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Collection 243 Records of the Evangelical Theological Society

Identifier: CN 243

Scope and Contents

Correspondence, minutes of meetings, reports, financial records, annual and regional meeting brochures, membership records, directories, selected copies of publications, files on associated groups such as the American Scientific Affiliation, abstracts, reprints of papers delivered at meetings, audio tapes, photographs. Materials document origins of the Evangelical Theological Society, specific data on members, publishing activity, and discussion on the issue of inerrancy and authority of Scripture.


  • Created: 1949-1982

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.

Historical Information

In the first decades of the twentieth century, there was a reaction to the modernist movement among some conservative Protestants. They issued a call to return to the "fundamentals" to restore the emphasis on inerrant and authoritative teachings of the Bible to its former wide acceptance. A number of factors following World War I resulted in a general public reaction in the 1930s against the "Fundamentalists," as they came to be called, and subsequent withdrawal of conservative believers into a closed circle of independent congregations, para-church, and professional groups with increasingly less contact and interaction with mainline Christian denominations. Post-World Was II years produced a rising concern among conservative scholars of the necessity to counteract this withdrawal of conservatives from the wider world of scholarly activity. While many Fundamentalists tended to be anti-intellectual, some conservatives, calling themselves Evangelicals, began to challenge liberal solutions.

The Evangelical Theological Society arose out of a long-standing and keenly perceived need for interaction and wider dissemination of conservative research on biblical and theological issues. Conservative, Evangelical scholars were equally concerned that the Bible was no longer being supported as authoritative in many schools and seminaries, among leaders of main-line denominations, or in published research. By providing an Evangelical arena of intellectual interchange and disseminating the results to a larger public, it was hoped that exposition and defense of Evangelical positions could be added to existing scholarly theological literature more liberal in content.

As a result of many informal conferences in schools and seminaries, faculty members of Gordon Divinity School, Boston, Massachusetts, decided to take the first step toward organization of a group of like-minded scholars into a society having as its purpose publication of such research and the provision of a forum for discussion and support between its members. A series of twenty-four letters to individual professors of approximately twenty conservative colleges and seminaries was sent out early in 1949 to gauge interest. Responses from these encouraged the committee, under the chairmanship of Edward R. Dalglish of Gordon, to proceed with further arrangements. A list of those originally contacted can be found on a separate page of this guide. Consensus of meeting time and place resulted in the first gathering of the Society in Cincinnati, on December 27 and 28, 1949. Meetings were held in the YMCA and were attended by sixty scholars, representing at least twenty different denominations. The group elected R. Clarence Bouma (Calvin Seminary) as President and appointed an Executive Committee to carry on the continuing business. Membership, Editorial, and a Standing Committee were established, the latter for program arrangements. A complete list of original officers and committees will be found on another page of this guide. A list of papers read at this meeting is also given.

The decision was made to form a society composed of independent individuals of conservative, Evangelical conviction with one common denominator: scholarship based on the concept of biblical inerrancy. These individuals were not required to be affiliated with schools and seminaries and were not to be limited to specific denominational or theological traditions. For these reasons, the creedal statement was limited to one sentence: "The Bible alone and the Bible in its entirety is the word of God written, and therefore inerrant in the autographs." It was also decided that papers should not be limited to biblical and exegesis studies but were to range the entire field of theological disciplines.

A constitution and by-laws were drawn up at this meeting, with the stated purpose of fostering "conservative Biblical scholarship by providing a medium for the oral exchange and written expression of thought and research in the general field of the theological disciplines as centered in the Scriptures." Eligible for membership were possessors of a Th.M. degree or equivalent; subsequent by-laws set up an Associate membership without voting rights for those without this degree. Also added was a Student Associate status granted in 1951 to those of college level or beyond, requiring only subscription to the creedal statement and payment of dues. Member and Associate dues were used to fund the cost of publications. At the end of 1950, ETS had grown to one hundred members.

Annual meetings were scheduled in December after Christmas and held at colleges and seminaries across the country. These institutions, and others, were encouraged to defray the expenses for their faculty members who wished to attend. Meetings consisted of formal sessions at which prepared papers, addresses, and panel discussions were presented. Informal discussion periods in group meetings, at meals, and in devotional sessions also provided interaction of like-minded scholars, as well as those of varying points of view, to gain understanding, definition, and solution to their mutual concerns. This structure was aimed at articulating a biblically-based faith, subjecting it to discriminating criticism, and disseminating the results.

