“What Hath God Wrought” Fifty Years of Dallas Theological Seminary Part II: Building upon the Foundation -- By: John A. Witmer

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 131:521 (Jan 1974)
Article: “What Hath God Wrought” Fifty Years of Dallas Theological Seminary Part II: Building upon the Foundation
Author: John A. Witmer


“What Hath God Wrought”
Fifty Years of Dallas Theological Seminary
Part II:
Building upon the Foundation

John A. Witmer

[John A. Witmer, Librarian and Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary.]

God graciously enabled Lewis Sperry Chafer not only to envision and to found Dallas Theological Seminary but also to direct its development for slightly more than half of its fifty-year history to date. By his death in 1952 his innovative concept of theological education had progressed far beyond the experimental stage. Even the bold idea of a four-year curriculum had been established for more than a decade and a half. The work rested upon the firm foundation of acceptance by prospective students and proven worth in the effective ministry of its graduates.

The death of Dr. Chafer, however, was a test for Dallas Seminary in the minds of many people. Like so many institutions it was in many respects the lengthened shadow of a man. The unvoiced question of many was, “When the man is gone, will the shadow also fade away?” At its root this question is really the issue whether the work is merely the effort of men or a building of God (Ps 127:1), “the planting of the Lord” (Isa 61:3).

Continued Student Body Growth

From the vantage point of a generation of continuing growth and effective ministry, the answer to that question is obvious. But at the time the fact that Dallas Seminary was a work of God and that Dr. Chafer, like the Apostle Paul, “as a wise masterbuilder” had laid a foundation upon which others could build (1 Cor 3:10) was shown by at least three lines of evidence. The first is the continued steady growth of the student body in the years immediately following Dr. Chafer’s death.

The enrollment for the fall semester of the 1952–53 school year was pretty well confirmed by the date of Dr. Chafer’s death August 22, 1952. It established a new record of 281 men, up from

257 the previous year. But ten more men entered at mid-year to bring the year’s total to 291. In the fall of 1953 the enrollment reached 294 men and mid-year matriculations raised the total for the 1953–54 school year to 300. Enrollment stayed close to the 300 mark for the next five years, but this was caused by restricted admission of new students because of crowded facilities, not by decreased applications.

The facts are that during the last five years of his life Dr. Chafer was afflicted from time to time with heart attacks that required mon...

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