Baptists and the Ecumenical Movement: Article Critique


John H. Y. Briggs, formally a professor of Baptist History at the University of Oxford, past chairman of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), and former editor of The Baptist Quarterly[1] records the role and history of Baptists in the overall scope of the ecumenical movement. Briggs links the origins of the Baptist movement in the history of the Radical Reformation and within the logic of English Separatism, making it difficult not to view the Baptists as being a schismatic movement. The specifics of this journal article summarize how some European Baptists were involved in that movement and the purpose of this critique will be to verify Briggs’ findings.


Briggs begins by identifying how, “Early Baptists, though separating from State Churches, were well aware of the dangers of becoming isolated and sectarian.”[2] This was a peculiar development in the Baptist movement, as the majority of Baptists during this time period had just escaped persecution from the State Church, yet one of the first things established was a State Church, which led to the ostracizing of many other Baptist groups. Briggs cites E. A. Payne’s analysis of John Owen’s True Nature of a Gospel Church in 1689 as being very influential in this move away from the State Church. Briggs emphasizes this, “Separation from a corrupt state church that was seen as only partially being reformed, was nevertheless anxious to avoid lapsing into sectarianism.”[3] Because of this, the Baptist denomination is often viewed as being separatists, but Briggs’ overall goal seems to be showcasing how even during times of isolation, theological differences, and division, Baptists were still extremely effective in evangelism, and spreading the gospel message domestically and internationally. J. D. Hughey would agree with this statement and adds, “The great majority of Baptists have always felt kinship with large number of other Christians… [and] in a very important sense, Baptists have long been a part of the ecumenical movement.”[4] Christian union was and continues to be a lofty ambition and throughout the history of Baptists, considerable efforts were made to attain unity.


Briggs does a worthy job detailing the Baptist’s history and role in the Ecumenical Movement, but very little was mentioned about the patterns of growth and decline. For example, H. Leon McBeth illustrates how, “One of the most persistent and puzzling problems facing English Baptists in the twentieth century has been their steady numerical decline.”[5] However, Briggs provides ample information pertaining to individuals like John Bunyan and Thomas Grantham who were in favor of wider patterns of interrelationship, as well as the interworking of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the BWA, which Briggs himself served on. These individuals and organizations were vital in defining the two dimensions of ecumenism: international and inter-confessional, changing the ecumenical question of relating to other people who were alike, to relating to other people groups who were nothing alike. Finding common ground, without sacrificing core doctrine would have helped Briggs’ illustration of this dilemma.

As Briggs addresses the issue of persecution and lack of civil rights, he draws an important conclusion, which remains just as relevant today: “Persecution in Eastern Europe [and other parts of the world] has drawn Christians closer together and when the pressure has been removed, old tyrannies have reasserted themselves.”[6] For Baptists, persecution led to the Evangelical Revival and made way for itinerancy and village preaching and overseas missionary endeavors. Unfortunately, the revival also led to problems for the Baptists, but in the end would reemphasize the case for open communion. This was area Briggs should have covered in more detail, since there are still many churches that observe the stance of closed communion. Had Briggs included what reasons led to the case for open communion and the change in tradition, this would have enhanced his details of the Evangelical Revival’s impact on the denomination. Despite that, Briggs uses this landscape, to make a profound assertion that; “Evangelicalism and ecumenism are far from being opposed; rather the one is the child of the other.”[7] In the WCC, Briggs then demonstrates how the Baptists continually worked for peace and reconciliation in a world torn apart by violence and how the Council carries that same faith and commitment today.


Briggs accomplishes the task he set out to do and while his list is not exhaustive of Baptist history in the Ecumenical Movement, he has demonstrated the Baptist contribution has been sacrificial, substantial, and often unrecognized.[8] He also clearly articulates how Baptists have continually been open to dialogue with other denominations, in an endeavor to fulfill the Great Commission and reach a lost and hurting world. Briggs could not be more accurate than when he said, “How can we expect an unbelieving world to take us seriously in our talk about a gospel of reconciliation when we remain so obviously un-reconciled one to another?”[9]


Briggs, John H Y. “Baptists and the ecumenical movement.” Journal Of European Baptist Studies 6, no. 1 (September 2005): 11-17. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed April 18, 2017).

Hughey, J. D. “BAPTISTS AND THE ECUMENICAL MOVEMENT.” The Ecumenical Review, 10 (July 1958): 401–410. doi: 10.1111/j.1758-6623.1958.tb01882.x (accessed April 19, 2017).

Manchester Wesley Research Centre Website. (accessed April 19, 2017).

