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The Best of G. Campbell Morgan

The Best of G. Campbell Morgan

by Rick Shrader

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This is a 1972 reprint by Baker Book of Morgan’s sermons compiled by Ralph Turnbull. Morgan (1863-1945) was a well-known British preacher and pastor of Westminster Chapel in London. I have always enjoyed his commentaries and I equally enjoy reading his sermons. Campbell was encouraged to preach as a young man after hearing D.L. Moody and later was invited by Moody to preach in Chicago and at the Northfield conferences. He crossed the Atlantic 54 times. He also contributed an article on the Incarnation to The Fundamentals (1910-1915) in the first volume. In these 17 messages Morgan comments freely on the second coming of Christ and also uses the term “dispensation” freely. In the introduction Turnbull says that Morgan gave up belief in a pre-tribulation rapture during his ministry. In the sermon on The Purifying Hope he also seems to accept a partial rapture (p. 124-125). In my opinion these do not detract from the Christ-exalting messages in this volume.

 

Revival in Rose Street

Revival in Rose Street

by Rick Shrader

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The subtitle to this book is, “Charlotte Baptist Chapel, Edinburgh, 1808-2008.  Ian Balfour is a long-time member of this church and a fine historian.  We met Ian Balfour a few years ago on one of our Baptist History tours when he spoke to us at a lunch.  This year we found that the Chapel had moved so we spent time finding their new location.  While there I was given Balfour’s recent book on the history of the church up to the time of their relocation.  This is a completely thorough history of this great Baptist church from the very beginning in the early 1800s.  The church was founded by Christopher Anderson who was then connected to James and Robert Haldane and Andrew Fuller.  Throughout the years it was pastored by such great men as William Graham Scroggie and J. Sidlow Baxter and D.L. Moody spoke in the church during his 1873 tour in Scotland.  It was our joy to attend a Sunday morning service in the old auditorium before the recent relocation.

 

J.M. Cramp

J.M. Cramp

by Rick Shrader

“The Baptists of the sixteenth century, generally, were a godly, upright, honourable race.  They hated no man.  But all men hated them.  And why?  Because they testified against the abominations of the times, and wished to accomplish changes which would indeed have revolutionized society, because it was constructed on anti-Christian principles, but which were in accordance with the Word of God.”

J.M. Cramp, Baptist History, p. 129.

 

Menno Simons

Menno Simons

by Rick Shrader

Menno Simons:  “Before God neither baptism nor the Supper nor any other outward ordinances avail if partaken without the spirit of God and a new creature.  We are not regenerated because we have been baptized.  We are baptized because we have been regenerated by faith and the Word of God.  Faith is to precede baptism.”

Roland Bainton, The Age of the Reformation,  p. 130.

 

Robert Lowry

Robert Lowry

by Terry Conley

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(March 1826 – November 1899)

Robert Lowry was born in Philadelphia, PA. March 12, 1826.  He was a Baptist minister, composer of gospel hymns, and a Professor of Literature.  He was married and had three sons.  Lowry died at home in Plainfield, New Jersey on November 23, 1899 and is buried at Hillside Cemetery.

Robert was saved at the age of seventeen.  Although his parents were members of the Presbyterian Church, his study of the Scriptures led him to baptism and membership with the Baptists.  He was baptized by Rev. George B. Ide, D. D., and joined the First Baptist Church in Philadelphia, soon becoming active as a Sunday School teacher and choir member.  As he grew in his faith, his desire to consecrate his life in service to Christ became stronger.  He was encouraged by his Pastor and soon surrendered to the ministry.  He entered the University of Lewisburg (now Bucknell University) to prepare.  Lowry graduated in 1854 with the highest honors of his class.  That same year he was ordained and became pastor of the First Baptist Church, West Chester, PA.  In 1858, he accepted the call to be the Pastor of the Bloomingdale Baptist Church in New York serving there until 1861.  In that year, he was called as pastor of the Hanson Place Baptist Church in Brooklyn, NY.  In 1869, he became Professor of Literature at his alma mater and was called to be the pastor of Lewisburg Baptist Church.  He later became Chancellor of the University.  He remained in Lewisburg until 1875 and then relocated to Plainfield, N. J. to help organize a new church, Park Avenue Baptist Church.  He served as President of the New Jersey Baptist Sunday School Union from 1880 until 1886.

Dr. Lowry was a man of many gifts and talents.  He was an excellent preacher, very knowledgeable in the Bible, and always a brilliant and interesting speaker.  Many reports state that he had few peers in his ability to paint pictures for the imagination.  He could challenge an audience with his vivid descriptions, inspiring others with the same thoughts that inspired him.  As a Pastor, Dr. Lowry developed the skill of recognizing and helping to develop talent of those in his congregations.  At the Hanson Place Baptist Church, he encouraged and wrote songs with Annie Hawks. He also established a similar partnership with Fanny J. Crosby at Sixth Avenue Bible Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York.

He was later asked to become Music Editor at the Biglow and Main Publishing Company, one of the earliest sacred music publishing companies in America.  He hesitated at first due to his fear that the work would hinder his work as a Pastor, but he accepted and in this position he was responsible for more than 500 compositions.  These included words and music for many songs including “Nothing but the Blood,” “Shall We Gather at the River?,” and “Christ Arose” (Low in the Grave He Lay).  He supplied the music for others such as “Follow On” (Down in the Valley) by William O. Cushing, “We’re Marching to Zion” for the words by Isaac Watts, “I Need Thee Every Hour” by Annie Hawks, and “All the Way My Savior Leads Me” with Fanny Crosby.