In 1952, ETS authorized the formation of four sections: Eastern, Southern, Midwestern, and Far Western. Each section conducted at least one annual meeting in its own territory in addition to the regular annual meeting in December. The first meeting outside the United States was held in Toronto at Toronto Bible College in 1967. The Evangelical Theological Society of Canada became a Canadian section in 1969. A year later, The Evangelical Theological Society of Japan was formed, maintaining contact but not becoming part of ETS. By 1982 there were seven sections: Eastern, Midwestern, Far Western, Southeastern, Southwestern, Northwestern, and Foreign.

In 1957, ETS consisted of 252 members and 110 associates, including leading conservative scholars in the U.S. and Canada, as well as some in mission work or study abroad. The twentieth anniversary, 1968, was celebrated at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, with the theme, "An Evangelical Review of Old Testament Studies." There was a total membership of 818, 280 of whom were associate or student memberships. A silver anniversary meeting in 1973 convened at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois, and ETS membership on that date was 812; the focus of the study papers was on the New Testament. By 1980, the membership was up to 1,378, 780 with the required Th.M. degree.

As a result of its convictions and the basic reason for its formation, one of the Society's major activities subsequently became publication. A quarterly Bulletin of the Evangelical Theological Society was first published in 1958. It contained minutes of the meetings, a roster of those attending, selected texts of papers read at the meeting, book reviews, announcements, and a list of new members, associates, and students. The name was changed to Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society in 1969. The Society also published a directory of members each year from 1953. In 1977, the Newsletter was inaugurated, a house organ which endeavored to keep its members in touch with research in process, announcements of interest to members in various sectional meetings, announcements of other group meetings dealing with areas of research, publications of members, etc.

In 1957, ETS sponsored a symposium, Inspiration and Interpretation, consisting of some chapters written by historical leaders of the church like Augustine and Wesley and others written by members of the Society. The Society also produced a monograph series of six volumes including:

Vol. 1 - Emil Brunner's Concept of Revelation, Paul K. Jewett.

Vol. 2 - Israel and the Arameans of Damascus, Merrill F. Unger, 1957.

Vol. 3 - Darius the Mede, John C. Whitcomb, 1959.

Vol. 4 - Karl Barth's Theological Method, Gordon H. Clark, 1963.

Vol. 5 - Paul, Apostle of Liberty, Richard N. Longenecker, 1964.

Vol. 6 - The Bible: The Living Word of Revelation, Merrill C. Tenney, 1968.

A twentieth anniversary volume, New Perspectives on the Old Testament, 1969, was published by Word Books containing the papers presented at that meeting. A similar volume, New Dimensions in New Testament Study, was issued by Zondervan containing papers from the twenty-fifth anniversary meeting, 1973. Perspectives on Evangelical Theology commemorated the thirtieth anniversary in 1978.

In 1955, ETS began conducting biennial gatherings with American Scientific Affiliation. This organization had as its goal the pursuit of a Christian philosophy of science based on the reliability of scriptural authority, an emphasis which coincided with ETS and its creedal stance. ASA was founded in 1941 and included professors, students, doctors, industrial scientists, and government research workers troubled by attacks on the scientific unworthiness of the Bible. Joint meetings were concerned with such topics as genetic control and theories of man's origin (1966). ASA's membership in that year was fifteen hundred.

A recurring issue in ETS had been its doctrinal statement. Broad denominational inclusiveness within ETS included believers in inerrancy from many traditions, including Reformed, Arminian, and dispensational Evangelicals. Until 1982 there had been in the Society no official action to restate, add to, or delete any part of the statement of inerrancy which all members signed yearly with renewal of membership. In 1962, an ETS survey of its membership had reaffirmed the group's commitment to inerrancy. Two-thirds of those surveyed placed biblical authority as primary for a cohesive, conservative, and coordinated theological offensive. A panel discussion at the December meeting was titled, "Biblical Inerrancy Today." At the same time, however, other ETS members were contending that poetic, or literary, elements should be recognized. In 1968, prompted by a question to the Society about its position on inerrancy, the Executive Committee responded to the effect that inerrancy was valid both as a term and as a concept. In 1972 a discussion was held regarding a possible affiliation with the Council on the Study of Religion but rejected the option because the doctrinal standard of CSR did not coincide with the ETS position. ETS continued to send nonvoting representatives to the meetings. Four years later, 1976, the Executive Committee included in its minutes the sentence that "the statement in its brevity and simplicity is both adequate and sufficient."

