Meet an Alumnus

September 15, 2011

Dr. Melville Stewart (MDiv '61)

Dr. Stewart is Professor of Philosophy Emeritus, Bethel University.  His main areas of interest are philosophy of religion, science and religion, and Chinese philosophy.

When I finished my BA from Gordon, I wanted to get a seminary degree, and explored two options, Gordon Divinity School (now Gordon-Conwell), and Westminster. I interviewed at Gordon, and was very impressed. I talked with my pastor, Rev. Kenneth McCowan (ThM '53), and he remarked that if I wanted to experience a training that is rigorous and unified in terms of the Reformed faith, Westminster is the place. That summer, I worked at Beverly Hospital, where I had worked my senior year at Gordon (to pay my bills). My fiance and I were to marry, if 3 things happened:

  1. I would somehow get a car.
  2. I'd be able to get a job to save some money to go to seminary.
  3. I had to find an apartment in Philadelphia for it to happen.

Well, all three came about. Regarding the third, I had a call while on duty at Beverly Hospital, and Ken McCowan asked, "Do you want an apartment in Chestnut Hill?  If so, I'll reserve it for you." Donna and I married, and we moved to Chestnut Hill.

I chose Westminster because I saw the faculty as the best out there. I enjoyed my major in philosophy, and I had a keen interest in apologetics, so the Cornelius Van Til name was something I couldn't set aside. He was one of the main reasons for going to Westminster, and I was never disappointed with my choice once there.

Cornelius Van Til influenced me more than any other professor.  He was an incredible scholar, a very popuplar lecturer, and committed to teaching and living the Gospel of Christ.  But I also enjoyed Paul Woolley, who had a sharp analytic mind.

I continue to work with the Hebrew and Greek Testaments, thanks to E. J. Young, Meredith Kline, Ned B. Stonehouse, and John Skilton. I write down Hebrew and Greek texts while in church and at various venues.  Westminster got me into the Biblical languages.  Language skills were so carefully developed, that when I was a Pew Scholar the fall term at Peking University in Beijing in 1996, I was asked to tutor two students in Hebrew. I had no Hebrew books with me, but I could get started because E. J. Young had a learning process that involved memory of chapters in the Hebrew text. I still remember some of them today.

As far as alumni are concerned, Ken McCowan influenced me more than anyone else regarding my faith in his ministry at Blaney Memorial Baptist Church.  He was an outstanding exegetical preacher, and his doctrinal sermons rooted me in the truths of the Christian faith in a way that remains as strong now, stronger than ever in fact, as a result.  Westminster impacted him, and he impacted me.  I've also been in contact with Howie Hart, but not as much as when we were in ministry. Teaching led to connections with others in the teaching profession.  All of my friends from Westminster have retired, but I continue on, hoping that my gifts will continue to grow, and I've found teaching in China after retirement is very rewarding and satisfying.  The Lord has provided grants every year I've come to China (and when I went to Russia too), from 1993 until the present.

While there are good seminaries out there, there isn't a rival to Westminster, because of its solid commitment to the main truths of the Christian faith.  I appreciate what Westminster has provided for me: a solid background training in the Scriptures, and skills in both Hebrew and Greek that allows me to defend my faith from the Scriptures. My books may pass away with time, but it is the Word of God that lives and abides forever, and that nourishes us if we take advantage of its teachings.  I miss those who were my teachers, and look forward some day to an opportunity when I can thank them for their diligence in that Word, and living and sharing it.

Dr. Stewart has written numerous books and articles.  His most recent publication is the Dictionary of Western Philosophy, co-written with Xu Yingjin.  For more biographical information, click here.