McBeth, H. Leon. The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987.

[1] Manchester Wesley Research Centre Website. (accessed April 19, 2017).

[2] John H. Y. Briggs, “Baptists and the ecumenical movement,” Journal Of European Baptist Studies 6, no. 1 (September 2005): 11. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed April 18, 2017).

[3] Briggs, “Baptists and the ecumenical movement,” 12.

[4] J. D. Hughey, “BAPTISTS AND THE ECUMENICAL MOVEMENT.” The Ecumenical Review, 10 (July 1958): 401. doi: 10.1111/j.1758-6623.1958.tb01882.x (accessed April 19, 2017).

[5] H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987), 507.

[6] Briggs, “Baptists and the ecumenical movement,” 13.

[7] Ibid., 14.

[8] Ibid., 16.

[9] Ibid., 17.

Need for Ecclesiology and the Believers’ Church: Article Critique


Against the backdrop of America’s Industrial Revolution, Jason Duesing compares President Theodore Roosevelt’s call-to-action in conserving the nation’s natural resources[1] to, “The people of God needing to take action to preserve and protect the doctrine of the church.”[2] America was growing at a rapid rate, yet Roosevelt had the foresight to recognize the immediate threat if changes were not made. Similarly, Duesing seeks to show, “Believers, acting under various constructs – from liberalism to ecumenism to even evangelism – have also engaged in ‘old wasteful methods’ with regard to the ‘natural resources’ of the doctrine of the church.”[3] The purpose of this critique is to assess Duesing’s proposed solution to overcoming indifference and his call to awaken evangelicals toward both ecclesiology and the believers’ church.


            Duesing begins by establishing the widespread doctrinal deterioration that has plagued the local church and contributes this breakdown of the Great Commission[4] to the local church not protecting the gospel message, internal disputes, and attacks from outside the church. Where parachurch organizations thrived in evangelistic outreach efforts, the local church has become sterile in reproducing disciples, even within close proximity. Duesing then proposes the only way the true biblical gospel message will make it to the next generation is the believers’ church.

As the first champions of the believers’ church, since the Constantine Synthesis, Duesing acknowledges the Anabaptists were, “The pioneers of ecclesiological conservatism in an age not of ecclesiological indifference, but of ecclesiological intolerance.”[5] This distinction separated them from the Magisterial Reformers who Leonard Verduin asserts, were primarily only concerned with, “The Anabaptists’ desire to move beyond Church reform to complete restoration of the church to its New Testament origins.”[6] Duesing demonstrates, “The Magisterial Reformers were not looking to make many ecclesiological changes, [but were concerned with] the economic and political ramifications of separating the church from the state.”[7] While the Anabaptists sought to conserve doctrine, Duesing contrasts, “The Magisterial Reformers sought to make membership contingent upon baptism as an infant, [and] just as the State carried the sword for the purpose of maintaining and establishing justice, so too did the Church support the sword for the purpose of maintaining and establishing the truth.”[8] Ultimately, the Anabaptists recognized, “The only way to accomplish biblical purity in the Church was to separate completely from the existing institutions and establish a believers’ church, [which] no longer supported the use of the sword and refused to call for the death penalty even for those with divergent doctrinal views.”[9]


            Duesing does a worthy job demonstrating the state of affairs within the local church and the need for doctrinal reform. The gospel message has become so diluted and religion in general has turned more into an environment of pleasing people, rather than training and equipping disciples to fulfill the Great Commission. The formation of the believers’ church was truly a radical paradigm shift, rooted biblical teaching. This writer agrees, “For the sake of preserving what is essential for salvation for the next generation, a new call is needed to awaken evangelicals from a state of indifference toward ecclesiology and the believers’ church”[10]

By only briefly touching on the decline of the church, Duesing’s call on believers to see “Ecclesiological Conversation as a Christian Duty” does not paint as vivid of a picture had the failure of maintaining a pure church been better demonstrated. For example, H. Leon McBeth illustrates how, “The eighteenth century proved devastating for the General Baptists, [due] to theological problems, antiquated church practices, and failure to recruit new leaders of stature.”[11] Had this been included in Duesing’s article, another comparison could have been made to the eighteenth century, when the Industrial Revolution changed the way people lived and the Intellectual Revolution challenged the way people viewed God, the universe, and themselves.”[12]


            Duesing’s use of America, standing on the precipice of its own demise by reckless indifference sets the stage for a solid argument for the need of ecclesiological conservation and a movement towards the believers’ church. Duesing is right, doctrines must be upheld and biblical principles must never be compromised, even for the sake of unity, and the Anabaptists are a great example of what is sometimes needed to form a pure church rooted in biblical teaching.