“Shall We Gather at the River?” is perhaps the most popular of all his songs.  But Lowry said of that song: “It is brass band music, has a march movement, and for that reason has become popular, though for myself I do not think much of it.”  But it was his pastoral duties and actions that led him to write and compose that wonderful song full of hope and promise.  It was an extremely hot and humid day in July, 1864, and a deadly cholera epidemic was claiming many lives in Brooklyn.  As Pastor of Hanson Place Baptist Church, he was called upon to visit many bereaved families as death entered their homes.  He knew the Lord gave him the strength and the words to say.  Each time, the Pastor would assure the sick and sorrowing that through faith in Christ they can look forward to a great reunion day at the river of life described in the book of Revelation.  He encouraged them to think of meeting the departed once again by the river.  He recalled that one day he was resting at home when he began thinking of those that were dying and the separation that was created.  As he rested, his thoughts were led to an eternal future and all that be involved.  This led him on to consider the second coming of Christ, of God on His throne, the gathering of the saints, and the river of life.  He said that he wondered why the hymn writers had written so much about “the river of death,” and so little about “the pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb.”  He said that as he thought, the ideas began to construct themselves.  First the question, “Shall we gather?” Then the thought immediately followed as an answer of Christian faith, “Yes, we’ll gather.”  On this question and answer the hymn developed itself, seemingly the music and the words were formed together.  When it was completed, he put it aside.  Later that same year he was asked for some contributions for a songbook; he gave the editor some manuscripts and only as an afterthought, he added his new song, “Shall We Gather at the River?”  The next spring the Brooklyn Sunday School Union asked permission to use it for their May Anniversary.  It was estimated that forty thousand teachers and children sang it during the meeting and in their churches that year.  It was instantly popular being sung in conventions, churches, and Sunday Schools.  In just a short time the song became known wherever the Gospel was preached.

His melodies are known world-wide and many of his hymns have been translated into foreign languages.  But despite his success as a hymn writer, Dr. Lowry said, “Music, with me has been a side issue.  I would rather preach a gospel sermon to an appreciative audience than write a hymn.  I have always looked upon myself as a preacher and felt a sort of depreciation when I began to be known more as a composer.” Yet despite his preference, his hymns continue to be as popular as ever and widely used, being translated into many languages.  In them he preaches to and comforts millions of souls.  We sing his words as we express deep feelings of praise and gratitude to God for His goodness.  What he had thought in his Pastor’s heart and put onto paper, has become a part of the emotions of the whole Christian world. We are all his debtors.

 

Shall We Gather at the River?

Yes, we’ll gather at the river,

The beautiful, the beautiful river;

Gather with the saints at the river

That flows by the throne of God.

 

Bibliography

Biography of Gospel Song and Hymn Writers, J. H. Hall. New York: Fleming H. Revell, ©1914.

A Treasure of Hymns, Amos R. Wells

The Story of the Tunes, Hezekiah Butterworth. New York: American Tract Society, 1890.

Baptist Hymn Writers and Their Hymns, Henry S. Burrage. Portland, Maine: Brown, Thurston & Co., 1888, pp. 428–434.

www.hymntime.com.

www.wordwisehymns.com

 

 

Benjamin Keach

Benjamin Keach

by Terry Conley

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(1640-1704)

If ancient church records can be believed, Baptists have not always enjoyed singing in church, especially those songs of “human composure.”  But is was a Baptist pastor who is considered to be the leader in establishing the idea of congregational singing versus the established Metrical Psalm singing that was currently in use in all the churches.  It was during the English Reformation that all hymns had been removed from the service of the Anglican Church in preference to Metrical Psalms.  This became the practice not only in the established Church of England but also in the Dissenting Churches such as Baptists and Congregationalists.

Of course, Baptists were not the only group with this discussion taking place.  Luther’s attitude was that God’s people should use whatever they could to praise Him as long as it was not contrary to the teaching of Scripture.  John Calvin had a more restricted approach.  He taught that Christians should use only what was contained in Scripture.  He was the leading proponent of the practice of singing metrical Psalms only.  That practice became the songbook of English Protestants up to the time of Pastor Keach.

Benjamin Keach was born in Stoke Hammond, Buckinghamshire, February 1640.  He was apparently converted sometime after his fifteenth birthday and joined a neighboring Baptist Church.  About three years later he began to preach in local churches.  He was arrested at least twice after the Act of Uniformity was passed in 1662 and threatened by the soldiers to be trampled to death by their horses if he did not stop preaching.  In 1664, he was arrested, indicted, tried before the Lord Chief Justice who directed the jury to bring in a verdict of guilty, and found guilty for publishing a book, “The Child’s Instructor, or a New and Easy Primer.”

Sometime later in 1668, Keach was called by a small Particular Baptist Church to be their pastor.  They met in a private house but after the Declaration of Indulgence in 1672, a meeting-house was erected in Southwark.  Apparently, the Lord blessed the work.  He remained there for 36 years as their Pastor and the building expanded several times.  It was as representative of this church that Keach went to the 1689 General Assembly and subscribed the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith.

It was here, Pastor Keach, with the consent of his church, introduced the practice of singing a hymn at the Lord’s Supper.  Later, he added singing in the church on their thanksgiving days.  Finally, in 1690, the church, with only a few dissenting voices, voted to sing a hymn every Lord’s day with the song after the sermon so that those who opposed the singing would be free to leave, which they did and waited in the church yard until the song was done.  In 1691, in an attempt to settle the dispute in his congregation and the Particular Baptist Association, Pastor Keach published a paper in favor of the new practice.  The title was not misleading in his position: “The Breach Repaired in God’s Worship, or Singing of Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs Proved to be an Holy Ordinance of Jesus Christ.”  In this he describes congregational singing: “Singing is not a simple heart singing, or mental singing; but a musical melodious modulation, or tuning of the voice. Singing is a duty performed always with the voice, and cannot be done without the tongue.”

Hymn singing continued to be a very controversial practice, but Bro. Keach and others persisted, and hymn singing eventually became generally accepted thanks in large part to the publication in 1707 by Isaac Watts of his “Hymns and Spiritual Songs”.

Benjamin Keach remained pastor of the church at Horsleydown until his death, which occurred July 18, 1704. His funeral sermon was preached by Rev. Joseph Stennett.

 

(This will be a continuing column in the coming columns.)

