Category Archives: College-related Publications

“Lighting the Way” Evan Draper Welsh, 1904-1981

The following article was taken from the December 1981/January 1982 issue of the  Wheaton Alumni Magazine. It celebrated the life and ministry of Evan Draper Welsh, Wheaton College chaplain, who passed away 37 years ago today.
Chaplain Welsh, 1957

Evan Draper Welsh ’27, D.D. ’55, who served for 26 years as chaplain to Wheaton College students and alumni, died early on December 17, 1981.  He suffered congestive heart failure in his home in Wheaton, and died shortly after entering Central DuPage Hospital.

Born on September 3, 1904, in Princeton, Illinois, Evan spent his boyhood in Newton, Kansas, Long Beach, California, and Elgin, Illinois, before enrolling in Wheaton Academy.  While attending Wheaton College, he served as president of his freshman class and as captain of the football team his senior year.  Additionally, Evan’s activities at Wheaton included membership in the Excelsior Literary Society, the Y.M.C.A. Cabinet, and participation in varsity debate.

Following graduation, he did graduate work at Princeton Theological Seminary and the University of Minnesota, where he studied English literature.  While at Minnesota, Evan pastored Bethany Presbyterian Church on the college campus.

In 1933, he accepted a call to pastor the College Church in Wheaton, where his father had served.  During his 13 years there, he became very active on the Wheaton College campus.  He also continued graduate study at Northwestern University, completing the M.A. in philosophy in 1938.  Evan moved to Detroit in 1946 to pastor the 1700-member Ward Presbyterian Church.  He also taught at Detroit Bible College.

In 1955 Evan received an invitation from President V. Raymond Edman to accept the newly-created position of college chaplain on Wheaton’s campus.  The new chaplain, who also served as assistant professor of Bible, was awarded the doctor of divinity degree from the College that same year.

During his 15 years as chaplain, Evan became endeared to countless students through his helpful counsel, his faithful visits to the health center and local hospitals, and the traditional ‘open house’ hosted each weekend at his home.

Evan retired from his post as chaplain in 1970, but continued in the capacity of alumni chaplain until his death.  Even when on vacation he poured himself into building and renewing friendships with alumni, and encouraging them in their Christian faith.

Evan’s outreach extended to the community through the teaching and visitation ministries of the College Church of Wheaton until his death. His popularity as a summer Bible conference speaker occupied much time in his earlier years.  Evan’s commitment to spread the Gospel worldwide fired is involvement in the evangelism service and national and foreign missions of the United Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.

Evan & Olena Mae Welsh, 1970s

At the time of his death Evan was survived by his wife, Olena Mae Hendrickson ’41, of Wheaton, two daughters and eight grandchildren.  He was preceded in death by his first wife, Evangeline Mortenson ’27.

The relationships we value most become our greatest losses.  In the homegoing of Dr. Evan Draper Welsh ’27, Wheaton College suffers the loss of an institution and countless thousands find a vacancy in their lives where a deep friendship had been.

But the ministry of that life continues. From his perspective, Evan Welsh’s gift to us was only a means to an end.  His love for us rose from a desire that we might know the love of a greater Friend, and commit ourselves to that One.

Evan Welsh would not want praise lavished upon his life.  The tributes given to him underline the purposes of his life.  He related those goals in an article in The Tabernacle Bulletin, 1961.

I am increasingly convinced that the true source of happiness for the growing child of God is the setting of certain high and definite goals for his or her life, and then, the giving oneself to the achieving of those goals.  Surely this is what Paul had in mind when he wrote in Colossians 3:1-4: ‘If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.  For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.’

“The other day with the glory of God in mind, and thinking of the peace of heart that comes when God is truly glorified, I sat down and listed several high goals that I believed the Lord wanted me to strive for.  I listed seven, and I really believe they are relevant for every Christian’s life.  They’ve already blessed my own soul, and if sharing them gives new direction and fire to some other Christian I shall be thankful.”

Evan proceeded to list the following goals: disciplined growth in godliness; growth in the knowledge of the Word of God; prayer; soul winning; witnessing throughout the world; cultivating a strong church life; and undertaking the “rich ‘adventures in friendship’ which await that one who will prove himself friendly.”

