Editor: David S. Dockery & Roger D. Duke
Publisher: B&H Academic
Reading Level: Moderate
“Suppose we quietly agree that the Seminary may die, but we’ll die first.” (138)
The name John Broadus may not ring bells to Baptist anymore. But at one time the name John Broadus could not be separated from the entity that is now the Southern Baptist Convention. Thus John A. Broadus: A Living Legacy (hence referred to as A Living Legacy) was compiled to restore the memory of this one-of-a-kind pastor, preacher, professor, and seminary president. Edited by David Dockery and Roger Duke, the book presents the life and history of John Broadus and his monumental efforts in educating Baptists, especially Southern Baptists, throughout his life.
As a multi-author biography, A Living Legacy presents the life of John Broadus in a topical fashion. With attention paid to Broadus’ general history (chapter 2), preaching (chapter 3) and modern relevance (chapter 5) the full wealth of knowledge about the great Baptist John Broadus is presented. As a result however, the foretold “overlap” in content (xi) does in fact occur radically. Though each chapter can be “read on its own” (xi) the flow of the book as a whole is disrupted in the later chapters as most of the material is already well known or quoted.
Despite these overlaps, the material itself is well presented by each author. The book reads as if intentionally written for laymen and pastors alike. Given the overlapping content, the book can be read slowly or as the opportunity arises without losing the context of Broadus’s life.
The content of A Living Legacy is the life and memories of John Broadus. As a man, Broadus provides a wealth of utterly fascinating stories. It was under his ministry that the venerated missionary “Lottie Moon” was baptized (127). His greatest enduring written work, A Treatise on the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, was derived from homiletics lectures prepared for a class consisting of one blind student (20). And it is known that he turned down a $10k/year pastorate to be the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (paying $3k/year).
A Living Legacy details Broadus’ conviction for the need of Baptist education resulting in the founding of SBTS (chapter 6). At the same time, John Broadus left a lasting legacy of textual criticism and hermeneutics via his commentary on the gospel of Matthew (chapter 5). During his day, Broadus was commended as one of the greatest living preachers, his advice on sermon delivery (chapter 3, 7, and 8) and his stark criticism of sensationalism (chapter 9) remain valuable for preachers to this day. With John Broadus, the man, as the content, A Living Legacy breathes fresh life into the memory of a man that no Baptist should forget.
That said, the arrangement and repetition of the content in A Living Legacy is poor. When read straight through, the final two chapters (chapters 9 and 10) present almost no new material on the life of Broadus. Read as stand alone chapters they would present the awesome content that is the life of Broadus. But as is, they feel like a tired refrain of a song that simply won’t end. Similarly, quotes from Broadus and his son-in-law A.T. Robertson are used in multiple chapters and quickly lose their insightfulness.
Despite some negative aspects, A Living Legacy is a must read. The life and work of John Broadus is well presented in its entirety. The strength and dedication of John Broadus is a stirring model for modern pastors and professors alike.
The downside of A Living Legacy is that it presents this wonderful content multiple times. The book could be three quarters its current length and be equally valuable to the Baptist community. Nevertheless, laymen and pastors alike will benefit greatly from the content and should plan to read the book slowly with ample time between chapters to negative the overlap in content.
Joshua Torrey is the sole proprietor of Torrey Gazette (don't tell Alaina) and the fullness of its editorial process. That means everything wrong with TG can legitimately be blamed on him.