Memorial: Dr. Myron J. Houghton (1941–2020)

My friend and former colleague, Dr. Myron James Houghton, passed into the presence of his beloved Savior on July 13, 2020. God chose to take him home by means of COVID-19, which both he and his twin brother, George, had contracted. Myron and I met at Denver Baptist Theological Seminary in the fall of 1972 — the photo at left appeared in DBTS’s announcement of his joining the faculty.. He had accepted a position as head of the Department of Theological Studies when the seminary began the previous fall (1971). Myron had been a member of DBTS’s President, Dr. Bryce Augsburger’s church in Chicago before the latter became president of DBBC-DBTS. He had also been in the dean’s (Dr. Robert Myrant) church in Minnesota. The dean of the seminary had invited me to chair the Department of Old Testament when I joined the faculty. Myron and I enjoyed six wonderful years working together before I left to pursue my Th.D. at Grace Theological Seminary (Winona Lake, IN). After my doctoral studies, I went on to Bangladesh to pursue a ministry in Bible translation in 1981. Myron joined the faculty at Faith Baptist Theological Seminary in Ankeny, IA in 1983, where he served as Chair of the Theology Department until his retirement in May 2019. Myron was listed in Who’s Who in Religion, 1975–1976 (First Edition). His ordination into the ministry took place in 1966.

Myron and his twin brother were born on July 26, 1941, in Schenectady, NY to William James and Louise J. (Dlubac) Houghton. George currently continues his battle with COVID-19. Three things stand out in my mind about Myron:

  • First of all, His love for Christ and His Word. He possessed an unquenchable thirst for the doctrines housed in the treasure house of Scripture. I used to tease him about “going heretical by degrees,” because he kept enrolling in other seminaries to learn their denominational theology firsthand. He did not want to err in representing the theology of anyone with whom he disagreed. Thus, he held a certificate in Orthodox Theology from St. Stephen’s, an M.L.A. from Southern Methodist University, an M.A. from St. Thomas Theological Seminary, and a Th.D. from Concordia Seminary. All of that in addition to his diploma from Moody Bible Institute, B.A. from Pillsbury College, B.D. from Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary, Th.M. from Grace Theological Seminary (1968), and Ph.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary (1971).
  • Second, his personal warmth and godly transparency. Myron had a gentle spirit, even when he debated recalcitrant theologians or students. He had a disarming smile and a sincere humility. He also practiced a fervent generosity. On one occasion he remarked, “What else can I use money for, except maybe another favorite donut, which I obviously can live without?” From what I have heard of him at Faith, Myron continued to support many different individuals and causes when he became aware of a need.
  • Third, Myron loved puns and was fun loving. When George came for a visit to Denver, he joined the faculty table at lunch with his brother and the two of them conducted an hour-long seminar in punning. We sat and listened to them regale us with their mastery of the English language and they even threw in a few puns from Greek and Latin to add to the celebration. It was my first opportunity to meet Myron’s brother, who had just published a book of the history of independent Baptists in America. At the time, George served as professor of Christian History at Dallas Theological Seminary. Myron also loved surprising students in the classroom with an occasional toy (like a sponge dart gun) to regain their wandering attention.
Photo by Regular Baptist Press

In December 1975 Denver Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary conducted two chapels (December 9 and 16) to address two significant theological issues: Calvinism and Scripture. Nine faculty members each presented a 5-minute session on an assigned topic involved in those two issues. Myron stood alone as the only faculty member presenting on both (“Election” and “Authority”). He remained ready to speak on any theological topic at any opportunity. Following a visit to Denver by Dr. David Otis Fuller of “KJV Only” fame, I received a letter from Dr. Fuller quite critical of my questioning his position on the KJV and his representation of Dean William Burgon. Taking the letter to Myron, I shared with him my surprise at the vehemence of Fuller’s attacks on me. Myron encouraged me by pointing out that I “had not yet resisted unto blood” (Hebrews 12:4 KJV)!

Today I spent some time in my files from those years at DBBC and DBTS with Myron. According to the old faculty minutes (for most of them I served as the faculty secretary) Myron and I teamed up on a number of motions in conducting faculty business. Copies of personal correspondence evaded my preliminary search, but I did have one email from 2011. Our exchange of emails took place after Myron had suffered a stroke, he responded to my inquiry about his health as follows:

In late February I suffered a small stroke which made my left side weak. I am left-handed but have regained the ability to write short messages as well as checks, so I can pay bills. My walking is unsteady but with a walker I can maneuver very well. I am not where I would like to be but I am vastly improved from what I was in late February.

I am able to drive and even do grocery shopping, using the cart as a walker. 

After 5 days in the hospital, I spent 13 days as a patient at Younker Rehabilitation Center in Des Moines. Since March 15th I have been doing out-patient therapy at Penn Medical Center in Des Moines. My physical therapist tested me on my balance on Wednesday, May 11th and said I scored higher than previously, so I am getting stronger, although I still need the walker. But the weekly sessions have been reduced from 3 per week to 2 per week.  On her advice, I purchased an exercise bike with 12 different levels of resistance.  One of my friends assembled it for me.  My reward for trying it out was stiff neck muscles since the handle bars elevate my arms above my head.

