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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



The Evangelical Historians by Maxie B. Burch (University Press of America Press) This book explores the personal backgrounds, historical methodologies, and academic philosophies of George Marsden, Nathan Hatch, and Mark Noll. It addresses the issues raised by the interaction of personal faith and scholarship, and the subsequent effect this has upon the evangelical community at large and the academic mission of institutions that wish to maintain their Christian distinction. The author shows how these scholars founded the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals, and she demonstrates the significance of their attempts to open evangelical historical scholarship to a wider audience. Readers will get to know the personalities behind these evangelical scholars and will discover the uniqueness of Marsden, Hatch, and Noll as individuals as well as leaders. This is the first book to approach faith and learning from the point of view of these three men. Full of personal interviews and unpublished materials, "The Evangelical Historians" will appeal to students and scholars of American Studies, religion, culture, and sociology. It will serve as a useful text for courses in the History of American Christianity, Christianity and Culture, Historiography, Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism, and 18th and 19th-Century American Protestantism. In addition, members of the historical guild interested in religion in America and the role of Christianity will surely want a copy of this rare and thoughtful work. Contents: Preface; A Historian's History; Integrating Faith and Learning; Transgressing Boundaries: Historical Critique and Evangelical Response; The Opening of the Evangelical Mind; Conclusion; Index.

Among historians it is recognized as a general rule of thumb that when writing about the work other historians it is safest to chose those who are either dead or retired because they are less likely to change their minds. This book is a departure from this general rule. The historians whose lives and scholarship are the focus of this story were chosen because they represent a significant coterie of evangelicals who are unapologetically writing history with a confessional yet rigorously professional approach. Their openly confessional approach is a unique characteristic of this block of historians, but it is their practice of networking other historians of like mind and the close personal friendships and cooperative efforts that have resulted which perhaps truly sets them apart. In other words, in addition to being historians, they are interesting people and I embarked upon this project because I was curious about who they were and what they were doing.

Over the past ten years these men have emerged as leaders in the field of American Christianity while also making significant inroads in the discussion surrounding the purpose and mission of the modern university. They write primarily about the Protestant evangelical experience in America focusing their research upon the cultural and ideological factors that shaped this experience while addressing the biblical and theological traditions that define and inform the evangelical community as well. At times they have employed history as a means of providing penetrating critiques of evangelicalism in an attempt to create a productive discussion, but they have not always been successful.

This book was written primarily with the community of historians and other interested scholars in mind, but perhaps those who share an interest in the story of Christianity in America, and particularly the Protestant evangelical experience that helped shape that story, will find this narrative of interest as well. Because the central figures are living, productive scholars, this story is still being written, but it is hoped that those who read this portion will be captured by the kind of curiosity that makes history such an intriguing pursuit.

The initial chapter is designed to provide the reader with the opportunity to meet George Marsden, Nathan Hatch, and Mark Noll by offering a brief but revealing look at their backgrounds and early experiences. The second chapter focuses on the people, ideas, and decisions that shaped their historical perspective and careers. By examining areas of conflict that have risen due to their research, chapter three offers a clear example of the kinds of issues and concerns that drive these men's scholarship. In chapter four Marsden, Hatch, and Noll speak out about the state of the modern university system, and the plight of evangelical scholarship as it struggles for respect and recognition in academic circles. This chapter also examines the institute which these men helped to create in order to further their aims of strengthening evangelical scholarship. The final chapter questions the possible lasting influence these historians will have on their discipline.

Awakening to an Uncertain Future: A Case Study of the Promise Keepers by George N. Lundskow ( American University Studies. Series VII, Theology and Religion, Vol 218: Peter Lang) It may be considered ironic that the most successful movement to emerge out of the men’s movement was not a pro-feminist reevaluations of men’s human values but a reactionary evangelical reinterpretation of patriarchy called the Promise Keepers. The group is an interesting success story of how some men find ways to reassert their rights with a renewed emphasis upon the importance of responsibility, unfortunately from this reviewers point of view without a more humane and gender inclusive cutting edge.