 

 

Local Churches and Their Pastors

Local Churches and Their Pastors

by Rick Shrader

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The month of October afforded me a number of opportunities to fellowship with local church pastors from various states and even countries.  Though I have written on the local church a lot this year, I want to relate the blessing that I received from my fellowship with these men and also to enhance our appreciation for the ministry of smaller local churches around us.

I grew up in and around large Baptist churches in the 50s and 60s and I loved everything about them.  I was saved at Lockland Baptist Church in Cincinnati, John Rawlings, pastor, a church of thousands.  In the summers I attended church with my grandparents at High Street Baptist Church in Springfield, MO, Bill Dowell, pastor, and later David Cavin (when it was still on High Street) a church of thousands.  I was saved at 11 years old and baptized when I was 16.  God called me to preach at 18 under the ministry of Dr. Rawlings.  I also served as his youth pastor a couple years after school.  I say this only to relate that I have nothing against large churches and, in fact, am the result of their ministries.  I will also admit that these men were extraordinary men who were gifted in many ways.  Dr. Rawlings still called me from time to time and asked about my family.

Yet my experience in ministry has been with and around churches of hundreds, not thousands, and sometimes with less than a hundred.  I have also noticed that pastors of these smaller churches are usually capable of more responsibility and this is a great advantage for these churches.  This is also an advantage for the pastor if he truly desires and loves to pastor people.  There will always be those extraordinary men whose ministries grow larger scripturally, and may God increase their number.

Smaller local churches are and have been the backbone of our country.  We have all been blessed driving through the country-side or city and seeing the steeples of church buildings rise above the roof tops.  I know that towns often seem crowded with the churches, but, given the denominational differences and the populations, it usually works out fine.  I have known a number of Baptist churches in very small towns whose Sunday attendance exceeded the town’s population, reminding me that there are people living everywhere.  The pastors of these churches are unsung heroes.  They are jewels on the rough edges of our culture.  They are the boots on the ground of ministry.  They and their churches blanket our country with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Let me tell you about four experiences I have had with small church pastors in the last six months that greatly encouraged me.

Ontario, Canada. 

In July I attended (and brought the evening messages for) a pastors’ retreat called Shepherd’s Camp in Ontario, Canada.  This camp is sponsored by Berean Baptist Church, International Falls, MN, pastor Ross Crowe, and by Victory Baptist Church, Ft. Frances, Ontario, pastor Shane Belding.  The retreat was attended by pastors from Ontario, Minnesota, and Iowa.  I wish I had the space to name all the men and their churches (with all four of my experiences!).  What a blessing it was to interact with these men all week and to hear the stories of their local ministries!   These men pastor in small towns which are filled with difficult challenges concerning drugs, homelessness, single mothers, and more.  I no longer think of small town America as Andy and Barney in Mayberry.  These are rough places to minister and it takes a special kind of person to do it.  The pay is minimal and often demands a bi-vocational situation.  The living situation is tough on families.  There is little to no recognition and yet many of these men spend their whole lives in one church and community.  But the blessing of the week was hearing the many stories of conversions, the rescue of broken homes and lives, and the struggles with a sparse living condition.

It was my second year at this camp.  These guys love to fish and I have gotten my poles wet again for sure.  The eagles fly everywhere.  The camp has no electricity or running water—which tells you why it is a men only camp, although they do youth camps throughout the summer.  Maybe those northern kids are tougher than we know.  My most memorable moment this summer was when a bald eagle dived for a Northern Pike we had thrown out of the boat and splashed in the water 10 feet from the boat!  A spectacular moment for sure!  My reward, however, was getting to know great pastors like these men.  You’ll never hear from them or read about them in the denominational paper.  They will go about their business unsung.  But don’t feel sorry for them.  They are doing the greatest and most rewarding work and the blessing is all theirs.

Smithville, Missouri

I pastor Faith Baptist Church in Smithville, MO, north of Kansas City.  We are four years old this year and had our fourth annual Bible Conference this fall.  This year instead of having a single speaker for the conference, I invited four local pastors from the Kansas City area to speak, one each night, on the four nights of our conference.  As an added bonus for our small church, the men brought special music each evening from their church.  Our church family prepared a meal each evening before the service.  I wanted our folks to get to know the pastors and churches that I know and fellowship with in the area.  It was a great success.

We were privileged to hear pastor Webster Frowner, First Regular Baptist Church, Kansas City, MO; pastor Bruce Anderson, Olivet Baptist Church, Kansas City, KS; pastor Chuck Brocka, missionary pastor at Fair Haven Baptist Church, Kansas City, KS; and pastor Tom Hamilton, Stony Point Baptist Church, Kansas City, KS.  These men pastor average size churches around the KC metropolitan area.  They are not nationally known speakers but they speak as pastors to church people.  They related familiar stories about their ministries that our people understood.  It didn’t have to be professional.  We moved tables and chairs, we had piano and hymn singing, we recorded each sermon and put it on our web site, we greeted and talked late after each service.

Though we have always had wonderful men of God speak to us at our conferences, many of our folks said that this was one of their favorite conferences because it made them realize that there are many other churches like ours which struggle with the same things in the same city-wide area.  Sometimes there are great things in our own back yard.

Wichita, Kansas

I often attend the western Missouri, eastern Kansas Regular Baptist Association meetings.  They (we) have a prayer meeting each month and bi-annual meetings each year.  This fall the conference was in Wichita at Westlink Baptist Church with pastor Dick Smith.  Dick has been there since Noah got off the ark and has a great ministry and is well known in the community.  The conference speaker was pastor Stan Lightfoot from Rustic Hills Baptist Church, Colorado Springs, CO.  I have known Stan for years dating back to my many years in Colorado.  Stan brought timely messages on the homosexual problems that now challenge our churches and communities.  It was very informative and brought us all up to speed on this important issue.

The men who attended this conference were also pastors of small and often rural churches.  One pastor who spoke went to a church of about a dozen people and has seen it grow to over 100.  There are many of these churches around our states that are without pastors and which are looking for men and families who will make the sacrifice to come to a smaller area.  There are retired pastors from the Kansas City area who travel every weekend to assist and preach for these churches.  When these pastors get together they have a great time telling stories, enjoying the meals provided by the church, praying with one another, and learning from one another.  Departing time seems to be sweet sorrow.