Then he inquired about my family. As he wrote the email, Myron was probably chuckling and thinking of some appropriate puns regarding that exercise bike. I wish he had included one. He will be missed this side of heaven. Now he rests in the presence of his beloved Savior and Lord. For more about this wonderful man of God, read Lance Augsburger’s “The Life and Legacy of Myron J. Houghton,” Baptist Bulletin (May/June 2019).

Photo by Regular Baptist Press

Myron is survived by his twin brother George and sister Ginger. George’s wife Karen, and a nephew and niece. Readers of this blog can find the recording of his memorial service (click on the previous text for link) rich with pictures, readings from Romans, remembrances, and message.

9 thoughts on “Memorial: Dr. Myron J. Houghton (1941–2020)”

  1. What a lovely tribute and collection of memories of your friend. I’m sure it was a blessing to you as you looked t he ugh history and reminded yourself of these things and I trust it will also be an encouragement to Dr. Houghton’s family to read your thoughts. One of our pastors in NYC lost his uncle to COVID and the hardest thing for them was not having the closure of a proper funeral/memorial service. Exactly memories like these shared by those connected with their beloved relative, so I do hope you are able to share this directly with whomever is mourning his loss (well, their loss and his gain as he was ushered into our Savior’s presence).

    1. Thank you, Susan. His twin brother survives him as well as a sister. Hopefully, George will survive COVID-19 and have time to enjoy such memories. George was married and has children, so there are some family remaining. Please greet Ivan for me.

  2. Dr. Barrick,
    Really appreciate you writing this about your friend. Relationships matter, that is plain from your pen. Your description resembles Dr. Rosscup’s character. I have much to learn and have benefited from your style and care in writing, and some points about the life of your friend, Dr. Houghton. Any way I can be a blessing to you please call on me.

    Your servant in Christ,

    1. Thank you, Jimmy. Always good to hear from you, dear friend. Yes, I see aspects of Jim Rosscup’s gentle character and keen theological sense in Myron’s life and ministry. I’m amazed at how many such wonderful colleagues God has graced us with.

  3. Bill, my memories of Dr. Houghton are less extensive than yours, but very personal. During the semester I worked on completing my M.Div. at Denver after my first term in Japan, I was lacking a required course he usually taught. Without hesitation, he offered to meet me at the White Coffee pot once a week to take me through a one-on-one study. He usually insisted on paying for the coffee! What a delight (including the puns)! What a unique man of the Word and man of God. Thank you for this Memorial.

    1. Great to hear from you, Jim, and to be reminded of the White Coffee Pot and Myron’s love for one-on-one study with selected students. He loved missions and missionaries, so I know he treasured every moment he spent with you.

  4. Thank you for the fond recollections and memories of beloved Dr. “Myron.” I had him for four wonderful years of seminary from 1989-1993. I loved every minute of his classes. Some of them were small enough that we would meet in his office, that I shall never forget was lined floor to ceiling with books, books, and more books! His thirst for knowledge was insatiable. This was not for any desire to enrich himself, but so he could train men for the work of ministry, and to help himself and his students to know the Savior better. After graduation, I pastored in the central Iowa area and on occasion, would return to Ankeny and have coffee at one of the establishments with my beloved professor. I am eternally grateful the Lord led me to attend & graduate from Faith, to sit under the teaching (and puns) of this dear servant of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. What a great blessing he was! Now he is with the Savior he loved so dearly and served so faithfully!

  5. Dear Bill: A voice emerges from both Myron’s and your past filled with gratitude for the biblical (and Hebrew) instruction he received at Denver Baptist from 1971-74. Myron Houghton was truly a force in my early life: His broad intelligence, keen wit, open-mindedness, and deep devotion to the Lord are enshrined in my memory. One way I was able to assist was to drive him to church 3-4 times per week (he didn’t have a car or driver’s license) and—as any who knew him can attest—many, many times out to lunch and dinner. If we didn’t always discuss the finer points of pre-lapsarian theory or Monothelitism, conversations were generally engaging and, yes, full of pun-ishment! I lost touch with Myron for a few years when I went to TEDS in Deerfield, but reconnected in later years, much to my (and his, I believe) delight and further benefit. The last time I saw Myron was in Ankeny around 1995 for a few days’ visit. The brilliant wit, insight, carefully gauged speech, an even larger library (!) were all quite in evidence—as was the interest to enjoy fellowship amidst good food. It was a further pleasure to see George and his wife at that point. In conclusion: How can one sum up such a person and such a ministry that touched so many for the Lord? I won’t even try, except to offer most grateful thanks to God for the sanctified erudition, selfless (even sacrificial) devotion, and warm friendship of Myron Houghton, the seeds of whose teaching ministry have for many years borne—and will continue to bear–eternal fruit to the greater glory of God and Christ’s holy Church. Thank you also, Bill, for the opportunity to share fond memories of my formative years and of those who by God’s grace formed my intellectual and spiritual core at DBBC.

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