Lee Rutland Scarborough: A Life of Service. By H.E. Dana. New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1930, reprint, Vol. 4 of Southwestern Library of Centennial Classics, Fort Worth TX, 2008. 145 pages. Hardcover, $100.00 for set.
How does one summarize the life of a legend? Either one is prone to overly glamorize or, if an adverse figure, perhaps overly criticize. The former was perhaps the case for H.E. Dana’s representation of the life and legacy of L.R. Scarborough (1870–1945), second president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Yet, while that may certainly be a valid criticism of the biography, it is certainly understandable as the long cast of Scarborough’s shadow is one that highly influenced both Southern Baptists, and American Christianity at large, in such positive and astounding ways.
This book is one in a series of selected pieces formerly published by Southwestern faculty members during the last one hundred years. It is part of the centennial celebration of the Seminary’s existence. In looking back, current constituencies of the Seminary can gain even greater appreciation for the school’s heritage and look on into the future. H.E. Dana penned this piece three years before Scarborough’s death, and apparently intended to honor his mentor in his sunset years. Dana was on the faculty at Southwestern from 1919–1938, when he became president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, an American Baptist affiliated school in Missouri. Dana’s own academic prowess was in the area of New Testament and Greek grammar studies.
Scarborough presided over Southwestern during its most formative and challenging years (1914–1945). These decades challenged the school through the effects of two World Wars, a great economic depression, modernist–fundamentalist debates, and theological controversies within Southern Baptist life. Yet, his leadership proved strong and orbed around personal zeal for holy living, personal evangelism, and an infectious call to young men to surrender to ministry and sense the call of God from a pure heart. Two of his life defining themes that Dana recounts are that he was appointed to the “Chair of Fire”, the first academic program in Evangelism on record (86). His life so embodied all that phrase implies that he was also given to “calling out the called” (144). In and through Scarborough’s evangelistic campaigns, revivals, and writings he would focus the appeal on drawing in lost souls and inviting saved ones to embrace God’s calling on their lives.
While today Scarborough’s values would be scoffed at by many with post-modern minds, there is something genuine, transparent, simple, and real about the life he lived. Perhaps he has left a more relevant word for the Seminary’s future than even its past. Down through the corridors of history his voice still touches the hearts of many who hunger for salvation in Christ and live their lives to invite others to heed the Master’s appeal. This biography was a natural one to select for this centennial series as it depicts the core values that have built a Seminary and held her through a century of development. May they also hold her through until Christ comes!
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary