Category Archives: Books

Robert E. Webber

One of the more controversial professors at Wheaton College was Dr. Robert E. Webber, who influenced a generation of students and a large segment of evangelicalism. Raised in a Baptist church in Pennsylvania, he attended Bob Jones University in the late 1950s before enrolling at Reformed Episcopal Seminary, finishing in 1960 his graduate education at Covenant Theological Seminary. He began teaching theology at Wheaton College in 1968. Youthful, energetic and sympathetic to the concerns of students, he was a popular and highly effective lecturer. As he studied ecclesiastical history, its variable trends and moods, Webber perceived that vital practices had been ignored or recklessly tossed aside during the Reformation.

In 1978 he published Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail, a collection of autobiographical essays by Webber and former evangelicals who gradually adopted Anglo-catholic or Catholic forms of worship. When released the book generated considerable heat among evangelicals who felt that Webber had betrayed the Protestant faith. Eventually, however, it was recognized that his pioneering research opened doors for fresh approaches to church life, whether liturgical expressions were adopted or not. Closely studying the permutations of Christian worship, Webber wrote or edited several additional books dealing with the history and function of liturgy, including Worship is a Verb, Blended Worship and the seven-volume Complete Library of Christian Worship. During his later career he concentrated on the writings of the Church Fathers, attempting to draw from their treatises insights for contemporary contexts. This interest is reflected in the Introduction to Journey to Jesus: “The model of evangelism proposed in this book is a resurrection of the seeker model…that originated in the third century…It speaks particularly to the current search for an effective style of evangelism in a world dominated by postmodern thought, a church living in a post-Constantinian society, and the challenge to overcome the resurgence of pagan values.” Webber was Director of the Institute for Worship Studies. At the time of his death in 2007, he was the William R. and Geraldyn B. Myers professor of ministry at Northern Seminary in Lombard, Illinois.

A Merry Merrill Tenney Christmas

This fine bit of Christology from Dr. Merrill Tenney, former Dean of the Wheaton College Graduate School, appeared in the December, 1958, Alumni Magazine.

Merrill TenneyIn the obscurity of a stable in a cave in Bethlehem of Judea there occurred one of the most ordinary events of history: a baby was born. Nothing could be less spectacular; it is as common as mankind. Every one of us who now lives entered this world by that same gateway, so that this baby was no exception. He did not come from an aristocratic family. Mary, his mother, though of good ancestry, was of Galilean peasant stock, and her husband, Joseph, was a village carpenter. Both were well known to all their neighbors as good but ordinary people, probably neither better nor worse than the average. They had neither power, nor wealth, nor influence. No particular notice was taken of the baby’s arrival, and there was no celebration in His honor. The populace of Bethlehem did not know that He existed.

Nevertheless, His birth was a landmark in the history of the world that marked a change in the very method of reckoning time, and that changed the course of empire. While the fact of His birth was not extraordinary, the nature of His birth most certainly was, for both of the Gospels that describe it assert unequivocally that He was born of a virgin. Mary, His mother, officially betrothed to Joseph, but the marriage had not been consummated before He was born. The accounts tell us that His birth was announced by an angelic messenger, and that the Holy Spirit so came upon Mary that her child was called “the Son of God” (Luke 1:35), and the celestial hosts who appeared to the shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem sang of “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men,” when He entered the world.

This mingling of the supernatural and the natural, of deity and humanity is the miracle of Christmas. God has entered into the experience of humanity not as a casual visitor, but as a partaker of our flesh will all its limitations and sorrow. “He was in all points tempted like as we are.” Nevertheless, he was not just a victim of fate, for through the vehicle of the human body He labored, taught, died and rose that He might reveal the nature of God to men, and that He might fulfill God’s purpose in saving them. The miracle of Christmas is that in the coming of Jesus, God made himself our Redeemer, and that in the ordinary process of birth a new and supernatural power entered human life. Because He is both God and man, He is able to destroy death and to give eternal deliverance from fear and failure.

