Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JBTM 7:1 (Spring 2010) p. 86
Nettles, Thomas J. James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2009. 616 pp. $29.99.
Many Baptists possess no knowledge of James P. Boyce. Some might be able to identify him as the namesake of a college in Kentucky. Still arguably others could identify him as one of the past presidents of the seminary he helped found. Few, however, enjoy the familiarity with Boyce that Tom Nettles displays in this his latest book James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, the first major biography written about Boyce in over 100 years.
Nettles’s knowledge of and influence upon the Southern Baptist Convention are undeniable. In the 1970s, his seminal work, co-written by the late Russ Bush, Baptists and the Bible, provided the historical argument for inerrancy that the blossoming Conservative Resurgence needed. In the thirty years since, Nettles has taught generations of Baptist pastors and theologians, first at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, then MidAmerica Baptist Theological Seminary, Trinity Evangelical Theological Seminary, and finally Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he currently serves as professor of historic theology.
The treatment of Boyce’s life begins as he lived it, with Scripture. Citing 1 Corinthians 4:2 and Paul’s admonition to live a life of faithful stewardship, Nettles turns the reader’s attention to the great gifts of money, station, and ability with which Boyce was endowed. Thus, the entire biographical enterprise is cast in the light of the Bible and Boyce’s attempt to live in faithful obedience to it.
For those not versed in Baptist history, Nettles begins not in the century of Boyce’s birth but in seventeenth-century Charleston, South Carolina, placing him in the larger context of Baptist life and the birth of the movement in the South. From there the audience is treated to a flowing narrative of Boyce’s life and thought. Considerable attention is given to those matters for which Boyce perhaps is most well known, his role in the founding vision for a Southern Baptist seminary—a school that saw its fulfillment under his guiding hand in 1859—and his lifelong dedication to that institution.
Nettles dedicates nearly one-third of the volume to Boyce’s theology, both his personal beliefs and his exposition of those beliefs in his text, Abstract of Systematic Theology. In these, the author argues, Boyce held and taught a system of theology grounded in the Reformed tradition and informed by contemporary evangelical thinkers, factors that give testimony to the premise that his were the beliefs of “true Baptist theology” (396). The...
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