‘17th Century’ Category

“Baptists, Confessionalism and the Providence of God”: A Conference in Indianapolis, IN on Nov. 13-15

October 15th, 2014 Posted in 17th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Church History, Conferences, Theology

By Steve Weaver

1689_conference_web_banner

On November 13-15, 2014, in Indianapolis, In., a conference will be held titled “Baptists, Confessionalism and the Providence of God.” The conference is being held in the year of the 325th anniversary of the adoption of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith by the General Assembly of Particular Baptists.

The purpose of the conference is stated on the conference website as follows:

Simply stated, this conference is a three day event to gather Christians with one deliberate purpose:

To encourage, equip and exhort them to value Jesus Christ above all things through a deeper, richer understanding of God’s Word as preserved and presented in the historic 1689 Baptist Confession.

The conference will be held on the campus of:

CROSSROADS BIBLE COLLEGE
601 N. Shortridge Road
Indianapolis, IN 46219

To register for the conference or for more information (including conference schedule, speakers, etc.), please see the conference website at http://www.1689conference.org/.

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Steve Weaver serves as a research assistant to the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and a fellow of the Center. He also serves as senior pastor of Farmdale Baptist Church in Frankfort, KY. Steve and his wife Gretta have six children between the ages of 3 and 15.

Was John Bunyan a Baptist? A Test Case in Historical Method

July 29th, 2014 Posted in 17th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Church History, Eminent Christians, Historians, Theology

By Nathan A. Finn

In recent weeks, I’ve been reflecting quite a bit on the life and legacy of John Bunyan (1628–1688). Some readers will know that Bunyan was the famous tinker-turned-pastor who spent most of 1660 to 1672 (and a few months in 1675) imprisoned for preaching illegally during the reign of King Charles II. This was a season when many Dissenting pastors, including Baptists, were fined and often imprisoned for violating the Clarendon Code, a series of laws meant to promote Episcopal uniformity in Britain. Over 2000 Puritan ministers lost their pulpits during the “Great Ejection” of 1662 alone.

No doubt even more readers will know that Bunyan authored the famous allegory Pilgrim’s Progress (1678), a work that has remained continuously in print, been translated into over 200 languages, and likely outsold every book in the English language besides the King James Bible. Of course, Bunyan also wrote numerous other books and tracts, including his famous spiritual autobiography Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (1666) and the allegory The Holy War, which focuses on cosmic spiritual warfare (1682).

What many readers may not know is that scholars have debated whether or not Bunyan was a Baptist or a Congregationalist since at least the late-1800s. There are several reasons for this debate. First, Bunyan’s church in Bedford, which began as a Congregationalist (Independent) meeting, seems to have embraced a dual baptismal practice prior to his pastorate. Second, though there is no evidence the church baptized infants during Bunyan’s pastorate, the church continued an open membership policy that included both credobaptists and pedobaptists. (Bunyan even engaged in a literary debate with William Kiffin, among others, over the relationship between the ordinances and church membership.) Finally, after Bunyan’s death in 1688, the church gravitated toward mainstream Congregationalism and rejected credobaptism as a normative practice.

For these reasons, scholars have tended to fall into three camps when debating Bunyan’s baptism bona fides. First, some scholars argue he was not a Baptist, but rather was a Congregationalist who privately preferred credobaptism to pedobaptism. Second, some scholars argue that Bunyan was an “Independent Baptist,” i.e., a Baptist who practiced open membership. Finally, some scholars punt (ahem) and suggest that Bunyan was “baptistic,” but falls short of being a consistent Baptist.

This makes for a good test case in historical method.  A growing number of scholars argue there was considerable interchange and even intercommunion between various Dissenters prior to 1660. It was not unusual for one to move between Baptist, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, and even Quaker meetings during his lifetime (besides other lesser-known sects and the Church of England). Among Baptists, even the very terms “General Baptist” and “Particular Baptist” are arguably anachronistic when used prior to the 1640s, because the two groups were different trajectories rather than fully formed denominational traditions.

Furthermore, many scholars of the Independents in particular suggest that there was a great diversity of baptismal views in the tradition prior to the adoption of the Savoy Declaration in 1658. In other words, it was perfectly possible, even acceptable to be an anti-pedobaptist Independent, yet not self-identify as a Baptist (the latter carried considerable cultural baggage due to frequent association with Anabaptism). Other historians have suggested that there was a “dotted line” between many Independents and their Particular Baptist friends.

