The History of The Gordon Review: Faith Integration’s “First” Journal

This essay recounts the history of The Gordon Review, a journal produced from 1955 to 1970 as an independent effort of several Gordon College faculty. Among Christian scholars from a more evangelical tradition, this journal was the earliest systematic effort to publish interdisciplinary scholarship integrating the Christian faith. The Gordon Review exhibited a particular approach to publishing which emphasized community and collaboration, and they articulated their mission as striving to build bridges between the “intellectual life and the religious life,” and between “conservative” and “liberal” Christians. For Christians who desire that their scholarship incorporates their faith, the history of the journal is a source of inspiration and hope. In 1970, the journal was reborn as the Christian Scholar’s Review, an independent entity then sponsored by fifteen (now over forty) Christian colleges and universities. Todd P. Steen is the Granger Professor of Economics at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.


In 2021, the academic journal Christian Scholar’s Review (CSR) celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. Started in the fall of 1970, CSR is currently sponsored by over forty Christian colleges and universities. However, the work of CSR began with just a single institution. Christian Scholar’s Review was the successor journal to The Gordon Review, an academic journal founded in 1955 by faculty at Gordon College. For more evangelical scholars, this journal was the first systematic foray into the publication of scholarship that we might now describe as engaging in “the integration of faith and learning.” The journal’s creators asserted that “it is part of our privilege and duty as Christians to challenge every aspect of modern life in the light of God’s revelation.”

For Christians in higher education who struggle with understanding their vocation and how to infuse their scholarship with a Christian perspective, the founders of The Gordon Review provide both inspiration and hope. Their generous spirit, along with a strong commitment to community and biblical truth, outlines a pathway for current Christian scholars to follow. Their determination to maintain scholarly independence is a lesson for those on both the right and left who would want to limit the range of scholars’ work.

This article recounts the history of The Gordon Review, its relationship to Gordon College, and its lasting influence on CSR. Although the history of The Gordon Review is little known, the journal’s impact on Christian scholarship has been substantial. The story of The Gordon Review reveals God’s providence and care, and the approach of its creators stands in substantial contrast to the politicization of issues and scholarship that we often see today in higher education. Their dedication to building bridges rather than fences is a winsome approach that can attract rather than repel those inside and outside the faith. The past articles and book reviews in the journal provide an exceptional resource to Christian scholars; a digital archive of the journal will be available later in 2024 at


In February of 1955, The Gordon Review was born. In the introduction to its first issue, the journal’s editor, Lloyd F. Dean, the chairperson of the division of philosophy at Gordon College, stated: “This is a scholarly review from the perspective of the historic Christian faith.” He also noted that although “the name of the school at which the members of the editorial board teach has been incorporated in the title,” the journal was “not an official publication of Gordon College or Gordon Divinity School,” and that “The School takes no responsibility for the individual opinions expressed here.” Instead, Dean asserted that the journal was “rather an independent effort spontaneously undertaken by the persons whose names are listed as comprising the official staff of the publication.” Dean declared that while each staff member “is a signer of the statement of faith of the Gordon schools and consequently subscribes to all of the great, historic, Christian doctrines enunciated in that document (see the Gordon Catalog for explicit statement), each is personally responsible for the particular form of expression and application which he has made of these truths.”

From the beginning, the journal’s staff clearly expressed their charitable approach to publishing. “This publication does not desire to support any view which is contrary to the Holy Scriptures, our only infallible rule of faith and practice.” Dean noted, however, that as “even the most consecrated Christians, however, are not agreed on their understanding of all of the details of Christian doctrine, there will naturally be a variety of viewpoints expressed here as regards certain of the more complex aspects of Christian teaching.” The journal’s staff also hoped that “in respect both to the relations between the several writers and between the Review and its readers a spirit of tolerance and Christian unity shall prevail. The ancient dictum well expresses our standard: in the essentials of the faith unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, love.”

