Dallas Theological Seminary was founded out of a desire to preserve the centrality of the Bible and its authority as the theological foundation for pastors and teachers to serve the Lord’s church. Throughout the decades, DTS has pursued the goals of our founders by preparing God’s servants for ministry that now encompasses the earth.
In 1924, ever-increasing rationalistic tendencies characterized the Modern era and liberal theological perspectives swept through academia and many churches. Sadly, while revisionists attempted to retain the relevance of Christianity in a secular society, they did so by redefining essential doctrines concerning the mission of Christ, leading to the distortion of historic Christian orthodoxy. Some pursued counteraction against the movement through polemics; Lewis Sperry Chafer countered by establishing an institution where students could receive conservative, traditional theological training and learn to communicate the Scriptures in the context of the twentieth century and beyond.
Before founding DTS, Chafer had invested more than thirty years traveling throughout the United States, initially as an evangelist and then as a Bible teacher. He encountered numerous pastors and students throughout his travels; these pastors and students desired a more thorough education in biblical exposition and interpretation methods. Their expressed concerns influenced Chafer to create a curriculum centered on the study of the Bible. A premillennial, dispensational understanding of Scripture and the training of students in the exposition of the Word became central to the foundation of the seminary because of Chafer’s mentor, C. I. Scofield. These theological distinctives and an emphasis on the development of the spiritual life distinguished the curriculum of DTS.
Several meetings between 1921 and 1922 catalyzed the formation of DTS. Throughout the process, a pivotal conversation took place between W. H. Griffith Thomas, a prominent conservative Anglican scholar; A. B. Winchester, a Canadian minister; and Chafer. They gathered at the Piedmont Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia, and discussed the details of a new adventure in theological training. Other figures who shaped the early years of the seminary included Chafer’s brother, Rollin T. Chafer, who served both as an administrative officer and instructor, and William M. Anderson Jr., pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Dallas. Anderson was instrumental in Chafer’s decision to locate the seminary in Dallas, and his church housed the seminary’s earliest classroom. Anderson also served on the faculty. After years of planning, the seminary was established in 1924 with the first class graduating in 1927.
Since its inception, DTS has emphasized expository preaching and teaching of the Scriptures according to the plain, normal, historical meaning of the words in their original languages. The fruit of Chafer’s vision, a seminary where the central textbook is the Word of God, continues to impact the world through its legacy of alumni who demonstrate what it means to teach truth and love well.
- Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer, 1924–52
- Dr. John F. Walvoord, 1952–86
- Dr. Donald K. Campbell, 1986–94
- Dr. Charles R. Swindoll, 1994-2001
- Dr. Mark L. Bailey, 2001–2020
- Dr. Mark Yarbrough, 2020-current