Finally, there is no doubt that a number of self-identified Baptist congregations, all of which had their roots in Independency, did practice an open membership policy, at least for a season. Examples include Henry Jessey’s congregation in London, the Broadmead Church in Bristol, the Baptist meeting in Oxford, and some Welsh Baptist congregations.

As in so many historical debates that touch upon the nature of Baptist identity, the answer to the question of whether or not Bunyan was a Baptist depends upon whether one is speaking descriptively or prescriptively. From a descriptive standpoint, I find it hard to argue that Bunyan was anything other than a Baptist, at least during his years of formal pastoral ministry. He was an Independent Baptist who practiced open membership and open communion. While this was a minority position, it was not unknown among British Baptists. For the past century, this exact position has been quite common among Baptists in the British Isles and Australasia (and, increasingly, in North America).

This does not mean I agree with Bunyan from a descriptive standpoint—far from it. I reject Bunyan’s contention that baptism and the Lord’s Supper are private ordinances that are not directly related to the church. Scripturally, I see a close connection between the ordinances and the church, leading me to affirm a closed membership that restricts communion to biblically baptized believers. However, for me to hold Bunyan to my prescriptive convictions would be to confuse the work of the historian with the work of the theologian. The same point could be made about nearly all General Baptists and, eventually, Particular Baptists prior to 1641/1642; their baptism by affusion does not measure up to my theological standards, but for historical reasons I consider them to be Baptists.

Historians of Christianity will always be tempted to be theologians. And, of course, one cannot be a very good historian of Christianity if he or she doesn’t understand theology. Nevertheless, the task of the historian is primarily descriptive, whereas the task of the theologian is primarily prescriptive. We would do well to avoid confusing the two, even when we hold very strong theological convictions. As a historian, I have little doubt Bunyan was a Baptist. As a theologian, I have strong disagreements with aspects of Bunyan’s ecclesiology. It’s a matter of description versus prescription, and for the historian, the former ought to win every time.

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Nathan A. Finn is associate professor of historical theology and Baptist Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also an elder at First Baptist Church of Durham, NC and a fellow of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies.

Dr. Haykin’s Kiffin, Knollys, and Keach Available in Romanian

July 11th, 2014 Posted in 17th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Books, Church History

By Steve Weaver

Cover

While in London recently to speak on Charles Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Dr. Tom Nettles discovered copies of Dr. Michael A. G. Haykin’s Kiffin, Knollys, Keach: Rediscovering English Baptist Heritage (available here from the Tabernacle Bookshop). However, these books were in Romanian! This book has been long out of print in English and is scarcely available in North America. It is good, however, to see that this book continues to have usefulness in other contexts.

ToCNota bene: Much of the material from this book will be incorporated into a forthcoming Baptist history textbook co-authored with Anthony Chute and Nathan Finn.

Bibliographic details: Anthony Chute, Nathan Finn and Michael Haykin. The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Faith (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, Forthcoming, August 2015).

 

Steve Weaver serves as a research assistant to the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and a fellow of the Center. He also serves as senior pastor of Farmdale Baptist Church in Frankfort, KY. Steve and his wife Gretta have six children between the ages of 3 and 15.

Introduction to Reformed Scholasticism: A Brief Review

July 2nd, 2014 Posted in 16th Century, 17th Century, 18th Century, Books, Church History, Historians, Reformation

By Ryan Patrick Hoselton

Many historians and theologians have described Scholasticism as dry, stodgy, and mechanical. Although Introduction to Reformed Scholasticism has not necessarily convinced me that the Scholastic literature is more exciting than reading Augustine or Jonathan Edwards, it has shown me that understanding Scholasticism is worth my time. Written by Dutch scholar Willem J. van Asselt with three other contributors, the work was translated into English from its original publication, Inleidung in de Gereformeerde Scholastiek.

The authors challenge the historiographical scheme that pits Calvin versus his Scholastic heirs. Following Richard Muller, they counter that Calvin was not the sole shaper of the Reformed tradition and thus should not represent the standard by which the rest are judged. Secondly, they argue that Scholasticism refers to a method rather than a doctrinal system. Theologians from a variety of traditions—including Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, and Arminian—all employed the Scholastic method but adhered to different doctrinal content. Thus, the authors define their study by narrowing it to Reformed theologians who employed the Scholastic method.

