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Evangelical Seminary Explains Why It Enrolled First Muslim Student

Posted on | May 21, 2014 | No Comments

Unusual decision draws scrutiny at one of largest Southern Baptist schools.

The third-largest evangelical seminary in America has explained why it is allowing a Muslim Palestinian to pursue a Ph.D. in archaeology.

As a seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary requires prospective students to demonstrate "a mature Christian character," "a desire for Christian ministry," and "a record of active church service," among other credentials. Yet president Paige Patterson explained on Monday how the Fort Worth, Texas, university has been operating Tel Gezer, an archaeological site in Israel where Israelis and Muslims from both secular and religious schools also work.

"One of these young men from a Muslim background loved our people and asked to study with us," said Patterson, in a public response to critics. "He accepted the necessity of abiding by our moral code of conduct. He is a man of peace, and we agreed to admit him into the archeology [sic] program."

Ghassan Nagagreh, a Sunni Muslim, has volunteered with Southwestern since 2008 at Tel Gezer, but recently finished the first year of his doctoral studies, reports Religion News Service, which secured an interview with Patterson. Oklahoma pastor and SBC critic Wade Burleson has questioned Patterson's exception for Nagagreh, concerned that Southwestern thought it more important for students to adhere to "ethical conduct" than to believe basic Christian truths. Associated Baptist Press reports more details.

This isn't the first time a Christian higher education institution has allowed Muslim students to join its ranks. CT noted how traditional values were drawing more Muslims to Christian schools in 2012, and examined the unusual …

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