‘Theology’ Category

George Whitefield Tercentenary Celebration in Toronto this Weekend

November 13th, 2014 Posted in 18th Century, Church History, Conferences, Eminent Christians, Historians, Revivals, Theology

By Steve Weaver

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West Toronto Baptist Church celebrates the life and work of the eighteenth century evangelist George Whitefield (1714-1770). Join us on November 15, 2014, as we learn from Dr. Michael A. G. Haykin of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who will deliver two lectures on Whitefield and the Great Awakening. The conference is free of charge and will include a book table hosted by Crux Books.

Itinerary

Registration will begin on Saturday at 9:00am and Dr. Haykin will give his first lecture at 9:30. There will be a coffee break at 10:30am, and the second lecture will commence at 11:00am. At 12:00pm there will be a half an hour Q & A.

Also, please join us Sunday at 10:45am for Lord’s Day worship where Ian Clary will deliver a sermon based on Whitefield’s sermon on the “new birth.”

Location

West Toronto Baptist Church – 3049 Dundas Street West, Toronto, ON.

Originally posted at http://wtbaptist.com/whitefield/

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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. You can read more from Steve at his personal website: Thoughts of a Pastor-Historian.

Video and Audio of ‘Whitefield and the Great Awakening’ Conference

November 7th, 2014 Posted in 18th Century, Church History, Conferences, Eminent Christians, Historians, Hymnody, Revivals, Theology

By Steve Weaver

The complete audio and video from our recent conference on George Whitefield and the Great Awakening are now online.  The conference was held on the campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on October 21-22, 2014. Video and audio of all eight plenary sessions are below. Audio only of the thirteen parallel sessions. Audio links are to downloadable MP3 files.

Plenary Sessions

Session 1 – “The Calvinism of George Whitefield” by Thomas Kidd (Audio)

Session 2 - “George Whitefield: The Anglican Evangelist” by Lee Gattis (Audio)

Session 3 – “George Whitefield and the Wesleys” by Stephen Nichols (Audio)

Session 4 – “Preaching George Whitefield” by Steve Lawson (Audio)

Session 5 – “The Spirituality of George Whitefield” by Bruce Hindmarsh (Audio)

Session 6 – “George Whitefield: The Accidental Revolutionary” by Jerome Mahaffey (Audio)

Session 7 – “The Legacy of George Whitefield” by David Bebbington (Audio)

Session 8 – “The Hymnody of the Great Awakening” by Esther Crookshank (Audio)

Parallel Sessions

“American Friends of Whitefield: Samuel Davies” by Joe Harrod (Audio)

“American Friends of Whitefield: Jonathan Edwards” by Owen Strachan (Audio)

“American Friends of Whitefield: Oliver Hart” by Eric Smith (Audio)

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“Biographers of Whitefield: Arnold Dallimore” by Ian Clary (Audio)

“Biographers of Whitefield: J. C. Ryle” by Ben Rogers (Audio)

“Biographers of Whitefield: Cornelius Winter” by Blair Waddell (Audio)

———–

“English Friends of Whitefield: John Cennick” by Tom Schwanda (Audio)

“English Friends of Whitefield: Matthew Henry” by Roger Duke (Audio)

“English Friends of Whitefield: John Newton” by Grant Gordon (Audio)

“English Friends of Whitefield: Robert Robinson” by Michael Haykin and Jared Skinner (Audio)

———–

“Women in Whitefield’s Life: Selina Hastings” by Priscilla Chan (Audio)

“Women in Whitefield’s Life: Phillis Wheatley” by Dustin Benge (Audio)

“Women in Whitefield’s Life: Elizabeth Whitefield” by Digby James (Audio)

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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. You can read more from Steve at his personal website: Thoughts of a Pastor-Historian.

 

“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

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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.

Once more baptism and communion

September 29th, 2014 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Church History, Theology

By Michael A.G. Haykin

I read my friend Mark Jones’ post “A Plea for Realism”: Are Presbyterians Christians? and was surprised by a number of things in this piece. To imply that Presbyterians, due to their ecclesiology, are less prone to sectarianism than Baptists is a surprising opener. Both Scottish and North American Presbyterian history (the latter especially since the 1920s) seems to tell a very different tale.

Then, I am not sure exactly what my dear friend Ian Clary said in his paper on Andrew Fuller at last year’s SBTS conference (you may listen to the audio here). But to imply, as Mark does, that Fuller’s baptismal theology meant that he was sectarian and lacked catholicity implies a complete misunderstanding of Fuller’s heart. I have written a study of the friendship of this closed communion, closed membership Baptist with John Ryland, an open communionist and open membership Baptist of the ilk of John Bunyan: it is absolutely remarkable that Fuller could hold deep convictions about this issue, but have as his best friend one who disagreed totally with him on these matters (they did agree on the subjects of baptism). Here we see true catholicity in action.

