Waldron – A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith — A Review

Waldron, Samuel E. A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, 5th ed. Leyland, England: Evangelical Press, 2016.

What do you believe? What does your church believe? Do you know? Can you spell it out? Are your beliefs consistent with those of faithful believers of the past? Are your beliefs novel?

For centuries, faithful Christians have sought to outline their understanding of biblical teaching through the use of confessions of faith. For particular Baptists, the Second London Baptist Confession of faith (the 1689), is of tremendous importance. However, as with any older document, modern readers may need a hand to understand the teaching and intent of men who wrote during a different time, under different circumstances, using different vocabulary. Perhaps the single most important work to help particular Baptists of today understand the 1689 is Samuel Waldron’s A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, now in its fifth edition.

In this significant work, Waldron writes for us a chapter on each chapter of the 1689. In each chapter, Waldron shares the text of the 1689, outlines the chapter, and then explains to us significant features. Sometimes these features include notes on how the 1689 compares to the Westminster Confession (1647) or the Savoy Declaration (1658). Sometimes the exposition is a thought-for-thought walk through the chapter. And sometimes, if the chapter is lengthy or the topics particularly heavy, Waldron will skip certain points to highlight what he believes most important.

Because the 1689 is such an outstanding document, this work by Waldron can hardly help but be worthwhile. Waldron’s work highlights significant theological issues that church leaders and members need to address. This book is also quite encouraging, as it expounds for us an encouraging confession from the word of a glorious God. The vast majority of what is said here will be embraced by all faithful believers, Baptist, Presbyterian, or otherwise. Yet Waldron, like the 1689, is not afraid to highlight particular Baptist distinctives when they arise.

In settings where believers may quibble with the wording of the 1689, those same believers may quibble with Waldron’s conclusions. This should not be surprising in a work of over five hundred pages. What one believes about the Sabbath, the Pope, or eschatology may not always mesh with Waldron’s conclusions—though they certainly might. But differences in conclusion in a few areas should by no means prevent a pastor or eager student from benefitting from the work Waldron has done.

Waldron’s work alongside the works of Rob Ventura and James Renihan is a significant pillar for Baptist studies. Unlike Ventura’s work, Waldron’s feels more consistent coming from a singular voice. However, the work edited by Ventura may be more thorough in its unpacking of individual chapters. The Renihan work will be more strongly historical, though I will have to reserve my conclusions on this thought until I have finished reading that one.

I would wholeheartedly recommend A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith to any Christian, especially those looking into reformed and Baptistic doctrine. Pastors, if you are not sure about the 1689, this book would be a great place to start and learn. For church members in churches that embrace the 1689, this book would be a solid tool in helping the less familiar dig deeply into what the church claims to believe.

** I received a copy of this work from the publisher in exchange for my willingness to post an honest review. **

A New Exposition of the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 edited by Rob Ventura — A Review

Ventura, Rob, ed. A New Exposition of the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689. Ross-Shire, United Kingdom: Mentor, 2022.

Knowing and explaining what we believe is vital for any Christian. Throughout history, solid believers have worked hard to set down for us clear, thorough, and yet accessible summaries of our faith. These godly men have not sought to override the authority of Scripture or to elevate their views to the level of divine inspiration, but to serve the church by summarizing and clarifying biblical doctrine. Historically, the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 has become a significant example of such writing, especially for Baptists.

Unfortunately, as time passes, English-speaking Christians may find themselves less and less familiar with documents like the 1689. Today we use words differently and face different challenges to faithful doctrine. Culturally, our distance from the reformation makes some of the writing in the 1689 such as that which focuses on a response to Roman Catholicism more difficult for some to understand. If we do not want to lose sight of the inestimable value of the Second London Baptist Confession, we need faithful teachers to help us to see the depth and beauty of the document.

Christians, therefore, should be grateful for works like the newly released A New Exposition of the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 edited by Rob Ventura. Ventura and a host of other authors have given the church a gift by writing essays for us on each chapter of the 1689. These chapters help us to understand the doctrine, the language, and the historical context behind the words of the confession . the authors show us not only what is being said in the 1689, but also why it matters and how it may apply in our current context.

Reading through this work, I found myself deeply encouraged at a number of points. As authors helped to clarify and even simplify difficult theological concepts, my heart was blessed. When difficult doctrinal issues were on the table—think things like divine impassibility, the trinity, or the hypostatic union—the authors neither shied away nor made the topic more complicated.

Working through 32 essays on the 32 chapters of the 1689, I did not find myself always agreeing with the authors in every respect. But I would by no means suggest that such should prevent anyone from giving this book a place on their shelves. Sometimes I found myself wishing the chapters were longer, but this is not a truly fair criticism. Many of the topics covered in single chapters are topics about which multi-volume works have been written. While I would expect any reader to have a single issue or two where he or she would disagree with the authors in this work, I would also expect that faithful Baptists will find themselves both in agreement and sweetly encouraged by what they read in every chapter.

I would recommend this book to a variety of folks. Church elders could use this book to strengthen their doctrinal understanding and agreement. Leaders might want to use the chapters of this book as material for theological Sunday School classes or home groups. Church leaders and members considering adopting a more solid confession of faith would find this book a tremendous help. I would strongly recommend this book to any Baptist who is unfamiliar with the Second London Baptist Confession, as this document is vital to understanding what we believe, who we are, and where we came from. I would also recommend this book to non-Baptists as a way to see just how similar the 1689 is to other significant confessions such as the Westminster Confession (1646) and the Savoy Declaration (1658) while also gaining an understanding of where and why we differ.

** Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. **