Posted on August 31, 2012 by Steve Weaver
Historians love dates and anniversaries. If you look hard enough, you can always find a historical event to celebrate, or at least remember, every day of the year. In the newest issue (Summer 2012, 89) of the Founder’s Journal, Dr. Nettles writes in his editorial introduction about this propensity among historians and explains why anniversaries matter. He points to the fact that 2012 marks the anniversaries of such important events as the publication of Thomas Helwys’ The Mistery of Iniquity (1612), the passing of the Act of Uniformity (1662), and the departure of Adoniram and Ann Judson’s (along with Luther Rice) departure for India.
In addition to Dr. Nettles’ illuminating introduction, the journal also includes his address from the Founder’s Breakfast at this year’s meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. The essay “‘Traditional’ Baptists Under the Microscope of History” offers Dr. Nettles’ perspective on the past, present and future of Southern Baptist theology.
Last and least, the journal also includes my essay on “Baptists and 1662″ which was recently presented at a mini-conference of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. For an audio version of me reading my paper, click here. (Dr. Nettles also talks about the importance of Helwys here.)
The Founder’s Journal is now completely digital and the newest issue can be purchased as an ePub (for Apple iBooks, the Nook and other ePUB readers) or as mobi (for Kindle and other mobi readers). The price is $1.99. Past Issues of the journal are available free online in PDF format.
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Posted on August 25, 2012 by Steve Weaver
Today (August 25) is the anniversary of the last day of the Council of Nicaea held in AD 325. This Council often receives criticism since it was the first one called and presided over by a Roman Emperor. Constantine summoned the bishops of the churches of the Roman empire to Nicaea to hammer out their disagreements over the nature of Christ. During the previous century, a presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt named Arius had circulated the teaching that: “There was a time when the Son was not.” This was a declaration that the Son was inferior to the Father in His nature. In opposition to this novel teaching was a deacon of the church in Alexandria by the name of Athanasius. Athanasius would eventually become the bishop of Alexandria, but at the time of the Council of Nicaea in 325 he was still only a twenty-seven year old deacon. His courageous stand against Arianism would eventually win the day as the Council adopted a statement which said the following about the Son:
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of his Father, of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father. (Read the entire statement here.)
Along with this positive statement on the nature of Christ, the Council also specifically repudiated Arian teaching in the following terms:
And whosoever shall say that there was a time when the Son of God was not, or that before he was begotten he was not, or that he was made of things that were not, or that he is of a different substance or essence [from the Father] or that he is a creature, or subject to change or conversion — all that so say, the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes them.
Unfortunately, Arianism is not just a matter of historical curiosity. Arius still has his theological descendants today. Jehovah’s Witnesses are little more than modern-day Arians in their teaching concerning Jesus. Likewise, many church members of historically orthodox churches naturally slip into a similar view lack to the human inability to totally comprehend how Jesus can be both fully divine and fully human. As long as error exists, and it will until the God-man Himself returns, the positive statement of the Scriptures teaching about Christ must be not only passively affirmed, but confidently confessed. We can do far worse than in the words which the church has been confessing 1,700 years that Jesus is “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God.”
