September 2015


4271 cvr final CC.indd“The story of God’s plan for the creation and how that plan is consummated is prophetic from start to finish.”

When most people talk about Biblical prophecy they usually think of what is called predictive prophecy. That is, prophetic statements/utterances from the prophets (the mouthpieces of God) about future events, usually in the distant future; far removed from the original hearers of the prophecy. The line in the sand is not always clear as to what texts of Scripture fit this category, regardless of your eschatological position. But is predictive prophecy all we can talk about when it comes to prophecy?

Far from comprising the majority of prophetic texts, predictive prophecy of the far future is just one category of prophetic texts. In their new book, Understanding Prophecy: A Biblical-Theological Approach (Kregel, 2015), authors Alan S. Bandy and Benjamin L. Merkle seek to expand our understanding of what comprises Biblical prophecy and how we understand it in light of all of Scripture.

Defined as “divine communication”, prophecy “is in many respects the flesh and bones of biblical revelation.” (17) Traditionally prophecy has been understood in terms of foretelling (telling the future) and forthtelling (the proclamation of the Word of God). It is the latter understanding under which all of the Bible falls and which the former is only a part of. “A healthy and robust conception of prophecy must carefully navigate the complexity of prophecy” in both of these areas. Even the OT prophets did more than just tell the future on God’s behalf.

Seeing prophecy as “divine communication”, which defines all of the Bible, this book seeks “to give the reader a framework of how to interpret any passage in the context of the Bible.” (9) While not your standard hermeneutics textbook, this book aims at presenting, as the subtitle states, a biblical-theological framework for understanding prophecy. They answer the question, “How are the various aspects of Biblical prophecy to be understood in light of the whole Bible’s narrative?”

While the authors have different eschatological views (Bandy is historic premillennial and Merkle is amillennial), they have much in common that enables them to write this book together. There is much about this book that does not chart new ground. It covers the standard definitions of prophecy, the threefold categories of unconditional, conditional, and fulfilled prophecy, messianic prophecies, and the fulfillment of the future prophecies of the NT. These areas are standard fair when discussing prophecy.

What makes this book stand out (perhaps more so from most books on prophecy) is its theological bent. Since neither of the authors are Dispensational premillennial (thus they do not believe in a future 7 year tribulation), their understanding of what constitutes as a biblical-theological approach is different than what a Dispensational premillennialist approach would be. This is not a book that Dispensational premillennialist would use to support their views; though reading it might change or, at least, sharpen their eschatological minds.

This is a book that has a distinct view of the eschatological nature of prophecy, Jesus as the center and fulfillment of prophecy, the nature and future of the land promises to Israel, typology, etc. All of these pre-understandings shape how the authors tackle the traditional topics on prophecy; namely, who constitutes Israel, does ethnic Israel have a future, and relationship between Jesus and the land promises given to ethnic Israel.

As an historic premillennialist myself, I found myself loving much of the book while thinking some of it went to far. Each reader will have a different experience. One of the areas of contention I had is the significance the authors place on the first coming, death, and resurrection of Jesus within redemptive history as it relates to prophecy. A few quotes will suffice to show this.

A gospel-centered hermeneutic filters all prophecy through the lens of the resurrected Christ. This biblical-theological perspective sees Christ as the center of redemptive history, the pinnacle of divine revelation, and the fulfillment of the broad sweep of biblical prophecy. (29)

Many who read the Old Testament tend to read certain prophecies (especially Old Testament promises concerning the restoration of ethnic Israel) as being fulfilled not in the first coming of Christ, but only in his second coming. It is our contention that this is a flawed way of reading such prophecies. (82)

But if we interpret the many Old Testament restoration prophecies regarding the nation of Israel literalistically, then we are forced to say that such prophecies do not find their fulfillment in God’s greatest work. Instead, the first coming of Christ becomes ignored and all attention shifts to Christ’s second coming and the millennial kingdom. (119)

Affirming that the restored people of Israel will rebuild the temple, reinstate the priesthood, and restore animal sacrifices, seems to minimize the complete and perfect work of Christ. His death and resurrection is the focal point of God’s great work in redemptive history. To go back to the shadows and image of the Old Testament is to neglect the centrality of Christ’s finished work on the cross. (123)

To be clear, I can sympathize with a number of statements in here and certainly, the necessity of upholding the centrality of the death and resurrection of Christ. However, there seems to be a conflation between the first and second coming of Christ in what they are intended to do, signify, and what is to happen afterwards. While some may ask Christ to do too much at His second coming, it seems the authors have done the opposite with His first.

