Baptists and Revivals

Papers from the Seventh International Conference on Baptist Studies

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William L. Pitts, Jr.
  • Macon, GA: 
    Mercer University Press
    , August
     444 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


Baptists and Revivals: Papers from the Seventh International Conference on Baptist Studies includes 25 papers from the conference held in Manchester, England, in 2015. Senior Baptist historian William L. Pitts Jr., along with David Bebbington, have advanced revival scholarship by collecting and publishing these essays. Though brief, Bebbington’s foreword and Pitts’s introduction provide context for the following chapters. The theme of Baptists and Revivals is an appropriate and understudied one for the history of a group steeped in revivalist traditions, though not always ones unique to the denomination. As Bebbington aptly notes, “Baptists had no monopoly on any of the patterns of revival but played a prominent part in most of them” (foreword). Throughout the volume, authors explore the causes, ideologies, leaders, and manifestations of revivals of varying Baptist groups. There are chapters that examine more traditional revivals, in which religious sentiment swept across a population; while others incorporate broader understandings of revivalism. A few essays analyze how, in specific contexts, religious revivals did not occur or did not bring significant growth to Baptists.

Despite recent growth of Baptists in the non-Western world, this volume displays a strong preference for research from the Anglosphere. The book’s shortest section, “Majority World,” is dominated by selections from Australia and New Zealand, however, also included are authors from Bangladesh and Nigeria examining aspects of the rich history of global Baptists. Perhaps future volumes from the International Conference on Baptist Studies will include more than 2 non-Western authors—and more than 4 female authors. 

Although their relative homogeneity is unfortunate, most of the included authors are academic historians and display a high level of expertise in their writings, with valuable insights into Baptists and revivals. Several essays focus on Particular Baptists, in whom there has been a resurgence of interest in recent years among neo-Calvinists. Most notable is Chris Chung’s persuasive argument in chapter 1 that Jonathan Edwards influenced 18th century British Particular Baptists and their missionary efforts; early Baptist traditions, leaders, and confessions in the United States; and New Calvinists among Baptists in the 21st century. Other chapters challenge current historiography, first of the Second Evangelical Awakening among English Baptists (Terry Carter, chapter 13), and then of the New Zealand Baptist leader Joseph Kemp (John Tucker, chapter 22).

Outstanding contributions explore the relationship between Pentecostals and Baptists, and analyze the Puritan origins of revivalist preaching. In chapter 4, Douglas Weaver explores the connections (and tensions) between Baptists and early Pentecostal revivalism in the United States. Writing in chapter 18, Jan Abrahamse claims that “transformations in the Elizabethan era ... laid the basis for revivalist preaching in the centuries that followed” (290). Each of these chapters make intriguing and well-argued connections between historical movements that are not often linked.

Through the inclusion of practicing Baptists as well as denominational leaders, Baptists and Revivals offers valuable primary source research on an important topic. However, some of the chapters could be enriched by providing historical context, framing the local or national Baptist story within its wider sociocultural and political reality. As is often the case with such a volume, some chapters will be of primary interest to those researching a narrow topic, while others will have a broader appeal. Historians of regional religions, revivalism, and Baptists, along with graduate students in related fields, will find the book a valuable resource. Scholars in these areas and beyond should look forward with anticipation to the release of the edited volume of the 8th International Conference on Baptist Studies, held in 2018 and forthcoming by 2021.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Melody Maxwell is Associate Professor of Church History at Acadia Divinity College.

Date of Review: 
February 25, 2019
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

William L. Pitts, Jr. is Professor of Religion at Baylor University where he teaches the History of Christianity. He has served as executive secretary of the Southwest Commission on Religious Studies and as president of The Baptist History and Heritage Society. He currently edits the journal Baptist History and Heritage.


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