Review: The Baptist Story

23492913The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement by Anthony L. Chute, Nathan A. Finn, and Michael A. G. Haykin is a landmark textbook on the history of the Baptist movement. Chute, Finn, and Haykin guide the reader through roughly four hundred years of Baptist history characterized by three key interrelated themes: “promoting liberty of conscience, following Christ’s will in our individual lives and churches, and proclaiming the gospel everywhere” (p. 344). Still, Chute, Finn, and Haykin are well aware that Baptists haven’t always lived up to these ideals, and to the benefit of the reader, the authors aren’t afraid of being transparent along the way.

The Baptist Story is divided into four major sections: (1) Baptists in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, (2) Baptists in the Nineteenth Century, (3) Baptists in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries, and (4) Baptist Beliefs. The majority of the book is devoted to the earlier years of the Baptist movement, namely the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, as these years are instrumental to the modern expression of the Baptist story. Chute, Finn, and Haykin do the reader a favor therein by integrating stories of non-English speaking Baptists, ethnic minorities, women, and minority theological traditions within the context of historic, orthodox Christianity.

One of the clearest strengths of The Baptist Story is its treatment of the African-American Baptist tradition. Chute, Finn, and Haykin rightly credit George Liele, a freed slave turned Baptist missionary, with being the pioneer of the Baptist missionary movement. Liele planted a church in Savannah, Georgia, prior to the close of the eighteenth century, before relocating to Jamaica as an indentured servant, where he formed a small congregation in 1783—a decade before the missionary work of William Carey in India. The story and impact of George Liele is both encouraging and inspirational, and Chute, Finn, and Haykin do well in making it a central treatment of the book.

There are a number of other strengths that could be mentioned, including the usefulness of the volume within the classroom setting, the clear and concise communication of each of the most significant events and themes within the Baptist movement, the intentional desire to uncover and unearth unfamiliar faces within the Baptist tradition, the utilization of photographs and textboxes throughout, and much more. However, the omission of several important figures and events proves to be an unfortunate weakness to an otherwise outstanding book. For example, while Chute, Finn, and Haykin rightly recognize R. Albert Mohler as a significant Baptist voice at the turn of the century, it would have been appropriate to say more than a few sentences about the controversy at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary when Mohler became president (p. 289). For some these omissions will be minor, but for others, the omissions of such significant events and figures may compromise the usefulness of the book. I stand with the former.

The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement by Anthony L. Chute, Nathan A. Finn, and Michael A. G. Haykin is an excellent and engaging journey through the historical landscape of one of today’s most influential religious groups. Chute, Finn, and Haykin are well-positioned tour guides for this journey, and the reader is certain to benefit greatly. If you are looking for a book that will educate and encourage your heart toward the mission of Christ, past, present, and future, then this book comes highly recommended.

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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