Questions continued to be raised over the difference between inerrant or infallible teaching as opposed to inerrant Scripture subject to variants of language and whether or not all ETS members were seriously or wholeheartedly committed to the doctrinal standard. During these years, the Society began to lose a number of members who developed reservations or opinions which they felt could not be reconciled with the doctrinal statement. These losses reflected the concurrent debate during the 1960s and 1970s in Evangelical circles. A polarization developed between those who accepted the biblical records as literal, those who acknowledged the categories of literary and apocalyptic genre, many of which use descriptive nonliteral terms, and those who recognized the possibility of scribal errors in translations or contradictions which methods of textual study revealed. Most of the Evangelical leaders supporting a statement of unqualified inerrancy were to be found within the membership of ETS, including Harold Lindsell, Frank E. Gaebelein, Roger R. Nicole, Kenneth S. Kantzer, and others.

In 1982 three of the papers delivered at the annual meeting dealt with some aspect of inerrancy. As a result, coupled with increasing controversy over precise definition of the term, for the first time in ETS history a committee was appointed to study the issue and report in December 1983. The committee was assigned to examine in particular the question of whether or not methodological criteria for interpretation of scripture should be limited, and if so, whether or not qualifications to this effect should be added to the original statement to ensure its members' adherence to the original intent of the statement.


10 Boxes

32 Audio Tapes

1 Oversize File

2 Photograph Files

Language of Materials


Arrangement and Description of Material

Audio tapes are of papers delivered at 1982 meeting on theological issues and biblical scholarship.With the exceptions of general correspondence and membership applications, the documents in this collection were not received in order, and have been arranged by the archivist according to areas of activity and operation of the Society, using ETS file titles and contents. The material is arranged chronologically within each area as follows:

Founding Meeting and Constitution, By-Laws Folders 1-1, 1-2

Executive Committee correspondence and minutes Folders 1-3 through 1-6

Sectional correspondence and reports Folders 1-7 through 1-15

Annual meetings Folders 1-16 through 2-7

Membership Folders 2-8 through 3-5

Directories Folders 3-6 through 3-8

Correspondence Folders 3-10 through 7-29

ETS publications Folders 8-1 through 8-15

Miscellaneous Folders 8-16 through 8-21

Treasurer Folders 8-22 through 10-3

A list of thirty-two audio tapes of addresses delivered at the 1982 annual meeting is included in the Location Record for audio tapes.

Data concerning the origins of ETS are in folders 1-1, 1-2, 1-16, 1-17, 2-8, 3-10, and 3-11. Folder 1-1 contains a mimeographed release explaining the impetus, efforts, procedures, and the announcement of the first meeting signed by a representative group which launched the new Society. Also in this folder are minutes of the first Executive Committee meeting, as well as those of the first official meeting, a roster of those attending, and the first press release which listed all officers, the program and papers presented (see Founding Meeting page in this guide for names and topics). Copies of two magazine articles are included: an edited version of the keynote address delivered by Clarence Bouma at the founding meeting and a commentary by Burton L. Goddard about the Society's first meeting and participants. Both articles were printed in the February 1950 issue of The Calvin Forum. A list of charter member is in folder 1-17.

A change of filing procedures resulted in an overlap of folders titled Executive Committee and Annual Meetings. Executive Committee minutes and correspondence are found in folders 1-3 through 1-6 for the years 1950-1975. Other minutes are in the Annual Meeting folder; however, these minutes are not included for each year of the records received in this collection.

