Book Review – Materials Toward a History of Feet Washing Among the Baptists

Materials Toward a History of Feet Washing Among the Baptists. By R. L. Vaughn. Mount Enterprise, TX: Waymark Publications, 2008, 232 pp., $21.99, paper back.

 

Baptists are well-known for holding two commands of the Lord as specific ordinances to be performed in the context of the local church on an ongoing basis. Believer’s baptism by immersion sets Baptists apart from many other groups who practice paedobaptism. The Lord’s Supper is practiced yet debate over who may partake and how often it is to be practiced exists over it. Yet, who would have thought that foot washing is an ordinance practiced by many Baptists in the past and still practiced by some today? R. L. Vaughn has provided the church of Christ with a fascinating collection of primary source materials regarding the practice of feet washing among Baptists. I myself as someone who pursues Baptist history with a passion, was surprised at how many groups practiced some form of feet washing.

 

The book first gives a biblical overview of feet washing from both the Old and New Testaments and proceeds to survey the topic of feet washing from the beginning of the church to approximately 1500 AD. He then progresses to looking at feet washing among the continental Anabaptists, and in the British Isles and finally making it to North America. He then begins to survey the use of feet washing by different groups including Particular Baptists, Free Christian Baptists, Free Will Baptists, General Baptists, Primitive Baptists, Regular Baptists, Separate Baptists, Seventh Day Baptists, Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Predestinarian Baptists, Union Baptists, and United Baptists. Then he helpfully moves beyond looking at feet washing by groups to feet washing by geographical regions. This most extensive area deals with America but there is also a treatment of Canada and Mexico as well. He then provides a survey of feet washing among Baptists in other areas of the world.

 

He helpfully includes arguments against feet washing by Calvin, Owen, Dagg, B.H. Carroll, and others. He then includes many appendices in order to helpfully provide more information for the eager researcher in exploring this strange but important area of Baptist history.

 

The major value of this work is very simply that it provides in one location so many varied and helpful primary source materials related to feet washing and Baptists. Instead of being isolated incidents in the history of the Baptists there were many who claimed the name Baptist that practiced feet washing as an ordinance. Vaughn’s comments are few but where they are found they are helpful. I have found this to be an excellent volume and it has really broadened my views when it comes to Baptist history and feet washing. It has not convinced me of feet washing as an ordinance for the church today but it has opened my eyes to the many Baptists that have seen it this way. And if many of practiced the intent behind feet washing on a regular basis then perhaps we would have more loving churches.

 

This is a very helpful book for those studying Baptist history or the history of feet washing in general. It is highly recommended and I hope it has a wide readership. Brother Vaughn is to be commended for preparing this excellent resource.

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