Duesing, Jason G. “The Believers’ Church: A ‘Natural Resource’ Worth Conserving.” A White Paper from the CTR, Fort Worth, TX: Center for Theological Research, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2006. (accessed April 6, 2017).

McBeth, H. Leon. The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987.

Verduin, Leonard. The Reformers and Their Stepchildren. Sarasota, FL: The Christian Hymnary Publishers, reprint 1997.

[1] Theodore Roosevelt, “Conservation as a National Day,” in Conferences of Governors (Washington: G.P.O., 1909), 3-13.

[2] Jason G. Duesing, “The Believers’ Church: A ‘Natural Resource’ Worth Conserving,” A White Paper from the CTR (Fort Worth, TX: Center for Theological Research, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2006), 1.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Matthew 28:16-20

[5] Duesing, “The Believers’ Church: A ‘Natural Resource’ Worth Conserving,” 3.

[6] Leonard Verduin, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren (Sarasota, FL: The Christian Hymnary Publishers, reprint 1997).

[7] Duesing, “The Believers’ Church: A ‘Natural Resource’ Worth Conserving,” 3-4.

[8] Ibid., 4.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Duesing, “The Believers’ Church: A ‘Natural Resource’ Worth Conserving,” 5.

[11] H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987), 170.

[12] Ibid., 151.

Problem of Evil: Journal Review

The problem of evil in the world has been a topic many scholars have attempted to use to either prove or disprove the existence of God/god(s). It is also one of the few topics all worldviews and religions must deal with and as Norman Geisler reveals, “Of the three major worldviews, Atheism affirms the reality of evil and denies the reality of God. Pantheism affirms the reality of God but denies the reality of evil. And Theism affirms the reality of both God and evil. Herein lies the problem.”[1] From this paradox, Hanson sets out to show how evil can exist with a God that is both omnipotent and benevolent. By reviewing three ontological solutions, Hanson proposes the Neo-Ontological solution to define evil and suffering within a complex structure of being that is analyzed from the standpoints of experience and practice. The purpose of this critique is to assess Jim Hanson’s Neo-Ontological Solution to the problem of evil.


            Hanson acknowledges and describes how evil takes many forms and recognizes, “the existence of evil and suffering presents the problem of believing in the existence of a God that is both able (omnipotent) and willing (benevolent) – namely the theistic God of Christianity.”[2] First, Hanson interacts with David Hume, who used an early argument proposed by Epicurus:

If God is willing to prevent evil but not able, then he is impotent.

If God is able but not willing, then he is malevolent.

If God is both able and willing, then whence come evil?

If he neither able nor willing, then why call him God?[3]

Hanson then raises an important question, “Why would a perfect God create, cause or design an imperfect product, a product that included or tolerated evil?”[4] The substance of this journal article approaches the challenge theists and deists face, which is acknowledging the existence of evil, while also explaining how God can still be omnipotent and benevolent. The first solution Hanson analyzes is the Traditionalist and Modernist Ontological Solution, which include the denial that evil exists or that evil originated from divine human agencies. The second solution Hanson explores is the Postmodernist Ontological Solution, which views humans as being made imperfect, finite, and denied the authenticity of their being. This view displays evil thriving at the heart of being. However, Douglas Groothuis illustrates, “The inconsistencies of postmodernism pose a direct challenge, since the irresolvable diversity of truth claims has no reliable criteria to test these claims against.”[5] The final solution Hanson favors is the Neo-Ontological Solution and Experience. Analogically, this means, “The God experienced through being as the ultimate referent becomes constructed experienced as essence.”[6]


            Hanson presents three ontological solutions to the problem of evil and for each view, adequate pros and cons are presented and there does not appear to be any biasness or presuppositions in his approach. In fact, when discussing the traditional, the modernist, and postmodernist views, more information is provided than the Neo-Ontological Solution Hanson favors. For each field, Hanson used quality sources and cited leaders/pioneers behind each worldview. There is not a great deal of biblical content in this piece, except the mention of Adam’s test and the suggestion that, “This evil-originating, divine-human relationship suggests that God attends to the transgression, suffering, and evil of original sin from which arguably results the historical record of massive suffering and evil.”[7] Answering the question, “If God is good and powerful, why does He allow evil to exist?” would have strengthened Hanson’s article. Mankind is in desperate need to be reconciled with God, and this only happens through a relationship with Jesus Christ, who suffered substitutionary atonement for the sins of mankind. Köstenberger further illustrates, “The challenge is therefore not to explain evil but rather to accept its reality and to resist it whenever possible.”[8] Hanson rightly shows the problem of evil is better explained by being rather than by gods or humankind, so in a modern-day context, one can apply this principle when speaking with someone who has experienced evil, suffering or tragedy.


