Christians Should Follow Jesus' Example of "Undogmatic Openness," Dean of Truett Seminary Says at Convocation at Baylor University

Fall Convocation
Dean David Garland preaches against in-fighting in churches. (Photo by Matthew Minard, Baylor University)
Aug. 28, 2012

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WACO, Texas (Aug. 28, 2012) -- Hypocrisy among Christians isn't what bothers most of the unchurched, but rather "bloody denominational struggles and church fighting in-house''-- a marked contrast to Jesus' "undogmatic openness," said David Garland, Ph.D., dean of Baylor University's George W. Truett Theological seminary, at its fall convocation.

Church dropouts and others outside the church recognize that nobody is perfect, but "they are turned off by Christians who treat other Christians poorly, talk but don't listen, and harbor holier-than-thou attitudes," said Garland, The Charles J. and Eleanor McLerran Delancey Endowed Chair of the Dean.

Garland spoke to those who gathered to begin the semester with worship, presentation of alumni scholarships to four students and presentation of recognition certificates to adjunct professors. He spoke in part about research by Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, who has studied church dropouts.

Garland cited the account in the Gospel of Mark in which Jesus' disciples are upset because someone who was not a follower of Jesus was exorcising demons in His name - something the disciples had not succeeded in doing when a father brought his son, Garland said.

"The disciples . . . can only point fingers at one another and bicker with the scribes, who probably are taunting them for botching the deal," he said. "The scribes can't do anything either, but they share the attitude that infects many churches today: 'We are not doing that well, but at least they are doing worse.'"

When the disciples told Jesus what was happening, "He catches them by surprise when he does not commend them for their vigilance. He does not say, 'Good job, boys, way to keep a sharp eye out for imposters.' Instead, he reproves them," Garland said.

He suggested that the disciples, rather than being concerned on Jesus' behalf, perhaps wanted "to corner the exorcism market," thus making themselves revered and indispensable.

"Jesus' undogmatic openness to others will trouble anyone more intent on establishing the limits of who is in and who is out rather than focusing on winning the war against the enemy. . . This intolerance insists that God can only work through those whom we have vetted first and who met our standards," Garland said.

"Jesus not only opens admission to the reign of God to all and accepts any who come in his name, he sanctions anyone using the power of His name . . . Mark's text should cause us to reflect on our role and others' roles in God's plan with a bit more humility. God's mission in the world is bigger than we are."

At the convocation, four $1,000 scholarships were presented to students by Patrick Adair, Truett Alumni Association president and pastor of First Baptist Church in Matador, Texas. Recipients were Chansin Esparza, Jennifer Hawks, Kari Tingle and Natalie Webb. Those chosen for scholarships must have completed at least 48 hours of seminary coursework, made a significant contribution to the Truett community, maintained a strong academic standing and demonstrated a strong potential to represent the seminary in the future.

The scholarship committee consists of three full-time Truett staff members and one faculty member -- all Truett graduates -- and the current alumni president.

"We are very pleased that our alumni have been so generous in the past year," said Jan Cason, financial manager of Truett.

Adjunct professors presented with certificates for their contribution to Truett were Michael Godfrey, executive director of True Course Ministries; Alan Lefever, director of the Texas Baptist Historical Commission; Ralph West, pastor of the 24,000-member Brook Hollow Baptist Church in Houston; and Dennis Wiles, pastor of First Baptist Church, Arlington.

To view a video of the convocation, visit


Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.


Baylor University's George W. Truett Theological Seminary provides theological education leading to the Master of Divinity, the Doctor of Ministry or the Master of Theological Studies degree that is centered in the gospel of Jesus Christ and consistent with historic Baptist commitments to prepare persons to carry the gospel to churches and the world. Within the M.Div. degree program, students can choose concentrations in Biblical Studies and Theology, Christian Education, Ministry Leadership, Missions and World Christianity, Worship Leadership and Youth/Family/Student Ministry. Truett also offers two Dual Degree programs - M.Div./MSW and MTS/MSW - through a partnership with Baylor's School of Social Work and an M.Div./Master of Music through a partnership with the Baylor University School of Music.

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