Book Review: John A. Broadus – A Living Legacy by David Dockery and Roger Duke

Dockery, David S. and Roger D. Duke. John A. Broadus: A Living Legacy Studies in Baptist Life and Thought, ed. Michael A.G. Haykin.  Nashville:  Broadman and Holman Academic, 2008.  260 pp.  $19.99.

Introduction to John A. Broadus – A Living Legacy

This book is first in a series of books that looks back at the history of Baptist life and thought.  The series editor is Michael Haykin who is Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality as well as the Director of The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

This particular book is edited by David S. Dockery and Roger D. Duke.  Dr. Dockery currently serves as the president of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.  Dr. Duke is assistant professor of religion and communication at the Baptist College of Health Services in Memphis, Tennessee and is an adjunct assistant professor at Union University.  More importantly, Dr. Duke is a new contributor to Said at Southern Seminary.

The book has contributions from Timothy George, A. James Fuller, Thomas J. Nettles, Mark M. Overstreet, James Patterson, Richard Melick, Craig C. Christina, and Beecher L. Johnson.  While most biographical books use each chapter to build on one another, A Living Legacy was written such that each chapter can stand alone.  This is a huge benefit given the many different facets of ministry in which John A. Broadus excelled.  Because it can be somewhat intimidating to read how one man was used by God in so many ways, it is nice to be able to view his life and ministry from varying angles.

Summary of A Living Legacy

As stated in the introduction, this book gives a different perspective on the life and ministry of John A. Broadus.  The first chapter is simply a brief introduction to the life of John A. Broadus written by Timothy George.  Dr. George shows just how much Broadus accomplished during his ministry and how it still impacts us today.

Dr. David Dockery wrote the second chapter showing how influential Broadus was on a young A.T. Robertson and how that influence still impacts Christian thought, especially Southern Baptist Life, to this day.  He, too, offers a short biography on Broadus.

A. James Fuller shares with the reader how Broadus came to be one of the greatest preachers of his generation if not in all of Southern Baptist history.  I especially enjoyed the quote that, “The way to preach is to preach.”  With a similar subject matter, Dr. Duke presented a brief history of the influences on Broadus’ magnum opus, A Treatise on the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons. Dr. Duke explains how Broadus studied the history of rhetoric up to his day and used it to sharpen his skills as a preacher.

Dr. Rick Melick gives us the more scholarly side of Broadus by showing how he allowed the Scriptures to interpret themselves as well as speak for themselves.  Here Broadus is presented as a man who held the Bible in extreme high authority and how doing so enabled him to anticipate future trends in Christianity both in the church and the seminary.

Craig C. Christina enables us to look at how instrumental both the preacher and professor that was John A. Broadus was in the establishment of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  Dr. Christiana charts the course of Broadus’ life through the many highs and lows that came with the foundation of the seminary from the Civil War to the relocation to the death of James P. Boyce.  This chapter is of most interest to anyone who has ever studied at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Perhaps one of the best one-two punches in the book are found in chapters seven and eight.  Chapter seven will quickly become one of the more formative chapters in our understanding of Broadus today.  Here, Dr. Mark Overstreet shares his finding of Broadus’s lost lectures from Yale in the library at SBTS.  Until this discovery, there was a huge void in the intellectual contribution of Broadus on homiletics.  These lectures were delivered some 20 years after his treatise was first published and present to us a more complete philosophy of homiletics from one of the greats in Southern Baptist history.  Dr. Nettles follows this chapter with an excellent treatment on how Broadus’s Treatise has impacted and endured for over a century.

Chapter nine should be included in every preaching course in every seminary.  Dr. Beecher Johnson shows us how Broadus used sensationalism in his preaching.  The title of this chapter says it all:  How to Preach Marketable Messages without Selling Out the Savior.  This chapter is worth the price of the book.

Dr. Patterson concludes the book with the aptly titled tenth chapter, Broadus’s Living Legacy.  It is a fitting conclusion which ties together the many facets of Broadus’s ministry.

Critical Analysis of A Living Legacy

Having only become a Christian seven years ago, and a Baptist five years ago, I am excited about this series.  Reading this book was like drinking from a deep well connected to a fresh mountain spring of water.  It was refreshing to see “where we come from” as Baptists as well as the hard work that went into forming what is quite possibly hallowed ground as far as the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is concerned.

I believe the greatest asset of this book, the many scholarly contributions, is also its only weakness.  It was as though I was reading a book that came from a conference on the life of John A. Broadus.  Having all of the different contributors really enables the reader to be able to read a chapter in and of itself without relying on a previous chapter to explain some missing detail in regards to what the current chapter is discussing.  Each individual chapter complements one another extremely well.

I say that this is also a weakness because there were times when it seemed as though I was reading the same stuff over and over in each chapter.  There were also times when it felt as though I was reading a paper that was meant to be presented to scholars.  However, I can live with having to do a bit of research to better understand a subject and the constant repetition only helped to solidify pertinent information in my mind quicker.

I found myself reading the book slower than normal for a couple of reasons.  First, I hardly knew who John A. Broadus was before reading this book.  Now, I have an excellent idea and I look forward to getting to know him more through his own pen.  Second, I merely wanted to see how he laid the groundwork for the tradition that has become teaching excellency at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  Being a current student at the seminary, and getting to know some of the professors, I am impressed by how they continue the tradition of teaching and preaching excellency that was started by the four founding members of the seminary.

I greatly appreciated the somewhat wider margins in the book as well.  This is definitely not a book you can read and not take notes.  Since it is a scholarly book, there are areas where you will want to do more research yourself and having ample room to write in the margins is extremely helpful.

Recommendation

If you are a Southern Baptist, this book belongs on your shelf.  If you attend any one of the six Southern Baptist Seminaries, this book must be on your shelf.  The timeliness of this book cannot be understated with the 150th anniversary of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary approaching in 2009.  This book will greatly enhance that celebration.

There is something for everyone within the pages of A Living Legacy from preaching to living by one’s personal convictions to learning how to live in the world today with the same Bible that we have had for some 1,700 years.  I cannot convey how excited I am for this series.  As 21st century Southern Baptists, we would be remiss to look back on where we have come from and who has shaped our identity as Southern Baptists.  Specifically, this book, and the series in general, will greatly impact the 21st century Southern Baptist for years to come.

Amazon Link: John A. Broadus: A Living Legacy

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