Sunday, February 13, 2005

Beggars All: Survey: Where Does Evangelicalism Come From?

I forgot to link to this! This Beggars All post, Survey: Where Does Evangelicalism Come From?was the impetus for Theology Geek's history of evangelicalism post that I linked to yesterday.


Anonymous said...

Where does evangelicalism come from? If you really want to know, I highly recommend the book "Deconstructing Evangelicalism," by D.G. Hart He's a historian and 'high-church' Presbyterian. If my memory serves me right, I think he used to write a column for Christianity Today back when 'CT' had something to say, back in the 70's.

In a brief nutshell, Hart shows that modern American evangelicalism 'officially' started in 1942 when the National Association of Evangelicals was formed. He talks about the symbiotic relationship between the parachurch and modern evangelicalism, and he says that the 'culture of celebrity' is the glue that holds it together.

But even more significant, Hart argues that evangelicalism is a construct. The jacket says, "Hart...argues that evangelicalism is a concept that has obscured more of Christianity than it has revealed, and should
be abandoned as a separate religious identity."

I can't do justice to the book in this post. But once you read this finely nuanced argument, you'll never again see evangelicalism as much of anything. Let me leave you with some tantalizing quotes from Hart:

"...evangelicalism was a religious construction of particular salience during the late 20th century. The general contractors in building this edifice were the leaders of the 1940s neo-evangelical movement... (p. 18)

"...Evangelicalism, as the term is used, is a construct developed over the last half of the twentieth century." (p. 19)

"...The evangelical movement of the late 20th century replaced the church with the parachurch, and it developed forms to match." (p. 30)

"...asking evangelicals to recover tradition is like coaxing a thirteen-year-old who steadily drinks Mountain Dew to taste wine. The facial reaction will not likely indicate pleasure." (p. 183)

TKls2myhrt said...

I've just ordered that book. I know you've recommended it to me before.

A more interesting post would be on why evangelicals, in general, do not include Lutherans in their definition of evangelicals. Although it is not PC to say this, we are not considered "saved" by most evangelicals - that is something I have read in many places, including the Dave Hunt book I recently read, "Seduction of Christianity". I have also heard this from the mouth of many, many evangelicals over the past 24 years of my adult Christian life. Those of you who disagree with that statement show Christian maturity and good biblical knowledge.

Rick Ritchie said...

The answer above is correct, in the sense of answering when the neo-evangelical movement began.

But it is also worth tracing how American religion got to where it is. That is a broader Church History question. If Hart tackles that question, I'm sure he tackles it well. But I couldn't tell from the above post just how tightly focused Hart's book was.

Historical Protestants (Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed) looked very different three or four centuries ago. I would suggest Perry Miller for solid writing on the Puritans. His Errand into the Wilderness covers both Puritanism and what followed.

I think Revivalism is worthy of study to find out how things changed so much in the meantime. How Arminianism spread. How Christianity became more populist.

My Church History prof Garth Rosell from Gordon-Conwell had us read Discovering an Evangelical Heritage by Donald Dayton for an overview of the Holiness traditions. Whatever else can be said of the book, Dayton succeeds in capturing the flavor of a very different cultural moment.

For music from about halfway through the change, get a CD called American Angels by The Anonymous 4. The Boston Camerata also makes high quality recordings of music from these lost time periods.

Mary B. said...

This book sound excellent. I plan on requesting it from my library.

As an aside, Theresa, have you ever watched the movie, 'Babette's Feast"?

It is one of my favorite films, and now that I've gone through the pietist/evangelical catholic conversion, it is even more meaningful.