Soldotna, Alaska

This last month I was privileged to speak at a men’s retreat at Higher Ground Baptist Bible Camp in Soldotna, Alaska to the men from various churches of the Alaska Baptist Association.  It was a great group of pastors and laymen, some from the local Kenai peninsula, and some from as far north as Fairbanks.  I don’t have to tell you that these men are hunters and fishermen, maybe even mushers.  One afternoon’s enjoyment was skeet shooting which I enjoyed because I don’t do that much in my back yard in Kansas City.  The moose walked all over the camp grounds and the eagles flew over head.

In addition to the activities and sessions, several ladies and young people from the area provided meals which were absolutely delicious.  Many of these young people grow up serving in their churches and in various outreach opportunities. The harsher outdoors culture seems to make them tough but disciplined.  Even younger children (some were my grandchildren) ran around doing chores, often in shirt sleeves in the cold air.

During the week I once again heard stories of great but unknown men and churches.  A few of the older men were virtual pioneers to this “last frontier” state and had seen several generations of pastors and families come and go.  It’s not an easy place to come and stay if you’re not acclimated to the Alaska weather.  These churches have struggles as any other churches:  finances, building issues, shortages of help, discouragement.  But they are more of our great unsung heroes of the faith.

Persuading young men

Perhaps we can persuade more young couples to go to the smaller churches in rural areas or inner cities and accept the smaller works.  It is a tough time.  Our graduates have heavy debt loads, wages in churches are not a lot, there is no notoriety in those places.  But if God has ordered it, He will pay for it, now or in eternity.  Let’s pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers.

Observations to be made

  1. Most New Testament churches were small churches. We are never told the actual attendance numbers of the churches in New Testament times but it doesn’t seem to be that they were large churches. The Jerusalem church was the exception.  It started out with about 120 people and grew to 3000, then 5000, and perhaps more.  The reasons for its phenomenal growth, however, were not repeated:  It experienced the day of Pentecost; it had twelve apostles ministering in it; it saw the first great miracles done by the apostles; it was in the religious center of Judeo-Christian activity; and it was the only church in existence at that time.  As the first century progressed and the New Testament was revealed, we see smaller, struggling churches spotted throughout the Roman Empire.
  2. Most churches throughout the age of grace have been small. There were exceptions to this as well, but believers everywhere gathered together on the Lord’s Day wherever they lived with the believers in that area. I have seen the roll of John Bunyan’s and William Carey’s churches in England and they were fewer than 100 people.  I have looked at the history of pastors such as Andrew Fuller, John Sutcliffe, and John Rylands with the same result.  Even in the early days of Spurgeon’s church with famous pastors (Benjamin Keach, John Gill, John Rippon) it was not a large church.  Spurgeon became its notable exception.
  3. Most of our Baptist churches today are relatively small. I have been to many mission fields with missionaries and the great majority of them have been very small churches. There have been more popular times when our churches were larger and maybe they will come again. But noses and nickels are not our objective per se.  We are to be faithful to God, preach the Word, and win souls to Him.  The Bema Seat will reveal “how” not “how much.”  Perhaps we have passed through a time when we only honored success by the size of the ministry and young men get discouraged in lesser works.  Too many seminars teach us to build up, step up, add to, spread out, and increase.  That is all well and good in its place.  But so is faithfulness and godliness with contentment.
  4. Many small churches may do more in a city than one large church. This may depend on a number of factors, but wouldn’t ten locations be better than one? Wouldn’t ten visitation programs be better than one?  Wouldn’t ten youth programs and children’s ministries be better than one?  Wouldn’t a hundred Sunday School teachers be better than ten?  And wouldn’t we teach God’s people more about normal Christianity?  I said in the beginning of this article that I am not opposed to large churches.  Praise God when growth happens.  I am only arguing also for the integrity of the smaller ministry which is the norm for most pastors and churches.
  5. Only the Lord knows the days that are ahead for His churches. We are not the same America of two hundred years ago, or even fifty years ago. We kill human children as soon as they are able to be born, cut them to pieces as one would a chicken, and sell them to the highest bidder.  We teach our children to seek a homosexual and fornicative lifestyle and deny the way God made humans male and female.  We legalize drugs faster than we fight them, and wonder why young criminals are nearly super-human and out of control.  We undress more than we dress up.  We sing profanity more than we learn grammar.  And we have again turned God’s house of prayer into an emporium of selfishness.

I preach the soon return of Jesus Christ for a pretribulational rapture of His church.  If I really believe we could be living in those days, I also must believe that we may see darker days ahead.  If so, we are going to need Christianity and local church life that is serious, reverent, uncompromising, and filled with the joy of the Lord, not the love of the world.  This is going to take churches that are personal, face to face, with pastoral relationships for every member, worship that can appreciate the simple truths of the faith in prayer, song, and sermon.  Our local New Testament Baptist churches are tailor made for that need.  If the local church was the divine instrument for the pagan first century, it is also for the pagan twenty first century.

And so . . .

Charles Ryrie has written, “Indeed, one receives the impression from the New Testament that the Lord preferred to have many smaller congregations rather than one large group in any given place.  And there seemed to be no lack of power that stemmed from lack of bigness.”1

In addition, Rolland McCune has written, “The ‘household of God,’ the ‘church of the living God’ is, in context of the Pastoral Epistles and I Timothy 3, the local church of the New Testament.  It is the ‘pillar  and support of the truth’.  To that institution has been committed the fate of revealed truth in this dispensation.”2

These things being true, our support and involvement in the local churches in our time, not just the larger and well-known ones but the smaller and less-known ones, is a Biblical imperative.

Notes:

  1. Charles Ryrie, Balancing The Christian Life (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994) 20.
  2. Rolland McCune, Promise Unfulfilled (Greenville: Ambassador International, 2004) 74-75.