In the introduction, the editorial staff made an extended case for the necessity of this new journal. They asserted that “the type of journal which this issue launches is almost non-existent in evangelical, Christian circles.” The journal was not to be another theological journal, but theology would have “its place as one discipline among others; the latter will include the liberal arts and natural science as well.” The introduction to the journal also made clear the editors’ approach to the relationship between faith and learning. They wanted the journal to help bring about a “new period of vigor of thought and expression which will challenge the mind of the world to consider seriously and prayerfully the claims of Christ in every aspect of life and culture,” and “to bring every thought into captivity to Jesus Christ.”

The first issue of The Gordon Review was forty pages long, and included four articles and six book reviews which reflected its interdisciplinary nature. One article (by Roger Nicole) was titled “Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament,” while another (by Thomas H. Leith) was titled “The Scientist and the Universe.” The book reviews examined volumes on geology, the psychology of music, the relationship between science and Scripture, and Brunner’s concept of revelation. Twelve hundred and fifty copies of the journal were printed in its initial run, and the journal began with six hundred individual subscribers. It was an impressive debut, given the small cadre of individuals who started the journal.

The role of Gordon College

Although The Gordon Review did not begin as an official publication of Gordon College or the Gordon Divinity School (now Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), those institutions were the soil where The Gordon Review blossomed and developed. Gordon College and Gordon Divinity School were founded in 1889 by Rev. Dr. Adoniram Judson (A. J.) Gordon, who was the pastor of Boston’s Clarendon Street Church. The original name of the institution was the Boston Missionary Training Institute, which reflects the importance of missions in the history of those institutions. Over time, Gordon College has become one of the leading Christian liberal arts colleges and has had an influence on Christian higher education that is beyond its size as an institution.

Why was Gordon College, and not another institution, the place where such a journal was first created? The college’s location in New England seems to have played an important role. In describing the journal, editor Lloyd Dean noted: “We are located in New England. Here, generally, the intellectual and cultural level is quite high. Our influence as evangelicals is to some extent contingent upon our ability to challenge the attention of representatives of our local culture.” Faculty at Gordon College had significant interactions with faculty from neighboring institutions and were familiar with academic journals and publishing. Lloyd Dean was educated at both Harvard and Boston University, and assistant editor Thomas Leith studied at both the University of Toronto and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Although only some Christian scholars can leverage a favorable geographic location like that of Gordon College, the history of the journal provides encouragement for all scholars to develop communities however they can, and to participate in online networks of various interests. For those of us scholars who already do, we should be intentional in welcoming new participants to the discussions and fellowship.

The 1950s were also a time of much change and development at Gordon College. The college moved to its current Wenham campus in 1955, and during this decade, it instituted its first liberal arts core curriculum and started its first study-abroad program in Europe. It was in this environment that The Gordon Review was born. The founding of The Gordon Review is described in a volume written in 1988 commemorating the 100th anniversary of the founding of Gordon College. One of the authors of the book, historian Thomas A. Askew (the book was co-authored by teacher and librarian Jean M. Askew), was also an early editor of The Gordon Review and a future publisher of CSR. The authors wrote that “Shortly after moving to Wenham, the Gordon faculty launched two projects which evolved into substantial educational endeavors. In 1955 the first issue of The Gordon Review was published, a quarterly journal designed to enrich the quality of dialogue among Christian scholars.”

A bold approach

There were a number of striking features about the way The Gordon Review approached its task. First, the journal was in many ways both “evangelical” and “ecumenical,” a balance that is not always easy to maintain. As noted above, the editors wanted the material in the journal to reach beyond their own community and “challenge the attention of representatives of our local culture.” From early in the journal’s history, it published articles from scholars working at both Christian and secular institutions. An article in the March 16, 1955 issue of the student newspaper The Gordon Herald noted that the Gordon faculty involved with the journal desired “to present an intellectually respected Christian quarterly to scholars even outside the realm of Christianity.” The journal even published an article by the Jewish scholar and Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl in the first issue of volume 6. Overall, as expressed in 1966 by editor Arno Kolz, the journal delighted in the fact that it was “guided by a Board of Editors and Consulting Editors from colleges, theological schools and universities in North America and Europe. Christian scholars from around the world—Protestants and Catholics—have had their articles published in The Gordon Review, and readers can consult copies of the journal in major libraries in America and Europe.”

