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Spring 2007 · Vol. 36 No. 1 · pp. 99–102 

Recommended Reading

On Evangelicalism

Richard Kyle

Recent Surveys

Collins, Kenneth J. The Evangelical Moment: The Promise of an American Religion. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2005.

Kyle, Richard. Evangelicalism: An Americanized Christianity. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2006.

Sweeney, Douglas A. The American Evangelical Story: A History of the Movement. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2005.

The years 2005 and 2006 witnessed the publication of several books surveying the evangelical movement. The Evangelical Moment reflects a Wesleyan-Arminian perspective and, as the subtitle indicates, emphasizes the positive aspects of evangelicalism. Evangelicalism says evangelicalism has caved into American popular culture and views the movement from an Anabaptist-Mennonite perspective. The American Evangelical Story is a smaller book capturing the scope of evangelical history.

InterVarsity Series

Noll, Mark A. The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield and the Wesleys. A History of Evangelicalism, vol. 1. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2003.

Bebbington, David W. The Dominance of Evangelicalism: The Age of Spurgeon and Moody. A History of Evangelicalism, vol. 3. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2005.

InterVarsity Press is projecting a five-volume series that seeks to integrate the social and intellectual history of evangelicalism over three hundred years. These books note the diverse aspect of evangelical life from the eighteenth-century British and North American revivals to the modern era. At the time of this writing, volumes one and three have been published. They are written by prominent evangelicals and focus on the eighteenth and late-nineteenth centuries.

Major Authors

Balmer, Randall. Blessed Assurance: A History of Evangelicalism in America. Boston, MA: Beacon, 1999.

———. Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America. 4th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

———. Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America. New York: Basic, 2006.

Balmer is an evangelical teaching at Columbia University. In Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory, he travels throughout the evangelical subculture and recounts his impressions. Beginning with the Puritans, Blessed Assurance chronicles topics throughout evangelical history. As the subtitle indicates, Thy Kingdom Come is a sharp but controversial critique of the Religious Right.

Hart, D. G. That Old-Time Religion in Modern America: Evangelical Protestantism in the Twentieth Century. Chicago, IL: Ivan R. Dee, 2002.

———. Deconstructing Evangelicalism: Conservative Protestantism in the Age of Billy Graham. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2004.

Darryl Hart’s first book traces the development of evangelicalism in America from 1920 to 2000. He shows how evangelicalism entered the twentieth century as full partners in the Protestant denominations, became marginalized in the 1920s, and then aggressively asserted themselves after the 1960s in American political and cultural life. In Deconstructing Evangelicalism, Hart argues that the term evangelicalism should be abandoned as a separate religious identity. Rather, American Christians should return to their various theological heritages—e.g., Presbyterian, Baptist, Lutheran, or Anglican—rather than continue their “minimal account of the Christian faith.”

Marsden, George M., ed. Evangelicalism and Modern America. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1984.

———. Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991.

———. Fundamentalism and American Culture. 2d ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Marsden is a prominent evangelical scholar writing from a Reformed perspective. His books examine the interface between evangelicalism and fundamentalism and how both are related to American culture.

Noll, Mark A. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994.

———. American Evangelical Christianity: An Introduction. Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 2001.

A prolific author, Noll has written many books concerning evangelicalism. In The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, he argues that in the process of pandering to the American popular culture, evangelicalism’s great intellectual heritage has been eroded to the point of near collapse. American Evangelical Christianity begins with a historical overview of the movement and then proceeds to examine evangelicalism’s relationship with specific topics, e.g., science, politics, class, race, and gender.

Smith, Christian. American Evangelicalism: Embattled and Thriving. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

———. Christian America? What Evangelicals Really Want. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000.

Smith takes a different approach than the authors of the previously-mentioned books. He is a sociologist, not a historian as are the others, and apparently writing from outside the movement. Both books are based on hundreds of interviews as well as polling data. These books challenge the stereotypes by which evangelicals are depicted. In doing so, Smith reveals a diverse movement.

Richard Kyle is Professor of History and Religious Studies at Tabor College, Hillsboro, Kansas.

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