 

 

Baptist History

Baptist History

by Rick Shrader

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I was happy to find this volume of Dr. Cramp’s 1868 work on Baptist History.  Cramp was born in England (1796) but spent almost all of his ministry in Nova Scotia, Canada.  Originally published by Elliot Stock, Paternoster Row, London, this volume is a 1987 reprint by Baptist Heritage Publications of Watertown, Wisconsin.  It contains the original Introductory Notice by Joseph Angus of Regent’s Park College, London, and also a review of the book done by C.H. Spurgeon in a 1868 edition of The Sword and the Trowel.

In almost every book on Baptist History one will find a reference to J.M. Cramp.  This is the first time I had an opportunity to read the book for myself, and I was not disappointed.  It reads like a cross between Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (which Cramp references and also gives some little known history of Foxe himself) and Anabaptist/Baptist history.  The editor of the current edition, Dr. Richard Weeks, professor of Baptist History, Maranatha Baptist Bible College, points out that some have mistakenly labeled Cramp as holding the Baptist Successionist view of Baptist History.  He rather designates Cramp as holding the Spiritual Kinship theory, which I think a thorough reading of the book will affirm.

The almost 500 page book is surprisingly well documented with footnotes, a feature not always available in older works.  This recent edition also has a thorough index of names and subjects at the end.  Cramp divides the book into eight “periods” beginning with the primitive, then the transition period, obscure (middle ages) period, revival, Reformation, troublous (English, the longest section), quiet (after the Restoration), and present (1800s) periods.  I especially enjoyed the long section of English Baptist history from Bunyan to Spurgeon, and also the history of Roger Williams, the first great Baptist influence in America.  In addition the book contains original sketches, or engravings as they were called, including Queen Elizabeth, Smithfield (place of English martyrs), St. Paul’s Cross, King James, John Milton, the Bedford City jail, Wesley, and Whitfield.

Cramp points out not only the persecution of Baptists by the Roman Catholic Church but also by the Reformers.  “The Baptists of the sixteenth century, generally, were a goodly, upright, honourable race.  They hated no man.  But all men hated them.  And why?  Because they testified against the abominations of the times, and wished to accomplish changes which would indeed have revolutionized society, because it was constructed on anti-Christian principles, but which were in accordance with the Word of God.  An outcry was raised against them, as if they were ‘the offscouring of all things,’ and their blood was poured out like water.  Even the Reformers wrote and acted against them.  The writers of that age searched out the most degrading and insulting epithets that the language afforded, and applied them with malignant gratification.  Latimer speaks of the ‘pernicious’ and ‘devilish’ opinions of the Baptists.  Hooper calls those opinions ‘damnable.’  Bacon inveighs against the ‘wicked,’ ‘apish Anabaptists,’ ‘foxish hypocrites,’ that ‘damnable sect,’ ‘liars,’ ‘bloody murderers both of soul and body,’ whose religious system he denounces as a ‘pestiferous plague,’ with many other foul-mouthed expressions as ‘obstinate,’ ‘rebellious,’ ‘brain-sick,’ ‘frantic,’ ‘filthy knaves.’  Zuingli speaks of the ‘pestiferous seed of their doctrine,’ their ‘hypocritical humility,’ their speech, ‘more bitter than gall.’  But enough of this.  These men could, notwithstanding all, appeal to those who witnessed their sufferings, and boldly declare, with the axe or the stake in view, none venturing to contradict, that they were not put to death for any evil deeds, but solely for the sake of the Gospel.”

In a further interesting section Cramp inveighs strongly about John Foxe (the well-known martyrologist) for his Church of England sympathies against the dissenters though he (Foxe) objected to the severities of the persecutions.  “But good old John was still in the dark.  He did not understand soul-freedom.  According to him, Baptists had no right to hold and profess their opinions.  They were ranked with those ‘fanatical sects’ which ‘are by no means to be countenanced in a commonwealth,’ but ought to be ‘suppressed by proper correction.’”  (Those quotes from Foxe are attributed to Crosby’s History of the Baptists).   Interesting.

 

 

Borders, Language, and Culture

Borders, Language, and Culture

by Rick Shrader

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           41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.  42And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.  43And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.  44And all that believed were together, and had all things common;  45And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.  46And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,  47Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.                                                                  (Acts 2:41-47)

“Borders, Language, and Culture” are terms that we hear repeated a lot during a national election year.  I very much agree with the intended meaning in the triple description of the nation’s needs.  All nations have borders.  That is the normal way of saying where the territory starts and stops and also of declaring who is allowed in and who is not.  It is like the property line of your home or the title on your car or the lock on your front door.  As individuals have a natural right to property, so a nation has also.

All nations have a language.  It doesn’t mean that there aren’t also other languages spoken there, or that the citizens don’t work hard at learning other languages.  I found this out by marrying into an immigrant family of Russian/Ukrainians who had immigrated to Brazil and Argentina before immigrating to the United States.  But even then, when they came to the U.S. they gladly learned the native tongue one more time because English would be necessary to communicate with their new neighbors.

All nations have a culture.  This is one of the fun and educational experiences of travel to foreign countries.  We never totally lose our native culture even though we work hard at adapting to a new one.  We’ve all had the enjoyable experience of eating at a Mexican or Italian restaurant, or at the myriad of other cultural “islands” within our own country.  But to be a real country even immigrants blend into their new homeland and become one with many others who add and contribute to the unity of the country.

The more insecure the world becomes the more these three things are important.  If every country would do right by these, all countries would benefit.  When a country ignores these, the rogue countries of the world flood in to take control and conquer.

The local church of the New Testament also has borders, language, and culture.  Every individual church ought to feel that they are the best church and that the environment which they have created is the best place for any other person to be.  They ought to believe that the border they have, the language they speak, and the culture they create are all as Biblical as can be.

The New Testament is full of passages that speak about the borders, language, and culture of the church.  Acts 2:41-47 is the first picture we have of a church and it is plain enough to see these principles displayed from the very first days of the gospel era.