In the first half of the book, the authors provide a brief history of nineteenth and twentieth-century scholarship on Scholasticism, arguing that many have erred by either reducing the tradition to a Centraldogma or dismissing it as rationalism. They then examine the impact of the Aristotelian tradition on their method and the Augustinian tradition on their content. In chapters five through seven, they explain how Scholasticism operated in Medieval and Renaissance universities, outline the scholastic method and style of argumentation, and they define much of the difficult jargon like quaestio, disputatio, and fontes solutionum.

The second part of the book describes the eras of Reformed Scholasticism. Van Asselt follows Richard Muller’s classification of early (1560–1620), high (1620–1700), and late (1700–1790) orthodoxy, showing how Reformed Scholasticism developed from confessionalization and codification in the early stage to a sophisticated academic system with active debates and diverse schools of thought by the high and late stages. He highlights characteristics of each era, the positions represented in the leading universities and regions, and a theologian who is representative the period. The appendix offers a helpful study guide on how to access and navigate the primary source material of the Scholastics.

The work is accessible and comprehensive. I found the chapter on late orthodoxy especially useful in guiding one through the Reformed reaction to the Enlightenment. The work even addresses the role of Baptist theologians—like John Gill (1697–1771) and Andrew Fuller (1754–1815)—and their use of Reformed Scholastic categories in the debates during the period of late orthodoxy. Becoming familiar with Scholasticism is vital for understanding medieval theology, the Reformation, and the Puritans, and I highly recommend Van Asselt’s work as an introduction to the subject.

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Ryan Patrick Hoselton is pursuing a ThM at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He lives in Louisville, KY with his wife Jaclyn, and they are the parents of one child.

Remembering Matthew Henry

June 22nd, 2014 Posted in 17th Century, Church History, Eminent Christians, Puritans

By Michael A.G. Haykin

Matthew Henry (1662-1714), who died June 22 exactly three hundred years ago, is rightly remembered as a leading figure among early eighteenth-century Dissent. His devotional commentary on the entire Bible, the Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, was the first such work in English and is a prism of late Puritan piety. If one wishes to get a good feel for the thinking of late seventeenth-century Puritanism read Henry on the Bible. By the early Victorian period this work had gone through some 25 editions and is still in use today. It is well known that George Whitefield, the  tercentennial of whose birth will be celebrated later this year, used this exposition widely in his ministry and prayer life. Henry ‘s twenty-five year ministry in Chester bore other fruit as well: a sterling witness in a degenerate age, the edification of God’s people under his charge  and about 30 other publications that ministered to the church at large both in his day and subsequent ages. A conference on his ministry and thought will be held July 14-16 this year at the University of Chester, England. Dr Ligon Duncan is to be one of the speakers.

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Michael A.G. Haykin is the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. He also serves as Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Haykin and his wife Alison have two grown children, Victoria and Nigel.

William Ames’s Holy Logic

April 15th, 2014 Posted in 16th Century, 17th Century, Eminent Christians, Philosophy, Puritans

By Ryan Patrick Hoselton

One of the few things I remember from my freshman philosophy class is learning about the syllogism. The syllogism is a logical tool used to deduce a conclusion from a major and minor premise (for example: A: All students wear red. B: John is a student. C: Therefore, John wears red). You’ve probably seen it before, but have you seen it used as a formula for holy living?

The Puritan theologian William Ames (1576–1633) believed that the syllogism—when used rightly—offered considerable moral guidance, for it contained the “force and nature of conscience (I.3).”[1] Ames defined the human conscience as “man’s judgment of himself, according to the judgment of God of him (I.1).” The syllogism provided the means for the conscience’s operation of accusing, excusing, and comforting the moral agent. It consists of three elements:

  1. The Proposition: The proposition fulfills the role of the major premise. The Latin term Ames employed is synteresis, meaning a source for principles of moral action.Ames also referred to the proposition as a “light” and a “law.” God’s will and commandments furnish this “storehouse of principles.” While nature can often lead men and women in moral living, God’s revealed will is the only perfect rule of conscience, illuminating mankind’s moral duty (I.4–7).
  2. The Witness: the witness, which Ames also termed the “index,” “book,” “review,” or “assumption,” functions as the minor proposition. The witness is a subjective statement about the self for the purpose of considering one’s moral condition in reference to the proposition. It measures the moral agent alongside the law. The moral state of the human will is compared with the standard of God’s will (I.21–25).
  3. The Conclusion: the conclusion, also referred to as the “judgment,” derives partly from the proposition and partly from the witness. In the conclusion, “God’s commandment and man’s fact are mutually joined together.” The conclusion passes the sentence, or “application,” of either comfort or condemnation for the man or woman in light of the major and minor premises (I.28–32).

