Firstly, an apology – my last post of over one month ago created reactions – I apologise that due to the exigencies of the circumstances people have had to wait for a response! Mia culpa!
What is baptistic theology and where can it be found? It’s easier to start with where it cannot be found!
It cannot be found in the study of a legalistic systematic theologian who sits surrounded by books thinking great thoughts and writing them down (the Calvin model).
It cannot be found in the monk’s cell reading the Scriptures and worrying about how I am saved and then expressing this to academia (the Luther model)
It might be found with Hubmaier and Zwingli sat down with other pastors and the community worrying about the application of the Word of God to everyday life in community of believers.
In the radical reformation there was that New Testament affirmation that women and men meeting in the community of faith might have the ability by the Holy Spirit to confer together and work out (theologise) the mind of Christ.
So, baptistic theologising does not begin in Oxford, Fuller, Yale, Harvard, IBTS or Spurgeon’s, but in covenanted communities of faith discussing the Word together and singing the faith. This is primary theology – the theology from which we build.
There may be a secondary theology from that primary theology which can be discussed amongst so-called academics, but we need to be clear it is a secondary theology.
This secondary theology is expounded helpfully in the three volumes of Systematic Theology by the late lamented James William McClendon Junior. It starts in a baptistic way with Ethics and only then proceeds to Doctrine.
It is to be discovered in the articles of the Journal of European Studies (now produced over eleven years and available on line via Ebsco) and in Baptistic Theologies. It is to be found in the publications of the Baptist Union of the Netherlands seminary. It can hardly be found in writings of the current generation of Anglo-American Baptist scholars, though Nigel G Wright does take hold of many issues. E A Payne is an example of someone who took this baptistic/ anabaptistic tradition seriously.
Hopefully, more secondary theological writing will be produced in coming years to challenge the Protestant academic tradition to which many are enthralled.
Good stuff! However, is there not a definitional issue here (as ever) – how do we define ‘baptistic theology’? In terms of your models, you seem to be defining it to be those theologies which derive from, and are consonant with, the Radical Reformation – in particular, the method of ‘theologising’. Fair enough. However, Andy’s original post seems to be adopting a different approach, listing those theologies which derive from Baptist theologians, whether self-identified as such or, in-keeping with our tradition, recognised by others. If we wanted to place a limit on this, we could say theologies that are written for Baptist Christians in the first instance. I’d have thought that this was an equally reasonable definition of a ‘baptistic theology’. While there is a risk with this latter approach that a theology becomes ‘baptistic’ in name only, is there not also the risk in the approach you describe that ‘covenanted communities of faith’ are not free to drink deeply of the new wine, but bound to serve a founding doctrine which was itself a departure from the established norm?
I’d be very interested to know whether the two approaches might reflect the strength of the ecumenical movement in different places. As you know, within the UK at least, the academic (and ecclesial) study of theology has a very ecumenical flavour, whereas I believe this is less true of certain parts of Europe at least?
Thanks for writing. Do please keep these blog entries coming, they are very important.
P.S. I presume you meant The Journal of European Baptist Studies? If so, I can’t find it on Ebsco under ATLA. Am I looking in the right place?
Correction, I’ve found JEBS now, sorry!