By Dustin Bruce
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.
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.
Books At a Glance has posted a recent interview with Anthony L. Chute, Nathan A. Finn, and Michael A. G. Haykin, authors of The Baptist Story.
Books At a Glance (Fred Zaspel):
Hi this is Fred Zaspel executive editor here at books at a glance. Today we are talking with three authors Tony Chute, Nathan Finn and Michael Haykin about their new book The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement, a new textbook on Baptist history. We’re glad for the book. Were glad for them to be with us. Welcome you guys. Thanks for coming.
William B. Evans, What is the Incarnation? (Phillipsburg. NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013; 31 pages.
I have a long-standing tradition of reading a book relating to Christology around the time of Christmas. This year it was a booklet rather than a book, a part of the series Basics of the Faith, whose general editor is Sean Lucas, namely, What is the Incarnation? by William B. Evans, the Eunice Witherspoon Bell Younts and Willie Camp Younts Professor of Historical Theology at Erskine Theological Seminary in Due West, South Carolina.
Evans covers a tremendous amount of ground in the small compass of this booklet (a mere 26 pages): from the integral links between the person of Christ and his work (p.6–8), in which he draws upon insights from Athanasius and Anselm, to the sinlessness of the humanity assumed by the Son of God (p.24–25). Along the way, he delineates the biblical witness to the person of Christ (p.10–12), rightly pointing out that “the incarnation is a foundational assumption of the New Testament writers” (p.12), discusses the question of images of Christ (p.25–27), and summarizes six major Christological positions that Christian thought and reflection ruled to be heretical—Ebionism (the denial of the deity of Christ), Docetism (the denial of the humanity of Christ), Arianism (the reduction of Christ to a the rank of a “lesser” god, who is in fact a creature), Apollinarianism (which affirmed that the second person of the Godhead took the place of the human mind and soul of Christ), Nestorianism (the failure to maintain the integral unity of deity and humanity in the person of Christ), and Eutychianism (which so identifies the deity and humanity of Christ that Christ’s humanity is all but swallowed up by the deity) (p.13–16).
Evans identifies the creedal statement issued by the Council of Chalcedon (451), “one of the great watersheds in early church history” (p.16) as the Ancient Church’s definitive statement on the incarnation. This statement, which essentially affirmed the reality of the two natures, divine and human, in the one person of Christ—a union “without confusion, without change, without division, without separation”—held sway among Western theologians to the time of the early modern era in the seventeenth century (p.18). It was only then that theologians proposed radically different conceptions of the incarnation like the “kenotic” theory, which employed Philippians 2:7 to argue that Christ gave up all of his divine attributes when he became man.
All in all this is an extremely helpful summary of key details and issues relating to what Paul calls “the mystery of godliness” (1 Tim 3:16), a work that would be ideal for a series in Sunday School or a mid-week Bible study.
Michael A.G. Haykin
Professor of Church History
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Ibrahim Ag Mohamed, God’s Love for Muslims: Communicating Bible Grace and New Life (London: Metropolitan Tabernacle, 2015), 95 pages.
For many in the West today, the very terms Islam and Muslims provoke fear, even hatred, and terrorist acts like the very recent Paris and Mali attacks only serve to reinforce these deep emotions. On the very day when news broke about the horrific attacks in Paris I received this new book by Ibrahim Ag Mohamed, the assistant pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in the heart of London. The author, whose roots are among the Tamasheq, the nomadic shepherds of the Sahara known to the outside world as the Tuareg, is deeply familiar with Islam—in fact, before his conversion, his devotion to Islam led him to burn the Scriptures. But, as he has said, the Scriptures “I had burned came and burned my heart.”
His profound familiarity with Islam, and also his extensive knowledge of the Scriptures, is evident throughout this handsomely-produced book in which he deals with Muslim beliefs and practice (9–42), their misunderstandings about the Christian Faith (43–83), and then how believers in the West especially can help Muslims come to true faith in the Lord Jesus (84–95). While much more could be said in each of these sections, what Mohamed includes is germane and very much to the point, and the result is an extremely helpful handbook for Christians to learn about Muslims, some of whom are now their neighbours. The final section, in which Mohamed provides details on how to develop true friendships with Muslims and share the gospel with them, is extremely helpful.
Noteworthy aspects of the book also include Mohamed’s excellent discussion of violence within the Qur’an and its advocacy by many Muslims (38–42), how the Qur’an views women (29–30), and his emphasis on the importance of faith in the Triunity of God: “without the doctrine of the Trinity, there would be no salvation, because only the God-man, Christ, could offer a sufficient sacrifice to atone for the sins of men and women” (51–54, quote from page 54). One small lacuna is that there is very little said about the history of Islam. A few pages could have easily been devoted to outlining this history. If a second edition is done, such could be easily added.
