Monday, October 01, 2007

Fuller Seminary Celebrates 60 Years

On October 1, 1947, President Harold John Ockenga gave a speech at a convocation designed to declare Fuller Theological Seminary officially open. Today, the seminary celebrates 60 years of existence as a school of higher learning designed to train upcoming generations of church leaders.

Ockenga's speech is one of many to be found in Fuller Voices, edited by former provost Russell Spittler, and is worth the time to read through. That's not to say that all of what Ockenga says would be the kind of thing a Fuller President would say today. He decries the fall of Western Civilization where a modern Fullerite would likely choose more measured statements. But the core intent of his message would echo today as well. Despite very real problems--problems which Christians must take action to face--we must not give up hope.

There are a lot of ways in which Fuller Seminary didn't look then like it does now. The seminary didn't even have its own land yet, holding classes in the Sunday school building of nearby Lake Avenue Congregational Church (the church still exists, but no longer includes "Congregational" in their name). Initially, Fuller had a mere 39 students, whereas it now enrolls nearly 5,000 students each year. The early Fullerites were all men dedicated to a brand of evangelism that would be considered "right-wing fundamentalist" today, whereas the modern Fuller enrolls both men and women from a wide variety of Christian backgrounds. In fact, I'm not even confident that the founders of Fuller Seminary would approve of all the changes that have taken place here (original Fuller professor Harold Lindsell famously resigned in the 1970s over differences in opinion regarding Biblical inspiration, writing The Battle for the Bible about his unhappiness over Fuller's position), but I strongly suspect that God does.

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