Friday, 26 December 2008

Dennis Bustin - Paradox and Perseverance

Review for the Baptist Quarterly - Forthcoming 2009.

Bustin, Dennis C. Paradox and Perseverance: Hanserd Knollys, Particular Baptist Pioneer in Seventeenth-Century England. Vol. 23, Studies in Baptist History and Thought. Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2006.

Hanserd Knollys was one of the great Baptist characters of the seventeenth century. From his confrontational and popular preaching during the turbulent civil war years, to his wise and enlightened leadership exercised in London through protectorate, restoration and glorious revolution, his influence runs like a thread through the formative years of the Particular Baptist movement. Steadfast under persecution, creative in exegesis, and pastoral in intent, Knollys comes to life once again through the pages of Dennis Bustin’s excellent and scholarly work.

Bustin vividly revisits Knollys’ theological and geographical journey: from Lincolnshire clergyman, to New England refugee, to London Particular Baptist pastor, demonstrating how the various influences upon him led to his adoption of a Puritan position. The consequences of this journey are then explored, as Knollys’ struggles to demonstrate the theological legitimacy of his position. He is seen to take a middle path, affirming congregational government and believer’s baptism, but distancing himself from the radical sects which often overlapped with Baptist life. With the restoration came a renewal of persecution, and Bustin demonstrates how Knollys sought to understand the turbulent events of these decades against the apocalyptic schemes of the Book of Revelation. However, with the accession of William and Mary, Knollys’ eschatological speculation gave way to his concern for church order and doctrine, and Bustin shows how in his later years Knollys was able to gift the Particular Baptists stability of both institution and doctrine.

Bustin’s work is a lively and readable account, which contributes not only to our understanding of this fascinating historical character, but also to our appreciation of the paradoxical times in which he lived. Knollys is shown to be one who came through the seventeenth century with perseverance, one who endured faithfully to the end, overcoming times of tribulation and persecution. Rev. 21.7.

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