Believer’s Baptism begins a promising series
Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ edited by Thomas Schreiner and Shawn Wright(B&H Academic, 2007) 364 pages, $19.99.
B&H Publishing Group, formerly known as Broadman and Holman, is the book publishing division of LifeWay Christian Resources. As a trusted voice among Southern Baptist pastors, they set the agenda for a lot of what gets read and talked about in our denomination.
A few months ago Ray Clendenen was named the director of academic publishing at B&H. He is no stranger to us as he has been a series editor of the influential New American Commentary series. He has now added another project by serving as the series editor of the “NAC Studies in Bible & Theology.”
This is a series that Southern Baptists pastors should not neglect. Clendenen says, “This new series is to be a medium through which the work of evangelical scholars can effectively reach the church. It will include detailed exegetical-theological studies… and fresh examinations of topics in biblical theology and systematic theology.”
The book being looked at today is the second volume of this series. It deals with the issue of baptism, asking questions such as:
Is believer’s baptism the clear teaching of the New Testament Scriptures?
What are the historical and theological challenges to believer’s baptism?
What are the practical applications for believer’s baptism today?
First, Andreas Kostenberger, Robert Stein, and Thomas Schreiner provide an exegetical treatment of baptism as revealed in the Gospels, Acts, and the Epistles. Then, Steven McKinion, Jonathan Rainbow, and A.B. Caneday examine baptism from the perspective of historical theology. Duane Garrett pays special attention to the arguments of Meredith Kline.
Two particular chapters carry a heavy load (one-third of the book) in comparing paedobaptism with credobaptism. First, in “Baptism and the Relationship between the Covenants,” Stephen Wellum argues against the evangelical Reformed doctrine of infant baptism by critiquing the covenantal argument proposed as the basis for paedobaptism.
Second, Shawn Wright tackles “Baptism and the Logic of Reformed Paedobaptists” by focusing on the teaching of influential paedobaptists John Calvin, John Murray and Pierre Marcel. In thinking through what separates us from evangelical paedobaptists, these two chapters alone are worth the price of the book.
Mark Dever closes out the book with a discussion of “Baptism in the Context of the Local Church.” He briefly touches on contentious issues such as whether baptisms from other churches should be accepted, and whether baptism should ever be delayed (in the case of children). He notes that between 1977 and 1997 there was a 250 percent increase in the number of baptisms in Southern Baptist churches of children under the age of six. Is this a sign of vitality or confusion? Given the recent discussion within the SBC regarding the IMB, baptism, and regenerate church membership, the chapter by Dever could be expanded into an entire book.
This is a highly recommended book in a very promising series.