By Michael A.G. Haykin
Alan P.F. Sell, The Theological Education of the Ministry: Soundings in the British Reformed and Dissenting Traditions (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2013), xiv+313 pages.
One of the delights of an essay by the voluminous Alan P.F. Sell is the rich probing of details that are often never lighted upon by other authors and a density that bespeaks careful and exacting historical scholarship. This new volume of papers on particular aspects of the history of the academies established by the English Dissenters in the seventeenth century as well as that of Scottish theological colleges is no exception. It bears remembering that some of the English Dissenting academies were remarkably influential. As Sell reminds us, Richard Frankland (1630–1698), for instance, trained no fewer than 304 students at his academy between 1670 and his death.
The first essay entails the first complete account of the significance of Caleb Ashworth (c.1721–1775) and his Daventry Academy, which succeeded that of the famous evangelical Philip Doddridge (1702–1751). Ashworth had been raised as a Particular Baptist—he was baptized at the age of twelve by the famous Lancashire divine Alvery Jackson (d.1763). Study under the paedobaptist Doddridge, though, led to Ashworth changing denominations. There are also two extremely important essays on the major English historian of seventeenth-century Puritanism and eighteenth-century Dissent, Geoffrey F. Nuttall (1911–2007). The first is a reminiscence about his life from Nuttall himself; the other, a study of Nuttall as a theologian—“Is Geoffrey also among the Theologians?” In some ways, Sell’s own style of writing church history resembles that of Nuttall: layer upon layer, and rich with detail.
Three of the other four essays deal with Scottish theology and theologians—an overview of “Scottish Religious Philosophy, 1850–1900,” and papers on John Oman (1860–1939), who taught in England for much of his academic career, and N.H.G. Robinson (1912–1978), a professor in the divinity faculty at St. Andrews. A final paper looks at the life and legacy of four New Testament scholars: T.W. Manson (1893–1958), Owen Evans (1920–), W. Gordon Robinson (1903–1977), and J.H. Eric Hull (1923–1977). A small bibliographical appendix of what Sell calls “mini-resurrections,” that is, dictionary articles, of various divines who taught in English and Welsh academies and theological colleges rounds out the offerings of this substantial volume.
Michael A.G. Haykin Professor of Church History The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary