Science in Christian Perspective
The E.T.S., History and Purpose*
Burton L. Goddard, Dean, Gordon Divinity School
From: JASA 7
(September 1955): 5-8.
* Transcribed from a recording made of the address.
I suppose that some of us come f rom the teen-age generation that was quite familiar with "The Prisoner's Song." There's a line in that song which goes this way: "It's a story. that's never been told." The E.T.S. is not as fortunate as the American Scientific Affiliation in that the E.T.S. story has not been told or put into written form. Perhaps it will be written some day. This afternoon it is not my purpose to tell you that story but to give you just a few chapter headings which may give an idea of what would be in the story if it should sometime be told.
The first chapter heading is "Vision." The idea of having a society for Biblical and theological studies is not a new idea. There are organizations in existence and which have been in existence for some time, the members of which have come together that they might study along Biblical and theological lines. There are two difficulties, however, with organizations of this kind which have been known to some of us. One of the difficulties is that there is no common religious ground. When approaching religious and theological studies, it is not possible to approach them with one airn and purpose, with one set of presuppositions. We also notice that in some of these organizations there IS a tendency to engage in peripheral studies, i.e. areas of study which are related in some way to the things of the Bible but which are not vitally related to the truth of Scripture. There is all too little attempt to understand what God had revealed to man and bow it might be applied.
How much better, it seemed to some, if there could be an organization which would have a common faith and which would approach problems with a common religious attitude-one of accepting the Bible as the Word of God, of coming in faith and with humility to study and to discuss what God has to say! How much better it would be if there could be an organization which would in particular stimulate and foster the development of theological studies along conservative or evangelical lines so that there might be an impact upon the world in which we live which would bring glory to our God! There was also the thought that we needed more of a body of evangelical theological literature. There are books that come from the press every day. Over a period of time, the number of these books is almost legion, and yet how few of them there are that approach the problems of theology and Bible interpretation from an attitude of faith. There being a dearth of up-to-date Conservative theological literature, it seemed in point to have an organization which would devote itself to the fostering of such literature.
We, like the folks in the A.S.A., have a desire for real Christian fellowship. In thinking about the possibilities of such an organization, I am sure that there was a desire on the part of many that there should be an avenue for those of like precious faith that they should get to know each other and to have the very precious fellowship of the saints. Also, there has been a very great deal in the way of differences in the theological world, within the eva;igelical theological world, if you will. We have our denominations. Some are of this denomination and some of that denomination. We don't get together very much. We tend to be divided rather than be together. just a f ew days ago, now, some kind Roman Catholic sent to my desk a copy of a Catholic newspaper. Along with this newspaper was the Easter church section page of the Protestant churches of one of the suburbs of greater Boston. Written across the top of that page was something like this: "How can you read this and believe that all this is of God?" Well, there might be just a little bit of a barb there, and some of us have felt that we ought to do something about getting together, howbeit without compromise, rather than to be content with diversity and separation. We have folk in the Calvinistic camp and folk in the Arminian camp. They haven't had very much fellowship; their lines of activity have brought them together by groups, but haven't brought them together with one another. We also have folk of varying eschatological positions; they tend to congregate in different places. Apparently some bridges needed to be spanned. We have our councils, you know. Some are of this council and some of that council. In the minds of a great many people there has been a real desire to have some considerations to what the Scriptures have to say about a unity which is not based upon just any old common denominator but which is based upon unity of faith and which perhaps represents somewhat of an ecumenicalism that we haven't seen very much and and haven't heard about very much. Then there were thoughts that if there were such an organization, it might provide for some professional contacts so that men who are teaching in the various schools might get their heads together, might share some of their ideas. There are also young men who are preparing for the ministry-not just the ministry of the pastorate, but ministry of teaching. When these young men get to the place where they are ready to go out and to identify themselves with some organization or institution professionally, they are somewhat at a loss as to how to proceed; they haven't had the proper contacts. Perhaps an organization which would bring these young students together with the administrators and teachers of various colleges and seminaries would be very, very helpful to the young men and also to the schools themselves.
