Books

NEW - Monographs in Baptist History

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The Beginning of Baptist Ecclesiology
The Foundational Contributions of Thomas Helwys

by Marvin Jones

The basic question, "Where did Baptists come from and why?" has two camps that offer differing explanations: (1) the English Separatist camp produced the ministries of foundational Baptists, John Smyth and Thomas Helwys, thus takes credit for Baptist origins, and (2) the Anabaptist movement is the alternative camp, understanding either a direct connection via lineage back to the infamous Swiss Brethren or an indirect connection via Anabaptist teachings. Anabaptist ecclesiology is very much akin, if not in some ways identical, to modern Baptist ecclesiology.
In fact, the Baptist church, led by John Smyth and successively by Thomas Helwys, resembled both English Separatist and the Anabaptist ecclesiology with notable differences between both entities. When The Mystery of Iniquity is properly understood, as Helwys intended, the reader will grasp the logical reasons that the Baptist church in 1607 was akin to both the English Separatist and the Anabaptist and yet differed from both. In The Beginning of Baptist Ecclesiology, Marvin Jones give a fresh voice to Thomas Helwys's opinion that a Baptist church is a viable New Testament church, and provides further relevant material rationale for the conversation concerning Baptist origins.


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The Love of God Holds Creation Together
Andrew Fuller's Theology of Virtue

by Ryan P. Hoselton

The English Baptist Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) is well-known today for his nuanced Evangelical answer to the “Modern Question” against hyper-Calvinism, founding and leading the Baptist Missionary Society, and his exemplary pastoral ministry. In his day, however, he was also esteemed as a formidable apologist for Christian orthodoxy, especially in the area of moral reasoning. Following in the footsteps of his theological mentor, Jonathan Edwards, Fuller labored to defend the moral goodness and salutary nature of Christian doctrine against the new moral philosophy of the Enlightenment. As optimism in the moral potential of human nature waxed, reliance on God for truth and virtue waned. Echoing a long tradition of classical theologians, Fuller wished to declare afresh that the love of God, as manifested in the gospel, furnished humankind’s only hope for virtue, excellence, and happiness. In this concise study, Hoselton looks to recover the importance of ethical reasoning in Fuller’s theology and ministry and reflect on its merit for today.

New book from Beeke and Haykin

Why Should I Be Interested in Church History?
Joel R. Beeke and Michael A.G. Haykin

Now available from Reformation Heritage Books

Description:
The Word of God exalts history and calls us to study it, yet the prevailing attitude among many Christians today is that the study of the past is good for only collecting bits of entertaining trivia. Asserting that "meditating upon God's works and servants in history is not optional for the Christian but an important part of covenant faithfulness to the Lord," church historians Joel R. Beeke and Michael A.G. Haykin present seven benefits for the Christian who studies church history, and they provide practical suggestions for how they get started.

Book review: William of Orange

William of Orange book coverDaniel R. Horst,William of Orange, trans. Lynne Richards (Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 2013), 70 pages. To a reader acquainted with English history rather than that of the Netherlands, the name William of Orange recalls the Dutch prince who played the key role in the so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688 and became England’s William III. The subject of this small monograph, however, is the great-grandfather of the English king and is often known as William the Silent (1533–1584). This William was the central figure in the Dutch Protestant revolt against the Spanish Hapsburgs in the late sixteenth century and also has the dubious distinction of being the first head of state assassinated by a handgun. William died at the hand of a fanatical Roman Catholic Balthasar Gerards, who shot him in the chest with two pistols in the Prinsenhof, Delft, on July 10, 1584.

Horst’s monograph focuses on the portraits and statuary associated with the assassinated prince from the painting by Cornelis Anthonisz when William was twelve to his funerary monument to various prints and paintings done after his death (even including a 2007 poster relating to the integration of Morroccans into Amsterdam culture). Horst illuminates the way this art reflects the Dutch culture of the time and the way William became an icon of liberty. William’s tomb, for instance, is a stone illustration of the “frugality and humility” of the regnant Dutch Calvinism (p.49). Along the way, Horst gives the reader an excellent overview of the history of the Netherlands in one of the most important periods of Dutch history as well as a superb illustration of the importance of art in reading history (the lavish illustrations make the book a delight to read).