The Blanchards on the Bible

As a child the Bible intrigued Jonathan Blanchard. He would carry one to school to read enough times that he soon was given the name “Bible Blanchard.” (Minority Of One, p. 20) In his latter years, Jonathan lamented the secularization of the American educational system. He said that “the ‘modern method’ of education is constantly cropping out. So far as we understand it, the modern method means no Bible and no religion of Christ.” The champions of the new method divorced “education from God and His Word …. Christianity speaks now in whispers in common school associations and state universities.” (Minority of One, p. 200). The influence of Jonathan Blanchard’s view of the Bible can be seen in a Wheaton College student’s response to one of his assignments when he wrote “What has made America? … We answer in a word–the Bible. . . . Yes; it is the Bible that gives America her greatness.” (Christian Cynosure, May 1, 1873.)

Charles Blanchard shared his father’s perspective on the Bible in education. He commented on the place of the Scriptures within Wheaton’s education system when he said “Our College is not an experiment …. The Bible is not only considered the ultimate authority in morals and religion, but is taught as a branch of learning, needful to all well-educated persons.” (Fire on the Prairie, p104-5) In his book, Getting Things from God, Charles wrote that “An age or land in which the Bible is neglected will be a time when, or a country where, all sorts of evils prevail.” (p. 145) Jonathan Blanchard said that “the principles of the Bible are justice and righteousness.” (A debate on Slavery, p. 328)

Judgment Day

Evidence from Scripture / William MillerIt is said that tomorrow, May 21, 2011 is Judgment Day. Billboards around America have declared that the end is near and that Christ will return. Over the course of the subsequent five months the earth will be destroyed. In the history of American religion this is not a new tale or theology. It has been here before, even for the contemporary prognosticator (who once before predicted the end to happen in September 1994).

In the middle of the nineteenth-century William Miller also believed that the return of Christ would occur. He announced that through his study of the bible he determined that the Second Coming of Christ would occur “about the year 1843” — give or take a year or two. He eventually stated more clearly that “Jesus Christ will come again to this earth, cleanse, purify, and take possession of the same, with all the saints, sometime between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844.”

A farmer, Miller was also a lay leader in the Baptist church in New York, near what was known as the “burned-over” district that produced other religious movements like Mormonism. Miller began publicly announcing his views in the early 1830s. He published “Evidence from Scripture and history of the second coming of Christ about the year 1843 : exhibited in a course of lectures” and by the early 1840s it began to gain national attention as others took hold of his ideas and publicized them. One such figure was Joshua Vaughan Himes, pastor of Chardon Street Chapel in Boston, who published a newspaper, Signs of the Times. “Millerite” papers began to spring up around the country in cities like New York, Philadelphia and Cleveland. In the early months of 1843 over a half million publications had been printed and distributed.

Miller’s day passed with great disappointment. It is quite likely that on May 22, 2011 the sun will rise as it had the day before reinforcing that no one knows the day or the hour, except the Father.

“From Bible Belt to Sunbelt” published

From Bible Belt to SunbeltIn this new book Darren Dochuk, from Purdue University, argues that Great Depression-era religious tenant farmers, “plain-folk” migrants, from Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas are key to understanding the contemporary interchange between American religion and politics. These migrants, with their Southern steely persistence and Western rugged impatience and pragmatism helped shape the character of politics in Southern California through the development of a political machine that influenced politics in the second half of the twentieth century in the careers of Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. The research in this book received the 2006 Allan Nevins Prize from the Society of American Historians. By utilizing the records of the National Association of Evangelicals and the National Association of Christian Schools Dochuk’s book has been well-reviewed and serves as a helpful guide as it tells the story of the rise of the New Right and modern conservatism.

A Revolutionary Bible…

The early history of publishing English bibles in America was not one of success as a monopoly existed in England and that control extended to her colonies. The “crown” would not allow that monopoly to be breached by giving permission for bibles to be printed in the colonies. In the colonial period bibles were shipped from Holland and England. However, when the war for independence began embargoes began and bibles were one commodity that fell into short supply.