In sum, “in the Proposition God’s Law is declared, and in the Assumption, the fact or condition of man is examined, according to that Law; so in the Conclusion, the sentence concerning man is pronounced according to his fact…by virtue of the Law that hath been declared” (I.28).

Ames provides two examples. The first delivers accusation but the second comfort:

1. [A] “He that lives in sin, shall die”
[B] “I live in sin”
[C] “Therefore, I shall die”

2. [A] “Whoever believes in Christ, shall not die but live”
[B] “I believe in Christ”
[C] “Therefore, I shall not die but live (I.3)”

For Ames, the objective of the syllogism was to assist men and women in assessing their moral condition in light of God’s commandments and in conforming their wills to God’s will. Ultimately, it shows us how desperately short we fall, pointing to our need to rest faith in the Christ who followed God’s will perfectly.


[1] William Ames, Conscience with the Power and Cases Thereof (London, 1639). You can access the text at this link.

 

Ryan Patrick Hoselton is pursuing a ThM at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He lives in Louisville, KY with his wife Jaclyn, and they are the parents of one child.

A Puritan plea for intolerance and a Puritan imprecatory prayer

April 12th, 2014 Posted in 16th Century, 17th Century, Church History, Puritans

By Michael A.G. Haykin

It was Oliver Cromwell who once noted that every sect cries for toleration, but once they have it, they will not give it to any other body of believers. He knew the heart of all too many of his fellow Puritans only too well.

A good example would be Nathaniel Ward (1578–1652), a graduate of that bastion of Puritanism, Emmanuel College at Cambridge, and one of the foremost Puritan ministers in Essex. After Ward came to New England in the 1630s he wrote The Simple Cobler of Aggawam in America (London, 1647), in which he refuted the charge that the New England Puritans were “a Colluvies of wild Opinionists” and stated that “all Familists, Antinomians, Anabaptists, and other Enthusiasts [i.s. fanatics], shall have free liberty to keep away from us,” for they were “adversaries of [God’s] truth” and as such deserved no toleration. Ward was convinced that religious toleration was a stratagem of the devil so as to “disstate the truth of God.” In fact, his “heart naturally detested” “tolerations of divers religions, or of one religion in segregant shapes.”

We love the Puritans for many things, but not for this, and we thank God there were other Puritans like Cromwell who were of a different mind.

I have another thing against Ward: he did not like the Irish. He described them as the “very Offal of men, Dregges of Mankind,” and went so far as to pray for the soldiery of Cromwell’s Irish campaign: “Happy is he that shall reward them [the Irish] as they have served us, and Cursed be he that shall do that work of the Lord negligently, Cursed be he that holdeth back his Sword from blood: yea, Cursed bee hee that maketh not his Sword starke drunk with Irish blood” (“A Word of Ireland” in The Simple Cobler of Aggawam in America). He is obviously reacting to stories of Irish atrocities in killing Scots Presbyterians in northern Ireland. But such imprecatory prayers breathe a spirit utterly foreign to the Spirit of Christ.

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Michael A.G. Haykin is the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. He also serves as Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Haykin and his wife Alison have two grown children, Victoria and Nigel.

Preaching from the “Spiritual Sense”

March 27th, 2014 Posted in 17th Century, Biblical Spirituality, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes, Pastoral Ministry, Puritans

By Evan D. Burns

The Puritan John Owen argued that preachers must have “experience of the power of the truth which they preach in and upon their own souls….  A man preacheth that sermon only well unto others which preacheth itself in his own soul.”[1]  So his resolution was: “I hold myself bound in conscience and in honour, not even to imagine that I have attained a proper knowledge of any one article of truth, much less to publish it, unless through the Holy Spirit I have had such a taste of it, in its spiritual sense, that I may be able, from the heart, to say with the psalmist, ‘I have believed, and therefore I have spoken.’”[2]

Would that the Holy Spirit raise up more preachers who would resolve never to preach a text unless they have already tasted its spiritual sense.