            Hanson adequately evaluates three solutions to the problem of evil, but he never mentions free will, the fallen state of man, or the redemption that happens when Christ becomes Lord and Savior of one’s life. Geisler best explains, “The ultimate goal of a perfect world with free creatures will have been achieved, but the way to get there requires that those who abuse their freedom be cast out.”[9] So to justify the existence of evil with an all-powerful and all-good God, one must not only understand the topics Hanson covered, but he or she must also have faith that:

  1. If God is all-good, He will defeat evil.
  2. If God is all-powerful, He can defeat evil.
  3. Evil is not yet defeated.
  4. Therefore, evil still serves a purpose and God can and will defeat evil.[10]



Betenson, Toby. “Evaluative Claims within the Problem of Evil.” Religious Studies 51, no. 3 (09, 2015): 361-77, (accessed March 31, 2017).

Clendenin, Daniel B. “God is Great, God is Good Questions About Evil.” Ashland Theological Journal 24, no. 0 (1992): 35-48.

Elwell, Walter A. ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013.

Frame, John M. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013.

Geisler, Norman L. “The Problem of Evil,” Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing, 1999.

Geisler, Norman L. and Ronald M. Brooks. When Skeptics Ask. Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1990.

Groothuis, Douglas. Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011.

Hanson, Jim. “A Neo-ontological Solution to the Problem of Evil.” Theology Today 68, no. 4 (January 2012): 478-489. DOI: (accessed March 31, 2017).

Hume, David. Dialogues concerning Natural Religion. Edited by Henry D. Aiken. New York, NY: Hafner, 1948 [1779].

Köstenberger, Andreas. Encountering John: The Gospel in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective, 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing, 2013.

Sehon, Scott. “The Problem of Evil: Skeptical Theism Leads to Moral Paralysis.” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 67, no. 2 (2010): 67-80. (accessed March 31, 2017).

Zacharias, Ravi and Norman Geisler. Who Made God? And Answers to Over 100 Other Questions of Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003.

[1] Norman L. Geisler, “The Problem of Evil,” Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing, 1999), 219.

[2] Jim Hanson, “A Neo-Ontological Solution to the Problem of Evil,” Theology Today 68, no. 4 (January 2012): 478.

[3] David Hume, Dialogues concerning Natural Religion, ed. Henry D. Aiken (New York, NY: Hafner, 1948 [1779]), Part X.

[4] Hanson, “A Neo-Ontological Solution to the Problem of Evil,” 479.

[5] Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011), 130.

[6] Hanson, “A Neo-Ontological Solution to the Problem of Evil,” 484.

[7] Hanson, “A Neo-Ontological Solution to the Problem of Evil,” 480.

[8] Andreas Köstenberger, Encountering John: The Gospel in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective, 2nd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing, 2013), 119.

[9] Norman L. Geisler and Ronald M. Brooks, When Skeptics Ask (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1990), 59-60.

[10] Ravi Zacharias and Norman Geisler, Who Made God? And Answers to Over 100 Other Questions of Faith. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 38.


Baptist Persecution in Colonial America & Religious Freedom


          H. Leon McBeth cites Joseph Dawson’s conclusion regarding the emergence of religious liberty in America, “If the researchers of the world were to be asked who was most responsible for the American guarantee for religious liberty, their prompt reply would be ‘James Madison.’ However, if James Madison might answer, he would as quickly reply, ‘John Leland and the Baptists.’”[1] This struggle for religious liberty was hard-fought. While no known Baptists were martyred in America, McBeth details, “many Baptists were severely whipped, forced to pay taxes to support the state church, had property confiscated, and suffered lingering imprisonments.”[2] The First Great Awakening and the Enlightenment, as McBeth reveals, “set the stage and influenced the nature and extent of [religious] freedom.”[3]