“These goals are high,” Evan continued.  “They’re difficult. They’re costly.  But I believe they are Biblical, and that the ones who to make them the core of their lives will have a new zest for living — and the life here will more and more resemble that in Glory.”

We pay tribute to a man who ran untiringly toward his goals.  We thank a loving family who shared themselves and their dear one so freely.  And we thank the Lord for His servant, Evan Draper Welsh, who reminded us of the beautiful reality of life in Christ.

“For the path of the just is as a shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” (Proverbs 4:18)


 

See also: Highway to Heaven – Sesquicentennial snapshot

 

This He Believed

Robert O. Ballou (1892-1977) achieved distinction in American literature as one of the sharpest editors in twentieth century New York publishing, accepting, among other accomplishments, the manuscript for John Steinbeck’s The Pastures of Heaven (1932). Associated primarily with the Viking Press, his deeply ecumenical interests are reflected in the titles of the books he edited: The Portable World Bible (including selections from sacred volumes), The Nature of Religion, The Bible of the World and The Other Jesus: A Narrative Based on Apocryphal Stories Not Included in the Bible. In 1938 he wrote This I Believe: A Letter to My Son, relating his personal faith.

Though born and raised in Wheaton, Illinois, Ballou did not attend Wheaton College nor did he tread the well-worn evangelical trail. In fact, while maintaining a strong religious sensibility, Ballou cast an often scathing critical eye on his surroundings. Attending the Methodist Episcopal Church of Wheaton (now Gary Memorial United Methodist) with his mother and siblings, he recalls:

He [the pastor] was there to tell me what God was and what I believed about him, and so the next morning, when he asked me, “Do you believe in God?” before all of the people of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Wheaton, Illinois, I said, “Yes,” just as I was supposed to. Probably my voice was very childlike and sweet and convincing…

As he matured, Ballou noted a few ironies:

After a few years the little wooden church seemed not good enough for us Methodists of  Wheaton. Then a very rich man named Elbert H. Gary, a man who was the head of a big steel company which took the iron ore…and made it into rails and locomotive wheels so that people could have “locomotion and transportation” gave us enough money to build a new church building of stone and cement and oak with stained glass for the windows. They called it the Gary Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church, so that it would always bear the name of the man who had given money with which to build it. The way they named it made it sound as though Elbert H. Gary’s name was really more important than the name of Christ, whose church they said it was. And of course it was quite true that Christ had given us no money with which to build a stone church, and Elbert H. Gary had.

Continuing in this vein, Ballou pens few wry words about Wheaton College, or rather its then-president, Dr. Charles Blanchard:

I remember a man named Blanchard, who was president of Wheaton College. He felt that it was wrong to work on Sunday. He thought the railroads should not run on Sunday because that made the engineers and the firemen and the conductors and brakemen work. And so he would never ride a train on Sunday. Once he had to come visit some friends of ours named Steck, who lived about fifteen miles from Wheaton. He went there on Saturday, on the railroad. But he stayed all night and had to be back at Wheaton on Sunday. But on Sunday he wouldn’t ride on the railroad because he thought that making the railroad men work was not keeping the Sabbath day holy. So he asked Auntie Steck to drive him back to Wheaton and she did. I remember that it seemed to me that making Auntie Steck hitch up the horse (which was work) and making the horse run fifteen miles to Wheaton and fifteen miles back (which was work for the horse), was making the Sabbath day even less holy that it would have been if he had ridden on the train, for the railroad men were working whether he rode the train or not.

At the end of the memoir, Ballou concludes:

Seek your God quickly, my dear son. Never cease in your search — you, and all of your generation and those who are to come after you. Let you find quickly the glory of God which will lighten the world before it is too late, lest the spirit of man perish and the human race, proved futile, shall be wiped from the face of the earth by the God of Moses and Elijah, the God of Gautama Buddha, the God of Zoroaster, the God of Vardhamana, the God of Lao-tze, the God of Jesus, the God of St. Francis, the God of your grandmother, the God of Richard Wagner and Beethoven…the God of gentle spring rains, of growing flowers and singing birds, the God of flood and drought and earthquake…the God of peace and of war, of harmony and of discord, the one true God who is within your soul. My love for you and my faith in you be with you always in your search.

