Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2009


The first edition of Karl Barth’s Römerbrief was described as a bombshell on the theologian’s playground. In similar fashion, Steven R. Harmon’s Towards Baptist Catholicity issues a radical challenge to dominant interpretations of Baptist identity in North America.1 To borrow a bumper-sticker cliché, Harmon is seeking to subvert the dominant paradigm. Harmon calls Baptists to retrieve “the ancient catholic tradition that forms Christian identity through liturgical rehearsal, catechetical instruction, and embodied ecclesial practice,” leading to a renewed awareness that Baptists belong to “the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church” (xix, 18). Harmon’s theological project, following classical Faith and Order ecumenism, is “to call the churches to . . . visible unity in one faith and one Eucharistic fellowship” (202). However, his implied agreement with Church Fathers such as St. Ignatius, who link full catholicity with communion with Rome, raises the question, is “Baptist Catholicity” the ultimate goal of “Baptist catholicity”? Such a proposal would indeed be an explosive device on the “Baptist playground.”


Originally published as:

Crane, Richard D. “Explosive Devices and Rhetorical Strategies: Appreciation for Steven R. Harmon’s Towards Baptist Catholicity.” Pro Ecclesia 18, no. 4 (Fall 2009): 367–70.

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