As the first settlers in New England were heavily influenced by Reformed theology, this led the Pilgrim Fathers to establish a form of theocracy. McBeth demonstrates, “Ironically, settlers who had just come from dissenter status in Old England established themselves as the official church in New England and persecuted those who dissented from them.”[4] Their laws required all citizens to support the Congregational Church established in New England. If one was unable or unwilling to pay, his or her belongings were seized and sold as auction, often at a fraction of their worth. McBeth details how, “Some dissenters were cast into jail until they paid their apportionment to support the official ministers, a practice which at some places so backfired that the ministers themselves paid the fines just to be rid of prisoners who were winning such a favorable hearing by preaching from jail windows.”[5] The persecution and restrictions placed on Baptists in Colonial America differed from what was encountered in England. In America, it was largely dependent upon the time and location and varied from mild harassment to severe persecution. For example, in 1679, the members of the First Baptist Church of Boston gathered for their first service to discover the doors had been nailed shut. On the other end of the spectrum, McBeth cites how, “the state church probably made one of their biggest mistakes when they imprisoned [the sickened] Elizabeth Backus, a widow and mother to Isaac Backus, the major Baptist spokesman for religious liberty in New England.”[6]

Baptists firmly believed in and fought for the freedom of religion. In an attempt to satisfy the uprising of Dissenters, “Exemption Laws” were instituted in order for non-Congregational Church attenders to apply to have their church taxes refunded, if they could proved they were regular church attenders and lived within five miles of a church in good standing, in that specific denomination.[7] These laws were cumbersome and mere smokescreens because they were only temporary, they were continually lapsing, and they required substantial resources for Separate Baptist church attenders to obtain the needed certificates. McBeth points out, “Baptists in America have a tradition not only of not only preaching and practicing religious liberty, but also of monitoring government legislation to protect the interests of Baptists and others.”[8] Out of this legacy came the formation of the Grievance Committee, which is the first organized religious lobby in America. The aim of this group was to gather and present evidence of Baptist’s suffering and persecution, in order to form legislation to alleviate religious discrimination.[9] Isaac Backus became a champion for the Baptist’s cause. His strategy revolved around two principles: (1) appealing not just to local authorities, but to London itself and (2) to stop paying church taxes and stop applying for the exemption certificates altogether.[10] This bold approach was highly successful because the last thing the Congregational Church wanted was for London leaders to seize and/or invalidate the Colonial charters. Additionally, as McBeth explains, “By deciding to ignore the human law in obedience to a higher law, the law of God… Baptists made more progress toward religious liberty in a year than they had made in the previous decade.”[11] Backus sought to show how the state church was treating Baptists the same way England had treated the colonies, so the tension of revolution within the colonies significantly strengthened his position.

Religious liberty in the Middle Colonies was much different than that found in the north. McBeth explains, “No church was established by law and two factors best account for the broad religious freedom allowed in the Middle Colonies: (1) the Quaker influence and (2) the religious pluralism that prevailed in that area.”[12] Pluralism was essential, due to the Middle Colonies being made up of primarily Catholics and Protestants, with neither group having large enough populations to dominate. McBeth demonstrates, “the Middle Colonies furthered the Baptist struggle for religious freedom by providing a model, [which proved non-government-sponsored religion was achievable,] and the Middle Colonies provided a haven where Baptists could flee when persecution became too severe elsewhere, [which allowed Baptist evangelization into the South.]”

In the South, law established the Anglican Church, and its influence could be felt all the way to Virginia and parts of South Carolina. McBeth illustrates, “Baptists and Presbyterians led the struggle for religious liberty in the South, along with statesman like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Patrick Henry and that Baptists endured hardships, especially the Separates.” John Leland was the primary spokesman for religious liberty in the South and Leland dealt with three primary hardships faced by Baptists: “(1) requirement to register meeting houses, (2) refusal of authorities to recognize the validity of Baptist-performed marriages, and (3) requirement to pay tithes in the form of tobacco and crops for the support of Anglican ministers.”[13] In the beginning of the 1760’s, McBeth illuminates just how bad things were, “Baptists in Virginia were whipped, fined, beaten by mobs, jailed, and/or exiled in an attempt to control them and between 1768 and 1777, at least thirty Baptist preachers in Virginia were imprisoned, whipped, or stoned, most of which were Separates.”[14]

The contributions of Baptists like Isaac Backus and John Leland can still be felt today. The fundamental issue facing every person is that one day, “each one of us will give an account of himself to God,”[15] so as Leland argued, “every man [and woman] ought to be at liberty to serve God in a way that he [or she] can best reconcile to his [or her] conscience.”[16] Leland believed religious establishments corrupted both the church and the state and alienated people from one another. Many feared Christianity would not survive without the support of the state to which Leland replied, “It is error, and error alone, that needs human support.”[17] The Baptists were unwavering in their quest to separate church and state and were fundamental in the development of the First Amendment. However, as McBeth concludes, “[While] Baptists bore the scars of religious persecution [required] to achieve religious liberty; it remains to be seen whether Baptists who live in comfort can preserve it, [despite the price those before them paid to be] the steadfast defenders of the First Amendment.”[18]


McBeth, H. Leon. The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987.

