In Case You Missed It

Aaron Earls posted earlier this week at his personal blog, The Wardrobe Door, discussing the trend of shocking headlines on social media. Aaron writes:

Look across Facebook and you can spot it—the virus that infects computer after computer. It’s passed from one person to the next through sharing a link or even liking a post.

The virus you may have caught and passed on through social media is fear. You see it in headlines across Facebook.

  • 7 Surprising Foods That Will Give You Cancer … And Make You Fat
  • Why This Politician Hates Puppies And Will Take Away All of Your Freedoms
  • 10 Steps to Protect Your Child From Their Inevitable Kidnapping
  • How You Will Lose All Your Money By Not Clicking This Link. No, Seriously, Click This Link!

A study of 100 top blogs found that headlines with violent words like “kill,” “dark,” “bleeding,” and yes, “fear,” get more social media shares. Headlines that focus on negative superlatives—like never or worst—are more effective than either headlines without superlatives or ones with positive words. We share negative stories cast in terms of what we should fear, but why is that?

At Canon and Culture, Bruce Ashford discussed the religious problem with Socialism. Dr. Ashford writes:

Socialism is a polarizing notion globally, and especially so in the United States. So it was, to say the least, surprising when Bernie Sanders decided to run for President openly as a “Democratic socialist.” It is even more surprising to find him—even in the early days of the primary season—in a relatively close race with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. After all, many Americans view socialism as an evil that will ruin the economy and perhaps lead to an authoritarian government.

There are a number of reasons that some Americans are willing to give Sanders a shot. Perhaps the foremost reason is that he actually views himself as a “socialist capitalist,” a notion which most socialists would consider a contradiction in terms. But there are, in fact, a number of varieties of socialism. Each variety emphasizes material equality and communal property ownership, but each does so in its own way.

Nathan Finn published an article at Crossway discussing what Star Wars can teach us about history:

A Long Time Ago, In a Galaxy Far, Far Away . . .
Ever since the original Star Wars movie opened in theaters in 1977, the words mentioned above have been a part of American popular culture. Each of the live-action movies in the Star Wars franchise that have been released thus far begin with these words set against a black screen. Cue the famous theme song by composer John Williams. Once the music begins, a short summary of the backstory leading up to the film scrolls upward across the screen. Once the prologue is completed, the movie begins. I get chill bumps every time I sit in a theater and the opening words appear on the screen; even my disappointment in the moribund second trilogy of movies could not take away this feeling of anticipation.

In a helpful article on historical thinking, Thomas Andrews and Flannery Burke suggest that the opening sequence in the Star Wars films reminds us of the importance of historical context. I believe it also offers another important reminder to historians. The past, while often open to scholarly study, took place a long time ago in a faraway place (if not another galaxy). Many historians emphasize this point by citing the famous opening line to L. P. Hartley’s 1953 novel The Go-Between: “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” This is true even of the recent past. For this reason, historians must take into account matters of historical context when studying the past.

Keelan Cook shared a post at the People’s Next Door website titled: What exactly is urban? Keelan writes:

Cites are a hot topic nowadays. The world is officially more urban than rural, and it does not appear that is changing anytime soon. People are talking about cities. People are moving into cities. Cities are claiming an ever-growing chunk of society. And on this march into the concrete jungle, the word urban is getting tossed around like a frisbee.

City planners are talking about urbanization. Sociologists speak of urbanism. Not only is urban becoming an ism and an ation, as a adjective it is used to describe everything from a neighborhood to a pair of boots (I’m looking at you Urban Outfitters). But, despite all of this word-slinging, what does urban actually mean?

Chuck Lawless recently shared ten things he has learned about corporate worship. Dr. Lawless writes:

Almost 35 years ago, I began pastoring my first church. I remember planning worship services, typing the order of worship, and praying the worship would go well. Since then, I’ve realized how little I knew about corporate worship at the time. Here are 10 things I’ve learned about worship since then.

The Baptist Story – A Review

By: Spence Spencer

There has been a need for a new textbook on Baptist History for some time. Leon McBeth’s book, The Baptist Heritage had its day, but his presentation of Baptists was slanted toward his perspective on a number of issues. Also, McBeth’s book was published in 1987 before the culmination of the SBC’s conservative resurgence.