In 1777 the chaplain of the Continental Congress, Patrick Allison, asked its leadership to address this great shortage. In response Congress passed a resolution to import bibles from wherever they could be obtained, “from Holland, Scotland, or elsewhere,” however nothing was ever done.

Aitken BibleThis failure of action spurred on the work Philadelphia printer Robert Aitken. This Quaker native of Scotland had only been in the colonies since 1769. He was the publisher of the Philadelphia Magazine along with Benjamin Franklin’s son-in-law Richard Bache. It was Aitken that the newly formed Congress engaged to publish its journals and proceedings. During the war resources were scarce, but Aitken took it upon himself to gather the resources necessary to produce a small “duodecimo” New Testament. Due to the great demand the 1777 volume was reprinted in 1778, 1779 and 1781. Seeing the desire the people had for copies of the bible Aitken sought the support of Congress to produce a complete bible.

Rev. John Witherspoon, president of The College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), spearheaded a review of Aitken’s ability to produce a bible and recommended to Congress that in the “interest of religion, as well as…the progress of arts” Aitken be approved and employed to produce a bible. So, Aitken’s 1782 Bible was the first, and only, bible to be printed with the approval of Congress.

Though other translations of the bible into other languages had been printed in North America, this was the first English bible to be printed. 10,000 copies of Aitken’s bible were printed and it was small enough to fit into the coat pocket of the Revolutionary War soldiers. Today, few copies remain and these are some of the rarest bibles with a single page selling in the hundreds of dollars. Wheaton College’s copy can be viewed on display in the Museum of the Billy Graham Center.

What Wheaton College Did for Me: Carl F.H. Henry

This remembrance by Carl F.H. Henry appeared in the April, 1966, Wheaton College Alumni Magazine, as part of a series called “What Wheaton College Did for Me.”

Carl FH HenryAcademically, high tide at Wheaton came during the senior course in theism and comprehensives, which helped to integrate previous years of study from a Christian perspective. There had been the rigorous discipline of Miss Blaine’s Latin classes, the high humor of Dr. Straw’s logic courses, the intellectual confrontation of Dr. Clark’s philosophy major, and too much more to record. Socially, there was the opportunity to establish enduring evangelical friendships that some day would span the earth, and to find my sweetheart and companion for a lifetime. Vocationally, there was the busy suburban “news beat” for Chicago and Wheaton papers, which helped a former reporter meet the collegiate budget. Devotionally, there were daily chapel, semester evangelistic or revival services, and the house prayer meetings. Spiritually, there were the Saturday night “Midnight Brigade” Sunday school classes at Mooseheart, and preaching opportunities.

All in all, it was a good experience. I have never wanted to undo it. Those of us who rubbed elbows on campus had a sense of destiny in the making. Elsewhere the tide of religion was mainly flowing the other way. We had no option but to drift with that stream or to put evangelical conviction to its test. Alumni went to the ends of the earth, to the frontiers of faith, some to places of peril – and in that time of turbulence they stood firm. It was a great heritage – one we hoped future generations (our children as well) could and would discover and preserve for themselves.

On My Mind – Roger Lundin

Twenty years ago, the Wheaton Alumni magazine began a series of articles in which Wheaton faculty told about their thinking, their research, or their favorite books and people. Blanchard Professor of English Roger Lundin was featured in the April/May 1991 issue.

This spring I taught The Brothers Karamazov for the fifteenth time; I imagine that over the years I have reread it at least ten times. What is striking is that my experience is as fresh today as it was when I first stood trembling before a class in 1979 trying to unravel some of that great book’s many mysteries. Teaching a novel as rich as The Brothers Karamazov does not involve straining to find something new to say about an all too familiar subject; instead, each time I work through that book, I simply try to remain alert to what it is saying afresh to me and my students about the world in which God has placed us.