The journal’s approach to the discussion of scholarly matters was captured in an advertisement for The Gordon Review printed in the September 1958 issue of the publication The Christian Scholar (an academic journal sponsored by the National Council of Churches). The ad (see Figure 1 below) asked whether one would “rather live in a world of fences or bridges” and noted the different fences that separate academic life. In the ad, The Gordon Review expressed its dedication to “removing these fences and replacing them with bridges. Though the ‘liberal’ may not turn ‘conservative,’ or vice versa, they can at least be on speaking terms!” It would be hard to imagine many journals printing such an advertisement today.

A second unique feature of The Gordon Review was its relationship with college students. From its inception, the journal had a significant focus on impacting students at Gordon College and beyond. In the introduction to the journal, under the heading “Why Another Journal?”, the second goal that editor Lloyd Dean noted was that “It is hoped that our efforts will be of real service to the school with which we are immediately associated. Our students will have the opportunity to acquaint themselves with scholarly material in the various fields mentioned above . . . , written by men with whom they are, in many cases, already acquainted.” Dean went on to acknowledge that it might be “more than difficult to challenge the average college or seminary student to sustained high-level reading,” but asserted that “when the contributors to an academic, Christian journal are generally known to students, personally and as instructors, there would appear to be good reason to feel that at least a significant few” would read the journal while in college and after graduation. As a result, the editors also saw the journal as a vehicle to promote alumni loyalty.

This commitment to Gordon College students played out in various ways throughout the journal’s history. The journal received substantial coverage in the student newspaper, and students were involved in numerous ways. When the creation of the journal was announced in December 1954, an article in the student paper noted that “It gives the students opportunity to read scholarly work” and “should follow students when they graduate and keep them in touch.” It also stated that “200 students have expressed their interest to see such a journal published.” An article published in the student newspaper noted that when the December 1957 issue of the journal was published, “Student volunteer labor assisted the staff in this promotion venture.”

A community of scholars

Perhaps because the journal started at a single college as the project of a handful of faculty members, The Gordon Review truly functioned as a community of scholars. In the introduction to the journal, editor Lloyd Dean noted that “a spirit of optimism pervades the Review staff. We feel that God has given us new hope and new opportunities even in these difficult days.” The contents of the journal reflected the sense of community. Beginning with the first issue, the journal included an extensive “Personalia” section that allowed readers to get to know the personal history and achievements of the journal’s authors. As just one example, the notes on author Theodore Thienemann extended to almost three-quarters of a page, including his refusal to take the Nazi oath of allegiance and his receipt of the Wreath of Corvin, the highest Hungarian distinction in the sciences. In the journal’s third issue, it was noted that author Carmen Decker’s “son has completed his missionary training and with his wife and children is on his way to Congo where Professor Decker’s daughter and husband are in charge of a Methodist hospital.” On occasion, the journal included notes of sympathy regarding the death of a colleague.

The journal also worked to serve its community of readers in unique ways. Beginning with the third issue, assistant editor Thomas Leith (professor of science and mathematics) instituted a feature titled “Survey of Significant Articles.” This section often ran for several pages and was wide-ranging in its content. In its first appearance, among the forty or so articles recommended were se- lections from Yale Review, Nature, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Calvin Forum, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, and Evangelical Quarterly. Leith also noted the publication of a new journal titled Progressive Calvinism, which he called “highly stimulating and most pertinent.” This curated list of publications provided a significant service to the journal’s readers in a pre-Internet era when information about articles and journals was much harder to obtain.

Among this community of scholars at Gordon College was an exceptional group of founders and leaders of the journal. As noted above, they all attended top universities, and almost all had an undergraduate experience at a Christian college. Lloyd Dean, a Gordon College, Gordon Divinity School, and Boston University graduate, also served as a pastor for many years. C. Milburn Keen, Jr. (professor of history) studied at both Gordon College and the University of Pennsylvania, and served as a bomber pilot in World War II, during which he was captured by the Germans. Philip Johnson (professor of Bible) “served as a chaplain in the United States Army and spent nearly three years in the Pacific area with the infantry.” Future editor Charles Huttar, who received a PhD from Northwestern and BA from Wheaton, later served as president of the Conference on Christianity and Literature. The final editor of The Gordon Review, George Brushaber (professor of philosophy), later became the president of Bethel College and Seminary (MN) and editor of Christianity Today. These are just some of the many individuals who contributed to the life of the journal. In retrospect, it is remarkable that Gordon College was able to gather so many outstanding faculty during this time. Over a period of fifteen years, these individuals provided visionary leadership for a journal that would later transition to a broader-based publication.

