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More Than Just a Name: Preserving Our Baptist Identity [Paperback]

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Pages   198
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.25" Width: 5.29" Height: 0.45"
Weight:   0.54 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Aug 1, 2001
Publisher   B&H Publishing Group
ISBN  0805420207  
EAN  9780805420203  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
This book critically analyzes writings on Baptist distinctives. It argues that these writings constitute a specific theological genre: a confessional theology. The author shows that there is a continuous body of theological components common to all Baptist.

Publishers Description
This book critically analyzes writings on Baptist distinctives. It argues that these writings constitute a specific theological genre: a confessional theology. Stan Norman shows that there is a continuous body of theological components common to all Baptists.

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More About R. Stanton Norman

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Stan Norman occupies the MacFarland Chair of Theology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He resides in New Orleans.

R. Stanton Norman currently resides in New Orleans, in the state of Louisiana. R. Stanton Norman was born in 1963.

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Great Book  Mar 30, 2007
Do you want to know some of the reasons why we as Baptist believe what we believe? This is the book to read. Great insight and knowledge about Baptist identity and Reformation/Enlightenment Tradition and influence.
Answering the question, "What makes a Baptist a Baptist?"  Jun 14, 2005

Norman asked the question, "What makes a Baptist a Baptist?" (2). That is the question perplexing many Southern Baptists today as the convention marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the beginning of the conservative resurgence. Norman pursued the task of answering the question by surveying prominent writings from the past two hundred years that speak to the distinctiveness of Baptist beliefs. He wrote from the perspective of an historical theologian presenting the results of his findings without direct criticism or reflective analysis. He allowed the Baptist writers of the past to stand on their own merit. He saved his own opinions for the last chapter.

Norman insisted that Baptist core distinctives have taken two roads through history reflecting two confessional traditions: the Reformation and the Enlightenment. Each theological camp has its own body of literature from which Norman was able to draw in making his comparisons between the two traditions. He concluded that all writings within the Baptist distinctive genre exhibited the same theological components: the epistemological, the polemical, the ecclesiological, and the volitional. These theological traits served as the organizing principle throughout the book.

The Reformation and Enlightenment confessional traditions differ in some areas, but together they help form the framework for the core theological identity of Baptists. Baptists may differ on other peripheral issues, but they maintain fraternal allegiance and unfaltering integrity on the core distinctives. To depart from any one of the core distinctives is to cease being "baptistic". While other denominations may share some of the core distinctives, no other Christian faith tradition shares all of the distinctions. If one did, Norman asserted that they would be Baptist.


Norman assigned Baptist writings to the Reformation or Enlightenment traditions based upon the writer's epistemological framework. The Reformation tradition saw truth residing nearly exclusively in the Scriptures, while the Enlightenment tradition understood truth as that which comes through individual experience. For the Reformation tradition, the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments provide the nexus for all religious truth. The authority of the Bible informs such Baptist distinctives as the nature of the church, its ordinances, its governance, and the religious competency of its individual members. The Enlightenment tradition draws personal spiritual experience along side of scripture. Personal experience provides subjective affirmation of objective truth. Objective truth is not appreciated as such until experienced by the human soul through an encounter with God. For the Reformation tradition, the authority and sufficiency of the Bible is the supreme Baptist distinctive. In the Enlightenment tradition, all Baptist core distinctives, including the supremacy of Scripture, are subordinate to personal experience. The unstated inference regarding personal experience is that it becomes not the subjective, but the objective standard for determining religious truth, even subjugating biblical truth. In the Enlightenment tradition, biblical authority is only recognized through personal experience with the text. The Bible is therefore true and authoritative because one has experienced it as true and authoritative.

Norman oscillated his review of Baptist distinctives between the positions of the Reformation and Enlightenment traditions. He examined how each tradition treated such sacred doctrines as the lordship of Christ, the nature of the church, church polity, the ordinances, soul competency, and religious freedom. Writings from each tradition were reviewed uncritically as he compared and contrasted the viewpoint of each tradition. However, this reviewer found himself mentally (and sometimes verbally) interacting with research data itself. He even questioned how some positions held by some of his Baptist forbearers could be considered orthodox. Nevertheless, a little intellectual stimulation can broaden one's thinking.

