Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Rich and Fulfilling Legacy: The Editors of the Southwestern Journal of Theology

Since January 2007, I have had the extraordinary privilege of serving as the Managing Editor of the Southwestern Journal of Theology. The privilege comes not only from the trust placed in this particular editor by the current administration and by the current accomplished and recognized faculty, but also because of the memories of a stellar faculty that contributed editors to our academic journal during prior years. There have been two series of the journal. The original series started in 1917 under the editorship of C.B. Williams and the new series began in 1958 under the editorship of James Leo Garrett, Jr.

To review the list of previous editors is to be reminded of the high standards toward which Southwestern Seminary's faculty have always aspired. (It was personally interesting to discover two things from this list. First, although I only turned 48 two days ago, I was shocked to realize not only that I recognized all of the names on this list, but that I actually have personally known most of these giants. Second, I was surprised to learn that, with this semester's issue, only two of the 16 editors--Al Fasol and William M. Tillman--edited more volumes than the current editor.)

There are three major reasons that remembering these previous editors strikes this theologian as bequeathing us a particularly fulfilling legacy. First, I have read many important theological, historical, pastoral and preaching monographs written by these men. These monographs include but are not limited to: W.T. Conner's foundational systematic theology texts, which helped propel the exponential growth of Southern Baptists in the twentieth century; H.E. Dana's ecclesiology, which was the last major book on the doctrine of the church written by a Southern Baptist for over five decades; James Leo Garrett's systematic theology, Baptist theology and ecumenical theology texts, which have set the standards in all these areas and which have yet to be surpassed; William R. Estep's work on the Anabaptists, which is still in print and still invaluable as an introductory text. The list could go on, for the theological contributions of these editors, as well as the writings of many quality Southwestern faculty who were not editors, are so numerous and so profound as almost to defy the imagination.

The second reason that this group of editors presents a fulfilling legacy is that, as a Master of Divinity with Biblical Languages student in the 1980s, I sat in many of these men's classrooms. I can still remember how their biblical, theological and missiological knowledge--a knowledge gained both through extensive practice and sustained reflection--shaped my own formation. Even more than that, I remember how each of these professors modeled for all of their students a profound spiritual maturity. These faculty members were never well paid and were sometimes maliciously and ignorantly maligned by uninformed controversialists, but they were more interested in godliness than either wealth or fame, and as the years pass their selfless Christlike stature will properly grow. It should therefore be no surprise that these professors also evinced a deep and increasingly rare social maturity. We students learned, as we watched them, what it meant to be Christian gentlemen (and gentlewomen) and servants of the churches. Many of us who are active in the Southern Baptist Convention in the current generation (including the present writer) may not have lived up to their high standards, but one day perhaps, with God's grace, we shall.

The third reason that this legacy is fulfilling is that, ten years ago, I had the incredible privilege to join their number. I can still remember the day in 2000 when I was elected to the faculty under the leadership of President Ken Hemphill, Dean Tommy Lea, and acting Dean William Tolar. On that day in the summer of 2000, I knew that it was a distinct privilege to be classified no longer only as a Southwestern student (itself a high honor), but also as a colleague to these giants of the faith. Over the years since then, some of these men have approached me to tell me how much they have appreciated my contributions. One even did me the favor of publicly taking me to task when I gave a paper that he thought was not yet complete--he was correct, and I supplemented that paper before it was published! As I grow older, and as I survey the many highly gifted faculty members now serving through my alma mater, I pray that we will discern how rich is the legacy of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I also pray that we will strive to stand upon their shoulders and advance our seminary's rich legacy even more.

Below is a list of our journal editors, along with the volume and issue numbers over which their tenure began. If you are a graduate of Southwestern or are knowledgeable of Southern Baptist theological achievements, perhaps remembering their accomplishments as well as their personal demeanor will bless you as much as it has blessed me. Theirs is a fulfilling legacy worth remembering, celebrating and emulating.

Old Series
C.B. Williams (1.1)
W.T. Conner (3.4)
H.E. Dana (8.2)

New Series
James Leo Garrett, Jr. (1.1)
J. Gordon Clinard (2.1)
William R. Estep, Jr. (6.1)
William L. Hendricks (10.1)
Leon McBeth (14.1)
F.B. Huey, Jr. (17.2)
Bert B. Dominy (20.2)
James A. Brooks (23.2)
Dan Gentry Kent (27.1)
Al Fasol (29.2)
Dan Gentry Kent (30.2)
William M. Tillman (33.1)
Al Fasol (40.3)
Douglas Blount (46.1)
Malcolm B. Yarnell III (48.2)

1 comment:

Edifying comments are appreciated.