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THE JOURNAL OF BAPTIST STUDIES VOLUME 6 (2014)
The Journal of Baptist Studies California Baptist University 8432 Magnolia Avenue Riverside, CA 92504
THE JOURNAL OF BAPTIST STUDIES Editors: Anthony Chute and Matthew Y. Emerson Book Review Editor: John Gill Board of Editors: John Crowley, Nathan Finn, Michael Haykin, James Patterson, Mark Rogers, Earl Waggoner, Doug Weaver The Journal of Baptist Studies is an electronic, peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the study of Baptist history and thought. The journal is produced under the oversight of a Board of Editors representing numerous Baptist denominations and both religious and secular institutions. JBS does not advocate a particular theological or denominational agenda, but rather reflects the scholarship of individuals who identify with a number of positions and affiliations. The journal is available online for free and is independent of any institution. For submission policies and other information related to the Journal of Baptist Studies, please visit http://www.baptiststudiesonline.com. Please direct all correspondence related to the journal to Anthony Chute (firstname.lastname@example.org). Baptist Studies Online (BSO) is a website dedicated to the study of Baptist history and thought, with special emphasis on Baptists in North America. The purpose of BSO is to facilitate the scholarly study of Baptists by making available to researchers and students an online journal, a primary source library, a comprehensive collection of Baptist history-related links, and a periodically updated list of dissertation abstracts from SBC seminaries. BSO is a collaborative effort by Baptist scholars from a variety of traditions, with technical support provided by California Baptist University in Riverside, California.
THE JOURNAL OF BAPTIST STUDIES VOLUME 6 (2014) Editorial…………………………...…………………………………………1 Contributors…………………………………………………………….........4 Articles “Celebrate the Perfections of Our Common Standard”: Alexander Carson (1776–1844) and the Supremacy of Scripture By Ian Hugh Clary...…………………………………...……………………5 Origins of Free Will Baptists in Georgia By Daniel Williams...………………………………………………………31 John R. Rice, Bob Jones Jr., and the “Mechanical Dictation” Controversy: Finalizing the Fracturing of Independent Fundamentalism By Nathan A. Finn………………………………………………………….60 Book Reviews Bartlett, Robert. Why Can the Dead Do Such Great Things? Saints and Worshippers from the Martyrs to the Reformation, reviewed by Anthony Chute………………………………………………….……………………76 Allison, Gregg R. Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church, reviewed by Rick Durst ……………………….…………...……………....81 Oliphint, K. Scott. Covenental Apologetics: Principles & Practice in Defense of Our Faith, reviewed by Adam P. Groza……….……………….83 Lovell, Janet. All of Grace: Wattisham Baptist Church 1763–2013, reviewed by Michael A. G. Haykin ………..………………….……………………..86 Chute, Anthony L., Christopher W. Morgan, and Robert A. Peterson, eds. Why We Belong: Evangelical Unity and Denominational Diversity, reviewed by Oren Martin……………………………………………....……………..89
Butterfield, Rosaria Champaign. Secrets of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into the Christian Faith, reviewed by D. Jeffrey Mooney……………………………………………………………………..92 Grant, Keith S. Andrew Fuller and the Evangelical Renewal of Pastoral Theology, reviewed by Andrew J. Spencer……………………..………….95
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014)
FROM THE EDITORS By Anthony Chute The “Bebbington quadrilateral” has become a standard phrase in defining evangelicals ever since Baptist historian David Bebbington utilized conversionism, activism, biblicism, and crucicentrism as qualifiers for an otherwise disparate group of Protestants. To be sure, historians have raised questions about the comprehensive nature of such a definition, as noted in Michael Haykin and Kenneth Stewart’s edited volume The Advent of Evangelicalism (B&H Academic, 2008), while others have opted for a much simpler definition altogether: “An evangelical is someone who admires Billy Graham.” Careful scholarship and cute simplicity notwithstanding, the Bebbington quadrilateral has provided historians with a much-needed handle on which to get a grip on the people called evangelicals. One often wishes for such a descriptor of Baptists that could be employed to the satisfaction of a great majority of Baptist scholars. The standard elements seem simple enough. In addition to orthodox Christian beliefs (i.e., the Trinity, full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, the inspiration of the Bible, and justification by grace alone through faith alone), Baptist distinctives often include regenerate church membership, believer’s baptism, local church autonomy and freedom of religion. Yet, with every attempt to define Baptists accordingly there are questions about the nature of regeneration, the age of baptismal recipients, the need for interdependence and the limits of individual expression. Are there Baptist Ways, as Bill Leonard’s 2003 work suggested, or is there, as Stan Norman’s 2005 response asserted, a Baptist Way? One might as well try to settle the question of Baptist origins before attempting to finalize a definition of Baptist identity. This issue of the Journal of Baptist Studies reflects some of the diversity among Baptists by providing articles pertaining to an Irish Baptist’s defense of Scripture, Georgia Baptists distancing themselves from Calvinism, and a fundamentalist Baptist’s surprising disagreement with a fellow fundamentalist! Ian Clary begins with an examination of Alexander Carson’s understanding of the inspiration, perspicuity, and authority of the 1
Bible with a view towards confronting its Enlightenment critics. Clary helpfully articulates Carson’s defense regarding the internal consistency of Scripture in light of critical assumptions about inherent contradictions, and he brings to light Carson’s answers to those who claimed Scripture was defective due to rhetorical and stylistic blemishes. Readers may be particularly interested in Carson’s appeal to the sublimity of Scripture as an example of the unique character of the God who inspired the Bible. Daniel Williams takes us to another land and in a different direction altogether as he examines the Free Will Baptists of Georgia who managed to form their own associations and state convention despite their being marginalized by the majority of early nineteenth-century Georgia Baptists. These Free Will Baptists could hardly be more different from the likes of an Alexander Carson, with his academic erudition and Calvinistic convictions; however, their commitment to the authority of Scripture and the priesthood of believers led them back to the Bible in seeking answers related to the freedom of the will and the extent of the atonement. Williams tells the story well, noting both the presence and absence of certain Arminian tendencies as they developed in various Free Will associations. The article concludes with the founding of a statewide convention whose name, the Georgia State Convention of Liberal Baptists, illustrates their clear intention to disassociate themselves from the Georgia Baptist Convention, which at the time included a mixture of Calvinistic and non-Calvinistic Baptists. The subjects of Nathan Finn’s article – John R. Rice and Bob Jones Jr. – specialized in rejecting liberalism of the sort that Carson confronted, namely those who denied the inspiration of the Bible. Unlike Free Will Baptists who expressed unity in denominational form, Bob Jones Jr. remained suspicious of denominations out of fear that they tolerated those who embraced sin or false doctrine. Finn examines the final fracturing between these two men and their movements by astutely focusing on their disagreement over the nature of biblical inspiration. Accordingly, the separation between these two fundamentalists consisted of Rice’s perceived embrace of a mechanical dictation theory. Finn thus explains how Rice’s attempt to defend the Bible against its critics opened him up to criticism from those attempting to do the very same thing. The irony continues, as Rice was once a recipient of an honorary doctorate from Bob Jones University, partly due to his defense of biblical inspiration.
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014)
Our contributors are nearly as diverse as their articles. Clary and Williams are up and coming historians while Finn has already established a reputation of being one of the finest Southern Baptist professors in our time. Moreover, we believe these articles open new avenues of discussion for our readers as each author provides a unique angle on their subjects. Clary positions Carson in the context of bibliology although he is normally mentioned in regard to ecclesiology; Williams writes on Free Will Baptist as an insider, a welcome contribution from this rich but underserved tradition; and Finn sheds new light on separatism by uncovering personal correspondence between two fundamentalist titans. We also encourage our readers to take time to read the book review section. The reviews cover a wide variety of books, not necessarily Baptist in topic but all reviewed by Baptists in tone. Finally, we encourage you to send articles our way for consideration. Baptists may not agree on who they are or where they came from, but those differences are part of what makes the study of Baptist history so much fun and guarantees that there will be more stories to tell.
CONTRIBUTORS Ian Hugh Clary is a doctoral student in history at the University of the Free State (Blomfontein). He lives in Toronto, ON, with his wife and three children. He is the co-editor of The Pure Flame of Devotion: The History of Spirituality. Essays in Honor of Michael A. G. Haykin (Joshua Press, 2013). Daniel Williams is a doctoral student in American history at Auburn University. He earned his undergraduate degree in history from Mercer University (2007) and his Master of Divinity from Beeson Divinity School (Samford University, 2010). He served as interim pastor of the First Free Will Baptist Church of Eastman, Georgia, in 2011 and is currently involved in Lakeview Baptist Church of Auburn, Alabama. Nathan Finn is Associate Professor of Historical Theology and Baptist Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he has taught since 2006. He has edited several books, including a new edition of Robert Hallâ€™s Help to Zionâ€™s Travellers (BorderStone Press, 2011), and has contributed multiple essays to books and scholarly journals. He also serves as senior fellow of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014)
“CELEBRATE THE PERFECTIONS OF OUR COMMON STANDARD”: ALEXANDER CARSON (1776–1844) AND THE SUPREMACY OF SCRIPTURE By Ian Hugh Clary Introduction Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century evangelicals are known for their reverence of Scripture. In an influential definition, historian David Bebbington highlights a quadrilateral of conversionism, activism, biblicism, and crucicentrism that characterized the evangelical mood.1 The third characteristic, biblicism, was “the result of their belief that all spiritual truth is to be found in its [Scripture’s] pages.”2 Evangelicals believed almost uniformly that Scripture was the inspired Word of God and thus without error.3 However, due to the rise of biblical criticism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the divine origin of Scripture came into question.4 With a corresponding lack of confidence in the doctrine of inspiration came a number of orthodox defenses of Scripture from various quarters. Most notably was Swiss theologian Louis Gaussen’s (1790–1863) Theopneustia, or The Divine Inspiration of the Bible (Eng. trans. 1841). Gaussen built his arguments for the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible on Scottish theologian Robert Haldane’s (1764–1842) two-volume The Evidence and Authority of Divine Revelation, published
David Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992), 5–17; The Dominance of Evangelicalism: The Age of Spurgeon and Moody, A History of Evangelicalism 3 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2005), 23–40. 2 Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain, 12. 3 See Kenneth J. Stewart, “The Evangelical Doctrine of Scripture, 1650–1850: A Re-examination of David Bebbington’s Theory,” in Michael A. G. Haykin and Kenneth J. Stewart, eds., The Advent of Evangelicalism: Exploring Historical Continuities (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2008), 394–413; John D. Woodbridge, Biblical Authority: A Critique of the Rogers/McKim Proposal (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982). 4 See Gerald Bray, Biblical Interpretation: Past & Present (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1996), 221– 320, for a survey of historical criticism.
“Celebrate the Perfections of Our Common Standard” in 1816.5 While addressing the critics, both Gaussen and Haldane sought also to correct the perceived errors of fellow evangelical Philip Doddridge (1702–1751), who argued for varying levels of inspiration in Scripture.6 Gaussen, however, went further and responded to the views of British critical scholars John Dick (1764–1833),7 Daniel Wilson (1778–1858),8 and John Pye Smith (1774–1851) as well.9 Among the replies from British evangelicals to the arguments of historical criticism were those of Irish Baptist minister Alexander Carson (1776–1844), who wrote various works responding to denials or perceived weakening of the doctrine of inspiration.10 Like Gaussen, Carson critiqued the works of Dick, Wilson, and Pye Smith.11 He also addressed German critics who were making headway in Britain, such as Johann August Ernesti (1707–1781) and his English translator, Charles Hughes Terrot (1790–1872); Christoph Friedrich von Ammon (1766– 1849); and an American, Moses Stuart (1780–1852).12 As James Leo Garrett explains, in
Robert Haldane, The Evidence and Authority of Divine Revelation (Edinburgh: W. Whyte, 1816). For more on Haldane, see George McGuinness, “Robert (1764–1842) and James Haldane (1768–1851),” in Michael A. G. Haykin, ed., The British Particular Baptists 1638–1910 (Springfield, MO: Particular Baptist Press, 2000), 2:219– 236. 6 Philip Doddridge, A Dissertation on the Inspiration of the New Testament in Miscellaneous Works (London: T. Longman, 1793). Doddridge argued for three degrees of inspiration: superintendence, elevation, and suggestion; see Stewart, “Evangelical Doctrine of Scripture,” 402. 7 John R. McIntosh, “Dick, John (1764–1833),” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: University Press, 2004), online ed., ed. Lawrence Goldman, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/7594 (accessed February 23, 2011). 8 Andrew Porter, “Wilson, Daniel (1778–1858),” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: University Press, 2004), online ed., ed. Lawrence Goldman, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/29646 (accessed February 23, 2011). 9 R. Tudur Jones, “Smith, John Pye (1774–1851),” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: University Press, 2004), online ed., ed. Lawrence Goldman, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/25862 (accessed February 23, 2011). 10 For more on Carson, see Ian Hugh Clary, “Alexander Carson (1776–1844): Jonathan Edwards of the Nineteenth Century,” in American Theological Inquiry 2/2 (2009): 43–52; Robert Briggs, “Alexander Carson (1776–1844),” in The British Particular Baptists 1638–1910, ed. Michael A. G. Haykin (Springfield, MO: Particular Baptist Press, 2003), 3:151–16; John Douglas, Biographical Sketch of the Late Dr. Alexander Carson (London: Elliot Stock, 1884). A complete list of works is available at Edward C. Starr, ed., A Baptist Bibliography (Chester, PA: American Baptist Historical Society, 1954), 4:74–81. 11 Alexander Carson, “Theories of Inspiration by Dr. Pye Smith, Dr. Dick, and Bishop Wilson, examined and refuted, and the verbal Inspiration of the Scriptures proved,” in Works (Dublin: William Carson, 1854), 3:91– 260. 12 Alexander Carson, “Examination of the Principles of Biblical Interpretation of Ernesti, Ammon, Stuart,
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) Carson’s works on Scripture he “defended the plenary-verbal view of inspiration” against detractors.13 The purpose of this essay is to set Carson in his historical context and examine his bibliology. It will begin with a general survey of Carson’s life and his teaching on Scripture found in his Works. The purpose will be to determine Carson’s philosophical and theological perspective. Then a more detailed evaluation of Carson’s The Style of Scripture as Evidential of Its Inspiration will follow, tracing the argument of the text to determine how it fits into his overall theology of the Bible. Life and Thought Alexander Carson was born in Annahone, near Stewartstown, in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, in 1776. His family were devout Presbyterians who taught their young son from the Westminster Standards. Educated at a classical school in Tullyhogue, where he learned Greek and Latin, Carson attended Glasgow University, obtaining both undergraduate and graduate degrees with honors. At Glasgow, Carson trained in Greek under John Young (1746/7–1820), the chair of the Greek department and a notably well-liked professor.14 It is recorded by John Douglas, one of Carson’s biographers, that the young scholar would so exhaust himself in the study of linguistics that he would hire other students to test him when he was too tired to get out
and Other Philologists,” in Works, 5:223–426. 13 James Leo Garrett Jr., Baptist Theology: A Four-Century Study (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2009), 201–2. 14 T. W. Bayne, “Young, John (1746/7–1820),” rev. Campbell F. Lloyd, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: University Press, 2004), online ed., ed. Lawrence Goldman, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/30269 (accessed February 23, 2011). That Young was a continued influence on Carson is seen in the following: “With respect to grammar, none who have had the advantage of hearing the profoundly philosophical lectures on the Greek language, and general grammar, delivered by Professor Young in the University of Glasgow, will be surprised at this doctrine. The unrivalled talents for critical analysis possessed by that gentleman enable him to unveil the whole mysteries of language.” Alexander Carson, “A Treatise on the figures of Speech” in Works, 5:436.
“Celebrate the Perfections of Our Common Standard” of bed.15 Douglas adds that fellow students at Glasgow “often exclaimed, ‘Carson is mad; he is always conning over Greek roots.’”16 In 1840 Carson was awarded an LL.D. from the Restorationist Bacon College in Kentucky, and Moore surmises that if he remained a Presbyterian, Carson may have taught ethics at the Royal College of Belfast.17 On December 11, 1798, now a university graduate, Carson took a ministerial charge in the Presbyterian church in Tobermore (or Tubbermore), County Londonderry, a member of Tyrone Presbytery. He remained a Presbyterian until 1804, when he underwent an ecclesiological change due to the rise of Arianism within the denomination.18 This change brought him to congregationalist convictions.19 After seceding from the church, Carson and the members who followed him held worship services in public halls, barns, and the open air; a meetinghouse was erected in 1814. While Carson’s view of church government changed to a congregationalist model, for a short time he maintained his commitment to infant baptism. However, in 1807, Baptist missionaries commissioned by the Haldanes in Scotland convinced Carson to change his view of that sacrament. Carson was a prolific writer, whose Works fill six volumes, not including his Baptism in Its Mode and Subjects, a book that remains in print.20 His writings were occasional and apologetic in nature, engaging in the controversies that swirled about him.21 Understandably,
Douglas, Biographical Sketch, 5. Ibid., 4. 17 Moore, “Memoir,” xxv. 18 For an account of Arianism and Irish Presbyterianism, see Henry (?) Leebody, “Henry Cooke, D.D., and Arianism in the Irish Church,” The Presbyterian Quarterly and Princeton Review 1/2 (April 1872): 205–31. 19 Carson details these changes in “Reasons for Separating from the General Synod of Ulster,” in Works, 4:xi–125. 20 As well, short tracts were published by Carson for the Baptist Tract Society, listed in Geoffrey B. Reed, Particular Baptists in Victorian England (Didcot, UK: Baptist Historical Society, 2003), 214–15; for an extensive list of Carson’s works, see Starr, Baptist Bibliography, 4:74–81. 21 According to David Kingdon, this accounts for Carson’s relative obscurity; see David Kingdon, “The Theology of Alexander Carson,” Irish Baptist Historical Society 2 (1969–1970): 51–61. 16
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) Carson continued to interact with the Arianism in the Presbyterian church,22 and on a related subject he responded to the unitarianism of Irish poet William Hamilton Drummond (1778– 1865), a biographer of Michael Servetus who wrote the critical work The Doctrine of the Trinity (1827).23 He also addressed the Unitarian controversy in Ireland that involved John Scott Porter (1801–1880), one of the leading proponents of Arianism in Ulster Synod, and Daniel Bagot (1805–1892), who later became Dean of Dromore.24 Carson was critical also of fellow evangelicals, notably Church of Scotland minister John Brown (1778–1848) over the latter’s Vindication of the Presbyterian Form of Church Government (1805), as well as of paedobaptist brethren in Baptism.25 Although Carson involved himself with academic affairs, whether on the doctrine of God,26 hermeneutics27 or missions,28 his works were done as a self-conscious minister of the gospel. As he wrote, he pastored the Baptist church in Tobermore, where he remained until his death. Carson used this church as a center to plant two others, one in nearby Carndaisy and another in Draperstown. The occasion of his death was in the service of the gospel. In 1844 22
Ibid. R. K. Webb, “Drummond, William Hamilton (1778–1865),” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: University Press, 2004), online ed., ed. Lawrence Goldman, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/8090 (accessed February 23, 2011). See William Hamilton Drummond, The doctrine of the Trinity neither founded on scripture, nor on reason and common sense, but on tradition and the infallible church, 3rd ed. (London: R. Hunter, 1831); Alexander Carson, “Reply to the Rev. Dr. Drummond’s Essay on the Doctrine of the Trinity, in a letter to the Author,” in Works, 2:189–396. 24 Alexander Carson, “Review of the Discussion on the Unitarian Controversy, between the Rev. John Scott Porter, and the Rev. D. Bagot, M.A., held in Belfast, on April 14, 1834, and three following days,” in Works, 2:397– 456. Cf. R. G. Crawford, “Is the Doctrine of the Trinity Scriptural?” Scottish Journal of Theology 20/3 (1967): 282– 94. 25 John Brown, Vindication of the Presbyterian Form of Church Government As Professed in the Standards of the Church of Scotland (Edinburgh: H. Inglis, 1805); Alexander Carson, “A Reply to Mr. Brown’s Vindication of the Presbyterian Form of Church Government, in which the order of the Apostolical Churches is defined,” in Works, 4:127–565, first published in 1807. For Brown see W. G. Blaikie, “Brown, John (1778–1848),” rev. Rosemary Mitchell, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: University Press, 2004), online ed., ed. Lawrence Goldman, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/3626 (accessed February 24, 2011). 26 Alexander Carson, “The Knowledge of Jesus the most Excellent of the Sciences,” in Works, 5:1–222. 27 Carson, “Examination of the Principles of Biblical Interpretation”; “Treatise on the figures of Speech.” 28 Alexander Carson, “The Mahometan Fast of Rhamazan,” in Works, 1:422–24; “The Propagation of the Gospel, with Encouragement to the Vigorous Prosecution of the Work,” in Works, 1:425–54. 23
“Celebrate the Perfections of Our Common Standard” Carson traveled to England to do a round of speaking engagements on behalf of the Baptist Missionary Society. On his return to Ireland, he fell off a dock in Liverpool into frigid waters and dislocated his shoulder. Against doctor’s orders, he traveled across the Irish Sea to Belfast and died in the home of Robert Wilson on August 24. Carson gave his life for gospel ministry, and thus it is important for us to evaluate his writings from an academic and pastoral perspective. When it comes to locating Carson in the flow of western thought, it is appropriate to see him as a theologian in the Reformed tradition and an evangelical thinker engaged with the Enlightenment program of his time; the latter refers to the expression of the Enlightenment in the Anglo world, although Carson interacted with its Continental forms.29 Taking for granted that eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Protestantism stood in continuity with Reformed orthodoxy of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, we can see Carson inheriting the theology of the Reformation.30 As a Protestant, Carson was committed to the Reformed teaching on the authority of Scripture. He was a Calvinist who emphasized the depravity of the human race, unconditional nature of God’s grace, and particular scope of Christ’s atonement.31 Of this, Carson says: “No conditions on the part of the sinner can exist in a free salvation. It is of faith that it might be by grace. The pride of man is humbled in the doctrine of the cross. The virtuous sage is able to offer to God, for his salvation, nothing more than the abandoned profligate. If they believe the Gospel, they both alike are changed by its power: they 29
See Gertrude Himmelfarb, The Roads to Modernity: The British, French, and American Enlightenments (New York: Vintage Books, 2004), for the varieties of Enlightenment expression. For the impact of this period on the church, see Alec R. Vidler, The Church in an Age of Revolution: 1789 to the Present Day, Penguin History of the Church 5 (London: Penguin Books, 1990); Meic Pearse, The Age of Reason: From the Wars of Religion to the French Revolution 1570–1789, Baker History of the Church 5 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006); and W. Andrew Hoffecker, “Enlightenments and Awakenings: The Beginning of Modern Culture Wars,” in W. Andrew Hoffecker, ed., Revolutions in Worldview: Understanding the Flow of Western Thought (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2007), 240–80. 30 On continuity see John Coffey, “Puritanism, Evangelicalism and the Evangelical Protestant Tradition,” in Michael A. G. Haykin and Kenneth J. Stewart, eds., The Advent of Evangelicalism: Exploring Historical Continuities (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2008), 252–77. What is curious about Carson is that, while his theology is Reformed, he makes little use of Reformed sources and quotes very little, if at all, from any of the Reformers. When he does quote them—Martin Luther in Biblical Interpretation, for instance—it is often critically. 31 Kingdon, “Theology of Alexander Carson,” 54.
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) repent, are born again, and perform good works.”32 H. Henry Meeter says that Calvinism’s fundamental principle is the “absolute sovereignty of God.”33 This principle is fundamental to Carson’s theology, as expressed in The Knowledge of Jesus the Most Excellent of the Sciences: “The Book of God is everywhere stamped with the seal of sovereignty.”34 And later, “The sovereignty of God is most illustriously displayed in the Gospel. It meets us at the very threshold, in the fact that Christ interposed for man.”35 The entirety of volume 6 of his Works contains three treatises on the doctrine of providence written from the perspective that God is in sovereign control of the events of human history.36 Carson wrote a number of miscellaneous treatises on the atonement, including the clearly Calvinistic The Doctrine of the Atonement, set forth in an Address to the Public. In its thesis statement Carson explains the universal scope of sin: “The whole human race are guilty, and on that account, exposed to the wrath of God.” The remedy for the sinful condition of humanity is faith in Christ’s atoning sacrifice: “There is no acceptance with God for any of this race, but through the atonement. . . . There is no way of being interested in this atonement but by faith.”37 Carson eschews merit, works, or law-keeping as the means whereby a sinner is saved, rather, “the apostles declare salvation to be purely of grace, the free gift of God through Jesus Christ.”38 As a Protestant in Catholic Ireland, Carson was involved in a number of debates over Roman Catholicism. He wrote on the right for Christians to read the Scriptures for themselves
Alexander Carson, Works (New York: Hanna & Carson, 1852), 1:198. This is the only citation in this essay of the American edition of his Works; all other references are to the British. 33 H. Henry Meeter, The Basic Ideas of Calvinism, 5th ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975), 33. 34 Alexander Carson, “The Knowledge of Jesus the Most Excellent of the Sciences,” in Works, 5:144. 35 Ibid., 5:145–46. 36 Alexander Carson, “The God of Providence and the God of the Bible,” in Works, 6:17–72; “History of Providence as Unfolded in the Book of Esther,” in Works, 6:73–156; “History of Providence as Manifested in Scripture,” in Works, 6:157–445. 37 Alexander Carson, “The Doctrine of the Atonement,” in Works, 1:8. 38 Alexander Carson, “The Scheme of Salvation by Law and Grace Irreconcilable With Itself,” in Works, 1:418.
“Celebrate the Perfections of Our Common Standard” and against the doctrine of transubstantiation.39 He also addressed a letter to James Warren Doyle (1786–1834), Roman Catholic bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, about a recorded miracle that took place in Ireland.40 This is the same Doyle whom Robert Briggs claims was converted to Protestantism by Carson, although Doyle’s entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography makes no mention of this.41 Of the influence of the surrounding intellectual culture on evangelicalism, Michael A. G. Haykin says, “There seems little doubt that eighteenth-century evangelicalism shared a goodly number of its culture’s assumptions and that this cross-fertilization enabled evangelicals to communicate tellingly to their contemporaries.”42 Bebbington notes that the “specific inheritance” of Enlightenment philosophy for evangelicals was Scottish Common Sense Realism.43 Consciously or not, Carson used the categories of Common Sense in his writing, and specifically in defense of Scripture. Associated with Thomas Reid (1710–1796), Common Sense philosophy reacted against the skepticism of David Hume (1711–1776). Instead of denying mind-independent reality, as Hume did, Reid appealed to the “common sense” of rational humans to prove reality’s existence and knowability. Reid defines “common sense” as those “self-evident principles” of human reason taken for granted by everyone. Reid argued that “two offices” are to be ascribed to reason: 39
Alexander Carson, “The right and duty of all men to read the Scriptures,” in Works, 2:1–46; “The doctrine of Transubstantiation,” in Works, 2:47–128. 40 Alexander Carson, “Remarks on the late Miracle, in a letter addressed to the Rev. Dr. Doyle, Titular Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin,” in Works, 2:129–50. 41 Robert Briggs, “Alexander Carson (1776–1844),” in Michael A. G. Haykin, ed., The British Particular Baptists 1638–1910 (Springfield, MO: Particular Baptist Press, 2003), 3:167; Thomas McGrath, “Doyle, James Warren (1786–1834),” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: University Press, 2004), online ed., ed. Lawrence Goldman, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/8000 (accessed February 25, 2011). Briggs qualifies the story by saying, “It is recorded and believed” that, as a result of a letter Carson wrote, Doyle was converted and nobody attended the primate’s funeral because he was no longer Roman Catholic. The ODNB says that Doyle was “buried before the altar of Carlow Cathedral.” 42 Michael A. G. Haykin, “Evangelicalism and the Enlightenment” in Michael A. G. Haykin and Kenneth J. Stewart, eds., The Advent of Evangelicalism: Exploring Historical Continuities (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2008), 59–60. 43 Bebbington, Dominance of Evangelicalism, 123.
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) self-evident principles themselves and conclusions based upon self-evident principles.44 Carson summarizes Common Sense well: Some of our greatest philosophers have renounced the empire of common sense, and commenced their career with universal scepticism. Even their own existence, and the existence of the world, cannot be taken for granted. These truths must be proved by reason, or they must want a foundation. But they have laboured in vain. After all the exertions of the greatest human faculties, it cannot be proved even that there is a world, unless implicit credence is given to the testimony of the senses. Not only do men in general, but even philosophers themselves, continue to believe in their own existence, and in the existence of the world, not from the arguments alleged by Des Cartes [sic], Malebranche, Arnauld, and Locke, but from the testimony of consciousness and the senses.45 In Remarks on the Standard of Divine Truth, Carson critiques contemporary philosophy by appealing to Reid, who effected what he calls a “revolution” in the philosophy of mind by wresting the world from the “united grasp of all the wise men of the world” (i.e., Isaac Newton, George Berkeley, and Hume).46 Reid, according to Carson, settled the standard of truth, vindicated the authority of sense-perception, and rejected the “figments of philosophers.” He did so by determining the faculties of the mind, and in the process “has done more to ascertain principles of the human constitution, than all the philosophers who preceded him.”47 Carson regularly appeals to the Common Sense language of “self-evident truth” or “axioms” in his writings. The phrase “self-evident” appears eighteen times in Knowledge of Jesus the Most Excellent of Sciences. For instance: “It appears self-evident, that the wisdom that conceived all existing relations, knows innumerable other relations, and that it extends to every
Cf. Thomas Reid, Essays on the Powers of the Human Mind (Edinburgh: Bell and Bradfute, 1819), 233– 34. Cf. Frederick Copleston, S. J., A History of Philosophy Volume V: Modern Philosophy: The British Philosophers from Hobbes to Hume (New York: Image Books, 1994), 367. 45 Alexander Carson, “Faith the Foundation of the Greater Part of Human Knowledge,” in Works, 1:401. 46 Alexander Carson, “Remarks on the Standard of Divine Truth,” in Works, 1:398. 47 Ibid., 1:398–99.
“Celebrate the Perfections of Our Common Standard” object of knowledge, whether actual or possible.”48 Or, “It is self-evident that the power that is displayed in existing objects, could display itself on other objects with infinite variety.”49 For Carson, the appeal to common sense is a presupposition that lies at the foundation of all human reasoning. “Doctor Reid,” says Carson, “irresistibly proves that the greater part of the knowledge, even of the philosopher, rests upon foundations of which no account can be given. Many things we believe, not because our reasoning faculty perceives the evidence, but because, by the principles of our constitution, we are irresistibly determined to believe.”50 While Common Sense philosophy was a means of critiquing skepticism, Bebbington explains that it was also a “preservative against German rationalism.”51 In this sense, Carson adopted the language of the Scottish philosophers in his repudiation of the “neologism” of German historical criticism. Harriet A. Harris cites Carson as an example of how evangelicals used Common Sense to defend the perspicuity of Scripture.52 Harris quotes from Carson’s introductory remarks in Principles of Biblical Interpretation, a critique of Ernesti: “He [Reid] has shown the danger of admitting, as the foundation of reasoning, any principle that is not selfevident, and the equal danger of endeavouring to prove by reasoning that which is self-evident in itself. Of all human studies the interpretation of the Scriptures is the most important, yet of all subjects this has afforded the greatest and most numerous discrepancies. . . . It is a self-evident truth, that if the Scriptures are the Word of God, their phraseology cannot give just ground for this extravagance.”53
Carson, “Knowledge of Jesus,” in Works, 5:32. Ibid., 5:34; cf. 5:37, 49, 50, 57, 132, 164, 177, 178, 196, 209, 216, 221, 222, 227, 231, 247. 50 Carson, “Faith the Foundation,” in Works, 1:402. 51 Bebbington, Dominance of Evangelicalism, 123. 52 Harriet A. Harris, Fundamentalism and Evangelicals (Oxford: University Press, 2008), 100. 53 Harris, Fundamentalism, 100; Carson, “Principles of Interpretation,” in Works, 5:223–24. 49
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) There is an historical connection between Carson and Reid―“the first name in moral science.”54 The latter taught moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow from 1764–1780, immediately before Carson entered as an undergraduate. Carson also shows familiarity with Common Sense Realism in his use of George Campbell (1719–1796), another of the Scottish philosophers, who taught divinity at Marischal College, Aberdeen, in 1771. Campbell was a member of the Aberdeen Philosophical Society, the so-called Wise Club, with Reid.55 It should not be thought, however, that Carson followed Reid uncritically. He made good use of philosophy when it served the purposes of theology, but if there were instances when the principles of a system of thought, no matter how useful, contravened revelation, Carson was happy to do away with them. Carson is scathing of the theologian who “loves to strut in the philosopher’s steps, and to ape his sentiments and language.” The theologian who “struts” is one who subjects “the contents of the Word of God to the control and determinations of reason.”56 The philosophy of man cannot be mingled with the thought of God; the two are “at variance,” even the philosophy of Reid. On the subject of human worth, Carson believed that Reid held to too high a view of moral ability, evidence that Reid’s thought fell short. Carson asks, “In what view could a philosopher consistently say, that any wise and virtuous man is sold under sin? According to their system, in what view can this be true of the apostle, either now as one of the most eminent servants of God, or formerly, as one of the most virtuous, sincere, and religious men?” The appeal to Reid on this point is significant, because Carson sees him 54
Carson, “Faith the Foundation,” in Works, 1:402. In The Knowledge of Jesus the Most Excellent of Sciences, Carson claims that Reid was a “philosopher who could fathom any philosophical argument.” Carson, “Knowledge of Jesus,” in Works, 5:14. 55 Jeffrey M. Suderman, “Campbell, George (1719–1796),” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: University Press, 2004), online ed., ed. Lawrence Goldman, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/4497 (accessed March 1, 2011). 56 Carson, “Faith the Foundation,” in Works, 1:401. On a number of occasions Carson speaks of the theologian “strutting in the garb of philosophy.” Cf. Carson, “Principles of Biblical Interpretation,” 5:326.
“Celebrate the Perfections of Our Common Standard” as the pinnacle of sound philosophy. Even at such heights, human reason offers a deficient account of reality; revelation is indispensable. Carson shares his opinion on Reid’s shortcomings: Though there is no eminent philosopher with whom I am acquainted who spoke so modestly of the pretensions of human virtue as Doctor Reid; though he can preserve his gravity and his temper in reasoning through hundreds of pages against all the madness and extravagance of those philosophers who denied the creation of the world; yet when he comes to speak of those who deprived men of all pretensions to merit, his venerable old face kindles into a blaze; yet this venerable philosopher, instead of considering himself at variance with the apostles, is even solicitous to introduce an observation in favour of Christianity. Like most no other philosopher he speaks frequently of Jesus and the apostles, and he never speaks of them or the Scriptures but with the utmost reverence. He frequently adopts the Scripture phraseology, supports his reasoning sometimes by Scripture authority, and quotes large portions from the Scriptures. After all, agreeably to this philosopher’s views, how could the apostle say, “That which I do, I allow not; for what I would that do I not; but what I hate that do I.” Could Dr. Reid have adopted this language to confess his sentiments of himself? How much less could he have adopted the still more humbling language, “For I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not,” &c? Surely, then, our wise men are at variance with the Scriptures.57 Speaking not just of Reid, but Hume, Albrecht von Haller (1708–1777), Adam Smith (bap. 1723–1790), and Francis Hutchison (1694–1746), whom he also references in this section (as well as the “authors of every philosophical system of the human mind that has obtained any name in the world”), Carson says, “It behooves them, instead of exerting themselves to prove Christianity, to overturn its authority before they attempt to establish their own systems. . . . Either the doctrine of the Apostles or the systems of the philosophers must fall.”58 It should be remembered that in an era that gave rise to the natural theology of Joseph Butler (1692–1752) and William Paley (1743–1805) and met the Baconian desire for evidencebased argumentation, Carson regularly used evidential language.59 He preferred empirical
Carson, “Doctrine of the Atonement,” in Works, 1:34–35. Ibid., 1:34. 59 Richard Muller points out rightly that the use of evidence to establish the divinity of Scripture was 58
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) arguments for the existence of God rather than “metaphysical” ones. In a discussion on how the existence of God is proved by his works—meaning the created order—Carson says that metaphysical arguments are lacking: “If the metaphysical argument for the existence of Deity is too fine to be visible to philosophers such as Dr. Reid and Dr. [Thomas] Brown,60 it is certainly not to be trusted by plain Christians.”61 Thus, in light of his theological and philosophical background, some general remarks about his overall doctrine of Scripture are in order. Carson’s Doctrine of Scripture After Baptism In Its Mode and Subjects, Carson’s works on Scripture are his most influential, as Thomas Chalmers’s (1780=1847) use of them as a text in his courses on theology at New College, Edinburgh, show.62 Although evangelical defenders of Scripture were thankful for Carson’s contributions to critical scholarship, his writings also received harsh criticism. For accolades, publications like the Theological and Literary Journal, edited by American evangelical David Nevins Lord (1792–1880), wrote in its review of Carson’s work on Wilson, Dick, and Pye Smith that his arguments were “sustained by a copiousness of reasons and force of logic, that few writers are capable of displaying,” and “We wish this volume may be widely circulated.”63 In a review of the same book, the Belfast journal The Orthodox Presbyterian said
common during the period of high orthodoxy due to the rise of rationalism; Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 2: Holy Scripture: The Cognitive Foundation of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 128. 60 J. C. Stewart-Robertson, “Brown, Thomas (1778–1820),” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: University Press, 2004), online ed., ed. Lawrence Goldman, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/3655 (accessed March 2, 2011). 61 Carson, “Knowledge of Jesus,” in Works, 5:16. 62 Henry Clay Fish, History and Repository of Pulpit Eloquence (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1856), 593. For Chalmers see Stewart J. Brown, “Chalmers, Thomas (1780–1847),” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: University Press, 2004), online ed., ed. Lawrence Goldman, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/5033 (accessed March 2, 2011). 63 The Theological and Literary Journal 5 (January 1853): 524.
“Celebrate the Perfections of Our Common Standard” that Carson would “be an honour to any country” and likened his defense of Scripture to that of Luther and justification by faith.64 However, others were not so kind. The Methodist Quarterly Review, the organ of the Methodist Episcopal Church, in an article on Pye Smith wrote this of Carson: “The following year, however, the whole controversy was reopened, in another form, by Dr. Alexander Carson, who attacked Dr. Smith in a style which, for truculence and atrocity, has, perhaps, never been exceeded even under the inspiration of the odium theologicum.”65 The Christian Guardian, a Church of England periodical, claimed that Carson treated Wilson “absurdly and extravagantly.”66 Such opinions, whether positive or negative, can be accounted for by the heat of controversy. Due to the defensive nature of Carson’s writings, a full-orbed doctrine of Scripture requires careful research and interpretation. By sifting through his works it is possible to determine a general understanding of how he viewed the inspiration, perspicuity, and authority of the Bible. What follows are highlights of some key parts of Carson’s bibliology. What is most important to see in Carson’s theology of the Bible is that Scripture is supreme when compared to the uninspired writings of human beings; this will become evident in the section on The Style of Scripture, below. In “On Human Certificates of the Excellency of the Scriptures,” Carson derides “Christians [who] have discovered a great propensity to sanction the wisdom of God by the wisdom of men.”67 The Scriptures do not require the “patronage of the world” in order to establish their authority, and Christians who seek the world’s sanction of Scripture are “carnal.”68 Carson has in view the Anecdotes: Religious, Moral and Entertaining of
The Orthodox Presbyterian 14/2 (November 1830): 68. “The Life and Writings of Dr. John Pye Smith,” The Methodist Quarterly Review (July 1855): 396. 66 “Review—The Canon and Inspiration of Scripture,” The Christian Guardian (January 1832): 32. This, and the previous article, is critical of other defenders of inspiration as well, such as Robert Haldane. 67 Carson, “On Human Certificates of the Excellency of the Scriptures,” in Works, 1:386. 68 Ibid. 65
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) Charles Buck (1771–1815), first published in 1799.69 Human depravity is the reason, according to Carson, that Christians should not worry about mere human opinion concerning the character of Scripture: “The nobility of its doctrines, instead of being an inducement to wise men to study the Scriptures, is the very thing that prevents them from looking into the Bible, and would prevent them, had it all the elegance required by the rules of all critics from Longinus to Doctor Blair.”70 He then goes through a list of statements about Scripture from Elizabeth I, Newton, John Locke, and others and demonstrates the relative unworthiness of their opinions given the negative character of their own life or thought. He concludes by saying, “I would rather hear the poorest, weakest, and most illiterate Christians adduced as vouchers for the excellencies of Scriptures, than all the enlightened philosophers and statesmen in the world. They, and they alone, are the practical proof of the excellency of Scriptures.”71 A proof of Scripture’s supremacy is its internal consistency. In chapter 7 of his review of Ernesti’s work, Carson provides a discussion of why “Scripture cannot contradict itself.” In it he appeals to the principle of analogia fidei, discussed in an earlier chapter, as support. Carson links the internal consistency of Scripture to its inspiration: “The canon that asserts that Scripture cannot contradict itself necessarily results from the admission of its inspiration.”72 He continues this theme, saying, “To admit that the Scriptures are the Word of God, and to allege that one passage contradicts another, is to make God a liar, in the most offensive manner.”73 The rest of the chapter gives examples taken from critical scholarship of supposed contradictions and offers ways of harmonization so that the principle of consistency can be upheld.
Charles Buck, Anecdotes: Religious, Moral, and Entertaining, 9th ed. (New York: Dayton and Saxton,
Carson, “Human Certificates,” 1:387. Ibid., 391. 72 Carson, “Principles of Biblical Interpretation,” 5:318. 73 Ibid. 71
“Celebrate the Perfections of Our Common Standard” One way to address apparent contradictions in a text is to appeal to copy error. While the original manuscripts of the Bible are inerrant, those errors that we come across can be accounted for by notation mistakes made by copyists in the history of a textual tradition. Such mistakes do not require us to impugn the original. In church history the appeal to copy errors has a strong pedigree that goes back at least to Augustine.74 Right historical perspective is another argument that Carson uses to defend Scripture’s consistency. There are apparent discrepancies in parallel recordings of the same event in Scripture. This can be accounted for by noting the purpose of the author of a recorded event, and how that purpose would influence the telling of it. Certain details would be omitted from one account that might be found in another without doing violence to the historical event. “In recording the same event,” says Carson, “one historian may relate what is totally omitted by another.” Likewise, “In relating the same fact, one may notice circumstances unnoticed by the other, without any contradiction, or even the slightest imputation of error.”75 A final example of how Carson answers the challenge of biblical contradiction is the principle that a clearer text interprets a vaguer one. Here he refers to the critical challenge that Colossians 1:15—which speaks of Christ as firstborn—contradicts John 1:1, which says he is eternally preexistent. For Carson, Colossians must be interpreted in light of John, which forces the exegete to delve into the meaning of “firstborn” in a way that challenges his presuppositions of its meaning. In this case, “firstborn” is not in reference to the chronology of Jesus’s birth (or the question of whether he was once not born); rather, it refers to inheritance—as firstborn, Jesus is the heir of all creation. This reading, says Carson, fits with the context of the rest of Colossians.
