Dr. Robert Sumner passed away in December 2016. The Biblical Evangelist newspaper is no longer being published and the ministry of Biblical Evangelism has ceased operation.

The remaining inventory of his books and gospel tracts was transferred to The Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles and may be ordered here.


Book Reviews Part 2
Dr. Robert L. Sumner

*     *     *     *     *

MARVELOUS IN OUR EYES by Edward G. Caughill; Tabernacle Theological Baptist Press, Virginia Beach, VA; 11 Chapters, 178 Pages; $10, Paper

Your reviewer has always loved books of history and since this is “A Dynamic History of Baptist Bible Colleges in America,” as the subtitle notes – and he has been on a college/university board for 45 years – it is of special interest. The author knows whereof he speaks, having been affiliated with many of them over the years, even helping found such Bible colleges as Maranatha Baptist Bible College. Caughill, who has been a pastor and professor as well as a Baptist historian, has presented an interesting book in a field where there is not much available. Currently he is associated with the Tabernacle Baptist Bible College & Theological Seminary at Virginia Beach (VA).

Caughill’s intent on preparing Marvelous In Our Eyes was to list every Baptist Bible College and Institute in America. Alas, he should have written about the Methodists or Presbyterians. Baptists are notorious for lack of cooperation and he soon discovered many would not respond to his questionnaires or even return his phone calls. You can blame them if they are not listed here; Caughill made an honest effort to embrace everyone for history’s sake.

The author began by defining and explaining the purpose of a Bible college, then giving a brief history of the early Christian schools in America. The reader will recognize the names of schools that are so liberal today they are useless to the cause of Christ, but started as Christ-honoring, Christ-exalting, Biblically-faithful efforts to train men and women in the service of the Savior. It is enough to make the angels weep.

The first Bible college in the United States, Nyack College, was founded by A. B. Simpson as a 4-year college. The first Bible institute was launched by the illustrious evangelist, Dwight Lyman Moody, as a 3-year school, the Moody Bible Institute.

The first ‘Baptist’ Bible college in the 20th century was Practical Bible Training School (now Practical Bible College, the cross-town rival of your editor’s alma mater), founded by Evangelist John Davis (you will be impressed with how many of the good, lasting schools were founded by evangelists, like Bob Jones). Its mission statement is “to train men and women to know the Word of God, to live the Word of God, and to minister the Word of God.” One could not have a higher ideal and we have known some of its outstanding graduates, such as Keith L. Brooks of The King’s Business and Prophecy Monthly, and Harvey Springer, the cowboy evangelist, pastor and youth camp founder/director.

There is a chapter on the perils to Christian education and in it Caughill looks briefly at evolution (Darwin and Dewey), government regulations, and neo-evangelicalism. Also in this chapter is an excellent definition of a fundamentalist by David O. Beale, as well as a fine evaluation of New Evangelicalism.

One interesting chapter – showing the ups and downs of Baptist education – is called “The Baptist Twins.” It relates to a men’s school, Wayland College, and a ladies institution, Wisconsin Female College, both started by Wisconsin Baptists in the mid-1850s. It is a fascinating story.

Another interesting tidbit – and previously unknown to us – was the account of how one of my seminary textbooks came into being. John A. Broadus was homiletics professor at the struggling Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and he prepared a course for the re-opening of the school in 1866, after the Civil War. While he prepared a thorough course of lectures, to his chagrin only one student enrolled – and he was blind! Undaunted, Broadus faithfully delivered those lectures to his blind student and five years later the course was published – considered a classic today, The Preparation and Delivery of Sermons. Do not despise small beginnings!

The editor’s alma mater is listed, Baptist Bible College of Pennsylvania (which began a few miles north of the border in Johnson City, NY). The book says it was founded by a host of pastors under the leadership of Richard J. Murphy, which was true, but it neglected to add that it was also a good, old-fashioned Baptist split from Practical Bible Training School across town by the dean and several of the faculty.

To my surprise, the school with which I am been associated for 45 years, Cedarville University, was not listed. While it is true that it is neither a Bible institute nor a Bible college, neither are some of the other schools that are listed, such as Bob Jones University (not even Baptist) and Tennessee Temple University. The author lists BJU because of “its impact and influence upon America and independent Baptists.” And we have no quarrel with that. He lists TTU because “of its contribution to American Christian Education.” Again, we have no objection, but both of those reasons would be true of Cedarville. In fact, the latter had its origin in Northern Ohio as a Bible Institute, meeting on weeknights in churches. And it still, even though there are over 3,000 in its resident student body, has daily compulsory chapels for its students and no one is allowed to graduate without at least a minor in Bible.

The final chapter, “Conclusion,” is excellent. There is blame enough to go around and he looks at the parental factor, the Christian teacher factor, the pastor factor, the church factor, and Bible college factor. We were interested in this statement under the parental factor: “When the Midweek Services, Sunday Night Services, Missionary Conferences, Evangelistic services, and Bible Conferences are not given priority in contrast to all other activities, the children consider them unimportant.” Alas, some churches no longer even feature some of those – or when they do regulate them to a couple of nights instead of the old ‘extended’ meetings that proved so profitable in days of yore. Some of the quotes from Dr. Woodrow Kroll’s The Vanishing Ministry, (in which he gives the results of his questioning 100 seminaries, Christian universities, Christian colleges, and Bible colleges in America), are both fascinating – and scary!

There is an index of sorts in the back (called “Concordance,” which is technically correct but will seem strange to most), although it is not as reliable was one might desire (we knew B. Myron Cedarholm was mentioned several times, but later when we went to ‘find’ him, we couldn’t – he was not listed). Actually, there are so many names mentioned in the volume it admittedly would take a huge listing to include them all. As with a lot of books, it has a number of typos (just as a sample, you know something is wrong when a school is launched as a one-night-per-week school in 1976 and becomes a fulltime, 3-year program a few years later “in 1879.”

This is a handy ‘history’ book, a welcome addition to my library. We think it will be to yours, also.

*     *     *     *    *