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Who was John Walvoord?

John Walvoord

John Flipse Walvoord (1910—2002) was an American pastor, author, widely respected dispensationalist theologian, and long-time president of Dallas Theological Seminary. Walvoord took over the presidency after the death of its founder, Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer. Over the next 33 years, John Walvoord stabilized the institution’s precarious financial status, expanded its graduate degree programs, and grew its student enrollment from less than 300 to nearly 1,700. He also served as editor of Bibliotheca Sacra, the school’s theological journal, for over 30 years and published numerous books on biblical prophecy, eschatology, Christology, and the Holy Spirit.

John Walvoord grew up in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, the youngest of three children born to John Garrett Walvoord, a teacher, principal, and school superintendent. His parents valued education and religious training, emphasizing the importance of daily Bible reading. When John’s mother, Mary Flipse, faced severe health risks during her third pregnancy, the doctors recommended an abortion, but the couple believed the child was a gift from God. Mary carried John to full term, with both remaining healthy. In fact, Mary lived almost to 102.

John’s family moved to Racine, Wisconsin, in 1925 and began attending the Union Gospel Tabernacle (renamed the Racine Bible Church), an independent, nondenominational church. Around this time, while John was in high school, he came to faith in Jesus Christ. All his previous devotions, John realized, had been an attempt to achieve righteousness and salvation through works. John’s conversion came during a group Bible study of Galatians led by William McCarrell, who would later help found the Independent Fundamental Churches of America.

In 1928, John Walvoord attended Wheaton College, majoring in Greek and minoring in Latin. He stood out academically and athletically in football, track and field, and debate, winning state and national competitions. He also led the college’s Christian Endeavor and the missionary volunteer band.

After graduating with honors in 1931, John attended the Evangelical Theological College (later renamed Dallas Theological Seminary). Throughout his studies, Walvoord planned to become a missionary to China. However, after graduating magna cum laude in 1934 with his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theology, God began to show him a different path.

Under seminary president Lewis Sperry Chafer’s guidance, John Walvoord accepted a pastorate at the Rosen Heights Presbyterian Church in Fort Worth (now Northwest Bible Church) while pursuing doctoral studies at the Dallas Seminary. He earned his Doctor of Theology degree in 1936. Later, he received a Master of Arts in philosophy from Texas Christian University (1945), a Doctor of Divinity from Wheaton College (1960), and a Doctor of Letters from Liberty University (1984).

In June of 1939, Walvoord married Geraldine Lundgren. The couple established a home in Fort Worth, Texas, and John continued pastoring the Rosen Heights Presbyterian Church for sixteen years. John and Geraldine had four boys: John Edward, James Randall, Timothy Peter, and Paul David.

John Walvoord had joined the Dallas Theological Seminary faculty in 1936, first serving as registrar and associate professor of systematic theology. In 1945, as Dr. Chafer’s health declined, the seminary president invited John Walvoord to serve as his assistant. For the next seven years, until the death of Dr. Chafer in 1952, John assumed more and more of the president’s daily responsibilities. He was instrumental in helping pull the school out of debt and reorganizing its administrative structure for stable growth.

With the seminary’s increasing demands, Walvoord resigned from the Rosen Heights Presbyterian Church (1951) and joined the Independent Fundamental Churches of America (founded by his former pastor, McCarrell). His family joined the Reinhardt Bible Church in Dallas.

In February of 1953, John Walvoord was officially installed as the second president of Dallas Theological Seminary. He served as president and professor of systematic theology until 1986, when he was made chancellor and, later, Chancellor Emeritus in 2001.

Walvoord served on the faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary for fifty years. During this time, he emerged as one of his generation’s most influential evangelical scholars. He wrote or co-wrote numerous books, including the bestselling Armageddon: Oil and the Middle East Crisis (1973; revised in 1991), which deeply impressed President George H. W. Bush during the Persian Gulf Crisis. After the President read the book, he immediately requested more copies for the White House staff to offer insight into the events unfolding in the Middle East.

Not only did Walvoord serve as editor of Bibliotheca Sacra (1952—1985), but he was also president of the Evangelical Theological Society (1954) and a member of the editorial board responsible for revising the New Scofield Reference Bible (1967). During his tenure as president, Dallas Theological Seminary thrived, adding several new departments and degree programs, building on classrooms and a library, and further developing its staff through higher education.

John Walvoord died in 2002 at age 92. He preached and taught the Bible until a few weeks before he passed. His primary scholarly focus was on the interpretation of biblical prophecy. His most notable legacy is Dallas Theological Seminary, one of the largest evangelical seminaries in the world today devoted to the inerrancy of Scripture, premillennial dispensational theology, and biblical teaching and preaching.

Consider these words from the teachings of John Walvoord:

“When the Word of God has spoken clearly and plainly, the unbelief of men, the reasonings of the natural mind and the wisdom of the world can be safely disregarded” (Jesus Christ Our Lord, p. 9).

“The Bible is God’s declaratory revelation to man containing the great truths about God, about man, about history, about salvation, and about prophecy that God wanted us to know. The Bible could be trusted just as much as if God had taken the pen and written the words Himself” (“Why I Believe the Bible,”

“In prayer we can approach God with complete assurance of His ability to answer us. There is no limit to what we can ask, if it is according to His will” (“Does God Let Your Prayers Go Unanswered?”

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This page last updated: April 23, 2024