[1] H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987), 283.

[2] Ibid., 252-253.

[3] Ibid., 254.

[4] Ibid., 255.

[5] McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, 256.

[6] Ibid., 256-257.

[7] Ibid., 258.

[8] Ibid., 262.

[9] McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, 262.

[10] Ibid., 263.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid., 266.

[13] McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, 268.

[14] Ibid., 270.

[15] Romans 14:12

[16] First published in New London, Connecticut, 1791. Reprinted in Greene, 181.

[17] First published in New London, Connecticut, 1791. Reprinted in Greene, 185.

[18] McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, 268.

Four Approaches to Theology


While theology is the rational reflection on God/god(s) and every religion, regardless of simplicity or intricacy has a theology, Bruce Demarest defines systematic theology as, “the attempt to reduce religious truth to a coherent and relevant whole for the church [which serves to:] (1) edify the believing community, (2) allow the gospel in its fullness to be proclaimed, and (3) preserve the truth content and lived experience of the faith.”[1] Demarest further illustrates, “systematic theology concerns itself with God’s saving history with His people, the utterances of divinely ordained prophets and apostles, and supremely the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”[2]

            In contrast, Demarest explains how, “biblical theology sets forth the message of biblical books by author or other scheme, while historical theology traces the church’s faith topically through various eras of history. [Then,] systematic theology incorporates the data of exegetical, biblical, and historical theology to construct a coherent representation of the Christian faith.”[3] Lastly, philosophical theology is also utilized by systematic theology and Millard Erickson highlights three contributions, “philosophy may: (1) supply content for theology, (2) defend theology or establish its truth, and (3) scrutinize its concepts and arguments.”[4] Philosophical theology prepares one to receive the special revelation revealed in Scripture and Erickson, explains how, “Philosophy also performs the second function of weighing the truth-claims advanced by theology and giving part of the basis for accepting the message.”[5]

When looking at each branch of theology, it is apparent systematic theology and biblical theology are closely connected, however, as Erickson demonstrates, “in biblical theology, there is no attempt to contemporize or to state these unchanging concepts in a form suitable for our day’s understanding, [but Erickson does recognize,] the systematic theologian is dependent on the work and insights of the laborers in the exegetical vineyard.”[6] Historical theology also contributes to systematic theology, as it makes one aware of his or her own preunderstanding or presuppositions, it always one to look back at how other theologians in the past approached a specific topic, tradition, or issue, and it also provides the ability to analyze a specific belief by looking back to exactly where and when it began, which allows today’s scholars the ability to see how people came to various professions of faith, conclusions, and/or deductions.

In a ministerial setting, an understanding of each field of study is necessary, but overall, systematic theology appears to provide the most benefit and context. Demarest demonstrates, “Although Scripture is inviolable, fresh theological understanding and reformation are required in every generation and for every culture, first, because the corpus of Christian truth must be clad in every distinctive cultural form and context, and second, because new issues and problems arise to challenge the church, [so] theologians need to be continually re-contextualized.”[7] Being proficient in systematic theology allows one the ability to openly communicate the gospel message while also being able to provide a relevant rationale why one should choose the Christian faith over other various belief systems. However, without an understanding of the other fields of theology, one will have a difficult time utilizing systematic theology to its fullest potential.


Elwell, Walter A. ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013.

Frame, John M. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013.

[1] Bruce A. Demarest, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd Edition, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001), 1162-1163.

[2] Ibid., 1163.

[3] Ibid., 1164.

[4] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology. 3rd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013), 13-14.

[5] Erickson, Christian Theology, 14.

[6] Ibid., 10-11.

[7] Demarest, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 1162.

Modern & Contemporary Approaches to Family Ministry & Discipleship

     family ministry

The future of the church will largely depend on the success of family ministry. While there are multiple approaches to family ministry and discipleship, Randy Stinson could not be more correct in his assertion that: “Family ministry is necessary and significant because families are under siege, because husbands and fathers have been marginalized, because what we have been doing is ineffective, because the church is a family, and because families are wanting to be led.”[1] Timothy Paul Jones demonstrates the following four models of modern/contemporary family ministry: (1) Educational-Programmatic Ministry Model, (2) Family-Based Ministry Model, (3) Family-Equipping Ministry Model, and (4) Family-Integrated Ministry Model. However, before analyzing the strengths and weaknesses behind each approach, it is important to note Jones openly admits, “None of these models is absolutely exclusive of the others… [and his] goal is not to convince readers that one of these models is better than the others.”[2] Given this disclaimer, Jones make several things clear: “Every church is called to some form of family ministry, Scripture is the supreme and sufficient source for how to do ministry, God has called parents – and especially fathers – to take personal responsibility for the Christian formation of their children, and each generation needs one another.”[3]