Fuller never believed that he and his fellow Calvinistic Baptists were the only Christians in Britain–witness his love for men like John Newton, William Wilberforce and John Berridge. In such a context, his strong convictions regarding the proper recipients of the Lord’s Supper bespeak a rich catholicity.

Much more could be said, but in fine: I am constrained to affirm with Fuller that the New Testament knows of only believer’s baptism (as did the Ancient Church largely up until the fifth century), and that I am prepared to stand with Fuller regarding his Eucharistic convictions, yet (as anyone who knows me will affirm), I am not interested in the slightest in a sectarian Christianity. I believe in the one holy catholic apostolic church—as did Fuller—filled with more than Baptists!

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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.

Degrees in Glory

August 21st, 2014 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Biblical Spirituality, Church History, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes, Theology

By Evan D. Burns

Andrew Fuller was a man who loved to think of heaven and future glory awaiting all who love the Lord.  His sermon entitled, “Degrees in Glory Proportioned to Works of Piety, Consistent with Salvation by Grace Alone,”[1] is medicine for the soul.  In relation to the degrees of glory enjoyed in heaven based upon piety and obedience in this life, the fragrance of Jonathan Edwards emanates from Fuller’s pen.  Here is a brief outline of Fuller’s sermon:

  1. First, Heavenly bliss will greatly consist in our being approved of God.
  2. Secondly, Heavenly bliss will consist in the exercise of love, supreme love to God.
  3. Thirdly, Heavenly bliss will consist in ascribing glory to God and the Lamb.
  4. Fourthly, Heavenly bliss will consist in exploring the wonders of the love of God.

And then Fuller goes on to elaborate how heavenly rewards should motivate our piety in this life:

  1.  In the first place, Rewards contain nothing inconsistent with the doctrine of grace, because those very works which it pleased God to honour are the effects of his own operation.
  2. Secondly, All rewards to a guilty creature have respect to the mediation of Christ.
  3. Thirdly, God’s graciously connecting blessings with the obedience of his people serves to show, not only his love to Christ, and to them, but his regard to righteousness.

[1]Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 3: Expositions—Miscellaneous, ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 741-43.

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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.

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.

Caleb Evans refutes Antinomianism

July 21st, 2014 Posted in 18th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Pastoral Ministry, Theology

By Michael A.G. Haykin

A month or so before the seizure of the Bastille in 1789, an association of English Particular Baptist churches in the West Country met, as was their annual wont, for two days of worship and fellowship. This annual meeting on this occasion—June 3–4, 1789—took place at Horsley, Gloucs., where the redoubtable Benjamin Francis was the pastor. On such occasions as these, a circular letter would be drawn up by one of the pastors; then, when approved by the association messengers, it would be sent out to the churches. On this particular occasion Caleb Evans, the Principal of Bristol Baptist Academy, was asked to write the letter.

Among other comments in the letter, which was aimed at refuting especially Antinomianism, although Socinianism was also targeted, was Evans’ critique of what he called a “poisonous doctrine”: “That as God’s love to his people is from everlasting, it must have existed when they were sunk in sin and sensuality, in as high a degree, and in the same manner, as it will be when they are brought to glory” (The Elders, Ministers, and Messengers of the Several Baptist Churches [Circular Letter, Western Association, 1789], 8). Evans called this perspective—usually associated in that era with hyper-Calvinism—an “ignorant, shocking doctrine” and proceeded to refute it. Little did he know the firestorm his remarks would create.

Within the year, one of his fellow pastors in the Western Association, the minister of Chard, Samuel Rowles, attacked Evans in his Thoughts on the Love of God, which led to a reply from Evans and then a surrejoinder by Rowles. And to make things even more difficult the London minister William Huntington also entered the lists against Evans.

Reading over Evans’ circular letter just recently, it struck me that although Andrew Fuller is remembered as the great theologian of this era—David Bebbington once referred to him as a theologian of the caliber of Athanasius—he was surrounded by many capable men: such a man was Caleb Evans.

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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.

