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. **