Nathan A. Finn

Historian, Theologian, Teacher, Preacher

Monthly Archive: August 2011



August 2011



Four Myths about the Crusades

Written by , Posted in Culture, History, Theology

Every semester, I teach a couple of church history survey courses at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. The first course, Church History: Patristic and Medieval, more or less covers the period from the end of the first century AD to the dawn of the sixteenth century. One of the topics I address is the crusades. Many students are very interested in the crusades. They hope that understanding the religious wars between Christians and Muslims will help us better navigate our own contemporary context, particularly the War on Terror and growing emphasis on evangelical missionary work in unevangelized Muslim nations.

Unfortunately, the crusades are white hot landmines on the battlefield of political correctness. Many on the cultural Left use the crusades as an argument for secularism, or at least the muffling of (conservative) religious voices in the public square. They strongly imply that America in particular and Western Culture in general are to blame for most of the ills around us. Some even insinuate that we deserve the scorn of Islamic terrorists, though to be clear, the Left believes that the terrorists take their scorn too far in resorting to violence. Not surprisingly, many leftwing Christians make similar arguments. Just read the reports of any national gathering of the mainline denomination of your choice over the past eight or ten years.

In the most recent issue of  The Intercollegiate Review (a politically incorrect journal, to be sure), California University of Pennsylvania medievalist Paul Crawford debunks four common myths about the crusades:

Myth # 1: The Crusades Represented an Unprovoked Attack by Western Christians on the Muslim World

Myth # 2: Western Christians Went on Crusade because Their Greed Led Them to Plunder Muslims in Order to Get Rich

Myth # 3: Crusaders Were a Cynical Lot Who Did Not Really Believer Their Own Religious Propaganda; Rather They Had Ulterior, Materialistic Motives

Myth # 4: The Crusades Taught Muslims to Hate and Attack Christians

Crawford notes that these myths are propagated by liberal politicians and even recounted in popular textbooks, though scholars who specialize in the crusades know them to be patently false. Bad history breeds like rabbits.

Crawford concludes his insightful essay as follows:

[N]othing is served by distorting the past for our own purposes. Or rather: a great many things may be served … but not the truth. Distortions and misrepresentations of the crusades will not help us understand the challenge posed to the West by a militant and resurgent Islam, and failure to understand that challenge could prove deadly. Indeed, it already has. It may take a very long time to set the record straight about the crusades. It is long past time to begin the task.

I’d encourage you to read the whole essay. The full bibliographic reference is Paul F. Crawford, “Four Myths about the Crusades,” The Intercollegiate Review (Spring 2011): 13–22.

[UPDATE: The Crawford article is available online. Thanks for the comments pointing this out.]



August 2011





August 2011



Help to Zion’s Travellers Now Available

Written by , Posted in Books, History, Missions, Theology

Help to Zion's TravellersI’m pleased to announce the publication of my newest book. I have edited an updated edition of Robert Hall Sr.’s important treatise Help to Zion’s Travellers (BorderStone Press, 2011). The book was originally published in 1781, two years after the material was first preached in a sermon before the Northamptonshire Baptist Association in England. Help to Zion’s Travellers is an impassioned defense of an evangelical understanding of the doctrines of grace, written at a time when far too many Particular Baptists and other Calvinistic Dissenters were caught up in the chill wind of hyper-Calvinism. Like many of the most able Particular Baptist theologians of his era, Hall was profoundly shaped by the evangelical, missionary, and revival-friendly theology of Jonathan Edwards.

In his book, Hall argued against the hyper-Calvinist idea that one must be convinced he is among the elect before he can repent and believe in Christ. Hall rightly understand that repentance and faith are evidence of election and that there is no special knowledge necessary for any individual to cast himself upon Christ’s mercies. As the hymn “Come Ye Sinners” so eloquently states it, “all the fitness He requires is to feel your need of Him.”

Help to Zion’s Travellers greatly influenced Hall’s younger contemporaries Andrew Fuller and William Carey. These two men famously led the Particular Baptists to embrace evangelical sentiments and form the Baptist Missionary Society. Reflecting on the book years Later, Carey claimed:

I do not remember ever to have read any book with such raptures as I did that. If it was poison, as some then said, it was so sweet to me that I drank it greedily to the bottom of the cup; and I rejoice to say, that those doctrines are the choice of my heart to this day.

In this new edition of Help to Zion’s Travellers, I’ve included an essay to introduce Hall and his legacy. I’ve also modernized the language a bit. My friend Michael Haykin, the imminent scholar of British Baptist history and theology, kindly wrote the foreword. If you are interested in Baptist history and theology, the history of Calvinism, or the history of missions, I hope you’ll consider picking up a copy of this new edition of Help to Zion’s Travellers.



August 2011



Two Recent Posts Elsewhere

Written by , Posted in Books, Culture, History, Links, Ministry, SBC, Theology

Last week, I wrote two posts for other blogs. On Tuesday, my weekly contribution to the Credo Blog was titled “Understanding Orthodoxy.” The focus of the post was the best way to understand debates about orthodoxy and heresy among the Early Church Fathers. On Thursday, I wrote a commendation of David Dockery’s new book Christian Leadership Essentials for Between the Times. I hope you’ll check out these two posts.



August 2011



The Gospel and Baptist Identity Series

Written by , Posted in History, Links, Ministry, SBC, Theology

I recently concluded a nine-part series titled The Gospel and Baptist Identity. In that series, I attempted to offer a constructive proposal about what I think is a healthy way to articulate Baptist identity in the early years of the twenty-first century. I received some helpful feedback, for which I’m very thankful. This is an expansion of what I’ve been teaching my Southeastern Seminary students for five years and what I hope to one day further develop into a book-length project.

Below, you will find links to each of the individual posts in the series. I hope the series will help spur on further discussion among Southern Baptists about the relationship between the good news and healthy ecclesiology.

The Gospel and Baptist Identity: Introduction

The Gospel and Baptist Identity: What is the Gospel?

The Gospel and Baptist Identity: Pondering Baptist Identity

The Gospel and Baptist Identity: Four Categories of Baptist Beliefs

The Gospel and Baptist Identity: Covenanted Gospel Membership

The Gospel and Baptist Identity: Confessor Baptist by Immersion

The Gospel and Baptist Identity: Christocentric Congregationalism

The Gospel and Baptist Identity: Cooperative Autonomy

The Gospel and Baptist Identity: Free Churches in a Free State