Borders:  the need for membership in the church.

Just as an immigrant desires to become a citizen of a country, so a believer ought to desire to become a member of a local church.  A country has a line defined by its constitution which are requirements that must be met.  Borders aren’t meant to enslave a nation’s citizens but act as a protection against dangerous intruders and give definition to the procedure for entrance.  Church membership can’t forbid a person to leave but it can prohibit a person from coming in who does not agree with the language and culture of the church.

Salvation.  “Then they that gladly received his word” (Acts 2:41).  The first part of the border of the church is that a person knows Jesus Christ as Savior.  Here that is described as “receiving the word.”  The book of Acts has many other descriptions of the same thing:  repent (38), believe (44), be saved (47), be converted (3:19), hear (3:22), turn (3:26), be obedient (6:7), follow (13:23), and attend to (16:14).  The local church is commissioned to take the gospel to the whole world and persuade people to believe, to put their trust in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Then we direct them to the church.  In other words, we are ambassadors who are recruiting members to come within our borders by these qualifications.

The New Testament doesn’t take this lightly and neither should we.  It is a tragedy when a local church is filled with unconverted members.  How can they walk in the Spirit?  How can they pray?  How can they seek God’s will?  How can they vote on spiritual matters?  How can they evangelize others?  We cannot be more interested in the quantity of our membership than in the specific quality of it.  Let visitors be visitors and welcome them gladly, just as a country welcomes visitors, but a citizen must have a change of status.  The sinner must be converted.  “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).

Baptism.  “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized” (Acts 2:41).  Every convert in the book of Acts was baptized.  In fact, as  F.F. Bruce wrote, “The idea of an unbaptized Christian is simply not entertained in the NT.”1  Baptism is not part of salvation, that is, the forgiveness of sins, but “the answer of a good conscience toward God” (1 Peter 3:21).  In the initial commission to the church, they were to baptize the disciples which were made (Matt. 28:19-20).  These instructions have never been rescinded.

Baptism has both a proper motive and mode.  It is a public profession of the person’s salvation experience.  It boldly proclaims and pictures the person’s faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The text says, “THEN they that gladly received his word were baptized.”  When the eunuch asked to be baptized Philip replied, “If thou believest with all thine heart thou mayest” (Acts 8:37).  When Peter saw many converted in Caesarea he asked, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost?” (Acts 10:47).

The mode of baptism must be immersion as the Greek word baptizō only means.  This is the only valid picture of death, burial, and resurrection.  Philip and the eunuch “went down both into the water” and came “up out of the water” (Acts 8:38-39).  The ancient meaning of the word has been well established throughout the history of the church.

Whether a local church makes baptism “the door of the church” or makes it “stand at the door” of the church,2 the principle is that it is part of the border, or port of entry, into the church.  To skip this requirement, or to lessen its inconvenience, would be both unbiblical and detrimental to the strength of the church.  It is a person’s personal testimony that he has been saved and is qualified to enter.

Agreement.  “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42).  No one should become an American citizen who does not believe in its Constitution and who does not intend to uphold it.  Not every saved and baptized person should join a particular church but only those who are also in agreement with its beliefs and practices.

Though it would be a great thing if all local churches in the world believed the same thing about the New Testament, but they don’t.  We can’t change that on this side of glory.  Denominational distinctions have been a good thing for this reason.  A believer should desire to practice his/her faith with like-minded believers.  Just as a country is glad for other countries, churches do not forbid other churches that differ, but rather are glad for the freedom to practice as they feel they must. It is a wonderful fellowship of believers who share salvation, baptism, and agreement as the basis for their common worship.

Language:  the understanding of like-minded faith in the church.

“And all that believed were together, and had all things common”  (Acts 2:44).  Just as a common language allows the citizens of a country to communicate with one another, so like-minded faith allows the members of a local church to fellowship with one another.  Common language is the ability to hear, speak, and nuance specific communication.  Like-minded faith is the ability to talk, listen, and comprehend in a common biblical terminology.

Church documents.  All churches have official founding documents.  Though we have the Bible as our basis for faith and practice, we also have learned the need to specify how we understand the Bible, both for those who want to join with us and for those who want to know about us.  Usually these are divided into the doctrinal statement (a statement of what we believe) and by-laws (a description of how we practice).  Many churches also have a church covenant which is a statement of agreed intentions of how we will live as members together in the church.  In addition, the church documents will include Articles of Incorporation, which are legal statements that satisfy the state of residence for specific things, especially if the church is a registered non-profit organization.

Above, when I pointed out “agreement” as a border to the church, I mentioned all of these as a “Constitution.”  These documents are not just ancillary paperwork but are the very language that the members of a particular church speak.  We will carry on the business of the church by this language.  We will show proper recognition for our leadership by this language.  We will vote and abide by the majority of Spirit-filled people because we know the syntax and speak the language of the church.

Church worship.  “And they, continuing daily with one accord” (Acts 2:46).  “They lifted up their voice to God with one accord” (Acts 4:24).  Worship in the local church has become a “style.”  We have this worship style and that worship style.  It is true that churches behave differently during their services, but why and how we do this is more important than a mere style.  The clothes I wear may be a style, or the car I drive to church may show a style, but how we fellowship, sing, pray, and preach are what we believe about worship.

“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28-29).  “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name.  But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well-pleased” (Heb. 13:15-16).

Douglas Groothuis wrote, “Most of the skills we learn in order to get along successfully in this life will be of no use in heaven…But when we invest ourselves in learning to worship, we are making an investment in a skill that will be essential throughout eternity.”3  Worship is an essential language both in this life and in the life to come.

Jesus said, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).  John Flavel, a fifteenth century Puritan, said, “Carnal men rejoice carnally, and spiritual men rejoice spiritually.”4  A believer cannot forsake the assembling together with other believers (Heb. 10:25) and when he assembles he must be able to approach God in a clear conscience with his heart and mind in a humble and reverent attitude.  We want to do this with other believers who are speaking this same language.