When I read The Brothers Karamazov for the first time as a freshman at Wheaton in 1968, Ivan and Alyosha Karamazov addressed my deepest anxieties about faith and doubt. I first taught the novel more than a decade later, only a few months after the Jonestown Massacre I was haunted by the uncanny parallels between the world of the Grand Inquisitor and the totalitarian rule of Jim Jones over his sect. And as I taught the book this past semester, the Persian Gulf War brought home the power of Ivan Karamazov’s struggles with questions of suffering, especially the suffering of innocent children. I teach in full confidence that a decade from now this old book will still illuminate the dark and baffling events of that new day.

Several years ago, the Christian critic Edmund Fuller wrote in his valedictory column for the Wall Street Journal that he was unimpressed by the saying, “You are what you eat.” To Fuller, the far more interesting generalization is, “You are what you read.” The “printed word gives us the extraordinary freedom to choose the intellectual company we will keep, to select those with whom, in spirit, we will walk.” That freedom is a privilege, and “in the highest sense it is a duty, in at least a due proportion of our reading time, Paraphrasing Joshua, ‘Choose you this day whom you will read.'”

As an undergraduate, I came to Wheaton as a new Christian in search of the intellectual and spiritual company of which Fuller spoke. When Beatrice Batson, Arthur Holmes, Morris Inch, and others introduced me to the likes of Augustine, Luther, Dostoevsky, and Karl Barth, I prized the opportunity of entering into dialogues with powerful minds struggling with issues of life and death, of justice and forgiveness. I especially appreciated the fearlessness of my teachers in making me confront the most difficult matters of the human spirit. I profited from encountering the negations of Nietzsche as well as the affirmations of Luther; I needed to hear Emily Dickinson’s questioning of God as much I needed to be strengthened by the poetry of George Herbert; and as a Christian trying to comprehend his world, I needed to understand the secularity of Harvey Cox as well as hear modern words of promise from Helmut Thielicke. Whether being challenged or comforted by works from the distant or recent past, I was learning how to live as a Christian by listening to voices from that past.

As I have taught at Wheaton over the last decade, my sense of the power of the past has become coupled with an awareness of the fragility of what Robert Bellah, in Habits of the Heart, calls “communities of memory.” A genuine community, a “community of memory does not forget its past. In order not to forget that past, a community is involved in retelling its story.” This is one service that a Christian liberal arts education can perform for Christ and the Church in a fractured and forgetful world. By bringing to life the history of human thought and suffering, and by doing so in dialogue with the biblical witness, the Christian teacher is helping to hand down what the Apostle Paul calls the “treasure” we carry in our “earthen vessels.”

Teaching at Wheaton, then, involves storytelling of a special kind. In a remarkable recent book, After Virtue, the moral philosopher Alasdair Maclntyre argues that “I can only answer the question ‘What am I to do?’ if I can answer the prior question ‘Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?'” A liberal arts education enables students to see the relationship between their individual stories and the broader cultural story they have been born into and the special history they have become a part of in Christ. The prophet Micah asks, “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Whatever its flaws, a liberal arts education at Wheaton is a remarkable thing because of the challenge it sets for students and teachers alike to learn afresh what it means to obey such a command.

Dr. Roger Lundin ’71, Blanchard Professor of English, returned to Wheaton in 1978 to teach literature after earning a master of theological studies at Gordon-Conwell Seminary, and his master’s and doctorate in English at the University of Connecticut. He was named junior teacher of the year in 1984 and senior teacher of the year in 1995. Some of Lundin’s published works include: Literature through the Eyes of Faith, Emily Dickinson and the Art of Belief, and Believing Again: Doubt and Faith in a Secular Age.

