Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter and How to Do Good to Many

Podcast: "Richard Baxter, the English Puritan churchman and theologian, was perhaps one of most prolific English language author in the seventeenth century. ... Baxter’s worldly aestheticism was focused on service to others across sectarian divides. His book, How to Do Good to Many: The Public Good is the Christian’s Life, offers practical guidance to lay people grounded in Christian faith." - Acton

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Mere Christianity: An Examination of the Concept in Richard Baxter & C. S. Lewis (Part 6)

From Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal (DBSJ), with permission. Read the entire series.

Essential Beliefs of Mere Christians

Neither Baxter nor Lewis was as explicit as he could have been concerning the content of MC. However, we saw that Baxter was much more thorough than Lewis. What is immediately obvious is that both Lewis and Baxter speak highly of tradition. As they look into the tomes of church history they find a continuity of belief and doctrine from the apostles to their own day. They believe that Christ passed the truth to his people and the truth was never lost to the ages. Thus, they share a common conviction of the holistic unity of the church. Both men also gave Scripture priority over tradition. In sum, Baxter and Lewis essentially have much the same criteria for determining the content of MC.

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Mere Christianity: An Examination of the Concept in Richard Baxter & C. S. Lewis (Part 5)

From Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal (DBSJ), with permission. Read the series so far.

Baxter Vs. Lewis

In seeking to find the relation between MC and Christian apologetics, we have noted two great historical figures. Both men were successful in their respective ages in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, their understandings of MC were not the same. Though they share commonalities, there are some differences as well. In this section of the paper, we will flesh out the commonalities as well as the distinctions to determine if anything can be gleaned for effective Christian apologetics today.

Points of Commonality

Historical Setting

Tumultuous historical circumstances thread together the lives of these two men. Lewis was fighting against the tide of naturalism, materialism, and liberalism that was sweeping through his country after two great World Wars. Baxter was fighting the onslaught of political factions, which were taking clerical garb. Each man’s unique situations brought the same problem: a weakening of religious conviction that threatened the integrity of Christ’s body.1 Both Lewis and Baxter found a way to present the gospel to the world in the midst of these difficult times, and for this God can be thanked.

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Mere Christianity: An Examination of the Concept in Richard Baxter & C. S. Lewis (Part 3)

From Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal (DBSJ), with permission. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

C. S. Lewis and Mere Christianity

N. H. Keeble, speaking about the connection between Baxter and Lewis, wrote, “[There is] a pervasive coincidence of idea and emphasis between the work of the most popular and influential Christian evangelist and apologist of the seventeenth century and that of his counterpart in the twentieth.”1 Indeed, a similarity of thought should be expected, since Lewis borrowed a central phrase from Baxter’s thought. But we will also find that there are some striking differences. This section will develop Lewis’s conception of MC. The reader is encouraged to look for the subtle differences in thought between the two great Christian thinkers. The next section will make the differences as well as the commonalities explicit, allowing us to examine how the Christian apologist should incorporate MC into his defense of the faith.

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Mere Christianity: An Examination of the Concept in Richard Baxter & C. S. Lewis (Part 2)

From Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal (DBSJ), with permission. This section continues to examine Baxer’s concept of mere Christianity. Read Part 1.

Baxter’s Non-Denominational Stance

The source of Baxter’s anti-denominational stance is explained by multiple factors. A major factor was grounded in Baxter’s belief that all worship is faulty. The Presbyterian will criticize the Anglican mode of worship, and the Anglican will respond in like manner. But Baxter believed that neither had the higher ground. He arrived at this conclusion by consideration of human depravity. That is, since every aspect of man’s life is fallen, even the best worship will be marred. Thus Baxter says,

For while all the worshippers are faulty and imperfect, all their worship will be too: and if your actual sin, when you pray or preach effectively yourselves, doth not signify that you approve your faultiness; much less will your presence prove that you allow of the faultiness of others. The business that you come upon is to join with a Christian congregation in the use of those ordinances which God hath appointed, supposing that the ministers and worshippers will all be sinfully defective, in method, order, words, or circumstances: and to bear with that which God doth bear with, and not to refuse that which is God’s for the adherent faults of men, no more than you will refuse every dish of meat which is unhandsomely cooked, as long as there is no poison in it, and you prefer it not before better.1

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Mere Christianity: An Examination of the Concept in Richard Baxter & C. S. Lewis (Part 1)

From Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal (DBSJ), with permission.

By Timothy E. Miller1

Introduction

C. S. Lewis has been hailed as one of the most influential Christians of the twentieth century. A great measure of his success was due to his appeal to large segments of the “Christian” religious community. Duncan Sprague commented on this phenomenon: “I am amazed the extreme positions within Christendom that claim Lewis as [their] champion and defender…liberals and the fundamentalists; the Roman Catholics and the evangelical Protestants…the most conservative Baptists to the most charismatic Pentecostals claiming Lewis as one of their own.”2 This led Walter Hooper, a prominent Lewis scholar, to brand Lewis as an “Everyman’s apologist.”3

A major portion of Lewis’s wide appeal should be attributed to his concept of Mere Christianity. When engaged in apologetics, Lewis believed he ought to avoid controversial issues that divided Christians.4 Instead, only the core of Christian doctrine should be advanced and defended to unbelievers. Consequently, since most of Lewis’s doctrinal comments are contained in apologetic works, it comes as no surprise that many—even strongly opposed movements—could claim him as their own.

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