The Ministry of Dr. Scott Horrell has been a constant example of the DTS motto: TEACH TRUTH. LOVE WELL.—Dr. Mark M. Yarbrough
The DTS Magazine staff sat down with Dr. J. Scott Horrell recently and talked with him about his life and career. Dr. Horrell retired on July 1, 2022, after serving on the DTS faculty for twenty-five years.
Scott Horrell was born in 1949 and grew up in the fairly small town of Ephrata, Washington. Dr. Horrell held leadership positions during his high school years and later at Seattle Pacific University, including serving as president of the youth movement of the Pacific NW Baptist General Conference (now Converge). Experiences in college and engaging in street preaching and door-to-door evangelism with YWAM in Trinidad and Tobago in 1968 stretched him toward world missions.
As a literature major, the study of existentialism, along with the anti-war, racial, and ecological tensions of the time, raised significant questions for Dr. Horrell, even continuing into his brief tenure as an interim pastor in Bellevue, Washington. Doors opened for him to live in the L’Abri community in Switzerland for several months in late 1971. He listened to hundreds of lectures, on cassette tape and in-person, by the prolific Christian apologist and L’Abri founder, Francis Schaeffer. At L’Abri, Dr. Horrell was challenged to understand and affirm belief in the Holy Trinity, an awakening that he attests transformed his life.
Dr. Horrell’s experience at L’Abri, followed by a return to Tobago “to live by faith” as witness to the gospel, was life-shaping. Complemented by other influences, “Schaeffer’s theology led me to Dallas Seminary because of his stress on inerrancy and the importance of knowing the original languages.”
In 1972, Dr. Horrell began attending Dallas Theological Seminary. The next year, he met a lovely young lady named Ruth while attending Scofield Memorial Church. They married in 1974. In his remaining seminary years (1975– 77), he represented InterVarsity Missions, visiting schools across the south, something he greatly enjoyed. He graduated with his Master of Theology degree in 1977, with an emphasis in Systematic Theology.
After an interim pastorate in Dr. Horrell’s home church in Ephrata, the Horrells entered the church-planting ministry of World Team in southern Brazil. Ruth’s parents had founded Faith Press International in Brazil, and Ruth already spoke some Portuguese. Soon the Horrells helped establish a church in Porto Alegre, the largest city in the far south. Dr. Horrell fondly recalls that this period of developing young leaders was “one of the most blessed times in my life. We were all learning.”
DTS’s own Dr. Charles Ryrie visited Brazil in 1983 and invited Horrell back to DTS to pursue his doctorate. Dr. Horrell graduated in 1987. In the ten years before joining the theology faculty at DTS, Dr. Horrell taught at several schools in Brazil, including Word of Life Biblical Seminary and Servants of Christ Theological Seminary. He was chair of theology and coordinator of graduate studies at the Baptist Theological Seminary of São Paulo. Along with writing several books, he was cofounder and coeditor of Vox Scripturae, which became the largest Protestant theological journal in Latin America.
Talking of his missionary work in Brazil, Dr. Horrell says, “You eventually gotta get out of the way as a missionary. You need to replace yourself. Don’t try to be the center.” Taking his own advice, the Horrells left Brazil in 1997 and came to Dallas, where he joined the DTS faculty. His coursework focused on trinitarianism, angelology, humanity, sin, soteriology, world religions, and global Christian theology.
One of his former students, writing on a website, says Dr. Horrell is “a master theologian as well as former missionary . . . . He is respectful and his true spirituality shines through.” Another student said, “I feel equipped to take what I’ve learned and boil it down for others.”
Dr. Horrell’s plans for retirement include writing projects, teaching as an adjunct at DTS and overseas, and reflecting further on how he and Ruth might be used by the Lord, especially with their grandchildren. The Horrells’ two daughters (Rachel and Krystal), sons-in-law (both DTS grads), and eight grandchildren reside in greater Dallas and Houston.
About the Contributors
Kraig McNutt is Executive Director of Marketing & Communications for DTS. He studied philosophy at Indiana University (BA) and holds degrees from the University of Kentucky (MSLS) and Grace Theological Seminary (MDiv). He is also an author and historian on the American Civil War.