The inheritance of God's servant
Updated: Jan 12
A review of 'The Legacy of David Broughton Knox' edited by Ed Loane.
Many years ago I spluttered over my coffee on reading a colourful phrase in The Times: ‘The fundamentalist Diocese of Sydney - and its outposts abroad - can now be seen as the Church of England’s militant tendency.’1
A year later I moved with my family to Chile where, with great fear and trepidation, I bumped into some of these New Holy Warriors; Sydney Anglicans from Moore College. To my surprise I discovered that they were perfectly ordinary missionaries, and some of the nicest, humblest and fun to be with Christians that it has been my privilege to meet. I remembered all this when I recently picked up The Legacy of David Broughton Knox, Ed. By Edward Loane.
David Broughton Knox (DBK from here on) is virtually unknown in these isles although he had a significant role not only in the development of Moore College in Sydney but also the founding of Tyndall House in Cambridge and George Whitfield College in Cape Town. I had read Marcia Cameron’s fascinating biography of DBK shortly after it came out and so I dived into this collection of articles examining his legacy with anticipated delight. I wasn’t disappointed.
They are an edited edition of talks that were given to mark 100 years of the birth of Broughton Knox in 2016 and give a wide range of vignettes on DBK’s life, ministry and legacy. I have to confess that I started off in the third section: his legacy in different people. These were short personal reflections and experiences by well know names in the conservative evangelical world: Paul Barnett, Glenn Davies, Graeme Goldsworthy, Graham Cole and D.A. Carson. Carson’s recollection of his first proper conversation with DBK over a Sunday tea with their wives is illuminating. After a two hour discussion on baptism - started by DBK’s opening gambit on discovering that Carson was a Baptist minister - ‘Of course, there is no such thing as baptism in the New Testament’, where he refused to let the conversation to turn to other subjects - they left. On the way out Joy Carson exclaimed: ‘That is the rudest man I have ever met’!
He certainly appeared to be a marmite figure with a few hating him but many loving him and in whom he inspire great devotion. Carson discovered that this meeting was ‘quintessentially Broughton... very little place for small talk, much theological argument, pushing his students in a way that required them to push back, Socratic methods’. It was his force of character & his depth of teaching, that often eschewed engagement with modern theology but was deeply biblical, that marked the rise of Moore college from that of a small diocesan seminary to one that would have a global influence, and even draw the attention of broadsheet journalists from the other side of the world. Mark Thompson explores his forty years as a lecturer there with twenty six as principle in the second section: DBK: Theological Education and the Modern Moore College. Vital reading for anyone involved in theological education as there are few who can say that they have had significant roles in the development of three Bible institutes across three continents!
I eventually got to the first section which looks at DBK’s theological legacy. The first chapter is not for the faint hearted (Was DBK an Amyraldian?) but surprisingly interesting once you start grappling with the subject. Some of DBK’s unorthodox (small u) theological beliefs were examined in this section and carefully evaluated. He was a surprisingly out-of-the-box thinker for someone who one would have thought cast in one particular theological mould. In this section Peter Jensen’s chapter is fascinating as his title hints: ‘An Awkward Moment: How I tarnished the Knox Festschrift’.
The book finishes with a couple of appendices both of which are very interesting but one is a gem for those interested in how you might go about writing Christian biography. Marcia Cameron explores in a few pages the challenges she faced in writing about a still living, controversial figure. It shed much light on the biography I had so enjoyed 15 years previously and encouraged me to seriously think about putting pen to paper and writing a biography in the future. A book well worth reading, with many stimulating elements to it, just as with the man it honours, warts and all.