Author: Bebbington, David W.
Genre: History
Series:
Tags: Baptist / Baptists

I have enjoyed reading David Bebbington over the past few years. He is Professor of History at the University of Stirling in Scotland. In this 2010 book the author traces the story of Baptists from their first identity in England with John Smyth about 1609, to Baptists in America in the early twenty-first century. Bebbington does not make any solid connection between the (continental) Anabaptists and the (English) Baptists, but sees key carry-overs such as believer’s baptism and congregational polity. He does describe the two main branches of Baptists, General (more Arminian) and Particular (more Calvinistic), as comprising almost two separate “denominations” that have created a divide throughout British and American Baptist history. In America these two groups were known more as Separate and Regular Baptists respectively. The book includes many interesting pieces of history such as the rise of evangelical Calvinism with Jonathan Edwards and Andrew Fuller, creating broad missionary activity; the influence of E.Y. Mullins during his tenure as President of Southern Seminary and President of the Southern Baptist Convention, “combining convictions derived from the Bible with a rationale framed in terms of Christian experience,” and yet being fairly neutral to Mullins’ influence; and the long and diverse history of the Southern Baptist Convention from their division over slavery to the conservative-moderate division of the twentieth century.   In searching for a specific identity for Baptists, Bebbington concludes with three identifying Baptist marks of believer’s baptism, a regenerate church membership, and the kingship of all believers [what many call believer-priests]. The final sentences rather disappointingly read, “In the end, therefore, the Baptist identity, a phenomenon of the flux of history, may elude definition. It is perhaps enough that, over the generations, Baptists have conscientiously attempted, with varying degrees of success, to embody the gospel in their cultures.”

 

Quotes from this book:

David Bebbington on Congregational

“That view has normally been sustained down through the centuries, with ultimate responsibility for decisions resting not with pastors or deacons but with the committed church members as a whole.  The churchmanship of the Baptists was not unique, for i …