Nathan A. Finn

Historian, Theologian, Teacher, Preacher

Books Archive



February 2014



Noteworthy Links: Early Baptists and Anabaptists

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Anabaptists and Contemporary BaptistsMy friend Steve Weaver has written a helpful post titled “Are We Entering  Golden Age of 17th-Century Baptist Literature?” He mentions eight new or forthcoming works, including both scholarly monographs and popular reprints with semi-scholarly introductions. Publishers include Mercer University Press, Regents Park College Publications, Pickwick, Borderstone and Reformed Baptist Academic Press. Some of the works are related to Particular Baptists, while two are monographs on the General Baptist messenger/theologian Thomas Grantham. (Grantham is my all-time favorite Arminian-ish Baptist.) My own expertise is in Baptist Studies in the 18th and 20th centuries, so I’m very interested in learning from these new publications. Thanks to Steve for pointing them out.

Scot McKnight has an interesting post on Anabaptist identity as envisioned by the influential 20th-century scholar Harold Bender. McKnight interacts with Bender’s vision of Anabaptism while also referencing the thought of other scholars who demur from the Bender thesis. This is a good, short introduction to the interpretation of Anabaptism that has influenced many Baptist scholars (both conservative and moderate) who hold to an “Anabaptist-kinship” view of Baptist origins and/or an Anabaptist-friendly understanding of Baptist identity. If you are interested in reading a helpful volume written from this perspective, see the recent festschrift in honor of Paige Patterson, The Anabaptists and Contemporary Baptists (B&H Academic, 2013), edited by my friend Malcolm Yarnell.

If you are wondering about my own views about the possible relationship between some of the Anabaptists and the earliest English Baptists, I would point you to three  blog posts I’ve written for Between the Times:  “Toward a Convergent View of Baptist Origins” (part one and part two) and “Why I Don’t Freak Out about the Anabaptists.” I would also recommend the first chapter of James Leo Garrett’s Baptist Theology: A Four Century Study (Mercer University Press, 2009) and the introduction to Baptist Roots: A Reader in the Theology of a Christian People (Judson Press, 1999), edited by Curtis Freeman, James Wm. McClendon and C. Rosalee Velloso Da Silva.





February 2014



How To Stay Christian in Seminary

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How To Stay Christian in SeminarySatan is alive and well. One of the ways the enemy wreaks havoc in seminaries and Christian colleges is by causing young men and women to grow personally numb to the spiritual truths they are studying in their classes. We’ve all met seminary graduates who felt like they had to recover something that had become stagnant in their spiritual walk during their time in school. While I believe the prevalence of these stories is sometimes exaggerated–I know far, FAR more students whose spiritual walks have blossomed in seminary–there is no doubt that many seminarians have left school with hearts that have grown cold toward the Lord, his church and the lost.

I am very grateful that David Mathis and Jonathan Parnell have written their new book How To Stay Christian in Seminary (Crossway, 2014). David and Jonathan both work for Desiring God Ministries; John Piper wrote the book’s foreword. Jonathan is a graduate of The College at Southeastern; he was a student in some of my earliest classes. Leah and I became close friends with Jonathan and his fiancé, Melissa; after they married, they joined First Baptist Church of Durham before moving to Minneapolis for seminary.

The idea for How to Stay Christian in Seminary first came a couple of years ago when David and Jonathan blogged on this topic for Desiring God. They also asked a number of folks, including yours truly and Bruce Ashford, to weigh in on the topic. (You can read the compilation of all the posts here.) I had the privilege of reading a draft of How to Stay Christian in Seminary last year and I can tell you that this is a book that every seminarian (or prospective seminarian) should “take up and read.”

What follows is an image of the Table of Contents that I shamelessly copied from my friend Andy Naselli’s website. I hope you’ll purchase a copy of this short, inexpensive, soul-stirring book and take it to heart.

 (Note: This post was first published yesterday at Between the Times. It has been edited a bit for my personal blog.)



February 2014



How Scripture Functions When We Meditate on its Words

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Meditation and CommunionI am currently reading John Jefferson Davis’s recent book Meditation and Communion with God: Contemplating Scripture in an Age of Distraction. It is a creative combination of systematic theology, epistemology, psychology and spirituality.  In a chapter on how to read the Bible for meditation, Davis speaks to how Scripture functions when we meditate on its words.