See Woodbridge, Biblical Authority, 171. Carson, “Principles of Biblical Interpretation,” 5:319.
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) The remainder of the chapter concerns other principles of harmonizing contradictions: the need to view texts in a different light, the semantic range of words, the clearing up of unrelated facts, the use of phenomenological language and round numbers, and what he calls the “implication of existence” (the existence of one fact implies the existence of another). Carson’s concern in the debates over Scripture is to affirm that, as the Word of God, the Bible is inspired. What is curious is that his writings on this subject are defensive and have little positive treatment of the doctrine itself. In the third volume of his Works, which the editors titled “The Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures,” each treatise is written in response to a challenge. Carson critiques the theories of inspiration upheld by Dick, Wilson, and Pye Smith in this volume. Although not listed in the contents, Carson also reviews Friedrich Schleiermacher’s (1768–1834) work on the Gospel of Luke and the issues of source criticism.76 There is a critique of a former student of Haldane, Ebenezer Henderson (1784–1858), whose Divine Inspiration misused, according to Carson, 2 Timothy 3:16.77 As well, there is a response to a review of Carson’s work on inspiration in The Christian Guardian, and another review of Pye Smith’s defense of Strasbourg professor Isaac Haffner’s preface to an 1819 Bible edition.78 In all of this, not one treatise offers a purely dogmatic treatment of Scripture, only an apologetic one. It may be that Carson regarded Haldane’s work on inspiration as sufficient, so that his own task was to clarify what had already been said.
Alexander Carson, “Strictures on Some Parts of the Remarks of the Eclectic Review . . . on Dr. Schleiermacher’s Critical Essay on the Gospel of Luke,” in Works, 3:157–68. 77 Alexander Carson, “Refutation of Dr. Henderson’s Doctrine in his late work on Divine Inspiration, with a critical discussion on 2 Tim. Iii.16,” in Works, 3:261–402; Ebenezer Henderson, Divine Inspiration, or The Supernatural Influence Exerted in the Communication of Divine Truth (London: Jackson and Walford, 1836). 78 Alexander Carson, “Refutation of a Review in the Christian Guardian,” in Works, 3:403–28; “Review of Dr. Pye Smith’s Defense of Dr. Haffner’s Preface to the Bible,” in Works, 3:429–69. Details of the controversy that surrounded Pye Smith and the preface can be found in John Medway, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of John Pye Smith (London: Jackson and Walford, 1853), 288–311, where Medway offers extensive criticism of Carson.
“Celebrate the Perfections of Our Common Standard” However, one can determine Carson’s doctrine of inspiration by collating his positive statements about it. For instance, in writing on Henderson’s use of 2 Timothy 3:16, Carson distinguishes between apologetic discussions of authenticity with an “infidel” and general theological affirmations of inspiration. He says that authenticity cannot be proven by appeal to “Scripture assertion,” while inspiration “is to be settled solely by Scripture.”79 In light of what he says of empirically-based apologetics, it is not surprising that he argues against proving Scriptural authenticity from Scripture. In terms of the doctrine of inspiration in 2 Timothy 3:16, Carson chides Henderson for taking the word γραφή to refer only to Old Testament writings. Henderson argued, according to Carson, that because the word is singular, it can refer only to that collected body of writing that Timothy learned at the feet of his mother. In response, Carson makes much of the word being anarthrous, suggesting that it can have a general and open meaning that would include anything deemed inspired, in particular the New Testament.80 Carson couples his argument with a reference to 2 Peter 3:16, where the apostle calls Paul’s writings “Scripture.” Carson concludes by saying, “The phrase all Scripture, includes not only the Old Testament, with all the writings of the New in existence, but all that were afterwards written.”81 The word γραφή can refer to any passage of Scripture that is inspired, not just to a larger, preexistent collection. In this treatise, Carson addresses also the question of how the Holy Spirit influenced the biblical writers when he inspired Scripture. Taking a negative stance, he calls this subject a “question beyond the regions of human inquiry.”82 Further, he says, “In examining the Word of God, Christians are to inquire what he testifies; not to indulge in infidel speculations about the
Carson, “Refutation,” in Works, 3:265. Ibid., 3:268. 81 Ibid., 3:270. 82 Ibid., 3:272. 80
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) nature of the operation of his Spirit in inspiring the minds of the writers of Scripture. Such impious speculations should be left to Milton’s devils.”83 This is in response to Henderson’s question about the nature of the human agency employed in the writing of Scripture. Carson is concerned that such discussion will turn from one of exegesis and theology to philosophical speculation: “What the Scriptures teach let us receive with gratitude: when they are silent, let us not vainly and foolishly pretend to obtain knowledge. The Scriptures assert inspiration with respect to themselves, and teach that the Holy Spirit spoke by the apostles; but they indulge us with no descriptions of the inspiring influence.”84 In spite of this rebuke, Carson is willing to delve into the meaning of “inspiration” as it is used in Scripture. He argues that the biblical use of the word can be defined as “to breathe into,”85 linking it back to the creation account, where God breathed life into man, and to Jesus’s breathing the Holy Spirit on the disciples in John 20:22.86 “If all Scripture is inspired by God,” Carson says, “every part of it must have been communicated by God—every word must have been communicated.”87 Due to the clear revelation from God on this matter, it is no use to contradict him; if all Scripture is inspired, no amount of trying to lessen its meaning will have any effect. The Style of Scripture As Evidential of Its Inspiration Now that a general picture of some of the salient points of Carson’s doctrine of Scripture is drawn, a more detailed look at one of his key works is in order.
Ibid. Ibid., 3:274. 85 He alludes to θεόπνευστος but does not refer directly to the word itself. 86 B. B. Warfield disagrees, arguing, “What it says of Scripture is, not that it is ‘breathed into by God’ or is the product of the Divine ‘inbreathing’ into its human authors, but that it is breathed out by God.” B. B. Warfield, “Inspiration,” in The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 1:79. 87 Carson, “Refutation,” in Works, 3:278. 84
“Celebrate the Perfections of Our Common Standard” The Style of Scripture As Evidential of Its Inspiration is a response to those who argue that Scripture cannot be a revelation from God due to rhetorical and stylistic blemishes. This work is Carson’s contribution to what was then a raging debate. Earlier, John Locke (1632–1704) argued—later picked up by George Campbell—that the writings of the apostles consisted merely of Greek terms and Hebrew or Syriac idioms. “If this be true,” says Carson, referencing Campbell, “the writings of the Apostles cannot be a revelation; for the terms of one language, accommodated to the idioms of another, would not be intelligible to persons who speak either language.”88 Carson says that this is not the case, showing that there are no such defects in Scripture; if there are, they are accounted for by the doctrine of divine accommodation. Carson relies on the work of Thomas Leland (1722–1785) of Trinity College, Dublin—in particular his Dissertation on the Principles of Human Eloquence—who was one of the main defenders of Scripture in the larger debate.89 Leland and Carson interact with William Warburton (1698–1779), Bishop of Gloucester, who believed that the blemishes of Scripture were, paradoxically, evidence of its inspiration,90 and with Warburton’s close friend Conyers Middleton (1683–1750), who was famous for his Life of Cicero. The latter wrote that divine inspiration necessarily requires perfection, and due to the perceived imperfections in Scripture, it cannot be revelation. Carson discusses the stylistic attributes of Scripture and shows from them that no blemish is to be found. Where relevant he goes deeper into related issues that challenge the attribute. The work is ordered into sections according to attributes: purity (pp. 8–16), perspicuity (16–25), 88
Carson, “Characteristics of the Style of Scripture,” in Works, 3:3. Norman Moore, “Leland, Thomas (1722–1785),” rev. Alexander Du Toit, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: University Press, 2004), online ed., ed. Lawrence Goldman, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/16418 (accessed March 4, 2011); Thomas Leland, Dissertation on the Principles of Human Eloquence (London: W. Johnston, 1764). 90 B. W. Young, “Warburton, William (1698–1779),” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: University Press, 2004), online ed., ed. Lawrence Goldman, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/28680 (accessed March 4, 2011). 89
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) simplicity (25–29), sublimity (29–63), vivacity (70–74), pathos (81–83), elegance (83–85), and truth (88–90). Under sublimity Carson adds a narrower discussion of “moral sublimity” (63–68) and the problem of Hebraism (68–70). After a section on the vivacity or energy of Scripture, he turns to the question of Scripture’s use of epithets (74–76), and then returns to vivacity by showing that it is demonstrated by Scripture’s “fewness of words” (76–81). Between the section on elegance and truth is one on figurative language (85–88). While any of these attributes of style could be discussed at length, for the purposes of this essay only two are chosen: the perspicuity and sublimity of Scripture. Perspicuity Carson prepares readers for his treatment of the perspicuity of Scripture early in the work under the subheading of “purity,” where he makes a point that controls his later argument. In the act of revealing, God communicates using human language; as a result, revelation is clear and real knowledge of truth can be obtained. The Word of God is transplanted into the language of a culture; therefore, it adopts the words, meaning, and style of that culture. This language is translatable into other languages without devaluing the original intent of an inspired writer. “No principle,” Carson writes, “is more clearly self-evident than that when God speaks to men, he will speak in the sense of the language in which he addresses them.”91 In his discussion of perspicuity proper, Carson agrees with Middleton that perfection of style must accompany the wisdom of God. For Carson, the clarity of Scripture is a “most satisfactory evidence of its inspiration.”92 However, Carson is willing to admit that ambiguity and apparent contradictions seem to mar this attribute, but he appeals to the doctrine of inspiration as a means of getting around the problem. Certain parts of Scripture, in particular the 91 92
Carson, “Characteristics of the Style of Scripture,” in Works, 3:15. Ibid., 3:16.
“Celebrate the Perfections of Our Common Standard” historical parts, are “perspicuous above all historical writings”―even children can understand them. But where there is obscurity, it is what he calls a “designed obscurity.” According to Carson, “The Divine wisdom evidently does not design that we should have all knowledge at a glance, and that revelation should have a perspicuity that would necessarily preclude the possibility of error.”93 This obscurity is the reason there can be misinterpretations of Scripture, but it is not a defect in the Scriptures themselves; the fault lies in the imperfection of the interpreter. Obscure passages of Scripture are knowable, but they require patient exegesis to determine: “This demands patient investigation, keeps the Bible forever in our hands, and forces us to remain at the feet of Jesus,” which is, of course, the ultimate design behind the obscurity.94 Carson moves on in his discussion of ambiguity by arguing that it is, rather than a flaw, a sign of perfection in style. Classical writings, often appealed to by biblical critics, also contain ambiguities that do not take away from their value. The Spirit, argues Carson, used ambiguities intentionally in the act of inspiration. At this point Carson takes issue with Leland, whom he thus far had quoted favorably. Whereas Carson presses the idea that some obscurity in Scripture is to be expected, Leland wants to “apologize for weakness” rather than “justify on principle.”95 Carson would rather that Leland argue, “Any grammatical or rhetorical imperfection to be found in Scripture, must be justified on the ground that God has, for a wise purpose, intentionally employed it.”96 In conclusion to this section on perspicuity, Carson challenges an argument made by Jean Le Clerc (1657–1736), a French Protestant and biblical critic. Le Clerc referred to an imprecise quotation in Homer—also appealed to by Leland—whose knowability was suspect. The problem
Ibid., 3:17. Ibid. 95 Ibid., 3:19. 96 Ibid., 3:20. 94
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) involves the multiple ways a phrase could be translated from Greek into English (the phrase is ἀντίος είµι; Le Clerc cannot decide if it should be translated merely as “go against” or whether it should have more of a resistant force to its meaning). For Carson, however, the phrase is understood clearly by a plain reading of the text.97 In this example, for Le Clerc, a parallel is drawn between the problems of interpretation with the Homeric quotation and like problems when approaching Scripture. Where there is ambiguity for Le Clerc, there is clarity for Carson. In strong words, Carson says, “Such critics ought to be put in the pillory, or suspended in chains as a warning to other felons.”98 Carson’s observation about biblical criticism on this score is that “instead of leading to greater precision, the greatest boast of modern biblical criticism is, that it has effected greater uncertainty and vagueness in the ascertaining of meaning.”99 Sublimity The largest section in this treatise on style deals with the sublimity of Scripture. It is Carson’s opinion that “sublimity is the highest characteristic of style.”100 The sublime nature of Scripture has its locus in the attributes of God: “No heathen writers can possibly approach the heights of sublime description. They cannot represent what they have not conceived: they cannot paint what they have not seen. Their sublimity must be as imperfect as their gods. Genius without knowledge must fail.”101 When Carson speaks of the “heathen” and their “gods,” he refers again to Homer and spends much of this section comparing the sublimity of his epics with that of Scripture. He says, “Where shall we look among the human writings for parallel to these [Scriptures]? If anywhere, the works of Homer are the most likely to afford them.” But of course,
Homer, The Iliad of Homer, trans. Alexander Pope (London: W. Bowyer, 1715). Ibid., 3:24. 99 Ibid., 3:25. 100 Ibid., 3:29. 101 Ibid. 98
“Celebrate the Perfections of Our Common Standard” “In Homer they are not to be found.”102 The focus of Carson’s critique of Homer, and by implication those critical scholars who place Homer on a higher plane of sublimity than Scripture, is the poet’s description of the gods. “By ascribing to them,” says Carson, “some of the works of the true God, Homer has given them a grandeur which does not belong to them.”103 His lengthy quotes in English of the Iliad are that of the evangelical hymn writer William Cowper (1731–1800) and further drive home the heights of the epic’s prose.104 In many respects, when comparing Homer with Scripture, Carson is defending not only the inspiration of the biblical text; he is defending also the character of the God who inspired them. Unlike the gods of ancient Greece, “There is neither imperfection nor incongruity in the character of Jehovah.”105 Carson begins his contrast with the story of Neptune and the magnitudinous way he is described by Homer. He is “sov’reign of the boundless deep,” the “shaker of the shores” before whom all humanity staggers in amazement and the mountains and forests tremble. Carson admits this is a sublime description; but, he asks, does it fit the character of a god? “There is an inexpressible difference,” answers Carson, “between the sublimity of this phenomenon in the hands of Homer, and in the expression of it by inspiration.” Namely, in Scripture “it is the effect of the almighty power of him who is an omnipresent Spirit,” whereas “in Homer, it is the incumbent weight of a huge monster of matter in human form.”106 What appears to be a description of scale and glory is really the magnification of human characteristics transposed to an imaginary god, as opposed to the power of the true God.
Ibid., 3:30. Ibid. 104 William Cowper, The Works of William Cowper, ed. Robert Southey (London: H. G. Bohn, 1854); John D. Baird, “Cowper, William (1731–1800),” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: University Press, 2004), online ed., ed. Lawrence Goldman, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/6513 (accessed March 4, 2011). 105 Carson, “Characteristics of the Style of Scripture,” in Works, 3:30. 106 Ibid., 3:31. 103
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) The lesson Carson derives from this description of Neptune is that mere magnitude does not constitute a sublime object. “Any child could make a god as good as Homer’s Neptune,” Carson says, but the descriptions of God found in the Scriptures are beyond human imagination. Carson gives two biblical quotations to demonstrate the sublime depiction of God. The first is 1 Chronicles 21:15–16: “God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the LORD beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand. And the angel of the LORD stood by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the LORD stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem.” The second is 2 Kings 19:35: “It came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.” In the first, the description of the killing by the angel of the Lord is figurative: the angel was said to kill with a sword, which is not literally how he killed, but rather is a metaphorical way of expressing the action. In the second, according to Carson, “the angel acted as a spiritual being should act. He is not a mere monster of bodily size and strength.”107 In other words, he is not a figment of human imagination. The rest of this section continues with comparisons not only of Homer, but also of Milton’s Paradise Lost, which Carson sees as a woefully inadequate picture of God and spiritual beings, so much so that the great poet borders on blasphemy. Carson looks also at the Islamic story of Muhammad and a gigantic rooster from L’Alcoran of Mahomet, an early translation of the Quran that was first translated into English from French by Alexander Ross in 1649.108 He takes issue with Cassius Longinus’s (ca. 213–273) Treatise on Sublimity, which extols the
Ibid., 3:32. Alexander Ross, L’Alcoran of Mahomet (London: Randall Taylor, 1688).
“Celebrate the Perfections of Our Common Standard” sublime virtues of Homer, and then responds with a series of biblical quotations that he deems to be perfect examples of sublimity.109 One biblical reference, John 11:43–44, recounts the story of the raising of Lazarus. The words “Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes” are an example of the power that sublime writing communicates. “The glorious Saviour in this identifies himself with the Creator of the world, who commanded the universe into existence. He who called Lazarus out of the grave is he who called light out of darkness.”110 Carson concludes his discussion of sublimity by saying, “If the ancients are sublime, they are generally sublime in blood. The character of their heroes is ferocious, and their delight is slaughter. To them it is the greatest calamity to want a field for the display of strength and valour. Their happiness is in war.”111 Far from being sublime, this borders on the grotesque and is a demonstration that even when compared with the heights of human literary achievement, Scriptures demonstrate themselves to be supreme. Conclusion Carson stands in the line of great defenders of Christian orthodoxy, and though he is little known today, his contributions to biblical scholarship are important and worth further exploration. As a faithful Protestant, he countered the claims of his surrounding culture by using the categories of thought in his day, but did so for the cause of the gospel of which he was a minister. He thus provided a helpful series of works that bolstered the cause of Scripture’s inspiration and has proved a lasting gift both to the evangelical heritage of which he is a part and to Christ’s church.
Gen. 1:3 (contra Milton); Pss. 1, 55, 72, 90; Prov. 8:22; Dan. 7:10; Matt. 8:23; John 11:43; Rev. 5:11. Carson, “Characteristics of the Style of Scripture,” in Works, 3:62. 111 Ibid., 3:65. 110
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014)
ORIGINS OF FREE WILL BAPTISTS IN GEORGIA1 By Daniel Williams Introduction “Immortal souls are at stake; and means must be used for their salvation; and when men are constantly employed in trying to prove to sinners that there is no provision made for them in the Gospel, and consequently that they cannot repent, and are under no obligation to believe the Gospel, it is time they should be told better.”2 This 1829 plea from Rev. Cyrus White of the Calvinistic Ocmulgee Baptist Association set in action a chain of events that led to the founding of another Baptist group in the state of Georgia. White and his followers, who believed in the doctrine of universal provision, were expelled from the Ocmulgee Association in 1830 and began to organize their own association structure. The story of how they did so sheds new light on the past history of Calvinism among Georgia Baptists. The shift away from Calvinism that took place during the nineteenth century has not been adequately explored from a Free Will Baptist perspective. Historians have not always agreed as to who the founders of the Free Will Baptist movement in Georgia were; nor have they fully understood the organizational and doctrinal development of the group. These “Whiteites” (as they were called) were not the first Baptists of Arminian persuasion in the state of Georgia. The earliest known group arose in Georgia around 1
This paper was published in its full version in Viewpoints: Georgia Baptist History 21 (2008): 87–118; and as a pamphlet by the Georgia Free Will Baptist Historical Society (2010). It was also published in abbreviated form in The Timemachine: An Occasional Newsletter of the Georgia Free Will Baptist Historical Society (March 2010). 2 Cyrus White, A Scriptural View of the Atonement (Milledgeville, GA: Office of the Statesman and Patriot, 1830), 3.
Origins of Free Will Baptists in Georgia 1790 under the leadership of General Baptist minister Jeremiah Walker, who preached a doctrine of universal provision and the possibility of apostasy. Though this group was few in number and short-lived, it certainly contained the seeds of the modern movement. The 1795 Muscogee County beginning at Providence Church espoused by historian Damon Dodd in the 1970s is unrelated to the Walkerites and has proven to be untenable.3 Over the next seventy-five years, the group of Whiteite General Baptists—calling themselves United, Liberal, and, finally, Free Will Baptists—grew and developed. As they did so, they were laying the foundation for the modern Georgia State Association of Free Will Baptists. The doctrines and ordinances held by contemporary Free Will Baptists were gradually adopted and refined by this group until the early twentieth century. These doctrines include universal provision, the freedom of the human will to accept or reject that provision apart from divine election, the possibility of apostasy, the practice of open communion, and washing of the saints’ feet. Along with that doctrinal development, these United Free Will Baptists planted new churches, which in turn formed new associations. Finally, in 1891, six of these associations came together to form a statewide convention. Though this Georgia State Convention of Liberal Baptists expired by 1909, the dream of statewide cooperation did not die; the modern State Association, founded in 1937, testifies to that fact.
Dodd believed that John Broadnax, a Free Will Baptist missionary from North Carolina to the Seminole Indians, settled in the Muscogee County area of Georgia around 1793 and soon established Providence Church, the first Free Will Baptist church in the state, in 1795; see Damon C. Dodd, “Free Will Baptists in Georgia,” Viewpoints: Georgia Baptist History 6 (1978): 56–57. Dodd’s theory is problematic, if for no other reason than simply because the Muscogee County area was still Indian land at that time. Geraldine Waid says that census and other official records have John Travis Broadnax in Hancock County until around 1830. Sometime in the decade between 1830 and 1840, he moved his family to the Muscogee County area. John Travis Broadnax, according to his family, was not even a minister at all. James Edward Broadnax, his son, was the preacher in the family and began his ministry around 1850. The Broadnax family could indeed have played a significant role in Providence Church’s founding, possibly in the 1830s or 1840s, and James Edward Broadnax probably did donate land to the church. The church, however, cannot claim the title of first Free Will Baptist church in Georgia. See Geraldine Waid, “Another Look at Free Will Baptist Beginnings in Georgia,” Timemachine (October 1997): 1–2.
