Tuesday, 5 October 2010

New Book: Bebbington on Baptists

CHF members will be delighted to learn that Prof David Bebbington has a new book out. Baptists through the Centuries: A History of a Global People (Baylor UP, 2010) provides a panoramic overview of Baptist history from its Reformation roots to its global spread. As one would expect, it combines the big picture with rich detail, starting with a wonderful vignette about the Castle Donington General Baptists who in 1864 bought their pastor a pair of waterproof boots to be worn during baptisms. It's a reminder, for Bebbington, that Baptists were always 'accommodating themselves to their time and circumstances', in this case by becoming more decorous to reflect their rising social status. Like Bebbington's now classic work, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain (1989), this is a study of cultural adaptation. Alongside its chronological overview, there are fascinating thematic chapters on race, women, ecclesiology, religious liberty and foreign mission.

Bebbington has been at the forefront of Baptist history for several decades, and this is the first general history of the Baptists to harvest the wealth of recent research on Baptist communities through the centuries, including those of Eastern Europe. It's a great gift to Baptist themselves, for nowhere else will they find an account of their past as rich, rounded, critical and fair-minded as this one. But it ought to be read by anyone interested in the history of Christianity since the Reformation.

John Coffey
University of Leicester

Readers can get a sneak preview here:

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