The Promise Keepers, members of a Christ-centered ministry dedicated to uniting men through vital relationships to become a godly influence in the world, are patriarchal monsters for some, the saviors of society for others. This book goes beyond simplistic arguments and considers the social significance of the Promise Keepers as both agents and products of social change. George N. Lundskow brings a critical sociological perspective to the Promise Keepers, yet also that of the insider, having participated in the accountability groups, the intimate circles of men that constitute the union of belief and practice in the lives of Promise Keepers. This book also develops a historical view of the Promise Keepers, based on social changes that produce changes in social character. The result is a multidimensional analysis that speaks to what the Promise Keepers think and feel‑the basis of their collective identity yet also places the Promise Keepers within the class‑cultural conflict of late modernity. The Promise Keepers create a community that seeks identity and meaning through spontaneous submission and social improvement through personal morality. Ironically, the more fervently they embrace PK practice, the more alienated they become. Thus, the issue is more than the Promise Keepers and religion; it is about cultural life in the early twenty‑first century.

Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism by Randall Herbert Balmer (Westminster John Knox) For some years now, in addition to other scholarly projects, I have been engaged in this quixotic venture of writing an encyclopedia of evangelicalism, one that would provide a sense of both the history and the extraordinary breadth of this popular movement. The task, though maddening at times, has also provided moments of insight and fascination as one topic led to another and still another, like tributaries leading off the beaten path into the brambles.

While I have made every effort to be fair and accurate, I make no pretense of being definitive‑that is, because it emanates from one man's pen, this work inevitably bears some biases and interpretations, some of which are apparent simply in what has been chosen for inclusion. For the purposes of this project I have defined evangelicalism rather broadly, even though I know that many of the people and organizations treated here prefer a more restrictive interpretation. My latitudinarian approach has yielded, I believe, a far more complex and textured portrait of evangelicalism in all of its diversity.

I recognize that this encyclopedia‑with its entries on individuals, organizations, denominations, theological terms, events, and movements‑will be used primarily as a reference work. While I have no objection to that, I think this volume also offers a glimpse into evangelical mores and folkways; entries like "Fellowship," "Just," "Testimony," "Sword Drill," and "Gnomic Hebrew Moniker" (to name just a few) provide a sense of evangelicalism as a "lived" tradition, which is appropriate for a movement that, in the United States at least, is the culture's dominant folk religion.

The purview for this book, however, extends beyond the United States. I have sought to include relevant entries from Canada, Latin America, Great Britain, and elsewhere, although I readily acknowledge that the volume is weighted heavily toward North America. Evangelicalism itself, I believe, is a quintessentially North American phenomenon, deriving as it did from the confluence of Pietism, Presbyterianism, and the vestiges of Puritanism. Evangelicalism picked up peculiar characteristics from each strain‑warmhearted spirituality from the Pietists (for instance), doctrinal precisionism from the Presbyterians, and individualistic introspection from the Puritans‑even as the North American context itself has profoundly shaped the various manifestations of evangelicalism: fundamentalism, neo‑evangelicalism, the holiness movement, pentecostalism, the charismatic movement, and various forms of African‑American and Hispanic evangelicalism.

American Evangelical Christianity: An Introduction by Mark A. Noll (Blackwell) Evangelical Christianity was a predominant stream of religion during the early history of the United States. Mark Noll describes and interprets American Evangelical Christianity, utilising research by theologians, sociologists and political scientists, as well as the author's own historical interests, to explain the position Evangelicalism now occupies at the beginning of the new century.

Evangelical Christians existed as a large but disintegrating force for the first half of the twentieth century, developing into an increasingly visible presence over recent decades. Noll examines their frequently misunderstood political bearing over the latter half of the last century, arguing that exploitation of the resources of Evangelical theology might improve the quality of Evangelical politics. The central concern of the book is to sell American Evangelical Christianity as a form of 'culturally adaptive biblical experimentalism' and to show why this portrayal makes sense of both Evangelical religion and the place of Evangelicals in American religion.

