Note - For this class the professor did not ask for a paper. Rather he wanted complete research for a paper. I began to suspect at this point Fuller was going to be easier than Wheaton. I had the same class as an undergraduate -- it was significantly harder and more rewarding.
A Brief Study of the Life and Thought of C.I. Scofield
One of the most influential movements in 20th Century American religious history, or for that matter general history, has been Fundamentalism. From its beginnings in the late 19th century through its peak in the early decades of this century and now entering into another century, Fundamentalism has shaped and impacted our society in a multitude of ways. It is of a nature where one appreciates or one despises it, there is not much of a middle ground of opinion to be found. On account of this great influence it would behoove us to look at one of the foundational thinkers and writers of this movement, C.I. Scofield. He was, arguably, the single greatest force in the development and dispersion of dispensational thought, and all other aspects which made up Fundamentalism. It is the goal of this paper, then, to look at Dr. Scofield, examining first his life, then focusing especially on a selection of his own writings so as to gain an understanding of his thought and emphases. I will, finally, seek to understand his influence, good and bad, on the movement and through this on society as a whole. If one wants to understand a movement, it is often a great first step first to examine those of whom the movement exalted as leaders, thereby gaining and understanding of those attributes of thought and deed that a movement holds important. C.I. Scofield was exalted within Fundamentalism as a leader and thinker without rival, so it is him that we shall seek to understand.
The Life of C.I. Scofield (1843 - 1921)
Birth and Childhood
The youngest of seven children, four girls and three boys. He was the only surviving son in the family.
Parents were active Episcopalians.
Mother died shortly after his birth, with her dying prayer that her new son would become a preacher.
Moved to Wilson County, Tennessee, where he was raised.
Civil War Soldier
Enlisted at the beginning of the hostilities in the Confederate Army
Excellent horseman, causing him to be used as an orderly and in the Cavalry
Received the Southern Cross of Honor for valor at the Battle of Antietam
Fought until the end of the war in various capacities, mostly unknown.
Moved to St. Louis in 1866
Married Leotine Cerre, daughter of a prominent French Roman Catholic family
With family help secured a position as a law clerk in a local prestigious firm, began studying for a career in law.
Three Children: Abigail, Marie, and Guy (died at age two).
Moved to Kansas in 1870
Passed the bar
Elected in Atchinson, KS to State Legislature
Helped convict a crooked state Senator
Appointed in 1873 as U.S. Attorney for the State of Kansas and the Indian Territory by President Grant
Resigned post as U.S. attorney (time of service varies in sources from seven months to two years) under clouded conditions
Resumed law practice in St.Louis
Wife leaves him in 1879 and returns to Atchinson with Children (they officially divorce in 1883).
Took up drinking in a serious way.
A friend, Thomas McPheeters asked why Scofield was not a Christian. Scofield replied because no one had asked him to become one. McPheeters asked and Scofield became a Christian
Initially, following his conversion, very active in the local YMCA
Organized and pastored the Hyde Park Congregational Church
Asked to assume pastorate of the failing First Congregational Church of Dallas in 1882. He stayed until 1895.
Married Hettie Van Wark in 1884, a member of his church. They had one child – Noel Paul.
In 1887 became superintendent of the American Home Missionary Society for the states of Louisiana and Texas.
Began Central American Mission in 1890.
Invited by Dwight L. Moody to pastor the Trinitarian Congregational Church in East Northfield, MA, where he stayed for seven years.
Took up a variety of tasks as a leader in schools, bible-study development, and in conference work.
Returned to First Congregational Church until 1907.
Writing of the Scofield Reference Bible
The idea germinated early in his ministry in Dallas
In 1901 he outlined his plan at the Seafield Bible Conference
Project was begun in 1902
In 1907, Scofield left pastorate to pursue this full-time
Published in 1909, and was an instant success.
Later elected to membership in the Societe Academique d’Histoire Internationale in France for this work.
Later Years and Death
In 1911, was appointed chairman of the committee for the revision of the King James Version (KJV) which was sponsored by the Oxford University Press.
In 1914 helped found the Philadelphia Bible Institute (PBI), as was President until 1918.
Discipled Lewis Chafer at PBI, who later helped found Dallas Theological Seminary.
Primarily wrote and lectured at various conferences and other venues following the publication of the SRB.
Died in 1921 of cardiovascular renal disease.
III. The Writings of C.I. Scofield
General Thoughts on the Writings
Primarily Pastoral in nature, meant for a general audience.
Popular in all ranges of education for readability and succinctness.
Very Grounded in and focused on Scripture.
His relationship with Oxford University Press
This very well-respected name published the SRB. (In addition it also published the earliest biography of Scofield by Trumble, and published Marsden’s Fundamentalism and American Culture, making this the major publisher behind Fundamentalist thought and study. An additional note of some interest and comparison can be made that Canfield’s biography which attacks the SRB as unscholarly, was originally self-published.
B. Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
Brief overview of purpose and style
Definition and examination of Dispensational thought
Defined as a period of time during which man is tested in respect of obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God.
Plain Papers on the Holy Spirit
Brief overview of purpose and style
Scofield’s Doctrine of the Holy Spirit
As a Divine Person
Before and up to Pentecost
The necessity of the Spirit in modern Christians
Scofield Reference Bible
Discussion of its importance and prevalence in Fundamentalist life and thought.
Success in numbers published and sold (over ten million copies).
Success in influencing generations of Fundamentalists.
2. Purpose, structure, and form
Intended to “facilitate the study and intelligent use of the Bible” (SRB, iii)
Originally used the KJV, mainly due to its popularity rather than a strict view that it is the only real version of Scripture. There was a willingness to amend passages which were commonly thought by scholars to be mistranslations.
Was not intended to be a commentary, but rather intended to not exceed similar Bibles with helps.
The notes meant to aid readers in understanding difficult concepts. By:
A series of references to other related texts.
Definitions of theologically significant words (i.e. atonement, sin, etc.)
Divisions of Scripture are noted, as well as a discussion of dispensational divisions is taken up.
Prophecies are noted as to prior or future fulfillment.
Thoughts on typology, i.e. the light of Genesis 1:4 is a type of Christ.
Discussion of themes
Addresses On Prophecy
Prophecy as a main point of Fundamentalism
The Church in Prophecy
F. In Many Pulpits
Brief overview of content
Examination of the preaching style of Scofield
Succinct and easily understood.
Reliance on Scripture.
Variety of topics.
V. The Influence of C.I. Scofield
Influence Within Fundamentalism
As a thinker.
Expounded and contributed to the major tenets of Fundamentalist belief.
Contributor to The Fundamentals
Editor, publisher, and committee chairman
Teacher and Mentor to a great number of influential Fundamentalist leaders
2. As a Popularizer.
a. Bridge between dry scholarship and popular thought.
Focus on equipping all believers to understand and read the Bible
Continued popularity and expansion of the SRB.
Continued influence of his thought in Fundamentalist schools and seminaries (i.e. Dallas Theological Seminary).
Influence Outside Fundamentalism
Or – Influence outside of Fundamentalism?
As a major force to be dealt with by non-Fundamentalist Christians.
A look at the Trumbull biography.
A look at the Gaebelein article.
Opinions on the man
a man of prayer
a man of faith
a man of great intelligence and learning
a man with great communication skills
4. Views on his Bible and notes.
a. Doctrinally, they were comments and helps.
b. Practically, they were divine additions.
D. His critics
A look at the Canfield biography
Main points of criticism by Canfield and others:
Scofield’s personal problems and motives
Scofield’s lack of scholarly ability and training
Scofield’s theological errors
Scofield’s arrogance and heresy in adding to Scripture
The best way to understand a person’s thoughts and motives is to read that person’s own writings. While an autobiography does not exist, it is possible to gain an understanding of how Scofield wrote and taught, and to get a grasp of his thought and emphases through what he did write.
Scofield, C.I. Addresses on Prophecy. Philadelphia: Philadelphia School of the Bible, Inc.,
-Formulates and expounds upon Scofield’s view of Prophecy within the Bible. Prophecy is a key part of understanding Fundamentalism, and a look at Scofield’s expression of the thought is vital.
--In Many Pulpits, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1966.
-A selection of sermons and essays by Scofield on a variety of topics. This is helpful in understanding Scofield’s style of communication, an important aspect of his Pastoral life and career. This is also a expounding of general doctrine in an easy to understand manner.
--Plain Papers on the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit. New York: Fleming H. Revell Company:
-A brief book on Scofield’s doctrine of the Holy Spirit. While not a major often thought of as a major topic within Fundamentalist thought, it is interesting to compare this doctrine with the other great movement of the early 20th century (and one which is even stronger today), Pentecostalism.
--Prophecy Made Plain. New York: Gospel Publishing House, 1914.
-A slightly different version of Addresses on Prophecy meant for a European audience. While not particularly different, it is interesting to note the fact that versions were published for a global audience, and that Scofield was not limited to American influence.
--Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth. Findlay, OH: Dunham Publishing Company, 1955.
-Scofield’s first major work, in which he expounds on the beliefs of Dispensationalism. Invaluable in studying Scofield’s basic thought on this doctrine, and helpful in its showing us his earliest thought and writing.
--Things Old and New. Compiled and edited by A.C. Gaebelein. New York: Our Hope
-A collection of essays on the Old and New Testament. This book gives us a greater understanding of Scofield’s views on particular books and passages, which are hinted at in his study notes of the following.
