Controversial SBU Bible professor resigns
By Bob Baysinger
April 27, 2004
JEFFERSON CITY – Scott Langston, the Southwest Baptist University (SBU) professor who said in 2002 that his “blood boils” when he thinks of Missouri Baptist fundamentalists and that Jonah was not swallowed by a big fish, has resigned from the SBU faculty.
C. Pat Taylor, SBU president, confirmed to The Pathway April 23 that Langston had submitted his resignation, effective at the end of the current school year.
It became apparent at the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Board’s Inter-Agency Relations Committee meeting on April 12 that Langston’s future at SBU might be in jeopardy. Taylor told the committee that Langston had applied for a promotion “which he did not get.”
“I know he has been looking for another job,” Taylor said. “He has been keeping his nose clean.”
Langston created a stir two years ago when he spoke at the organizational meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Missouri (BGCM), a new convention formed by moderates unhappy with the conservative direction of the MBC.
Langston, serving as the Bible teacher for the meeting, told the small crowd of disgruntled Missouri Baptists that they should have a loving attitude toward everybody – including the conservatives whom the majority of Missouri Baptists had voted into leadership.
“You’ve got to figure out some way to meaningfully love them,” Langston said. “I can think of a lot of people who need to hear this message. When I think of them my blood boils … what they’ve done to me and my friends, but I have to find some way to love them.”
Langston was later interviewed by Baptist Press and confessed that he did not believe that Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale.
Langston said he does not use the idea of inerrancy to describe his interpretation of Scripture.
“I don’t like to use that term,” Langston told Baptist Press. “I prefer to use the term totally trusting.”
While Langston said he believes in the virgin birth and the resurrection, there are some accounts in the Bible that he said should not be taken at face value.
“When you say you want to believe everything in the Bible, you have to ask if we are applying a modern standard of literature to an ancient text,” Langston said. “To me, part of a literal interpretation is to take seriously the ancient context.”
For example, does Langston believe the account of Jonah and the fish really happened? No, he replied.
“I think there is a possibility that it didn’t happen,” he said. “If it could be proven that it never happened, my faith is still strong.”
Langston, said that he attended the BGCM meeting as an individual, not as a representative of Southwest Baptist University.
”The university is neutral in this and I am only here to represent myself,” he said.
Langston made it clear in a letter that appeared on the BGCM’s website where he stood, stating that he had reservations about continuing to support the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and the MBC.
”Fundamentally, I disagree with the Christianity that is espoused and acted out by those in the leadership of these organizations [SBC and MBC],” Langston wrote, suggesting that the new convention take on the role of a “social agency or a think-tank.”
Indeed it was the future executive director of the BGCM, H.K. Neely, who was responsible for bringing Langston to SBU while serving as dean of the Redford School of Theology. Neely announced April 3, that he would step down from his leadership position with the struggling BGCM, effective May 1.
Purvis also asked Taylor about Central Baptist Theological Seminary’s activity on the SBU campus.
Central, located in Kansas City and affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF), employs several theologically liberal professors who were at Southern Baptist Convention seminaries before conservatives gained control and turned the institutions in a more theologically conservative direction. The school’s trustees considered closing the institution earlier this year, but voted not to at this time.
Central was invited to participate in the recent seminary week at SBU when seminaries provide information and seek to recruit graduating students.
Taylor said he wasn’t involved in the process of inviting seminaries to SBU and did not know which seminaries did and did not participate. He said the “Seminary Week” was handled by the Redford School of Theology.
“I know that we do have Seminary Week,” and they’re coming at us from all directions,” Taylor said.
Purvis said he was concerned about allowing seminaries “with liberal persuasions like Central” to come to the SBU campus and recruit students.
“Central is a haven of liberalism,” Purvis said. “When I was a youth pastor, I always wanted to make sure my kids moved to another nest that I could trust.”
“Maybe that’s something I need to check on,” Taylor responded.