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FROM THE SEMINARIES: SEBTS professor publishes new edition of ecclesiology book

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) — “For the first 50 years [or more] of my life, I was a member of a growing denomination; now I’m not.”

This realization, among others, served as a primary influence for the latest edition to John Hammett’s book, “Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology.”

Hammett, who serves as the John Leadley Dagg chair and senior professor of systematic theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said vast changes within Baptist life and American culture necessitated a newer edition of the book.

Hammett explained that he completely rewrote Chapter 12, “Against the Grain: New Responses to a Changed Landscape,” which explains where Baptists stand in the current American culture. The decline of the Southern Baptist Convention, coupled with the rise of the non-religious in America, are among the issues discussed in this chapter.

Along with these changes, Hammett also wrote more extensively on biblical church membership along with the Lord’s Supper and baptism. Hammett noticed a shift in the current generation who does not have a solid grasp on the importance of some of these Baptist distinctives, so he wanted to bring further clarity in his second edition.

“In my conversations with students I found them less connected to those [distinctives],” Hammett said. “I think they prioritize the preaching of the Gospel, but in terms of second-order things … I don’t find students as tightly tied to those.”

In the 14 years since Hammett published the first edition of his book, he realized that the analogy of the family was a primary metaphor for the church in the New Testament.

One way he began to see this was through Joseph Hellerman’s book, “When the Church Was a Family: Recapturing Jesus’ Vision for Authentic Christian Community.” This realization led him to use the family as a leading analogy in his second edition in Chapter 1 regarding the nature of the church.

“I’ve become convinced the family is the primary metaphor for the church in the New Testament,” Hammett said. “We call God our Father, we call each other brother and sister and that was so common to me I didn’t realize, there’s a metaphor there.”

Along with its emphasis on the changed contextual landscape and Baptist distinctives, Hammett wrote the second edition to interact with the numerous resources on ecclesiology that have been written since 2005. Interest in ecclesiology, he noted, has grown due to discussion of issues such as multi-site churches. Hammett credits the ministry of 9Marks, out of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., for having done much to stimulate increasing thought and discussion of ecclesiology. 9Marks seeks to provide resources to churches nationally and internationally that help develop healthy, growing congregations.

Bruce Ashford, provost and professor of theology and culture at Southeastern, described Hammett’s book as “faithful to Scripture, conversant with church history and cultural context, rigorously systematic in its structure, and lucid in its prose.”

The 2019 edition of “Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches,” published by Kregel Publications, can be purchased from online retailers such as Amazon.com and Christianbook.com.

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  • Lauren Pratt