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) Jeremiah Walker and Georgia General Baptists When General James Edward Oglethorpe arrived in 1733 at what became Savannah, Georgia, one or two Baptists were on the boat with him. Whether they were Particular or General Baptists is unknown.4 The first Baptist church in Georgia was constituted at Tuckaseeking in 1759; it was a short-lived Seventh Day Baptist congregation. In 1772, Daniel Marshall, a Separate Baptist, organized Kiokee, the first Baptist church in Georgia to survive. Lower Brier Creek Church, a Particular Baptist congregation, was organized in 1773. The Georgia Baptist Association, the first in the state, was constituted in 1784; most of its members were Particular Baptists.5 In this association, the first General Baptist rumblings were heard not long thereafter. Jeremiah Walker, a Separate Baptist of Arminian persuasion from Virginia, moved to Georgia in the mid-1780s. He was called as pastor of the sixty-member Hebron Baptist Church of Elbert County in 1786 and elected clerk of the Calvinistic Georgia Baptist Association in 1788.6 On September 11, 1788, Walker preached a sermon that later became the fifty-six-page pamphlet The Fourfold Foundation of Calvinism Examined and Shaken. In it, “he tested four crucial Calvinistic propositions ‘by scripture and right reason’ and explained the contrary positions as being the truth.”7 Walker’s conclusion states: To rejoice in the doctrine of God’s having passed by a number of our fellow-men without affording them a possibility of obtaining salvation, is in effect to rejoice in their exclusion from mercy, and at best can only be rejoicing that God has seen proper to glorify himself in their exclusion. Cease your triumph, a little, my friend, and let your heart dictate an answer to a few interrogatories. Suppose you were assured it were your own unhappy case, could you rejoice in it? No. If you knew your tender parent—your beloved husband or wife—your dear child—yea, your friend and neighbour were on the black list, could you rejoice therein? No. I am persuaded there are but few so lost to humanity, not to say christianity [sic], as 4
Robert G. Gardner, Baptists of Early America (Washington, GA: Georgia Baptist Historical Society, 1983), 116. 5 Ibid., 118. 6 Robert G. Gardner, “Jeremiah Walker: Georgia General Baptist,” Virginia Baptist Register 15 (1976): 733. 7 Ibid., 738.
Origins of Free Will Baptists in Georgia to be capable of rejoicing at the knowledge, or in the belief that God had made a free gift to Satan of even their worst enemy.8 A disputed facet of Walker’s theology was the possibility of falling from grace. Jesse Mercer, an influential pastor in the Georgia Association, later wrote that “no division was thought of till Jeremiah Walker adopted and preached openly the doctrine of final apostacy [sic].”9 Jeremiah Walker, despite being controversial, was not alone in his sentiments. Association pastors David Tinsley, Matthew Talbot, and Nathaniel Hall, all of whom were also from Virginia, joined him. At its May 1790 meeting, the Georgia Baptist Association took steps to exclude its General Baptist members, which included appointing a committee to prepare articles of faith and rules of decorum.10 In October of that year, despite pleas from some members for unity, Silas Mercer (father of Jesse and at that time pastor of Phillips Mill Church near Washington, Georgia) moved that these items be read and approved. Both were done.11 The confession of faith’s third, fourth, and sixth articles were aimed at Walker and were “altogether adequate in expressing the association’s opposition.”12 While the Georgia Baptist Association was formulating its opposition to Arminian doctrines, Walker and his few followers were at work also. Precise details of the events cannot be reconstructed for lack of surviving sources, but enough information exists to know that they formed their own General Baptist association after being excommunicated by the Georgia Association. No minutes from this association have survived, and John Asplund, a Baptist
Jeremiah Walker, The Fourfold Foundation of Calvinism Examined and Shaken (Richmond, VA: John Dixon, 1792), 43. 9 Charles D. Mallary, Memoirs of Elder Jesse Mercer (New York: John Gray, 1844), 201–2. 10 Jesse Mercer, History of the Georgia Baptist Association (Washington, GA, 1838), 27; Samuel Boykin, History of the Baptist Denomination in Georgia (Atlanta: Harrison and Company, 1881), 31. 11 Georgia Baptist Association, Minutes, October 1790, 5. 12 Robert G. Gardner, “The Forgotten General Baptist Association in the South,” The Quarterly Review 39 (October, November, December 1978): 67.
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) itinerant preacher and statistician, is the “only source of detailed information now known.”13 Asplund’s Annual Register of the Baptist Denomination in North America says of these events: These three ministers in Georgia [Walker, Tinsley, and Talbot], with Nathaniel Hall in South Carolina, got separated from the Association and their Churches, on the account of sentiments, viz. holding Universal Provision and finally falling from grace, got forty members to join them, and in October, 1790, set up their own association, called general Baptists.14 The association was small and isolated, and any formal name it may have had is unknown. Three of the four constituent churches of this General Baptist association arose from internal divisions within Georgia Baptist Association churches. Hebron Church, where Walker was pastor, lost nearly half its members between 1788 and 1791. Apparently, Walker “led a small group out of the original church and formed a congregation that also used the name Hebron. This General Baptist church was founded in 1791 with no more than eight members.”15 Nine people left Powell’s Creek Church, forming a General Baptist church with the same name. Red’s Creek Church lost twelve members to the General Baptists, who formed a church by the same name. Only Upper Rocky River Church of Abbeville County, South Carolina, was not internally divided, and all of its members became General Baptists.16 Jeremiah Walker died suddenly on September 20, 1792, an event that “dealt the association which he had founded a mortal blow.”17 By the mid-1790s, the reconciliation movement was well underway. Powell’s Creek Church, for example, restored three of its General Baptist former members; under the leadership of pastor Jesse Mercer, the church grew and was the site of the founding of the Georgia Baptist Convention in 1822.18 Gardner concludes that 13
Ibid. John Asplund, The Annual Register of the Baptist Denomination in North America, 1st ed. (Richmond, VA: Dixon, Nicholson & Davis, 1792), 46. 15 Gardner, “Forgotten General Baptist Association,” 68. 16 Ibid. 17 Ibid., 70. 18 Ibid., 70–71. 14
Origins of Free Will Baptists in Georgia the General Baptist Association of Georgia and South Carolina held six annual sessions—1790 to 1795—but no more. It directly involved only four churches, five or six ministers, and fewer than seventy members. Its influence was never great, and its existence was soon largely forgotten. It has not been noted in Georgia as the second association in the state. . . . In the late eighteenth century, Jeremiah Walker and his General Baptist cohorts suffered defeat as a minority party, but many of their ideas persist to the present.19 These General Baptists, after their association failed, apparently either merged back into the Georgia Baptist Association, which later became a founding association of the Georgia Baptist Convention, or remained unaffiliated. More than likely, they kept their Arminian beliefs to themselves. Cyrus White and Others Those of General Baptist sentiment were present and remained silent for three decades. The time then became right for them to make their voices heard again. According to the Free Baptist Cyclopaedia, a series of revivals swept across Georgia in 1826.20 These revivals occurred as part of the Second Great Awakening; socially, this movement both gained strength from and strengthened the populist impulse in American culture following the Revolution. During this time, Americans witnessed the rapid growth of voluntary organizations and popular newspapers, the formation of organized political parties amid heated popular debate, the armed protest of unprotected economic groups, sharp attacks upon elite professions and slavery, and new ideas of citizenship, representation, old age, and women’s identity.21 Within this rapid growth and democratization, Georgia Baptist life was not immune from splintering over doctrine, either. In 1829, thus, the question of universal provision was once
Ibid., 71–72. G. A. Burgess and J. T. Ward, eds., Free Baptist Cyclopaedia (Chicago: Free Baptist Cyclopaedia Company, 1889), 227. 21 Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), 22. 20
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) again raised in the Ocmulgee Baptist Association, a member of the Georgia Baptist Convention. What precisely instigated the discussion of this question at the annual meeting is unknown, but it arose likely because of the preaching of Cyrus White and possibly others of Arminian persuasion. The issue arose also in the context of a very heated debate among Calvinists themselves—between those who were later labeled missionary and anti-missionary Baptists.22 At the annual session of the association, Walnut Creek Church queried, “Did Jesus Christ suffer, bleed and die, on the Cross, for all mankind? Or only, for as many as the Divine Father gave Him in Covenant of Grace?”23 The association responded to Walnut Creek’s question with a reprint of its constitution and also recommended that “churches and members search the Scriptures for their own satisfaction.”24 Article Four addresses the issue at hand: We believe in the everlasting love of God to his people, and the eternal election of a definite number of the human race, to grace and glory; and that there was a covenant of grace or redemption, made between the Father and the Son, before the world began, in which their salvation is secure, and that they in particular are redeemed.25 The constitution includes also a statement about the association’s belief in the perseverance of the saints. One cannot tell if that issue was a point of contention this early in the debates, but it would be important later just as it had been crucial before. This strong statement in favor of election did not settle the issue, for, in December of that same year, Rev. Cyrus White of Bethlehem Church published a pamphlet expressing his belief in universal provision that shattered the already-fragile peace of the association.
These debates between hard-line Calvinists and evangelistic Calvinists resulted in the schism between what became known later as Primitive and Missionary Baptists, respectively. The Ocmulgee Baptist Association later became Primitive Baptist after the final group of missionary-inclined churches withdrew in the late 1830s. 23 Ocmulgee Baptist Association, Minutes, 1829, 2. 24 Ibid., 2–3. 25 Ibid., 3; italics added.
Origins of Free Will Baptists in Georgia White’s publication, A Scriptural View of the Atonement, is dated December 8, 1829. Perhaps the title itself was a direct attack upon the association’s suggestion that if its members searched the Scriptures, they would be convinced of the doctrine of particular atonement. White has two goals in this pamphlet. The first is to show the “nature of the Atonement,” and the second is to show the “extent of the Atonement.”26 As to the nature of the atonement, a relatively short discussion, White says that the atonement is not to be viewed in light of debt but “in view to the law, and is to be considered a full satisfaction of it.”27 White’s contention about the nature of the atonement does not seem to have had as much bearing on the division that followed as his argument about the extent of the atonement. White’s second goal—to show the extent of the atonement—is lengthier in execution. He argues that the atonement is not limited but universal. His bases for this claim are certain Scriptures, and, after stating that these “ought to be thought sufficient,”28 he spends the rest of his pamphlet refuting and answering objections from different, and in his eyes incorrect, interpretations of those Scriptures. To “those who favor the limited scheme” and who “will say, that the world in [John 3:16] means only the Elect,” White responds: Well, let us read it thus; “God so loved the Elect, that he gave his only begotten Son to die for the Elect, that whosoever (of the Elect) believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The reader will readily perceive, that such a construction implies, that a part of the Elect will finally perish.29 Such is, of course, an unthinkable possibility. Perhaps White’s most memorable quote—it is vivid and makes the point quite clear—comes while he is refuting the limited interpretation of the parable of the marriage supper in Luke 14:
White, Atonement, 4. Ibid., 6. 28 Ibid. 29 Ibid., 7. 27
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) Now according to the limited scheme, the maker of this feast had provided a supper for a few individuals, and either to mock others, or to find a pretext for getting angry with them, that he might destroy them, he sends his servants (shall I say with a lie in their mouths?) to say to those for whom not a crumb was ever provided, “come, for all things are now ready,” and because they do not come and partake of the provisions which have no existence, he becomes angry and declares they shall never taste of the supper which was never intended for them, and finally destroys them for refusing to come to a feast designed for others, and not for them.—Will any person presume to palm such inconsistencies upon the King of Heaven? Will they say that he is more inconsistent and unjust than man? When men make feasts, the extent of the invitation is always limited by the quantity of food provided: They do not make a feast for a few individuals in their own neighborhood, and invite a whole country or state to come, for all things are ready. Neither does God.30 Sinners’ “unbelief, according to this system, should be accounted to them for righteousness, just as much as the faith of the Elect: For if they have believed that Jesus did not die for them, they have believed the truth.”31 God has, however, provided atonement for all of mankind and requires each person to respond and believe, White concludes. For Cyrus White, “the doctrine of limited atonement was unscriptural and a deterrent to evangelism.”32 For Jesse Mercer, on the other hand, if “Christ did not die for sinners in particular, then salvation was merely a possibility, and the power to effect it was suddenly thrust in the hands of humanity.”33 Mercer responded to White’s Scriptural View of the Atonement with ten letters published in his newspaper, The Christian Index, and later compiled them into one book. He argues against White’s first contention—the nature of the atonement with respect to the law and not debt—and concludes that the “circumstance, of debt or crime, has nothing to do with the justice of the case.”34 As for the extent of the atonement, Mercer refutes White’s Scriptures by
Ibid., 8. Ibid., 10. 32 Anthony L. Chute, A Piety above the Common Standard (Macon: Mercer University Press, 2004), 83. 33 Ibid., 85–86. 34 Jesse Mercer, Ten Letters Addressed to the Rev. Cyrus White in Reference to His Scriptural View of the Atonement (Washington, GA: The News Office, 1830), 8–9. 31
Origins of Free Will Baptists in Georgia saying that they would be “better understood in the context of Jewish and Gentile relations.”35 He furthermore deals with White’s explanation of the parable of the marriage supper by rendering a Calvinistic interpretation that the “king had only so much room in his banquet hall, so many garments for his guests, and only so many persons on his guest list.”36 “It is all special provision and special and personal calls,” Mercer concludes.37 By October of 1830, the debate was surely well-known among the members of the Ocmulgee Association. On Monday of the annual session, the association took up and received evidence in the case of Bethlehem Church. After that was done, “It was then satisfactorily proven, that she, Bethlehem, had departed from the Faith recognized and set forth in the Constitution of the Ocmulgee Baptist Association.”38 As a result, the association voted to withdraw from Bethlehem Church and her two ordained members, Cyrus White and John Holmes. The Circular Letter of the association that year spends ten pages defending the doctrine of election. The opening expresses how many in the association probably felt about White’s doctrines: “There have been attacks made upon the long and well-established principle of the everlasting Love of God to his people.”39 From Jesse Mercer’s perspective, just as much as from White’s, these debates were not mere theological abstractions; salvation itself hung in the balance. A comparison of the 1830 Ocmulgee Baptist Association statistical table of churches with that of 1831 shows five churches missing in the latter year, including Bethlehem. One church can be accounted for in the business of the session as having asked for and been given a letter of (orderly) dismissal, probably to join another association. The other three churches show up in 35
Chute, Piety, 87. Ibid. 37 Mercer, Ten Letters, 23. 38 Ocmulgee, 1830, 4. 39 Ibid., 9. 36
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) 1840 as part of the United Baptist Association. After these doctrinal debates, these three churches probably then left the association with Cyrus White and Bethlehem Church and together were a part of the founding of the United Baptist Association in 1831. At the same time, in the Flint River Baptist Association to the west, rumblings of universal provision were being heard also. Perhaps the members there were familiar with Cyrus White’s doctrine, or perhaps they had some of their own ministers propounding the same theology. The Ocmulgee and Flint River associations did correspond with one another. The latter association responded in much the same way as did Ocmulgee: We recommend that if any preacher within the bounds of this Association shall hold forth as his faith to the people either publickly, or privately, that Christ atoned equally for the whole human family or that he died for, and bought many souls now in hell; or denies the doctrine of special, and eternal election as being scriptural or holds forth any other point of doctrine derogatory to the articles of faith published by this Association, in either and in all such cases, it shall be the duty of any member who shall hear such a doctrine from any minister, to admonish him to desist from preaching such doctrine; and if he persists and fails to give satisfaction, let him be reported by him or them, who hear him, to the Church where he belongs. And we advise the church to silence him unless he desists. But if he will go on, notwithstanding he has been thus admonished to stop; we recommend the Church to exclude him. And if such violations be made appear by two or more witnesses of our order, in good standing, and the church fails, or refuses to deal with him, she shall be considered heterodox in the faith herself; and unless she make satisfactory acknowledgement, and adopt a different course of conduct—RESOLVED, That such a church, or part of a church be excluded from this Association.40 Sharon Church of Henry County had been dismissed from the Yellow River Baptist Association and had applied for admission into Flint River. The association hesitated to receive the church because of “unfavorable reports relative to the faith and practice of part of the members” and appointed a committee to investigate those reports.41 What those objectionable doctrines were is
Flint River Baptist Association, Minutes, 1829, 2. Ibid., 1.
Origins of Free Will Baptists in Georgia never stated. They most probably had something to do with suspected preaching of “Arminian” sentiments, especially universal provision. What the committee to investigate Sharon Church found—or maybe created—once they arrived on October 30, 1829, was confusion. The committee arrived having elected a moderator and clerk and expecting to open their examination with singing and prayer, but the moderator of the church refused to give up his seat. The church in general was recalcitrant and refused to submit to an investigation. The moderator of the church was quoted in the committee’s report as having said he would rather “go out in the yard and suffer himself to be burnt at a stake” than “give up his seat as Moderator, and the keys of the Church for the Committee, or any other set of men under Heaven to examine them.”42 According to the account published later by Sharon Church itself, the moderator of the church was taken aback and on the defensive because, “as the church had not been together since the Association, he had not had an opportunity of informing [the members] what the Association had done: but that, although the committee had not even requested it of him, he had sent word to as many of the members as he could, and he believed they were nearly all present.”43 The church’s moderator claimed also that the moderator of the committee had “appeared to be about to assume the right to open the meeting, without any previous understanding in that matter between the committee and the church.”44 At any rate, after a significant exchange of words, the investigative committee withdrew to the woods to make its report. A minority of nine members of Sharon Church followed them, submitted to the examination, and, having been found orthodox, was recognized by the committee of the Flint River Baptist Association as the true Sharon Church.
Ibid., 3. United Baptist Association, Minutes, 1849, 5. 44 Ibid. 43
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) In October 1830, the situation became more complicated. After a “fair and full investigation,” the association in session resolved both that the “Committee be sustained in their acts” and that the “majority of Sharon Church be received as a member into this body with the minority—upon the faith of the Yellow River Association, and practice accordingly.”45 This solution seems highly self-contradictory. The Flint River Association agreed with the committee that the minority was the true Sharon Church and thus the majority must be rejected. At the same time, however, the association voted upon accepting the questionable majority, which they theoretically were rejecting by the first proposition. Perhaps such was an attempt at fairness, or maybe in the confusion the investigation was not as “fair and full” as the association had hoped. The majority of Sharon Church apparently thought all this nonsensical too, because they refused to accept this solution and withdrew from the association. Earlier in that same 1830 session, the Flint River Association had treated Teman Church of Henry County in much the same way. The minutes tell that both parties of a divided Teman Church sent delegates and presented evidence at the meeting. In this case, the minority of Teman was accepted as orthodox, and thus the “true Church,” while the majority was deemed “heterodox.”46 This action is exactly what the committee recommended be done with Sharon. Why the association’s eventual dealings with Sharon would be more complicated is unclear. Perhaps Sharon’s “heterodox” doctrines were different and those of Teman deemed more insidious. Regardless, the Flint River Baptist Association had caused two churches to withdraw in the same year under much the same circumstances. According to Jesse Campbell, who wrote seventeen years later, the disgruntled majority of Sharon Church hosted a convention in December 1830 with several other churches to “consult
Flint River, 1830, 4. Ibid.
Origins of Free Will Baptists in Georgia on the best course to pursue.”47 They considered the actions of the Flint River Association heavyhanded but were not ready to join with Cyrus White and company, whom they “believed to be Arminian in their sentiments” and considered “injudicious in some of their measures.”48 A copy of the statement the Sharon Convention issued is reprinted later in the United Baptist Association’s 1849 minutes (two years after Campbell chronicled that association). The statement relays the story of the committee from Flint River Association and the squabble that followed. It claims that there were two contradictory propositions before the association at the time of the one vote; “the only subject then properly before the Association, was simply a matter of discipline, and not a matter in which faith was at all concerned, to wit—the soundness, or unsoundness of the course the committee pursued with Sharon church.”49 They believed that the Flint River Association had been out of order by, in their words, “virtually excluding a number of churches in order to receive two disembodied parcels of persons who were in reality no churches.”50 In conclusion, the members of Sharon Church saw all these actions, especially those of the committee, as a violation of the churches’ independence by the association: “This doctrine is taught to all Baptists—the independence of the churches is a distinguishing trait in the denomination; and if this can be violated in one case it may in all.”51 The Sharon Convention thus wished to make it clear that its churches were not withdrawing because of “any disagreement with said Association in matters of faith.”52
Jesse H. Campbell, Georgia Baptists: Historical and Biographical (Richmond, VA: H. K. Ellyson, 1847),
Ibid. United, 1849, 6. The procedure the Flint River Association followed was indeed later declared a “breach of orderly discipline” by a select committee from the Georgia and Sarepta Baptist associations, which was called the Georgia Exhibition (and was also published in United’s 1849 minutes). The committee called Sharon and company the “United Baptists” and stated that the “report of a departure from Faith” on these churches’ parts was unfounded.” 50 Ibid. 51 Ibid. 52 Ibid., 7. 49
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) The Sharon Convention did, however, draw up a doctrinal statement, later known as the Sharon Confession of Faith. Reading the Sharon Confession of Faith and expecting to find allout Arminian doctrine will lead to disappointment. The opposite, in fact, is true. The language reflects the intentions of Sharon Church to avoid White’s Arminianism—and thus retain the doctrine of election—while at the same time to shun the “hyper-Calvinism, or fatalism” that Campbell says “some of the preachers in the Ocmulgee and Flint river [sic] had wandered off into.”53 Article 5 of the confession states: We believe in a Covenant between the Father and Son in which all Grace is treasured up, and in the doctrine of Election according to the foreknowledge of God through Sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth according to 1st Peter, 1st chap. 2nd verse, and 2nd Thess. 2nd chap. 13th verse: “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth;” but that Election should not be so construed as to make God the author of sin either directly or indirectly, nor on the other hand do we believe the creature can do any thing meritorious in his salvation.54 This article is clearly an attempt at middle ground. The Calvinist doctrines of election and total depravity (i.e., that humans can do nothing to save themselves) are retained, but Calvinism is clarified so that it is not fatalism. Article 9 of the Sharon Confession states a belief in the perseverance of the saints in grace. If the Flint River Association feared the doctrine of universal provision, those fears—based on the Sharon Confession—were indeed unfounded. Campbell states that “there can be no great objection, as [the Sharon Confession] is pretty much in the language of scripture. Still, those who held to it with the greatest tenacity were charged with a want of faith in principles sacred to the Baptists throughout the world.”55 The churches themselves stated that “although differing a little in phraseology, [the Confession] amounts to the
Campbell, Georgia Baptists, 268. United, 1846, 3. 55 Campbell, Georgia Baptists, 268. 54
Origins of Free Will Baptists in Georgia same as that on which we were constituted.”56 In other words, the Sharon Convention did not see its doctrine as differing from the mainstream of that of the Flint River Association (extreme Calvinism being the Convention’s only objection).
