Seminary celebrates 100 years in Fort Worth - Word&Way

Seminary celebrates 100 years in Fort Worth

FORT WORTH, Texas (ABP) — Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary celebrated a milestone of 100 years at its current location with a chapel service Oct. 19 focusing on its founder, B.H. Carroll, and his successor L. R. Scarborough, who led the seminary from 1915 to 1942.

"The institution that does not revisit the principles of its founder and the commitments of its founder has made the most absurd mistake of any that you can find anywhere," current President Paige Patterson said in a chapel address specifically targeted to the seminary's board of trustees and faculty. 

Patterson, Southwestern's eighth president, said he spent the previous two weeks re-reading writings of Carroll and Scarborough to "find exactly what it was that most motivated them."

Patterson said he came up with "a list a mile long" but focused his remarks on five commitments.

Patterson described the "first stone mined out of the quarry" of the two men's writings as the incarnation and atonement of Christ. Patterson recalled words attributed to Carroll from his death bed uttered to Scarborough, "Lee, keep it lashed to the cross."

"The incarnation and the substitutionary atonement of Christ is the most fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith," Patterson said. "That's why we're here. That's why we hold forth hope to the nations. That's why we study. That's why we learn. That's why we go without fear of death."

The second founding principle of the seminary, Patterson said, was dedication to "the Bible as God's revelation." He noted that Carroll affirmed the New Hampshire Baptist Confession of 1833 that described Scripture as "truth without any mixture of error" and ruled that "no man can obtain a position on the teaching force" without signing his name to that article.

"Trustees, there comes a day when you will replace the president of this institution," Patterson said. "I want to challenge you today before God that you not make the mistake of getting anyone as president who cannot fully and absolutely conform to that statement of faith regarding the Bible."

"Faculty, I want to say to you today that whatever comes along through educational refinement, watch it carefully," he continued. "If it is in contradiction to the word of God that you have signed to be the binding arbiter of all in life, don't listen to it and don't dare teach it in these halls, and if you do you will have an appointment with the president."

Third on Patterson's list was "the preaching of the Bible."

"I don't care whether you call it exposition or not," he said. "That's immaterial to me, but friend, if you do anything other than preach the Bible and make its message clear and expound its truth, that's not preaching, that's the sharing of political opinion."

Patterson said the seminary's fourth task is "the teaching of the Bible," but that he and Executive Vice President and Provost Craig Blaising often lament "that we still do not do it here."

"You say, 'Well, I ought to go to a seminary that does.' Good luck," Patterson said. "The tragedy is that for all of the putting together of our seminaries we still don't teach the biblical revelation. We teach everything in the world about it, but we don't teach the Bible. If God will give me the grace to figure out how to do it, that's going to change."

Patterson said, "It is unfathomable to me that a student graduating here should ever be asked about a passage of Scripture and look blankly at the interrogator and say 'Let me call Dr. Blaising and ask him.'"

Patterson's final hallmark of the founders was "personal soul winning." One of Carroll's actions was to establish a chair of evangelism and choose Scarborough as its professor.

"Trustees, I want to say a shocking thing to you today," Patterson said. "It would be possible for you to choose a president of this institution who was theologically conservative, who believed all the right things, who affirmed the statement of faith. It would be possible for you to choose an educator and a fine one at that. It would be conceivable for you to choose a man who was a man's man and who could lead men. It would be in the realm of possibility for you to get a person who would know how to raise a ton of money and put the seminary on financial footing so that it would never have a need in the world. But if you do all of that and you fail to get a man who is a personal soul winner, you have failed in your duty."

Patterson said the same goes for faculty. "Don't you elect a man to the faculty, a woman to the faculty who's not a consistent winner of men and women to the faith in Jesus Christ," he said.

Southwestern Seminary began as an outgrowth of Baylor University in 1905. It separated from Baylor and was re-chartered in 1908 as Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with a separate board of trustees. The seminary operated two years on Waco, Texas, campus before moving to a section of Fort Worth today known as "Seminary Hill."

In 1925 the Baptist General Convention of Texas turned control of the seminary over to the Southern Baptist Convention. During the inerrancy controversy within the SBC during the 1980s and 1990s, the seminary moved toward a fundamentalist perspective to the right of the moderate-leaning BGCT, prompting Baylor to open its own George W. Truett Theological Seminary in 1994.


Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.