“All is Alike Inspired”

July 10th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Biblical Spirituality, Books, Church History, Eminent Christians, Theology

By Evan D. Burns

Seeking to counter those who say the Bible is not inspired because of the varieties of its style and authorship, J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) employed metaphors and analogies that are very helpful for understanding the continuity of Scripture and its overall sufficient inspiration:

It proves nothing against inspiration, as some have asserted, that the writers of the Bible have each a different style. Isaiah does not write like Jeremiah, and Paul does not write like John. This is perfectly true— and yet the works of these men are not a whit less equally inspired. The waters of the sea have many different shades. In one place they look blue, and in another green. And yet the difference is owing to the depth or shallowness of the part we see, or to the nature of the bottom.  The water in every case is the same salt sea. The breath of a man may produce different sounds, according to the character of the instrument on which he plays. The flute, the pipe, and the trumpet, have each their peculiar note. And yet the breath that calls forth the notes, is in each case one and the same. The light of the planets we see in the skies is very various. Mars, and Saturn, and Jupiter, have each a peculiar color. And yet we know that the light of the sun, which each planet reflects, is in each case one and the same. Just in the same way the books of the Old and New Testaments are all inspired truth— and yet the aspect of that truth varies according to the mind through which the Holy Spirit makes it flow. The handwriting and style of the writers differ enough to prove that each had a distinct individual being; but the Divine Guide who dictates and directs the whole, is always one. All is alike inspired. Every chapter, and verse, and word— is from God.[1]


[1]J.C. Ryle, Bible Reading.

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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.

Andrew Fuller and Antinomianism

May 27th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Books, Church History, Current Affairs, Eminent Christians, Historians, Pastoral Ministry, Theology

By Nathan A. Finn

In recent months, a debate has been stirring mostly among our conservative Presbyterian friends over antinomianism, or the idea that because believers live under grace God’s moral law should not be considered an appointed means used in our sanctification. Most antinomians are not libertines (a common misperception), but because they downplay the necessity of good works in the life of a Christian, mainstream Reformed believers argue that antinomian views do lead to a stunted understanding of sanctification.

The Reformed version of antinomianism (there are many versions of this particular error) that has often appeared among Calvinists argues against the necessity of the moral law based upon a fatalistic view of predestination and/or a too-sharp distinction between law and gospel. PCA pastor-theologian Mark Jones’s new book Antinomianism retraces the history of Reformed antinomianism and makes some contemporary application. In fact, Jones’s comments about some well-known Calvinist pastors, especially Tullian Tchividjian, have played a key role in bringing the current controversy to a head. You can read more about the dust-up at The Gospel Coalition, Reformation 21, and Tchividjian’s website. For a timely and edifying word that is inspired by this controversy, see Nick Batzig’s excellent blog post “Dangers of Theological Controversy.”

Once upon a time, the English Calvinists Baptists faced their own kerfuffle over antinomianism. Robert Oliver discusses this topic at length in his book History of the English Calvinistic Baptists 1771-1892: From John Gill to C.H. Spurgeon (Banner of Truth, 2006). This issue played a key role in the separation of the Strict and Particular Baptists from the majority Particular Baptist movement during the first half of the eighteenth century. Among Particular Baptists, there was often a connection between antinomianism and High Calvinism, though this wasn’t always the case.

Andrew Fuller wrote against the Reformed version of antinomianism in a posthumously published treatise titled Antinomianism Contrasted with the Religion Taught and Exemplified in the Holy Scriptures (1816). Fuller’s treatise can be found in the second volume of the “Sprinkle Edition” of The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller. Fuller argued that antinomianism is, at root, a species of spiritual selfishness that is concerned more with the spiritual benefits of the faith than a wholehearted devotion to Lord that is evidenced, in part, though the pursuit of ongoing spiritual maturity.

For an excellent introduction to Fuller’s critique of antinomianism, check out Mark Jones’s plenary address on that topic from last fall’s Andrew Fuller Center Conference.

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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.

 

Registration Now Open for “Whitefield & the Great Awakening”

May 2nd, 2014 Posted in 18th Century, Church History, Conferences, Eminent Christians, Revivals, Theology

By Steve Weaver

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Registration is now open for this year’s conference on George Whitefield and the Great Awakening. This will be the eighth annual conference of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies at Southern Seminary and it promises to be one of the best. The conference speakers are some of the top scholars who have published on George Whitefield and the Great Awakening. The conference schedule is packed with excellent topics being addressed by the most well-respected authors on Whitefield. The parallel sessions are filled with excellent papers by accomplished scholars.

The conference will be a tercentenary celebration of the birth of Whitefield, occurring as it does on the 300th anniversary of the year of his birth.  This year will also mark the release of a major new work on Whitefield by Thomas S. Kidd to be published by Yale University Press, hopefully in time for the conference.

I am sure there will be no better celebration of George Whitefield and the Great Awakening anywhere else in 2014. Make plans to join us in Louisville, Kentucky on October 21-22 for a concentrated two days focused on George Whitefield and his legacy.

Register now!

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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.