Christ’s first coming does signify the beginning of the fulfillment of many OT prophecies concerning the end of the age as well as actually completely fulfilling others. However, it does not completely fulfill ALL OT prophecies concerning the end of the age. This is ok because it was not intended to and to say so does not equate to the minimization of its significance. Christ’s first coming is the beginning of the end and His second coming will bring it to its end. They both play a role in redemptive history. We cannot talk about the first coming, death, and resurrection of Christ such that His second coming is nothing more than a period at the end of a sentence. Christ’s second coming will complete what His first began.

While the above represents what is perhaps a major critique, it should not distract from the good use that this book has. Astute readers will be able to gain much from this book even while disagreeing with some of its theological foundations and conclusions. Some of the best books to read on various subjects have part with which readers may strongly disagree. This is one of those.

I received this book for free from Kregel for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Pastor Theologian“Both academic theologians and pastors work with the assumption that those with exceptional intellectual gifting ought to pursue a career in the academy, while those with pastoral gifting ought to pursue a calling in the church. This assumption must be dragged into the street and bludgeoned to death.” (124, emphasis mine)

So end Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson in their new book The Pastor Theologian: Resurrecting an Ancient Vision (Zondervan, 2015). Both men are pastors at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, IL. Both men are well educated: Hiestand is a PhD candidate, University of Kent, Canterbury and Wilson earned his PhD from the University of Cambridge. Both have authored books. Finally, both men have co-founded the Center for Pastor Theologians which is “an organization dedicated to assisting pastors in the study and written production of biblical and theological scholarship, for the ecclesial renewal of theology and the theological renewal of the church.” (10) If you can see what makes these men what they are then you can see that Heistand and Wilson both embody what this book is about.

These young authors winsomely, and yet pointedly, argue that there is a divide between the academy and the church that they want to see torn down to the ground. Yes, the ivory towers of academia still exist. This divide sees the handling of theological leadership in the hands of the academy and that of practical matters in the hands of the pastorate (16). To borrow from Plantinga, this is not how things ought to be and it is not how things always were.

For centuries the pastorate was one of the most respected and sought after fields of study by the intellectuals of society. Intellectual and theological scholars like Augustine, Basil, Edwards, Luther, Calvin, and Bavinck all “worked in ecclesial contexts and carried shepherding responsibilities for congregations and parishes.” (23) This was the norm. The pastor was a theologian and theologians were pastors. They were one in the same. The academy, as we know it, was not born yet. Rather, it existed, in a way that it does not now, to serve the church and the pastor.

How Did We Get Here?

What happened that birthed this great divide? The separate contexts of North America and Europe both changed the landscape of the pastor theologian, thus dividing the pastor theologians dual duties of theological and spiritual provider to the church. This resulted in the pastorate, by in large, keeping its role as spiritual adviser, while the job of theological leader was shipped out to the new academy.

In Europe this divide was caused by the scientific discoveries of men like Galileo and Newton. Their scientific discoveries brought upon the church “devastating and sustained critiques by the French philosophies such as Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Denis Diderot.” (43) Gradually, the universities, which once served the church, eventually became tools of the state. In the hands of liberal German scholarship, people’s trust in the Bible died in the academy.

The situation in North America had similar results. Within the context of the American Revolution, which produced “the urbanization and secularization of American culture”,  and the aftermath of the Second Great Awakening, which saw the growth of “a myriad of Christian sects and denominations”, “the pastor theologian in North America had been replaced by the professor theologian.” (49) The authority and revere of the office of the pastorate was questioned and it crumbled under the weight of cultural doubt.