This book is intended to provide insights for Evangelicals, and even more so for those who aren't, into the meaning of Evangelical activities, aspirations and ideologies throughout American history. It provides a fascinating insight into a stream of religion which now exerts a considerable social, political and cultural force.

The Christian and Missionary Alliance by H. D. Ayer (Scarecrow) The Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA), which officially became a denomination in 1974, evolved from a mission society and a "deeper life" association founded in 1887 by A.B. Simpson, a Canadian ex-Presbyterian pastor based in New York City. Simpson and his followers have played a leading role in theological education, the propagation of premillennialist doctrine, the Protestant missionary movement, the divine healing and deeper life movements, the development of Pentecostalism, and evangelicalism in general. This bibliography provides guided access to more than 2,300 books, articles, essays, pamphlets, theses, dissertations, and tracts that document the history and thought of the Alliance, a group with more than 2.4 million followers worldwide. Many of these citations direct the researcher to relatively obscure works that have heretofore been all but inaccessible to the academic community. Especially thorough coverage is granted to the works of A.B. Simpson and A.W. Tozer, two of the most influential leaders of the C&MA. A list of the more than 170 periodicals that have been issued by the Alliance is included, as are personal name and subject indexes Little has been published on the Alliance to date, despite the recent surge in scholarly interest in evangelicalism and Pentecostalism. This work redresses that imbalance by opening to church historians, missiologists, sociologists of religion, and other scholars the riches of the Alliance oeuvre.

Historical Dictionary of the Holiness Movement by William C. Kostlevy (Scarecrow) John Wesley insisted that Christians might, in this lifetime, become perfect in love or intention. With this belief the Holiness Movement was born. Wesley's belief and the experience known as "Christian perfection" or "entire sanctification" that grew out of it, found a receptive audience in antebellum North America. By the mid-nineteenth-century, three closely related groups had developed, the Methodists, Oberlin perfectionists, and the antinomian perfectionists. After the American Civil War, the Holiness Movement spread to Europe and churches subscribing to the Holiness philosophy have flourished around the globe in the twentieth-century. The Historical Dictionary of the Holiness Movement traces the origins of the movement and focuses on the founders and shapers of holiness thought and experience. In keeping with the movement's own insistence that personal experience is a primary, though not exclusive, source of theological authority this volume closely examines the people who shaped and sustained the movement.

Popular Evangelism

The J. I. Packer Collection edited by Alister McGrath For many evangelicals today J. I. Packer is a household name. His best-selling Knowing God is a classic of evangelical spirituality. Through his popular writings, Packer--perhaps more than any other evangelical writer of his generation--has drawn ordinary people into a deepened understanding of their faith and its spiritual riches. But many who are acquainted with Packer are unaware of the true scope of his writings and his engagement with theological issues of the past fifty years.

The J. I. Packer Collection is the single best introduction to Packer's thought, as well as a remarkably comprehensive introduction to evangelical theology in the Reformed vein. Readers will be struck by Packer's uncanny ability to penetrate to the heart of an issue, the crystalline clarity of his writing, the breadth of his learning and the warmth of his devotion. He is truly one of the great evangelical theologians of our time.

Each of the sixteen hand-picked essays in this collection are introduced by Alister McGrath, a leading evangelical theologian in his own right and author of Packer's biography. Spanning the years 1954-1998, these essays cover a full breadth of topics, many of them recognized landmarks in the past five decades of evangelical theology in the English-speaking world.

For those who wish to grow in their understanding and appreciation of the evangelical faith, The J. I. Packer Collection is essential reading.

Alister McGrath is professor of historical theology at Oxford University and principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. He is the author of numerous books, including J. I. Packer: A Biography and A Passion for Truth: The Intellectual Coherence of Evangelicalism.

J. I. Packer has taught theology at Regent College in Vancouver for many years and is the author of Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God and Truth & Power. He is best known as the author of Knowing God.