Faculty Voice – Plotting and Theming: Why I Became an English Major

Twenty-five 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. Professor of English Emeritus Wayne Martindale (who taught at Wheaton from 1981-2011) was featured in the Winter 2011 issue.

Almost like a dare, students (and parents) often ask, “What can you do with an English major?” Because Philip Ryken was an English major, my answer could now be, “Serve as the eighth president of Wheaton College!”

Wayne Martindale, c2011

Actually, I do take this question seriously and often relay the vocations of former student teaching assistants. Statistics from the College help round out this list. Then, I get to the answer that has mattered most to me: Literature is about life and helps me understand it.

I didn’t come to an English major easily. My own undergraduate sojourn led through four majors: engineering, Bible, psychology, and English.

Looking back, I see that the hook was first set in my high school senior English class. We had to memorize 40 lines of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. I grumbled with the rest, but secretly, I loved it. For one thing, here in my previously unbookish life, was beauty. It was a beauty laced with the tragic sense that the future might be ugly or hurtful-or worse, count for nothing. “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow / Creeps in this petty pace from day to day / To the last syllable of recorded time.”

Shakespeare’s potent vision made me see that actions had consequences and could invite unnecessary pain; that unwashed guilt is living hell; that evil may and must be confronted.

I had found high seriousness. Choices mattered. Despite Macbeth’s claim that life was “a tale told by an idiot,” all lives had themes. There was a pattern of meaning we readers could see, even when the characters could not. They were all born for something noble, even if they missed it.

From Shakespeare to Dickens and Dostoevsky, there were many books filled with “seeings.” I discovered the truth of T.S. Eliot’s dictum that we come back from imaginative explorations to “where we start…And know the place for the first time.” In the plots of our lives, the sequence of events might seem random and the patterns fraught with apparent trivia- I sleep, I eat, I wash the dishes-over and over. Yet, even amidst the messy clutter of life, our experience is always suggesting some goodness and beauty and meaning beyond “ordinary” living. A literary plot skips the clutter and stages the patterns of life. As Lewis says, successful writers “throw off irrelevancies” and usher us into “whole classes of experience” closed to us before, and thus, “instead of ‘commenting on life,’ can add to it.”

But even plots and poetic images must move through time and space. What we really want is to connect with something that transcends both. That’s where the theme comes in: it is the meaning bigger than the sum of the parts. The author, like an interior designer, has come in and permanently rearranged the furniture of our minds.

It’s an easy step for the Christian reader to see that the teeming plot of human history is everywhere pregnant with the theme of the necessity of salvation and the reality of reconciliation.

The plots of our lives move through time and space, not randomly, but crafted by a Divine Author into a meaning beyond the sequence of events to fit an eternal theme. All stories are God’s story.

 

Billy Graham’s Class of ’43 celebrates 75th reunion

This year marks the the 75th reunion for the class of ’43 which includes it’s most famous alumnus, Billy Graham.  Twenty-five years ago, the famed evangelist gave the commencement address during his 50th reunion weekend.  Below is a transcript of his address to the class of 1993 taken from the Wheaton Alumni Magazine, Autumn 1993.

Today’s Investment, Tomorrow’s Return

Returning alumnus and renowned evangelist, this undergraduate commencement speaker urges graduates to use God-given time wisely.

 by Billy Graham, ’43, Litt.D . ’56

In a few minutes, you’ll walk out the door of Edman Chapel with a diploma in your hand and a life of uncertain length ahead of you. For some, it will be a long life. For others, it will be a surprisingly short life. And if you reach my age, you’ll wonder where the time has gone. It passes so quickly. A student at a university once asked me what was the greatest surprise of my life. I replied, “The brevity of life.”

Time is a nonrenewable resource that moves inevitably toward total depletion, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. Time is our investment capital. Our choice is to use it or lose it, either invest it or let it dribble away like sand through our fingers.

