Monday, May 3, 2010

Baptists Today publishes my review of James Leo Garrett Jr.'s Baptist Theology: A Four-Century Study

The new issue of Baptists Today (vol. 28, no. 5 [May 2010]) includes my review of James Leo Garrett Jr.'s Baptist Theology: A Four-Century Study, published in 2009 by Mercer University Press ("Garrett Pens 'Treasury of Baptist Theological Heritage': A Review by Steven R. Harmon," p. 25). As Garrett supervised my doctoral dissertation and remains a significant influence on my own work, I accepted with some degree of fear and trembling the request to review what is likely to be the crowning achievement of Garrett's long and distinguished career as a Baptist theologian. Here's a snippet from the opening of the review:

James Leo Garrett Jr. supervised my doctoral dissertation. His insistence that theology must pay close attention to the historical context of its development and his ability to hold fidelity to the Baptist tradition and ecumenical openness in creative tension have probably influenced my own career as a theologian more than anything else. Nevertheless, I'll do my best to offer an objective assessment of this book's value.

Timed to coincide with the 2009 quadricentennial celebration of Baptist beginnings, this volume lives up to its subtitle. It treats in exhaustive detail four centuries of Baptist theology, defined as "the doctrinal beliefs of the people called Baptists" and drawing upon "their confessions of faith, the teachings of their major theologians, and their principal theological movements and controversies."

If you're interested in reading the full review--which includes mention of a few points at which I dissent from Garrett's characterization of some recent developments in the Baptist theological tradition along with expressions of my admiration for this important and helpful resource--but don't subscribe to Baptists Today or have library access to this news journal, the public back issues archive on the Baptists Today web site will make a PDF of this issue available later this year. I'll post a link on this blog when it's online there.


  1. Thanks for this Dr. Harmon! Would love to read the review. I might just end up subscribing.

    I interviewed Dr. Garrett about the book for The Founder's Journal. That interview is here:

    (Not trying to push my site here! Feel free to delete this if you'd rather me not link.)

    Just thought you or whomever else might be interested.

    Wyman Richardson

  2. I look forward to reading the review!

    My theological instincts have been formed in such a different way from the way it seems that Dr. Garrett proceeds.

    I presume the unity of the church and then try to work from where we Christians are (unfortunately divided), rather than what seems to be an assumption that "Baptist" names a timeless theological essence (even if characterized by certain internal tensions). I'm grateful to be Baptist and we need to know more of our history, but I also pray for the day when there aren't Baptists as a self-consciously separate tradition.

    The news reports of the recent colloquium on Baptism, quoted comments to the effect that younger Baptists concerned that Baptists develop a more substantive account of the church and sacraments are unfortunate, lost souls motivated by anxiety rather than a desire for truth and unity. Comments like that make me worried about the potential for constructive dialogue in the years ahead.

    I know I'm capable of making similarly dismissive comments in the other direction too. However, I would hate to reduce serious theological matters to merely generational preferences or issues of style (there's no disputing taste . . . ).

  3. Thanks, Andy. Here's a link to the package of Associated Baptist Press articles and opinion pieces to which Andy refers: