|A Capsule History of Baptists|
|Issue: 79 Page No: 27 Updated: 01/03/2011 07:11 PM|
|Author:||Darold H. Morgan , Bruce T. Gourley|
A Capsule History of Baptists
Reviewed by Darold Morgan
One doesn’t read far into this brief paperback about Baptist history until the heartbeat of these pages looms large and unforgettable—the Baptist word is Freedom!
What a wonderful way to characterize this major theme of Baptist history from the very outset of Baptist life. And of course, this theme becomes the hope and prayer for Baptist life today. The motifs are plain and unadorned: freedom of conscience, freedom emanating from separation of church and state, the freedom of congregational autonomy, the great freedom of soul competency and the freedom of an individual to choose baptism by immersion. This book is brief, but it is one of the best introductions to Baptist history in recent years because of this central theme….Freedom!
The author traces how a tiny English sect in London, beginning over four hundred years ago, emerges in the twenty-first century as a major religious movement numbering around the world in the tens of millions of believers with these themes of biblical and historical freedoms. There are names that need never to be forgotten who discovered these basic truths—Thomas Helwys, John Smyth, Roger Williams, Issac Backus, John Leland, William Carey, Adoniram Judson, Luther Rice—just to mention a few of these early leaders and movers. Baptists today need urgently to know the stories of those who suffered for freedom’s sake and for Baptists truths. The author touches briefly on many other names in later generations who have been strong leaders in Baptist life literally around the world with a major lesson about the need today of men and women whose leadership is desperately needed in these peculiar times for Baptists everywhere.
This book brings to light once again the old debates about Calvinism and Arminianism in Baptist church life as we discover the vigor of John Calvin’s ideas is anything but dead and buried. We sense with gratitude the astonishing growth of Baptists and the influence of missionary and evangelistic convictions as primary reasons for this. The author touches on the impact of the American Civil War, the abolition movement and its influence on the African American Baptist strength in the United States and the theological battles emerging from the influence of German rationalism. What an array of cultural and historical challenges Baptists have faced over these four centuries.
Gourley writes perceptively about the current struggles of Baptists in America, savagely divided by the issues of fundamentalism. This is one of the major strengths of his book. He puts in a historical setting the issues of biblical inerrancy, premillennial dispensationalism, the growing role of women in church leadership, the expanding problem of abortion, and the difficult challenges of the gay and lesbian world. Small wonder why there are such cultural shifts of an unbelievable magnitude in our times! The old Southern Baptist Convention has moved to a degree of creedalism with the Baptist Faith and Message becoming a mandatory guide, rather than the historic Baptist theme of biblical freedom. This is a minefield, but this author has done Baptists everywhere a service in helping us not only to understand where we are, but also in encouraging us to get back to the basic Baptist strength of our historical freedoms!
Cite This Page:
Morgan, Darold H. , Gourley, Bruce T.. "A Capsule History of Baptists" ChristianEthicsToday.
The Christian Ethics Today Foundation. Summer 2010 (Issue 79 Page 27)