Gary W. Long, ed.
Particular Baptist Press
(417-883-0342), Hardcover, $33.00
A large gathering of Baptist historians marked the 300th anniversary of the Philadelphia Baptist Association (reported in the October 2007 Baptist Bulletin). All of the proceedings for this “Symposium on Our History, Theology, and Hymnody” have now been published in a sturdy book that will be valuable to those who are interested in Baptist history. The collection—like all anthologies—has both hits and misses.
Several of the essays were written by scholars with Regular Baptist roots, including Robert Delnay, Michael Windsor, and Jeff Brodrick. In addition, five chapters cover Baptist congregational song; an account of Benjamin Keach, a 17th century Particular Baptist who was imprisoned for printing a Baptist children’s curriculum; and an essay titled “Baptist Journals and Magazines.”
Many Baptist Bulletin readers will immediately turn to the “persons index” to search for names connected with the Regular Baptist movement and the fundamental movement in general. If so, the readers may be generally happy with the breadth of inclusion, if not the quality. Unfortunately, the book does not have a general index.
Our history continues to pose difficult problems for scholars who strive for balanced interpretations of recent events. A few statements in the whole section on fundamental Baptists may be open for debate. And the section on “The Formation and Fracturing of the General Association of Regular Baptists” reports “internal conflicts” of the GARBC that resulted in “hard-core separatists” withdrawing from the Association. The tone of the GARBC section isn’t quite neutral—perhaps it leans too heavily on the published and private comments of dissenting viewpoints. Or perhaps the majority of Regular Baptists—those who chose to remain in the GARBC—were not as interested in public response to the criticism, leaving historians with fewer documents to study.