The Roots of My Seminary

I was browsing in the school's library and found a work, "Baptists in Oregon" by Albert W. Wardin, Jr. I thought that might be interesting - a 575 page history about a specific part of Christianity in a very specific part of the world. So I browsed the contents and then came upon a sub-heading that referred to the very school in whose library I stood.

I read about the formative history of Western Seminary. It was started in 1927 and founded by the then pastor of Hinson Memorial Baptist Church (Portland), John Marvin Dean. While he was certainly part of the Fundamentalist movement of that time, is more properly categorized as a moderate. In the Oregon Baptist history book, I found a very interesting quote from one of Dean's sermons. Here it is:

"Evangelism and social service are twins and cannot live in separation. It will be a glad day for American Christianity when all the social service theorists and faddists become soul-winners and all the evangelistic Christians become servants of the common good."

Dean had other attitudes somewhat foreign to today's so-called "Fundamentalists." Here's another quote from a report to the seminary's Board of Trustees in 1937:

"... up to date this year's service has been the most satisfactory in the history of the institution. Every year more students are learning to think independently, and to use Scripture in an honest attempt to learn what was in the mind of the writers and not to prove pet theories. If we can teach our students honestly to let the Book speak for itself, instead of using it as an arsenal of proof-texts to bolster up someone's philosophy of religion, we have performed a task well worth while."

If I may be so bold, I am happy to report that my experience at Western Seminary has so far been consistent with those foundational aspirations of John M. Dean.


Eric said...

As I'm sure you know, Fundamentalism originally meant simply going back to the basic of Christianity -- Bible as God's word, Jesus as the Christ. In the 1920s it still meant this, probably even was OK when we were young.

Then some "Fundamentalists" stretched Bible principles to absurd , legalistic and stringent extremes. They espoused hate and judgment rather than love (a biblical "fundamental" if there ever was one). Throw in a few "fundametalist" abortion bombers, not to mention some Islamic "fundametalist" terrorists, stir it all around with some media hype and ignorance and suddenly fundamentalism is an evil, warped system. (cf. Pharisee)

Thanks for the insight and history lesson.

emesselt said...

Yeah, even back when I was in Biola (1976), we used the term “Neo-Fundamentalist” to try and distinguish between the good guys at Princeton in the ‘30’s and the bad guys (the legalists).