Church doctrine.  “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42).  Paul admonished Timothy, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Tim. 4:16).  As with our agreement about like-minded faith, and the language of our documents, our doctrine becomes everyday language at church and at home.  We will hear it from the pulpit and in Bible study. We will teach it to our children and to our new converts.  We will use this language in the fellowship halls and homes of our members.  We agreed to speak this language when we joined the church.

Our day has also seen a certain downplaying of doctrine when it comes to church fellowship.  We think we can remain in fellowship though we believe differently in major areas of doctrine.  In America we are witnessing vastly opposing points of view, almost as if we have two countries within a country.  It is obvious that this cannot last for long.  Neither can it last within a church.  Like a nation’s Constitution, a church’s doctrinal statement is its lowest common denominator.  A church’s doctrine is both broad and narrow:  it is broad enough that there is room for difference on minor things, and it is narrow enough that it at least says something specific.  This makes church fellowship and worship comfortable and safe.  We all know what we have in common.

There should be no stealth applications for membership in a nation or in a church.  No one should come in who plans to fundamentally change the nation or church.  Rather, find a nation or church with which you agree and live there happily.  Nor should a pastor seek to be called to a church who plans from the beginning to change the church into something contrary to its constitution.  This would be dishonest.  Agreement in faith and practice is vital to citizenship and membership.

Culture:  the life-style of Christians living within the church.

“And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart” (Acts 2:46).  Our country is facing the problem of becoming a hobo stew rather than a melting pot.  Immigrants should come into a country and blend with its culture and become one of them.  My in-laws, though bringing multiple cultures with them, were anxious to become Americans.  Sure, they retained many cultural things, things that one cannot discard very quickly such as an accent, or a facial look, or a taste for certain foods.  But these are harmless when the great desire is to be a part of the new culture.

Life-style convictions.   I doubt that cannibalism would fit very well into American society.  Polygamy has also been banned except in rare places.  It was a better day when bootlegging, gangs, prostitution, homosexuality, abortion, and the like were also unacceptable in a civilized society.  God’s people who join local churches know that the Bible describes the life-style of a believer.  There have always been and there will always be differences as to how we apply these teachings to our own time.  But a believer must live by his conscience in the culture in which he lives.  There are certain things he cannot do.  That may be some language, or matters of modesty, or certain beverages, or various places of entertainment.  His attitude toward these is a Biblical thing to him, and his church is a big part of his life within that culture.

Just as a citizen of a country will choose to live or not live in certain localities, or will choose to work or not work in certain occupations, or will choose to participate or not participate in various cultural mores, so the Christian will choose a church that fits his Christian cultural convictions.  A Christian cannot live contrary to those convictions.  Carl Trueman wrote, “The frothy entertainment culture in which we live is a narcotic: not only is it addictive, so that we always want more; it also eats away at us, skewing our priorities, rotting our values as surely as too much sugar rots our teeth.”5 The local church is the most important culture a Christian has.

John wrote, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.  They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.  We are of God”  (1 John 4:4-6).  It doesn’t affect us what the world does outside the church, but it greatly affects us what the culture is inside the church.

Loving the brethren.  Immediately upon receiving Christ we become brothers or sisters to other believers.  We are part of the family, we are joint heirs together with Christ and all Christians.  Just as a legal immigrant is pronounced a citizen at a legal ceremony and is immediately given all rights as a citizen, so the believer in Christ receives all the rights of a child of God.

We are obligated as believers to “love the brethren.”  We now see all believers as God sees them, special objects of His grace.  In fact, we now see all people as potential objects of His grace.  We can no longer curse someone who we understand bears the image of God in his/her very makeup (Jas. 3:8-10).  It is a terrible thing to see believers with hatred toward other believers.  We might as well have hatred toward Christ our brother.

Mortals join this happy chorus

Which the morning stars began;

Father love is reigning o’er us,

Brother love binds man to man.

Thou our Father, Christ our Brother,

All who live in love are Thine;

Teach us how to love each other,

Lift us to the Joy divine.6

In a country we can become very partial in our loves and likes, and even bigoted or racist.  But in the church all human distinctions are removed—the only place on earth where these distinctions are truly removed.  The biggest struggle that I observe is the difficulty in loving and respecting our elders.  We live in a youth-oriented time.  As a pastor of wonderful older people I can truly say that they possess the wisdom, the servant attitude, the toughness, the faithfulness, the humor, and the love that is characteristic of Christians.  “Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; the elder women as mothers; the younger women as sisters, with all purity.  Honor widows that are widows indeed” (1 Tim. 5:1-3).

Local church life.  “And all that believed had all things common. . . And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:44, 47).  Multi-Culturalism is tearing our country apart.  It seems like a good thing but in reality it divides rather than unifies.  It is the American culture that has made America great.  George Washington said, “The nation which indulges toward another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave.”7   The local church should be one culture.  Yes, we bring our earthly baggage with us, but we check it at the door as best we can.

Besides the borders, the language, and various elements of culture, the point of most of this article has been the life of the local church.  Among the myriad other things we must do in life, nothing is more precious to the believer than the local church.  We are pilgrims and strangers on this earth and the local church is the rest area for travelers.  It is made up of homeless people.  Peter writes to us as,  “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims” (1 Pet. 2:11).  “Stranger” literally means “without a house,” and “pilgrim” literally means “without kin.”  Yet we are “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people: that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).

If we would love the church more than the world, the church would again have power in the world.  It is that power we need to be witnesses in a dark world.  “Save yourselves from this ontoward generation” Peter preached at the beginning of our text (Acts 2:40).  We do that through sustained life in the body of Christ, through a Christian culture.

And So . . .

A nation needs definite borders, one language, and a unifying culture.  So does a church.  A church should have a high wall of salvation, baptism, and agreement.  It should speak the same language of by-laws, worship, and doctrine.  It should also live a common life-style of conviction, love, and church life.

“Now unto him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.  Amen” (Eph. 3:20-21).

