Seminary Daze III
Bill Long 4/24/07
The Faculty at GCTS in the mid-1970s
When students think of the faculty at their graduate institutions, they often at first don't think of them as scholars. I think students know that the faculty are scholars, but students tend to notice very human things about the faculty, mostly certain personal characteristics or stylistic features, that either endeared you or, usually, repelled you from them. Let me begin with the preaching department.
Even though the school consisted of nearly 500 students in those days, we only had two preaching professors. Deane Kemper taught the basic preaching class, while Gwyn Walters focused on the preaching clinics. When I got into law teaching a few years ago, I found it nearly inexplicable that law would have no required class that trained students how to speak or present themselves publicly. There were moot court competitions; there were legal writing courses, but one never had regular opportunities to present ideas orally. Not so in seminary. We had both the basic preaching class and the preaching clinic.
Though Kemper was a bona-fide Presbyterian (as was Walters), he was suspect to the Pittsburgh mafia because he seemed rather "soft" theologically. He had a Ph. D. in communications, as I recall, from a Big Ten university, and this really meant that he was more into "communications theory" than into "preaching the Word of God," in the minds of some. He would draw diagrams of how the communication cycle worked, and he shocked the conservatives by his theory of preaching--that preaching was like a "meal;" you probably couln't remember it the next week, but you're still alive so the meal probably did its job.
His "low" view of preaching was more than offset by Walters' "high view" of preaching. Walters was a Welshman, in his mid-50s, of soft voice and lilting speech. Jackie DeShannon might have sung, "What the World Needs Now is Love," but Walters thought that the world needed more preachers. He was not a man of deep learning, but his bag was always full of homiletical tricks of the trade that left his admiring students amazed and some of the rest of us nearly dumbfounded. For example, Walters wanted to be a clever person with words. An example of this is how he named his children. Well, here was the family. He was Gwyn. Wife was Mair. Son was Meirwyn. Daughter was Gwenfair. I think you have him in a nutshell there.
Speaking of nutshells, however, let's continue. He was on sabbatical my first year at GCTS, and when he returned, he was full of stories of preaching around the world. He picked up a little wood owl someplace in his peregrinations, and decided he would use the owl as his object lesson as the sermon progressed. So he would preach and then say, "What does the wise old owl say? O-W-L"...first point, "Our Wonderful Lord..." Then, after speaking about that subject for a bit, he would say, "And what does the wise old owl say?" O-W-L, "O What Love..." After his second point, I recall whispering to myself, this guy is an "O-W-L," "One Weird Loser." But, of course, I didn't share my thoughts with anyone at the time. Another example of his cutesy type of sermon was one entitled: "Presbyterians--Best at Prayers?: An Anagram" Why anyone would want to play such little word tricks is beyond me; maybe it "flew" in Wales in the 50s...
The Old Testament Department
You might have read the previous essays as implying that all Biblical studies professors were closet liberals at GCTS. Such could not be further from the truth. The Old Testament department was anchored by someone who felt that GCTS was too liberal: Meredith G. Kline. Kline didn't have Nicole's massive learning but was probably the smartest or most creative thinker on the faculty. He had one basic idea in life that he dressed up in different garments for his various classes, and that idea was developed in his doctoral work at Brandeis just after WWII--that the Book of Deuteronomy was structured like an ancient Hittite suzerainty treaty (2nd millennium B.C.E). Where Kline wanted to go with this was clear--he wanted to argue for a Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy and the Pentateuch generally. I recall one of his cuter lines: "Modern scholarship has made the Pentateuch into a mosaic, rather than Mosaic." He wanted to reverse that trend.
I was never convinced by what he said about this, but I was fascinated by his mind. I ended up taking his advanced class on Zechariah, in which we wrestled with the Hebrew text of that prophet. He and I had a gentle disagreement when he straightforwardly confessed that he believed Zechariah could have "foreseen" developments hundreds of years after his time, while I took the "unbelieving" position that he only knew what he could see--and that his flights into the future were in the nature of "guesses" or creative or mythic literary creations.
Meredith Kline was also a very kind man, and I will always remember his personableness, and accessibility for me. Students will also recall that his pre-lecture prayers were sometimes worthy of being published.
I never took a course with Douglas Stewart, an OT colleague who doubled as registrar. Stewart had a great education and a good mind; later in his career he would team up with Gordon Fee on a very popular book on reading the Bible. I think he, under the influence of Kline, leaned right. Because if he didn't, he might end up going the way of the third OT professor, James Hiles. Hiles was a curious sort of fellow--an Episcopal priest from Milton, south of Boston, with a near-Ph.D. from Basel in Switzerland, a love for things Germanic and a taste for fine wine. He was an incredibly boring lecturer, and he was, no doubt, a "liberal" in a collar. After he was dismissed, he was replaced by Elmer Smick, as memory serves. He was just as dull as Hiles but Smick had impeccable Reformed credentials. An archaeologist and linguist of good reputation, Smick often tried to bring the results of his linguistic work to class, without much success. I often wondered what it felt like to be a boring teacher; I never had the guts, of course, to ask Elmer. Oh, I wonder if one of the reasons that Stuart "leaned right" in the inerrancy controversy at GCTS is because he had eight kids... (though I don't think he had them all at the time).
This essay seemingly could go on forever, but I won't let it. Let's conclude with mention of a few others. I got to know the Christian Education faculty (Charles Schauffele and Bob Fillinger) mostly outside of class, since I only took one CE class. They were both amiable and harmless, easy-smiling men who believed, I am sure, that Christian Education was important. Schauffele was nearly bald by the time I arrived (he started teaching there in 1950, I believe), but he had one extremely long strand of hair which he seemingly kept wrapping around in coils so as to look as if he had a full head of hair. He would have made a great Sikh if he were not an Orthodox Presbyterian.
The biggest nerd, but also the man with the most interesting pedigree on the faculty was J. Christy Wilson, Jr. He had just begun teaching in 1974 after at least twenty years as missionary in Afghanistan. We students thought it was so cool in our basic missiology course to read Kane's book on Christian Missions and see a large section devoted to the work of Wilson. We never surmised what was probably the case--that the guys were long-time friends. In any case, Wilson was gracious in spirit and full of interesting stories about life in the Arab/Central Asian world. He was a product of a missionary family, and his father, J. Christy Sr. was a missionary in Iran for decades beginning near the end of WWI. On one occasion Christy brought in the distinguished retired Presbyterian missionary Wiliam McElwee Miller (1892-1993), missionary in Iran from 1919-1962 and one of the first Americans to translate some Shiite theological works into English. The Pittsburgh Presbyterians gathered to hear this 83 year-old sage as he described his theological education at Princeton in the "teens," a student of the redoubtable B.B. Warfield, whom Miller described as sitting and lecturing with his long beard and "mowing down the Arminians."
Finally, I will mention a person who still teaches at GCTS, John Jefferson Davis. He was new at GCTS in 1975, with a freshly minted Ph. D. from Duke, as I recall. Jack was a Southern Presbyterian through and through, and he seemingly was Nicole's choice to replace him when he retired. Jack has been a prolific scholar on philosophical and some typical right-wing issues. My sense was that when GCTS hired him that he was going to have to toe the inerrantist line pretty closely. This, however, didn't seem to be much of a problem for him.
Memories of others abound--Stephen Charles Mott; William Nigel Kerr; Lloyd Kalland and others. But here I will stop. My GCTS days seem like several life-times away. Indeed, in many ways they are. But memories sink deep into our souls, becoming as much a part of us as our limbs or muscles. We are our memories, and I am grateful for the GCTS days. I couldn't imagine going back there today, though in some ways I have never left.