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A Rich History of Baptist Political Theology

Posted July 3, 2023 by Brett Fredenberg

KANSAS CITY, Mo—In a recent publication from B&H Academic, Baptist scholars argue that Baptist theology requires involvement in the public domain.

Baptist Political Theology, released on July 1, seeks to introduce readers to the history and application of Baptist theology on political engagement. The new title features leading Baptist scholars from around the world, including Midwestern Seminary professors Thomas S. Kidd, Jason G. Duesing, J. Alan Branch, and Jesse M. Payne.

“I am very thankful for the release of Baptist Political Theology,” said President Jason Allen. “In a day where confusion on Baptist political engagement and responsibility abounds, this timely book will provide much clarity and help. Every Baptist pastor and concerned layperson will be helped by this book. I want to congratulate each of our professors who contributed and especially Dr. Thomas Kidd who served as a contributor and one of the editors.”

In the introduction of the book, the editors share the convictions driving the project. Ideals such as religious liberty and the domains of church and state, they explain, are consistent with historic Baptist understandings of Scripture, God, and humanity.

The book begins by addressing the history of Baptist thought, discussing theologians from as early as the Reformation. As the book progresses, figures such as Andrew Fuller, John Locke, and John Leland are discussed in reference to their interactions and formations for the political theology of Baptists.

In one chapter, Duesing and Payne write extensively on the influence of theologian Carl F. H. Henry. They discuss the influence of Henry’s political theology on a generation of theologians, including the evangelist, Billy Graham.

As Duesing said, “Evangelicals facing culture today have two choices: we can turn and run for the hills, or we can stop and find ways to navigate, push back, and confront it. As Henry would say, we have the best tool available to navigate culture: the Word of God. Evangelicals need to be confident in the truth they have and find ways to creatively and effectively engage culture at the right points.”

In another chapter, Branch focused on the topic of sexuality and gender in a Baptist perspective. Having served as a Research Fellow in Christian Ethics for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, as well as decades of scholarly work and publications on the subject, Branch argued for a biblical approach to one of the most important topics in society today.

He commented on the book release, saying, “I hope my contribution to this important work will help Baptists engage on the crucial issues of sexuality and gender in a cogent, biblically faithful manner.”

Additional chapters address the topics of stewardship and environmentalism, just war, bioethics, natural law, and more. Contributors include scholars such as Jonathan Leeman, R. Albert Mohler Jr., Tom Nettles, and Michael Haykin.

Reflecting on his own contribution and editorial work in this book, Kidd said, “There is so much confusion and acrimony in Baptist and evangelical circles today about politics. Paul Miller, Andrew Walker, and I hope that this volume can give much-needed historical perspective on how Baptists have thought about political engagement, the limits of government power, and how the church and individual believers should relate to the state.”

He went on to say, “I do not know of a volume that gives as broad and authoritative coverage to these questions as Baptist Political Theology does. Pastors and lay leaders are constantly confronted with claims about how their faith should relate to politics, and we hope that the essays in the book will give them resources to assess those claims in a biblical and faithful way.”

Baptist Political Theology has already received affirmation from around evangelicalism.

Richard Land, president emeritus at Southern Evangelical Seminary, said, “This should serve as a valuable guide for all people who believe that Christian moral perspectives should be part of the conversations about societal moral standards. Baptist Political Theology should be a standard textbook in all Baptist and evangelical seminaries and colleges and will richly reward all interested readers who delve into its pages.”

Matthew Emerson, professor of religion at Oklahoma Baptist University, said, “Opinions abound about what it means to be ‘Baptist,’ and that is perhaps no truer than when we try to define Baptist beliefs about politics. This collection of essays helps us on the road to defining Baptist political theology in ways that are historically informed and theologically aware.”

Ryan T. Anderson, president of The Ethics and Public Policy Center, added, “No one will ever accuse me of being a Baptist, but I can and do appreciate many of the insights that Baptists have contributed to political theology. This impressive collection brings together many of today’s sharpest Baptist thinkers to reflect on the historical sources of and future challenges to Baptist political thought without papering over the various strengths and weaknesses. It’s a resource for the entire church.”

Baptist Political Theology is now available for purchase anywhere Christian books are sold.

To read an excerpt from the book, visit FTC.co.


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