Theologians of the Baptist TraditionTheologians of the Baptist Tradition
Timothy George & David S. Dockery, eds.
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Charles Spurgeon, Millard Erickson, W.A. Criswell, and Carl Henry are just a few of the outstanding Baptist thinkers profiled in this profound collection of essays. An invaluable resource for pastors, students, and teachers, it reviews theologians past and present, and ponders the future of Baptist theology. 414 pages, softcover from Broadman & Holman.
     

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The Future of Baptist Theology
by Timothy George

    Several years ago, Will D. Campbell published a fascinating novel entitled The Glad River.  The chief character is a man named Doops Momber.  Actually his real name was Claudy Momber, but everybody called him Doops because Claudy sounded too much like a girl's name.  He grew up among the Baptists of Mississippi, attended the revivals, the hayrides, and the Sunday school wiener roasts, but somehow he never got baptized.  Later, when he was inducted into the army, his sergeant asked, "You a Protestant or a Catholic?"  Doops did not answer for a moment Then he said, "I guess I'm neither.  I'm neither Catholic or Protestant.  I never joined.  But all my people are Baptist."  "But there's a P on your dog tag.  Why not a C?"  They asked me what I was and I told them the same thing I told you.  And the guy stamped a P on it."  "Why do you suppose they did that?"  the sergeant asked.  "Well," said  Doops, "I guess in American you have to be something."

    The confusion Doops encountered about his own religious identity is symptomatic of many other Baptist Christians who, unlike Doops, have indeed taken the plunge but who, no more than he, have any solid understanding about what that means in a postdenominational age of generic religion and dog-tags Christianity.  In the first edition of Baptist Theologians, I wrote an opening essay entitled "The Renewal of Baptist Theology," which began with the following lamentation.
 

    There is a crisis in Baptist life today that cannot be resolved by bigger budgets, better programs, or more sophisticated systems of data processing and mass communication.  It is a crisis of identity rooted in a fundamental theological failure of nerve.  The two major diseases of the contemporary church are spiritual amnesia (we have forgotten who wear) and ecclesiastical myopia (whoever we are, we are glad we are not like "them").  While these maladies are not unique to the people of God called Baptists, they are perhaps most glringly present among us.
 
    This article is a sequel to that earlier essay.  First of all, I want to point out some of the difficulties in speaking about the theological identity of Baptists.  Then, in the heart of the paper, I will present a mosaic for the renewal of Baptist theology by identifying five major components for such an agenda.