Of these four models, the Family-Equipping Ministry Model seems most biblical and relevant because as Jones illustrates, “Although age-organized programs and events still exist, the church is completely restructured to draw the generations together, equipping parents, championing their role as primary disciple-makers, and holding them accountable to fulfill this role.”[4] Most churches are made up of Abrahams, Isaacs, and Jacobs and for the mutual health of the church; it is vital to reconnect these segregated age groups to one another. Dan Burrell strengthens this view by explaining, “Spiritual authority in the home is crucial, so application can be derived… [Furthermore,] the church could never and should never replace the role of parents who God placed as the primary disciple makers in the home.”[5] God calls every believing parent to train his or her children in the Christian faith and this model can be traced back to Abraham (Genesis 18:19), Moses (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:1-12; Exodus 12:25-28), and any Jewish home as the primary place for spiritual training (Proverbs 1:8). Jones further demonstrates, “When evangelism, worship, and discipleship for children and youth occur in isolation from, and, at times, with disdain for, their counterparts, it is difficult to see how the hearts of parents and children can consistently be turned toward one another.”[6]

The Educational-Programmatic Ministry Model forms various silos of ministry, which rarely touch one another. This model cares more about convenience for the family’s schedules and needs than the spiritual formation of the next generation. Burrell explains, the parent’s responsibility is to disciple his or her children, in order for the Holy Spirit to cultivate the soil and seeds that have been planted. However, if the needs and convenience of the parents are put first, this model fails. The Family-Based Model takes a step in the right direction by intentionally drawing generations together and encouraging parents to take a more active role in the lives of children, but it falls short in still segregating the various generations. There is a central vision and mission, but when a ministry is created that does not point back to that vision and mission, silos are created and walls are put up. Jones explains, “Whereas family-based churches develop intergenerational events and activities within current structures, family-equipping ministry reworks the church’s entire structure to call parents to disciple their children at every level of the church’s work.”[7] Lastly, the Family-Integrated Model is by far the most radical way to do family ministry. This model completely does away with all age-graded classes and events, which means there are no youth groups, no children’s church, and no grade-segmented Sunday school classes.[8] Paul Renfro adheres to this position and views each scripturally ordered household as a building block, which when put together forms the local church. While the notion of parents bearing more responsibility for the evangelism and discipleship of their children is biblically sound, completely doing away with all age-related ministries seems counterproductive to the overall goal of producing spiritually mature followers of Christ. Jones concludes, “Although there is widespread agreement that churches ought to do family ministry, there is little agreement regarding what family ministry looks like. And there is even less agreement when it comes to the question of how to implement a family ministry.”[9]

Ultimately, as George Barna emphasizes, “The primary formation of a child’s faith is not a job for specialists; it is a job for parents.”[10] This means the primary role of the church needs to focus on training parents to embrace their God-given primary responsibility for instructing children about God, in order for them to grow spiritually mature. As Burrell emphasizes, “Training up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6) is a proverb and not a promise. Bruce K. Waltke demonstrates how, “The relatively rare imperative dedicate ḥănōk (train) means, to start the youth off with a strong and perhaps even religious commitment to a certain course of action.”[11] Burrell furthers this statement by stressing the importance of direction. It does not matter how fast or how far one goes, if he or she is headed in the wrong direction. Ultimately, the training up of a child essentially takes a village, but it must begin in the home, with the parents. This, of course, is in an ideal setting where both parents are present and are also followers of Christ. However, the unique challenge the church faces today is how to adapt a family ministry model, which ministers to what researchers have defined as the fatherless generation.


Barna, George. Revolutionary Parenting. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2007.

Burrell, Dan. “Why the Topic of Family Discipleship is Important.” Filmed [2013], Liberty University Website, DSMN 610, Course Content, Week One Video Presentation, 11:17. (accessed March 21, 2017).

Estes, Daniel J. Hear, My Son: Teaching and Learning in Proverbs 1 – 9. Edited by D.A. Carson. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997.

Pearcey, Nancy. Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity. Study Guide Edition. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005.

Renfro, Paul et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry: 3 Views. Edited by Timothy Paul Jones. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing Group, 2009.

Thompson, Tad. Intentional Parenting: Family Discipleship by Design. Adelphi, MD: Cruciform Press, 2011.

Tripp, Tedd and Margy Tripp. Instructing a Child’s Heart. Wapwallopen, PA, Shepherd Press, 2008.

