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.

In Case You Missed It

1) John Hammett, John Leadley Dagg Chair of Systematic Theology, writes about salvation and God’s mission, including the extent of the atonement, at Ed Stetzer’s blog.

2) Timothy George, Dean of Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama, reflects on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s advent reflections while in prison. Only prisoners understand that from which they have been set free.

3) Ed Stezter shares Part 3 of LifeWay’s research on the church and mental illness. Well worth keeping up with this research.

4) At CT, Ruth Moon with some interesting research findings on whether pastors think the gospel mandates racial reconciliation.

5) At SEND Network, NAMB President Kevin Ezell reflects on God’s work in 2014.

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Southeastern at the 2014 ETS

Every fall semester, before the Thanksgiving holiday, droves of evangelical professors, pastors, and students descend upon an American city to gather for the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. This year, the meeting will be held November 19-21 in balmy San Diego, CA, with Ecclesiology as the central topic. As usual, many of our SEBTS faculty and PhD students will participate by reading academic papers, or serving as panelists or moderators for various discussions. The table below lists the time, topic, role, and location of each participant. If you live in or near San Diego, or you plan to attend ETS this year, be sure to check out the fine scholarship displayed by SEBTS folk.

Time Topic Person Role
Nov 19       8:30-11:40a Christian Ethics Section Erik Clary Moderator
9:20-10:00 Christian Ethics and the Fair Trade Movement Shaun Price Presenter
9:20-10:00 Matthew 27:52-53 as a Scribal Interpolation Charles Quarles Presenter
9:20-10:00 Believer Baptism: Human Act of Obedience and Divine Means of Grace John Hammett Presenter
11:00-11:40 Panel Discussion on Believer Baptism John Hammett Panelist
2:00-5:10p Christian Ethics: Was the Early Church Primarily Pacifist of Not? Daniel Heimbach Moderator
3:40-4:20 Can War Be Just? The Ancient Church and Pacifism Steven McKinion Presenter
4:30-5:10 Interaction on the Early Church and Pacifism Daniel Heimbach Panelist
4:30-5:10 Interaction on the Early Church and Pacifism Steven McKinion Panelist
2:00-5:10 A Conversation on Origins: BioLogos, Reasons to Believe, and Southern Baptists Ken Keathley Panelist
2:00-5:10 A Conversation on Origins: BioLogos, Reasons to Believe, and Southern Baptists James K. Dew Panelist
2:00-2:40 Does Luke 10:25-37 Echo 2 Chr 28:5-15? The Parable of the Good Samaritan and the Question if Its Historical Vorlage Gregory Stiekes Presenter
2:00-2:40 On Feeding the “Theologically Dead”-Rethinking Robert Rakestraw on the Vegetative State Erik Clary Presenter
2:00-2:40 Rescuing Rahab: The Evangelical Discussion on Conflicting Moral Absolutes David W. Jones Presenter
Nov 20       8:30-11:40a The Dark Side of Evangelical Ecumenism Nathan A. Finn Moderator
10:20-10:40 Respondent to Evangelical Ecumenism Papers Nathan A. Finn Presenter
9:20-10:50 Book Panel on In Search of Moral Knowledge by R. Scott Smith James K. Dew Panelist
3:00-6:10p Molinism Session Ken Keathley Moderator
3:00-3:40 Are there Signs of Late Biblical Hebrew in Isaiah 40-66? Mark Rooker Presenter

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