One point made by Horst, however, stuck this reader as questionable but all too typical of modern historians. The sculptor Hendrik de Keyser (1565–1621), arguably the most important Dutch architect of the time, was commissioned to build William’s tomb. De Keyser was also responsible for designing three of the oldest Protestant churches in Amsterdam—the Zuiderkerk, Noorderkerk, and the Westerkerk. But Horst believes De Keyser’s design and supervision of the construction of Amsterdam’s stock exchange was the most important task he accomplished for this structure was central to this city’s growth into a world mercantile power (p.42). Many of De Keyser’s contemporaries would certainly have disagreed: their Calvinist faith was absolutely central to their resistance to the Spanish.

Albeit a minor point, this is a mistake common to many contemporary historians: religious convictions are not important to many in the modern world, or are seen as a screen for deeper convictions, and so the assumption is unconsciously made that the same is true of the past. But while the remarkable growth of the Netherlands as an economic power in this era is key to the Dutch “Golden Era,” so is Dutch Reformed theology and the houses of worship in which such theology was fleshed out. Whatever the faith commitment of men and women in the modern-day Netherlands (and large numbers are atheists), the history of this nation cannot be explained without taking into serious consideration the centrality of the Christian Faith to the Dutch men and women of the past.

Michael A.G. Haykin

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Unlocking the Cotton Mather Treasure Trove, Part I

Jan Stievermann’s new book is “the most important book ever written on biblical scholarship in early American history,” according to Douglas Sweeney, Professor of Church History and the History of Christian Thought at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Prophecy, Piety, and the Problem of Historicity looks at how Cotton Mather struggled to read the Hebrew Bible as Christian scripture in the early modern era in a way that seemed intellectually honest and also, at the same time, spiritually satisfying. Prof. Sweeney says the work is “simply must reading for all who work on early modern Christianity.”

Ryan Hoselton, who is working with Prof. Stievermann on a dissertation on Mather and Jonathan Edwards, sat down with him to ask him a few questions about his work on Cotton Mather:

Hoselton: Some readers may find it curious that a German has devoted so much time and energy to studying Cotton Mather, and American religious history in general. What drew you to this field?

Stievermann: Some of it is biographical coincidence. Studying American literature and culture, I was lucky enough to have good teachers who believed in the crucial importance of religion, and especially New England Puritanism, for understanding the cultural and social life of the U.S. So reading the Magnalia and other texts by Mather was very much part of my training as an Americanist.

Later my fascination deepened for different reasons. Studying the Puritans and their different heirs gives you a very wide range of modern Protestant thought and culture, from strict Biblicism, creedal conservativism, revivalism to ultra-liberal. Mather’s religious and intellectual life is incredibly complex and complicated and well-worth studying.

Hoselton: What is the Biblia Americana project and what fruit has it yielded so far?

Stievermann: The “Biblia Americana: The Sacred Scriptures of the Old and New Testament Illustrated” was supposed to be Cotton Mather’s magnum opus of biblical interpretation. Because he couldn’t find the necessary patronage, his manuscript was left unpublished. It’s more than 4,500 folio pages. Mather’s heirs bequeathed the manuscript to the Massachusetts Historical Society after the the American Revolution. It has slumbered in the archives almost untouched for more than two centuries.

MatherSince 2010, Mohr Siebeck has started to publish what will be a 10-volume scholarly edition, amounting to about 10,000 pages in print. The scholarly edition is not only making the “Biblia Americana” readily available in transcription for the first time, but also, by virtue of extensive introductions, annotations, and translations, is facilitating access to its rich contents. In the past, the work had been largely unapproachable to most modern readers. Mather frequently uses early modern forms of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and he was engaging in dialogue with very specific, now often forgotten, debates and traditions.

Led by Reiner Smolinski (General Editor) and myself (Executive Editor), the Biblia Americana edition thus resembles an archaeological project in early American religious and intellectual history. An international team of experts is recovering and piecing together, shard by shard, the lost world of Mather’s biblical interpretation. We’re attempting to bring his thoughts back to life by placing the Biblia Americana within its larger discursive environment.

Four volumes have been published so far: Genesis (2010, ed. Reiner Smolinski), Joshua-Chronicles (2013, ed. Kenneth P. Minkema), Ezra-Psalms (2014, ed. Harry Clark Maddux), and now Proverbs-Jeremiah (2015, ed. Jan Stievermann). There has also been a collection of essays on Cotton Mather and the “Biblia America” (2010) that came out of a conference marking the launch of the editorial project. The positive reception of the published volumes is an encouraging sign that the scholarly community is beginning to recognize the importance of the “Biblia Americana” manuscript as a great untapped resource.

Hoselton: There’s been much attention given to Jonathan Edwards’ exegesis, recently. Why does Mather’s biblical interpretation deserve our consideration as well?

