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Emerson and Stamps: “Historic liturgies ground us in something beyond ourselves.”

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Evangelicals have a growing hunger for liturgical forms of worship. Why is this so, and what unique contributions do Baptists bring to the table?

In the new book Baptists and the Christian Tradition: Toward an Evangelical Baptist Catholicity (B&H, 2020), editors Matthew Emerson, Christopher Morgan and R. Lucas Stamps collect essays from authors across the Southern Baptist landscape. They discern what it means to be a Baptist in relation to the rest of the Christian tradition.

Emerson and Stamps recently talked to us about their book. Here’s our conversation:


God doesn’t just call pastors; he calls all his people to work in his world.

Evangelicals have a growing hunger for ancient liturgical forms of worship. What do you think prompted this hunger?

It’s hard to say for sure, but one impetus might be the search for deeper meaning and truth than just inside our individual selves. Modernity and late modernity have left us adrift, looking inward for security and understanding and love and identity. “Preference” is the word of the day in our contexts. Historic liturgies ground us in something beyond ourselves and connect us to a community outside of our own whims and comforts.

You observe that Baptists have much to receive from Christian tradition and much to give. What do you consider Baptists’ greatest contribution to Christian tradition, and what is the biggest lesson we can receive?

Historically, the Baptist movement arose out of a conviction that the individual is responsible before God. That impacts three different areas: personal salvation and thus the practice of baptism, the local church and thus the commitment to local church autonomy, and the relationship between the church and the state and thus the commitment to religious liberty.

In your relatively short proposal of an evangelical Baptist catholicity, you take space to “affirm the goodness of all honorable vocations.” We often neglect discussions of vocation. Why is understanding a Christian view of vocation so important?

God doesn’t just call pastors; he calls all his people to work in his world. He gifts us and equips us each differently and for different spheres of life. Some of us labor in the church, while others of us labor in various “secular” spheres while remaining always a part of our local church and of the church catholic. To view our work as something done before the Lord is incredibly important for any believer, not just vocational ministers.

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