‘Books’ Category

Book Review: Churches, Revolutions, and Empires: 1789–1914 by Ian Shaw

March 23rd, 2015 Posted in 19th Century, Books, Church History, Historians, Missions

By Michael A.G. Haykin

Ian J. Shaw, Churches, Revolutions, and Empires: 1789–1914 (Christian Focus, 2012), xii+561 pages.

CHURCHES_AND_REVOLUTIONS_EMPIRESPeople tend to view the period between the close of the Napoleonic Wars and the outbreak of the First World War as a fairly sedentary period. Contrary to popular thought, however, this era, the so-called “long” nineteenth century, 1789–1914, was a time of massive political, intellectual and cultural ferment. And this was not without significant impact on the church in the West. Ian Shaw, the Director of the Langham Scholarship Programme in the UK when he wrote this book, capably and confidently charts the course of the western Church through this era of upheaval and change. Shaw’s grasp of primary and secondary sources is impressive as is his ability to synthesize.

Shaw’s chapter on the birth of the modern missionary movement (p.95–130), for example, is typical of the quality of the book. He refuses to locate its origins in the mind and heart of William Carey, as is so often done, but shows with reference to the scholarship of men like W.R. Ward, A.F. Walls, and Brian Stanley that “the cradle of the movement was more truly Halle [with August Francke and the Pietists], or Herrnhut [with the Moravians], than the parlour of the Baptist manse in Kettering [the traditional place where Carey and friends decided to form the Baptist Missionary Society]” (p.128). He also probes the factors that led to the rise of the missionary movement, from the Enlightenment to theology, and concludes that “undoubtedly…the reasons for the expansion of Protestant mission [sic] are complex” (p. 128). Shaw rightly recognizes that this does not take away from Carey’s achievements, which were truly radical in their day (p.129)—as the critic of evangelical missions, Sydney Smith quipped, “if a tinker is a devout man, he infallibly sets off for the East” (cited p.106). But what Shaw is doing in this chapter is setting Carey in the rich context in which his life must be seen if it is truly to be understood.

Each of the chapters that explore topics like the French Revolution and its legacy, the ending of the slave trade and slavery, industrialization, the revolution of Darwinian science does something comparable. This is history on the big scale and an excellent example of such. Shaw’s conclusion is sobering: he concludes that the First World War essentially buried Europe’s Christendom and that the real hope for the historical future of the Church lies in the churches of the Global South, where Carey interestingly enough had been active.

Michael A.G. Haykin
Professor of Church History
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

To download the review as PDF, click here. To see other book reviews, visit here.

New Book: Baptists and War: Essays on Baptists and Military Conflict, 1640s-1990s

March 19th, 2015 Posted in 17th Century, 18th Century, 19th Century, 20th Century, 21st Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Books, Church History

9781625646743Just released from Pickwick Publications, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers, a collection of essays on Baptists and War. These papers, which were originally delivered at the 2011 annual conference of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies, were compiled and edited by Gordon L. Heath and Michael A.G. Haykin. The book is available for purchase now from the publisher and on Amazon. For a PDF flyer with all the book details see here.

Description from Publisher:

While Baptists through the years have been certain that “war is hell,” they have not always been able to agree on how to respond to it. This book traces much of this troubled relationship from the days of Baptist origins with close ties to pacifist Anabaptists to the responses of Baptists in America to the war in Vietnam. Essays also include discussions of the English Baptist Andrew Fuller’s response to the threat of Napoleon, how Baptists in America dealt with the War of 1812, the support of Canadian Baptists for Britain’s war in Sudan and Abyssinia in the 1880s, the decisive effect of the First World War on Canada’s T. T. Shields, the response of Australian Baptists to the Second World War, and how Russian Baptists dealt with the Cold War. These chapters provide important analyses of Baptist reactions to one of society’s most intractable problems.

