FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS)-Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary was saddened by the news of the passing of Dr. L. Russ Bush III, distinguished professor of philosophy of religion, director of the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture, and academic vice president and dean of the faculty emeritus at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., on January 22, 2008.

Bush, who received a Master of Divinity in 1970 and a Ph.D. in 1975 from Southwestern, was honored with the seminary’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2006. Prior to joining the faculty at Southeastern Seminary, he served as professor of philosophy of religion at Southwestern from 1973-89.

Bush was a prolific writer, authoring several books and contributing numerous journal and magazine articles. His most well known book coauthored with then Southwestern and now Southern Seminary historian, Tom Nettles, “Baptists and the Bible,” focused on the historical perspective of Baptists toward the doctrine of the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible.
Dr. Paige Patterson has stated that Bush’s book “Baptists and the Bible” is “one of the 10 most important publications” of the 20th century.

“In that book, Bush and Nettles demonstrated that beyond all doubt the Baptist theologians, pastors, and leaders of the past were overwhelmingly of the persuasion that the Scriptures do not err,” Patterson said.

In 1989, Bush was appointed academic vice president at Southeastern Seminary. At the time, Patterson said Southeastern “was undergoing a metamorphosis as it returned to the faith of its fathers.”

“Bush accepted the responsibility … even though the entire faculty voted against the appointment,” Patterson said. “It was one of the most incredibly difficult times anyone could have ever gone through. He was cursed … and accosted … But in the final analysis, he overcame by his sheer Christlikeness … By the time I arrived at Southeastern some years later, I discovered that he had won over the hearts even of those who were his bitterest enemies.”

Bush served under Patterson’s presidency at Southeastern Seminary from 1992-2003.

Patterson said of Bush’s passing, “The loss of Russ Bush is felt profoundly by many. For me it is the loss of a treasured friend, a loyal and faithful soldier, a committed churchman, and a fertile philosophical and theological mind. He is now in the home for which he prepared his heart and to which he longed to go. Farewell, sweet friend.”

In a paper presented at Union University in 2004, Bush said, “Who are the Baptists? We are a Bible-believing people who teach the New Birth, the priesthood of every believer, religious freedom, the gathered church, the sovereignty of God, salvation by Grace through Faith, the permanence of salvation, and the historicity and factual inerrancy of Holy Scripture. We baptize by immersion to symbolize the literal death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord. We share the Lord’s Supper in order to remind ourselves of His flesh and blood offered as a sacrifice for our sin; and we do all of this by Faith as we await His soon return. Who are the Baptists? They are God’s faithful band of saints who seek above all to present Christ to the world.”

In addition to being active in Baptist endeavors, Bush served in broader evangelical positions, most notably as national president of the Evangelical Theological Society in 1994 and national president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society from 1988-89. 

Over the years, Bush served as interim pastor at churches in Washington, D.C., and Wichita Falls, Texas, and as assistant minister of adults at First Baptist Church of Dallas. Additionally, he led numerous group tours to Bible lands such as Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Greece and Italy.

The Southwestern Journal of Theology will be dedicating a forthcoming issue on “The Doctrine of the Bible” to the theological legacy of L. Russ Bush. The legacy of Bush will be introduced by Mark Leeds, a Southeastern PhD graduate influenced greatly by his time with Dean Bush and now the Registrar at Southwestern Seminary. Included in the issue will be an article on revelation by Paige Patterson, other articles reflective of Bush’s commitment to inerrancy, as well as significant book reviews of Bush’s published works.