William B. Tolar, a North Texas biblical scholar who became a nationally renowned theological leader, died on Dec. 29 at the age of 90. Soon after his death, local friends and colleagues celebrated his legacy.
“He just lived a life of total servant-hood to others,” said longtime friend O.S. Hawkins, president and CEO of GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. “Our legacy is left in the life we’ve lived. And he just lived a life of impeccable character and integrity.”
“I think there are few people more widely known and respected in academic and local church life. He will be missed.” said Russell Dilday, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary School from 1978 to 1994, in Tolar’s obituary.
Tolar had a distinguished career spanning nearly four decades at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, the Baptist Press reported.
He studied and lectured in 53 countries and was the interim pastor at almost 50 churches, including First Baptist Church in Dallas, Houston’s First Baptist Church and Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, according to Southwestern.
“He impacted thousands of lives,” said Hawkins, who met Tolar when he sat down in the front row of one of Tolar’s classes in 1970.
When Tolar was 13, a teacher challenged her students to read the Bible. Tolar accepted, “more out of intellectual pride . . . than out of religious interest,” Tolar explained in his famous sermon, “The Creation: Chance or Choice?”
Instead, the book changed his life.
“I began to realize that if this book was true, then my life was false,” Tolar continues in the sermon. “I was simply living my life without any serious regard for God.”
Tolar started his religious education shortly after.
In 1950, he graduated from Baylor Univestity and in 1955 he started teaching in the religion department there, according to the B.H. Carroll Theological Institute.
Hawkins said Tolar was a “rapid-fire” instructor who had students rapt and writing from the second they sat down to the moment class ended. From Tolar, students learned the importance and love of the local church, Hawkins said.
“He preached in a different church almost every weekend,” Hawkins said. “He taught us the importance of the church and loving people.”
In 1965, Tolar started his long career at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he would be a professor, dean, vice president, provost and acting president.
“Dr. Tolar’s legacy of distinguished service at Southwestern Seminary is an example to every minister of the Gospel,” current interim president D. Jeffrey Bingham said in Tolar’s obituary.
In 2004, Tolar started teaching Biblical Backgrounds and Archeology for B.H. Carroll Theological Institute, according to the school.
He also became an adjunct professor at Dallas Baptist University.
Up until his death, Tolar attended Agape Baptist Church in Fort Worth.
Hawkins said Tolar was writing, studying and working until the very end.
“He lived a life of impeccable integrity,” Hawkins said. “He finished strong. Ultimately, that’s what matters most.”