Essential Evangelicalism: The Enduring Influence of Carl F.H. Henry, Matthew J. Hall and Owen Strachan, editors (Crossway 2015, $22.99)

Review by Jeremiah Greever

Even though much well-deserved respect and admiration has been given to Billy Graham, another 20th-century leader deserving similar accolades who forever made his imprint on evangelicalism is Carl F.H. Henry. Though he didn’t have Graham’s vast following or big tent revivals, Henry’s life work has arguably done more for modern evangelicalism than that of anyone else.

In the reflective commemoration Essential Evangelicalism, co-edited by Southern Seminary administrator Matthew Hall and Midwestern Seminary professor Owen Strachan, a team of theologians and historians offers a robust picture of Henry as theologian, evangelist, philosopher, visionary, and friend. Each chapter varies from personal reflections of specific conversations and intimate moments (like SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr., Richard J. Mouw, and Paul House) to historical accounts of Henry’s ambitions and beliefs (like Strachan and Gregory Thornbury).

Much of the book focuses on Henry’s drive and ambition for the establishment of a highly academic Christian research university. This vision was shared with many other theologians of his day, including Graham. Henry rightly understood that evangelism could not be devoid of orthodox theology, and therefore sought to establish an institution that could correctly educate the new generation of Christian scholars. Though this vision was never fully actualized, Henry continued to combat Christian liberalism both through his teaching and his writing.

Even until the end of his life, Henry championed evangelicalism by working tirelessly in every capacity to persuade others toward a right understanding of the gospel. His founding of Christianity Today and publication of God, Revelation, and Authority are among his greatest achievements. This book accurately expounds upon and memorializes Henry by celebrating his life, theology, vision, and continued influence on modern evangelicalism.

Apostolic Church Planting, J.D. Payne (IVP Book 2015, $15)

Review by Dithson Noel

In Apostolic Church Planting, J.D. Payne responds to trends in contemporary church planting with a more biblical concept.

“Biblical church planting is evangelism that results in new churches, not the shifting of sheep around the kingdom,” writes Payne, pastor of church multiplication with The Church at Brook Hills and former Southern professor.

Payne defines church planters as the leaders with the vision, saying they must be missiologists and theologians. But church planters must not go out as lone rangers, Payne writes, using Paul and Barnabas to demonstrate the need for church planting teams. Apostolic church planting, as Payne calls it, consists of evangelizing the lost and raising up leaders as shepherd and offers a reminder that it is the Holy Spirit who grows the church. The methods laid out in this book will allow church planters to think through this important task.

Ancient Christian Worship, Andrew B. McGowan (Baker Academic 2016, $29.99)

Review by Andrew J.W. Smith

“Worship has … been contentious just as long as it has existed,” writes Andrew B. McGowan in his book Ancient Christian Worship. Analyzing evidence from the earliest days of Christianity through around 400 A.D., McGowan explores the liturgical and sacramental life of the earliest believers, from the authoritative public reading and preaching of the Word to the central experience of banquet and Eucharist.

Although the early church did not think of “worship” as an equivalent term for “music,” it nevertheless also developed early forms of song and dance which represented an embodied form of their faith. Just like us, they (particularly Athanasius) debated whether church music might be growing too aesthetic than participatory and communal.

Learning how the earliest Christians “went to church” will give the 21st-century reader a fresh appreciation for the rich tradition of communal faith.

The Baptist StoryAnthony L. Chute (B&H Academic 2015, $49.99)

Review by Sean Corser

Tracing Baptist history is a daunting endeavor, but one that SBTS professor Michael A.G. Haykin, Union University’s Nathan A. Finn, and California Baptist’s Anthony L. Chute are suited to embark. From its humble English beginnings in the early 17th century to its developing global reach in the 19th century, The Baptist Story provides highly valuable information yet remains accessible to most readers.

In telling The Baptist Story, the authors acknowledge the history racism and slavery that marred Baptists in North America and the rise of liberalism when distinctives were seemingly forgotten. These things, they say, tell the story of Baptists, warts and all. And it is this story they tell, one marked over centuries by “three interrelated themes: promoting liberty of conscience, following Christ’s will in our individual lives and churches, and proclaiming the gospel everywhere.”