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Richard Baxter And Conversion Paperback – November 20, 2007
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This book echoes the high call from the 17th century to pray and work for conversions with evangelism our top priority. (Evangelicals Now)
"We are indebted to Timothy Beougher for providing a rich historical and theological study of Christian conversion through the lens of the great 17th century Puritan pastor and theologian, Richard Baxter. Few in the history of the church cared so much, studied so much, and wrote so much about conversion as Baxter, and Beougher offers here both a well-documented and eminently readable account of Baxter's deep and nuanced thought. I highly recommend this book, both for the fascinating discussion of theological themes of central importance to the Puritans and to all thoughtful Christians, and for the profound richness to mind and soul that comes through considering afresh the nature and process of true Christian conversion." (Bruce Ware ~ Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky)
Richard Baxter believed that a faithful system of theology, when created by a skillful hand, would not add to the Scriptures, but merely draw out what is already there. Richard Baxter and Conversion reveals that Timothy Beougher is just such a skillful hand with respect to Baxter's writings. He has drawn out of this classic and controversial Puritan's writings the theological and practical strengths and weakness that are there, and in the process clarified the historic controversies that have surrounded this great Puritan pastor's doctrine of conversion. (Peter Lillback ~ President, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
"Timothy Beougher's study of Richard Baxter offers a fresh interpretation of a very important early 'evangelical.' Baxter's advocacy of 'mere Christianity' was important in the contentious milieu of seventeenth-century England, and as Beougher shows persuasively it remains important in the midst of our contemporary contentions as well." (Mark A. Noll ~ Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana)
"The publication of Beougher's important book confirms that Baxter was a fresh and independent thinker who wrestled first-hand with the scriptures. Baxter's theology was aimed at the strengthening of the church and the conversion of the lost, and his passion for truth reverberates throughout the work. We can be thankful for Beougher's wonderfully clear and perceptive analysis of Baxter's theology of conversion. Beougher dispels some misunderstandings of Baxter's theology, reminding us that the study of church history has immense practical benefits, for Baxter comments on many of the debates that we still face today. I commend this work enthusiastically." (Thomas R. Schreiner ~ James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and Associate Dean, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky)
"It is high time for this generation to know Richard Baxter -- the famed pastor of Kidderminster. Timothy Beougher has written a fine study of the great Puritan pastor. Baxter on Conversion is a fine work of Christian scholarship. Beougher simultaneously introduces Baxter to a new generation and sets the record straight concerning some of the controversies that marked Baxter's ministry and enduring reputation. The question of genuine conversion to Christ was a preoccupation of the Puritans -- and for good reason. Our own generation of Christians would do well to follow Baxter's example and think about the meaning of conversion and its true signs. Professor Beougher combines scholarship and evangelistic passion in this important book, setting the record straight and raising all the right questions. If we misunderstand conversion, we misunderstand the Gospel. We are in Professor Beougher's debt for this timely book." (R. Albert Mohler ~ President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky)
About the Author
Timothy K. Beougher is the Billy Graham Professor of Evangelism and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky. He studied at KSU, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Prior to taking up his present position he was assistant professor of evangelism at the Wheaton College Graduate School and associate director of the Institute of Evangelism at the Billy Graham Center.
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Richard Baxter (1615-1691) is vitally important in church history because among the 17th century Puritan theologian-practitioners, Baxter has provided many important works that deal specifically with conversion.
Puritan studies are enriching because they not only provide deep spiritual insights about godly living in obedience to the Word of God, but they offer rich insights about genuine conversion and the correct preaching of the gospel as well.
Contents of this Book:
Foreword by J.I. Packer
1. The Life and Ministry of Richard Baxter
2. The Theological Foundation for Conversion
3. Controversy regarding Justification
4. The Process of Conversion
5. Presenting the Gospel
6. Conversion and the Church
The most interesting chapters to me were the ones on the theological foundation for conversion and the controversy regarding justification. In his treatment of Baxter's theology, Beougher mentions that even though Baxter was "eclectic" in his theology, he was heavily influenced by Scripture and by the political method of Hugo Grotius (esp. De Satisfactione). There is much discussion on whether Baxter was Amyraldian, especially in his belief in "hypothetical universalism." Baxter initially held to the concept of limited atonement but later revised his view to embrace unlimited atonement (pp. 50-58). Another controversial issue was Baxter's belief in two justifications: the first when a person believes in Christ and second during the Day of Judgment (p. 61).
One area that I wished Dr. Beougher addressed more completely in the book was Baxter's concept of Total Depravity. It seems to me that the logical starting point of theological discussion (whether it be Calvinist or Arminian) is the concept of Total Depravity. Baxter believes in "common grace" and holds to unlimited atonement as well. Does this mean that Baxter is "Arminian"? Dr. Beougher does not think so.
In chapter 4 dealing with the Process of Conversion, Beougher addresses Baxter's view of the means of conversion (the Word of God) and channel of conversion: faith and repentance. In chapter 6 (Conversion and the Church), Beougher deals in detail Baxter's views of the two sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper, and the church's role in church discipline.
I learned a lot about the Puritan concept of conversion from reading this important and comprehensive work. I'm glad that this book was assigned as required reading. For readers who wish to study more about Puritan concepts of conversion and the presentation of the gospel, this book is a good place to start. Dr. Beougher provides a lucid, comprehensive, and practical treatment of conversion. You'll be enriched by the life of Richard Baxter and be challenged in a positive way by his treatment of theology and his concepts of conversion. Richard Baxter is a godly theologian-minister who practiced what he preaches. We are so enriched by his godly life, his passion for evangelism, his love for the Christian church and his insights on conversion. Highly recommended!
Of particular interest to me was how similar Baxter's view of Justification is to N.T. Wright's. The 'double justification' particularly. If Baxter had been able to read E.P. Sanders on Israel's view of their being righteous simply by following the ceremonial aspects of Torah, I wonder if that would have moved him even closer to Wright's theology.