Remembering Baptist pioneers

In Russell Re Manning, ed., 30-Second Religion (New York: Metro Books, 2011)—one of those mass-produced books to be sold at a discount—Manning cites John Smyth, Thomas Helwys, and Roger Williams as the key representatives of “Baptist Christianity” (p.110). It is curious that I came across this today as this past week in our Church History colloquium we discussed John Smyth’s The Character of the Beast, and I noted that it is strange that we as Baptists remember two men—Smyth and Williams—who were Baptists for less than a year. To be sure, they understood certain key principles of Baptist theology, and for that we rejoice. But: we also must prize consistency and perseverance. It strikes me that if we want to remember two pioneers, Thomas Helwys and John Clarke in Rhode Island are much better models.