Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Shepherds After My Own Heart edited by Robert Strivens & S. Blair Waddell

Edited by Robert Strivens and S. Blair Waddell, EP Books, 2016, 278pp

Multi-author volumes are among the most difficult books to review, especially those that include a wide variety of subjects rather than concentrating on one theme. You can't really sum up the argument of the book and offer an assessment of its strengths and weaknesses. Giving a precis of each chapter in turn doesn't work either; both from the point of view of the reviewer and the reader. I don't think so, anyway. My difficulty in offering a review of this collection is exacerbated by the fact that I've contributed a chapter about which it would be hard for me to be entirely objective.

Notwithstanding, and whatever the merits of my own piece, I think you'll discover that anyone who picks up this book will find much to inform, stimulate and challenge them. It will be especially useful for theological students and pastors, but this is not simply a work of pastoralia. It's breadth of interest, including theology, ministry, Baptist thought, and history reflects that of the man to whom this collection of essays are dedicated, Dr. Robert W. Oliver. 

I mentioned my personal connection with Robert in an earlier post, and said that I was looking forward to reading the other contributions to this Fetschrift. Well, now I'm finished and I have to say that the book is a fitting tribute to Robert, packed with material that speaks to both mind and heart. It seems invidious to pick out only some chapters for comment, but several are truly outstanding. I was moved to read Paul Oliver's touching tribute to his father. Joel Beeke's chapters on the perseverance are a fine distillation of the biblical and Reformed teaching, applied in a pastorally helpful way. Aspiring ministers would do well to read Geoff Thomas's A Minister Looks Around and Back for a good slice of pastoral reality and inspirational encouragement. It was certainly a tonic for me, and I'm no rookie these days. 

Michael Haykin discusses Andrew Fuller's teaching on the Holy Spirit in conversion. Tom Nettles gives attention to the impact of Jonathan Edwards on Baptist thought. Former LTS student' Dinu Moga's essay on The Baptist Movement in Romania filled a gaping hole in my knowledge of church history. Robert Strivens and Blair Waddell helpfully bring out oft neglected aspects of the Evangelical Revival. The former with regard to Dissent and the revival and the latter on some of George Whitefield's alleged character flaws. Philip Eveson seeks to rescue the Confession of Faith of the Calvinistic Methodists from undeserved obscurity and defends the document's Calvinistic credentials. 

I wish I'd been able to take account of Preaching with Spiritual Power by Ralph Cunnington when writing my chapter on The Pastor as Spirit Empowered Preacher of the Word. I don't think I would have changed my overall emphasis in the light of Cunnington's work, but it would have been good to have interacted a little. My review hints at lines of convergence and divergence. It's for others to give their opinion on my efforts.

Anyway, I hope Robert Oliver enjoys reading this collection of essays as much as I did. 

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