Here was a vision, a vision which wasn't just the brain-child of one individual, nor of two, but which had been born in the minds and hearts of many men the country over. Not very much had been done about it but it was there. The idea was there and ready to be exploited.
Then came the time for Chapter Two; that was "Action." Action began, especially up New Englandway. At Gordon Divinity School there were talks about the problem, the need, the vision-not only talks, but prayer that the Lord might be pleased to do something to the honor of His Name. Contact was made with some of the leading evangelical scholars of our country, men who were known to some of us of that institution. The question was raised with these men through personal correspondence: "Would you be interested in fostering such an organization? Would you be interestd in joining together and extending a call to other men that they might come together to do something about implementing the idea, making it not just a vision but an actuality?" The response to that correspondence was splendid, and a number of men pledged themselves to issue a call for an organizational meeting. The call was issued. But what was going to happen? Men were being asked to come together to a central place in the city of Cincinnati in December of 1949, just after Christmas, on the 27th and 28th of the month. These men were to come at their own expense. There was no organization to sponsor their coming. They were to travel great distances. They were to come without subsidy, and in most cases their salaries left much to be desired. There wasn't even any host, as in the case of the initial A.S.A. meeting-no Moody
We met together for only a day and a half, a short time, indeed. Could anything significant be accomplished in so brief a period? Well, we adopted a provisional constitution, which hasn't had to be amended very much since that time. We heard three splendid major addresses, two keynote addresses and a banquet address. We heard nine excellent papers about Biblical subjects. We had fellowship together iv. worship. We had informal Christian fellowship. We made some decisions. One of the decisions was that instead of being just a society for Biblical studies, the exegesis of the Old and New Testaments, we should be an evangelical theological society and would welcome to our discussions and membership and fellowship those who were not just interested in the narrow interpretation of Scripture but in all the various things which one hears about in theological seminaries-all the aspects of the theological curriculum. We also did something which I think was very splendid and which has subsequently proved itself to be so worth while. We had to agree upon some kind of a religious basis. We might have adopted some long confessional statement. We could have decided upon a relatively short statement. But this is the one statement of fellowship for meeting together which the society adopted at that time: "The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written, and therefore inerrant in the autographs." We have found it to be an excellent basis for functioning together, because while we may come to some varied conclusions, we have a common basis which honors the Scriptures as the inspired, inerrant Word of God.
At the close of the sessions, a Jewish scholar of some reputation, whose books you know and who had come to the meeting as an observer, spoke to me personally at one side of the room and said, "I venture to prophesy that within ten years the men who are beginning this organization will have taken the leader ship in the matter of Biblical and theological studies in this country." This was rather an optimistic prophecy. It will probably take a lot more than ten years for anything of that kind to happen, but the word of this man will give you somewhat of an idea as to the success of the organizational meeting.
The third chapter is "Development." I do not know the exact number on the E.T.S. rolls at the present time, but would conjecture the number to be about 200 or more, most of whom arc full-fledged members, a few of whom are what we call student associates. We don't even call those in the latter category "members." We've had splendid leaders during the years. In 1949, the man who was elected to be the first president of the E.T.S. was Dr. Clarence Bouma, an outstanding Christian theologian. In 1950, elected to the same office, was Dr. Merrill C. Tenney, head of the graduate school of Wheaton College. In 1951, Prof. Charles Woodbridge of Fuller Theological Seminary was chosen as President; in 1952, Prof. Frank Neuberg of Wheaton College; in 1953, Pres. John Walvoord of Dallas Theological Seminary; and in 1954, Prof. Harold Kuhn of Asbury Theological Seminary. We have had good leadership during the years. After the Cincinnati meeting, our meetings were held for the two following years in the East, in New York City. We then went to Wheaton, the next year to Chicago, and at the last meeting we were entertained by Shelton College.
