Even at seminary, some rules are worth breaking

06/19/2014 5:44 PM

06/19/2014 5:45 PM

Rules are meant to be broken.

Those who are guilty of rule-breaking often use such an excuse.

And sometimes, the rule-breakers are correct.

Such is the case regarding president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Paige Patterson’s decision to admit a Muslim student to ithe school’s graduate program in 2012.

The Fort Worth seminary, which purports to be one of the largest in the world, has been producing graduates to serve in churches and missions around the globe for more than a century.

As is typical of Christian theological institutions, its primary purpose is to equip students with the tools, skills and knowledge required to effectively spread the word of God to believers and non-believers, alike.

To that end, seminarians are expected to enter with not only a familiarity of the faith, but adherence to certain beliefs, requirements that are entirely appropriate given the school’s mission.

Admission standards say prospective students must illustrate their record of church involvement, provide proof of Christian character as well as a statement professing their faith in Christianity — standards likely not met, at least at the outset, by an individual who ascribes to another faith practice, be it Catholic, Jewish or Muslim.

That Patterson’s unconventional decision to admit Muslim student, Ghassan Nagagreh, as a Ph.D. candidate in the archeology program ruffled some feathers was expected.

That fellow Baptists were frustrated by his unilateral decision, made without consulting the school’s board of trustees, is understandable.

But given the school’s motto, “Preach the Word, Reach the World,” the outrage expressed by some at his diversion from long-standing school policy is largely unwarranted.

In fact, by opening Southwestern’s doors to a student who is eager to attend the orthodox institution in spite of its strict policy, Patterson may be fulfilling both of the explicit goals in the school mantra at once.

That should make the rule worth breaking.

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