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Posted on August 24, 2012 by Steve Weaver
Today marks the 350th anniversary of the Act of Uniformity (1662). This Act resulted in the ejection of approximately two thousand Puritan ministers from their pulpits since it would have required complete subscription to The Book of Common Prayer. Most Puritan ministers resigned rather than conform to these demands. In reality this Act was just one part of a body of legislation enacted during the early years of the reign of Charles II (r. 1660-1685). Although Charles II had promised religious toleration when he returned to the throne following the Commonwealth Protectorate of Oliver and Richard Cromwell, hopes for such were short-lived among the Dissenters. It is unknown whether Charles II actually had any intention of keeping his promise of religious liberty. What is known, however, is that Parliament passed a series of laws between 1661 and 1665 known as the Clarendon Code that were designed to enforce conformity to the worship of the Church of England. Along with the Act of Uniformity, a number of bills were passed with the intent of suppressing dissent from the Church of England. The Corporation Act of 1661, for example, required that a person had to have received the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in the Church of England within the past year to be eligible for election to any government office. Eligible persons were also required to take the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy to the king of England. The Conventicle Act of 1664 forbade the assembling of five or more persons for religious worship other than Anglican worship. This, in essence, outlawed Dissenting churches. The Five-Mile Act of 1665 forbade any Nonconforming preacher or teacher to come within 5 miles of a city or corporate town where he had previously served as a minister. Each of these Acts was aimed at stamping out both the Dissenters and Catholics. Baptists were hit particularly hard by these laws since they made their conscientious worship of God illegal. London’s oldest Baptist Church  was the Wapping congregation which originally had John Spilsbury as pastor. The second pastor of this congregation, John Norcott, is believed to have been one of a small number of Baptists who were actually ejected from their pulpits in Church of England in 1662. Although only a handful of Baptists were affected by the actual ejection of 1662, the other laws of the Clarendon Code, of which the Act of Uniformity was a part, continued to have major effects for over a quarter of a century. During this period dubbed by B. R. White, the doyen of seventeenth-century English Baptist studies, as “The Era of the Great Persecution,” all dissenters, including the Baptists, were persecuted. An unintended result of the persecutors was that a rich body of literature was produced that reflects a vibrant spirituality of persecution and suffering for the sake of the gospel. Ironically, without this persecution we would not have many of the enduring works forged by men such as John Bunyan, Hercules Collins, Abraham Cheare in their furnace of affliction.
 For a fuller description of these Acts and their impact upon Baptists, see Ernest A. Payne and Norman S. Moon, Baptists and 1662 (London: The Carey Kingsgate Press Limited, 1962).
 Oldest continuous congregation still in existence. For the history of the church, see Ernest F. Kevan, London’s Oldest Baptist Church: Wapping 1633—Walthamstow 1933 (London: Kingsgate Press, 1933). The church is now called Church Hill Baptist Church, Walthamstow. Their website is: http://www.chbc.org.uk/.
 For a discussion of the evidence, please see Geoffrey F. Nuttall, “Another Baptist Ejection (1662): The Case of John Norcott” in Pilgrim Pathways: Essays in Baptist History in Honour of B. R. White, eds. William H. Brackney and Paul S. Fiddes with John H. Y. Briggs (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1999), 185–188.
 B. R. White, The English Baptists of the Seventeenth Century (Didcot: The Baptist Historical Society, 1996), 95–133.
 For an excellent study of this era, see Gerald R. Cragg, Puritanism in the Period of the Great Persecution 1660–1688 (Cambridge: University Press, 1957). See also Michael R. Watts, The Dissenters. Volume 1: From the Reformation to the French Revolution (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), 221–262.
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Posted on August 18, 2012 by Steve Weaver
This weekend I took a break from dissertation writing to finish a book and read two other short ones. First, I finished up James A. Patterson’s recent study of the important 19th-century Baptist figure, J. R. Graves. Patterson, professor of Christian Thought and Tradition at Union University, offers a long overdue look at the man and his controversies. Titled James Robinson Graves: Staking the Boundaries of Baptist Identity, Patterson traces the broad contour of Graves’ life with special emphasis shown to Graves seemingly life long quest to establish the parameters of Baptist identity. Patterson’s examination of the many controversies in which Graves was engaged is a reminder that spirited-debate among Baptists is not a new thing. An interesting feature of the book is an epilogue examining Graves’ legacy well into the 21st century.
Along with finishing up the Graves volume, I also read a couple of short books that I found very helpful. Kelly M. Kapic’s A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology looks to be a worthy successor to the often-assigned A Little Exercise for Young Theologians by Helmut Thielicke. As such it does the same two things which Thielicke’s small work did: 1. Stress the importance of theology as a discipline. 2. Emphasize the importance of the piety of the theologian. This is a welcome work, not just for new theologians, but for all of us who need to be reminded from time to time of these important emphases.
I also read the very small book (likely a printed sermon judging by its structure and brevity) by Tim Keller titled The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness. This book quite simply needs to be read by everyone. The content is an exposition of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 3:21-4:7 regarding his own selfless manner of living. It is short and to the point and the point is potentially life-transforming. Read it!
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