The United Baptist Association A connection between these disaffected churches and White’s followers clearly existed, even if it was not necessarily theological. Perhaps it was only a common grievance (being expelled from their respective associations) that drew them together. The precise chain of events cannot be reconstructed from extant sources. Later minutes of the United Baptist Association speak of another convention at Bethlehem Church (Cyrus White’s church) in 1831.57 The weight of the evidence supports this 1831 date for the official founding of the United Baptist Association. On the other hand, Teman Church, which had been expelled from Flint River along with Sharon, is given by Campbell as the site of the constitution of the United Baptist Association in September 1832.58 The earliest minutes of this association have not survived. Cyrus White was a leader in the new association for at least a short while. Barnabas Strickland, a member of the expelled majority of Teman Church, served as moderator.59 The extent of the presence of Arminianism in the new association remains in question. Doctrinal mysteries cannot be explained in the light of a power struggle between two factions—the eastern Whiteite churches from Ocmulgee and the western churches from Flint River. Before long, Sharon and several of its fellow dissenting churches joined the Central Baptist Association in 1834, an action that, ironically, required
United, 1849, 7. Ibid., 9. 58 Campbell, Georgia Baptists, 267. 59 Ibid., 268. 57
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) returning to the confession of faith used by older Baptist bodies in the state.60 Nevertheless, Sharon Church had already played a significant role in the founding of the United Association. No minutes for the United Baptist Association are extant until 1840. What happened between 1832 and 1840 in the United Baptist Association remains unclear. The Free Baptist Cyclopaedia, published in 1889, says that United Baptists in Georgia—containing 861 members, 16 churches, and 14 ministers—and the Liberty Association of Kentucky “opened a correspondence looking toward union” in 1831.61 At any rate, according to the Cyclopaedia the question of slavery severed the correspondence. The Cyclopaedia also says that the association allowed each church to “practice open or close communion at its discretion.”62 Campbell reports that these expelled churches still attempted to cooperate with the associations they left on the points on which they could agree. The 1840 session of the United Baptist Association was hosted again by Teman Church of Henry County. Bethlehem Church of Jasper County—Cyrus White’s home church, which had been expelled from the Ocmulgee Association—is listed as a member. The association that year contained twelve churches from Campbell, Fayette, Henry, Jasper, Newton, Pike, and Upson counties, with a total membership of 653. The association also entrusted its correspondents to Chattahoochee to “unite with them in publishing a treatise on doctrine and discipline, if upon further investigation they think proper so to do.”63 In 1842, the phrase “capacity of a general Association, to act upo[n] . . . general interest of all” appears, but, as the page is torn, no context for that statement can be gained.64 Evidently, talk of a general association had emerged, but with
Ibid., 267. Assumedly the Philadelphia Confession of Faith. G. A. Burgess and J. T. Ward, eds., Free Baptist Cyclopaedia (Chicago: Free Baptist Cyclopaedia Company, 1889), 25. 62 Ibid., 227. 63 United, 1840, 4. 64 Ibid., 1842, 2. 61
Origins of Free Will Baptists in Georgia exactly whom remains a question. By 1851, though attempts to correspond with other associations had been made, the United Association was corresponding with only the Chattahoochee United Association. The doctrine of the United Baptist Association is a difficult issue to interpret. The Cyclopaedia considered the association Arminian, but the association’s own extant records leave any doctrinal development ill-defined.65 In 1843, an explanation of the United Association’s doctrinal views was published in The Christian Index; this statement explains election in a more Arminian light than the Sharon Confession, claiming that the “blessings of salvation are made free to all” and that election was “perfectly consistent with the free agency of man.”66 The Sharon Confession of Faith is reprinted in 1846 in the place of the Circular Letter; of course, the statement on election is decidedly more Calvinistic there. The reason for the shift back to the Sharon Confession in 1846 can only be speculated. Perhaps the Sharon Confession was printed for historical purposes only and not theological ones, and it was never intended as a doctrinal statement. Nevertheless, a similar odd reversal appears in the Chattahoochee Association as well. Both the 1843 Christian Index Confession and the Sharon Confession of Faith state a belief in perseverance of the saints. The association in 1846 also “agreed to recommend to the Churches . . . the proprietary of republishing the views of C. White on the Atonement.”67 In 1851, the United Association “refused to correspond with the Salem United Association in consequence of their open communion principle and practice.”68 In light of the Cyclopaedia’s claim, this statement, too, is odd. The only firm conclusion is that the doctrine of universal
Burgess and Ward, Cyclopaedia, 227. “Ministers’ Meeting, United Baptist,” The Christian Index, August 25, 1843, 539, col. 2. 67 United, 1846, 4. 68 Ibid., 1851, 1. 66
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) atonement appealed to at least some in the United Association, even if other Arminian tenets did not come until later or even at all. David Benedict, who wrote his General History of the Baptist Denomination in 1848, may shed some light on the mysteries of the United Association: The United Baptists, or Whiteites, are a very zealous and active people, and have had much success in their wide-spread efforts. Open Communion, to some extent, was practiced among them at first; but, from all that I can learn, I should judge that they are gradually becoming assimilated in all respects to the old body, and will soon again be wholly absorbed in their ranks.69 Probably, the majority in the United Baptist Association never saw themselves as doctrinally different from the associations they left; in other words, they seemed to see themselves still as Calvinists. They were probably concerned with refuting hyper-Calvinism and misuses of associational authority. A group in the association, Cyrus White probably among them, may have responded for a time to extreme Calvinism with an Arminian position, but that group was apparently kept in check or joined the Chattahoochee Association. The last minutes of the United Baptist Association available are from 1853, and no way of knowing if Benedictâ€™s observation actually came to pass is at hand. According to the Chattahoochee United Baptist Association minutes, the United Association sent correspondents to its meeting in 1854, but that year is also the last year that Chattahoochee minutes are available until 1879. Did Benedictâ€™s observation come to fruition, with the United Baptist Association gradually merging back into its parent Baptist groups, or did the association just gradually die out? The lack of sources after 1854 leaves no answer. The association was extinct by the late 1870s or early 1880s; the last time it appears in the Georgia Baptist Convention tables is 1880. From the evidence that has survived, it does not seem likely that any Arminian presence that 69
David Benedict, A General History of the Baptist Denomination in America and Other Parts of the World (New York: Lewis Colby, 1848), 744.
Origins of Free Will Baptists in Georgia existed was ever very influential, or at least never for very long. Nevertheless, because the United Baptist Association was the parent of the Chattahoochee United Baptist Association, it can claim its place among the predecessors of Georgia Free Will Baptists.
The Chattahoochee United Baptist Association The Chattahoochee United Baptist Association is a different story, and one of more traceable development. By 1836, the United Association was deemed too large, and the delegates agreed to divide into two associations. Campbell says, “Those churches in Jasper, Henry, &c., retained the old name, and those in Harris and other western counties are known as the ‘United Chattahoochee Association.’”70 According to Burgess and Ward, Cyrus White was the moderator of the first session of Chattahoochee, at New Teman Church in Henry County.71 No minutes are available for this association until 1842.72 In 1842, the Chattahoochee United Baptist Association contained 23 churches from across western Georgia and eastern Alabama with a total of 991 members. Cyrus White is listed in the association table as an ordained minister at Smyrna Church in Russell County, Alabama. White served on the Committee on Arrangement, preached on Sunday of the meeting, and was employed as an itinerate preacher for the association.73 Prier Reeves, the other ordained minister from Smyrna Church, served as clerk of the association and would two years later write White’s obituary for The Christian Index. The Chattahoochee Association stated in 1842, “We never did adopt the Sharon Confession of Faith; neither did we ever design so to do.”74 This statement bears witness to a more influential Arminian presence in
Campbell, Georgia Baptists, 268. Burgess and Ward, Cyclopaedia, 227–28. 72 This association exists still today as the Chattahoochee Association of Free Will Baptists. 73 Chattahoochee United Baptist Association, Minutes, 1842, 3. 74 Ibid., 5. 71
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) the Chattahoochee. Cyrus White died in 1844, and with him may have gone significant embodiment of his doctrines. In 1848, Chattahoochee, in stark contrast to its earlier statement, reprinted the Sharon Confession in its minutes along with an account of the break with the Flint River Association—at about the time the United Baptist Association did the same. In 1850, however, the circular letter of the association told the story of a 1775 confrontation between Calvinists and Arminians among Virginia Baptists—a confrontation in which Jeremiah Walker played a significant role. That circular letter also goes on to discuss the more recent doctrinal conflicts and seeks to clarify the position of the Chattahoochee United Association. Despite accusations to the contrary, the association still believed in an “eternal, personal Covenant entered into between the Father and the Son,” but they did not believe such a covenant is to be construed to “exclude from eternal life, all those not included therein.”75 It had been their “highest felicity to advocate the Covenant, and also election, as exhibited in the Bible.”76 They go on to comment, “It is to be lamented that so many of the ministry of modern times so mistify [sic] election, as to exclude moral agency and man’s accountability. We believe that God, in the economy of his grace has made ample provision for the salvation of the world, through repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”77 Even for this more-Arminian group, only universal provision had been at issue in the 1830s. Of course, unlike in the United Baptist Association, those other Arminian principles did not stay away for long. What are known today as Free Will Baptist doctrinal distinctives did take time to show up in written confessions of faith. Universal provision was always present (in some form), as it had been from the beginning the cause of the schism in Ocmulgee with White. The understanding of election became more closely defined along Arminian lines by the beginning of 75
Ibid., 1850, 5. Ibid. 77 Ibid., 6–7. 76
Origins of Free Will Baptists in Georgia the twentieth century. Perseverance of the saints took the longest to disappear and be replaced with a doctrine of apostasy. Apparently, the practice of open communion became standard very quickly. Feet washing was probably observed long before it was officially established as an ordinance. Geographical and Numerical Growth In the latter half of the nineteenth century, the growth of Free Will Baptists in Georgia can be attributed to similar Arminian-minded movements in other parts of the state. Associational missions were responsible for many new churches. Some churches were founded, no doubt, by those expelled from Calvinistic associations or converted later to Arminian positions by leadership or the changing sentiments of members. Unfortunately, few church records from the era have survived, and thus the picture is incomplete. Ebenezer Baptist Church of Tattnall County, one of the few Free Will Baptist Churches whose minutes from the 1800s have survived, found itself divided between open communion and closed communion parties in 1878. The schism is described in detail later by Jacob E. Howard, a member of the closed communion faction who transcribed the records. Apparently, the closed communion church dissolved in August 1881, leaving only the open communion group,78 which eventually led the church into the Free Will Baptist camp. Surely other examples obtained for which records are no longer extant. As these churches were established and grew, associations followed, especially in the southern and western regions of the state. When an association became too large, that association would then agree to a friendly split, allowing some churches to withdraw and constitute another association. The Unity United Baptist Association was founded around 1846, possibly as a 78
Ebenezer Baptist Church, Minutes, 71â€“74.
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) friendly division, but it expired sometime after 1876. In northwest Georgia, the Liberty Association was organized in the early 1860s;79 no minutes from this association have survived. In 1879, the Alabama churches of the Chattahoochee Association petitioned to “withdraw and form an Association in South-east Alabama on the same principles of this, to be called the Southeast Alabama United Free-will Baptist Association.”80 The Martin Association, named for revered minister C. C. Martin, followed suit in 1887; this association contained churches in southwest Georgia. The Midway United Free Will Baptist Association was also founded, in southwest Georgia in 1898. The Middle Georgia Association of United Baptists was founded in 1863 or 1864 from churches in the central part of the state north of Macon. The Ogeechee United Free Will Baptist Association was founded in the eastern part of Georgia in 1878; the association later changed its name to the South Georgia Free Will Baptist Association in 1903.81 The Georgia Union Association of United Free Will Baptists was organized in the central part of the state in 1895.82 Continued Doctrinal Development At the end of a significant gap in Chattahoochee Association minutes between 1855 and 1878, Chattahoochee published a statement of doctrinal views in 1879 “as in the Minutes of the Ninth
William F. Davidson, The Free Will Baptists in History, 2nd ed. (Nashville: Randall House, 2001), 201. This Liberty Association is not to be confused with another Liberty Association of United Freewill Baptists in the south-central and southwest portions of Georgia in 1893. 80 Chattahoochee, 1879, 2. 81 Another Ogeechee Association was founded in the same area later in the twentieth century, and the South Georgia and Ogeechee associations both exist to this day. 82 As Davidson suggests, these United Baptists were probably called “Free Will” much earlier than they took on the title themselves; the same is true in other states (197–98). In Georgia, the name “Free Will” was added to associations’ names in the interval between the mid-1850s and the late 1870s. Minutes are not available from any association during that time. Before and immediately after the Civil War, the associations were entitled “United Baptist.” By the mid-1870s, the “Free Will” title was applied, usually in addition to the title “United Baptist.” In the early twentieth century, the “United” title was gradually dropped. The title “Liberal Baptists” also came into use for a short time in the 1880s–1890s; the term “liberal” was usually in reference to the doctrine of universal provision and the practice of open communion.
Origins of Free Will Baptists in Georgia Annual Association of this body.”83 Interestingly, the original publication of this statement would have fallen around 1844—before the 1848 publication of the Sharon Confession of Faith. The two are significantly different. Again, the reason for the seeming shift back to the Sharon Confession in 1848 after it had been adamantly rejected and a new one already drawn up can only be speculated. Gaps in minutes and other sources leave many puzzles. Still, for Chattahoochee, any shifts back toward Calvinism did not last long. The 1844/1879 statement, which was also reprinted in the subsequent years, says, “The blessings of salvation are made free to all by the gospel . . . and nothing prevents the salvation of the greatest sinner upon earth but his own voluntary refusal to submit to the Lord, Jesus Christ.”84 Salvation is still by God’s grace, according to the statement; making this fact clear would have been important because Arminians were often accused of putting salvation in the hands of humans. The view of election has been modified from the Sharon Confession of Faith: Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which he regenerates, sanctifies and saves sinners; that being perfectly consistent with the free agency of man it comprehends all the means with the end; that it is a most glorious display of God’s goodness, being infinitely wise, holy, unchangeable; that it utterly excludes boasting and promotes humility, prayer, praise, trust in God, and active imitation of his free mercy; that it encourages the use of means in the highest degree; that it is the foundation of christian [sic] assurance; and that to ascertain it with regards to ourselves, demands and deserves our utmost diligence.85 The doctrine of election, far from being removed entirely, has now been harmonized with universal provision and the free will of man. Article 9 of this 1844/1879 doctrinal statement establishes that the “preserving attachment of true believers to Christ is the grand mark which distinguishes them from superficial professors; that a special providence watches over their
Chattahoochee, 1879, 2. Ibid., 1881, 11. 85 Ibid. 84
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) welfare, and that they are kept, by the power of God, through faith unto salvation.”86 The Sharon Confession of Faith stated a simple belief in perseverance; this article is slightly more elaborate, with a distinction between true and superficial believers. A movement away from absolute perseverance of the saints is evident, but the belief has not been repudiated entirely. The Chattahoochee Association did not make any significant changes to its doctrinal views, besides adding scriptural references in 1890, until the early twentieth century. The Martin Association, upon its 1887 constitution, approved the articles of faith of the Chattahoochee Association.87 The Liberty Association, apparently, also adopted those same articles of faith. The Middle Georgia Association’s only extant doctrinal statement (1897) provides only Scripture for its beliefs. The Georgia Union Association in 1900 provides another interesting perspective on the doctrinal issues at hand. Concerning election, the statement says, “God has not fixed the future state of men by any unconditional decree, but determined from the beginning to save all who should comply with the conditions of salvation.” On perseverance, “None will be finally saved but those who, through grace, persevere in holiness to the end.” On free will, “The human will is not controlled by any fatal necessity or external force, but is free and self-determined, having power to yield to gracious influences, or resist them and perish.”88 Election has thus been completely repudiated. The statement on perseverance is an almost ambiguous middle ground between perseverance and apostasy. William F. Davidson calls this continued presence of perseverance of the saints “waffling.”89 More than likely, the doctrine of perseverance of the saints never went away, as far as written confessions of faith are concerned, until the early twentieth century in some
Ibid., 11–12. Martin Freewill Baptist Association, Minutes, 1887, 2. 88 Georgia Union Association of United Free Will Baptists, Minutes, 1900. 89 Davidson, Free Will Baptists, 199. 87
Origins of Free Will Baptists in Georgia associations. The Chattahoochee Association’s circular letter in 1902 dealt with the subject of apostasy and tried to “put forth a few of the many reasons why we believe in apostasy.”90 The doctrine of the possibility of falling from grace was already there evidently, even if it had not been added to the confessions of faith. Feet washing was likewise being practiced before being declared officially an ordinance. In the 1844/1879 doctrinal statement, the washing of the saints’ feet is not given as a gospel ordinance. The circular letter of 1883, however, deals with the subject in a favorable light. The central issue behind feet washing for the author is obedience: “What is it to walk with Christ, but to do all the things that He commanded, and one of them things is to wash one another’s feet.”91 The first time the practice is on record as being observed in an association meeting is in the 1890 session of the Chattahoochee Association; the ordinance was observed in conjunction with Communion, as is traditional to this day. In 1891, “it was agreed by unanimous vote of the body to amend the 12th article of our Government and Ordinances so as to mention ‘feet-washing’ as well as ‘communion.’”92 Steps Toward Unity The Chattahoochee Association was a leader in denominational organization and union. In 1851, the association discussed but deferred the issue of “having a uniformity of Hymn Books for use of our denomination.”93 In 1885, the Committee on Sabbath Schools, another major concern in the late 1800s, urged that the churches adopt the “literature of our own publishing house at Dover, N.H.”94 This recommendation of the literature of northern Free Will Baptists
Chattahoochee, 1902, 7. Ibid., 1883, 9. 92 Ibid., 1891, 3. 93 Ibid., 1851, 4. 94 Ibid., 1885, 4. 91
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) demonstrated a desire on the association’s part for unity with other Baptists of like mind. The trend of recommending Free Will Baptist literature, whether of the North or South, continued. In 1889, the association resolved to “recommend a general convention of the Free-Will Baptist Association in the South to meet in Columbus, Ga., or at some center point as early as possible, and that all the Associations be notified through the Baptist Review of the time and place agreed upon.”95 In 1890, the question of “Southern Unity” was “dropped without definite action.”96 The idea of a general conference in Georgia did not die in 1890, however. In 1891, the first reference to a State Convention of United Free Will Baptists appears in the Chattahoochee minutes; the convention was to meet at Christian Hill Church in Wilcox County on October 30, 1891. No minutes of this state convention have survived except those of 1895 and 1897. Even then, only one page of the 1895 minutes has survived, bound in with the Chattahoochee Association minutes. The title of the group was the Georgia State Convention of Liberal Baptists. The name “Liberal Baptist” seems to come from the fact that the churches “advocate both a general atonement and open communion.”97 The United Free Will Baptists of Georgia were one of six denominations nationwide that included that title. The Georgia Convention in 1897 had 11 delegates representing 6 associations (Chattahoochee, Middle Georgia, Ogeechee, Martin, Liberty, and Georgia Union), 97 churches, and 3,928 members. The meeting that year consisted of singing, preaching, five committee reports, and planning for the next convention, but relatively very little business. The self-stated purpose of the convention was threefold: 1st. Establish and operate plans for church extension. 2nd. To secure co-operative work to promote such denominational enterprises as we are too weak to carry on as single Associations. 3rd. To labor for the union of all Liberal Baptists.98 95
Ibid., 1889, 4–5. Ibid., 1890, 3. 97 Georgia State Liberal Baptist Convention, Minutes, 1897, 6. 98 Ibid., 4. 96
Origins of Free Will Baptists in Georgia
The doctrinal statement of the convention disclaimed election and espoused universal provision and feet washing, but said nothing about perseverance of the saints or falling from grace. The Chattahoochee United Free Will Baptist Association seems to have been one of the prime influences in organizing and maintaining this body. It expired shortly after 1907 for “lack of cooperation.”99 The dream of statewide cooperation and union did not die, however. Conclusion In the circular letter of the Chattahoochee minutes for 1898, J. H. Jenkins celebrated the dying grasp of the hyper-Calvinism early United Baptists had so feared: “Looking backward but a few decades in Georgia, we see Cyrus White arraigned as a heratic [sic] for declaring that ‘God hath not predestinated any soul to eternal life or death unconditionally.’ Today we are informed that text-books teaching the doctrine of unconditional election are condemned by the theological seminaries of the very denomination who arraigned and ex-communicated White.”100 Looking to the future, Jenkins believed that the “man-made doctrine and practice of close communion will, like Calvinism, [vanish] away before the resplendent rays of righteousness and eternal truth.”101 By the dawn of the twentieth century, the Georgia Baptist Convention was no longer a beacon of Calvinist doctrine in Georgia. This reality in itself gave some a cause to celebrate. Free Will Baptists, however, had only to look at themselves to find reason to give thanks. They had persevered despite opposition and expulsion and preached their doctrines. Leaders like Jeremiah Walker, Cyrus White, Prier Reeves, Barnabas Strickland, and James Edward Broadnax had led their faithful through hardship and triumph. The adversity of the 1830s had become the relative growth and prosperity of the 1900s. The ever-present, though at 99
Davidson, Free Will Baptists, 201. Chattahoochee, 1898, 7 101 Ibid. 100
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) times dim and faltering, dream of a statewide association was again fulfilled on Tuesday, August 31, 1937, in the Georgia State Association of Free Will Baptists, which continues in its existence to this day.102
Davidson, Free Will Baptists, 201.
