"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My Favorite Baptists

Lest my preference for the biblical inclusion of children in the covenant dismay my Baptist friends, there are several Baptists in Church History I do dearly benefit from. I thought here I might give my appreciation for the 5 best men that the Baptists have given to the Church:

The Preacher: Charles Spurgeon
Spurgeon is best known as “The Prince of Preachers.” His sermons are rich theologically and display a great talent for understanding the minds of the listener. He would often ask the very questions that the topic would bring up as if the audience was asking him about it. His sermons are definitely worth studying for style and substance. But Spurgeon cared not just for his own ministry, but for the training of the next generation of preachers. Some of his insights are preserved in the classic “Lectures to my Students.” [Iain Murray wrote a great biography highlighting Spurgeon's Calvinism called "The Forgotten Spurgeon"]

The Missionary: Adoniram Judson
Few people (other than my brother) have read any thing written by Judson, because his story is far more compelling. Judson was the first missionary to Burma, a title he was (too) proud of. Of course, God likes to strip us of those things we treasure instead of Him, and so one might read in the story of Judson’s life. To the Golden Shore is the best I know about to read up on Judson’s story.

The Hymn-writer: William Gadsby
Gadsby is perhaps, with Anne Steel, the greatest Baptist hymn writer in history. Gadsby compiled a hymn book for Baptists that infused their theology with much needed grace. Gadsby included non-Baptist hymn-writers Toplady (“Rock of Ages”), Isaac Watts (“When I Survey“), Newton (“Amazing Grace” ) and Cowper (“God moves in a mysterious way”) along with some of his classics (like the one I highlighted a year ago) “The Love of Christ is Rich and Free” and “Jesus the Lord, my Savior” [Many of Gadsby's hymns are being put to modern music by Red Mountain Music and Indelible Grace.]

The Novelist: John Bunyan
Bunyan penned the second most read and published book in the English language (behind the Bible), Pilgrim’s Progress. The book told the story of the life of a Christian through allegory. Bunyan wrote it while in prison for preaching without a licence. Bunyan also wrote Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, an account of his own spiritual journey. It does seem however, Bunyan’s church became a pedobaptist Congregationalist church after getting into some disputes with Baptists over the doctrine whether or not to allow members and communicants that were not re-baptized (much like the Piper and Grudem debate) and he eventually came to see it as needlessly divisive. But he wrote Pilgrim’s Progress as a Baptist so I will count him…

The Theologian: John Gill
I often consult John Gill’s magnus opum: his commentaries on Scripture. John Gill was a particular Baptist preacher who was perhaps one of their greatest theologians. Yet, here is where the my appreciation is the thinnest. Gill has many great insights, but also construed the doctrines of grace in such a way as to lay the groundwork for the hyper-Calvinists (whom Spurgeon called the followers of Gill). So far in reading his commentaries, I cannot tell if Gill himself disparaged the preaching of the gospel to everyone, or whether his followers just didn’t get him (which I am more apt to think). Still, his followers gave the doctrines of grace a bad name in Baptist culture, that Spurgeon was an exception to, and not the rule. Nonetheless, Gill’s commentary usually has a perspective I need to wrestle with.


Aaron said...

THANK YOU!!! I would also include those like Backus and Martin Luther King Jr. There are some focus issues there with them I admit but Bunyan's imprisonment is a good example as to why Baptists like to promote liberty. Thank God for Owen who was of like mind on Bunyan and the wrongness of his and other Baptists persecution. I also intend to look into Fuller a bit more here soon. Ok then that is all I ask for. Now you can continue with your Baptist bashing. You have many a valid points. This is one Baptist who knows that neither he nor his tradition is perfect and is willing to forgive your Presbyterians history of giving us a really hard time! I mean really the jail and the burnings! Ouch! Since we have the same sinful hearts we would have done no different to you I am sure. :-) Plus you were not the only ones to dip us in cold water, cover us with brandy and set us on fire. We got that from many. Ha!

As for Judson part of that few here have read him is he did not write much for us to read. Outside of his publishing of his sermon on Baptism in English he spent his life writing some pretty important things for Burma to read instead of us. Their Bible translation that they still use today. Baptists approached them and asked if they would like help in creating a new one and they said "Thanks but no thanks, Judson's is quite good and we would like to keep it." And of course their first dictionary. His father saw him being the next Edwards or Whitefield but God had other plans.

Oh yes then there is William Cary and well anyway... LOTS of good Baptists then and today.

Aaron said...

I knew Bunyan had said that he did believe in cedo-baptism but did not wish to make an idol out of it and so he admitted the members. I did not know that he himself gave up his Baptist views, although this is worded in a way that makes me wonder if he did or just the church did. I agree with his sentiments but it does get to my concern with the Piper debate that the church then switched. Interesting. I have no opinion other than I would clearly never say someone is not a Christian over this issue and thus not part of the true invisible church or whatever you would call it.

Did Bunyan know Greek? I love that John Owen the greatest theologian the English world has probably produced liked to listen to his sermons. Just a lowly poor Baptist.

Jared Nelson said...

Bunyan was completely uneducated. Lewis enjoyed that an uneducated man wrote one of the greatest books in the English language, which he attributed to Bunyan's study of the Bible, displaying the Bible to be a great piece of literature if it was the education of Bunyan.

Aaron said...

I just read this again and get a kick out of this post. You mostly say nice things about them but can not quite help yourself with the little digs can you? Love it! Your spirit is not far from mine bro. Ha! No offence I hope. :-)

Jared Nelson said...

My only hesitation is on Gill really. Reading "Spurgeon versus hyper-Calvinism" I take Spurgeon's side (as you are supposed to in the author's estimation.) I don't have a final verdict on Gill though because I can see the faults in his followers, but Gill is really good in what I've read on the doctrine of grace.

Except, he is more on the other side from Bunyan on caring about the doctrine of baptism. He sees all the possible references to baptism (like Ephesians 5:26) but will reject such a reading off-hand. Either he was well read in others (like Matthew Henry) and was offering a different take or otherwise he doth protest too much.

Andrew said...

Spurgeon vs. Hyper-calvinism made me feel like Gill was pretty bad, but it made me love Spurgeon alot. He had such a passion for Grace and the Gospel, I like him alot. Judson was my old Pastor's hero and he'd talk about him all the time. Good ol' baptists.

Aaron said...

Fuller took on the Hypers too. Purely a Baptist problem there. But Fuller taking them on launched a great missionary movement. (William Carey!) And Fuller was self educated. Also Edwards helped out with "Freedom of the will", good old Reformed and the Baptists who love them. Also good theology that leads to great things!