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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.

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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.

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Kettering Issue 2 Now Available for Download

January 30th, 2015 Posted in Baptist Life & Thought, Church History

By Dustin Bruce

Cover 2

The latest issue of Kettering: A Newsletter for the Andrew Fuller Center of Baptist Studies is now available for download. In Issue no. 2, you will find a number of insightful pieces relating to Baptist History, including an editorial from Fuller Center Director, Dr. Michael Haykin,and an excerpt from a Fuller sermon entitled, “The Qualifications and Encouragement of a Faithful Minister.” Also, you will find an article from Haykin on Benjamin Davies and another by Dr. Steve Weaver on the subject of “Baptist as Puritans.” A number of book reviews, as well as coverage of the most recent Andrew Fuller conference, are also included.

Download your copy today. And as always, help us spread the word!

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Dustin Bruce lives in Louisville, KY where he is pursuing a PhD in Biblical Spirituality at Southern Seminary. He is a graduate of Auburn University and Southwestern Seminary. Dustin and his wife, Whitney, originally hail from Alabama.

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“May the God of Samuel Pearce be my God!”

January 30th, 2015 Posted in 18th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes, Prayer

By Michael A.G. Haykin

Samuel Pearce’s (1766–1799) only pastoral charge was at Cannon Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, England. Here he labored for the conversion of many of the illiterate poor of Birmingham who had been drawn to the city because of work in the factories of the Industrial Revolution. He saw some 335 converted and baptized during his ten-year ministry. His passion for the lost found outlet in other venues: preaching in neighboring villages; writing tracts for Muslim sailors and dock workers in London; ardently supporting the first missionary society, the Baptist Missionary Society that sent William Carey to India in 1793 (Carey was one of his closest friends); going on an arduous mission to Ireland for six weeks and preaching to Roman Catholics.

In short, his friend Andrew Fuller saw him as a paradigm of missionary spirituality. No wonder Fuller prayed: “May the God of Samuel Pearce be my God!”

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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.

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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.

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James Davis Knowles on the character of Andrew Fuller

January 23rd, 2015 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Eminent Christians

By Michael A.G. Haykin

James Davis Knowles (1798–1838) was converted under the ministry of John Gano around the age of twenty-one and subsequently became a member of First Baptist Church, Providence, RI. A gift for preaching was evident and he was encouraged to study for the ministry. After pastoring for a number of years, he was appointed Professor of Pastoral Duties and Sacred Rhetoric at the Newton Theological Institution (today part of Andover Newton Theological Seminary). Here he found time to write a memoir of Roger Williams, having already tried his hand at a biography of Ann Judson. The same year that his memoir of Williams appeared, he also wrote an extensive study on the “Character of Andrew Fuller” (The American Quarterly Observer, 2 [1834], 110–127), which was prompted by the publication of a two-volume edition of Fuller’s works by the Boston Baptist publishers Ensign Lincoln (1779–1832) and Thomas Edmands (1781–1851).

Knowles observed that though his “education was small,” yet “the works of Fuller are justly entitled to rank with those of Owen and Edwards” (pages 115, 113). One of the reasons for this was, as Knowles asserted, the fact that “few theological writers have equaled him in plain, direct, robust force of understanding” (page 119). Another reason, in Knowles’ estimation, was Fuller’s “originality and vivacity of mind.” Yet, he was also a man marked by “an humble submission to the authority of Scripture” (page 120). And it is the latter, Knowles rightly believed, that made “Fuller a safe and valuable guide” in Christian theology (page 123). Finally, Knowles mentioned Fuller’s piety as a reason for the value of his books: his love for God and humanity “made him a reformer, without dogmatism, and a controversialist, without asperity” (page 126). It is a shame that Knowles did not live to write a full biography of Fuller—he died of smallpox in 1838.

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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.

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

January 20th, 2015 Posted in Baptist Life & Thought, Books, Church History

Baptists and WarComing soon from Pickwick Publications, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers, a collection of essay 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 by Gordon L. Heath and Michael A.G. Haykin.

From the back cover:

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 response to Baptists in America to the War in Vietnam. Essays 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.