Jesus told the story, in Luke 19, of a nobleman who, before going on a journey, commanded his stewards to invest his money carefully. The Lord expects us to use what he has given us–whether it’s money, time, or talents–in profitable ways. And he promises his personal audit of our lives when he returns.

Time is an equal opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day: 1440 minutes, adding up to 168 hours per week.

In Psalm 90:10, the Bible indicates that our allotted time span on earth may be 70 years, or possibly an extension to 80 years. The psalmist goes on to say, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Let’s think about the numbers in a typical lifetime. The first 15 years are in childhood and adolescence. We spend a total of 20 years sleeping. So we have only 30 years left, and part of that time must be spent eating meals, building family and social relationships, working at our jobs, and figuring out our income tax.

Rich people cannot buy more hours than the rest of us. Scientists cannot invent new minutes. Each day, we each have 86,400 seconds to invest. Time allows no balances, no overdrafts. If we fail to use each day’s deposit, our loss cannot be recovered. It’s not like putting savings in a bank and getting interest. We cannot hoard time to spend on another day.

Paul tells the Ephesians to redeem the time, because the days are evil. Redeem is a word from the business world, and in this context, it means to buy the time. Redeeming the time means making the most of every opportunity that you have, every minute, every second.

Our natural tendency is to count the days, but God tells us, make every day count.

Time is the capital God has given us to invest wisely. So the question is, “Where do we invest it?” God calls us to invest our time capital, our very lives, primarily in people. Not in projects; not in possessions. God invested his only begotten Son in us, as sinners–not because we were prime prospects to give him a good payoff, but because his heart is overflowing with love for us.

When I was your age, I said to people, “There’s one thing I don’t ever want to be. I don’t want to be an undertaker or a preacher.” And I put them in the same category.

But one night, 55 years ago, I said with tears at the 18th hole of a golf course, “Oh God, I’ll go where you want me to go and be what you want me to be.” I never dreamed what he had planned for the future.

God’s will, first and foremost, for all of us, is that you love him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Then God’s will for you is that you live a holy life, to become like his Son in your attitudes and actions, in your thoughts and words. To be and behave like Jesus did, which means delighting in doing His will and serving others.

Jesus said, “I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day. The night is coming, when no man can work.” What was the work of Jesus? Simply to do the work of his Father and finish the work that had been assigned to him. He lived and died for others–for his friends and enemies alike. Jesus told his disciples, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Invest in heaven.

What are those treasures or investments? They are people who need to know God. I’ve seen these people all over the world. I’ve seen them in every kind of situation, every kind of culture. I know that what they’re searching for can only be found in a relationship with God.

Time is the capital that God has given us to invest. People are the stocks in which we are to invest our time, whether they’re blue chips or penny stocks, or even junk bonds.

Jesus was willing to take a risk with twelve diverse disciples. And he took a great risk with us. But when we talk of investments, everyone asks, “What return will I get?” A meaningful, fulfilled life that will count for God is the dividend that we receive for putting our trust in Christ and our time into people.

From my more than 50 years of experience, may I say to you young people today, as you face careers and the uncertainties of life, the best of all investments you can make is to help people come to the Giver of eternal life and peace, the Lord Jesus Christ.

You can’t count your days–but with Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, you can make your days count. You can invest whatever time is yours for a high-yield return in the lives of people whom you introduce to Christ. Right now, you can decide to invest your life in such a way that someday, you will hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come and share in your master’s happiness.”

So I would say to you today, don’t just graduate.  Commence.

Gordon H. Clark and His Correspondents

Dr. Gordon H. Clark taught Philosophy at Wheaton College from 1936-43. As a committed five-point Calvinist, Clark’s unswerving Reformed theology ran him afoul of certain members of the administration, including President Dr. V. Raymond Edman and trustee Dr. Harry A. Ironside, pastor of Moody Church in Chicago. Ironside wrote to Clark on July 13, 1942: “…I am thoroughly convinced that hyper-Calvinism is not consistent with a true evangelical attitude. Perhaps I should have used the word ‘evangelistic’ rather than ‘evangelical.'”