[1] Owen, Works, XVI: 76.

[2] Works, X: 488.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.

 

Are Baptists Reformers, Radicals, or Restorationists?

March 25th, 2014 Posted in 16th Century, 17th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Church History, Historians, Puritans, Reformation

By Nathan A. Finn

If you spend much time studying Baptist history and thought, you know that a perennial debate concerns Baptist origins, early theological influences, and any bearing those topics might have on the nature of Baptist identity. Some scholars argue that Baptists are second or third generation reformers who are rooted in a mostly puritan identity. Barrie White and Tom Nettles come to mind as exemplars of this view, which is the majority position among historians. Other scholars argue that Baptists, though clearly emerging from English Separatists, are at least influenced by the evangelical wing of the Radical Reformation. William Estep and Ian Randall are two representatives of this school of thought. Still other historians argue that Baptists are evangelical restorationists: Doug Weaver makes this case. Some Baptist scholars opt for an eclectic or polygenetic approach to this question, notably Curtis Freeman.

I wonder to what degree one’s own theological and/or spiritual presuppositions play into how a scholar views this issue. Granted, none of the aforementioned categories are Landmark, so presumably their historiographies aren’t totally theologically driven. Still, does one’s understanding of issues like predestination, ecumenism, church and state, and church and culture affect where one “lands” on this question? I think this is at least possible in some cases.

For my part, I can see why different scholars champion each of these approaches. The historical genesis of the earliest English Baptists was most definitely in English Separatism and by the time of the Civil War the English Baptists were thinking in broadly puritan categories. However, at least some of the earliest General Baptists and perhaps a few of the earliest Particular Baptists had some affinity with some Anabaptists. And, of course, both Anabaptists and Baptists held to baptistic ecclesiologies, which would at least lend itself to the understandable (if not always charitable) assumption that the groups were connected in some ways. Baptists on the whole might not be restorationists, but there is no doubt there is a restorationist streak among some Baptists—how else does one explain the spiritual pilgrimages of John Smyth and Rogers Williams or the existence of the Independent Baptist movement? These factors are why I resonate with a more polygenetic approach to early Baptist theological identity, while still holding to English Separatist historical origins.

How do you think we should think about Baptist origins and/or identity? Are we puritans who got straightened out on the sacraments? Are we the more respectable wing of the Radical Reformation? Are we sane restorationists? Or, especially since the early eighteenth century, are we really just dunking evangelicals? I’m thinking out loud more than I am making any particular arguments, so I would love to hear your thoughts about this question.

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Nathan A. Finn is associate professor of historical theology and Baptist Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also an elder at First Baptist Church of Durham, NC and a fellow of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies.

 

An Orthodox Catechism: New Book Edited by Michael Haykin and Steve Weaver

February 17th, 2014 Posted in 16th Century, 17th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Books, Church History, Puritans, Reformation

By Steve Weaver

Michael A.G. Haykin and I have edited Hercules Collins’ An Orthodox Catechism (1680). This catechism was itself a revision of the 1563 Heidelberg Catechism loved and used by Protestants world-wide. This edition by Collins edits the section on baptism in a way suitable to a seventeenth-century Baptist. Dr. Haykin and I have edited this historic catechism for a modern audience. We have also authored a historical introduction that explains the significance of the catechism along with Collins’ rationale for his edits.

Reformed Baptist Academic Press is now accepting pre-orders of quantities of 10 or more of An Orthodox Catechism

The product page for the book is up on the RBAP website, but you will have to wait until the book is in stock to order individual copies (should be available this week). The book retails for $12.00, but is available at a special price of $9.00 directly from the publisher. However, for churches or individuals who order 10 or more copies, the price is only $6.00 per copy. You pay shipping and $1.50 handling. These pre-orders must be paid via check. RBAP will invoice you via email. You need to contact RBAP directly to receive this offer.

The book is also available on Amazon for $10.80. Please note that the Kindle edition listed is not our edition, but a transcription of the unedited original.

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Steve Weaver serves as a research assistant to the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and a fellow of the Center. He also serves as senior pastor of Farmdale Baptist Church in Frankfort, KY. Steve and his wife Gretta have six children between the ages of 3 and 14.