We can recognize at least four functions or purposes of Scripture in the community of faith: the informative, the transformative, the imaginative and the unitive. The first two are widely recognized and not problematic; the latter two are not self-evident and require a bit of justification….

I would argue that believing meditation on the Scriptures, when illuminated by the Holy Spirit, can function in all four dimensions: informative, transformative, imaginative and unitive. By imaginative I mean the function of Scripture in opening up our minds to the reality of the unseen, heavenly age to come that is already arriving—a countercultural biblical consciousness (Rom 12:1–2) that gives us the cognitive resources to push back against the accommodating forces of worldliness. By unitive I mean the function of Scripture, by virtue of our union with Christ and the illuminating action of the Holy Spirit, to bring us into an awareness and actual experience of the enjoyable presence of Christ (cf. “I say these things … so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them [Jn 17:13]).

Especially for those of us who may be seminarians, pastors or other religious professionals, it is good to be reminded of the fact that Scripture was given not only for the purpose of providing information and instruction for ourselves and others—sermon outline and Bible studies—but also, and more finally, for bringing us into the enjoyment of communion with the Lord who loves us, and who is really present to us through the Scriptures.

From John Jefferson Davis, Meditation and Communion with God: Contemplating Scripture in an Age of Distraction (IVP Academic, 2013), pp. 105–106.





January 2014



Michael Bird’s Evangelical Theology: Review and Response

Written by , Posted in Book Review, Books, Theology

Evangelical TheologyI have a confession: I love reading book reviews. When I open a new issue of a scholarly journal, normally the first thing I do is check out the reviews. When I read serious Christian periodicals such as First Things or Renewing Minds or The City, the reviews are often my favorite parts. I am a fan of Books and Culture, which is a semi-scholarly periodical consisting of virtually nothing but book review essays. I have served as a book review editor for two scholarly journals, The Journal of Baptist Studies (2007-2012) and Themelios (2010-present), in part because it allows me to pair up good reviewers with worthwhile books. I also enjoy writing book reviews and review essays for scholarly journals, serious Christian periodicals and even blogs.

One of the problems with book reviews is that authors rarely have the chance to respond to critical comments. And when they do respond, many authors are, well, petty. (Of course, many reviewers are also petty.) However, from time to time we have the chance to see some good dialogue related to a book. This is the case the past two days with Matthew Barrett’s review of Michael Bird’s recent book Evangelical Theology and Bird’s response to Barrett’s review. Barrett, who reviewed Bird’s book for The Gospel Coalition, has a couple of nice things to say about Bird’s general approach before offering a barrage of criticism, mostly related to Bird’s method and soteriology. When I read the review, I thought to myself that Barrett had offered a pretty severe review (obligatory pleasantries aside) of a book written by a significant scholar with a popular blog and a wicked sharp wit. The possibilities for carnage seemed to abound.

However, instead of complaining about Barrett’s review, Bird thoughtfully engages most of Barrett’s criticisms. That is not to say that Bird concedes any of Barrett’s points; he does not. Barrett and Bird define what it means to be “Reformed” differently, which is a not uncommon occurrence among scholars in different fields (biblical studies and systematic theology) who are writing for the interwebs. I have no doubt that many folks will agree with Barrett: Bird is not really Reformed (by which they mean orthodox). I also have no doubt that many folks will resonate with Bird: much of what passes for Reformed theology is more about a system than it is sound exegesis (eeeeevil neo-scholasticism). I’m not so much concerned with the debate itself as I am pleased to see this sort of interaction between scholars around a book review.

Barrett is a pretty epic book reviewer who is serious about defending his understanding of Calvinism, and Bird is a prolific blogger who seems to enjoy being a bit contrarian, so the cards were right, as it were, for this sort of interaction to occur online over Evangelical Theology. However, I hope that the internet provides us with opportunities to see other scholars in other fields interact similarly over other issues (anything–anything besides Reformed theology). The internet was made for this sort of thing.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I own Evangelical Theology, but have not read it yet. Thus, I don’t have an opinion either way about Bird’s book, since I haven’t looked at it myself. I’m just a guy who loves book reviews and have enjoyed watching this discussion transpire over the past couple of days.