Notes:

  1. F.F. Bruce, The Book of the Acts, in The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979) 77.
  2. Edward Hiscox, The New Directory for Baptist Churches (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1894 to 1970) describes both methods for Baptist churches. Pages 77 & 121.
  3. Douglas Groothuis, Christianity That Counts (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994) 75.
  4. John Flavel, “From A Coronation Sermon,” A Collection of Orations from Homer to McKinley, vol. 4 (New York: Collier and Son, 1902) 1599.
  5. Carl Trueman, Reformation: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow, Kindle, 1416, p. 111.
  6. Henry Van Dyke, Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee. A mixture of verses 3 and 4.
  7. George Washington, “Farewell Address,” Orations, 2526.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Herschel H. Hobbs: Baptists Why and Why...

Herschel H. Hobbs: Baptists Why and Why Not

by Rick Shrader

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Over the last few months I have read three books in this “Baptist Classics” series.  The first two, on E.Y. Mullins and J.M. Frost and their contemporaries, were more encouraging histories of the Southern Baptist Convention from the days before liberalism set in.  This volume highlights Herschel Hobbs who was the chairman of the committee that drafted the 1963 revision of The Baptist Faith and Message, the official doctrinal statement of the SBC.  The original BFM was drafted in 1925 under the leadership of Mullins, and the third and latest draft was in 2000 under the leadership of Adrian Rogers.  The 1963 BFM was the one greatly influenced by the liberal wing of the Convention.  One can easily find all three drafts in a side by side format online.

Before I review the book on some specifics, let me summarize a few of the problems that the 1963 BFM had under Hobbs’ leadership.  First, the lengthy Preamble (which all three versions have) in 1925 includes the statement, “That the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.”  The 1963 Preamble changed that to say, “Therefore, the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is Jesus Christ whose will is revealed in the Holy Scriptures.”  Does our authority start with the Scriptures where we find all we know about Jesus Christ, or does it start with what we know about Jesus Christ and some of that is revealed in the Scriptures?  The 2000 BFM changed the statement back to the 1925 wording.

In the first section on “The Scriptures,” we have three concerns.  Second, then, is the opening sentence from 1925, “We believe that the Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired.”  The 1963 version has, “The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is the record of God’s revelation of Himself to man.”  Again, is the Bible God’s Word or only a record of God’s Word?  The 2000 version changed it to, “The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man.”

Third, the first section also has this statement (appearing in all three versions), “It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter.”  There may not be any intentional deviation, but one Southern Baptist, Norm Miller, whose father, Eldridge Miller, was at the 1963 convention has commented, “Dad told me the Modernists had influence in the placing of commas around the clause that follows the word ‘truth’. . . Remove the commas, and ‘Without any mixture of error’ applies to the entire statement about the Bible.  As adopted in 1963, however, ‘Without any mixture of error’ applies only to the ‘truth’ that is found in the Bible.” (Baptistbanner.org/Subarchive_7/700 Berean or Beratin.htm)  It may also be asked whether the Bible “has” truth without any mixture of error, and has other truth as well. But, again, it should be noted that this statement is the same in all three versions.

Fourth, and most well-known, is the “criterion” clause.  The 1963 version added this statement at the end of the paragraph on “Scriptures,”  “The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ.”  The 1925 version did not have this last sentence at all, and the 2000 version concludes with, “All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.”  Albert Mohler, Jr., a member of the 2000 committee, wrote,

“That statement, tied to a clear affirmation of biblical inerrancy, is not a problem because every responsible evangelical believes in a Christological hermeneutic, that is, that Jesus Christ himself is the fulfillment of the Scripture and all Scripture is a testimony to Him.  But without an accompanying affirmation of biblical inerrancy, that statement became a license or a loophole for persons to deny certain texts by saying that those texts were not compatible with Jesus . . . Now, of course that violates the authority of Scripture and it violates the very instructions of Jesus concerning the Scripture, who said that he didn’t come to nullify any Scripture but to fulfill every Scripture.” (http://mbcpathway.com/2005/11/14/article11209-htm/ )

And so, a book that tries to exonerate Hobbs’ work on the 1963 committee has its work cut out for it.  In this book, only the first chapter is Hobbs’ own work.  It is titled, “The Baptist Doctrine of the Holy Scripture” and is a “posthumously published essay . . . [which] affirms the doctrine of biblical inerrancy.”  In this essay, however, Hobbs defends both the “Plenary Theory” and the “Dynamic Theory” of inspiration (p. 15) and clearly defends theistic evolution, “Did God create the universe and all those in it in six, twenty-four-hour days?  Not necessarily. . . ‘In the beginning’ can refer to one second or to vast eons” (p. 20).

But Hobbs notwithstanding, I found the rest of the book to be very much worth the reading.  Of special note is “Baptists and Higher Education” by Carl F.H. Henry; “The Church in the Twenty-First Century” by Paige Patterson; and “Worship” by David Dockery.  Other chapters were more directed to specified ministries within the church which may or may not be of interest.

As an independent Baptist, I am not greatly influenced by today’s Southern Baptist Convention.  I must add that one chapter in this book did more for my understanding of the Convention (and not necessarily for the good) than anything I’ve read in a long time.  It is, “Holding the Ropes: A Strategy for Christian Stewardship” by Morris H. Chapman.  This is a detailed chapter on why the Cooperative Program exists and how it came about.  In short, it says that since individuals won’t tithe as they should, and churches on their own won’t give to missions as they could, the SBC invented the Cooperative Program to do it for them.  Money is given by the churches and the Convention makes sure it is used properly.  Though Chapman  tries to argue that this is a “visionary” way of supporting missionary work, it has taken the decision of the local church, regarding its own money, out of its own hands and given that decision to a national organization.  To an independent Baptist who believes in faith missions, this is unacceptable.

Despite my various views of the Southern Baptist Convention and the problems with Herschel Hobbs, I still learned a lot from this book and this series.  I had to grind the gears a little to get through it, but I would still suggest it to Baptists wanting to learn about their history.