I first came to love church history while in college, and a major reason why had to do with my Baptist History textbook, Leon McBeth’s The Baptist Heritage. This thick, old-looking, well-researched book triggered within my not only a love for church history, however, but of Baptist history in particular. So when I heard about the recently published book, The Baptist Story, written by Anthony Chute, Nathan Finn, and Michael A.G. Haykin, I was intrigued to say the least. I still have a sentimental attachment to McBeth’s wonderful textbook, but several years have passed since then, and as historians know, there is always more to learn about ever topic. Overall, I believe that well-studied Baptist historians and people completely new to Baptist history alike will find The Baptist Story to be well worth the read.
One thing is quickly noticeable about The Baptist Story: it is much thinner than The Baptist Heritage. At just under 350 pages of text it will still take some time to get through, but it is not as intimidating as McBeth’s text. The style of the writing in The Baptist Story is very readable, but also thoughtfully examined. Throughout the pages, the book is filled with pictures, helping readers put faces to names. One somewhat disappointing aspect about the book is the lack of precision in citations. There are not any footnotes/endnotes, and while the endings of each chapter has a “For Further Study” suggested bibliography, I prefer having clearer documentation. One thing I do really like, however, is the fact that the authors (or perhaps editor) chose to insert primary source quotations/documents within text-boxes on many pages. This really helps the authors buttress their interpretations.
The Baptist Story is especially informative on matters that are more recent–things that occurred within the last five decades or so. While I think McBeth may have been a little stronger on the earlier stages of Baptist history–from English origins to Baptists in America–the authors clearly took a lot of time and attention to Baptist history since World War II. For college and seminaries professors looking to update their textbooks or bibliographies, I would highly recommend The Baptist Story. And for those who are looking for a solid Baptist history text for personal enrichment, this is a must-have book.
***Special thanks to B&H Academic for providing a copy in exchange for a review. All opinions were my own.***