Stievermann: Now that Edwards’ exegetical writings are published in the Yale edition of the Works of Jonathan Edwards, his biblical interpretation has finally received the attention it deserves, including in Douglas Sweeney’s 2015 monograph, Edwards the Exegete. We hope to see the same for Cotton Mather. The “Biblia Americana” is a treasure trove, not only for early American studies, but also for scholars interested in the development of Protestant theology and biblical interpretation during a decisive period of intellectual change in the early modern Atlantic world.

The “Biblia” holds special potential since it’s the first serious engagement of an American exegete with critical-historical methods in biblical scholarship. With surprising breadth and depth, Mather discusses, among many other things, questions regarding the inspiration, composition, transmission, canonization, and historical realism of the biblical texts.

As one of the very first theologians in the British colonies, he pondered the quintessentially modern questions surrounding the Bible. He tackles issues that continue to concern those who seek to harmonize academic inquiry with a traditionalist faith. Mather was fully convinced that his “Biblia” offered just such a harmonization and effectively defended the authority and unity of the canon as well as the basic legacy of 17th-century Reformed theology.

Mather’s commentary is also an early attempt to reconcile a traditional Protestant biblicism with the emerging natural sciences and the philosophical challenges of the early Enlightenment. The “Biblia” pioneered a highly learned but apologetically-oriented type of biblical criticism especially invested in a new kind of factualist evidentialism, which would later flower among evangelicals. Thus, the “Biblia” can contribute much to a deeper understanding of the transformations of New England Puritanism into early evangelicalism.

Tomorrow: Part 2.

Editors' note: This article was originally published on the Jonathan Edwards Center Germany website.

Book Review: History: A Student's Guide

By Dustin Bruce

Finn, Nathan. History: A Student’s Guide. Wheaton: Crossway, 2016. 111 pp. $11.99.

Nathan Finn, dean of the School of Theology and Missions at Union University and Fellow of the Andrew Fuller Center, has written an excellent primer on the discipline of history and the nature of the historian’s task. This volume forms part of the “Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition” series, published by Crossway under the editorial guidance of David Dockery. In keeping with the aim of the series, Finn examines history from the perspective of a Christian worldview, drawing insights from the Dutch Kuyperian tradition and the Lutheran tradition. Years of experience teaching history, completing an undergraduate and Ph.D. in history, and a thorough analysis of historiographical literature, provides Finn with insights and anecdotes that make for an enjoyable and informative read.

Finn’s audience is primarily the undergraduate student interested in history as a major or minor. As such, it is written to serve as something of a supplementary text that introduces readers “to the discipline of history from the perspective of a Christian worldview that is shaped by the great tradition and is in dialog with other key voices in the field” (18). Not meant as a comprehensive introduction, the volume contains an introduction and four chapters. Though short, at roughly 90 pages of text, the writing is characterized by a “lucid brevity” that leaves the reader feeling satisfied and not underserved. Quality footnotes allow eager students access to further resources.History

In the Introduction, Finn begins a discussion of how a Christian worldview affects history and the historian’s task. “Christians,” he argues, “should be keenly interested in studying the past since the very truth of the Judeo-Christian tradition is dependent upon certain historical events” (19). Furthermore, the great commandments of Matthew 22:34–49 serve as parameters for historical inquiry.

In chapter one, “Understanding History,” Finn lays out basic information, including the different between the “past” and “history.” He defines history as “the task of reconstructing and interpreting the past” (26). Other fundamentals are described, such as the difference between primary and secondary sources. Chapter two includes an overview of different “schools of history,” including an analysis of each school from a Christian perspective. The concept of “historiography” is also covered.

Chapter three, “Faith and the Historian,” picks up the controversial question of how one’s faith should influence one’s work as a historian. Finn rejects both a providentialist and naturalistic approach, arguing for an approach that recognizes the historian’s evidence comes from general revelation, where one cannot know the mind of God with certainty, and yet, must be tempered by the truths revealed in the Biblical storyline (73). Finn draws further insight from the Lutheran concept of vocation, before proposing Christian historians adopt a “bilingual” approach by developing the ability to serve academic and religious audiences. Chapter four, “History: An Invitation,” largely serves as an encouragement for students to pursue the study of history from a Christian perspective. Finn offers examples of how history and history degrees can be used both vocationally and in service to the church.

History: A Student’s Guide will undoubtedly serve students well as an introduction to the field of history and the task of the historian. It is small enough to be assigned as a supplementary text to a course without overburdening students, but comprehensive and compelling enough to warrant a close reading. Finn’s work may very well be used of God to inspire the next generation of Evangelical historians.