TheBaptistStory_CVR-683x1024

As such, The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement is a welcome volume. Three historians collaborated to write this 300-page volume. Anthony Chute serves at California Baptist University, Michael Haykin teaches at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Nathan Finn recently left Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary for Union University. The collaborative effort is helpful on a textbook that covers hundreds of years of data because each man has a different area of expertise.

The Baptist Story aims to tell the tale of Baptists from their beginnings to the present in an irenic matter. Besides eating, Baptists excel at quibbling over seemingly trivial matters. The priesthood of all believers (or freedom of conscience) has at times given rise to a contentious spirit in some. The three authors of this work seek to give an even handed explanation for the origins of Baptists, the historic soteriology of the Baptists, and some of the social ills that Baptists have tolerated or even aggravated. This is neither a whitewashing nor an exposé.

SUMMARY

The book contains three sections. The first section deals with Baptists in the 17th and 18th centuries. This is the period of Baptist beginnings, through a time of persecution and possible extinction. At the end of that period, however, Baptists were growing and beginning the modern missionary movement in hopes of taking the gospel to all parts of the globe.

In section two, the authors trace Baptist History through the 19th century, which was a time of rapid expansion and rise to prominence of the Baptists. In particular, the low-church approach of Baptists with little requirement of formal education of clergy allowed a more rapid growth. It also led to theological ignorance, which made Baptists subject to fragmentation and heresy in the face of the challenges of Modernism.

Section three documents the twentieth century through the present. The impact of the World Wars, the Social Gospel, and Liberation Theology are all documented in these chapters. So is the continued growth of Baptists in most lands. The book would be remiss if the Conservative Resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention were neglected, so thankfully the coverage of that important topic is adequate.

The fourth section outlines some of the basic beliefs of Baptists: those things that make Baptists distinct from other denominations. This final section is the only prescriptive section of the volume; the remainder of the volume is fairly even-handed historical description. Even in this prescription, though, the authors are attempting to describe what has historically made Baptists different. It is apparent, though, that many of these things are also held to be good by them.

ANALYSIS

The greatest contribution of this volume is that it provides an updated resource for those seeking to teach or understand Baptist History. Nearly thirty years after McBeth’s book was published, it was beginning to fall out of favor in many circles. Bebbington’s volume, Baptists Through the Centuries, will likely remain popular. However, The Baptist Story provides a different perspective on Baptists that may be more helpful for American students and better adapted to the college level.

This volume has explanatory power. It is readable and informative. It explains the Baptist movement without devolving into petty critique and promotion of factions. This is a book that explains the Baptist story in a global context, shedding light on the 1/3rd (or so) of worldwide Baptist believers that live outside of the United States. As such it serves to explain the American story and illuminate the global story beyond a missionary narrative. This is a book worth owning.

The Baptist Story aims to be a college level textbook and to provide visual cues along the way. There are textboxes with primary source quotes and pictures of key individuals and locations throughout the text. In addition to these graphics, it would have been beneficial for the volume to include charts and timelines that provide visual representations of the historical progression of Baptists. The Baptist history is complex, so that there is a constant battle between sorting information topically and chronologically. Timelines and charts would have helped readers navigate the transitions.

Another potential improvement for a second edition would be to add a glossary with some of the key theological terms. This is not a theology textbook, it is a history. Still, when concepts like the Social Gospel and Liberation Theology are mentioned, it would be convenient to have a brief explanation close at hand. It is impossible to understand the history of a religious movement without a firm understanding of some contours of the theology. A future edition could be enhanced by supplementing the text with a brief theological glossary.

CONCLUSION

This is an outstanding overview of Baptist History. I wish it had been published when I took my Baptist History nearly a decade ago. I read thousands of pages of primary sources to gain a similar understanding of the sweep of Baptist History. It is my hope this book will find a prominent place in theological education of Baptist students in the future, as well as in local churches as a means to explain how we got where we are.

The Baptist Story – From English Sect to Global Movement

By Dr. Anthony L. Chute, Dr. Nathan A. Finn, Michael A. G. Haykin

Note: A gratis copy of this book was provided by the publisher with no expectation of a positive review.

This post is cross-posted from Spence’s personal blog.

Spence Spencer is a Ph.D. student in Ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and is the Director of Assessment and Institutional Research at Oklahoma Baptist University.