John R. Rice, Bob Jones Jr., and the “Mechanical Dictation” Controversy
JOHN R. RICE, BOB JONES JR., AND THE “MECHANICAL DICTATION” CONTROVERSY: FINALIZING THE FRACTURING OF INDEPENDENT FUNDAMENTALISM By Nathan A. Finn Introduction In the mid-1950s, independent fundamentalists ceased to cooperate with neo-evangelicals because of their differing understandings of Christian cooperation. Since the 1930s, the two movements had functioned as two streams of emphasis within what Joel Carpenter has called an “evangelical united front.”1 But that began to change in the years after World War II. The final straw for most fundamentalists was Billy Graham’s 1957 Madison Square Garden crusade. Graham had increasingly come under fundamentalist suspicion because he allowed theological liberals and Roman Catholics to sponsor his crusades, sit on the platform, and pray during the services. After the split, Graham, Harold John Ockenga, and Carl Henry emerged as the key leaders within the post-fundamentalist new evangelical movement.2 In the years following 1957, the leading independent fundamentalists were Bob Jones Sr. (1883–1968) and John R. Rice (1895–1980). Unlike the younger leaders of new evangelicals, Jones and Rice were seasoned institution-builders who had been shaping their movement for a generation. Jones was an evangelist and the founder of Bob Jones University (BJU), the flagship 1
Joel A. Carpenter, “The Fundamentalist Leaven and the Rise of an Evangelical United Front,” in The Evangelical Tradition in America, ed. Leonard I. Sweet (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1984), 257–88. 2 For the split between fundamentalists and neo-evangelicals, see Farley P. Butler Jr., “Billy Graham and the End of Evangelical Unity” (Ph.D. diss., University of Florida, 1976). For the early development of neoevangelicalism, see Joel A. Carpenter, Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); Jon R. Stone, On the Boundaries of American Evangelicalism: The Postwar Evangelical Coalition (New York: St. Martin’s, 1997); Garth Rosell, The Surprising Work of God: Harold John Ockenga, Billy Graham, and the Rebirth of Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008).
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) fundamentalist college. Rice was also an evangelist and the editor of The Sword of the Lord, the flagship fundamentalist periodical. The two men were close friends who frequently collaborated, but their vision of a relatively unified independent fundamentalism failed to outlive their friendship. In 1968, Bob Jones Sr. died, and his son, Bob Jones Jr. (1911–1997), took over the reins of his father’s fundamentalist empire and became chancellor of Bob Jones University. Within three years, Jones Jr. and Rice had a massive falling out, ostensibly over the perennial issue of cooperation versus separation.3 Both men affirmed the principle of biblical separation, which is the belief that Christians should distance themselves from sin and false doctrine, whether these problems are found in the secular world or among professing Christians.4 However, they disagreed over how to apply biblical separation to churches and denominations. Rice, who could be characterized as a moderate fundamentalist, wished to cooperate with fundamentalists who remained in mainline denominations, particularly the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Jones, whose fundamentalism was much stricter, denied the existence of denominational fundamentalism; by definition, authentic fundamentalists were independent separatists. The controversy became increasingly heated during the early 1970s. Many fundamentalists with close ties to Bob Jones University criticized Rice for being too soft on biblical separation because of his refusal to break ties with fundamentalists in the SBC such as R.
The split between Rice and the Joneses has been discussed in several works. See Howard Edgar Moore, “The Emergence of Moderate Fundamentalism: John R. Rice and The Sword of the Lord” (Ph.D. diss., George Washington University, 1990), 317–66; Mark Taylor Dalhouse, An Island in the Lake of Fire: Bob Jones University, Fundamentalism & the Separatist Movement (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1996), 96–102; Nathan A. Finn, “The Development of Baptist Fundamentalism in the South, 1940–1980” (Ph.D. diss., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2007), 157–70. The remainder of this section draws heavily upon these sources. 4 For helpful explanations of biblical separation, see George M. Marsden, Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 3; Nancy Tatom Ammerman, Bible Believers: Fundamentalists in the Modern World (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987), 3–4; David O. Beale, In Pursuit of Purity: American Fundamentalism Since 1850 (Greenville, SC: Unusual Publications, 1986), 6; Dalhouse, An Island in the Lake of Fire, 3–4.
John R. Rice, Bob Jones Jr., and the “Mechanical Dictation” Controversy G. Lee and W. A. Criswell. Those with greater affinity for Rice accused Jones and his allies of redefining separation and applying it more strictly than the previous generation of fundamentalists, including Bob Jones Sr., had done. The division was finalized in the fall of 1971. In the following years, Bob Jones Jr. and Bob Jones III (b. 1939) remained the key leaders among stricter fundamentalists, while Rice, Chattanooga pastor Lee Roberson (1909–2007), and would-be political activist Jerry Falwell (1933–2007) were the key figures among more moderate fundamentalists.5 While this dominant narrative is historically accurate, there was another aspect of the Rice–Jones controversy that has been almost totally unexplored by historians. For all their demonstrable differences in applying biblical separation, Rice and Jones also split, in part, over a dispute about the nature of biblical inspiration. Jones and the Bible Department at his university accused Rice of holding to a “mechanical dictation” understanding of inspiration. Rice vigorously denied the accusation in print and in personal correspondence. This essay argues that the controversy over whether or not Rice advocated mechanical dictation played a key role in helping to finalize the fracturing of independent fundamentalism into two different camps during the early 1970s. In doing so, it adds another layer to our understanding of the nature of intrafundamentalist tensions during the years before the Religious Right put fundamentalism back on the radar in wider American culture.6
Finn, “The Development of Baptist Fundamentalism in the South,” 170–73. See Jerry Falwell, with Ed Dobson and Ed Hindson, The Fundamentalist Phenomenon: The Resurgence of Conservative Christianity (New York: Doubleday, 1981). 6
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) “If God Gave the Very Words and Men Wrote Them Down, That is Dictation” In 1969, John R. Rice published a popular bibliology titled Our God-Breathed Book—The Bible; the tome was an expansion of an earlier pamphlet on the same topic.7 Our God-Breathed Book was intended to offer a defense of plenary-verbal inspiration, the belief that every word of the original autographs of Scripture, though written by men, were inspired ultimately by God. This view, which was originally associated with the “Old Princeton” theological tradition, became mainstream among both fundamentalists and evangelicals in the early twentieth century.8 However, by the late-1960s some evangelicals were rejecting the older understanding of Scripture, especially the rising generation of scholars and pastors.9 The next two decades were dominated by evangelical debates over the inspiration, authority, and truthfulness of Scripture.10 In the case of Rice’s book, chapters 14 and 15 became the focal point of the controversy. In chapter 14, Rice addresses the common accusation from mainline progressives that verbal inspiration is more or less equivalent to the mechanical dictation theory of inspiration. According to the mechanical dictation view, “the mental activity of the [biblical] writers was simply suspended, apart from what was necessary for the mechanical transcription of the words supernaturally introduced into their consciousness.”11 Rice denies that any well-known theological conservative holds this view and claims it is a spurious allegation from liberals and
John R. Rice, Our God-Breathed Book—The Bible (Murfreesboro, TN: Sword of the Lord, 1969). See also John R. Rice, Verbal Inspiration (Murfreesboro, TN: Sword of the Lord, 1943). 8 For the theology of Old Princeton, see Mark A. Noll, ed., The Princeton Theology 1812–1921: Scripture, Science, and Theological Method from Archibald Alexander to Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001). 9 For differing perspectives on evangelical shifts in bibliology, see Richard Quebedeaux, The Young Evangelicals: Revolution in Orthodoxy (New York: Harper & Row, 1974), and Harold Lindsell, The Battle for the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976). For a more scholarly assessment of how these shifts affected a particular institution, see George M. Marsden, Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 245–62. 10 See Gary J. Dorrien, The Remaking of Evangelical Theology (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1998), 103–52; and Molly Worthen, Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013). 11 J. I. Packer, “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1958), 78–79.
John R. Rice, Bob Jones Jr., and the “Mechanical Dictation” Controversy infidels.12 However, he complains that conservatives have been overly sensitive to the accusation of mechanical dictation, often in an effort to gain credibility in wider scholarly circles. He criticizes conservative scholars such as James Orr, John Urquhart, Carl Henry, Stewart Custer, and W. H. Griffith Thomas for accommodating allegedly liberal terminology in their effort to avoid being charged with affirming mechanical dictation.13 In chapter 15, Rice attempts to rehabilitate the word dictation among theological conservatives. He argues that God did indeed dictate the words of Scripture to the human authors, though this divine dictation was compatible with the individual writers’ differing styles and vocabularies.14 He claims his view is the same as that advanced by John Calvin, Benjamin Warfield, and Louis Gaussen.15 For Rice, it appears dictation was more or less a synonym for inspiration. Rice closes his argument by stating he does not believe one must use the word dictation to describe the conservative view of inspiration. Nevertheless, he reiterates his criticism of conservatives who shy away from the word out of a misguided desire to avoid the charge of holding to mechanical dictation.16 So does Rice advocate mechanical dictation in Our God-Breathed Book—The Bible? Scholars sometimes point to Rice as the key representative of the mechanical dictation view.17 As Keith Bates argues, Rice’s “theory of inspiration embraced the major elements of mechanical dictation.”18 However, it is important to note that Rice argues forcefully that he did not hold to
Rice, Our God-Breathed Book, 265–68. Ibid., 274–80. 14 Ibid., 282–88. 15 Ibid., 288–90. 16 Ibid., 291. 17 See Roger E. Olson, The Mosaic of Christian Belief: Twenty Centuries of Unity and Diversity (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2002), 98; Robert P. Lightner, Handbook of Evangelical Theology: A Historical, Biblical, and Contemporary Survey and Review (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 1995), 15. 18 See David Keith Bates Jr., “Moving Fundamentalism Toward the Mainstream: John R. Rice and the Reengagement of America’s Religious and Political Cultures” (Ph.D. diss., Kansas State University, 2006), 151–52. However, Bates also concedes that Rice’s arguments about inspiration are “essentially spats about semantics” (152). 13
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) mechanical dictation. He is probably correct. Unlike advocates of mechanical dictation, Rice suggests that each writer’s unique style, vocabulary, and personality factored into inspiration. A more nuanced answer to this question, advocated by several scholars, is that Rice clearly affirms dictation, which in itself was an unusual position to take, but not mechanical dictation, which would have eliminated virtually every human element from inspiration.19 Though he likely did not affirm mechanical dictation, at least as the term is normally defined, Rice does advance a minority view among theological conservatives, often using very strong language to do so: Face it honestly, if God gave the very words and men wrote them down, that is dictation. It was not mechanical dictation. It ought not to be hard for us to understand that God, who could give the very words by a miracle, could also express the feelings and character and personality of the men whom he had formed and through whom He gave the words.20 God’s giving the words that the men wrote down sounds very much like stenography, even if the process was somehow (miraculously?) compatible with the individual styles and vocabularies of each individual stenographer. Rice’s novel approach to inspiration led to his being accused of championing the very view he was trying to deny that conservatives held. Had Rice been a scholar like Henry, Custer, or the other conservative theologians he criticized, he likely would have chosen a different word than dictation to argue for plenary-verbal inspiration. His insistence on retaining the term exposed him to the charge that he did, in fact, hold to mechanical dictation, his protestations notwithstanding. Even though the charge that Rice affirmed mechanical
Norman Geisler and William Nix argue that Rice affirmed a word-for-word divine verbal dictation, but not a mechanical dictation, though they note that even verbal dictation is not the historic evangelical understanding of inspiration. See Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, From God to Us: How We Got Our Bible (Chicago: Moody Press, 2012), 24. Harriett Harris also argues this is Rice’s position, though she sees no significant difference between verbal dictation and mechanical dictation. See Harriett A. Harris, Fundamentalism and Evangelicals (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 163. See also Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 233n6, and David S. Dockery and David P. Nelson, “Special Revelation,” in A Theology for the Church, ed. Daniel L. Akin (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2007), 142n82. 20 Rice, Our God-Breathed Book, 287–88; emphasis original.
John R. Rice, Bob Jones Jr., and the “Mechanical Dictation” Controversy dictation was probably inaccurate, the accusation alone proved sufficient to further charge an atmosphere already electrified by controversy. “I Am Openly Branded as Unscholarly” When Rice was writing Our God-Breathed Book—The Bible, he sent a lengthy letter to a number of leading fundamentalist and even neo-evangelical pastors and theologians.21 In the letter, Rice asked two key questions. First, did the Scriptures exist completely in the mind and plan of God before they were given for men to write down? Second, how much were the Bible writers conditioned and prepared ahead of time so that they would utter exactly the words of God in their own vocabularies, while also expressing their own conditions, feelings, and testimonies? The latter part of the second question demonstrates that Rice did not affirm mechanical dictation, since he wished to acknowledge the human element in biblical authorship. In his book, Rice reproduces sympathetic responses from Laird Harris, Charles Feinberg, and Maxwell Coder. Once the book was written, Rice sent a copy of the work to Bob Jones Jr. and asked him to write a review. Rice had every reason to believe that Jones and his faculty would promote the book. In fact, shortly after Our God-Breathed Book was published, Jones invited Rice to BJU in 1970 to present him the “Bob Jones Memorial Award for the Defense of the Scriptures,” praising the fundamentalist patriarch for his commitment to evangelism and the defense of the true faith.22 However, Jones never reviewed the book, a fact that would become important once the controversy over biblical separation played out over the next eighteen months.
Rice reproduced the letter and three responses in the book’s foreword. See Rice, Our God-Breathed Book, 8–13. Copies of the letters are also available in the John R. Rice Collection, A. Webb Roberts Library, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, TX, box 2, folder 11 (hereafter Rice Collection). At the time when most of the research for this essay was undertaken, Rice’s personal papers were housed at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, which retains a microfiche copy of the collection. 22 See Andrew Himes, The Sword of the Lord: The Roots of Fundamentalism in an American Family (Seattle: Chiara Press, 2011), 275; Viola Walden, John R. Rice: “The Captain of Our Team” (Murfreesboro, TN: Sword of the Lord, 1990), 320–21.
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) In September 1971, Rice and Jones were engaged in correspondence that cemented the break between the two men. While the bulk of their disagreement centered on the nature of separation and who best represented the views of Bob Jones Sr. on that issue, the question of mechanical dictation was also raised. In a letter dated September 20, Rice lamented that his longheld views on verbal inspiration were no longer acceptable at BJU. He pointed out that he had earlier received an honorary doctorate from the university, in part because of his defense of biblical inspiration. Rice also complained that he was “openly branded as unscholarly” for teaching mechanical dictation.23 In a follow-up letter on October 7, Rice reiterated that his position in Our God-Breathed Book represented what he had always believed about inspiration. He also claimed he had preached his views in chapel at BJU during previous years without controversy.24 What had heretofore been hearsay and innuendo now became public controversy. Jones published a document titled “A Statement from the Chancellor of Bob Jones University.” He claimed he was responding to the fact that Rice had begun publicly circulating their private correspondence about the controversy. Significantly, Jones argued that the root of the disagreement between the two men was Rice’s offense on two points: the dispute over separation and BJU’s refusal to “agree without reservation” with Rice’s position in Our God-Breathed Book. Jones claimed that he had refused to write a review of the book and had explained to Rice at the time that the book had “certain weaknesses.” Jones suggested he had pursued this approach because did not wish to disagree publicly with Rice. He also claimed that the entire Bible Department at BJU “consider[s] that Dr. Rice’s position is not verbal inspiration but actually
John R. Rice to Bob Jones Jr., September 20, 1971, Rice Collection, box 9, folder 23. A copy of the letter is also found in the Fundamentalism File, Mack Library, Bob Jones University, Greenville, SC, accession no. 0920801 (hereafter Fundamentalism File). 24 John R. Rice to Bob Jones Jr., October 7, 1971, Fundamentalism File, accession no. 0920850.
John R. Rice, Bob Jones Jr., and the “Mechanical Dictation” Controversy ‘mechanical’ inspiration.” Jones conceded that Rice denied affirming mechanical inspiration, but then added that Rice “certainly expresses himself rather loosely in the book.” Jones suggested that he did not believe the difference of opinion on this issue should lead to controversy, but it had unfortunately done so because of Rice’s offense at the refusal of Jones and his faculty to endorse Our God-Breathed Book.25 In November, Rice’s younger brother Bill attempted to act as mediator between the sparring fundamentalists. Bill had encouraged John to apologize for whatever had offended Jones and be willing to make amends. At this point, a new wrinkle was added to the controversy. One of the conservative scholars Rice had criticized in Our God-Breathed Book for being too willing to fudge on verbal inspiration was Stewart Custer, chairman of the Bible Department at BJU. In 1968, Custer had published his own bibliology, titled Does Inspiration Demand Inerrancy?26 Rice responded to his brother, I am sincerely sorry that my mention of Dr. Custer’s pamphlet or book brought offense and sorry I mentioned it. I will delete that mention, God willing, in the further editions of Our God-Breathed Book—THE BIBLE. If Dr. Jones thinks it proper and helpful, I will say in SWORD OF THE LORD that I did not mean to offend nor cast reflection on Bob Jones University or on Dr. Custer when I suggested that to use the term “mechanical dictation,” which liberals use about verbal inspiration, was unfortunate.27 Rice also apologized to Jones personally in a letter dated February 17, 1972.28 Though Rice attempted to make amends with Jones, the two men remained estranged, and independent fundamentalists began dividing into two camps. Rice and Jones Jr. corresponded much less frequently after the fall of 1971. However, the issue of mechanical dictation continued to be a source of controversy, as various fundamentalists 25
Bob Jones Jr., “A Statement from the Chancellor of Bob Jones University,” Fundamentalism File, accession no. 0872796. 26 Stewart Custer, Does Inspiration Demand Inerrancy? (Nutley, NJ: Craig Press, 1968). 27 John R. Rice to Bill Rice, December 7, 1971, Fundamentalism File, accession no. 0920801. Jones was apparently copied on the letter between the Rice brothers, since a copy is located in his personal papers. 28 John R. Rice to Bob Jones Jr., February 17, 1972, Fundamentalism File, accession no. 0920801.
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) sided with either one man or the other in the ensuing split. For example, in September 1972, a full year after the apex of the controversy, Rice answered a letter from a pastor named Norman Marks inquiring why Rice no longer promoted Bob Jones University in The Sword of the Lord. Rice responded that BJU had shifted its position under Jones Jr.’s leadership, as represented by the debate over separation and Jones’s criticism of three of Rice’s books. He mentioned the flap over mechanical dictation and claimed that Stewart Custer initially did not want Our GodBreathed Book carried in the BJU bookstore, though eventually the store stocked the book.29 In a more pointed missive to Bob Jones III, dated December 15, 1972, Rice complained about “slanderous” letters he had received from the Joneses over the past year. Rice was miffed that the Joneses allegedly were acting as if they did not know why Rice had broken fellowship with the university. One of the reasons for the break mentioned by Rice was the accusation from Jones Jr. and the BJU Bible Department that Our God-Breathed Book advocated mechanical dictation.30 While the separation issue was the best-known reason for the controversy, as far as Rice was concerned the debate over mechanical dictation also contributed to the rift among independent fundamentalists. In January 1973, Jones III wrote a lengthy response to Rice. His thoughts on the mechanical dictation debate are worth quoting at length, since they summarize BJU’s stance in the controversy with Rice: The school’s position on inspiration is that which my grandfather believed. It is the only position on inspiration that has ever been espoused by our Bible faculty in the 46 years of the school’s history. Yet, in your book OUR GOD-BREATHED BOOK, THE BIBLE, you reflect on our Bible Department chairman, Dr. Custer, by saying he has been unduly influenced by liberal thought because he called your position on inspiration something akin to mechanical dictation. The position we teach in our Bible Department is historic and every bit as orthodox as yours. . . . 29
Norman C. Marks to John R. Rice, September 3, 1972, Rice Collection, box 3, folder 10; John R. Rice to Norman C. Marks, September 6, 1972, Fundamentalism File, accession no. 0920801. 30 John R. Rice to Bob Jones III, December 15, 1972, Fundamentalism File, accession no. 0920801.