Books Without End

ColophonFor various reasons books occasionally do not make it into a reader’s hands; and so the book that might-have-been acquires a sort of mystique. “A lost book,” writes Stuart Kelly in The Book of Lost Books: An Incomplete History of All the Great Books You’ll Never Read (2005), “is susceptible to a degree of wish fulfillment. The lost book, like the person you never dared asked to the dance, becomes infinitely more alluring simply because it can be perfect only in the imagination.” The simplest form of loss, notes Kelly, is destruction. An infamous example is the legendary Library of Alexandria, supposedly holding all the wisdom of the ancient world, burning to ashes in a single night. Other books are sacrificed to carelessness, as when a certain publisher moved offices, absentmindedly leaving behind manuscripts in a building slated for immediate demolition. Some books never achieve completion because of the death of the author, as when Charles Dickens expired before solving The Mystery of Edwin Drood, or Geoffrey Chaucer reached his eternal destination before his storytelling pilgrims reached their earthly destination in The Canterbury Tales. Often writers simply lose interest in a project. Probably every archive holding printed matter contains unpublished manuscripts.

The Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections houses a few such documents, material undoubtedly meant to be edited, packaged and distributed to the public, but is now foldered neatly in acid-free boxes and shelved in a climate-controlled facility. A brief survey follows:

The second president of Wheaton College, Dr. Charles Blanchard, left for posterity Psychological Foundations, a book-length manuscript discovered as a worn, yellowed roll in the Blanchard home in 1949 by Dr. Clyde Kilby and Miss Julia Blanchard. It advances Blanchard’s observations regarding the development of the “soul life.”

The late Dr. Joe McClatchey (SC-45), professor of English at Wheaton College, wrote The Praise of God in Literature: From Homer to Hopkins, a 400-page study of worship in western literature as seen throughout the centuries.

Jeanne Murray Walker (SC-72), poet, playwright and Professor of English at the University of Delaware, penned a young adult novel entitled Stranger, dated 1989. Though her editors were favorable and encouraged revision, the book was not published.

Academic Arthur Christy (SC-82), recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship for Intellectual History and American Literature, committed several years to researching The Thoreau Fact Book, reflecting his interest in the New England transcendentalists. It remained unfinished upon his death in 1946.

The brilliant missionary and political professor, Dr. Kenneth Landon (SC-38), husband of Margaret Landon, author of Anna and the King of Siam, composed an unpublished history of Malaya, along with several uncollected short stories, some of which initially appeared in the Saturday Evening Post.

And, among the papers of Madeleine L’Engle (SC-03), author of A Wrinkle in Time, lay several unpublished manuscripts, including sermons, short stories, retreat addresses, a handwritten novel called The Feast of Stephen and a nearly completed novel called A Lost Innocent, featuring Camilla, who first appeared in Camilla Dickinson (1951) and later in A Live Coal in the Sea (1996). Also archived is the text for an illustrated children’s book titled Moses, Prince of Egypt, intended for release with the 1998 DreamWorks animated film.

Though “lost” to the general public, these works are fortunately still available for inspection in Wheaton’s Manuscript Reading Room.

Mary Bent Blanchard

This month marks the 120th anniversary of Mary Bent Blanchard’s death who died on January 11, 1890.

While traveling to California to visit her daughter Sonora Caroline, Mary died at age seventy-one in East Las Vegas, New Mexico. A fuller account is given in Four Hazardous Journeys of the Reverend Jonathan Blanchard by Raymond P. Fischer (grandson of Jonathan and Mary Blanchard).

Another account of Mary’s passing is recorded by Selima Blanchard Allen, Jonathan’s sister. In her diary on Saturday, January 4, 1890, she wrote: “Bro. Jonathan & sis. Mary preparing to go to California, they are very feeble.” On January 6, she noted that “The infirmed state of Bro. & Sister gives us anxiety, but it seemed to be the best they could do: So we have left it all with the Lord.” Her next entry is on January 14 where she wrote that they had received “telegrams & letters, giving account Sister Mary seemed to pass away quietly Pres. C.A. Blanchard started from Peoria to meet his Father.” In following days she provides small details of the wake and funeral.