Annual Meeting folders include Executive Committee minutes, Annual Meeting minutes, reports of Membership and Editorial Committees, Secretary and/or Treasurer's reports, sectional minutes and reports, program brochures, news releases and correspondence. Not every Annual Meeting folder contains all of these records. Correspondence and reports within Annual Meeting folders are not in consecutive monthly order except where the year's records have been divided into two folders by the archivist because of bulk. Records of anniversary years are in the following folders: tenth anniversary, 1959 (1-21); twentieth year, 1968 (1-28); twenty-fifth year, 1973 (1-34, 1-35); thirtieth year, 1978 (2-3). In 1973 the Executive Committee appointed an Ad Hoc Evaluation Committee to survey ETS activities in the past and make suggestions for future changes. Folders 1-6 and 1-36, 1974 contain reports of this committee. Two folders (2-6, 2-7) contain data on joint meetings with the American Scientific Affiliation, but joint meeting information can also be found in the Annual Meeting folders for most of the biennial dates, beginning in 1955. A partial and untitled manuscript of taped discussions of the joint ASA-ETS meeting at Winona Lake (1955) is in folder 2-6.

Sectional ETS reports are also contained in two different files. Folders 1-7 through 1-15 (see Container List of this guide) are listed by geographical areas for the years 1953 to 1982 and contain correspondence with secretaries of these divisions. Reports of sectional chairmen are also in Annual Meeting folders 1-17 through 2-1. A list of sectional officers for 1970 is in folder 1-7.

Membership data (2-8 through 3-8) includes forms, lists, committee reports (2-8), and applications (1950-1979). Three folders contain membership directories (3-6 through 3-8). Correspondence, much of it concerning membership inquiries, is not in consecutive order chronologically within folders, but is filed alphabetically by name for the years noted on the container List of this guide (6-8 through 7-26). Correspondence after 1971 was filed alphabetically by states (6-8 through 7-26). Folder 2-8 contains a report summarizing membership from 1949 to 1963.

The records in this collection dealing with publishing activities are primarily administrative. Copies of two Bulletins are in folder 8-3, one Newsletter is in folder 8-14, and a monograph by Russell L. Mixter is in folder 8-13. Abstracts of papers delivered at ETS meetings are in folders 1-11, 1-13, 1-19, 1-20, 1-21, 1-23, and 1-26. Complete copies of the following papers can be found in the folders listed:

Folder 2-6: "Diagnostic Scientific Method in the Interpretation of Holy Scripture," J. E. Mickelsen, 1955

Folder 2-2: "A Perspective on Scriptural Inerrancy," Richard H. Bube, 1963.

Folder 1-32: "The Locus of Authority in the Church," Harold O. J. Brown, 1970.

Folder 1-32: "The Locus of Authority in the Church: A Catholic Perspective," Michael A. Fahey, S.J., 1971.

Folder 8-20: "Does It Matter What A Man Believes?" R. F. Aldwinckle, 1971.

Folder 8-20: "Skepticism, Relativism, Subjectivism, Nihilism, and the Crisis of Religious Authority," Millard J. Erickson, 1971.

Folder 8-20: "Sources of Revelation," Elmer Leslie Gray, 1971.

Folder 8-20: "Fundamentalism and American Baptists: An Attempt to Deal with the Problem of Biblical Authority," Norman H. Maring, 1971.

Folder 8-20: "Biblical Language and Religious Authority," John B. Newport, 1971.

Other reprints are contained in the following folders:

Folder 1-33: "Supplement to Tyndale Paper, The Tyndale Paper - Anthropomorphism," Dr. John Kleinig, 1972.

Folder 1-33: "Report of the Task Force on Scholarly Communication and Publication," edited by George W. Macrae, Council on the Study of Religion, 1972.

Folder 2-6: "No Conflict Between THESE Scientists and Theologians," J. Barton Payne (Action, August, 1959).

1-26: "The Theological Grinches Who Steal Christmas," Roger Nicole (Christianity Today, December, 1966).

Most of the thirty-two audio tapes of papers delivered at the 1982 annual meeting include the question and answer period, though questions are often inaudible. The topic chosen as the focus for this meeting was historical and biblical criticism; many of the tapes relate to the issue of inerrancy, discussion of which initiated the formation of a committee to consider a change in the doctrinal statement. Besides data already listed on inerrancy, annual meeting and correspondence files contain letters from members who withdrew, a resolution from the Seminary on the Authority of Scripture (folder 1-26), and a letter from Richard H. Bube to ETS regarding his position on the issue (folder 2-2).

