Book Review

Founders Journal 73 · Summer 2008 · pp. 32-33

Book Review

Renihan, James M., ed. True Confessions: Baptist Documents in the Reformed Family. Owensboro, KY: Reformed Baptist Academic Press, 2004.

Reviewed by Tom Nettles

Though several persons that have dealt with the Baptist confessional tradition have noted in narrative style the relationship between Baptist confessions and other evangelical/Reformed confessions, none has given the critical attention to this phenomenon at the level of this volume by James Renihan. Renihan includes the First London Confession and the revision of 1646 comparing them to the 1596 True Confession and other possible sources such as Ames’s Marrow of Theology and the Belgic Confession. His section on the Second London Confession includes comparisons with the Savoy Declaration, The Westminster Confession, and some places in the First London Confession. The Baptist Catechism is compared to the Westminster Shorter Catechism as well as the Westminster Larger Catechism showing its dependence in a few places on that document. The Orthodox Catechism produced by Hercules Collins placed side by side with its mother document, The Heidelberg Catechism, closes the volume. Renihan has developed a scheme by which he indicates each point of verbal independence of each of the Baptist documents through bold lettering. The early foundational symbols of Baptist doctrine ought to be known in every Baptist church. Renihan’s approach shows how doctrinally aligned Baptists were with the doctrinal architects of other Protestant brethren in England. The bold lettering helps the reader understand the care with which the Baptists distinguished themselves by certain nuances of vocabulary and, at obvious times, by distinctive doctrines.

Readers of the Founders Journal would be interested in two other books presently in print. Both of these are excellent discussions of the atonement. Gary D. Long, Definite Atonement (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2006). This is the third edition of a work first published in 1977. Long’s book expresses an extended defense of his conviction that “salvation belongs to the triune Jehovah.” His positive presentation, therefore, focuses on theology. First, definite atonement is implied in the eternal distinguishing love and the eternal purpose of God. Second, definite atonement is the most natural conclusion to be drawn from the Bible’s discussion of the nature of Christ’s work as a real substitute, a real reconciliation, a real redemption, and a real propitiation, as well as the highly definite and exclusive language often used to point to the ones for whom Christ’s death will be effective. Third, Long points to the variety of operations of the Holy Spirit in salvation and concludes that these too can only be understood in all their biblical dimensions through the assumption of a definite atonement. Long concludes with exegetical studies of several key passages that are frequently used in the defense of universal, indefinite atonement. The Second book: Tom Wells, A Price for a People: The Meaning of Christ’s Death (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1992). Wells does detailed studies of redemption, reconciliation, and propitiation and on that basis asks the question, “For Whom did Christ die?” He shows what the Bible means by the term world, discusses Christ’s death for the church, for the many, His substitutionary death for the redemptive family, and also deals with what are normally considered the “problem texts” with particular redemption. These two books, already helpful for a number of years, and now available, can be helpful for those that might not have used them before. Both books are clearly written and radiate a kind and deferential spirit.