Baptists in America

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Overview

From Little Dove Old Regular Baptist Church, up a hollow in the Appalachian Mountains, with its 25-member congregation, to the 18,000-strong Saddleback Valley Church in Lake Forest, California, where hymns appear on wide-screen projectors; and from Jerry Falwell, Jesse Helms, and Tim LaHaye to Martin Luther King Jr., Jesse Jackson, Bill Clinton, and Maya Angelou, Baptists are a study in contrasts. At first glance, Baptist theology seems classically Protestant in its emphasis on the Trinity, the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the authority of Scripture, salvation by faith alone, and baptism by immersion. Yet interpretation and implementation of these beliefs have made Baptists one of the most fragmented denominations in the United States. Indeed, they are often characterized as a people who "multiply by dividing."

This book introduces readers to this fascinating and diverse denomination, offering a sociological portrait of a group numbering some thirty million members. Bill J. Leonard explores Baptist history, beliefs, practices and disputes, as well as contributions to American culture and the religious landscape. Leonard also discusses the major controversial issues within the denomination, including race, the interpretation of scripture, the role of women in the church, the separation of church and state, religion and politics, ethics, and sexuality.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Leonard (church history, Wake Forest Univ. Divinity Sch.) offers a comprehensive study of Baptists, who by the 1840s had become one of the largest denominations in America. Certainly, the historical facts presented here are well researched and documented and highly informative, but what truly makes this book exceptional is the attention that Leonard pays to the differences between various Baptist sects (e.g., Southern Baptists vs. American Baptists) and the unbiased manner in which he describes their beliefs and practices. He refers to the "overall messiness of the people called Baptists" and the controversies and disagreements over doctrine, theology, eschatology, Scripture, and social issues that erupt among them. This "messiness," he says, results from the Baptists believing that church affairs should be decided by the local congregation. Leonard carefully chronicles the clashes that stem from such a local polity in an instructive and compelling way. Anyone interested in American religious history or simply American history will find this an enlightening and substantively informative book. Highly recommended.-Wesley A. Mills, Empire State Coll., SUNY at Rochester Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Journal of Religion - Thomas S. Kidd

Leonard's book demonstrates an equanimity badly lacking in many of the Baptist debates.

Journal of Southern History - John Crowley

This book covers everything important about the Baptists of America... With respect, balance, and an obvious, genuine love.

Review and Expositor - Omer Hancock

This book provides an avenue for consideration of challenges that face Baptists in the dawn of this century.

H-Amstdy - Paul Harvey

[An] excellent and informative volume.

Baptist History and Heritage - Michael E. Williams

An excellent overview of Baptist life in America.

Church History - James P. Byrd

Baptists in America is engagingly written and remarkably comprehensive.

Journal of Religion
Leonard's book demonstrates an equanimity badly lacking in many of the Baptist debates.

— Thomas S. Kidd

Journal of Southern History
This book covers everything important about the Baptists of America... With respect, balance, and an obvious, genuine love.

— John Crowley, Valdosta State University

Review and Expositor
This book provides an avenue for consideration of challenges that face Baptists in the dawn of this century.

— Omer Hancock

H-Amstdy
[An] excellent and informative volume.

— Paul Harvey

Church History
Baptists in America is engagingly written and remarkably comprehensive.

— James P. Byrd

ForeWord Magazine - Henry L. Carrigan

Leonard's superb historical and cultural study of this diverse denomination offers an understanding of this sometimes perplexing religious group.

ForeWord Magazine
Leonard's superb historical and cultural study of this diverse denomination offers an understanding of this sometimes perplexing religious group.

— Henry L. Carrigan, Jr.

Choice

Leonard has produced an excellent volume on Baptists in America... Recommended,

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Bill J. Leonard is dean and professor of church history at Wake Forest University Divinity School. He is the author or editor of fourteen books, including God's Last and Only Hope: The Fragmentation of the Southern Baptist Convention, Christianity in Appalachia: Profiles in Regional Pluralism, and Baptist Ways: A History. His work is often cited in the media, and he appears frequently on NPR and other radio and television stations. He lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Columbia University Press

Bill J. Leonard is dean and professor of church history at Wake Forest University Divinity School. He is the author or editor of fourteen books, including God's Last and Only Hope: The Fragmentation of the Southern Baptist Convention, Christianity in Appalachia: Profiles in Regional Pluralism, and Baptist Ways: A History. His work is often cited in the media, and he appears frequently on NPR and other radio and television stations. He lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Introduction 1
Ch. 2 Baptist beginnings 7
Ch. 3 Baptists in the twentieth century 33
Ch. 4 Baptist beliefs and practices 65
Ch. 5 Baptist groups : denominations, subdenominations, and churches 91
Ch. 6 Bible, ordinances, and polity : debates and divisions among Baptists 129
Ch. 7 Baptists and religious liberty : citizenship and freedom 157
Ch. 8 Ethnicity and race in Baptist churches 183
Ch. 9 Women in Baptist life 203
Ch. 10 Baptists and American culture : "in the world but not of it" 227
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