Given the global situation in which we find ourselves today, a work like this is gold! Highly recommended!
Michael A.G. Haykin
Professor of Church History
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Recently, Pilgrim Radio interviewed Dr. Matthew Barrett and Dr. Michael Haykin on their newly released volume, Owen on the Christian Life: Living for the Glory of God in Christ.
This work, part of Crossway’s Theologians on the Christian Life series, explores how Owen’s theology informed his deep piety in a way that proves instructive for Christians today.
Listen to this interview for more information on this exciting new release.
By Dustin Bruce
Held in Honor represents the combined efforts of AFC Fellow, Matthew Haste, and Southern Seminary professor, Robert Plummer, to provide an accessible treasure trove of biblical wisdom on marriage, as cultivated within the great history of the Christian church.
The book contains 50 devotionals inspired by sources from the Patristic, Medieval, Reformation and Puritan, Early Evangelical, and Modern era. Within each devotional one will find a brief introduction to a historical figure, an excerpt from that figure on marriage, and a devotional tying the passage to biblical truth. While these devotionals are brief, they are packed with biblical truth and historical insight.
Andrew Fuller makes an appearance with an excerpt from his discourse on the creation of woman in Genesis 2:18. Fuller is quoted at length,
Christianity is the only religion that conforms to the original design that confines men to one wife and that teaches them to treat her with propriety. Go among the enemies of the gospel, and you shall see the woman either reduced to abject slavery, or basely flattered for the vilest of purposes; but in Christian families you may see her treated with honour and respect; treated as a friend, as naturally an equal, a soother of man’s cares, a softener of his griefs, and a partner of his joys.
Haste and Plummer, commenting on the passage, note,
Atheists explain marriage as an accommodation of biological impulses to societal constraints. God tells us that marriage is (among other things) His good gift of companionship to humanity. As Andrew Fuller notes, when a society properly values women as created in the image of God and of equal worth with men, the human race flourishes.
The truths and examples found in this book will prove an encouragement to any couple. Get a copy for your nightstand, read it with your spouse, and ask the Lord to bless your efforts. This book is a powerful resource, distilling Christian reflection on marriage throughout the centuries that is sure to strengthen your twenty-first century union.
Andrew Fuller, Discourses in Genesis in The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society; 1845 repr., Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle, 1988), 3:9–10.
Robert L. Plummer and Matthew D. Haste, Held in Honor: Wisdom for Your Marriage from Voices of the Past, (Ross-Shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2015), 99.
Dustin Bruce lives in Louisville, KY where he is pursuing a PhD in Church History and Biblical Spirituality at Southern Seminary. He is a graduate of Auburn University and Southwestern Seminary. Dustin and his wife, Whitney, originally hail from Alabama. They have two daughters, Marlie and Bella.
Three weeks from today (on August 15, 2015), The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement by Anthony L. Chute, Nathan A. Finn, and Michael A.G. Haykin will be released. Below the cover image is the endorsement by David S. Dockery, president of Trinity International University.
The Baptist Story is a masterful work by three superb Baptist historians. Tony Chute, Nathan Finn, and Michael Haykin are to be commended for providing us with an even-handed, incisive, well-organized, and accessible survey of the larger Baptist family. Readers will be introduced to both general and particular Baptists, as well as revivalists and landmarkists, fundamentalists and liberals. In doing so, they will gain a fresh appreciation for the contributions of thoughtful theologians, practical pastors, along with faithful missionaries and martyrs. This full-orbed, carefully researched, and well-written look at the expansion and development of Baptists over the past four hundred years will certainly become a standard resource for the study of Baptist history for years to come. It is with much enthusiasm that I gladly recommend this work.
David S. Dockery, president, Trinity International University
One month from today (on August 15, 2015), The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement by Anthony L. Chute, Nathan A. Finn, and Michael A.G. Haykin will be released. Below the cover image is the endorsement by Peter Beck, associate professor of Christian studies at Charleston Southern University.
The Baptist story is long and often convoluted. Numerous histories have been written over the course of their 400 years. Each new volume proffers its own interpretation of the data and furthers the cause and concern of the author. While honest, this has not always been helpful, and often fails to provide today’s Baptists with a modern account of their tale that informs the mind and encourages the soul.
The Baptist Story, as told by Haykin, Chute, and Finn, changes all that. The authors give us an irenic yet thorough reading of our collective past. They admit the nuances of a faith that boldly defends and exemplifies liberty of conscience while explaining the facts. While the authors concede that their goal was not to provide THE definitive telling of the Baptist story, they may have done just that. Haykin, Chute, and Finn are to be commended for their effort, thanked for their grace, and congratulated for their contribution to the cause of Christ and the history of the Baptist people. The Baptist Story always encourages, sometimes challenges, and never disappoints.
Peter Beck, associate professor of Christian studies, Charleston Southern University