FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) -- James Leo Garrett, Jr’s contribution to Southern Baptist scholarship is immeasurable. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary honored Garrett during a chapel service, March 11, for his newly released book, “Baptist Theology: A Four-Century Study.”
Garrett considers the book a career-long project. “It began in a small elective course here on this campus in the fall of 1950,” Garrett said, adding, “but the real work began in retirement. I want to say that no book of this kind could ever be written without tremendous help, and I stand on the shoulders of others.”
“It is a remarkable achievement,” said Southwestern president Paige Patterson. “Many of you have not had the privilege of having a class with Dr. Garrett. He is technically retired, but that was to the advantage of the whole church because when Dr. Garrett retired, he went to work on this monumental volume, which he has now finished.”
The book presents the history of Baptist doctrinal beliefs through primary sources, confessions and teachings of major theologians, as well as an examination of principal theological movements and controversies.
Garrett rejects the notion that Baptists have historically contributed little to theology. “I once had a teacher who told us, ‘Baptists really haven’t written any theology. It’s the Anglicans, the Lutherans, the Presbyterians, and the Catholics; they do the theology,’” he said.
“I didn’t believe that when he said it, and it’s taken me 50 years to disprove it. I believe you will find that in the Baptist heritage, we have had many men, some of them without formal training but who themselves with their Bibles have been able to do a tremendous job. All across the centuries, Baptists have had representatives who have done worthy theological work.”
During the chapel service, Garrett also urged students to take their studies seriously. “I would like to suggest, Dr. Patterson, that students today, whether they’re going into the pastoral ministry or going overseas as missionaries or going into the academic setting, take seriously the theological task and contribute to it.”
Garrett has authored, co-authored, edited and co-edited more than 130 published works, including a thesis, two dissertations, scholarly articles and books. This count includes authorship of his two-volume “Systematic Theology: Biblical, Historical and Evangelical.” Between 1960 and 1999, he supervised the drafting of 41 theses and dissertations. Former students and admirers honored Garrett with a festschrift in the form of the spring 2006 issue of Perspectives in Religious Studies, the journal of the National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion. It was the second festschrift honoring Garrett.
Garrett earned two degrees at Southwestern Seminary (B.D., 1948; Th.D., 1954), a Master of Theology degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1949 and a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1966. He first served on the faculty at Southwestern Seminary from 1949 to 1959. After teaching on two other faculties of theology and religion, he returned to Southwestern Seminary in 1979, becoming a distinguished professor in 1991. Since his retirement in 1997, he has held emeritus status.