Tripp, Tedd. Shepherding a Child’s Heart. Revised and Updated 2nd Edition. Wapwallopen, PA, Shepherd Press, 2005.

Waltke, Bruce K. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Proverbs Chapters 15-31. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976, 203.

Wright, Steve and Chris Graves. ApParent Privilege: That the Next Generation Might Know… Royal Palm Beach, FL: InQuest Ministries, 2008.

[1] Paul Renfro et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry: 3 Views, ed. Timothy Paul Jones (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing Group, 2009), 1-3.

[2] Ibid., 45.

[3] Ibid., 45-47.

[4] Renfro et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry, 52.

[5] Dan Burrell, “Why the Topic of Family Discipleship is Important,” Filmed [2013], Liberty University Website, DSMN 610, Course Content, Week One Video Presentation, 11:17. (accessed March 21, 2017).

[6] Renfro et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry, 19.

[7] Renfro et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry, 44.

[8] Ibid., 42.

[9] Ibid., 24.

[10] George Barna, Revolutionary Parenting (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2007), 12.

[11] Bruce K. Waltke, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Proverbs Chapters 15-31 (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), 203.


Four Views of Baptist Origin


Leon McBeth cites four views pertaining to the sources of Baptist origin: (1) the outgrowth of English Separatism, (2) the influence of biblical Anabaptists, (3) the continuation of biblical teachings throughout the ages, and (4) the succession of organized Baptist churches through the ages.[1] Proponents believing the outgrowth of English Separatism to be the origin of Baptists minimize any role or influence Anabaptists may have played in England before 1600 and instead focus on the diversities between Baptists and Anabaptists. McBeth, illustrates, “They maintain that every distinctive Baptist belief and practice is inherent within Puritanism/Separatism.”[2]

Supporters of the Anabaptist influence view set out to link Baptist origins to the influence of biblical Anabaptists. McBeth highlights, “Most of them acknowledge that Baptists emerged through English Separatism, but they believe Anabaptism both on the Continent and in England prepared the way for Separatism.”[3] Anabaptists can be difficult to classify because the name was associated with a diverse group of believers ranging from extreme mystics, like the Quakers, all the way to extreme rationalists. Some historians contend, “Baptists originated largely in response to the Anabaptist movement, [and] Anabaptists influenced the early Baptists at two points: (1) in preparing the way for Separatism and (2) by leading some to go beyond Separatism to believer’s baptism.”[4]

The latter two views are often both labeled under successionism. McBeth demonstrates, “While almost all recognize that early Baptists were related to the Separatists, disagreement centers around what preceded the Separatists.”[5] This third group looks to trace a continuity of Baptist teachings from New Testament times to the present, asserting the origin of Baptist-like faith and practice never completely died out. Thomas Crosby claimed, “that Baptist principles not only root in the New Testament but also can be traced through various groups since then.”[6]

Arising in the nineteenth century, the final argument for the origin of Baptists goes a step further than the previous. Sometimes referred to as the Jesus-Jordan-John (JJJ) theory, this view contends that Baptists originated with John the Baptist, Jesus, and/or baptisms in the Jordan. McBeth explains, “This theory assumes that John the Baptist represents a denominational affiliation and that Jesus formed a Baptist church and promised in Matthew 16:18 that Baptist churches would never vanish from the world.”[7] There are multiple variations of belief in this view ranging from the premise that: (1) organic succession can be proven and that it is essential, (2) succession is essential and does exist, but cannot be proven, or (3) succession can be proven, but it is not essential.[8]

While each view has merit, it seems the most convincing views pertaining to the origin of Baptists are explained by both the continuation of biblical teaching and that Baptists emerged from the Separatist movement. Tracing Baptist succession back to the New Testament is an admirable attempt to demonstrate provenance, but is seemingly impossible to prove and also unnecessary. While Anabaptist influence is still often debated, McBeth demonstrates, “the earliest Baptists recognized their Separatist background, but later historians obscured that heritage under layers of successionist theory.”[9] In the wise words of William T. Whitley, “For the sources of Baptist life, one must look not to the Anabaptists, but to the Scriptures and the desire for reform…” This new view of Scripture and recognition of what God was calling His followers to do arose as the Separatists moved away from the state church, ultimately leading to the formation of Baptists.


McBeth, H. Leon. The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987.

[1] H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987), 49.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 52.

[4] McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, 53.

[5] Ibid., 49.

[6] Ibid., 57.

[7] Ibid., 59.

[8] Ibid.

[9] McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, 50.