The sense of community was maintained even as the journal expanded its reach to those beyond Gordon College. Over time, the journal added consulting editors from other institutions to the management team. In issue 9.4, published in the spring of 1966, these editors included professors from MIT, Butler University, the University of Guelph, Central Michigan University, the Free University of Amsterdam, and the La Faculté libre de théologie évangélique (FLTE) in France. On the occasion of the publication of the tenth volume of the journal, editor Arno Kolz noted that the “journal has survived, like a healthy child, infancy and early childhood, and is now approaching its teens with vigor and anticipation.” Kolz also stated that the journal permits “experts of various disciplines to talk to one another, to enable specialists to explain new insights and discoveries to the alert layman, and to give scholars and scientists opportunity to discuss the truths of their respective disciplines in the light of biblical revelation and Christian commitments.”

The relationship between The Gordon Review and Gordon College

As noted above, in the beginning, The Gordon Review was not an official publication of Gordon College and Gordon Divinity School. This was expressed in various ways in the journal throughout its history. In addition to the declaration made in the introduction to the journal in its first issue, the bottom of page one included the statement, “The GORDON REVIEW is published quarterly by members of the Gordon faculties.” By the second issue, the statement made in the initial editorial in the journal was placed by itself on the second page of the issue. “This journal is not an official publication of Gordon College or Gordon Divinity School. It is rather an independent effort spontaneously undertaken by the persons whose names are listed as comprising the official staff of the publication. The School and editorial staff takes (sic) no responsibility for the individual opinions expressed here.” The exact wording of this statement was revised several times in subsequent issues. In the first issue of volume 5, it now included the sentence “It is hoped that the viewpoints presented may be provocative of further discussion in important areas of Christian thought.”

From its inception, Gordon College expressed support for the fledgling project. In notes of a meeting of the college’s Board of Trustees, it was stated that “A new journal called the ‘Gordon review,’ which consists of articles written by faculty, will be published.” The trustees voted “That we accept the recommendation of the president that we endorse the publication, ‘The Gordon review,’ and that we support it by subscribing to it.” However, almost all of the funding of the journal was derived from sources outside of Gordon College.

Later in its history, the relationship between Gordon College and the journal began to change. In Issue 8.2–3 (Winter 1964–65) celebrating the second decade of publication, Lloyd Dean’s original introduction of the journal from the first issue was republished. In a new footnote, however, the editor stated that “This statement is no longer strictly accurate. Further clarification of the present working relationship between the Review and Gordon will be presented in a later issue, —Ed.”

At around the same time, the Gordon College Board of Trustees was discussing the journal. As reported in notes to a college Board of Trustees meeting in 1965, “During the past quarter the status of the Gordon Review has been under scrutiny. Problems affecting our public relations and the status of donations relative to tax laws as well as the editorial policies and administrative control have been given attention. The constitution and by-laws of the review have been reconstructed under Mr. Ketcham’s direction and have been approved by the President’s Cabinet. It is now hoped that the Gordon Review will provide an articulate and scholarly voice for the conservative Christian heritage in the forum of learned journals.”

In the front matter of issue 9.1, published in the fall of 1965, a new statement appeared that noted that “Although this journal is related to Gordon College and Gordon Divinity School as an approved publication, it is not an official organ of either School.” For the first time, the statement also noted that “Donations to support The Gordon review are tax-deductible.” In the Winter 1966 issue (9.2–3), an extensive statement about the relationship appeared in the journal. No name was attached to the statement, but Charles A. Huttar was listed in the journal as the chairman of the board of editors at that time. The statement included a quote that noted it had been decided (without reference to who decided this) that “The Gordon Review shall be in the hands of a self-perpetuating Board of Editors not less than eight or more than twenty-four in number, at least two-thirds of whom shall be, at the time of their election, members of the faculty or administration of Gordon, and at least one of whom shall be a member of the President’s Cabinet.” As a result, the statement asserted that “This establishes a permanent relationship between the Review and Gordon College and Gordon Divinity School.”

