Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
BSac 159:636 (Oct 02) p. 479
By The Faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary
Matthew S. DeMoss, Editor
American Evangelical Christianity: An Introduction. By Mark A. Noll. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2001. 320 pp. $68.95.
This book grows out of Noll’s experience as the visiting professor of Evangelical Studies at Harvard Divinity School and consists of a reworking of several essays previously published in various periodicals, as well as some new material. Thus it is less a flowing thesis and more a mosaic of selected important issues treated in some depth. It is aimed at helping evangelicals and nonevangelicals appreciate the dynamics of evangelicalism as a growing, powerful social and religious movement. It accomplishes its purpose as an introduction, while offering solid and reasonable assessments as well as thought-provoking directional critiques from an insider’s perspective.
Noll begins by surveying the history and constituency of evangelicalism. He uses David Bebbington’s four key identifiers as the general boundary of what makes one an evangelical: conversionism, biblicism, activism/evangelism, and crucicentrism. Noll examines the results of scientific surveys and analyzes official documents. The result is a broad and multilayered approach to the phenomenon of evangelicalism, capable of nuance and defensible generalizations. The ambiguous relationship between denominations and interdenominational cooperation are handled about as well as possible with this method. Noll pays special attention to Billy Graham as an archetype, as well as focusing chapters on gender, Roman Catholics, science, and politics. In these Noll assesses the moods and methods of evangelicalism. By the end of the book he has moved from the more objective to the more subjective, giving his opinions for what he hopes will be a better future for evangelicals. He offers some lessons from his Canadian experiences, and he finishes with a unifying chapter in which he suggests that evangelicalism is at its best in its best music.
Evangelicalism here is treated at its broadest levels, and relatively little attention is paid to its most stringent form, namely, fundamentalism. The book’s statistical tables could be improved by making them more immediately understandable through better captions and consistent orientation, but they are useful in conjunction with the corresponding text. An excellent Guide to Further Reading is included, as well as an index.
On the whole this book is a fine introduction to American evangelicalism, well worth reading for its own sake or using as a text in relevant classes. It lacks some of the pathos of Noll’s well-known book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (...
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