January 2014



The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Logos Edition

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As regular readers of this blog probably know, I am very interested in the life and thought of Andrew Fuller (1754–1815), the famous English Baptist pastor-theologian. If you aren’t familiar with him, you can read the short blog post about him that I wrote for Desiring God several months ago. I am part of an international team of scholars who are collaborating on a new critical edition of Fuller’s Works that will be published by Walter de Gruyter beginning later this year. In 1988, Sprinkle Press published the best edition of Fuller’s corpus that is currently available. The “Sprinkle Edition,” which is comprised of three volumes, is a reprint of an 1845 edition of Fuller’s writings. Unfortunately, the Sprinkle Edition retails for about $100 and is double columned, making it both expensive and difficult to read.

LogosBibleSoftwareI was delighted to learn recently that Logos publishes an electronic version of The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller. The Logos Edition sells for $59.95. The Logos Edition includes the entirety of the Sprinkle Edition, including Tom Nettles’s brief introduction at the beginning of volume 1. Of course, it also provides all the benefits of the Logos platform as well. I am grateful to the folks at Logos for providing me with a review copy of The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller.

I have enjoyed working with the Logos Edition in recent days. I appreciate that it shows the page numbers of the Sprinkle Edition, which is helpful for citation purposes and is an advantage over other available electronic editions of Fuller’s writings, which do not include any sort of pagination. I also like how Logos allows for a single column format, which makes for much easier reading. This is especially helpful when I read on the Logos app on my iPad. It is comparable to reading a work on my Kindle or iBooks apps. The note-taking feature of Logos is very useful, especially for folks like me who are interested in both edifying reading and scholarly research.

Of course, if you are familiar with Logos, you know that hands-down the search function is the biggest plus about the Logos Edition of Fuller’s Works. The Sprinkle Edition has a serviceable index, but it pales in comparison to electronic word search capability. For example, I am currently working on a critical edition of Fuller’s 1810 book Strictures on Sandemanianism. My edition will include a lengthy introductory essay of 20,000 to 25,000 words. Being able to search for all the references to “Sandemanianism” and other key phrases in Fuller’s Works is an invaluable tool for me as I work on that essay.

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If you are a Logos user and you are interested in Andrew Fuller, Baptist historical theology, or the history of missions, British evangelicalism or Calvinist theology, I would highly recommend you pick up a copy of the Logos Edition of The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller. I would recommend you begin your reading of Fuller with his groundbreaking The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation (2nd ed. 1801), which is available in volume II. This defense of evangelistic preaching from an Edwardsean Calvinist perspective is Fuller’s most influential work. Another good entry point is some of Fuller’s sermons, which are available in volume I. Start with “The Nature and Importance of Walking by Faith,” “Soul Prosperity” or his many ordination sermons (these typically have the words “minister” or “ministry” in the title). Still another place to begin is with Fuller’s circular letters written for the Northamptonshire Association, which are found in volume III. I would recommend “Causes of Declension in Religion, and Means of Revival,” “The Practical Uses of Christian Baptism” and “The Promise of the Spirit the Grand Encouragement in Promoting the Gospel.”

Those of you who are interested in systematic theology should take a look at his “Letters on Systematic Divinity” in volume I, wherein Fuller begins sketching out a crucicentric theological method. Unfortunately, he died just a few letters into his work. His shorter writings on imputation, justification, substitution and particular redemption in volume II provide a constructive (and sometimes controversial) understanding of salvation from an Edwardsean perspective. His Memoirs of the Rev. Samuel Pearce, found in volume III, is a warmhearted introduction to Fuller’s friend and fellow missions advocate. Pearce has been called “the Baptist Brainerd.” Pastors especially will appreciate Fuller’s homiletical commentaries on Genesis and Revelation, also found in volume III.

I’m grateful that Logos has made Fuller’s writings available on their platform. I hope the Logos Edition helps familiarize many modern pastors and scholars with the life and writings of the most famous heir of Jonathan Edwards among the Baptists. If you are not currently a Logos user, I would highly recommend the product to you. I have been using Logos for about three months and have found it to be a fantastic tool research, sermon preparation and general reading. You can find out which Logos package best fits your needs at the Logos website.