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Book Reviews, The Reformed Reader

Theologians of the Baptist Tradition
Edited by Timothy George, David S. Dockery

Baptists' Timothy George and David S. Dockery update and substantially reshape their classic book in an effort to preserve and discover the Baptists' "underappreciated contribution to Christianity's theological heritage." George and Dockery have re-arranged this volumeconsiderably abbreviated from the seven-hundred page first editionin light of the Southern Baptist identity controversy.



Baptist and theology aren't two words that often appear together, yet there is, and has been, a substantial body of Baptist theological writing. However, in the present generation Baptists often appear to be less concerned with being seen as a separate denomination. Timothy George addresses this issue in the first essay in this collection, which, along with the last essay, are the only ones in the book not focused on a particular theologian. Through the portraits of these theologians we gain a perspective on the history, thinking and work of the Baptists. And who are the Baptist theologians? A wide mix, from Augustus Strong and Charles Spurgeon to Carl Henry and Millard Erikson. Many Baptists have little understanding of their past; this book should give them a much better insight.

Theologians of the Baptist Tradition is an effort to preserve and discover the Baptists' "underappreciated contribution to Christianity's theological heritage."  Theologians Timothy George and David S. Dockery present a volume of essays to serve as a resource for pastors, students, and teachers and as an introduction to the life and thought of some of the most notable shapers of Baptist theology.

Baptist theologians profiled include John Gill, Andrew Fuller, John L. Dagg, James Petigru Boyce, John A. Broadus, A.T. Robertson, Charles Spurgeon, A.H. Strong, B.H. Carroll, E.Y. Mullins, W.T. Conner, Hershel Hobbs, W.A. Criswell, Frank Stagg, Carl F.H. Henry, James Leo Garrett, Jr., and Millard J. Erickson.

"Here is a book that was born in a cemetery. As they took a summer afternoon's walk through Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky. Timothy George, Dean of Beeson Divinity School, and David Dockery, newly appointed Dean of Theology at Southern Seminary, saw the tombstones of several Baptist leaders. They realized that many of the giants of the faith are virtually unknown to Baptists today. They further realized that there is "a crisis in Baptist life today which cannot be resolved by bigger budgets, better programs1 or more sophisticated systems of data processing and mass communication," but only by a renewed focus on theology.

This book, then, seeks to restore doctrinal vigor by resurrecting the memory of such giants. But it also features contemporary Baptists who have had and continue to have a profound impact on Baptist thinking.

Here we find the good old names of Bunyan and Keach, Gill and Dagg, Mell and Boyce, Spurgeon and Carroll, and the modern names of Criswell, Hobbs, Henry, Erickson, and Ladd.

Each of the thirty-three theologians in this book is treated by a different scholar by means of a brief biography, an analysis of his theology, an evaluation of his thought and life, and a bibliography of his major works. Endnotes are also found at the conclusion of each chapter.

George introduces the book with an essay entitled "The Renewal of Baptist Theology," and Dockery concludes it with a survey entitled "Baptist Theology and Theologians." George's essay alone is worth, in my estimation, the price of the book. Here is a sample: "Seduced by the lure of modernity ('whatever is latest is best'), we find ourselves awash on the sea of pragmatism ('whatever works is right'), indifference, and theological vacuity. The results are all about us: Church rolls stuffed with so-called 'inactive members' no one has seen or heard from in years, trendy sermons which lack both biblical depth and spiritual power, a generation of young people uninstructed in the rudiments of the faith, fractious controversies which sap our strength and strain our fellowship, shallow worship services geared more to the applause of men than the praise of God, a slackening interest in evangelism and missions, all amidst a hurried activism steeped in this-worldly priorities."

Those who are interested in Baptist theology and history will find a veritable feast here, and those who think such things are boring might just find they have been sadly mistaken".
Founders Ministries Review by Roger Ellsworth

"Baptists should read this book to gain a better sense of who they are, others to discover an underappreciated contribution to Christianity's theological heritage".
Mark Knoll, Wheaton College

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