Book Notice: “Help to Zion’s Travellers” edited by Nathan Finn

Nathan A. Finn is an incorrigibly bright and likeable professor and one of the best Baptist writers in recent history. In addition to the reams of essays, articles, and blogs he’s written over the past year, he has also been working on several books. One of those books has now been published. You’ll want to buy it and read it.

Dr. Finn, whose title here at SEBTS is Associate Professor of Historical Theology and Baptist Studies, recently edited the work of an under-appreciated but important figure and work in Baptist history. Robert Hall Sr. (1728–1791) wrote Help to Zion’s Travellers as an aid to English Baptists on the question of hyper-Calvinism. In the end, this work informed and shaped several other influential Baptist pastors and theologians.

We asked Dr. Finn to give us a brief description of the book and the goal of this new edition. Here is what he told us:

Robert Hall Sr. was a longtime pastor in the Northamptonshire Baptist Association in England. A onetime hyper-Calvinist, in 1781 Hall published Help to Zion’s Travellers as an evangelical critique of hyper-Calvinism. Help to Zion’s Travellers directly influenced some of the most noteworthy Baptist leaders in history. Andrew Fuller, who was a close friend of Hall’s, cited the book and made a similar argument in his famous The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation (1785). William Carey, another friend, said that Help to Zion’s Travellers influenced his own theology more than any other book he read. This new edition (BorderStone Press), which includes a historical introduction by the editor, reintroduces modern readers to a key text in the history of Baptist theology and an important contribution to the rise of the modern missions movement in the English-speaking world.

Click here to pick up a copy and be encouraged on the Way.

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  1. Roger Simpson   •  

    Dr. Ashford:

    Thanks for the notice of this new book regarding Calvinism. Or, more accurately, I guess it is a re-issue on an “old book” about Calvinism. I am ordering it from Amazon.

    With all the sparks flying now over issues which are supposedly related to Calvinism — but which I believe in actually are the out-workings of immature behavior of a few so called “New Calvinists” — Baptists today need some type of anchor which calms the sea.

    I’m looking forward to reading this book. Especially, since it evidently addresses the difference between flavors of Calvinism, so that Calvinism consistent with winsomeness and evangelistic fervor can shine through.

    I have to admit that to the extent that I know much about theology I’m more or less of a Calvinist myself {number of points >= 3} since due to a ‘crazy aberration’ my wife and I attended a congregation associated with the Reformed Church of America for about six months in 2004. I have a “minor” problem with some reformed practices, such as infant baptism and sprinkling, but other than that, reformed theology looks pretty solid to me. Who can argue with Semper Reformanda, Sola Scriptura and Sola Deo Gloria? Maybe I was not getting a standard dose of Calvinism however, since the pastor of that RCA church graduated from Western Baptist Theological Seminary [a school where I took a ‘few’ courses] so maybe he is some type of anomaly and not representative of the pastors at most Reformed Church of America congregations.

    I’d like to someone in the know step up the plate and pour cold water on the Calvinism “debate” burning now in the SBC. I’d like to see some clarity on whatever this “New Calvinism” is and how it is differentiated from “Regular Calvinism”. I can’t quantify this, but my sense is that there is as much relationship between “New Calvinism” and “Reformed Theology” as there is between “Al Qaeda” and “Islam” or “Bra Burning Woman’s Libbers” and all women.

    For the sake of progress, people who have “chapter and verse” citations of the shenanigans of “New Calvinists” should open their portfolios. In this way 99.99% of Calvinists in the SBC would be out of the microscope so everyone could work together to expose and isolate the bad actors — who happen to be piggybacking on Calvinism as an enabling mechanism for their aberrant behavior.

  2. Roger Simpson   •  

    Dr. Ashford:

    This is my problem recent attempts to “blame” Calvinism for whatever problem is happening due to the antics of “New Calvinists”

    When you strip down the recent arguments against “Calvinism” in the SBC, this is the logical thread:
    1. “New Calvinists” are causing havoc in churches in the SBC
    2. New Calvinists are a subset of all Calvinists
    3. Therefore: Calvinists have to be put in their proper place in the SBC

    Assumed, but not stated, is the proposition that a comparison of the universe of all Calvinists in the SBC with the universe of New Calvinists in the SBC is the “same” relative to the penchant to “create havoc” in churches.

    Or alternatively there is an implicit assumption that there is a cause and effect mechanism between the existence of “Calvinism in the SBC” and “the antics of New Calvinists”. This is a linkage that has not yet been demonstrated.

    I’ll leave it to the reader to determine the degree to which the argument is coherent. Note that the validity or non-validity of the argument is not contingent upon whether or not any type of Calvinism — or non-Calvinism– is “traditional” in the SBC.

    I apologize for flooding your blog with this stuff about Calvinism, but BTT is one of the few places where civility and some measure of decorum and rationality prevail in the SBC blogosphere.

  3. Bruce Ashford   •     Author


    Thank you for weighing in. You’re spot on in pointing out that some folks are trying to put all Reformational Baptists in a bad light. My experience is that there is a small gaggle of Calvinists, and an equally small flock of non-Calvinists, who enjoy remaining engaged in a chronic, and often uncivil, little kerfuffle with one another. The rest of the Baptist crowd (Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike) can agree to disagree on a few matters and can cooperate heartily for the sake of the gospel.


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