Scofield, C.I., editor. The Scofield Reference Bible (SRB). New York: Oxford University Press,
-Scofield’s best known work, both in reputation and in numbers published and sold. Became the authoritative version of Holy Scripture for generations of Fundamentalists, with versions still being sold today in large numbers. It was through this version that Scofield was able to widely disseminate Dispensational thought, and other uniquely, and not-so-uniquely, Fundamentalist views on Scripture. It is usually either hated or adored.
These include various biographies and personal sketches of C.I. Scofield, as well as general works about the movement and thought of Fundamentalism.
Canfield, Joseph. The Incredible Scofield and His Book. Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books,
-“A masterpiece of vituperative writing” (Crutchfield, 378). This is an overview of the life of Scofield, with an emphasis on the development of the SRB. There is extensive research, but the presupposition of major dislike for Scofield and his book resonate throughout. A very useful tool, but one must be aware of the very negative perspective which is present from beginning to end.
Chafer, Lewis Sperry, “Dr. C.I. Scofield.” Bibliotheca Sacra 100 (January 1943): 4-6.
-A brief biographical sketch by a pupil and colleague of Dr. Scofield. It is brief, but very valuable in its personal statements about Scofield by someone who knew him well. The comments concerning Scofield’s conversion are very worthwhile.
--- “The Scofield Bible.” Bibliotheca Sacra 109 (April 1952): 97-99.
-A brief refutation of the lack of scholarly worth of the SRB. The appeal is made to the fact that it was published by Oxford University Press, and to be published required an unanimous vote of more than twenty college Presidents, whose academic credentials could not be argued.
Cox, William E. An Examination of Dispensationalism. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1963.
-An examination of the formulation of Dispensational theology by one who was taught in, and then rejected, this style of thought. While not scathing in its attack, there is a very strong and prevalent wish to persuade interested Christians that this is a error filled doctrine which borders on heresy. This is important in understanding the variety and reasons of disagreement with Scofield’s thought.
Gaebelein, Arno C. The History of the Scofield Reference Bible. New York: Our Hope
-An enthusiastic and unabashed Apology for both Scofield and the SRB, written in response to various critics of both. This is an excellent source of information, though very biased, as well as important in understanding the scope and magnitude of Scofield and his thinking upon Fundamentalist thought throughout this century.
--- “The Story of the Scofield Reference Bible”, Moody Monthly 43(October
1942): 65-66, 97; (November 1942): 128-129, 135; (December 1942): 202-3, 233; (January
1943): 277-79; (February 1943): 343-45; (March 1943): 400-01, 419.
-A slightly different serialized version of the above.
Kraus, C. Norman. Dispensationalism in America: Its Rise and Development. Richmond: John
Knox Press, 1958.
-An examination of dispensationalism with an emphasis on the historical foundations of the movement. While the author is very much not within the movement himself, the book is not an “attempt to refute dispensationalism, but rather to understand it” (p. 19). It is valuable in its broad and fair discussion of the movement as a whole and, especially, Scofield’s own role.
Marsden, George M., Fundamentalism and American Culture. New York: Oxford University
-The definitive book on the Fundamentalist movement. Without equal in its discussion of the rise, development, influence, and thought of Fundamentalism. While its discussion of Scofield is rather brief, this is an important book in placing and understanding him within his historical situation.
Trumbull, Charles, The Life Story of C.I. Scofield. New York: Oxford University Press, 1920.
-More than a tribute than a biography, this early, and brief, study of the life of C.I. Scofield is still a very valuable resource in gaining an understanding of who Scofield was.
Dictionary articles are an important resource in gaining a quick glimpse of the person studied, as well as valuable in providing bibliographic direction. The various articles vary in length, and each has a particular angle or piece of information which is valuable.
Bowde, Henry Warner. Dictionary of American Religious Biography. New York: Greenwood, 1977.
-A brief article, it is valuable in its biographical details, and especially because of the timeline provided. Also, it has some excellent insights concerning his thought on the Bible.
Crutchfield, Larry V. Twentieth Century Shapers of American Popular Religion. Charles Lippy,
ed. New York: Greenwood, 1989.
-The best of the articles, this longer sketch gives an overview of the life and thought, with the addition of appraising Scofield’s work and looking at his critics. Contains an overview of his writings and an excellent bibliography.
Fackler, Mark “Scofield, Cyrus Ingerson”, Who’s Who in Christian History. J.D. Douglas and Philip Comfort, eds. Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1992.
-A very brief article, with some valuable information on his pre-conversion career.
Hannah, J. “Scofield, Cyrus Ingerson (1843 - 1921)” Dictionary of Christianity in America.
Daniel Reid, ed. Downers Grove: IVP, 1990.
-A brief, but very valuable and succinct view of Scofield. An excellent quick resource for biographical details.