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The Reformed Baptist Story
Anchored in Scripture, Informed by Our Past, Pressing Towards the Future
The story of Reformed Baptists can be told through the lives of the leaders that have shaped its identity. The men in the Nicole Institute Banner share a common theological heritage of evangelical Calvinism while holding to believer’s only baptism. Our story is a story that crosses centuries, cultures, and ethnicity. In telling this story of a long line of godly men, we recognize that you may not recognize all their faces. So, here are their stories in brief. If this is your tradition, we hope you will find this story encouraging and compelling.
John Bunyan (1628-1688) Known as the Tinker of Bedford, John Bunyan was imprisoned at least twice for his non-conformist (Baptist) views. During his stay at the Bedford Bridge Jail in 1675-76 he penned The Pilgrim’s Progress. John Owen, probably the most prominent and respected academic leader of Bunyan’s own era, once went to hear Bunyan preach. Charles II, hearing of it, asked the learned doctor of divinity why someone as thoroughly educated as he would want to hear a mere tinker preach. Owen replied, “May it please your Majesty, if I could possess the tinker’s abilities to grip men’s hearts, I would gladly give in exchange all my learning.”
Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) pastored two congregations during his life at Soham (1775-1782) and at Kettering (1782-1806). Andrew Fuller’s greatest work is The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation. "It is the single merit of Andrew Fuller ... that he demonstrated that a man can be both a Calvinist and an Evangelical.” William Carey found in Fuller, the theological foundation for his own leaning toward missions. Fuller became, as Carey called him, the rope holder. Carey would go to India but Fuller and others would hold the other end of the rope that supported Carey in England. The modern missions’ movement was thus grounded in the solid moorings of God’s grace.
George Lisle (1750–1820) as early as 1783 George Lisle left Georgia for Jamaica where he successfully preached the gospel and planted new churches. This African slave had been an elder in the Silver Bluff Church near Savannah around 1773. One of his fellow pastors, David George (who also shared his Reformed Baptist Convictions), also served in the Silver Bluff Church, but after the Revolutionary war made his way to Nova Scotia and finally back to Africa at Sierra Leone where he planted a new church of English speaking Africans. Their ministry helps us see the Calvinistic and evangelical faith of early African-American Reformed Baptists.
William Carey (1761-1834) As a missionary to Serampore, Carey became known as the Father of modern missions. He was the author of An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens (1792); preacher of the sermon at the Baptist associational meeting in Nottingham, May 31, 1792, on the text of Isaiah 54:2-3 and the theme, "Expect great thing from God; attempt great things for God"; and leader in founding The Particular Baptist Society for Propagating the Gospel among the Heathen (later named the Baptist Missionary Society) at Kettering on Oct. 2, 1792, which in turn launched the "society method" of missionary support and direction, and the whole modern evangelical missionary endeavor. His achievements in India are too numerous to name. He labored tirelessly to bring the gospel to India. Though he and others like Andrew Fuller overcame much resistance among the Hyper-Calvinistic Baptists of their day, his innovation was his method of support. It is a mistake to think that missionary endeavors began in 1792.
James Boyce (1827-1888) was the first president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Boyce worked long and hard to bring theological education to the Baptist ministry in the South. He was educated at Brown University and then Princeton Seminary under Charles Hodge. Boyce lead in the establishment of the Southern Baptist Seminary at Greenville, S.C. in 1859, and then in carrying it through the Civil War. Later he oversaw the move of the school from South Carolina to Louisville, Kentucky in 1877. Several time president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Boyce was a denominational statesman. His early leadership has left a legacy of evangelical Calvinism that is still alive.
Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) He was was England's best-known preacher for most of the second half of the nineteenth century. In 1854, just four years after his conversion, Spurgeon, then only 20, became pastor of London's famed New Park Street Church (formerly pastored by the famous Baptist theologian John Gill). The congregation quickly outgrew their building, moved to Exeter Hall, then to Surrey Music Hall. In these venues Spurgeon frequently preached to audiences numbering more than 10,000—all in the days before electronic amplification. In 1861 the congregation moved permanently to the newly constructed Metropolitan Tabernacle. Best known for his exposition of the Psalms (The Treasury of David) and his republication of the 1689 Baptist Confession and Catechism, Spurgeon was a leading figure in promoting evangelical Calvinism, particularly among Baptists of England.
Roger Nicole (1915-2010) After a distinguished career at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Dr. Roger Nicole served as visiting professor of Theology at the Orlando campus of Reformed Theological Seminary from 1989-2000. A native of Switzerland, he earned an M.A. from Sorbonne, a Th.D. from Gordon Divinity School, and a Ph.D. from Harvard University. Roger Nicole was among a generation of scholars that led a renaissance of American evangelicalism in the mid-twentieth century. A beloved teacher and prolific writer, he has long been regarded as one of the preeminent evangelical systematic theologians in North America. Among his many accomplishments he assisted in producing the New International Version of the Bible. Roger’s best known work concerns the doctrine of Christ’s Atonement. Considered by many to be an expert in Calvin’s view of the Atonement, Roger was a great apologist of Definite Redemption (Limited Atonement). Always witty and always gracious to those who differed with him, he was tenacious in his application of rigorous thought to theological questions.
John Piper (1946-) Educated at Wheaton, Fuller Seminary, and the University of Munich, Piper has served as a Professor of NT at Bethel Seminary (1974-1980) and Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist in Minneapolis, MN (1980-present). He is the author of at least 54 books. Piper, along with John MacArthur and RC Sproul, is considered by many to be a catalyst of a renewal of evangelical Calvinism in the late 20th and early 21st century. Piper’s best known work is Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. Piper continues to labor as a faithful pastor and popular conference speaker.
Anthony Carter (1967-) currently serves as the lead pastor of East Point Church in the Atlanta area. He has a BA from Atlanta Christian College and an MABS from Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL. As a graduate of RTS, Anthony typifies the hopes of the Nicole Institute. Though his church does not self-identify as Baptist, the church does practice believer’s only baptism. Unwaveringly Reformed, Anthony and the East Point Church are a part of a new generation of evangelical Calvinists. Carter’s books, On Being Black and Reformed and Glory Road: the Journey of 10 African Americans into Reformed Christianity – as well as his latest contribution to Experiencing Truth: Bringing Reformation to the African American Church – have provided leadership to a renewal of Reformed Theology among a new generation of Black Church leaders. Anthony lives in East Point, GA where he and his wife Adriane are raising their 5 children.
*Some information taken from the website The Reformed Reader.