Book Notice: “40 Questions About Baptism and the Lord’s Supper” by John S. Hammett

Hammett picSome theological topics remain on the front burner of discussion and debate in theological education. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are two of those topics. To address some of the most pressing theological and practical questions on these ordinances (or are they sacraments?), John Hammett, J. L. Dagg Chair and Senior Professor of Systematic Theology at Southeastern, has written 40 Questions About Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Kregel, 2015). The 40 Questions series is edited Ben Merkle, professor of New Testament at Southeastern.

Following a helpful introduction in which he sketches the historical and recent interest in these marks of the church, Hammett organizes the book according to four main sections: general questions about baptism and the Lord’s Supper (part 1); questions about baptism (part 2); questions about the Lord’s Supper (part 3); and concluding questions about the importance of baptism and the Lord’s Supper for theology and the Christian life (part 4).

In part 1, Hammett explores the terminology for these sacraments/ordinances, who can administer them, and whether they can be practiced outside the church. In parts 2 and 3, after exploring introductory questions such as the origin of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the ordinances (this is a Baptist blog after all) are considered from the perspective of denominational views, theological issues, and practical issues. Hammett considers the views of Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, Baptist, and other traditions before asking theological questions like, “Should Infants Be Baptized?” (chs. 16–17) and practical questions like, “How Often Should the Lord’s Supper Be Observed?” (ch. 36). Finally, in part 4, he reflects on the theological and practical significance of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Though deeply theological, then, the book has a practical feel, as is the design of the 40 Questions series. Each chapter, which answers one key question, contains reflection questions that prompt the reader to retain and integrate what they have just read. For instance, on the much-debated topic of infant baptism, Hammett offers historical and biblical arguments for infant baptism before providing his (Baptist) rejoinders (ch. 16). Yet, instead of leaving his points as the final word, Hammett asks the reader searching questions such as, “How might churches reflect the welcoming and positive attitude of Jesus toward children (as seen in Matt. 19:13–15; Mark 10:13–16; Luke 18:15–17) in their practices? If not by infant baptism, what would be appropriate ways?” (p. 137). This approach allows the reader to come to informed, not biased, judgments.

40 Questions About Baptism and the Lord’s Supper is also fairly and expertly balanced. After discussing the covenantal case for infant baptism (ch. 17), Hammett concludes, “Baptists think that their positive case for believer’s baptism from the teaching and example of the New Testament is sufficient to support their limitation to believers, and thus to rule infant baptism non-biblical. Nevertheless, the Baptist position is the minority position, historically and contemporarily. Thus, a consideration of the arguments offered in support of infant baptism seemed warranted” (p. 144). The balanced approach encourages readers to defend (charitably) their view while presenting other views of baptism and the Lord’s Supper in a fair-minded way. This feature, among many others, makes Hammett’s new book a sound and clear resource for pastors, teachers, students, and interested laymen in various denominations.

What if the Superstitious Peasant Is only Half Wrong?

For a generation, C. S. Lewis’ Miracles: A Preliminary Study was, at a popular level, the best book on the subject of miracles. Last fall Eric Metaxas published Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life. His work probably will be the new standard. Here’s just a brief excerpt:Miracles Metaxas

“What if we could accept that our childhood love of Santa Claus was indeed fantasy but not merely fantasy? What if we could accept that although Santa Claus didn’t really exist as Socrates existed, our desire for him to exist pointed to something that did exist, pointed to something that Socrates himself had longed for? What if those who simply believed in anything were only half- wrong, because their desire to believe pointed to something that was true, not just in the world itself but inside them?

 

And what if those who knew Santa Claus didn’t really exist were themselves only half-wrong, because their rejection of that kind of sloppy, childish belief pointed to a desire to only believe in what was real, what was really real and not just a myth or a childhood story, a desire to believe in things that are as true as the facts in history books and as real as the atoms and molecules we learned about in science books? What if the half-truth of the desire for something beyond us could meet up with the half-truth of the desire for only what is really real and true, which we can know and see and touch in this world too? What if those two halves could touch and become the one true truth we were both looking for?”

What if the superstitious peasant is only half wrong? Yes, those who will believe anything are mistaken. But so are those who believe nothing. Metaxas demonstrates that the Bible teaches that there is a discerning, seeking, middle ground. Miracles is thoughtful, provocative, and very fun to read. I recommend it highly.

Book Review: “No Other gods”

I want to post something different this week on behalf of the Pastor’s Center. I recognize I am normally targeting male church leadership in pastoral roles. I am very aware that many of the leaders in other ministries within your context are godly women. So the post today is something I think will benefit those women ministry leaders in your church, wives of pastors, and frankly all female believers.

Kelly Minter joined us on Southeastern’s campus on April 8th for our spring semester’s all women’s chapel service. One of her books, No Other gods, focuses on the problem of idolatry and how it occurs in the life of a modern believer. It is a book worth considering.

Alyson Watkins, the administrative assistant for the Pastors’ Center, wrote a good review of this book for our Women’s Life blog. I thought it would be beneficial to share it here as well for God-seeking women in ministry; give it a read.