We have had some good papers. At the very beginning, the papers were of such merit that they found their way into various journals and books and came before the public in this way. As to the papers read at the first meeting, some were included in the Calvin Forum and others published in United Evangelical Action, The Witness, and Bibliothecra Sacra. One of them was accepted for inclusion in the Journal of Biblical Literature, although I am not sure that it actually appeared in that publication. Through the years many papers read at subsequent meetings have been published, and others are being held in reserve with the exception that we will print them in volumes issued under the auspices of the Society.
There have been a number of literary products issued by E.T.S. It was several years before anything was done about duplicating the papers that were read at the annual meetings, but for the last three years we have duplicated these papers. They are issued as "printed but not published" and are available not only to members of the Society but to othcrs who would like to have them. If there are members of the A.S.A. who would like to become regular subscribers to these papers, arrangements may be made by giving your names to Dr. Nicole.
Early in the history of the Society, a composite volume was begun. It has taken a long, long time to get the volume into form ready for the publisher. We thought that we would do well to come out with a volume that would deal with the attitudes which men of reputation through the years have had toward the Scripture, and their interpretation of Scripture; men such as Irenaeus, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Sanday, Rowley, Niebuhr and Brunner. These were representative scholars. By examining their attitudes and seeing how they dealt with Scripture, it would be possible to erect guide posts and warnings as to the way in which we ought to approach the revealed Word of God. The project was very slow in developing but now that the Society has a new editor, I am sure that it will see the completion of the work very shortly. You may expect to see the volume in print very soon. (Dr. Walvoord is presently serving as Editor.)
This past year there came forth another book, the first of a series of monographs prepared by individuals holding membership in the Society-a book by Prof. Paul K. Jewett entitled Brunner's Concept of Revelation, a book which is very stimulating. It has been well received by evangelicals and has evoked interest in other circles as well. Many of you have seen it. We commend it to you.
Some of you have heard the doughnut story-the
story of the street on which were located various
doughnut shops. One of the shops put out a sign
which said, "We have the best doughnuts in town."
The next shop down the street put out this sign: "We
have the best doughnuts in the United States." Another advertised, "We have the best doughnuts in the
universe." The owner of the last shop was puzzled as
to what kind of a sign he should put out, but finally
produced one which read: "We have the best doughnuts on this street." We of
E.T.S. are not ready to
make great claims for our Society, but we do have a
group which has, as a common basis of faith, acceptance of the Bible as the Word of God. We are very
thankful for that. We have bridged some of the dif f erences; by getting evangelicals together for fellowship.
Theological discussion has indeed been stimulated.
Papers have been read. They have been well received
and have been circulated rather widely. We were able to
get Dr. Jewett's book published. He had submitted the
manuscript to one publisher after another, and pub
lishers said, "This is a technical book. If it were more
popular, we would be very happy to publish it. We
think it is a very lucid interpretation of Brunner, but
we would have to accept such a great responsibility
financially that we just don't see how we can handle
it." E.T.S. found a publisher-a publisher who not
only was willing to handle the book, and do it entire]),
upon his own responsibility financially, but who was willing to do it so that the members of the Society and their friends could have copies at a low cost, The publish er was so happy with the venture that he has expressed interest in considering any other manu scripts which the Society wishes to have published.
We have had fine Christian fellowship, At our annual meetings-held each year during Christmas vacation-we have been greatly blessed. For a period of time the number present at the annual meetings was small. Some said, "Is it worth the while for just a small group to get together to have the discussions?" But after two years of meetings in the East, we came to the Bible belt, the Middle West, meeting at Wheaton, and experienced a revitalization. The following year we had inspiring sessions in Chicago. We then ventured to go back to the East again. I wish to report that at present "The baby is in good health." The tide has turned. Today we come to a new milestone in the life and history of this organization as we come together with our Christian friends of the American Scientific Affiliation. We are not ready to put out the signs, but we are producing good "doughnuts," and we look forward to the day when it may be possible, with justification, to put out some signs. Thank you.