Though students like Ruth Bell (Graham) and others appreciated Clark’s precise, reasoned, self-described “cold” classroom presentation, contrasting the “warm” pietism popular at the time, pressure from various quarters resulted in Clark’s resignation. Leaving Wheaton College, Clark secured employment as the Head of the Department of Philosophy at Butler University in Indiana from 1945-73. After that he taught at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, from 1974-84.

Compiled by Douglas J. Douma and edited by Thomas W. Juodatis, Clark and His Correspondents: Selected Letters of Gordon H. Clark (2017) presents an array of Clark’s exchanges with such prominent evangelical and fundamentalist leaders as J. Oliver Buswell, V. Raymond Edman, E.J. Carnell, Cornelius Van Til, Carl F.H. Henry and J. Gresham Machen. The compilation uses many letters scanned from the College Archives of Buswell Library.

The Trinity Foundation in Unicoi, Tennessee, continues to republish Dr. Gordon H. Clark’s many books, tapes and pamphlets.

Clyde S. Kilby and Tennessee Williams

Dr. Clyde S. Kilby, late professor of English and founder of the Marion E. Wade Center on the campus of Wheaton College, is closely associated with seven British authors, particularly C.S. Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers and J.R.R. Tolkien. In light of those interests, Kilby is not often mentioned in relation to American Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Thomas Lanier “Tennessee” Williams (1911-1983), author of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Glass Menagerie, Night of the Iguana and many other successful plays, short stories and films.

But there is a connection, however slight. As this Christmas card to a colleague reveals, Clyde and Martha Kilby’s roots sprawled deeply throughout the rich southern soil that also produced one of America’s greatest writers.

Dear Beatrice: Did I tell you “Tennessee Williams,” your compatriot was born in St. Paul’s Rectory? His grandfather was a good friend of my parents! The house has been bought by the state and will become a Welcome Center when moved to a very large vacant lot across the street. A national “shrine” of the state! Come to see me!! Blessings and Christmas greetings, with love, Martha Kilby  

After years of profligate sexual activity and prescription drug abuse, Williams famously sought to “get my goodness back” by joining the Catholic Church in 1969. Evidently, Williams hoped to vivify not only his personal piety, but also his lagging creative and professional career. Instead he found himself more interested in ritual and architecture than doctrine. As a result, his renewed interest in spirituality did not solidify and he descended into a drugged stupor throughout most of the 1970s, only periodically producing new work.

If Tennessee Williams had discovered the writings of Lewis, Sayers, Tolkien and the other authors represented in Clyde Kilby’s Wade Center, perhaps his desire for a lively, enduring goodness might’ve permanently settled his disquietude for the final act of his life.

According to the website for the Tennessee Williams Home and Welcome Center, the rectory in 1993 was in danger of being torn down to accommodate a church expansion. In an effort to preserve this historic literary landmark, the yellow and blue gingerbread home was loaded onto flatbed trailers and moved to Main Street, where it was restored. Three months after the grand opening, Tennessee Williams was honored with a U.S. postage stamp, and a public ceremony was held in the home.

Recently honored with the designation of a National Literary Landmark, the home serves as the official Welcome Center for Columbus.

 

 

 

 

Ronald Reagan visits Wheaton

Ronald Reagan at Wheaton College, 1980

On October 8, 1980, Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan came to Wheaton College at the invitation of the campus Republicans.  His visit  came after receiving his party’s nomination during the fall campaign season and was covered in the Record student newspaper.  Edman Chapel was filled early in the afternoon by students and area residents eager to see and hear the former California governor.  State and county political figures, including Illinois governor James Thompson, filled the platform and spoke at some length when Reagan failed to appear at the scheduled time.  A busy day of campaigning, which had begun in Youngstown, Ohio, delayed his arrival by one hour.

The governor’s whistle-stop visit was accompanied by numerous religious references within the first few sentences of his speech.  He spoke of deliverance, rebirth and C.S. Lewis–words that were well-chosen and that resonated with the audience.  Candidate Reagan’s address centered not on war or the proliferation of nuclear arms, but on education.

This work of educational excellence and missionary work is truly in the tradition of the biblical injunction: ‘Go ye, therefore and teach all nations.’