Endorsements:

“Conflict challenges the Christian conscience, fostering divergent responses. Hence Baptists have commonly sought peace, sometimes to the extent of condemning war outright, but equally they have often believed that justice required the taking up of arms, even with enthusiasm. The detailed and penetrating international studies contained in this book illuminate contrasting attitudes over the centuries, showing how war has put Baptists to the test, spiritually as well as materially.”
–David Bebbington, Professor of History, University of Stirling, Stirling, Scotland,
UK

“Baptists have had a varied approach to war from the Pietist/Reformed tensions of four hundred years ago to the reactions to the Vietnam War. This work explores the theme in different time periods and, using a number of individuals as case studies, opens the past so the reader can reflect on the present. The volume is an important contribution to both Baptist studies and the Christian approach to war and peace.”
–Robert Wilson, Professor of Church History, Acadia Divinity College, Wolfville, Canada

 

Book Review: Andrew Fuller: Pastor, Theologian, Ropeholder by Gilbert Laws

March 16th, 2015 Posted in Andrew Fuller, Books, Church History, Eminent Christians, Historians

Gilbert Laws, Andrew Fuller: Pastor, Theologian, Ropeholder (London: The Carey Press, 1942), 135 pages.

laws fullerBook reviews are usually reserved for recent items, not for publications of the more distant past. Yet, from time to time, it is helpful to recall the contribution made by works from an earlier time. The book being reviewed here is noteworthy in view of the fact that while there had been a handful of biographies of Andrew Fuller in the nineteenth century—mostly written by friends, colleagues and family members—there was only one of any substance in the twentieth century, namely, that by Rev. Gilbert Laws (1876–1962), long-time minister of the historic Baptist congregation in Norwich, St. Mary’s Baptist Church (now Norwich Central Baptist Church). Laws was a well-known preacher in the Baptist Union during the 1930s and 1940s, and also served as the President of this body.

Laws’ biography of Fuller, not easily found these days, was printed on sub-standard wartime paper, and most copies that I have seen have been the worse for wear. The subtitle gives the major categories in which Laws treats his subject: Fuller as a pastor, a theologian, and a “ropeholder,” that is, missions advocate and loyal friend and supporter of William Carey. An earlier article on Fuller by Laws that appeared in The Baptist Quarterly had examined Fuller’s life briefly under these very headings (“Andrew Fuller, 1754–1815,” The Baptist Quarterly 2.2 [April 1924]: 76–84). Now, in this book-length endeavor, Laws expanded the scope of his treatment.

The strength of Laws’ study lies in his fine discussion of Fuller as a pastor and in his service to the Baptist Missionary Society. Laws does not attempt to hide his admiration of Fuller—“we may affirm that to Fuller the Christian cause in general and the Baptist denomination in particular owes so much that, excepting only Carey, it is hard to name his fellow” (p.132). Yet, he deals honestly with his character, which at times could be stern and gruff. Robert Hall, Jr said of Fuller after his death, he was “less eminent for the gentler graces than for stern integrity” (p.123), while Fuller’s own wife, Ann Coles Fuller, admitted that “there was a degree of bluntness in his manner” (p.124). In detailing Fuller’s role as a pastor and “ropeholder,” Laws has made good use of the numerous anecdotes and stories about Fuller found in the various nineteenth-century biographies as well as those that Fuller himself recorded in his letters and diaries.

The one area where the work is not strong is his treatment of Fuller as a theologian. For instance, referring to Fuller’s The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, his first major publication, Laws comments, “it is impossible to summarize its argument” (p.35). Laws does attempt a brief overview, which is as it should be, for this work began Fuller’s career as an apologist. Laws’ failing here is one, however, general to the twentieth century that largely forgot Fuller’s importance in this area and remembered simply his role as a missionary statesman. Nineteenth-century biographers and theologians, on the other hand, did not share this weakness as Laws himself knew (see his reference to A.H. Strong’s significant use of Fuller’s corpus on p.126).

All in all, though, this is a very good study of Fuller, especially revelatory of the humanity of the Baptist theologian. When Andrew Gunton Fuller published his 1882 biography of his father in the series “Men Worth Remembering,” C.H. Spurgeon personally thanked the younger Fuller for having shown interested readers something of the personal side of Fuller. Likewise, looking at Laws’ biography standing alone in the long twentieth century, he is to be thanked for having kept alive the memory of a man truly worth remembering.

