B. H. Carroll, the Teacher
By J. W. Crowder
I have just been asked to contribute a word to the blessed memory of Dr. B.H. Carroll as a teacher. Since this request came to me I have gone back over my life, called up all my teachers, one by one, about forty in number, some of them great and some not so great, and have tried to measure their impress on my life, but after due consideration and appreciation of each of them, I find that no one has ever so impressed my life as a teacher as the late and honored president of our Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
It has been my honor, privilege and pleasure through the space of nine years, to be with him in over seven hundred recitations in the classroom, during which time I have made a close study of the man and the matter and method of his teaching. Furthermore, it has been my joy to sit at his feet hour after hour and look into those tender and loving eyes that seemed to pierce and read my very soul, while he rang the changes of interpretation from Genesis to Revelation. Then it has been mine to walk the paths of research with him to the original sources and there sit with him and drink from the springs of knowledge from which he drank for more than fifty years. It was good to walk these paths with the man of such extended experience and keen insight in dealing with the problems of the Word of God. There I studied the man in his relation to other great minds and learned the processes by which he arrived at such glorious results.
As I saw him, there were three elements of his greatness as teacher. First, he had a rare gift of impartation. He was very "apt to teach." His strong personality with this aptness made him a very impressive instructor. Then his imagination was most wonderful. He saw things and made others see them. The scenes of Bible history were as real to him as the scenes of his childhood. He could walk the streets of Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, Athens, Corinth, and Rome with his students, reciting the history of these places and pointing out the celebrities of each, with as much ease apparently as if he had visited them the day before. His familiarity with the characters of the Bible was most remarkable. He talked of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Solomon, John the Baptist, Jesus, and Paul as familiarly as he spoke of Houston, Baylor or Burleson. He knew the great crowd of lesser lights in the Bible as well,
apparently, as he knew the lesser lights in the ministry of Texas. He kept their company often and reveled in their fellowship. They were as real to him as were his own bosom friends. This gift as a "seer" enabled him on many occasions to save the situation by his profound wisdom and instruction. He had not only this wonderful insight, but, like Paul, he "so spake" that he carried his pupils with him, often contrary to predispositions and prejudices.
Second, he had a conviction that what he taught was the truth. "He believed, therefore he spoke." Many teachers sound the doubtful note, saying, "It is possibly this or possibly that," but never do we find this great teacher halting between two opinions on the great matters of the Word of God. He knew what all the others believed and after stating clearly and fairly their positions, he would say, "Here it is," and he would then set forth his argument with such clearness and force that the most obstinate would be moved to his position. Everywhere he sounded the depths of inspiration and set the radical critics at naught. He had profound respect for scholarship, but he believed the highest and best scholarship to be in harmony with the old time interpretation of the Book which he so lovingly pressed to his heart.
As the third element of a great teacher, I name Openness to Conviction. This is not out of harmony with his profoundness of conviction as just described but it was this that saved him from foolish dogmatism and blind narrowness. He always kept his mind open toward the sources of information, even to the point of receiving suggestions from the simplest things about him, and from the most humble in the walks of men. In a special way did he most lovingly keep open his heart toward God, and often have I watched the processes by which he anchored his soul to the impregnable rock of truth.
To these elements of greatness as a teacher he added several things essential to efficiency. First, he made diligent and extended preparation. This gave him such a comprehensiveness one was made to feel when he heard him through that there was nothing else to be said on the subject. He studied his subject in its true relation to every other subject. He was at home in science, philosophy, law, religion, and government. He knew the movements of the world and treated his subjects in their relation to world movements. If "Mark Hopkins on one end of a log and a pupil on the other end constituted a university," Dr. B.H. Carroll on one end of a log and a pupil on the other end constituted a Seminary. His expositions of the Word of God in relation to science furnish the greatest
bulwark of to-day against the oncoming tide of "science falsely so-called" as taught now in many of our colleges and universities.
Second, to this he added immediate preparation. It was always with the deepest regret that he was forced at times to come before his class without an immediate preparation for that particular recitation. When it was possible, he wrote out with the greatest care the matter to be taught. This was also his habit with reference to his preaching which he believed should be characterized always by instruction. Like Garfield, the teacher-president, he realized the necessity of freshness in his teaching and spared no pains that he might "so speak" that what he said would take effect.
Third, to this he added method, which is very essential to successful preparation and teaching. In his expositions the method is clearly evident. He began at the fountain-head, the words of the text, considering the original if possible, then the grammar, then the context, and then the whole trend of Bible teaching, never failing to give his heart-promptings, under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, the right-of-way. To him there were no contradictions in the Scriptures. Everything fitted together with dovetail exactness. Nothing out of joint, but with perfect articulation, each book, each chapter and each verse found its rightful place in the scheme of divine revelation. His method of imparting was largely catechetical. His questions are so pointed and comprehensive that they carry with them the weight and force of conviction as they lead the student into the field of independent thought. They show an originality and independence of thought rarely attainable by Bible scholars. He believed that the student should be led to think for himself and he always made the most of individuality and independent work on the part of the student.
Then, last, but not least, he added conformity of life to his teaching. He was the incarnation of the truth which he taught. It was great to hear him teach but it was greater to see him live. The impress of Dr. B.H. Carroll upon the lives of many, many preachers in the Southland and elsewhere has been made so marvelously that an era in Baptist history has been introduced by this great teacher, the consummation and glories of which will be determined by the loyalty of his child, the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, to his ideal in perpetuating his teachings through the centuries to come.
[From Dr. B. H. Carroll, the Colossus of Baptist History, compiled and edited by J. W. Crowder, pp. 91-93. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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