In both continents, the place of intellectual prestige moved from the pastor to the secular university. The great divide between the church and the academy was born, took root, and has been in place ever since. The pastor, as the authors say, has now become a “broker” of theology to the church. As right as it is for a pastor to preach and teach theology to the church, “The identity of pastors as brokers does not involve pastors actually constructing theology themselves.” (61) When the academy is not a ministry of the church then it no longer serves the churches needs. Reflecting on their own theological education in the academy the authors write:

The foci of theology in the academy often did not address the very real and pressing theological needs of our congregations. How many scholarly and theological works have you seen on premarital sexual boundaries? Or on parenting? Or on doubt, idolatry, discipleship, or marriage?…..The way theologians and scholars are taught to do theology in the academy runs counter to the needs of pastoral ministry. (70, emphasis mine)

It is this divide that the authors want to see torn down and the role of pastor and theologian to be wedded together again; for the betterment of the academy and the health of the Church.

How Do We Leave Here?

It is easy to critique a situation like this but it can he harder to run against the grain of how the church and academia have related for so long and offer an attainable vision for change. How can the place of theological education and direction of the church be brought back to the church? How do we get from the pastor as a “broker” of theology to a pastor as “constructor” and director of theology? How do we get the church to serve the church when it comes to its theology?

While recognizing that every pastor is a local theologian (one who constructs theology for their local church) and some are popular theologians (one who constructs theology beyond their local church to other Christians), the authors hone in on the ecclesial theologian. This theologian constructs theology for pastors and theologians.

An ecclesial theologian is a theologian who bears shepherding responsibilities for a congregation and who is thus situated in the native social location that theology is chiefly called to serve; and the ecclesial theologian is a pastor who writes theological scholarship in conversation with other theologians, with an eye to the needs of ecclesial community. (85)

No doubt, getting the church to move back to its historical roots in this regard will not be easy. But, as these young pastor theologians argue, it is necessary for the future of the church.

So what practical steps can be implemented in charting this new course for the ecclesial theologian? The course to recovery Hiestand and Wilson chart out is primarily rooted in the ecclesial community itself. These theologians must be in local churches themselves attending to pastoral responsibilities. They must preach and teach theology as to the laity and not the academy. They must see themselves as serving the church and not the academy. Because the pastor is by necessity a generalist, they must broaden their continued educational interests beyond the scope of their educational background. Further, once an ecclesial theologian steps from the academy into a local church they must develop daily habits within their schedule and the life of their church in order to foster a church culture that will enable them to grow as an ecclesial theologian. All of these things are covered in chapters seven and eight.

Conclusion

“There was a day when there was no gap between the academy and the church precisely because there was no academy. And when the academy emerged in the twelfth century, it functioned as a formal extension of the church’s mission.” (125) The academy is here, and it is here to stay. But for the health and future of the church it must return to its servant role to the church – the body of Christ.

The Pastor Theologian is an impassioned call for the church to reclaim its role as the voice for and constructor of the faith once delivered to the saints. This is a road that will be hard to travel but hopefully more and more pastors will begin to walk it. Hopefully the church will support those who seek to walk it. It will only be for its own benefit. This is a book that everyone in the academy and church leadership needs to read. Even if you as a pastor do not become an ecclesial theologian, you can play a part in supporting those who do. The beginning of the end of the divide has come.

I received this book for free from Zondervan for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Brief Study of the Ten Commandments bby Martin MurphyThe Ten Commandments could be summed up as God’s laws for man’s living in God’s world. While originally given to Israel at Mt. Sinai in preparation to enter the Promised Land, the applicability of the Ten Commandments extends beyond Israel and Canaan. The Ten Commandments represent God’s moral law for His people. While the applications of the laws might change over time, the laws themselves do not.

With an eye on the text and an eye on today’s world, Martin Murphy has written Brief Study of the Ten Commandments, which is a short exposition and application of the Ten Commandments (Theocentric Publishing Group, 2015). Trained at Reformed Theological Seminary, Murphy has spent his life teaching, preaching, and writing. He co-founded Theocentric Publishing Group with James Vickery where their goal is to publish Christian books centered on God.

This little book is an unashamed defense of the contemporary relevancy of the Ten Commandments. Having taught through and read several good books on the Ten Commandments myself, I will say that Murphy has done a good of presenting the essential nature of each commandment and offering reasonable applications (though not every reader will agree with all of them).