Beginnings of the Bible Belt

by John B. Boles

University Press of Kentucky

$15.95, paper, 256 pages, notes, bibliography, index


An outburst religious fervor arose the beginning of the nineteenth century. Yet the vulnerability frontier’s society can only partially explain the causes of the "Second Great Revival." Drawing upon the religious writings of southern evangelicals, Boles asserts that extraordinary crowds and religious conversions transformations that distinguished the First Great Awakening were not simply instances of social displacement but of expression of widespread and complex attitudes toward God. Converted southerners were starkly individualistic, interested primarily personal salvation from the hopelessly evil world rather than reforming society. Boles shows in this landmark study that the effect of the Revival has persisted in the religious individualism of contemporary conservative religious approaches to salvation. This is reprint, originally published in 1972, with new preface included.

Preface to the Paperback Edition
Ch. 1. The Setting
Ch. 2. The Feeling of Crisis
Ch. 3. The Theory of Providential Deliverance
Ch. 4. Portents of Revival
Ch. 5. Kentucky Ablaze
Ch. 6. The South Conquered
Ch. 7. The Changing Revival Image
Ch. 8. Homiletics & Hymnology
Ch. 9. A Theology of Individualism
Ch. 10. Unity & Schism
Ch. 11. The Economic & Political Thought of Southern Revivalism
Ch. 12. Revivalism & The Southern Evangelical Mind
Selected Bibliography


The Beginnings of the Bible Belt

by Christine Leigh Heyrman


$27.50, hardcover, 336 pages, notes, index


Heyrman argues that evangelicalism did not flow rapidly into the religious vacuum created by the American Revolution, because southern whites of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were affronted by many aspects of early evangelical teaching and practice, including opposition to slaveholding, to class privilege, and to traditional ideals of masculinity; a lack of respect for generational hierarchy; the encouragement of women’s public involvement in church affairs; and an insistence on spiritual intimacy with blacks. They felt threatened as well by the unsparing evangelical emphasis on sin, hell’s torments, and Satan’s wiles—and by the often wrenching experiences that accompanied conversion.

What happened? What changed? How did the very religious groups that at first offended most white southerners eventually come to claim the soul of the South?

Heyrman shows how, over the span of a century, the evangelicals came to be dominant in the region by deliberately changing their own "traditional values" and assimilating the conventional southern understandings of family relationships, masculine prerogatives, classic patriotism, and martial honor. In so doing, religious groups earlier associated with nonviolence and antislavery activity came to the defense of slavery and secession and the holy cause of upholding both by force of arms—and adopted the values that we now associate with the "Bible Belt."

Heyrman has crafted a meticulous portrait of the early South in the era of the Second Great Awakening, roughly around the turn of the 19th century. She demonstrates that evangelical religion and southern culture were at first rigidly incompatible young itinerant Methodist and Baptist preachers threatened the authority of middle-aged southern planters, while women and slaves who found outlets as evangelical exhorters challenged while male power.

"Evangelicalism could only triumph in the South when its evangelists were willing to make themselves over in the image of the southern male gentry. This meant that preachers had to become older, more settled, and more aggressively masculine, while women ceased to exercise public spiritual authority, retreating instead to the domestic realm. Evangelical religion, which had once demanded that its adherents sever all ties with unbelieving family members, reinvented itself as the force that held the southern family together.

The South’s "family religion" continues to this day; in the epilogue, Heyrman briefly explores the contemporary legacy of this evangelical male transformation in groups like the Promise Keepers.

In SOUTHERN CROSS Christine Leigh Heyrman reveals the surprising paradox at the heart of America’s "Bible Belt": how such currently conservative religious groups as the Southern Baptists and Methodists evolved out of an evangelical Protestantism that began with totally different social and political attitudes.

"One of the most engaging and compelling histories I have ever read. Indeed, it is the best history of religion in the South that we now have and is sure to become a model of how we should do religious history." —DONALD MATHEWS, University of North Carolina.

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