Alva J. McClain


I was scheduled to begin teaching a class on the book of Revelation at Great Lakes Bible Institute last night. Alas, freezing rain canceled it.

With some time on my hands, I picked up Norman Rohrer’s biography of Alva J. McClain, A Saint in Glory Stands. I bought and read this several years ago. I may do a series of posts on McClain someday, so I’ll not provide much biographical information today. McClain has had a significant impact on my life, despite the fact that he died the year before I was born, through two significant means:

First, he was the systematic theology professor of my systematic theology professor, Dr. Rolland McCune. In addition to my Systematic Theology classes, I also had him for Dispensationalism, Hermeneutics, Apologetics, The Kingdom of God, and New Evangelicalism. Of all the classes I had at DBTS, two of my three most helpful classes were Dr. McCune’s Apologetics and The Kingdom of God (the third was Theological Systems in American Church History with Dr. Gerald Priest). Apologetics and Kingdom of God brought everything together. I looked forward to each class period.

Second, and building on the first, McClain wrote The Greatness of the Kingdom, which I read for McCune’s class on the same (which, incidentally, is being offered again this summer). What I said supra concerning this class applies to the book, as Dr. McCune uses it as the basis for his lectures.

Rohrer’s biography of McClain opens with this quote from McClain:

The Bible is one book. Had we to give that book a title, we might with justice call it “The Book of the Coming Kingdom of God.” That is, indeed its central theme everywhere. In approving this affirmation we are not forgetting the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. For He is the King eternal, and there could be no final kingdom apart from Him and His work as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

McClain was one of those “first generation fundamentalists” that my teacher often referenced for illustrations and anecdotes. Rohrer supplies another McClain quote along that subject:

Some have said that the mark of a true disciple is love, not doctrine. I submit to you that it is both love and doctrine. In Galatians one, verse eight, the Apostle Paul warns that “if any preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” In the Apostle Paul’s epistle to the Philippians he rejoices that the gospel is preached even by people who are doing it to spite him. I submit to you that the mark of a true disciple is love and doctrine.

Recently Dr. Kevin Bauder has published a series regarding scholarship in fundamentalism. McClain has something to say along that line as well:

It is wrong to say that fundamentalists are not interested in scholarship. They are interested, but they are busy with other things–founding churches, preaching the gospel…Sometimes it’s difficult to hold men in college who are on fire to preach. They want to be winning men to Christ. Somebody’s going to have to do the scholarship. We need the best brains we’ve got on the mission field and in our churches. Despite the urgency of the hour, you ought to take time to prepare yourself.

The last quote Rohrer uses to open his biography on Alva J. McClain warmly reminded me again of his student and my teacher, Dr. McCune:

Pop shall be drunk only in the basement.

I’m looking forward to finishing the biography, learning more about my teacher’s teacher, and hopefully relating something helpful here about this great man of God.

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