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British Baptist Crucicentrism since the Late Eighteenth Century: Part 2

Bebbington DW (2012) British Baptist Crucicentrism since the Late Eighteenth Century: Part 2, Baptist Quarterly, 44 (5), pp. 278-290.

First paragraph: On 24 May 1791 William Carey, soon to become the pioneer of the Baptist Missionary Society, was ordained to the Christian ministry at his meeting house in Harvey Lane, Leicester. His friend Samuel Pearce, minister in Birmingham, preached the evening ordination sermon. Pearce's text was Galatians 6:14, 'God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.' His message was that, as a minister, Carey should concentrate on proclaiming Christ crucified. This gathering of Baptists who were about to launch the worldwide mission of the Anglo-American Evangelical churches strongly believed that the cross was the fulcrum of the Christian faith. Andrew Fuller, who had delivered the charge to the people on the day of Carey's ordination, was of the same mind. In a sermon on a different occasion Fuller insisted that the death of Christ was not so much a portion of the body of Christian doctrine as its life-blood. 'The doctrine of the cross', he declared, 'is the christian doctrine.' A similar refrain was sustained by Baptists during the nineteenth century. 'Of all the doctrines of the gospel', wrote the contributor of an article on the atonement to the Baptist Magazine in 1819, 'there is none more important than this'. A similar point was made in a more florid way in the same journal eighteen years later. 'To take away the atonement from the Christian', announced the author, 'would be much the same as to blot out the sun from the solar system.' Nor was the flow of equivalent remarks staunched in the twentieth century. Henry Wheeler Robinson, an eminent and broad-minded Baptist scholar, wrote in 1916 that 'By common consent, at the historic centre of Christianity, there is the Cross'. Near the end of the century Dermot McDonald, a more conservative Baptist, demonstrated at book length that the Bible 'centres on the Christ of the cross and the cross of Christ as its essential content'. It is not surprising that in a review of understandings of the atonement by Stephen Holmes, a Baptist academic writing in 2007, he announced on the first page that 'Christ crucified - the message of the cross - is central to Christian life and thought and must remain so.' Although, as we shall see, there was not absolute unanimity among British Baptists about the atonement being the kernel of the Christian faith, the degree of concurrence in that conviction was striking.

AuthorsBebbington David William
Publication date01/2012
PublisherBaptist Historical Society
ISSN 0005-576X

Baptist Quarterly: Volume 44, Issue 5

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