Book Review – The Baptist Story

Posted: Wednesday, September 16, 2015 in Uncategorized

The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement by Tony Chute, Nathan Finn, and Michael Haykin is a concise look at the history of Baptists from 17th century England to the present day. The chronology includes the Baptist movement in England and North America, which is no small task as admitted by the authors:

Our attempt to produce a history of the Baptists has caused us to feel a mountain of weight… Indeed, writing such a history some 200 years after American Baptists first organized an international mission agency (the Triennial Convention) has placed us in the context of writing about more, not fewer, Baptist groups. Consequently our audience includes, but is not limited to, independent Baptists and Cooperative Baptists, Seventh Day Baptists and Southern Baptists, Free Will Baptists and Reformed Baptists, regular principle Baptists and seeker-sensitive Baptists. Among these groups are differing views of biblical inspiration, age of baptismal recipients, elder-led churches, women pastors, sovereign decrees, and the propriety of vacation Bible school – to name only a few! (pp. 1-2)

The authors cover this herculean task of different schisms and doctrinal/practical issues in Baptist life very well. They provide a truthful assessment of the influence that Anabaptists had on English Baptists. They are honest about the effects of slavery in both England and North America amongst Baptists and how that led to a split that led not just to the founding of the Southern Baptist Convention but also to the formation of the National Baptist Convention. Of course, the missions movement in Baptist life was an impetus to these schisms as well, whether it be hyper-Calvinism/Calvinism/Arminianism or whether slave owners should be allowed on the mission field.

One of the benefits of the book is its concise and readable format. It will prove helpful as an introduction to Baptist history and will undoubtedly become a favored textbook in Baptist universities and seminaries. But the layperson will be able to use this as a valuable introduction and resource as well.

Another of the benefits is the recommended “For Further Study” and “Questions for Discussion” at the end of each chapter. Again, this will guide the student in suggested readings to gain a deeper understanding of the time and topic and prove helpful for personal study and/or lesson preparation for a small group study.

A final strength is that each of the author’s writes according to their great knowledge of Baptists in a particular era:

Ours is both an individual and a collaborative effort. We divided this project according to our specialties: Michael Haykin wrote the chapters on the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Baptists, Anthony Chute authored the section on nineteenth-century Baptists, and Nathan Finn concluded with the twentieth century and beyond. However, we have each provided substantive input and editorial oversight regarding the book as a whole. This textbook is a collaborative effort at every level. (p. 2)

I highly recommend this book to student and layperson alike – you will not be disappointed! Its conciseness is its strength. If you want more detail you will want to read Leon McBeth’s The Baptist Heritage and/or Tom Nettles’ 3-volume work, The Baptists..

I received a copy of this book free of charge from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review.

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