Michael A.G. Haykin
Professor of Church History
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

To download the review as PDF, click here. To see other book reviews, visit here.

Book Review: SEMBEQ: 40 years. Celebrating the Faithfulness of God by René Frey

March 9th, 2015 Posted in Books, Church History

René Frey, ed., SEMBEQ: 40 years. Celebrating the Faithfulness of God, trans. Daniel Henderson (Montreal, QC: SEMBEQ, 2014), 61 pages.

SEMBEQ booklet pictureEarly Anglophone Baptist missions to Quebec from the 1930s to the 1960s, led by men like W.S. Whitcomb, Murray and Lorne Heron, Bill Phillips, W.-H. Frey, Yvon Hurtubise, and Tom Carson (the father of D.A. Carson), struggled against great odds to plant evangelical Baptist churches. They especially faced an entrenched Roman Catholicism that controlled the province spiritually and politically and that had given the province the “reputation of being a cemetery for missionaries” (p.17). During the 1960s and 1970s, though, the political changes in Quebec known as the Quiet Revolution changed everything: the province started down a path of secularization that has made modern Quebec the least religious region of Canada. The power of the Roman Church was broken, and evangelical causes, especially those of the Baptists and the Brethren, began to spring up all over the province. As Jacques Alexanian notes in the first chapter, it was “a time of refreshment and heavenly rain” (p.16). The church in Quebec knew a genuine touch of revival.

The critical question, however, was this: pastors were needed to enable these young believers and churches continue to flourish and grow, but where would they be trained? There were no suitable Francophone seminaries in North America. The solution in God’s good providence was Séminaire Baptiste Évangélique du Québec (The Evangelical Baptist Seminary of Quebec) in Montreal, known more simply as SEMBEQ. Crafting a curriculum to fit the unique needs that the fledgling Baptist churches faced in Quebec and enlisting the help of both Anglophone professors (who were translated simultaneously as they taught) as well as French teachers (among them men like Roger Nicole), SEMBEQ has flourished beyond the dreams of its founders. In the last forty years, it has played a central role in the equipping of leaders and has demonstrated again and again the vital importance of theological education of pastors and leaders called to ministry by the churches.

This booklet overview of the history of SEMBEQ tells the truly exciting story of this school and the men and women who God raised up to make the vision of its founders a reality.

Michael A.G. Haykin
Professor of Church History
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

To download the review as PDF, click here. To see other book reviews, visit here.

Book Review: Historical Theology In-Depth by David Beale

March 2nd, 2015 Posted in Books, Church History, Theology

By Michael A.G. Haykin

David Beale, Historical Theology In-Depth: Themes and Contexts of Doctrinal Development since the First Century (Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press, 2013), 2 vols.

historical-theology-in-depthDavid Beale, who taught for thirty-five years at Bob Jones University and is probably best known for his study of Fundamentalism—In Pursuit of Purity: American Fundamentalism Since 1850 (1986)—has put together in these two volumes fifty-seven distinct essays (and four appendices) that cover a good number of the major issues of historical theology from the last two thousand years of church history (chapter 1 in the first volume is an outline of some basic principles of historical theology). The first volume deals with topics from the early second-century Fathers to the late medieval era, with most of the essays focused on the Ancient Church (there are five dealing with Augustine alone) and a good number on the ecumenical councils (chaps. 20–25 and 32). The second volume begins with Luther and ends with “Pagan, Jewish, and Christian Attitudes towards Abortion” (the four appendices deal with the topic of creation).

The essays are mostly basic studies studded with helpful extracts of primary sources and each accompanied by a bibliography: the majority of the essays in the first volume are biographical while half of the chapters in volume two deal with doctrines and movements like the eternal generation of Christ (which Beale rejects in favor of the eternal sonship of Christ), early Baptist theology and the New Divinity. While most of the essays are cast at an introductory level, it is quite obvious that Beale is able to handle the intricacies of historical theology (witness his analysis of the doctrine of eternal generation).

