John Paul Newport was perhaps the most influential American Baptist philosopher and apologist of the twentieth century. He became legendary as a Baptist statesman, scholar, peacemaker, and transformational professor, who supervised more than fifty PhD students in philosophy, apologetics, theology, biblical studies, and world religions. Written from the unpublished autobiographical papers of John Newport, this official biography, Like a River Glorious, examines the life and legacy of one of America’s premier Baptist scholars.
Newport studied with the best minds of his day and taught for more than fifty years in Baptist colleges and seminaries, as well as at Rice University. He was also a churchman in pulpits across the South, serving as interim pastor in more than 150 churches in four states. His best-known book, Life’s Ultimate Questions, synthesized the most-asked questions about what it means to live as a human being, and anchored his responses in a reasoned, philosophical, and biblical worldview. Newport spent most of his career at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary where he chaired the philosophy department and served as vice president of academic affairs and provost. He was also the special consultant to then-president Russell Dilday and helped to lead the institution through some of its most difficult days.
Newport was an open, approachable, and eminently constructive Christian in his day, inviting his audiences to engage with the world of ideas, other Christians, and people of non-Christian faiths. The story of his unparalleled and remarkable journey unfolds in these pages, a testament to his legacy and an invitation for future Christian leaders to follow in his wake.
In the tradition of great Baptist church historians like A. H. Newman, W. W. Barnes, Robert Baker, W. R. Estep, and H. Leon McBeth, Karen O’Dell Bullock has emerged as one of Baptists’ greatest storytellers. Bullock, already recognized as the outstanding biographer of Baptist legend Robert C. Buckner, has added another great biography to Baptist studies with this excellent volume on arguably Southern Baptists’ greatest philosopher, John Newport. In the first two-thirds of the book, Bullock weaves a narrative that follows Newport through his amazingly productive academic and ministerial career, capped with a description of Newport’s service at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary during what has been called the Seminary’s ‘Camelot years.’ Bullock not only provides the narrative but she sets the narrative soundly within the context of the times in which Newport walked. She closes with a summary of Newport’s philosophy and theology and reminiscences of former colleagues and students as well as family members. Anyone interested in the understanding the Baptist mind in the last half of the twentieth century must read this comprehensive biography.~Michael E. Williams Sr., Professor of History, Dallas Baptist University
Dr. Karen Bullock’s biography of Paul Newport comes when the Baptist family is more fractured and polarized than ever before. In her well-documented account of Paul Newport’s life, his voice reverberates clearly through these pages, calling us back to be true Baptist ‘reconciler[s] of conflicting opinions on points of doctrine between faith traditions.’ His desire for academic pursuit to be relevant to his context was not in tension with his Baptist convictions and faith in Christ. Unlike other modernists that compartmentalized life, however, for Dr. Newport, citizenry in academic life, his profession of faith, and a desire for community exuberated his life as a whole. This book is a must-read for all who want to be Baptist and relevant to our immediate polarized context.~Godfrey Harold, Principal and CEO, Cape Town Baptist Seminary
Dr. Karen O'Dell Bullock achieves the impossible—a biography displaying excellent scholarship that is readable and inspiring. Bullock’s gifts of storytelling and of presenting a topic in its broader context lead the reader to turn page after page, and even read endnotes. John Paul Newport lived during a time of great change in American and Southern Baptist life, and Bullock reveals his life and contributions with critical empathy. While providing a solid interpretation of Newport’s work and influence, Bullock places him in his world, showing how culture affects even the most strong-minded scholar. Like a River Glorious guides the reader into the thought and life of an influential ‘Christian philosopher’ well worth knowing.~Rosalie Beck, Associate Professor of Religion, Emerita, Baylor University