The Baptist Identity - Chapter Four

Discussion in 'Books / Publications Forum' started by rlvaughn, Jul 31, 2002.

  1. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    I have finally gotten around to reviewing Chapter Four of The Baptist Identity by Walter Shurden. I had some comments saved on a file or a disk, but can't find them :rolleyes: , so I'm having to rewrite.

    CHAPTER FOUR - RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
    This may be the best chapter of the four, and it certainly deals with a topic that resonates (and has resonated) with Baptist people. Though Shurden generally maintains his 20th century bibliography, he here deals with more older Baptist writings, writers, and history.

    Religious Freedom is presented to us through: an Introduction, Historic Baptists and the Witness to Religious Freedom, Historic Baptists and the Foundations of Religious Freedom, Historic Baptists and the Meaning of Religious Freedom, and Baptists Today and Threats to Religious Freedom.

    In the introduction, Shurden presents to us some of the different historical and biblical relationships between church and state, though he almost seems to think scripture has contradictory teachings in the matter:
    He probably means that different circumstances call for different responses: "No one model fits all circumstances and epochs of history...Often they (Baptists) have been 'Romans 13 People,' appreciative of civil government. Occasionally they have been 'Revelation 13 People,' opposing the state with their very lives. Most of the time, however, they have been 'Matthew 22 People,' legitimizing but limiting the state.

    Under the next three headings, Shurden looks at the historic connection of Baptists and religious freedom. First, he notes that religious freedom inheres in Baptist belief, beginning with Smyth & Helwys, early Amercian leaders such as Clarke & Holmes through Leland & Backus, and on into the 20th century. Shurden does not go beyond Smyth & Helwys to the Anabaptists or others because he believes Baptists began in England in 1600. He notes that the message of religious freedom for all "is much easier to hear and act upon when you are small and powerless. When a denomination gets large and powerful and courted for political reasons, the bells of freedom ring fainter and fainter." This is an astute observation (and probably also a potshot at the SBC ;) ). Shurden believes, and I think fairly accurately, that the anchor of the Baptist "passion for religious liberty" is found in "(1) the nature of God, (2) the nature of humanity, and (3) the nature of faith." Thomas Helwys' observation is probably most succinct, "mens religion to God is betwixt God and themselves." The chapter points out the difference of the Baptist teaching of religious freedom and the plea of some for religious tolerance, as well as emphasizing that the Baptist plea has been religious freedom for all. The Baptist idea of freedom of religion includes freedom for all religion protected by the state, and freedom from religion - those who have no religion are guaranteed freedom in that. Shurden quotes John Leland, who argued, "Let every man speak freely without fear, maintain the principles that he believes, worship according to his own faith, either one God, three Gods, no God, or twenty Gods; and let government protect him in so doing."

    Under the last heading, Shurden rightly warns us of threats today to religious freedom, whether real or imagined. I say that because I believe there are real threats, but that some are only imagined. Dr. Shurden is fully enamored with the phrase "separation of church and state" and seems to see threats to religious freedom even when the phrase is challenged. "Separation of church and state" does not appear in the Constitution and seems to have been coined by Thomas Jefferson when writing to the Danbury Baptist Association. It has been used to mean everything from what Baptists have always meant by religious freedom to an idea of fencing religion completely out of the public sector. But there are real and present threats to religious freedom in America. One Shurden points out is the Christian Reconstruction Movement (although he uses this to take an unneccessary potshot at Calvinists :rolleyes: ). Even those who may not agree with Shurden should be aware of the possibilities and be ever vigilant against encroachment.

    Though we may not agree with Shurden on all the practical applications, I hope his question echoes in our hearts and becomes a meditation. Are we still committed to religious liberty for all?
     
  2. Bob Alkire

    Bob Alkire
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    Thanks for your review, it was great.
    I think most of us who call our selves baptist are for religious freedom. Also we are to agree or disagree with each others point of view. I will support what I believe to be correct with my time and what wealth God has given me and I expect others to do the same. I will fight for you to worship as you please and might even say I think you are wrong, but such is life and ok untill you try and take over the church which I attend or teach my children or grandchildren what I don't believe is truth.
    Can't wait for next. Thanks!! Bob
     
  3. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    The right to say that the other fellow/church/religion is wrong is a definite part of religious freedom or liberty. The religious tolerance crowd does not hold that position, but would rather that we be restricted in what we can say about others.

    [ August 02, 2002, 07:14 PM: Message edited by: rlvaughn ]
     
  4. rsr

    rsr
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    Thanks for the review.

    Whether Shurden is slamming the SBC (and I think he probably is), it is sometimes disconcerting to see Baptists jettison their historic belief in freedom of conscience.
     
  5. David Cooke Jr

    David Cooke Jr
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    Great review. I'll be in Macon this weekend so maybe I can pass on the good buzz to Dr. Shurden.
    This book is one of my favorites.
     
  6. Bob Alkire

    Bob Alkire
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    rivaughn, I hope you will be giving us chapter 5. The first 4 have been great!!!
     
  7. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    Brother Bob, the book has four chapters (one for each freedom), a conclusion, and eight appendices of Baptist documents. I will at some point try to do the conclusion, but won't create topics for the appendices. I appreciate your interest.
     
  8. Bob Alkire

    Bob Alkire
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    Thanks so very much!! I have enjoyed this.
     

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