By Dr. Scott Culpepper
There has been a lot of buzz in Louisiana Baptist circles recently about an alleged attempt by “Calvinists” to take over Louisiana College. Both the Alexandria Daily Town Talk and the Baptist Message, have helped fuel this paranoia by publishing stories that have painted persons who have raised concerns about Louisiana College as pushing a Reformed agenda. Those accusations are completely false. The people opposing the presidency of Joe Aguillard include a broad spectrum of persons who represent literally every theological persuasion imaginable. What unites us is a commitment to seeing the college that has meant so much to so many restored to academic and spiritual integrity.
I am somewhat perplexed about why people seem so up in arms about an alleged Reformed takeover of Louisiana College that is not happening while they fail to recognize that a Charismatic takeover of the administration of Louisiana College happened long ago. During my time as a faculty member at Louisiana College, I witnessed official administrative endorsement of practices that were clearly charismatic in nature and which most Louisiana Baptists would find objectionable. In fact, I was often uncomfortable as someone from a Baptist background teaching at a Baptist school because much of the spirituality at the top was decidedly not Baptist.
Joe Aguillard often invited a charismatic faith healer named Delores Winder to campus to “prophesy” over the football team and share her spiritual insight with members of the administration. One Vice-President, who had a Native American heritage, told me that Winder commanded her to get rid of some turquoise earrings that were family heirlooms because their Native American origins made her vulnerable to demonic oppression.
When Winder arrived on campus, devotees would flock to her side as if Moses had just descended from Sinai. Aguillard kept these meetings quiet because he was very aware that Louisiana Baptists would not approve. Impressionable young football players who had little knowledge of Christianity often got their earliest exposure in the context of these meetings. It should be noted that Louisiana College, like all Southern Baptist schools, firmly insists that faculty sign a statement indicating that they will not promote women taking leadership roles in ministry or “exercising authority over a man.” Mrs. Winder’s pronouncements were almost given the weight of scriptural revelation and there were certainly many men among her devotees.
Delores Winder was not the only “prophet” to dubiously grace the Louisiana College campus. Joe Aguillard employed a personal assistant named Joseph Cole who later departed under a cloud and with an outrageous final payoff. During a chapel service, worship leader Fred Guilbert paused to say openly before the entire student body, “Joseph (Cole) has received a prophecy that God is going to shower abundance down upon our college!” There were often whispers that administrators believed that Cole was endowed with prophetic gifts. He was definitely endowed with an amazing level of power considering that he had no previous experience and no undergraduate degree. Football coach Dennis Dunn joined the pantheon of prophets when he predicted with great confidence at the opening of the new football field in 2008 that the football team would win the conference championship that year as a means of evangelism. This pivotal evangelistic event has yet to happen. Dunn came to Louisiana College from Evangel Christian Academy in Shreveport, a school with ties to the Duron families’ Shreveport Community Church, which was formerly known as First Assembly of God. Dunn recently replaced Dr. Chuck Quarles, Dean of the Caskey Divinity School, as a chapel speaker this spring. It seems Dunn looked like a safer bet for the administration than Dr. Quarles.
Aguillard regularly anointed not just people, but objects with oil. These objects included buildings, doorways, and classrooms. One could only wish that he had anointed the SACS documents as diligently. He condoned the practice of “deliverance ministry” to assist troubled students and faculty. Deliverance ministry is a form of Protestant exorcism. The practice is based on the premise that a person’s sinful habits and desires can be fueled by demonic “oppression.” While Christians generally agree that Satan works in tandem with our sinful desires to tempt us, supporters of deliverance ministry believe that demons control us to such a degree that their hold over us is almost akin to demonic possession. They hold that demons cannot possess Christians, but they can oppress them. The problem with this form of ministry is that people are often left in despair when the attempt to cast out demonic influences does not result in immediate victory over sinful habits. They will often delay seeking real pastoral or professional counseling because they trust in the quick fix of the deliverance minister.
Joe seems newly troubled about the Reformed people serving in the Christian Studies department, but he was blissfully content with a former professor serving as an associate pastor at a local church that embraces a Oneness theology. Oneness Theology is particularly prevalent among some Pentecostal groups. It is an anti-trinitarian theology that rejects the equality of the Son and Spirit with God the Father, resembling the heresies of Docetism and Modalism that troubled the Christian church in the second and third centuries. So accordingly, Kevin McFadden and Ryan Lister are a deadly threat, but anti-trinitarians are our new friends.
While this is not an example of administrative endorsement of charismatic practices, several students who are loyal supporters of Joe have promoted Theophostic prayer as a way to deal with mental issues. Theophostic prayer adopts the theory of repressed memory phenomena from the field of psychology and weds those principles to Christian language. The psychological theory on which Theophostic prayer is based has been increasingly discredited by psychologists because of the instances of false memories being surfaced by the power of suggestion. I personally interacted with people whose families had been negatively impacted by Theophostic prayer gone seriously wrong. While Theophostic prayer is not strictly a charismatic practice, it draws much of its energy from the same unfettered emotionalism that characterizes less responsible charismatic groups. More recently, the administration has authorized the formation of a Pentecostal student group whose by-laws require the president of the group to speak in tongues.
I have no issue with persons who observe their charismatic beliefs scripturally and responsibly. Nor do I have a problem with students and faculty embracing those beliefs at a school like Louisiana College as long as those practices do not conflict with the theological commitments faculty made when they came to Louisiana College. However, we should all have a problem with an administration at a Baptist school actively promoting practices that are at best on the fringes of Baptist life and even marginalizing those who do not agree with them. We should all have a problem when that same administration begins to persecute Reformed Christians, who like it or not have been historically in the mainstream of Baptist life, while actively supporting practices that have dubious scriptural support and which have never been part of the mainstream of Baptist life.
So I ask again, why have we never heard of the Charismatic takeover of Louisiana College? Why do these sorts of things not trouble David Hankins? Many of those who promote them regularly worship with him at Philadelphia Baptist Church in Deville, Louisiana. Why is Kelly Boggs not reporting on the Charismatic bent of Joe’s supporters? I humbly suggest that the answer lies in the fact that the issues at Louisiana College are not about theology except in the general sense that no man can serve two masters. It is about power and typical Louisiana dirty politics. Do not be fooled by propaganda and half-truths. The only people interested in dominating Louisiana College are the people who currently control the school and have used the it for their own benefit while treating the students as mere tools in their game of power politics. It is time for a restoration of spiritual and academic integrity at Louisiana College. Join all of us, Reformed and Arminian alike, in calling for truth and integrity to reign supreme so that students may grow and not be hindered in their walks with Christ.