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  In Search of the New Testament ChurchThe Baptist Story
  Issue: 74   Page No: 29   Updated: 12/27/2010 10:00 AM
Author:  Darold H. Morgan , C. Douglas Weaver
Type:  Book Review

Book Reviews
“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed”     Francis Bacon (d. 1626)
W. H. Whitsett—The Man and the Controversy
James H. Slaton, 2009.

In Search of the New Testament Church—The Baptist Story
C. Douglas Weaver, 2008.

Baptist Theology—A Four Century Study
James Leo Garrett, 2009.
Macon, GA: Mercer University Press.

Reviewed by Darold Morgan,
Richardson, TX

            On my desk are three recent books published by Mercer University Press, who must be strongly applauded for producing these major additions to Baptist church history and theology. Serious students of the role Baptists have played in church history will find in these texts a rich and rewarding reservoir of solid information. This year marks four hundred years of Baptist life and history, which these books magnificently expound.

            James Slaton, who recently concluded a long and productive pastorate at the River Road Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia, has written an intriguing book about a sad and major chapter in Baptist history. W.H. Whitsett was president of the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, in the closing years of the nineteenth-century. He was brutally forced to resign because of his position on Baptist beginnings in the seventeenth century, and his forthright and honest approach to the infamous Landmark controversy that divided Baptists again in the nineteenth century.

            Slatton’s remarks about discovering a mother-lode of letters and diaries of Whitsett while caring for one of his church members led to the decision to write the book and also led to the Whitsett family allowing these valuable materials to be deposited in a secure place. Slaton writes with exceptional interest and insight about this period in Southern Baptist history. Major names and institutions surface in this historical tragedy, which confirms the damage done when ignorance, personality conflicts, and the quest for power combine.

            One cannot help but equate this nineteenth-century conflict in Southern Baptist life with the twentieth-century conflict where open wounds are still apparent. The author does not move to such comparisons, but the reader cannot ignore them because there are too many obvious lessons engendered by the tragedies brought on by power acquisitions in the name of doctrinal purity. The Landmark Movement of the nineteenth century and Fundamentalism in the twentieth century have much in common. Slaton’s book is interesting and well worth reading.

            Weaver’s book on Baptist history also makes a major contribution as Baptists celebrate four hundred years of church life (1609-2009). The author’s presentation of “Landmarkism” and its widely influential “trail of blood” concept—i.e., the idea that the Baptist movement goes back generation after generation in unbroken sequence to the actual days of Jesus. The issue of the true New Testament Church will also dovetail with real significance to issues Slaton raises in his book about the Whitsett controversy.

            Weaver touches on multiple themes in Baptist history, which are appropriately relevant to our times. Early Baptists and the Anabaptist influence, Baptists and the English Pietists, the issues of infant baptism and the immersion of believers only, General and Particular Baptists impact following generations of Baptist churches, the initial ramifications of religious liberty, a regenerate church membership, congregational church government—all of these basic Baptist distinctives traced effectively from the beginnings of Baptist history are discussed in the book. Bringing these factors back into focus in the fast-moving streams of Baptist conflict and identity today is a genuinely helpful conclusion from Weaver’s excellent volume.

            The publication of the massive volume by James Leo Garrett, Baptist Theology—A Four Century Study is indeed the author’s Magnus Opus. Dr. Garrett has many books and articles to his credit from his many years of teaching theology, but this volume sums up his multi-faceted career. Again the focus is on Baptists’ four-hundred-year anniversary.

            In this book we have a major study of exceptional importance to the serious student of theology, regardless of denominational affiliation. Dr. Garrett traces Baptist thought from its earliest years in Holland and England all the way to the twenty-first century, with particular attention given to some of the truly great Baptist teachers and authors in Southern Baptist seminary life. One of the best things about this book is how Garrett brings the reader up-to-date on the new voices in Baptist theology—one of the most encouraging and unheralded developments in Baptist life today.

            The story posed by these books reveals a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs throughout many centuries of Baptist life, leaving the reader aware that God is not finished with this peculiar people called Baptists!

            Certainly here are three books that richly deserve a place in the pastor’s personal library as well as being made available in the church library for church members.

  Cite This Page:
Morgan, Darold H. , Weaver, C. Douglas. "In Search of the New Testament ChurchThe Baptist Story" ChristianEthicsToday.
The Christian Ethics Today Foundation. Spring 2009 (Issue 74 Page 29)
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