John R. Rice, Bob Jones Jr., and the “Mechanical Dictation” Controversy Dr. Rice, we have tried to avoid saying publicly that our Bible faculty do not agree with the position you took in your book because we do not want to reflect on you; and as my father wrote you, we have tried to avoid giving any impression that there is a difference between us for the sake of not dividing Fundamental people and causing confusion. We would be glad to state that our Bible faculty do not agree with your mechanical theory of inspiration as set forth in your book; and, if you would like for us to do so, we can specify this; but we have tried to avoid it for your sake—not ours. For us to say that we do not approve of verbal inspiration of Scripture would be absolutely false and preposterous, because no institution in America stands as aggressively and boldly for the verbal inspiration of Scripture and the infallibility and inerrancy of it as Bob Jones University.31 This epistle represents the end of the private correspondence between Rice and the Joneses on this topic, though it was not the end of the controversy itself. “Some Fundamentalists Say Verbal Inspiration Without Meaning It” The final flare-up in the mechanical dictation controversy occurred in the early months of 1975. In January of that year, Rice wrote a lengthy article for The Sword of the Lord titled “Some Fundamentalists Say Verbal Inspiration Without Meaning It.” In that article, Rice restates his earlier argument from Our God-Breathed Book—The Bible. He criticizes an older generation of theological conservatives for capitulating to theological liberalism by denying dictation, including Charles Hodge and the Scofield Reference Bible. He also complains about scholars from Moody Bible Institute, Wheaton College, Dallas Theological Seminary, and Bob Jones University “who say matter-of-factly that they believe in verbal inspiration, yet deny the one great essential truth that God gave the very words of the Bible.”32 Rice also once again summarizes his own view of the issue:
Bob Jones III to John R. Rice, January 2, 1973, Fundamentalism File, accession no. 0920801. John R. Rice, “Some Fundamentalists Say Verbal Inspiration Without Meaning It,” The Sword of the Lord (January 10, 1975): 5. 32
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) Verbal inspiration, word-for-word dictation of the Scriptures, is clearly taught in the Bible, but it has never been regarded as mechanical, never regarded as if it left no room for color, the taste, the language and feelings of those whom God has prepared and inspired to write His Word already settled in Heaven.33 Near the end of his essay, Rice spends three paragraphs criticizing Stewart Custer, for the most part repeating his earlier comments from Our God-Breathed Book.34 Rice’s mentioning of BJU and Custer sparked another round of polemics. Rice’s personal papers include several dozen letters related to the article, mostly between Rice and defenders of BJU. Some of the correspondence was very heated in tone. For example, David Ainsley, a pastor from Virginia, wrote to Rice, “I know that you have a bone of contention with Bob Jones University, but that does not give you the right to jump on them the way you did.” He then further stated, I feel that you have done more to hurt the cause of fundamental, Bible-believing Christians by printing that article than any other one act that you have done. It was foolish, idiotic and asinine. It caused me personally to lose a great deal of respect for you. Bob Jones University has done more to help you and to make you what you are than any other school in America. They have promoted you and your ministry and your paper and now you have turned on them like a mad dog. I pity you.35 Rice’s response, while less vitriolic, was nevertheless pointed: “Your language is very intemperate and does not inspire the respect that I would like to have for it. The plain truth about the Bible doesn’t interest you—whether God gave the very words and whether people mean it when they say verbal inspiration.” Rice also reiterated his claim that Jones Sr. had agreed with Rice’s position on inspiration.36
Ibid., 6. Ibid., 14. 35 Dallas Ainsley to John R. Rice, January 16, 1975, Rice Collection, box 3, folder 37. 36 John R. Rice to David Ainsley, January 23, 1975, ibid. 34
John R. Rice, Bob Jones Jr., and the “Mechanical Dictation” Controversy Robert King of Michigan also wrote a strongly worded letter to Rice defending Custer and BJU: I didn’t know whether to cry or to vomit after reading such a ridiculous article. . . . What a slanderous thing to say that Bob Jones University is in the same class as such a New Evangelical haven as Wheaton College! You know as well as I do that Bob Jones University has always stood for the truth of God’s Word against modernism. To say that Bob Jones University and a godly man like Dr. Stewart Custer “talk like modernists” is a terrible, terrible lie. King also mentions Rice’s alleged lack of discernment for cooperating with W. A. Criswell, clearly siding with BJU on the question of separation.37 However, other correspondents who had aligned with Rice on the separation issue were becoming increasingly miffed over Rice’s views on the Bible. One writer claimed he had agreed with Rice in the debate over separation, but he now believed Rice had gone too far in publicly criticizing Stewart Custer. The same writer also claimed to have a 1953 syllabus from a New Testament survey class at BJU that argued against “mechanical inspiration” and championed plenary-verbal inspiration as the “only satisfactory theory.” The timing was significant, because 1953 was during the presidency of Bob Jones Sr., whom Rice consistently claimed had shared his view of inspiration.38 Two BJU students wrote that they had always appreciated Rice and his writings, but expressed dismay at this particular article. They noted, “After reading your article in the latest ‘Sword of the Lord’, we became rather distressed to find you blatantly attacking Bob Jones University.”39 Rice’s response is interesting because he implies that Custer had started the controversy the year before Rice even published Our God-Breathed Book. According to Rice, “When Dr. Custer wrote his little book, Does the Bible Demand Inerrancy?, whether you know it or not, he was answering somewhat my own position.” Rice also accused Custer of leading the
Robert King to John R. Rice, January 16, 1975, ibid. Carey Clark to John R. Rice, March 13 1975, ibid. 39 Frank Eberhart and Johnny Gordon to John R. Rice, January 17, 1975, ibid. 38
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) Bible Department to shift away from their earlier commitment to verbal inspiration (as understood by Rice). He also recommended the two students read Our God-Breathed Book and examine the issue for themselves. 40 Some fundamentalists were simply tired of the controversy. As one man stated in a letter to Rice, “I do not understand why you are making an issue of verbal inspiration of the Bible, whether it is mechanical or not, and classifying BJU with other liberal universities. Most of us have never thought or care about the words ‘mechanical dictation.’” Clearly, Rice and the Joneses were arguing about an issue that did not resonate with all fundamentalists. In fact, this particular writer suggested, “I think this [controversy] is nit-picking and is not worth the division that is being caused by it, especially among fundamentalists.”41 Simply put, Rice was fostering a controversy within fundamentalism at the very time when some felt independent conservatives needed to be united against their real enemies, especially historic opponents such as theological liberalism, Roman Catholicism, and atheism. One couple wrote a letter accusing Rice of “character assassination” because of his criticisms of BJU. They recommended that Rice read Bob Jones III’s column in the March/April issue of the BJU periodical Faith for the Family.42 That article, titled “A Special Word from the President,” was intended to be a response to Rice’s most recent criticism of the university, and particularly Stewart Custer, in The Sword of the Lord. Jones expressed his frustration that Rice had accused BJU of denying verbal inspiration and lumped the university in with neoevangelical schools such as Wheaton and Dallas Seminary. Jones rehearsed the origins of the mechanical dictation controversy from the perspective of BJU. Rice was offended because Custer refused to endorse Our God-Breathed Book on the grounds that Rice advocated a position 40
John R. Rice to Frank Eberhart and Johnny Gordon, January 23, 1975, ibid. A. Evanoff to John R. Rice, March 8, 1975, ibid. 42 Harrison and Ruth Zonge to John R. Rice, April 1, 1975, ibid. 41
John R. Rice, Bob Jones Jr., and the “Mechanical Dictation” Controversy “closely resembling” mechanical dictation.43 Jones summarized the university’s position on inspiration: Bob Jones University does not believe in mechanical dictation but does believe . . . that God directly revealed eternal truth which was recorded in the writers’ vocabulary and that He also brooded over the recording of events in their ministries and caused them to tell it in His words, though theirs.44 The column closes with a short addendum wherein Custer responds to Rice. Custer resented Rice’s lumping him with “Modernists” who denied verbal inspiration. While he agrees with Rice that the Bible is verbally inspired, Custer appeals to mystery rather than divine dictation in terms of the method of inspiration.45 Rice responded to the Jones column in an article in The Sword of the Lord titled “B.J.U. Takes Good Stand for the Bible.” In the article, Rice suggests that the views articulated in Jones’s article are more in line with Rice’s own understanding of inspiration. Rice also claims the article represents “an improvement” over Stewart Custer’s views on the matter. Rice then proceeds to rehash his disagreement with Custer and argue for his own understanding of divine dictation.46 In light of the fact that Rice ignored Custer’s addendum to Jones’s column and continued to criticize Custer’s earlier writings, it seems likely that there was at least some merit to Jones’s argument that the root of the controversy was Rice’s offense that Custer had not endorsed Our God-Breathed Book—The Bible. After the spring of 1975, the controversy over mechanical dictation receded into the background, though Rice and the Joneses continued to argue about biblical separation until Rice’s death in 1980.47
Bob Jones III, “A Special Word from the President,” Faith for the Family (March/April 1975): 23. Special thanks to Patrick Robbins, director of the Fundamentalism File at Bob Jones University, for providing the author with a scanned copy of this article. 44 Ibid., 24. 45 Ibid., 25. 46 John R. Rice, “B.J.U. Takes Good Stand for the Bible,” Sword of the Lord (April 11, 1975): 5–6. 47 For example, see John R. Rice, “The Modern Fad of Secondary Separation,” The Sword of the Lord
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) Conclusion During the 1970s, separatist fundamentalists who had been united in their opposition to the new evangelicals divided into two broad camps. The primary reason for this division was differing approaches to ecclesiastical separation. However, as this essay has demonstrated, the allegation by the Bob Jones University faculty and administration that John R. Rice affirmed the doctrine of mechanical dictation helped to solidify the fracturing of independent fundamentalism. While the allegation itself was probably inaccurate, Rice certainly opened himself up to the charge because of his idiosyncratic understanding of divine, but non-mechanical, dictation. In the years immediately following the Rice–Jones controversy, fundamentalism was even further balkanized. Throughout the 1970s, a new controversy over whether or not God had uniquely inspired the King James translation of the Bible came to dominate independent fundamentalism.48 In the years after Rice’s death, this particular debate about inspiration would eclipse the earlier controversy about mechanical dictation, resulting in yet another faction among the perennially fracture-prone independent fundamentalists.
(September 3, 1976): 3; Bob Jones Jr., Facts John R. Rice Will Not Face (Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press, 1977). The latter pamphlet briefly mentions the controversy over verbal inspiration (26). 48 See James Arnold Price, “The King James Only Controversy in American Fundamentalism since 1950” (Th.D. Diss., Temple Baptist Theological Seminary, 1990).
Book Reviews Robert Bartlett, Why Can the Dead Do Such Great Things? Saints and Worshippers from the Martyrs to the Reformation (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2013), 787 pages. The recent canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II was a historic event that justly received global media coverage. Both were transformative figures, both were canonized on the same day, and both had two popes present for the same ceremony. Theological differences notwithstanding, the event proved educational for Protestants who found themselves peering into a strange world where papal lives were not only celebrated, but literally revered and preserved. The canonization ceremony conferred sainthood on the long deceased men and included the presentation of relics from each — a piece of skin from John XXIII and a vial of blood from John Paul II. Evangelicals rightly consider this a peculiar practice but for the more than 800,000 people in attendance that day, the presence of relics in the ceremony was no more out of place than the remains of St. Peter, which purportedly lie beneath the Vatican itself. The use of relics has a long history in the church and one can hardly find a more thorough examination of their origins and meaning than Robert Bartlett’s book. The title, Why Can the Dead Do Such Great Things, comes from St. Augustine’s City of God, in which he addressed the question of the seemingly supernatural power exhibited by the remains of extraordinary deceased Christians. Bartlett begins his book with a brief overview (1–92) of the development of relics and reliquaries, beginning in the first century and concluding with the sixteenth. Most notable in this section is the immediate honor bestowed upon martyrs and the gradual distinction between “ordinary” and “exceptional” Christians with the term “saint” ultimately being applied to the 76
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) latter. Stories of the saints were preserved and promoted through hagiographers who, by the end of the fourth century, solidified a new genre that served to encourage the majority of Christians to emulate the faithful few and to visit their shrines. Bartlett then guides the reader through the characteristics and diversity of the cult of saints in the Middle Ages before closing the section with the Reformation and its implications. The second section (93–608) provides a topical discussion of issues related to saints including saints’ days, types of saints, relics and shrines, miracles, pilgrimages, dedications and naming, and images, to name a few. Bartlett provides the reader with three key elements necessary in establishing a cult for the saint: public recognition of the name and the day of the saint, special treatment of the saint’s bodily remains, and celebration of the saint in writing (95). The discussion on the remains of the saints reveals a sub-theme of the book, namely the question of how remains are treated and the expectations from those who venerated a particular saint. Stories circulated about saints whose bodies did not decay even long after their death, while other saints’ bodies decayed immediately, apparently as proof that incorruptibility was not a requirement for sainthood. Equally tricky, Bartlett observes, is the question of how to establish a cult for the saint when the body cannot be located. The answer he provides is that the body, or parts of the body, was always located. With regard to body parts, Bartlett spares no gruesome details when describing how portions of the body were acquired (239–243). These are problems that Protestants have not concerned themselves with, but the reader may rightly question how the attempted preservation of a saint’s body correlates with the ghoulish practice of cutting off body parts to send to various reliquaries (102). In fact, as Bartlett notes, dividing the body is unique to Christianity when compared other religions that practice inhumation, such as Judaism and Islam (626–627). 77
Book Reviews The emphasis on the body of a particular saint gave rise to reliquaries and shrines, which in turn fostered a sense of dependence of the faithful and thus created an industry dedicated to providing remains for pilgrims to revere. Even when body parts were in short supply (and often the reverse was the case — too many fingers, for example, could easily prove that someone must be wrong in their assessment), items that the saint had come into contact with simply appeared. Bartlett rightly notes that Jesus’ empty tomb precluded corporeal relics on his behalf but even that remarkable fact did not prevent the claim that his foreskin or baby teeth had been safely preserved (240). Moreover, Jesus’ contact relics, such as fragments of wood from the cross or dirt from the Holy Land, were delivered far and wide for all to see. Although the disbursement of contact relics extended the influence of a saint, Bartlett points out that certain relics were problematic in promoting his or her reputation. A bed, for example, was ideal in the sense that a saint had contact with it for a prolonged period; however, some questioned the commitment of a saint who chose a comfortable night’s rest over ascetic discipline (248). The ongoing maintenance of shrines and necessary transportation of reliquaries also reminded heavenlyminded pilgrims of the all-too-earthly realities of tending to a saint’s memory (259–263, 282– 295); and the ongoing efforts to improve one’s collection through buying and selling relics was a natural outgrowth between the benefits promised to pilgrims and the benefits received from those whose collections drew them in. One of the most troubling aspects of Bartlett’s narrative is the theology (superstitions) that arose in connection with saints and their relics. The most popular shrines were those in which miracles were reported and, as was the case with producing relics, miracles were seldom in short supply. Anything from curing a toothache to raising the dead was possible, depending on the particular saint and his or her patronage. Hagiographers, whose job it was to keep the saint’s 78
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) memory alive and to keep the system going, sometimes reveled in the inability of doctors to cure the sick as it made the work of the saint all the more necessary (349). Praying to a saint, sleeping near a shrine, or giving a gift to the church were just some of the ways pilgrims attempted to manipulate their fate (355–360). This book is decidedly not for every professor, pastor, and layperson. It will likely be appreciated most by those who teach church history, in part, because it provides a wealth of information and illustrations for virtually every aspect of this practice in the life of the church. Historians can also benefit from noting the way in which Bartlett tells this story. He is both comprehensive and clear at the same time. Virtually every sentence that begins a new paragraph introduces a new thought and is consistently followed by warrants that support his claims. Bartlett’s chapters are well organized and the transitions between paragraphs are carefully planned. He also discusses this topic as evenhandedly as one could hope. He writes as neither an advocate nor antagonist, despite the fact that his illustrations coyly tease the reader with premodern assumptions. Reading this book from the perspective of a Baptist historian has brought to mind a number of convictions and concerns. First, one is reminded of a comment made by Adrian Rogers that effectively renders the basis of the book irrelevant. In describing the status of justified Christians, Rogers once quipped, “There are two types of people in this world — the saints and the aints.” That being the case, a curious-minded historian will enjoy this book much more than a budding theologian. Second, the significant differences that remain between Catholics and evangelicals are not accidental. Bartlett’s study ends with the Reformation largely because of historical purposes, but the careful reader cannot overlook the fact that the formal principle of the Reformation (sola 79
Book Reviews scriptura) necessarily prevented relics and sainthood from shaping the Protestant movement. John Calvin, who purposely requested burial in an unmarked grave, dealt a severe blow to the use of relics in his 1543 Treatise on Relics, by noting that even if one possessed the genuine article the lure towards idolatry forbids one to revere anyone but God. Third, one is reminded that historic figures in the church can be appreciated without attributing to them undue loyalty bordering on idolatry. In point of fact, the discussion (355) of how pilgrims offered coins at shrines (some of which were bent as a way of presenting it purely as a votive offering) brings to mind a much better use of money in light of Christians who have departed this life. The two “matron saints” of the Southern Baptist Convention — Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong — are remembered each year through offerings that actually impact eternity. Instead of wasted coins, financial contributions to their memory promote missions and life transformation. Finally, one is concerned by reading this book, not only for those who have been misled for centuries but for those who have similar misunderstandings in evangelical life today. Bartlett’s work makes no claim for the faithfulness or foolishness of revering saints, but it does underscore how easily people will follow that which will bring immediate, earthly benefits. Neither the wilderness wanderers of Israel nor the prosperity gospelers of our time are any different from the participants in this book who search anywhere for help in hopes of a miracle. It is inherent in human nature to acquire benefits for one’s self without regard to the promises and prohibitions from a merciful and holy God. As such, Baptists can also find themselves preserving relics of their own (i.e., Aunt Judy’s piano stays on the left side of the church until Jesus returns) or promoting practices not found in the Bible (let the reader decide). Read in this
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) light, Bartlettâ€™s work inadvertently points one beyond those whose bodies lie in the tomb and toward the one who ascended to the right hand of God, scars and all. Anthony Chute Professor of Church History California Baptist University Gregg R. Allison, Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 496 pages. Gregg Allison's Sojourners and Strangers is a 500-page cathedral of Evangelical ecclesiology. Allison himself is a well-published historical theologian, professor at the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, and an active churchman. The Evangelical foundations of his book are biblical inerrancy, consistent Trinitarianism and the substitutionary atonement. The book is constructed throughout with convincing exegetical stonework on key passages in each of the six major sections and the Scripture index gives ready access to this interpretive masonry. We enter through a narthex of two introductory sections, one on scriptural sufficiency and hermeneutical methodology and a second on the abiding relation between church, Israel and kingdom. Allisonâ€™s inner sanctuary rightly puts being (ontology) before doing (functionality) by hanging, as the third and fourth major sections, seven ecclesiological attributes like light emitting stained-glass windows. He defines the universal nature of the church as doxological, logocentric, pneumadynamic, covenantal, confessional, missional and spatio-temporal/eschatological, this latter attribute being where the modest progressive dispensational perspective of the author is introduced. Allison reverses the contemporary functional eclipse of ontological ecclesiology by focusing on these seven panes first and then follows with two major functional sections down on the ground as the nave, aisles and transept of his ecclesiology: church discipline, governance, ordinances and ministries. Throughout, Allison is delightfully Trinitarian in a fashion that is 81
Book Reviews biblical, theological and practical. The ontological treatment of church covenant and confession is a great introduction for his practical discussion of church discipline and the necessary tension of unity and purity in congregational fellowship. While pastors and church leaders will find much in this book for preaching and teaching, scholars will not be disappointed by either the text or the rich insights and references in the footnotes. Allison has consulted carefully with other respected church architects such as D.A. Carson, John Calvin, Jürgen Moltmann, Mark Dever, Jeffrey Wainwright, P.T. Forsyth, Michael Horton, and John Webster. Contemporary-minded designers like Brian McLaren and Erwin McManus are critically consulted as well. The style is readable with the author often anticipating reader questions. The author grows more comfortable with his task as the book progresses so there emerges an increasing use of the first person. This development is not off putting, but rather like the teacher who has come to know his pupils well. Allison does create two larger than expected alcoves on two church functions, one on church discipline, in which he is clearly a biblical and practical expert, and one on congregational polity. The pulpit in this cathedral is rather raised above the congregation as Allison renders deeply-researched historical perspectives on these issues with fair-minded evaluations. He ultimately proposes an “elder led congregationalism characterized by a chastened form of democracy” and with stronger connectionalism between churches (297, 309). The book does not give, in my opinion, sufficient attention to self-discipline or to mutual admonition between members as the bedrock of a Believers Church discipline. However, the necessity of the practice of disciplined purity to foster unity could not be put more clearly. As to the communion table and baptistery in the altar area, the Lord’s table is more likely engraved with “real presence” than “in remembrance of me.” The section on church ordinances warrants a 82
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) close reading to catch the carefully nuanced position of the author. Some readers may tense up as Allison asserts that “all of the salvific benefits associated with his sacrificial death are present in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper” and describes the mere memorial view as “less than adequate” (396, 398). Allison advocates the elder-led approach and multi-site format of his own church in Louisville, but omits analysis of some significant contemporary models like house church networks and cell churches. Neither does he address the contemporary stream in Evangelical ecclesiology regarding the fivefold offices listed in Ephesians 4:11. Since his seven ontological windows rightly inform the functional sections and since the missional church is such a core item in the current ecclesiological conversation, I wish Allison had invested greater colors and time in his “missional” chapter and used those elements to inform and inspire later sections on the functional mission outside the local church. That being said, Sojourners and Strangers is a must buy and must read. It worked well as a text in my Ecclesiology course last fall. It has footnotes in detail, a strong index of scriptures and subjects, but no bibliography, so pastors, students and professors will have to mine their sources out of the footnotes. But the digging will be worth it. Rick Durst Professor of Historical Theology Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary K. Scott Oliphint, Covenental Apologetics: Principles & Practice in Defense of Our Faith (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013), 288 pages. In this book, author K. Scott Oliphint sets out a presuppositional approach to apologetics. As part of his overall project to translate Cornelius Van Til (26), he replaces the word “presuppositional” with “covenantal” in an effort to make the meaning of Van Til’s writing more accessible to the 83
Book Reviews average reader (and all apologetics students said, “Amen”). To do this, Van Til’s more philosophical approach is replaced by a more biblical and theological one, with specific emphasis paid to the role of God’s condescension and relation to man through covenant. Throughout the book, Oliphint makes a biblical and theological case for covenantal apologetics (those looking for a more philosophical introduction to apologetics will want to look elsewhere). Foundational to his case is an understanding that humanity is made in God’s image and is made to exist in a covenant, either in Christ or in Adam. These covenant relationships assume a relationship with God (32). Many readers will be accustomed to thinking about salvation as a person entering into a relationship with God. They may fail to recognize, however, that people who are not saved also have a relationship with God – one that is characterized by condemnation and rebellion. There is much in this book that is helpful for those studying apologetics in a church or other ministry context. For instance, when dealing with 1 Peter 3:15, Oliphant gives proper attention to the centrality of Lordship for apologetics (57–85) and of the role of the Holy Spirit in the task of apologetics (199–206). The book also introduces and interacts with with key historical arguments from the likes of Hume and Kant, as well as engaging the current “newatheism” of Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins as well as Anthony Kenny. Chapter four (“We Persuade Others”) explores the often-ignored topic of persuasion in apologetics. Borrowing from Aristotle (139), persuasion is understood as the trivium of ethos, pathos, and logos. Ethos draws from chapters two and three regarding the centrality of Christ and speaks to the need for Christians to be a holy people in their defense of the faith (144). The apostle Paul serves to exemplify the significance of ethos to the task of apologetics and
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) evangelism; two endeavours which are often viewed as separate but which Oliphint, to his credit, consistently treats as practically inseparable. In addition to ethos, persuasion involves pathos, which is a proper understanding of one’s audience (146). Here the book offers some helpful distinctions between covenantal apologetics and other approaches. For instance, in classical apologetics, emphasis is placed on proofs with attention to the audience (147). Yet pathos is a proper understanding of an audience in such a way that the audience is winsomely brought into a Christian way of seeing things, such as when the apostle Paul referenced the writings of Epimenides and Aratus in Acts 17 (149). This is key to the covenantal approach: The good news for a covenantal apologetic, the news that truly bridges the gap between what we are communicating and what our audience claims to believe, is that, with any and every audience, any and every person, God has already and always been there, revealing himself both within and without them in such a way that they already, really, and truly know Him (151). Lastly, persuasion involves logos, or the actual arguments involved in apologetics. Since people already know God, the arguments to which Oliphint refers are principally found in chapter one, where a list of “ten tenants” to covenantal apologetics are given (47–55). These tenants and the trivium of persuasion are then applied in various sample dialogues. In these dialogues, Oliphint’s distinction between positive and negative apologetics is modeled. The negative approach is to weaken or undermine an argument against Christianity (165–176) while the positive seeks to “commend the Christian faith to those who are affected by, even enslaved to, unbelief” (164). Covenant Apologetics offers the reader an engaging and accessible introduction to covenantal theology, an apologetics method consistent with Reformed theology. My primary criticism has to do with the author’s own summary of intent on page 259, where he says, “What I 85
Book Reviews have proposed throughout this book are principles and practices of a covenantal apologetic. . . . I have argued that persuasion is the best means by which we might defend the faith” (259). This book does offer principles and practices of covenantal apologetics, and to the extent that Van Til can be translated, it seems to have succeeded. But the book falls short of presenting covenantal apologetics as the best means of defending the faith. Adam P. Groza Vice President of Enrollment and Student Services Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary Janet Lovell, All of Grace: Wattisham Baptist Church 1763–2013 (Stowmarket, Suffolk, UK: Polstead Press, 2013), 171 pages. Ideally histories of local Baptist churches should be central to the Baptist story, for if our independent church ecclesiology is about anything, it is the work and ministry of the local church. Often, though, we have overlooked the local church and focused our thinking about the Baptist story more on people and movements, ideas and events. This recent study of a local Baptist congregation in Suffolk, East Anglia, an area that is rich in Baptist lore and heritage, is a very fine example of what can be done by a local church when there is a will to remember its history. According to the Wattisham Baptist Church website, Janet Lovell, one of the members of the church, was commissioned to research and then write the history of this church. It involved, again according to the website, significant labor as there was no previous account of the church’s past. The author thus had to “sift through minute books, magazine articles and archive materials—a massive task.” It needs noting, however, that there is apparently an unpublished Memorandum on Wattisham Baptist Church history by the sixth pastor John Cooper (1805–1881) to which the author has had access (167).