There are a few features of this book that are worth noting. First, it is grounded in the text. Murphy draws out the meaning of each commandment through exegesis of the text and and places them in their historical context. Second, each commandment is followed to the New Testament where it is reiterated and expanded on. This shows the continuity the Ten Commandments have for Christians today over against the rest of the commandments that were time-bound and fulfilled in Jesus. Third, Murphy concludes each chapter with solid contemporary applications. Some readers will feel that Murphy takes some of the application to far (I did in places) but these are few and far between and do not distract from the larger benefit of the book. Fourth, Murphy insight-fully draws on the connections between the commandments. For example, he points out the unified nature of the first four commandments: the first tells us who to worship, the second tells us how to worship, the third tell us the proper use of God’s name whom we worship, and the fourth tells us to remember to give God the Sabbath day as an opportunity for His people to worship God as a group. Finally, Murphy’s passion for Christian’s to live lives obedient to the Lord is on every page. Though he writes with an more traditional tone, there is love for the reader.

I recommend this book as a great little study on the Ten Commandments that deserves a broad reading.

I received this book for free from Theocentric Publishing Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Reckless Love of God by Alex EarlyAt some point in their lives, all Christians struggle believing that God loves them. Maybe you are in the throws of struggling with a life-gripping sin and you wonder how God could love you. Maybe your life circumstances make you question God’s love for you. Or maybe other Christians have beaten you over the head with the Bible so much that its message of God’s love has been severely muffled. Like a friend of mine recently said, they are “Pharisees fronting the face of Jesus while beating people with the book.”

If you are a Christian then you have felt, are feeling, or will feel, at some point in your Christian walk, that God does not love you for one reason or another. That is why The Reckless Love of God: Experiencing the Personal, Passionate Heart of the Gospel by Alex Early is for you (Bethany House, 2015). Alex has aimed big – every Christian – and he is shooting with the most powerful weapon – the gospel. Alex believes that if “God loves us before we become Christians” then he certainly does after we do.

Playing on the song line, Jesus love me this I know for the Bible tells me so, Alex shows how God has manifested His love for his people in Jesus. “The mysterious identity of God is deciphered in the face of the Son.” If we want to see and experience God in the flesh then we only need look to Jesus who is God in the flesh. Jesus reveals the heart, will, and love of God for His children. “Jesus comes to us face-to-face with honest eyes, open hands, and a willing heart to touch the deepest human wounds with the healing balm of God’s presence. He did not remain transcendent; he became immanent.”

By pointing the reader to Scripture, Alex clearly shows us who God loves and how He loves them. Jesus loved everyone and the pages of the New Testament make that clear. If we want to see how Jesus loves us then we need to look no further than the pages of Scripture. More than just “nameless faces in a crowd,” Jesus showed His love to all kinds of individuals. “When we look at the ministry of Jesus, one hardly gets the impression that he saw nameless faces in crowds. That is not the Jesus of the Bible. The Jesus revealed in Scripture sees people for the individuals they are, and he went out of his way to make people grasp that reality.”

Through a focus on the Bible, rich theological discussion, and an appreciation for theologians past and present, Alex shows us the love of God in the person of Jesus. More than mere sentimentality, this book provides a rich and colorful look at the love God has for people in the life of Jesus on the pages of Scripture. This is an encouraging book that brings to our attention the love of God in Jesus.

I received this book for free from Bethany House for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

God Made All of MeOne of the greatest responsibilities of parents to their children is to teach them about God’s design for their bodies and why they should and how to protect their bodies. Conversely, one of the greatest failures of parents is when they do not teach their children God’s design for their bodies and that they should and how to protect it. Parents need to love their children enough to talk to them about their bodies and sex and how to protect themselves against others who might try to violate those things. Children need to be taught how to value themselves as made in God’s image. This includes the parts of their bodies that can be the most vulnerable – their private parts.

We live in a sex saturated world in which people do not respect their bodies. One cannot turn on the t.v., the internet, or walk around in a mall without being bombarded with implicit, and often times overt, messages of sexuality. The sexual revolution may be over as a movement but its effects linger on in every aspect of our culture. Sexual messages are no longer hiding in the shadows but are knocking on the door of our eyes every day. Parents have to be vigilant in protecting their children from what they see in the world and equip them to protect themselves when they are not around while playing with friends and family.

While there are many parents that want to talk to their younger children about their bodies, often times they feel ill prepared and do not know where to start. For many of them they might have never been prepared by their parents. They don’t want to do the same to their kids but they need the tools to take the first step with their kids.