Some subjects are noticeably absent. None of the essays deal with Wesleyan Arminianism (chapter 17 in volume 2 does touch on the holiness movement) and there is little about Fundamentalism, Beale’s forte. There is also nothing on missionary theology—I had hoped Beale might have said something about Fullerism, for example—my obsession! These are helpful volumes that could well serve as a textbook for an introductory survey of historical theology.

Michael A.G. Haykin
Professor of Church History
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

To download the review as PDF, click here. To see other book reviews, visit here.

“Belle: an 18th-century triumph of humanity”: A Review of Belle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice by Paula Byrne

February 23rd, 2015 Posted in 18th Century, Books, Historians

By Michael A.G. Haykin

“Belle: an 18th-century triumph of humanity”

A review of Paula Byrne, Belle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice (New York: Harper, 2014), xii+283 pages.

belleA painting now hanging in Scone Palace near Perth in Scotland, once entitled in 1904 as “Lady Elizabeth Finch-Hatton with a Negress Attendant,” provides biographer Paula Byrne with the impetus for recounting the extraordinary story of Dido Belle (1761­–1804), the illegitimate daughter of a captain in the Royal Navy and an African slave. Unlike the vast majority of children so conceived, Dido enjoyed privilege and wealth as she was raised by her great-uncle, William Murray (1705­–1793), the first Baron of Mansfield, one of the most eminent jurists of the eighteenth century. Building upon a previous historical piece that identified the black girl in the painting as Dido and a handful of literary texts that relate to her life, Byrne skillfully interweaves the little that we know about Dido with the life of her father, Sir John Lindsay, and the lives of Lord and Lady Mansfield, her adoptive parents. Lord Mansfield was an ardent foe of the slave trade, and Byrne reckons that his love for his adopted daughter was instrumental in convincing him of the evils of slavery and the slave trade.

Mansfield’s ruling in the case of James Somerset in 1772, a slave who had run away from his master in England, been recaptured and sold to a slave trader bound for the West Indies, proved to be a key milestone in the fight against the slave trade by eighteenth-century abolitionists. Mansfield ruled in favour of Somerset’s freedom, and many viewed the ruling as having made slavery illegal on English soil. From there, the logic was obvious: if slavery were wrong in England, how could it be morally right for the English to have slaves abroad? This is the very question, in fact, asked by Fanny Price in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, which, in an appendix, Byrne shows has links to the story of Dido and Lord Mansfield. Byrne knows Austen particularly well, having written two major studies on the English author, one of which, Jane Austen and the Theatre, has been described by historian and biographer Paul Johnson as “the best book on Austen I have ever read.”

Byrne is a consummate researcher and has well researched the historical background of slavery, its accompanying moral degradation, and its tentacles throughout the English economy, especially through the massive consumption of sugar. She rightly notes that the deepest roots of the abolitionist movement were among the Quakers, who by 1760 were disciplining members who participated in the slave trade, and Evangelicals like William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson. In fact, it was arguments based upon principles derived from the Bible that eventually did most to rouse anti-slavery feeling in the British Isles.

While this book is largely a search for the biography of Dido, Lord Mansfield also comes across as a remarkable figure. He was able to rise above the racism endemic in eighteenth-century English society and social mores, and both in his home and in the courtroom do what was good, right and just. A movie version of book, starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw (as Dido) and Tom Wilkinson (as Lord Mansfield), was released here in the US last May.

Michael A.G. Haykin
Professor of Church History
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

To download the review as PDF, click here. To see other book reviews, visit here.

Book Review of Archbishop Justin Welby: The Road to Canterbury by Andrew Atherstone

February 16th, 2015 Posted in 20th Century, 21st Century, Books, Church History, Historians

By Michael A.G. Haykin

Andrew Atherstone, Archbishop Justin Welby: The Road to Canterbury (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2014), viii+152 pages.

welbyWhat drew me to this unauthorized biography of Justin Welby, the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, was frankly the author, Andrew Atherstone, currently Tutor in History and Doctrine at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. Having profited greatly from books that he was written in the past, I looked forward to the same in this sympathetic biography.

