Nathan A. Finn

Historian, Theologian, Teacher, Preacher

Monthly Archive: October 2012



October 2012



Baptists and the Reformation

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Today is October 31. While most people identify this date with Halloween, it is also Reformation Day. On this date in 1517, Martin Luther allegedly nailed a copy of his Ninety-Five Theses to the front door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. The rest, as they say, is history.

Over at Between the Times, I’ve published a short blog post titled “Baptists and the Reformation.” It is a lightly revised version of a post I’ve published a couple of years in a row on October 31. If you haven’t read it before, or if you’d like to ponder anew the relationship between the Baptist tradition and the Reformation, then check out the post.



October 2012



Andrew Fuller on Unitarianism

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Joseph Priestley (1733-1804)

Unitarianism was one of the most popular religious errors among eighteenth-century Dissenters in England. Along with Universalism, which was also all the rage in some circles, Unitarianism challenged the longstanding evangelical consensus among Dissenters and led to a long-term spiritual declension among English Congregationalists and Presbyterians in particular. Though he wasn’t the first Unitarian in England, the famous philosopher, chemist, and political theorist Joseph Priestley was the key leader in the movement. American Unitarians such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were influenced by Priestley’s writings on the topic.

In 1793, Andrew Fuller wrote one of the key refutations of Unitarianism, challenging the sentiments of Priestley and others Unitarian luminaries such as Theophilus Lindsey. The latter founded the first Unitarian congregation in England in 1774. Fuller titled his broadside The Calvinistic and Socinian Systems Examined and Compared, As To Their Moral Tendency, In A Series of Letters, Addressed to the Friends of Vital and Practical Religion. Much to the chagrin of the Unitarians, Fuller equated their movement with Socinianism, a similar heresy that began among some Radical Reformers in Poland in the late sixteenth century. Socinians and English Unitarians denied the full inspiration of Scriptures, the necessity of atonement for salvation, and, of course, the full deity of Christ.

Fuller closes The Calvinistic and Socinian Systems Examined and Compared with a couple of paragraphs that summarize the differences between orthodox Trinitarianism and the Unitarians. I believe these same arguments could be raised against any heretical system of belief that attempts to improve upon Christianity, but in fact represents a departure from the apostolic gospel.

First, If that system which embraces the Deity and atonement of Christ, with other correspondent doctrines, be friendly to a life of sobriety, righteousness, and godliness; it must be of God, and it becomes us to abide by it; not because it is the doctrine of Calvin, or of any other man that was uninspired, but as being “the gospel which we have received” from Christ and his apostles; “wherein we stand, and by which we are saved.”

Secondly, If that system of religion which rejects the Deity and atonement of Christ, with other correspondent doctrines, be unfriendly to the conversion of sinners to a life of holiness, and of professed unbelievers to faith in Christ; if it be a system which irreligious men are the first and serious Christians the last to embrace; if it be found to relax the obligations to virtuous affection and behaviour, by relaxing the great standard of virtue itself; if it promote neither love to God under his true character, nor benevolence to men, as it is exemplified in the spirit of Christ and of his apostles; if it lead those who embrace it to be wise in their own eyes, and instead of humbly deprecating God’s righteous displeasure, even in their dying moments, arrogantly to challenge his justice; if the charity which it inculcates be founded in an indifference to divine truth; if it be inconsistent with ardent love to Christ, and veneration for the Holy Scriptures; if the happiness which it promotes be at variance with the joys of the gospel; and, finally, if it diminish the motives to gratitude, obedience, and heavenly-mindedness, and have a natural tendency to infidelity; it must be an immoral system, and consequently not of God. It is not the gospel of Christ, but “another gospel.” Those who preach it preach another Jesus, whom the apostles did not preach; and those who receive it, receive another spirit, which they never imbibed. It is not the light which cometh from above, but a cloud of darkness that hath arisen from beneath, tending to eclipse it. It is not the highway of truth, which is a way of holiness; but a by-path of error, which misleads the unwary traveller, and of which, as we value our immortal interests, it becomes us to beware. We need not be afraid of evidence, or of free inquiry; for if irreligious men be the first, and serious Christians be the last, who embrace the Socinian system, it is easy to perceive that the avenues which lead to it are not, as its abettors would persuade you to think, an openness to conviction, or a free and impartial inquiry after truth, but a heart secretly disaffected to the true character and government of God, and dissatisfied with the gospel way of salvation.

See Andrew Fuller, “The Calvinistic and Socinian Systems Examined and Compared, As To Their Moral Tendency, In A Series of Letters, Addressed to the Friends of Vital and Practical Religion,” in The Complete Works of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, edited by Joseph Belcher (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1845; reprint, Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle, 1988), p. 233. Emphasis in original.

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October 2012



Revival and Renewal Yesterday and Today

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I’m delighted to be speaking this coming Saturday night at an event called Awaken 2012. The meeting, which is modeled after David Platt’s Secret Church events, is being hosted by the College and Singles Ministry at Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Florida. The church’s college minister, Daniel Butson, is a former student of mine at Southeastern. The church’s senior pastor, Stephen Rummage, is a former SEBTS faculty member and was my preaching professor.

George Whitefield (1714-1770)

The theme for the event is Revival and Renewal Yesterday and Today, which is a topic close to my heart. I teach on revival every semester in Church History II. I’ve also had the chance to teach a Ph.D. seminar on the History and Theology of Spiritual Awakenings as well as co-teach a M.Div. version of the class with my colleague Alvin Reid. At Awaken 2012, I’ll be giving three biographical messages on Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, and George Whitefield. In those messages, I hope to apply insights from the lives of these three men to contemporary evangelicals. It’s my hope that learning about revivals from days gone by might cause us to yearn for revival in the days to come.

While I rarely do this on my blog, I want to ask readers to pray that the Lord would bless Awaken 2012. Pray that the Lord would give me wisdom as I finish up the messages in the next couple of days and unction as I speak to the several hundred (mostly) young adults attending the event. Pray for Daniel and his team as they finalize preparations for the event. Pray for the worship band, Bellarive, who will be leading us in musical worship that evening. Finally, pray that the Lord would stir the hearts of all those who are at Awaken 2012, bringing personal renewal that might blossom into revivals in our local churches and spiritual awakenings in our communities.

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October 2012



Book Recommendation: The Sermons of George Whitefield

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George Whitefield (1714–1770) was probably the most well-known individual in colonial America in the years before George Washington became, well, George Washington. Whitefield preached in all thirteen colonies and was a key catalyst in the series of revivals we now call the First Great Awakening. He was also a household name in England, where he was popular among evangelicals in the Church of England and Dissenters who were friendly to the Evangelical Awakening.

I love to teach on Whitefield, in part because I’m endlessly fascinated by the history and theology of spiritual awakening. In Church History II, I like to highlight how Whitefield’s pre-conversion acting training influenced his public oratorical skills. The application is that each of us has both spiritual gifts and sanctified talents, all of which are to be used to serve the Lord. Whitefield reminds us of that. In my doctoral seminar on spiritual awakening, we spend time reading many of Whitefield’s sermons and diary entries. We also discuss Harry Stout’s controversial biography of the famed evangelist and the debate it sparked among evangelical historians about how to balance writing sympathetically on religious subjects while avoiding hagiography.

I recently received a copy of Lee Gatiss’s new two-volume collection titled The Sermons of George Whitefield, published in the USA by Crossway. Gatiss begins his work with a fine introductory chapter that covers Whitefield’s life and legacy. He then includes the text of thirty-one of Whitefield’s sermons. Gatiss also includes many helpful annotations that situate the sermons, provide bibliographic information for earlier published versions of each sermon, and clarify obscure names and references in the sermons themselves.

The Sermons of George Whitefield will be helpful for many types of readers. Scholars of Whitefield himself, the eighteenth-century revivals, or the history of preaching will find these volumes a valuable resource for research and perhaps even classroom use. Pastors will find a gold mine of good homiletical material. Most anyone would benefit from a devotional reading of the sermons. If you’d like to read a full review of the work, check out the review of the English edition of this anthology published in Themelios, which was written by my friend Tanner Turley.




October 2012



Adoniram Judson: A Bicentennial Appreciation of the Pioneer American Missionary

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This year marks the bicentennial of Adoniram and Ann Judson’s departure from America to Burma (present-day Myanmar). In honor of the Judson Bicentennial, Jason Duesing has edited a new collection of essays titled Adoniram Judson: A Bicentennial Appreciation of The Pioneer American Missionary (B&H, 2012). I was honored to be asked to contribute one of the biographical chapters to this volume. What follows is the book’s Table of Contents.

Introduction – From Judson’s Prison to the Ends of the Earth, by Paige Patterson

Historical Foundation

Chapter 1 – Just Before Judson: The Significance of William Carey’s Life, Thought, and Ministry, by Michael A.G. Haykin

Chapter 2 – New England’s New Divinity and the Age of Judson’s Preparation, by Robert Caldwell

Biographical Presentation

Chapter 3 – Ambition Overthrown: The Conversion, Consecration, and Commission of Adoniram Judson, 1788–1812, by Jason G. Duesing

Chapter 4 – “Until All Burma Worships the Eternal God”: Adoniram Judson, the Missionary, 1812–50, by Nathan A. Finn

Chapter 5 – So That The World May Know: The Legacy of Adoniram Judson’s Wives, by Candi Finch

Missiological and Theological Evaluation

Chapter 6 – The Enduring Legacy of Adoniram Judson’s Missiological Precepts and Practices, by Keith E. Eitel

Chapter 7 – From Congregationalist to Baptist: Judson and Baptism, by Gregory A. Wills

Homiletical Interpretation

Chapter 8 – Marked for Death, Messengers of Life: Adoniram and Ann Judson, by Daniel L. Akin

Conclusion – Please Come and Dig, by Jason G. Duesing

I hope you’ll consider purchasing a copy of this important book and giving it a close read. Believe that there are few more inspiring figures in modern church history than Adoniram Judson and his three remarkable wives. If you’d like to read shorter, more popular versions of the two biographical chapters by myself and Jason Duesing, check out the March 2012 edition of Credo Magazine. It is my prayer that God might use this book to help raise up a new generation of Judsons among Southern Baptists and other evangelicals to take the good news here, there, and everywhere.