The wait is over. Justin & Lindsey Holcomb, authors of the widely successful and helpful book Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault, have applied their vast knowledge and counseling experience to equipping parents to be able to effectively talk to their young children about their bodies. Their new book, God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies, is a powerful and timely tool for parents as they help protect their children from sexual assault. Rid of My Disgrace was written to help victims of sexual assault heal from those experiences. God Made All of Me is written to help children protect themselves so they do not one day need a book like Rid of My Disgrace.

There are two main things that this book equips parents to teach their kids about. The first is that God made ALL of them and that ALL of them that God made is good. Too often, even with the best of intentions, when parents try to teach their kids about their bodies and sex, they make children feel dirty about their bodies (especially girls). But our bodies are not dirty – even our private parts. Kids need to know that God has a good created purpose for their private parts.

This leads to the second thing the Holcomb’s want to teach kids about their bodies, which is that since there is a good creative purpose for their private parts, they need to protect them from others. Some parts are for sharing, like a hand for a high five, but others are not. The best way to help kids protect themselves is to equip and empower them with age appropriate knowledge about their bodies. The authors rightly push for patents to use anatomically correct and specific language with young children about their private parts.

It might be uncomfortable at first, but use proper names for body parts. Children need to know the proper names for their genitals. This knowledge gives children correct language for understanding their bodies, for asking questions that need to be asked, and for telling about any behavior that could lead to sexual abuse. (29)

God Made All of Me is a book that ALL parents with young children need to have and use. This book will equip parents to equip their young children with valuable, and life saving knowledge, that they need to properly understand their bodies and how to protect them. At younger and younger ages, children are being exposed to porn and sexual abuse. Children need to know how to avoid these situations for themselves and others. This book will help parents have the hard conversations that need to be had in every family. Sex is a good gift from God. Children need a God-centered understanding of those parts of their bodies that need to be protected and hidden from others now, so they can properly share them with their spouse one day.

To learn more about this great resource check out the web site www.godmadeallofme.com.

I received this book for free from New Growth Press for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Quest for the Historical Adam“If we do not know how the story of the gospel begins, then we do not know what that story means. Make no mistake: a false start to the story produces a false grasp of the gospel.”

Much of the current debate surrounding Genesis, origins, and evolution has focused on how to read the early chapters of Genesis and the creation itself in the world around us and the universe beyond. While the playing field of options might have been pretty small not even 50 years ago, today it is a much different story. Opinions as to how to read Genesis and science together, whether they can be reconciled, or even if they should be, abound.

In all of the heat produced in the discussion, what has been largely left out is the history of the discussion itself within the church. Historical theology has always played a role in the how the contemporary church deals with and addresses the issues of the day. When we look to the church of the past, we avail ourselves to the wisdom of the ages of those who have walked the road we are walking; sometimes before we even knew it existed. We stand on the shoulders of the past so we are in a better position to see the road ahead.

In regards to Genesis, origins, and evolution, it is the historical position of the church that William VanDoodewaard believes has been largely left out of the conversation. A professor of church history, VanDooewaard has written The Quest for the Historical Adam: Genesis, Hermeneutics, and Human Origins (RHB, 2015), which seeks to bring to the forefront of the contemporary churches mind how the church has viewed the relationship between Genesis and science. VanDoodewaard is writing to fill in this historical hole because “scant attention is paid to the historical understanding of Genesis and human origins within Christianity.” (7)

“The crux of the current division,” VanDoodewaard says, “on creation and human origins is found where evolutionary theory stands in conflict with the traditional, literalistic reading of Genesis 1 through 5 common to the history of Christianity.” (3) This “literal” reading is the “nonfigurative, detailed, historical record of events and existence narrated as they actually were.” (6) VanDoodewaard’s position on these matters is the position that he believes is the majority position of the church.

As the subtitle indicates, this book addresses how the church has understood Genesis exegetically and theologically, the hermeneutical principles employed in that en-devour, and how theologians and pastors handled the secular scientific consensus concerning origins. VanDoodewaard addresses all three of these issues within five historical eras, starting with the Patristic and Medieval era and ending with the present. His aim is to show that “despite some ebb and flow in the past century, there remains a substantial commitment to the literal understanding of the entire Genesis 1-2 creation narrative.” (281) History is on the side of the traditional view.