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Book Review: The Longest Afternoon: The 400 Men Who Decided the Battle of Waterloo by Brendan Simms

January 19th, 2015 Posted in Books, Historians

By Michael A.G. Haykin

Brendan Simms, The Longest Afternoon: The 400 Men Who Decided the Battle of Waterloo (London: Allen Lane, 2014), xx+127 pages.

simms

The Napoleonic Wars, a global conflagaration, came to an end at the climactic Battle of Waterloo (Sunday, June 18, 1815), when some 140,000 men under the commands of Napoleon Bonaparte and Arthur Wellesley (1769–1852), the 1st Duke of Wellington and a relative of John and Charles Wesley, clashed and decided the future of Europe. There have, of course, been no end of books about the Napeolonic Wars and the Battle of Waterloo, but now a new book by Brendan Simms, Professor of the History of European International Relations at the University of Cambridge, looks at a key aspect of the battle—from Simms’ point of view, the key aspect—the defence of the farmhouse and orchard of La Haye Sainte by the King’s German Legion, an elite Anglo-German unit, established in 1803 of mostly Hanoverians (recall that the monarch of England, George III, was also the Elector of Hanover). Some of its officers were British and commands were usually given in English. In fact, their uniform was that of the distinctive green jackets of the British light infantry.

Simms gives an almost minute-by-minute account of the way a little less than 400 riflemen of this elite unit under the command of Major George Baring held up the advance of the most formidable army in Europe—nearly all of them veterans from former battles and wars of Napoleon—for the entire afternoon of June 18. It is a remarkable story, one that Simms tells well in a book that is hard to put down. Simms notes that there were ideological factors that enabled these men to stand at their post in the face of overwhelming odds, especially their determination to fight “French tyranny.” It is interesting that the recent terrorist attacks in France have evoked from some in high quarters the statement that the French response not to be cowed by Muslim fundamentalists is in line with France being a home of democracy—an obvious reference to the French Revolution. That is certainly not the way anyone in Europe viewed France in the wake of the sanguinary events of the French Revolution. It was not democracy but the tyranny of Napoleon that emerged from the revolutionary fervor of the 1790s. When Napoleon’s war machine had overrun Hanover, these brave men were determined to do something for the cause of their homeland’s liberty and thus the King’s German Legion was formed. In the final analysis, Simms reckons that it was a a sense of “honor” and trust in their officers that were the main determinants in the courage of these 400 men.

When the remnant of the King’s German Legion finally had to relinquish control of the farmhouse in the early hours of the evening—Baring refused to throw away his men’s lives needlessly—Napoleon had no time to capitalize on his taking the farmhouse, for Wellington’s Prussian allies under the command of Field Marshall Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher (1742–1819) arrived and helped save the day. As Wellington said after the battle to a civilian who interviewed him, the battle was “the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life.” Indeed, without the 400 at La Haye Sainte there might have been no victory and subsequent European history would have been quite different with no century of peace to be shattered by World War I. On such relatively “small” events does the large wheel of history sometimes turn.

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.

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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.

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Coming September 2015: Owen on the Christian Life by Matthew Barrett & Michael A.G. Haykin

January 19th, 2015 Posted in 17th Century, Books, Church History, Eminent Christians

Coming in September 2015 from Crossway. By Matthew Barrett and Michael A.G. Haykin: Owen on the Christian Life.

Owen on the Christian Life

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Call for Papers for ETS Ontario/Quebec

January 17th, 2015 Posted in Conferences

Theme: Biblical Interpretation through the Centuries
Location: Tyndale University College & Seminary, Toronto ON
Date: March 21, 2015
Plenary Speaker: Dr. Stephen Westerholm (Professor, Religious Studies, McMaster University)

All full members of ETS and student members enrolled in Ph.D. programs are invited to submit paper proposals on this year’s theme. Quality papers on topics not directly related to the theme are also welcome.

All paper proposals should include a title and abstract (300 words), and the presenter’s name and institutional affiliation. Student proposals should include a letter of endorsement from a professor. Please submit paper proposals to David Robinson: david.robinson@westminsterchapel.ca.

An acceptable paper should be delivered in 25‐30 minutes, with 5‐10 minutes for discussion.

The submission deadline for proposals is 28 February 2015.

David Robinson
ETS Ontario/Quebec Program Chairman
david.robinson@westminsterchapel.ca
416-466-8819, ext.302

Downloadable Flyer (PDF)

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