt:
Timmy Brister and I have both noted that it seems that Dr. Patterson, along with Ergun and Emir Caner have been trying to (re)write Baptist history in the mold of William Estep. We've seen their rejection of the doctrines of grace. We've know Emir teaches a course in Baptist history that tries to index Baptists to Anabaptists. We know, from Ergun's comments at Founders and the way he talks about "unbaptistic" Reformed doctrines that he's gone in this direction too. Speaking for myself, this seems to me to be, in part, a justification for their rejection of Calvinism/real Amyraldianism.
“When it comes to politics, Paige Patterson makes LBJ look like a candy striper. I could always trust Paige to tell me the truth, but never all of it.”
However, I fear, and I hope I'm wrong, we're seeing the natural outworking of this theory. People forget that the Anabaptists were more separatist in their views on the chrurch and state than the Baptists themselves. We Baptists do cherish a distinction between church and state insofar as we deny the state can enforce the First Table of the Law. However, the Anabaptists went further than that. They were known to reject the taking of all legal oaths, for example.
But that's not Baptist tradition.
1. From the Second London Confession:
23. Lawful Oaths and VowsAnd he can’t run to the First London Confession on the premise that it is “Presbyterian” or, in Landmarkers’ Language “dipped.” for it reads:
1. A lawful oath is an act of religious worship, in which the person swearing in truth, righteousness, and judgement, solemnly calls God to witness what he swears, and to judge him according to the truth or falsity of it.
2. Only by the name of God can a righteous oath be sworn, and only if it is used with the utmost fear of God and reverence. Therefore, to swear vainly or rashly by the glorious and awesome name of God, or to swear by any other name or thing, is sinful, and to be regarded with disgust and detestation. But in matters of weight and moment, for the confirmation of truth, and for the ending of strife, an oath is sanctioned by the Word of God. Therefore a lawful oath being imposed by a lawful authority can rightly be taken in such circumstances.
3. Whoever takes an oath sanctioned by the Word of God is bound to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and affirm or confess to nothing except that which he knows to be true. For by rash, false, and vain oaths, the Lord is provoked and because of them this land mourns.
4. An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words. without equivocation or mental reservation.
5. A vow, which is not to be made to any creature but to God alone, is to be made and performed with all the utmost care and faithfulness. But monastical vows (as in the Church of Rome) of a perpetual single life, professed poverty, and regular obedience, so far from being degrees of higher perfection, are superstitious and sinful snares, in which no Christian may entangle himself.
It is lawful for a Christian to be a magistrate or civil officer; and also it is lawful to take an oath, so it be in truth, and in judgment, and in righteousness, for confirmation of truth, and ending of all strife; and that by wrath and vain oaths the Lord is provoked and this land mourns.
SBC tradition, as I recall, doesn’t take a contrary position either.
Running to the Bible won’t get him far either, since the classic text is James 5:12, but the flaw in the argument is that the audience is Jewish, and they certainly didn’t find the taking all sorts of oaths unacceptable. Indeed, it’s quite apparent that the text is dealing with “peppering speech” with indiscriminate oaths (often combined with the superstitious notion that if one did not swear, it was OK to lie). James and Jesus both confront the practice of some in their day in which they sought to strengthen statements with nonbinding oaths in an attempt to remain guiltless if they didn't keep it.
James and Jesus are teaching that in our daily conversation as believers, we should simply let our yes be yes and our no, no. In other words, keep your word, be honest. He is not prohibiting lawful oaths, such as those required of court witnesses, etc. (Jesus Himself testified after being placed under an oath—Matthew 26:63-64. The Apostle Paul even included an oath in the inspired text—2 Corinthians 1:23. And God confirmed His own Word with an oath—Heb. 6:13-18; Acts 2:30.) Indeed, this is precisely what the Law itself taught in Deuteronomy.
So, we have to wonder where this is coming from? It continues to amaze me how when pressed this sort of thinking makes men into functional Marcionites. They don’t reject the OT Law as brazenly, rather, they reject the NT’s use of the OT by reinterpreting the NT. As a matter of history, this seems to be a tell-tale sign of error, and sometimes the outworking was worse than at other times. Ancient Gnostics did this; Fundamentalists following after classic dispensationalism did this; the Anabaptists went in that direction too.
Now, this must be quite the conundrum for defenders of “Baptist identity” on the one hand and “Scripture an no confession” on the other. Baptist identity doesn’t support it. Scripture doesn’t either. So much for our "Anabaptist roots."