As to the title of the book, this all matters because it effects how we understand where humanity and sin (just to name a few things) came from, which hing on Adam. Was he a real person? Was he the first person? Can we trust the Bible’s presentation of Adam? If not, how does that change the way we read the rest of the story of God’s interaction with mankind in redemptive history. If we change how we understand the beginning of the story of redemption then how much of the rest of the story do we have to change?

The Quest for the Historical Adam accomplishes its purpose to shed the light of historical theology on the darkness that pervades so much of the current discussion on these issues. VanDoodewaard has written a book that needs to be widely read an widely dealt with. Those who ignore this book will do so to their detriment. This is a serious walk through church history and the Adam and Genesis question. VanDoodewaard is fair in his presentation of the variety of views throughout church history on Adam, and the acceptance and resistance detractors were given.

I received this book for free from Reformation Heritage Books for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

BaptistFoundations_CVR.indd“This is an antipolity age.” So begin Mark Dever and Jonathan Leehman in their co-edited book Baptist Foundations: Church Government for an Anti-Institutional Age (B&H, 2015). Though short of exhaustive, this is an extensive presentation of polity from a Baptist perspective. This hardback is written to be used as a textbook, though it can easily be used in other settings.

Whether antipolity or not, why is polity important? “The difference between a local church and a group of Christians is nothing more or less than polity. To argue for polity is to argue for the existence of the local church.” (1) Polity is what makes the Church visible on earth to the world. While faith in Christ orients us to the universal Church, polity is what orients us to a local church.

While every chapter of this book is worthy of reading, the introduction, by Jonathan Leeman, has some of the best thought out material on the logic and necessity of polity as it connects believers to the Church, is a means of obedience to Christ, is central to ones discipleship, and “it guards the what and who of the gospel.” (6) With that last point, this book shines its brightest before you are into the first chapter. Polity, Leeman argues, gives a local church the power to say, and affirm with the Bible, what the gospel message is and who gospel believers are. These two ideas are foundational to the entirety of church polity. In the context of the gathered body, with keys of the kingdom in hand (Matt. 18:18-20), and the continual practice of the Lord’s Supper and baptism, that the church proclaims and defends the gospel and keeps gospel professors accountable to it. This means members must know the gospel and grown in the gospel.

Baptist Foundations is an unapologetic defense for (1) church polity (2) Baptist in function. These are not angry Baptist’s out to leave their mark. This is a winsome, powerful, and persuasive look at how polity shapes a church that is defined and shaped by the gospel.

Like many denominational histories, Baptist history is as varied as the people that comprise it. Though they have Baptist Storystarted small, Baptists have come to spread themselves all over the world in obedience to the Great Commission. Outlining this small to great explosion, authors and professors Anthony N. Chute, Nathan A. Finn, and Michael G. Haykin have written The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement (B&H, 2015).

This book takes a walk through Baptist history as it was birthed in the seventeenth century and as it now stands centuries later. While the Reformation may have divided the Catholic Church into Catholic and Protestant denominations, “both groups agreed that the state had a vital role to play in the life of the church.” (11) While noting the significant impact the Reformation, and its (predominately) Presbyterian Reformers, had on religious and world history the authors focus on a small number of believers who “refused to identify themselves with this way of thinking.” Instead, they identified themselves “on the basis of a personal confession of faith and believer’s baptism.” (11)

Though initially a small single group of believers, Baptists have reach across the seas of its English beginnings to the shores of every continent in the world. The Baptist Story is “a historical survey of Baptists that includes not only the major organizations but the minor players and minority members as well.” (3) As one reads through this book they will see that Baptist history weaves itself into the very fabric of world history wherever it spreads. From combating slavery and alcohol to their involvement in wars and politics, Baptists history has not just contributed to church history but to history around them.

Intended as a textbook for classroom use, The Baptist Story provides a broad introduction to Baptist history. Throughout the book are pictures and printings of the various people, places, events, and relics of Baptist history which helps to draw the reader into the narrative of the book. This is a welcome outline of the history of Baptists taking the gospel to the ends of the earth.

I highly recommend both of these books as a means of proclaiming the biblical necessity of church polity as expressed in the Baptist tradition and to gain a greater understanding of how it has spread around the world as it seeks to spread the gospel.

I received these books for free from B&H for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”