The statement also said that “It has been decided that one member at least of the Editorial Committee should be a member of the top echelon of the administration of Gordon. In this wise, while our Review is not an organ in which official policy of the institution is enunciated, it is, nevertheless, an approved publication and the administration has some opportunity through its representative to pass on the materials prior to their appearance.” In addition, it noted that this change resulted in an “official relationship” to the college, but while still observing that “Our subsistence is still derived almost entirely from subscriptions, advertisements, and gift contributions of interested supporters.”

As a result, there was a significant change in how the journal was managed. Later that year, in the introduction to the first issue of the tenth volume, which was published in the fall of 1966, Editor Arno Kolz stated that “The Gordon Review is also a vehicle for conservative Christian convictions and contributions to the non-Christian and liberal Christian academic and intellectual community. With these aims The Gordon Review still is today, as ten years ago, the only journal of its kind, and then as now, is committed to reflect both evangelical vigor and the scholar’s passion for truth.” This statement was the first time the word “conservative” was used in a published description of the journal’s purpose. At the same time, the pace of publication of the Review began to slow down, and only two volumes of the journal were published from 1966 to 1970. No further revisions to the statements about the relationship between the journal and the college were made in the remaining issues.

It is worth noting that this period of time at the college was quite unsettled. As described in the volume by Askew and Askew (which was published by Gordon College), “President (James) Forrester’s leadership became increasingly arbitrary and difficult, a trend that eroded campus morale. A heavy turnover of administrators and professors resulted.” The group of professors that moved on included Lloyd F. Dean, Donald F. Tweedie, Charles A. Huttar, and Thomas H. Leith, all key figures in the publication of The Gordon Review. It is unclear whether this period of unrest relates in any way to changes in the relationship between the journal and the college.

Endings: The transition to Christian Scholar’s Review

The final issue of The Gordon Review was published in the spring of 1970 (volume 11, number 5). In its pages, there is no indication that this issue would be the last, or that there was any thought of a transition to a new journal. The graphic on the cover of the final issue was described as follows in its front matter: “Appropriate to these days of ecumenical goodwill is the ‘flaming heart’ device appearing on the cover. Initially a creation of Counterreformation piety, this emblematic representation of the devout believer quickly became part of a stock of traditional images freely drawn on by Catholic and Protestant alike.”

In a subsequent letter from editor George Brushaber to “all subscribers to The Gordon review,” he described the founding principles of the journal. “Fifteen years ago, The Gordon Review was founded as a scholarly journal seeking to bring to the arts and sciences the enriching perspective of biblical revelation. Such an integration of faith and learning brings fuller meaning to each discipline and, also, serves to enhance the unified Christian world-and-life view to which all facets of scholarship should contribute.” Brushaber also noted that the editors “entered into the labor of The Gordon Review because we sensed the urgent need for dialogue and cooperation with the wider community of Christian scholarship.”

Brushaber then asserted that these convictions remained steadfast as he announced the transition to a new journal. “In order to realize the major objectives of the present publication, the Board of Editors has initiated the formulation of an expanded journal to be sponsored jointly by a number of Christian colleges. With this present volume (numbered XI/5), The Gordon Review is reborn as a far more ambitious venture, while still dedicated to the founding ideals of Christian scholarship.” Although the new journal had yet to receive a name, Brushaber stated that it would appear for the first time in the fall of 1970. All unexpired subscriptions to The Gordon Review would be honored by the new publication.

