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Jonathan A. Malone provides an excellent presentation of how Baptist theology emerged in the church historically and practically. This book is divided into three parts: first, the challenges and methodology associated with creating a Baptist Theology; second, worship and ordinances; and third, other aspects of church life and ministry such as baptism and funerals. A pivotal point in Malone’s “doing theology” is rooted in convictions, which he describes as “centrally held statements out of which a theology emerges.” Read this book to learn more about how Baptist theology is reflective of the responses of God’s people to God’s Word.
“Jonathan Malone’s A Peculiar Church is one of those rare volumes that will serve the church, the academy, and the individual equally. No matter their ‘flavor,’ Baptist churches will find a sacred tool for formation and self-identification. The questions intimated in Malone’s reflections will encourage churches to not only discern where they/we fit within this time of radical change, but how, why, and if they/we fit at all. The beauty is Malone does not offer answers to these questions but helps communities understand how to ask the right questions about identity for today.
Malone’s work should become a ubiquitous fixture in every Baptist polity course taught in historically affiliated Baptist institutions throughout the nation. It will guide rich dialogue, create understanding, encourage discernment, inform ordination papers, and make better Baptist ministers for future Baptist churches—in whatever form they (the ministers or the churches) take.
For individuals, Malone’s book will foster a deeper appreciation for Baptist roots and help nurture a clearer understanding of the foundations undergirding the Baptist tradition. I am a third generation ordained American Baptist minister, serving a historically affiliated Baptist seminary. I found myself not just appreciating but falling in love with my tradition all over again as a result of Malone’s humble and persistent guidance.
“Perhaps most importantly, Malone starts from a place of sameness by identifying those tenets, liberties, and freedoms that help define in broad terms what makes churches ‘Baptist.’ For a Christian tradition that has too often ‘multiplied by division,’ Malone’s book could foster reconciliation among Baptist siblings who have focused for far too long on what divides us instead of what should bind us.”—The Rev. Dr. Ned Allyn Parker, Associat
“By articulating a Baptist practice of theology, Jonathan A. Malone anticipates disagreement and wisely demurs on telling Baptists what to believe. Instead, A Peculiar Church sets a substantial and deliberate course towards engagement with God, scripture, and church amid our peculiarities. This book offers a solid contribution to the conversation on doing theology in a distinctly Baptist way.”—Rev. Jamie Washam, Pastor, First Baptist Church in American, Providence, RI
“Jonathan Malone’s A Peculiar Church: Practicing Baptist Theology is a from-the-bottom-up approach to Baptist theology. In an accessible, conversational style, Jonathan explains Baptist theology as manifested in church communities’ worship, leadership, and relationships between Baptist congregations and other Christians. A Peculiar Church will be helpful to long-time Baptists who may wonder whence our peculiar convictions and practices arose, as well as to newcomers to Baptist life wanting to know how Baptist theology is distinct from that of other branches of Christianity.”—Priscilla E. Eppinger, Executive Director, American Baptist Historical Society
“In A Peculiar Church, pastor and theologian Jonathan Malone wrestles with how Baptists can create space for faith dialogue. Malone’s bottom-up method describes a Baptist way of doing theology that is fresh, contextual, Christ-honoring, community-forming, and prophetic. By offering a set of basic theological “convictions” that underlie doctrine and practice, he creates a starting point for Baptists across a vast spectrum of beliefs and ideology to do theology together. In this way, Malone offers a way forward for all Baptists in our diverse tradition to find greater (not less!) unity through our shared theology and faith.”—Rev David Gregg, Executive Minister, American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago
“Jonathan Malone’s A Peculiar Church: Practicing Baptist Theology is a rare combination of theological breadth and pastoral insight. Baptists have never majored in academic or creedal formulations of Christian beliefs, seeking a belief’s meaning above all in the way it works in a community of believers. Here Malone integrates the practical guidance of a polity manual with deep background from historical sources and contemporary theological controversies. A book that belongs on the shelf in a local Baptist congregation and in the study of a serious student.”—S. Mark Heim, Andover Newton Seminary at Yale Divinity School
JONATHAN A. MALONE, PhD, has been an American Baptist Churches USA pastor for 20 years, most recently having served as senior pastor of First Baptist Church East Greenwich, RI. In addition to teaching the region's Baptist polity course and chairing the Standing Committee for Ordained Ministry, he has also been active on the ABCUSA Board of General Ministry and the Ministers Council. He is currently the president of the Board of Managers for the American Baptist Historical Society. Dr. Malone received his MDiv at Andover Newton Theological School and his PhD at the University of Dayton. He actively blogs at "Theological Snob" and podcasts on "Twelve Enough," both of which can be found at www.twelveenough.com. Malone is also the founder of Wilderness Journeys through which he serves as a guide for experiencing the wilderness with the divine (www.wildernessjourneys.org).
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