Only if the people closest to the problems of education — teachers, parents, school boards, and boards of governors — are allowed to make the basic educational decisions, will the quality of education improve.

He praised Wheaton as a school with a mission.  Reagan promised, if elected, to form a task force to analyze federal educational programs.  He expressed support for tuition tax credits for parents sending children to non-public schools.

What we want is so simple, so elementary.  All we want is to live in freedom and in peace, to see to it that our nation’s legitimate interests are protected and promoted.  We want to worship God in our own way, lead our own lives, take care of our families and live in our own style, in our own community, without hurting anyone or anyone hurting us…We want the kind of personal security human beings can reasonably expect in a system of economic freedom and democratic self-government.

At the conclusion of his address Reagan laughed when presented with a stuffed mascot-sized replica of Perry Mastodon by Brad Bright, president of the campus Republicans.  Obligated to hurry off to his next campaign stop, the visitor had no opportunity to tour the campus or chat informally with students.

Reagan would defeat Southern Baptist Jimmy Carter the following month in the general election. President Carter himself came to campus twelve years later to give the  Pfund Lecture.

The Process Church of the Final Judgment

It is not uncommon for Wheaton College students to explore various denominations, investigating differences in ecclesiastical polity and practice. But those who journeyed from the comfortable suburbs to the Near North Side of Chicago to attend the Process Church of the Final Judgement were surely surprised to hear from its black-robed ministers that God is composed of three gods, Jehovah, Lucifer and Satan.

The Process, splintered from L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology, was founded in London in the early 1960s by Mary Ann and Robert de Grimston, who soon established chapters in major U.S. and U.K. cities. Charles Manson was allegedly a member of the California chapter, but this assertion was never proven.

A Processan minister inducts two acolytes into the Church, at which time they become initiates of the Covenant of Christ and Satan.

Wheaton College student writer Sinclair Hollberg chronicles his visit in “Record Investigates Process Church in Chicago,” published on November 5, 1971. Hollberg visited as an attempt to learn more about one of the cults that were increasing in number at that time, and challenging the church.

During the service Hollberg approached “Mother Mercedes,” director of the Open Chapter, who explained the unique Processan doctrine:

“God is within us, his stature and character are inherent in our lives. But there exists also the part of man which is anti-god, it is contrary to God’s character and is responsible for the conflicts and tensions of life, the uncertainties, fears and shortcomings that rob man of happiness. The way we can resolve this tension is by uniting ourselves through knowledge of him. But the problem comes because we cannot describe God; if we could describe God then we could define him and to define him would be to limit him to the level of the finite and mortal. We can only describe the parts of God. God is composed of three gods — Jehovah, Lucifer and Satan. Jehovah is the wrathful god of vengeance and retribution, demanding discipline and ruthlessness. Lucifer is the light-bearer who urges us to enjoy life to the fullest, to be kind and loving and live in peace and harmony. Satan, the receiver of transcendent souls and corrupted bodies, represents two opposites. First, to rise above all  human and physical needs to become all soul and spirit; and, secondly, to sink beneath all human values and standards of morality to wallow in depravity.”

Hollberg writes, “Salvation, under Process Church perspectives, comes by resolving the conflicts, tensions and frustrations of life through knowledge of that part of God within us that applies to the problem. So one may have Jehovian tendencies of harshness and willfulness, or Luciferian characteristics of agreeableness or Satanic leadings of idealism or depravity. All are in one god, all are unified through Christ. So man may have freedom from the dilemmas of human life by realizing that his behavior is reconcilable with god.”

According to Occult Chicago, the Process founded the Chicago chapter in 1970, locating variously in buildings on Wells, Deming and Burling streets, its black-caped Messengers of the Unity distributing literature throughout the neighborhoods. The Process eventually departed Chicago and other cities, breaking into less colorful organizations.

Why Do Some Nations Prosper?

Twenty-five years ago, the Wheaton Alumni magazine began a series of articles entitled “On My Mind” in which Wheaton faculty wrote about their thinking, research, or favorite books and people. Dr. Peter (P.J.) Hill, Professor of Economics Emeritus, was featured in the Winter 2009 issue. Dr. Hill served as the George F. Bennett Professor of Economics at Wheaton from 1986-2011.

