Millard Erickson was born in Isanti County, Minn., in 1932. After completing his B.A. at the University of Minnesota in 1953, Erickson began his seminary work at Bethel Seminary and completed it at Northern Baptist Seminary in Chicago in 1956. He became pastor of the Fairfield Avenue Baptist Church in Chicago and began work on his master’s in philosophy at the University of Chicago. Following the completion of that degree in 1958, Erickson enrolled in a Ph.D. program at Northwestern University. In 1961, Erickson and his family moved to Minneapolis to take on the pastorate of Olivet Baptist Church. He completed his Ph.D. in 1963, and in 1964 was called to become part of the faculty at Wheaton College in Illinois where he taught Bible and apologetics. He was chairman of the Department of Bible and Philosophy until 1969, at which time he accepted the call to Bethel Seminary as associate professor of theology. He became a full professor in 1971 and chaired the division of Interpretation of the Christian Faith.
Erickson had a distinguished career in the classroom, teaching theology for 15 years at Bethel Seminary before becoming dean. During that time, he was a prolific author, writing Salvation: God’s Amazing Plan; Relativism in Contemporary Christian Ethics; The New Evangelical Theology; Contemporary Options in Eschatology; and the three-volume Readings in Christian Theology. Erickson’s three-volume Christian Theology became the standard text on Christian theology in evangelical colleges and seminaries across the country. He was active in denominational work, serving on district and national boards including the BGC Board of Publications and the Trustee Board of the Baptist General Conference during his time in ministry and while he was at Bethel. Erickson also became a highly sought-after interim preacher in churches in the Twin Cities area, serving in this role in 33 churches while he was at Bethel and 17 others before and after his tenure at Bethel.
During the eight years that Erickson was dean, Bethel Seminary enrollment grew, a number of very gifted professors joined the faculty, and accreditation was strengthened. Bethel Seminary enhanced its relationships with seminaries in the Minnesota Consortium of Theological Schools and the Institute for Theological Studies, as well as the Association of Theological Schools. Experimental satellites were established in Rochester, Minn., and in the southwest suburbs of Minneapolis. The San Diego campus erected its first building. The seminary considered, but decided not to proceed with, additional extension campuses in several locations.
Several modifications were designed to make the curriculum more practical, especially a very successful, practice-based evangelism course. In the doctor of ministry program, a number of tracks were established on a cohort basis, including a unique track for military chaplains. The first minority faculty member was appointed to head the department of multicultural affairs. Erickson served on several committees and accrediting teams for the Association of Theological Schools and was elected president of the American Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society.
In 1992, Erickson left Bethel and returned to the tasks of writing and teaching. He has taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Western Seminary, and Baylor University, as well as in numerous visiting professorships and lectureships, both in the U.S. and internationally. He also has served on several boards, committees, commissions, and consultantships, and as president of the Evangelical Theological Society.