Many works on Baptist history are simply too large to be accessible or enjoyable to most readers. Anthony Chute, Nathan Finn, and Michael Haykin have accomplished a herculean task in their efforts on The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement in writing a concise and accessible work on Baptist history.
Researching and writing history can be a hazardous task. Any doubt about that is dispersed by a look at the life work of William Whitsitt which proved to be terminal to his role as president of SBTS. I say that because this book won’t please all Baptists. If you prefer Martyr’s Mirror to Foxe’s Book of Martyr’s you might find yourself frustrated at the title of this book alone, but you still will benefit from it.
The authors divide Baptist history into each section, with each contributor writing the section most suited to their strengths. Haykin writes section one covering the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries an area that he has written extensively on in the past. Chute covers the nineteenth century an area which he is well suited to cover given his previous works on Jesse Mercer which can be found here and here. Finn covers the twentieth through the twenty first century.
The authors in addressing Baptist history and the events that shaped it do seek to address it as a global movement. This is seen in more areas than merely addressing Baptist mission work. Careful attention is given to the work of Baptists in Ireland in Haykin’s section, the birth and growth of Baptist work on the Continent in Chute’s section, and more globally in Finn’s section.
As pastor I found this book greatly encouraging as a reminder that many of the issues we as Baptists face in our churches have been addressed successfully by past generations. Haykin’s section will remove any thought that the so-called worship wars are a new development. Chute’s work on Southern Baptists post-Civil War reminds the reader of the resiliency of the Baptist cause to adversity. We are reminded by Finn of the price Baptists continue to pay for obedience to Christ, such as missionaries Larry and Jean Elliott who laid down their lives for the cause of Christ in making His gospel known in Iraq.
Throughout the book the authors show Baptists at their best and worst. There is no attempt to revise history to make Baptists look any better or worse than they were and are. I know that this book will find its place on many syllabi, especially given the fact that each of the contributors teaches Baptist history, but I hope this book goes further and finds its way to the hands of many church members.
Baptists need to be reminded of who we are, where we come from, and what our commitments have been and still are and this book does a wonderful job of doing that.
Disclosure: I received this book free from B&H Academic for review purposes. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.