Just finished reading An Uncommon Union: Dallas Theological Seminary and American Evangelicalism by John Hannah, long time professor at DTS. Founded in 1924 by Lewis S. Chafer, Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) has had a major and profound influence on North American Evangelicalism.
The first half of the book covers the life and influence of Chafer. Founders are usually visionaries who leave an indelible mark on the institutions they found. This well describes the impact of Lewis S. Chafer. Born in 1871, Chafer studied musical theory for two years before becoming a full time evangelist. At the turn of the 20th century he came under the influence of C. I. Scofield, 30 years his senior and the author of the well known Scofield Study Bible first published in 1909.
Lacking any earned degrees, let alone theological degrees, Chafer founded DTS in 1924. His goal was a seminary that would produce students uninfluenced by theological systems, students influenced by the Bible alone. Although a godly man, this goal displayed Chafer’s ignorance. Anyone who thinks himself sufficiently knowledgeable to be a professor at a theological seminary should know that this goal is unattainable. Everyone is influence by a theological system. It is impossible to be completely objective.
However, Chafer was blind to this principle. His premillenial, pretribulational, dispenstional theological grid utterly dominated his own thoughtlife. If anyone approached the Bible with subjective bias, it was he. Nevertheless, this was the theological milieu of DTS in its early years, and the institution suffered accordingly.
However, as the decades passed and new presidents served DTS things changed. In the 50s and 60s DTS became more hardened in Chafer’s excentricities, but by the end of the 20th century DTS had more fully entered into the mainstream of theological orthodoxy.
An Uncommon Union was a thought provoking book. At times the ignorat fundamentalism of the seminary’s early years depressed me, but by the books ending my mood changed. DTS sailed into the 21st century a major conservative evangelical seminary of significant value.
I reccomend this book to anyone wanting to understand the history of 20th century evangelicalism. It is a significant contributioin to this subject.