Welby was born into wealth and was very successful in the world of finance—he was a treasurer in the oil industry and had a salary of £100,000 per annum in 1989; but the compulsion of the Spirit and constraints of the gospel led him to train for vocational ministry at Cranmer Hall in Durham. During the early days of his Christian life after a distinctly evangelical conversion he was deeply shaped by the Vineyard as it found expression in the ministry of Holy Trinity Brompton.

His first ministerial charge was at Chilvers Coton in the diocese of Coventry. This diocesan locale proved to be important for Welby’s long-term career. The destruction of Coventry and St. Michael’s Cathedral in 1940 during World War II had led to the formation of the Community of the Cross of Nails (so named because of three medieval nails from the destroyed cathedral that were fused into a cross after the bombing), which came to focus on reconciliation projects in trouble spots around the world. In time, reconciliation became a defining hallmark of Welby’s ministry.

From Chilvers Coton, Welby went to Southam, Warwickshire, as the rector of Sr. James, where he became increasingly concerned for parish renewal, the relationship between theology and ethics, and the ministry of reconciliation. The latter frequently took him to Africa, where he faced mortal danger more than once, especially in Nigeria where violent clashes between Muslim and Christian were becoming more and more frequent in the 2000s.

Welby has insisted that he is “an orthodox Bible-believing evangelical,” for whom Scripture is “my final authority for all matters of life and doctrine” (p.90). But his concern for reconciliation has also led him to seek to preserve the unity of the Anglican communion despite recent deep divisions over women’s ordination and the question of same-sex marriage. There is no doubt that the latter issue will definitely test his abilities as Archbishop, for, in the final analysis, same-sex marriage is incompatible with a high view of Scripture.

Three things in particular struck me in Atherstone’s story of Welby’s life thus far: Welby’s concern for unity; in his own words, it is an “absolute essential” (p.113). Sadly, because unity has all too often in the past century been the concern of ecumenical types with a low of scriptural authority, evangelicals have not paid the matter the attention it deserves. But such an attitude is out of sync with both Scripture and the tradition of evangelicalism. The critical question, of course, has to do with the dynamics of making it happen. Then, there is Welby’s early experience with the charismatic movement and Third Wave theology that seems to have given him a life-long desire for revival, which, he would argue, is rooted in the resurrection: “Our hope of revival is based on the resurrection. Again and again in church history churches far worse off than us have, with clear leadership, found new life, and finding it have seen astonishing growth. Personally I believe passionately that it is possible” (p.131). To be honest, I did not expect the Archbishop of Canterbury to speak in such terms. Yet, his words are welcome and wise.

Third, it is clear that while Welby’s roots are evangelical, he has moved beyond the boundaries of evangelicalism in his practice of the Christian life. For instance, Atherstone notes Welby’s deep indebtedness to both Benedictine and Ignatian spirituality (p.94–97, 143). Reading this, it struck me that Welby typifies so many other evangelicals who have turned to other traditions of piety to enrich their faith. To be sure, it is not the case that we evangelicals have nothing to learn from these traditions. But the questions lay burning in my heart long after I had finished reading this biography: do we not have a tradition of piety that can nurture the deepest recesses of the believer’s heart (forsooth we do) and why is it not being retrieved and taught?

Michael A.G. Haykin
Professor of Church History
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

To download the review as PDF, click here. To see other book reviews, visit here.

