(Smyth and Helwys, 2016)
**Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.**
In Loyal Dissenters: Reading Scripture and Talking Freedom with 17th Century English Baptists, Murfreesboro Baptist Church Pastor Lee Canipe looks at the first Baptists and their interactions with Scripture and civil authorities. In doing this, he seeks to provide a model for contemporary Baptist engagement with church-state relations.
After two introductory chapters explaining the historical context of 17th century English Baptists, Canipe structures the book around three principle convictions: “Civil Authority Has No Power Over Religion,” “Persecution on Account of Religion is Wrong,” and “Loyalty to the King, Obedience to God.” For each of these three principle chapters, Canipe provides an overview of how early English Baptists found them in Scripture and practiced them in their context. Following this, each chapter includes a sermon by a contemporary Baptist preacher on the same topic and an essay from Canipe on how the principle might be applied today.
For all of this, the book is relatively short at 158 pages. Approachability seems to be Canipe’s primary concern, as the language is straightforward and stories and illustrations are abundant. Loyal Dissenters is a book written to encourage discussion of the Baptist identity in our contemporary context. Admittedly, this concern for readability and applicability may be something of a liability for the book. A historical survey of doctrinal development, a compilation of contemporary sermons, and a commentary on religious liberty is a lot to take on in under 200 pages. This makes each of these sections short and intuitive, perhaps more so than readers with a background in this area might desire.
This is not to say that Loyal Dissenters doesn’t fulfill its purpose. A church or Bible study group seeking more information about Baptists and religious liberty will find this to be a handy introduction. The book is succinct, entertaining, and readable. As an introduction to a proud heritage, it works well. Given that issues of religious liberty are gaining increased prominence in contemporary public discourse, an approachable introduction to Baptist approaches to the topic is welcomed. Seminary students and those with a degree of familiarity with the subject won’t find much new here, but those who are new to Baptist history and distinctives will be hard-pressed to find an easier introduction. In this, Canipe does a helpful service to the Baptist denomination and discussions about religious liberty.
Jake Raabe is the editor of Words About God. See more of his writing athttp://www.jeraabe.wordpress.com and follow him on twitter @J_E_Raabe.