I first met Tom Nettles at a conference at Jarvis Street Baptist Church in Toronto in 1988. I was then teaching at Central Baptist Seminary in Toronto, Tom was transitioning from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS). I recall very distinctly his mentioning to me his concern about finding a new position, about which I subsequently prayed. What a joy to get a note from him a few weeks later when he received confirmation that he had a teaching position at TEDS.
Throughout the 1990s we saw one another occasionally at conferences in the US and in Canada. I will never forget his speaking at the Ontario Carey Conference one August from the book of Ephesians. I realized then something of the range of his knowledge: he was not only a church historian but also a bible teacher of depth and profundity. My wife, Alison, who met him during this time in the nineties, also never forgot hearing his Mississippi accent for the first time: people really do speak like that, she said to me later! I suppose she had thought it was only TV characters that spoke with such a distinct Southern voice!
By the time I began teaching as a part-time prof in 2002 at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he was now a professor of church history, I knew Tom also as one of the finest Baptist historians of our day: his Baptists and the Bible and By His Grace and For His Glory had deeply shaped my thinking about Baptist history. His stature as a superb biographer of Baptists has been confirmed in recent days by his James Petigru Boyce and Living by Revealed Truth (his study of C.H. Spurgeon).
I have also been amazed by the breadth of knowledge of church history that Tom displayed in our Church History PhD colloquia. These colloquia deal with the entire length of church history and are attended by all of the Church History faculty at Southern (a remarkable group of historians) and our PhD students in church history. Whether it was in a discussion of Chalcedonian Christology or the intricacies of medieval scholasticism, Luther’s theology of salvation or Wesley’s view of Christian perfection, Christianity according to the likes of Albrecht Ritschl or Barthianism, Tom’s contributions are rich, learned, and undergirded by biblical truth.
Nor should I forget to mention our friendship with Tom’s dear wife Margaret. My wife and I have been to his home to have dinner with him and Margaret a number of times, and their hospitality has been deeply appreciated. It is clear that Margaret has played a key role in Tom’s ministry.
All in all, it has truly been a distinct honor to serve with such an historian and such a man of godliness.
Michael A.G. Haykin
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary