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The Trophy of Baptists: Words to Celebrate Religious Liberty.

The Trophy of Baptists: Words to Celebrate Religious Liberty. Edited by J. Brent Walker. Macon, GA: Smyth and Helwys, 2003. 120 pp.

Edited by the executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC), this anthology addresses the broad topic of religious liberty and the associated issues of soul freedom and separation of church and state. The editor selected the contents from previous publications of the BJC, especially those that have been published annually to assist churches in the celebration of Religious Liberty Day.

The anthology presents a variety of approaches to the theme of religious liberty, including academic essays, theme interpretations, and sermons. The collected works represent contemporary Baptist thought on the theme. The works are organized chronologically according to the original publication date, from 1981 to 2003. Each work was written just prior to publication, with one exception. Selections from George W. Truett's famous sermon, "Baptist and Religious Liberty," which was first preached from the steps of the United States Capitol in 1920, are included. The anthology presents a variety of voices from Baptist life. Authors represent nine different Baptist bodies, including the Alliance of Baptists, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Baptist General Conference, the American Baptist Churches, and the Progressive National Baptist Convention.

The anthology is intended to accomplish the same goals as the original publications from which the editor drew the works--to serve as "templates for sermons, resources for church school, study courses, and other training sessions on religious liberty and church-state separation, particularly in the context of the local church" (p. 6). Rather than lead local church members into a thorough understanding of religious liberty and its sometimes thorny implications, the contents of the selected works will probably inspire local Baptists to claim this "trophy." After all, the works are, as the subtitle suggests, "words to celebrate" religious liberty. Coming from the pens of some of the most eloquent defenders of religious liberty, the essays and sermons are inspiring. If this anthology leads church members to affirm and celebrate religious liberty as a distinctive contribution of the Baptist tradition to the world, then it will have accomplished a great goal. Yet, a better approach would be to combine this anthology with an examination of the seminal statements on religious liberty, especially those originating in Europe, and with a more thorough analysis of the implications of religious liberty. Perhaps then church members will be further inspired to defend and promote religious liberty, ensuring that the trophy of Baptists will maintain its power and relevance throughout the twenty-first century.--Reviewed by Larry J. Frazier, associate professor, department of religion and philosophy, Chowan College, Murfreesboro, North Carolina.
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Author:Frazier, Larry J.
Publication:Baptist History and Heritage
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 2005
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