Peter (P.J.) Hill

Some countries languish in no-growth mode while others flourish.  A new economic school of thought provides insights into economic disparity

My discipline has long been termed the dismal science, a description given to economics by historian Thomas Carlyle in the nineteenth century. Indeed, much economic analysis has taken the form of throwing cold water on reforms that will supposedly improve human well-being, arguing that good intentions are not enough and that one needs to carefully think through the incentive effects of any policy change.

More recently, however, one sub-discipline in economics, the New Institutional Economics, has given a positive response to an important question: Why the great differences in income and wealth across societies?

In 1800 the richest countries of the world had per capita incomes about three times that of poor countries. By 2005 this gap had widened so significantly that the per capita incomes of the richest countries were sixty times that of the poor countries.

Almost all of this growing difference is not because of exploitation of the poor by the rich. Instead, the vast gap has arisen because of varied abilities to produce wealth. In other words, some parts of the world have discovered the engine of economic growth, while such growth has bypassed other parts.

Economists have tried numerous explanations for such differences in growth, varying from natural resources to infrastructure to education. All of these have been found to be lacking, especially when embodied in foreign aid programs.

The fundamental cause of economic growth is found in the institutional structure of an economy. The rule of lax protection of property rights, openness to trade, enforcement of contracts, and a stable money supply are all-important for rewarding the individual endeavor that produces increases in economic well-being.

That doesn’t mean other efforts are futile. Microfinance—the making of small loans to individual entrepreneurs—has been successful in numerous settings. A new movement, Business as Mission, also shows real promise. In this endeavor Christians start businesses to glorify God by both creating wealth for all stakeholders and exemplifying biblical principles. Both of these efforts, however, are more likely to thrive in a good institutional environment.

If it is as simple as getting the right institutions in place, why have some countries remained in the no- or slow- growth mode? Usually this is because the elites, or those in control, don’t find such an institutional environment to their advantage. Indeed, when one examines institutions in less developed nations, one often finds that things like property rights and contract enforcement are not easily available to the poor and marginalized.

Therefore, Christians concerned with poverty should work toward a well functioning set of rules, and those rules should give those at the bottom the same access to a fair judicial system and protection of their property as those at the top of the economic order.


[The following statement was included at the time of publication — Wheaton Magazine, Winter 2009]  Dr. Peter (P.J.) Hill, the George F. Bennett Professor of Economics at Wheaton, is a Senior Fellow at Property and Environment Research Center in Bozeman, Montana. He is a coauthor of Growth and Welfare in the American Past; The Birth of a Transfer Society; and The Not So Wild, Wild West: Property Rights on the Frontier. He has also written numerous articles on the theory of property rights and institutional change and has edited six books on environmental economics. He is a graduate of Montana State and the University of Chicago. P.J. also owns and operates a ranch in western Montana.

Project Evangel

The Evangel 4500, constructed by pilot-mechanic Carl Mortenson of Wycliffe Bible Translators, was the first twin-engine airplane specially designed for missionary use in the most remote, rugged areas of the world. Before Mortenson’s innovative engineering on the craft, small planes were limited to single-engine capability, susceptible to power failure during takeoff and landing on short jungle runways.

EvangelReceiving funding from several Chicago laymen, the Evangel 4500 was ready for its first major mission in 1969. Passengers for thetwo-month voyage to South America were pilot Mortenson, Dr. Paul Wright, chairman of the chemistry department  at Wheaton College, and nine other board members of Project Evangel.

Explaining the need for the plane, Wright remarked, “We don’t feel it’s right to expose missionaries to the hazards of a single engine plane. The Evangel 4500 can carry two passengers in addition to its 4 x 4 x 9 storage area, or the entire space can be used for passengers. It can take off with a full load in 498 feet. Its maximum altitude is 22,500 feet, but one with engine gone it can still fly at 7100 feet.” After the successful flight, Wright often lectured at local churches, telling the story of the unique airplane and its mission.