In the last chapter, Norman revealed that he falls on the side of the Reformation tradition. Norman rightly affirmed the authority of scripture as the central and defining element of Baptist theology. He noted several flaws in the thinking of Enlightenment theologians. Norman understood Baptist distinctives to be absolute and exclusively unique among Baptists. Other Christian denominations may share some particular distinctives, but none share all of them. Those that do share all the core distinctives are in fact Baptist in practice if not in name. Norman issued a call for Baptist to accept the challenge of protecting and communicating their distinctives, especially for the benefit of future Baptists as a safeguard against the rising tide of evangelical ecumenical syncretism.

This reviewer offers the following reflections. First, Norman described his work as an effort to determine what Baptists have always believed from the beginning of their existence. However, the notes and selected bibliography listed only writings from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. One must ask if there were any primary sources available before the War of 1812 that reflected Baptist distinctives. Second, of the one hundred primary book sources cited, all but fourteen were published in the United States. The fourteen non-American works were published in England. Thus, while Norman sought to present general Baptist distinctives, his sources reflected a potential Anglo-American bias. Norman asserted that Baptist distinctives are universal, pan-ethnic, cross-cultural, and multi-national, but one cannot determine that solely from the sources used. Fourth, in addition to the Anglo-American nature of the sources, there is a scarcity of cited sources from diverse Baptist groups such as Free Will Baptist, Primitive Baptist, National Baptists, Regular Baptists, Missionary Baptists, Independent Baptists, Full Gospel Baptist, and a multitude of others. One wonders whether the writing theologians of these groups have contributed anything substantive to the discussion. Fifth, Norman admits that the Enlightenment tradition is late vis-à-vis the writings of the Reformation tradition. While the Enlightenment tradition supports the same core distinctives as the Reformation (although they arrive at those distinctives differently), it is doubtful the Enlightenment tradition could reflect "historic" Baptist theology. With respect to the five hundred years of Baptist tradition, the Enlightenment writings are more contemporary than historic.

This reviewer was left with the impression that Norman used his research to construct a subtle "straw man" argument against the neo-orthodoxy that once crept into the Southern Baptist Convention. One can almost hear the voice of Karl Barth and Rudolph Bultmann in the writings Norman profiled from the Enlightenment tradition. The Southern Baptist's conservative resurgence of the past twenty-five years had done battle against the forces of neo-orthodoxy (and rightly so.) More Than Just a Name seemed to add continued justification for the fight and a warning for continued theological vigilance.

In the final analysis, Norman did an excellent job of fleshing out those beliefs that make Baptists unique among other Christian denominations. Baptists must embrace and guard those distinctive thus preserving their theological heritage.
Fascinating and erudite  Mar 9, 2005
In this fascinating book, Baptist theologian, Dr. R. Stanton Norman answers the simple question, "What is a Baptist?" This is no academic exercise; the various Baptist churches have been rocked by recent events, as groups within them have tried to make changes to the churches, of which the recent Southern Baptist conflict is just the most well known.

Unlike many churches, the Baptists do not have a formal creed that defines and orders their beliefs. So, Dr. Norman turned to the various Baptist theological writings that have, over the centuries, been used to define what a Baptist is. Within this "genre," the author discovered that there are Baptist distinctives in epistemological (source of doctrine), ecclesiological (practice of doctrine) and volitional (freedom of the soul) components. And even within that, there are two distinct traditions: the older "Reformation" tradition which places biblical authority as the core distinctive, and the newer "Enlightenment" tradition which places Christian experience on a par with, or above, biblical authority.

This book is different than many that I have read, in that it does not begin with a thesis, and then explain the author's views. Instead, the author lets the information spread out, or open like a flower, moving the reader from the source material through to its implications. Along the way, the reader is given an excellent understanding of what Baptists are and believe, and how that is defined by the two traditions.

I must say, that this is a very deep book that is not for the casual reader. But, that said, you do not need to be a theologian to understand what the author is saying. Instead, what this book is is an erudite examination of what Baptists believe, and what makes them different from every other denomination. I found this to be a fascinating and highly informative book, and I am very glad that I read it. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the Baptist church, and what makes it tick.

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