Book Review: The Quest for the Trinity by Stephen Holmes

February 9th, 2015 Posted in Books, Church Fathers, Church History, Theology

By Michael A.G. Haykin

Stephen R. Holmes, The Quest for the Trinity: The Doctrine of God in Scripture, History and Modernity Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012; xx+231 pages.

the quest for the trinityA part of an ever-growing body of recent literature on the most important doctrine of the Christian Faith, that is, that the true and living God is a triune Being, this comprehensive study by Stephen Holmes, senior lecturer in theology at the University of St. Andrews, is a solid critique of the direction of much of this literature. As Holmes notes, many theologians in the twentieth century, especially in the latter half, believed that the doctrine of the Trinity had been neglected, even lost, and they sought to recover it. As Holmes adeptly shows, though, this recovery by the likes of Karl Barth, Karl Rahner, and John Zizioulas has given rise to a perspective on the Trinity quite at odds with what had prevailed in Christian thinking and devotion from the patristic era to the end of the eighteenth century. The reason for this Holmes deftly shows to have been the fact that twentieth-century thinkers regarded the patristic understanding of the Trinity, which Christian tradition had assumed to be correct down to the rise of biblical criticism in the eighteenth century, as deeply problematic. The Fathers’ insistence on the simplicity and ineffability of the divine being, the fact that the three divine hypostases are distinguished by the eternal relations of generation and procession, and that the entirety of Scripture bears witness to the Triune God have basically been ignored by modern writers. And the result, in Holmes’ opinion, can hardly be described as a “Trinitarian revival.”

Holmes first looks at the biblical witness to the Trinity (p.33-55) and rightly stresses that the Patristic development of the doctrine of the Trinity is “largely a history of biblical exegesis” (p.33). Some of their exegesis seems odd to early twenty-first-century readers, but Holmes helps us make sense of their hermeneutics and also shows why it can be regarded as viable. He then turns to the actual development of the patristic understanding of the Trinity, which rightly occupies a significant amount of his book (p.56­–143). Critical to his argument here is his cogent demonstration that there is a unified patristic witness about the Trinity, contra the common, but very wrong, assumption that the Greek Fathers, personified in the Cappadocians, and the Latin Fathers, personified in Augustine, took two very different and conflicting pathways of thought about God.

Chapter 7 looks at the medieval doctrine of the Trinity and the debate over the filioque (p.147­–164), where Holmes argues that neither position in the latter should be regarded as doing “violence to the received orthodox and catholic tradition” (p.164). While this reviewer personally sees the filioque as a correct development, I think Holmes is right in his emphasis here. Chapter 8 (p.165–181) tracks the story from the Reformation to the close of the eighteenth century. The period after the Reformation is often ignored in the history of Trinitarianism, and Holmes’ careful, though succinct, attention to this era is very welcome. The final chapter (p.182–200) looks at Trinitarian thought in the last two hundred years—the speculative nature of much of it in the nineteenth century after G.W.F. Hegel and F.D.E. Schleiermacher and then the supposed recovery in the twentieth century.

Has Holmes proven his case? This reviewer thinks so: twentieth-century theologians have clearly regarded the patristic synthesis as deeply problematic and taken thinking about the Trinity in very different directions from the received tradition. If so, what is needed then is a true ressourcement, in which the Fathers’ thinking on the Trinity is carefully delineated and its significance for the present day cogently argued.

Michael A.G. Haykin
Professor of Church History
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

To download the review as PDF, click here. To see other book reviews, visit here.

Book Review: Edward VI: The Last Boy King

February 2nd, 2015 Posted in Books, Historians

By Michael A.G. Haykin

Stephen Alford, Edward VI: The Last Boy King (London: Allen Lane, 2014), xii+98 pages.

edward viStephen Alford’s adroit use of a wide variety of sources contemporary to Edward VI makes this a delightful biography to read, one of the first in the new series initiated by Penguin Books, “Penguin Monarchs.” In a concentrated space of less than a hundred pages, Alford ably documents not only the power politics that surrounded Edward—two of his Protestant uncles attempted coups and paid the price for their treason—but also Edward’s devotion to learning—by his death he was reading and writing fairly fluently in Latin, Greek and French—and his love of such things as astronomy and various court festivities (though firmly Protestant, Edward did not share the later distaste by some Puritans of the latter). Alford is also able to capture another dimension with regard to Edward through his commentary on various contemporary portraits of Edward—one by Guilim Scrots of Edward at fourteen is particularly striking. These mini-studies provide further aid the reader’s understanding of the way Edward appeared to those who knew him.