Relatively little is known about the time of transition between The Gordon Review and CSR; other than the publication itself, there are few extant documents from the history of The Gordon Review. While the journal had an extensive and positive reputation, the financial assets of the journal were small. During the changeover to CSR, around 200 dollars of assets and 1,000 dollars of liabilities were transferred to the new journal. While it is likely that the transition was primarily due to the desire to broaden the constituency, it is also possible that the support available from Gordon College was no longer sufficient to maintain the journal or that some of the earlier controversies regarding the relationship between the two played a factor in the decision. During the second half of the history of The Gordon Review, there were occasional difficulties in getting issues to print on time. In the minutes of the Board of Editors of The Gordon Review meeting on February 9, 1970, it was noted that Gordon College had “not yet added the $350 (1969–70) fiscal year subsidy to The Gordon Review assets.” However, Gordon College was one of the institutional sponsors of the new journal (at a cost of 500 dollars a year), and the office of CSR was initially located at the college. The transition to CSR was noted positively in the school newspaper, Board of Trustees notes, and in books that talk about the history of Gordon College.

The first meeting of CSR was held in May of 1970, when representatives of fifteen Christian colleges met to discuss the transition process. The new journal would be sponsored by these schools but would remain independent of all of them; this has been the model of CSR for over fifty years. The meeting was chaired by George Brushaber, who had chaired The Gordon Review’s board of editors since 1966. He would go on to serve another seven years as editor of CSR. In his introduction to the new journal in CSR issue 1:1, Brushaber stated that “The Christian Scholar’s Review is successor to The Gordon Review, an interdisciplinary journal which was published from 1955–1970.” Brushaber also noted that the new journal had an “independent editorial board” and that it “is not an official organ” of any of the sponsoring schools. The layout of the first issue of CSR resembled quite closely the format of The Gordon Review, and that design has carried through the history of CSR for over fifty years.


In the introduction to the first issue of The Gordon Review, written in 1955, editor Lloyd Dean described the philosophy behind the journal as follows: “The universe in which we live, ourselves included, is one because it was created, and is sustained, by the triune God . . . . It thus follows that knowledge is one. There is no field of investigation which can be successfully and ultimately isolated from the other disciplines which go to make up the totality of man’s knowledge-experience.” Dean also noted, “In the spirit of our age, Christians have been guilty of splitting off one area of thought from another so that, as in our secular universities, it has become more and more difficult for one department in a Christian institution to converse with another. This is foreign to the whole genius of Christianity; knowledge is not divided.” These profound words remain salient to Christian scholars today, as well as to Christian higher educational institutions.

Dean also stated, “It is our hope that this effort as manifested in the birth of The Gordon Review may be only the beginning; that this emphasis may become a vital urge in Christian thinking; and that it may possibly be the forerunner of similar efforts on the part of evangelical Christian institutions throughout our nation and the world.” The journal’s founders were intent on creating their own vehicle to promote Christian scholarship and then to invite other scholars to it; they weren’t satisfied with the status quo of contributing their individual work across multiple scholarly outlets, which diffused its Christ-centered impact. In the face of many barriers and risks, they persisted, and built bridges rather than fences. After fifteen years of dedicated work, when the effort began to struggle, they helped to create a new path by launching CSR and maintaining the scholarly independence that had been so important to them from the start.

Thinking back to conditions in Christian higher education and what they must have been like in the mid-1950s, the faculty of Gordon College showed extraordinary vision and commitment to Christian scholarship. Christian professors today face many similar barriers, with low salaries, high teaching loads, limited resources, and the prospect of increased supervision over their scholarship. Many of the conflicts and controversies that were present at the time of the publication of The Gordon Review still exist today, albeit in new forms.

For those of us who serve as professors today and desire that “every square inch” of our scholarship be under the Lordship of Christ, the example of The Gordon Review provides encouragement and hope. Much of the time, the work of the journal was independent of direct sponsorship by the college itself, and their endeavor led directly to that of CSR and its fifty-plus year history. Although relatively unknown, the scholarship in The Gordon Review stands strong and remains a substantial resource for scholars today. Almost seventy years later, the efforts of the pioneers from The Gordon Review continue to bear fruit; we owe a significant debt to the founders of the journal and those individuals who nourished and sustained it. Through it all, their work reminds us that with God, all things are possible.