The files of ETS also include folders which contain information about organizations with which ETS had varying relationships. A history of the japan Evangelical Theological Society is in folder 1-33, and a file of correspondence and other materials for the JETS is in folder 7-28. All papers from the 1971 meeting of the Commission on Baptist Doctrine will be found in folder 8-20. Folder 1-31 contains a published Report and Minutes from Theological Assistance Program, 1971, as well as a mimeographed bulletin of the same year. Printed materials of the Council on the Study of Religion are in folders 1-30 and 1-33. They include a report of the Task Force on Scholarly Communication and Publication, listed above.

A privately-bound exchange of letters concerning Evangelical divinity students' problems and representation at Vanderbilt University gathered by ETS Student Associate James Hedstrom is in folder 1-6. Hedstrom requested ETS to consider negotiation of his complaint with The American Association of Theological Schools.

Accruals and Additions

The materials in this collection were received at the Billy Graham Center Archives from the Evangelical Theological Society in March 1982 and in May 1983.

Accession 82-34, 83-50

January 5, 1984

Frances L. Brocker

J. Nasgowitz

ETS Founding Meeting: Participants and Agenda

Evangelical Theological Society, Founding Meeting, December 27-28, 1949, Cincinnati, OH

President: Clarence Bouma, Calvin College

Vice President: Merrill C. Tenney, Wheaton College

Secretary: R. Laird Harris, Faith Theological Seminary

Treasurer: George A. Turner, Asbury Theological Seminary

Executive Committee: George Ladd, Gordon Divinity School; Harold B. Kuhn, Asbury Theological Seminary; Alva McClain, Grace Theological Seminary; Gordon H. Clark, Butler University

Membership Committee: R. B. Kuiper, Westminster Theological Seminary; Carl F. H. Henry, Fuller Theological Seminary; Alexander Heidel, Oriental Institute; Julius R. Mantey, Northern Baptist Seminary

Standing Committee on Programs and Arrangements: W. C. Mavis, Asbury Theological Seminary; Frank T. Littorin, Gordon Divinity School

Meeting Program

Keynote Addresses:

"The Importance of the Society for American Evangelical Scholarship," Clarence Bouma, Calvin College

"The Aim and Development of the Society," Edward R. Dalglish, Gordon Divinity School

Banquet Address:

"Fifty Years of American Theology and the Contemporary Need," Carl F. H. Henry, Fuller Theological Seminary


"Hezekiah's Tribute to Sennacherib," Alexander Heidel, The Oriental Institute

"The Achilles Heel of Humanism," Gordon H. Clark, Butler University

"Aims and Methods in the Teaching of Hebrew to Undergraduates," C. Douglas Young, National Bible Institute

"That Active Obedience of Christ," John Murray, Westminster Theological Seminary

"The Influence of Syrian Antioch in the Apostolic Church," Merrill C. Tenney, Wheaton College

"Toward an Absolute Chronology for the Early Old Testament," J. Barton Payne, Bob Jones University

"Some Textual and Archaeological Notes on Genesis 15:2-3," Merrill F. Unger, Dallas Theological Seminary

"Old Testament Textual Criticism and New Testament Quotations," R. Laird Harris, Faith Theological Seminary

"Some Questions on Strong's Conception of the Atonement," Warren C. Young, Northern Baptist Theological Seminary

ETS Treasurers and Editors

ETS Treasurers

1949-1954: George Turner, Asbury Theological Seminary

1955: Robert Culver, Wheaton College

1956-1958: Delbert R. Rose, Asbury Theological Seminary

1959-1960: Alfred Cierpke, Temple Baptist Theological Seminary

1961-1963: Earl S. Kalland, Denver Theological Seminary

1964-1967: Richard N. Longenecker, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

1968-1976: Vernon C. Grounds, Conservative Baptist Seminary

1977- Simon J. Kistemaker, Reformed Theological Seminary

ETS Editors

1949-1954: Burton L. Goddard, Gordon Divinity School

1955-1957: John W. Walvoord, Dallas Theological Seminary

1958-1960: Steven Barabas, Wheaton College

1961: John E. Luchies, Wheaton College

1962-1975: Samuel J. Schultz, Wheaton College

1976- Ronald F. Youngblood, Bethel Theological Seminary
Collection 243 Records of the Evangelical Theological Society
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Roman Script

Repository Details

Part of the Evangelism & Missions Archives Repository

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