Alford is quite aware of the importance of religious issues for Edward—he was firmly committed to the faith of the Reformation personified in the work of men like Thomas Cranmer and Hugh Latimer. In a lengthy discussion of Edward’s important document “My device for the succession,” drawn up in the final months of his life so as to secure a Protestant monarchy after his death, Alford notes that guiding Edward was “one question only”: “Who was best qualified after his death to rule England and Ireland as defender of the faith and Supreme Head of the Church of England…?” (p.76–77). Yet, there is really very little said about the monumental religious changes that Edward’s reign brought to the English state.

Alford does cite a portion of an intriguing sermon preached by Latimer after the downfall of Edward’s uncle, Thomas Seymour, who had married Henry VIII’s widow, Katharine Parr. But it seems that this extract is primarily introduced to draw attention to the fact that it took two blows by the executioner’s axe to decapitate the traitor (p.42). Cranmer is mentioned a number of times, but nothing said about the religious changes his archbishopric had brought to English religious life beyond the fact that the revolutionary “[c]hange had come from the top” (p.45). This remark may well reflect the relatively recent revisionist opinion that Protestantism was very much an elite affair in England until well into Elizabeth’s reign, an opinion belied in part by the large numbers of Bibles circulating in England during the reigns of both Edward and his father, Henry VIII and also in part by the many “common folk” who perished for their evangelical convictions during the reign of Edward’s Roman Catholic sister, Mary I.

On the other hand, Alford provides the reader with an excellent character study of “the last boy king” of England, which reveals a young man increasingly assuming the reins of power when he died at the age of fifteen. Had he lived he might have proven to be a formidable monarch and major religious player in England and even beyond.

Michael A.G. Haykin
Professor of Church History
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

To download the review as PDF, click here. To see other book reviews, visit here.

Book Review: George V and George VI

January 26th, 2015 Posted in 20th Century, Books

By Michael A.G. Haykin

David Cannadine, George V: The Unexpected King (London: Allen Lane, 2014), xiv+121 pages; and Philip Ziegler, George VI: The Dutiful King (London: Allen Lane, 2014), viii+94 pages.

George VThese two brief biographies are two of the first offerings in a new series being published by British publishing giant Penguin Books, “Penguin Monarchs.” The series will cover all of the English monarchs from William the Conqueror (including, interestingly enough, Oliver Cromwell, though neither the Empress Matilda nor Lady Jane Grey) and four Anglo-Saxon kings (though not Alfred). The series will take four years to complete and the biographies will be released in groups of five (the others released with these two are Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Charles I). Reading these two biographies back to back—their reigns covered the years 1910 to 1952—one clearly sees the way these two men, father and son, were critical to the adaptation of the British monarchy to the vicissitudes and democratization of the twentieth century.

George VINeither expected to be king—George V’s older brother Eddy died in 1892 at 28 and George VI’s older brother Edward VIII abdicated after less than a year as king—and thus both had challenges when they came to the throne. In George V’s case it was a lack of proper preparation to be monarch; in his son’s case, George wrestled with a painful stammer that made public speaking agony for him and a genuine loathing of being in the limelight. And in both cases, they faced major challenges, in particular global wars: George V was king during World War I and his son was monarch during World War II. Neither biography glosses over their faults and weaknesses—George V’s failure as a father to George VI, for example, is duly noted as is George VI’s lack of charisma—but both men were successful kings. A key word that comes through in both of biographies is “duty.” Both monarchs knew what was expected of them and they did their duty.

Both men were also practicing Anglicans—though neither biographer makes much of this fact (though, see Cannadine’s reference to George V’s “understated Anglicanism,” page 105). Ziegler’s conclusion to his biography of George VI is especially moving: “He was high-principled, sober, loyal, reliable, honourable, extraordinary in his ordinariness. …He was a good king; more important than that, he was a good man” (page 83).

Michael A.G. Haykin
Professor of Church History
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

To download the review as PDF, click here. To see other book reviews, visit here.