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) What Lovell has produced is an eminently readable volume, which traces the ups and downs of this congregation from its origin as a church plant from a work in nearby Woolverstone in the mid-eighteenth century (8–13) to the present day, when the church is without a pastor—the last pastor, Gordon Hawkins, who shepherded the congregation for thirty-nine years, having died in office in 2003 (135–150). The volume is attractively adorned with a good number of color as well as black and white photographs, and contains an appendix that consists of three items: the Church’s articles of faith from 1763, to which the church continues to maintain its adherence, the church covenant, and a list of the pastors. Undoubtedly contributing to the health of the church over the years has been the fact that there have been four lengthy pastorates: the first pastor, John Hitchcock (1732–1800) pastored from 1763 till his death in 1800; the sixth pastorate, that of John Cooper, lasted for nearly fifty years, from 1830/1 to 1879; Sydney White was pastor from 1926 till 1954; and the church’s most recent pastor, Gordon Hawkins, who, as mentioned above, was pastor for thirty-nine years, from 1964 to 2003. The fact that the church has been involved in outreach, most recently in the Philippines (141–144), indicates that the church, unlike some Particular Baptist congregations, has not succumbed to an introspective mindset. In recent years, Gordon Hawkins, whom Lovell describes as “a true catholic, gladly receiving all who belonged to Christ” (148) and a man who delighted in “orthodox ecumenism,” seems to have been especially important in this regard. Hawkins was not a Strict Baptist in his roots, though he was obviously committed to the doctrines of grace (131), and had been deeply shaped by the ministry of Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899–1981), whom he described as his pastor (136). The call of Hawkins to be the pastor of the church was linked to a sad division in the work, which Lovell discusses judiciously (130–132). Upon hindsight, it was sad that this division took place at the very bicentenary of the church. In 87
Book Reviews fact, when Lloyd-Jones’ name was aired as a possible speaker for the bicentennial of the church in March of 1963, he was passed over because he was not a Strict Baptist (129). It is ironic that within a year and a half, a man who had been mentored by Lloyd-Jones was the church’s pastor. Something of the catholicity of Hawkins can be seen in the fact that he often had Scottish, Welsh, and Irish Presbyterian ministers, as well as pastors from Gospel Standard and other Evangelical churches, preach in the pulpit on special occasions. And true to this gospel catholicity is the fact that Ian Paisley preached at Hawkins’ funeral (147). In linking thus to other gospel ministries, the church was actually going back to its roots. The German Baptist Johann Oncken (1800–1884) had preached in the church in the 1860s—John Cooper taking an especial delight in and support of his ministry—and there were also links to the most famous Baptist preacher of the era, C.H. Spurgeon (1834–1892) (82). Reading through the Church’s Articles of Faith (157–159), some of them clearly reflect controversies from the “long” eighteenth century. For instance, the twelfth and final article affirms the legitimacy of singing, which was much in dispute among Particular Baptists in the 1690s through to the 1710s. The debates over soteriology in Particular Baptists circles from the 1730s onwards, are reflected in the seventh article, the longest of the articles. The article begins by affirming the Reformation perspective that “the justification of God’s elect is only by the righteousness of Christ as the material cause of it.” It proceeds to reason that since the Father had determined whom to save from “before the foundation of the world,” then the justification of the elect “must be an eternal act” and the elect are “eternally justified” (158–159). This view was probably best articulated by John Gill (1697–1771), who was still active when this article was drawn up in 1763. Not surprisingly, the first pastor, John Hitchcock, who would have had a major hand in writing these Articles of Faith, was not happy with the subsequent theology of 88
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) Andrew Fuller (1754–1815), who rejected the concept of eternal justification (32–33). Often, this view of justification has gone hand in hand with hyper-Calvinism, yet, this church has managed to maintain a missionary outlook over the years. Lovell has given her church a faithful record of her past—noting both times of blessing and times of sad decline—and shown all of her readers something of the concrete way that God moves in the very threads of history, weaving individual human lives into the greater fabric of the Kingdom of his dear Son. Michael A. G. Haykin Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Anthony L. Chute, Christopher W. Morgan, and Robert A. Peterson, eds., Why We Belong: Evangelical Unity and Denominational Diversity (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013), 251 pages. Since evangelical Christians have historically held to central beliefs that lead them to associate with other like-minded Christians, the editors of Why We Belong: Evangelical Unity and Denominational Diversity have set out to address how denominational association can be “natural without being negative, and how evangelical identity can help rather than hinder Christian unity” (15). In chapter one, Christopher Morgan presents a biblical portrait of how the church displays the unity of God’s cosmic purposes in Christ. This unity should be maintained and pursued, for the church is one new humanity striving to grow up into full maturity in Christ. As a result, theological and Christocentric unity should give way to practical unity in the church. How, then, do we make sense of denominational diversity and, at times, disunity? Anthony Chute answers this question by briefly tracing the historical development of the six evangelical traditions covered in the rest of the book. This historical sketch is intended not to 89
Book Reviews divide, but to foster an appreciation for the diversity within evangelicalism. While this diversity may unfortunately lead to disunity and the failure to cooperate, the gospel should unify the various traditions within evangelicalism. The next six chapters, each written by an individual author, describe various evangelical traditions. Gerald Bray, writing from the Anglican perspective, confesses that Anglicanism is difficult to define. Nevertheless, he describes Anglicanism institutionally (as the church broke from Rome in 1534) and traditionally (as churches guided by confessional documents and committed to the authority of Scripture). Bray acknowledges that Anglicans have significant differences with Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, but he does not dismiss them as inferior or non-Christian. For Bray, Anglicanism is not only basic or mere Christianity, descriptors which bring to mind fellow Anglicans John Stott and C. S. Lewis, but also applied Christianity that leads to participation and mission. In chapter four, Timothy George explains why he is a Baptist. While he defines evangelicalism along the lines of David Bebbington’s quadrilateral—the Bible, the cross, conversion, and activism—he also marks evangelicals as “a movement that has been shaped in various ways by three historical complexes or moments” (97). These moments are the Trinitarian and Christological consensus of the early church, the Protestant Reformation, and the spiritual awakenings of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (97–102). Furthermore, the Baptist tradition represents “a renewal within the renewal” (102) and its mission is “retrieval for the sake of renewal, humility in the presence of the holy, and particularity in the service of unity” (109). In chapter five, Douglas Sweeney, though raised a Baptist, is a Lutheran because of the stress upon God’s presence and availability in the person of Christ, the Bible, and the sacraments (119). Sweeney then clearly explains how God is present and available via the communicatio 90
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) idiomatum. But for Sweeney, neither Lutheranism nor evangelicalism is an end unto themselves. Lutheranism must recover the “way of Jesus” through church reform in order to return to Scripture and to renew the church’s piety (131). Furthermore, evangelicals need to trust in the objective and subjective presence of Christ in Scripture and the sacraments, cling to him and the faith that God has graciously given, and make good on that gift of grace in true devotion and discipleship (132). In chapter six, nine reasons account for why Timothy Tennent is a Methodist: (1) prevenient grace, (2) the means of grace through prayer, Scripture, and the Lord’s Supper, (3) the importance of conversion, (4) the importance of holiness and sanctification, (5) discipleship through catechesis, (6) mission, (7) their gracious posture toward other Christians, (8) global Christianity, and (9) worship. Interestingly, Tennent acknowledges that although many Methodist churches do not exhibit these great truths today, he remains identified with them as a steward of worship and witness. In chapter seven, Byron Klaus states that he is a Pentecostal—not charismatic—for historical and theological reasons. He argues that Pentecostalism resonates well with Bebbington’s quadrilateral (164–71) and urges all evangelicals to excel still more in these characteristics. In chapter eight, Bryan Chapell describes why he is Presbyterian, citing their belief in the evangel and commitment to Scripture, historic roots, God-glorifying, humility-producing doctrine, biblical organization, and regulated, covenantal worship that serves as a witness to God’s grace in Christ. In the final chapter, David Dockery presents a history of denominationalism and the birth of American evangelicalism. He concludes by considering the future of denominationalism and urges his readers to pray for a renewed commitment to the gospel, the church, Scripture, and cooperation for the good of God’s people around the globe. 91
Book Reviews Much is to be commended in this work. In an age of evangelical and denominational fragmentation, it is refreshing to see irenic diversity without compromising biblical fidelity and gospel centrality. And although one could wish for more biblical and theological arguments for why each author is committed to his own denomination, more ethnic diversity given the increasing diversity in American evangelicalism, and reasons for why one should leave a denomination over biblical and gospel infidelity, the strengths far outweigh the weaknesses in urging evangelical denominations to consider and cooperate with one another for the sake of the gospel, the good of God’s people, and the witness of his glory in Christ among the nations. Oren R. Martin Professor of Theology Northland International University Rosaria Champaign Butterfield, Secrets of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into the Christian Faith (Pittsburgh, PA: Crown and Covenant Publications, 2012), 148 pages. Can one be gay and a Christian? While more popular voices on the blogosphere either affirm or suggest a positive answer to this question, Rosaria Butterfield’s book answers “no” to this and an even broader question through the retelling of her own story. Questions like “when does conversion happen in the ordo salutis?” tend to guide most books on conversion – but not this one. This book is a testimony of the power of conversion. Aside from being a case study in extraordinary writing, Butterfield’s book presents a personal drama, where one sees the power of Christ in clear and genuine ways. Butterfield was a tenured professor in the English department of Syracuse University, where she was deeply committed to scholarship and her students. She was also a devout lesbian and LGBT activist, where she and her partner were committed to awareness and advancement of LGBT ideologies. From her vantage point, she had made it in the world. Then she became 92
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) friends with a pastor, Ken Smith, who confronted her with the claims of the gospel that would change her life. She, in fact, characterizes her conversion as a “train wreck”: This word — ‘conversion’ — is simply too tame and too refined to capture the train wreck that I experienced in coming face-to-face with the Living God. I know of only one word to describe the time released encounter: impact. Impact is, I believe, the space between the multiple car crash and the body count. I try, in the pages that follow, to relive the impact of God on my life (xi). That is exactly what she does. The book is engaging and difficult to put down. I read the entire book on an international flight. It is written in a “traveler” sort of style that makes the reader feel as if one is walking with Butterfield through a museum as she is retelling her story. Butterfield assesses the cultural landscape for believers without sounding altogether “preachy”. She talks in prophetic terms about evangelicals and their approach to culture and place in it. The church comes to the “table only ready to moralize and not dialogue” and “Like it or not, in the court of public opinion, feminists and not Bible-believing Christians have won the war of intellectual integrity” (7). Predictably, theological categories appear at center stage at points in the book. Butterfield boldly writes about repentance without ignoring the contemporary questions for which nonbelievers demand answers. She notes that in the clash of these two “incommensurable worldviews” (homosexuality and Christianity) that the repentance the Bible demands is not simply an alteration of lifestyle but a far deeper intimacy with God than with our sin. Consistent with the rest of the book, Butterfield discusses hope, temptation, fear, and obedience in practical and authentic ways, characterizing her struggle to obey as “reluctant” and “double-minded” though clearly resolute (22). She writes lucidly about the personal turmoil that accompanied her conversion, citing the real feelings of betrayal to the gay community she felt at the moment of publicly confessing her faith. One of many helpful points in the book occurs 93
Book Reviews when Butterfield discusses the reality of her conversion and her sexual identity. My sexuality was sinful not because it was lesbian per se but because it wasn’t Christcontrolled. My heterosexual past was no more sanctified that my homosexual present . . . responding to Jesus (i.e. committing my life to Christ) meant not going backwards to my heterosexual past but going forward to something entirely new (33). For Butterfield, her conversion wreaked havoc on and healed every aspect of her being. What is refreshing and possibly disturbing to some is that she sees her experience as normative to some degree. She decries overly simplistic commodity-for-the-masses descriptions of salvation that make conversion into “a simple matter of saying the magic words, a mantra that makes Jesus the Mr. Rogers of the conscience” (35). The take-away from Butterfield’s book is not that the ex-lesbian now has a husband and family and living the homeschooling dream in the folds of the church (The book does continue to talk about her ongoing Christian life as wife, mother, and pastor’s wife.). Neither is it that all homosexuals should read this book so they finally understand that homosexuality is a sin from which to be saved, though there is no lack of clarity here on Butterfield’s part (29–63). The takeaway is a question with which the book leaves the reader: “Why do we assume that sinners impacted by God don’t look more like this rather than less?” Is there a tacit sense in which we, as evangelicals, feel that certain lifestyles before Christ have a natural momentum toward the gospel and, therefore, the “impact” leaves little carnage? If so, it is little wonder that the blogosphere reads with such little biblical clarity on topics like homosexuality. Butterfield’s testimony almost demands that we pull ourselves away from the cultural-pharisaical categorization of sin and redemption and embrace an untamed and dangerous grace that makes unlikely converts of us all. D. Jeffrey Mooney Associate Professor of Old Testament California Baptist University 94
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) Keith S. Grant, Andrew Fuller and the Evangelical Renewal of Pastoral Theology, Studies in Baptist History and Thought 36 (Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster, 2013), 157 pages. Andrew Fuller and the Evangelical Renewal of Pastoral Theology is the newest scholarly monograph dedicated to the study of Andrew Fuller. The book is a revision of Keith Grant’s ThM project at Regent College. Grant’s thesis in this book is that “Fuller’s pastoral theology was a congregational instance of evangelical renewal, an expression and agent of the transformation of Dissent as vital as those alongside and beyond the local church” (8). According to Grant, renewal of the evangelical church in England during the eighteenth century was not contained solely in the voluntary societies of the day, such as Wesley’s Methodists and the Baptist Missionary Society, but also existed in the church itself. Many histories of the so-called Long Eighteenth Century tend to focus on revivalistic tendencies outside of the local church, but Grant seeks to demonstrate Fuller’s role in bringing renewal from within the local church. Andrew Fuller and the Evangelical Renewal of Pastoral Theology consists of three chapters plus an introduction and conclusion. Grant also appends four of Fuller’s works that illustrate the thesis of the book, specifically two sermons and two letters. The introduction to Grant’s brief work reflects careful argumentation as Grant not only outlines his argument, but also provides a brief history of Fuller’s pastoral experience and clear definitions of terms in order to lay a foundation for a common understanding for the reader. The first chapter recounts Fuller’s conversion, providing a biographical explanation of Fuller’s movement from his High Calvinist roots to evangelical Calvinism as expressed in the first edition of The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation. Many of the recent volumes on Fuller use a biographical approach to explain Fuller’s theology, but Grant proceeds differently, focusing on particular aspects of Fuller’s conversion and doctrinal evolution, particularly in light of his theological context. For example, Grant demonstrates how Fuller’s early longing for assurance and struggle to become converted 95
Book Reviews led him to develop and promote a biblical theology of conversionism, first in the local church and then through public theology (49–50). Fuller sought to equip pastors with an authentically evangelical, pastoral theology that was first demonstrated in his own church setting. Chapter Two is a reflection on Fuller’s congregational ecclesiology. Grant demonstrates that as a Baptist, Fuller’s understanding of the need for theological renewal reinforced the essential role of the local church. This is shown by Fuller’s arguments that the call to ministry was a dual calling, consisting of both an internal call of the individual and an external call from a church. The congregation’s confirmation of the pastor in his vocation was critical because spiritual leadership was authorized by and for the church. Despite Fuller’s participation in many ordination services outside of his local congregation, he recognized these events to be primarily ceremonial and affirmed that local churches had the authority to ordain of their own accord (71– 72). Public ministry, according to Fuller, should begin with approval of a local body but may extend beyond it (74). The third chapter shows that Fuller’s preaching was an essential element of the church’s evangelical renewal. According to Grant, Fuller’s preaching was intentionally plain, evangelical, and affectionate (8). Fuller’s style of preaching reflected the simplification of homiletics among evangelicals in that day. Dissenting pastors like Fuller, who were responsible to their local church rather than an ecclesiastical hierarchy, felt the need to communicate clearly to their congregants; this was especially true of evangelicals like Fuller who were trying to proclaim the free offer of the gospel effectively (78–84). Fuller’s pastoral heart was clearly demonstrated in his preaching and his advice for preaching. Grant shows that Fuller was adamant that the pastor feed his own soul by reading Scripture as a Christian first, with an eye for exposition afterward (97). In order to stir the affections of his hearers, Fuller saw that the pastor would first need to 96
The Journal of Baptist Studies 6 (2014) have his own affections stirred by Scripture. Fuller’s development of these themes in his own preaching in the local church reflects the elements common in the broader evangelical renewal and serves to show that the renewal occurred in the local church as much as it did among voluntary societies. Grant makes several significant contributions through this book. First, Grant demonstrates the heart of Fuller as pastor-theologian. Unlike some contributors to the evangelical renewal, Fuller was primarily a local pastor who worked for theological renewal in his church. That renewal then spilled over into voluntary associations. Second, Grant shows that Fuller’s contribution to the theological renewal of his day exceeded his participation and rejuvenation of the missionary movement extending to broader evangelical issues. Grant demonstrates that Fuller was not merely a Particular Baptist moving in his own small circles, but that he was a participant in the greater evangelical renewal of the day. At the same time, Grant emphasizes that Fuller’s focus was his own church, then his own denomination, and then evangelicalism (109–110). The most significant weakness of this book is that it leaves the reader looking for more. A longer text that considers more fully Fuller’s perspective on other functions of the body of Christ, like discipline and the ordinances, which must necessarily begin in the local church, would have been welcome. This book is well written and informative. Grant goes beyond the previous treatments of Fuller’s pastoral theology and does so in a manner that is helpful. This book is timely in that it shows that Fuller had a high view of the local church, despite his global vision for the church. Through Fuller, Grant provides a model for the contemporary theologian to first serve the local church and then to serve broader evangelicalism. Andrew J. Spencer Ph.D. Student ,Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary 97