Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 43:2 (Spring 1981)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

George M. Marsden: Fundamentalism and American Culture. The Shaping of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism 1870–1925. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980. xiv, 306. $19.95.

Within recent years evangelical historians have begun to re-enter the American academic marketplace. They have established an active organization, The Conference on Faith and History, and published a useful journal, Fides et Historia. Evangelicals who study American religious life have been especially prominent in this resurgence. Some have done advanced work in the best American graduate schools and published the results of their research in the best places. The pioneer in this movement was Timothy L. Smith, whose influential monograph Revivalism and Social Reform: American Protestantism on the Eve of the Civil War (1957) alerted the historical profession to the importance both of believers in American history and of faith for the writing of history. Professor Smith, of Johns Hopkins University, continues to play a leading role in the shaping of American Christian historiography, especially as he describes the importance of his own Arminian, Wesleyan, and Holiness tradition in American life.

The other most significant center of resurgent evangelical historiography has been Reformed and Presbyterian, with a particular concentration in the faculty and graduates of Calvin College. The leader at Calvin in the study of American Christian history is Professor George M. Marsden, a 1963 graduate of Westminster Seminary, who published a path-breaking study of the New School Presbyterians in 1970 (The Evangelical Mind and the New School Presbyterian Experience: A Case Study of Thought and Theology in Nineteenth-Century America, Yale University Press) and edited with Frank Roberts a valuable collection of essays on Christian approaches to history in 1975 (A Christian View of History?, Eerdmans). (Some readers of this journal will also know him as the son of Robert S. Marsden, one of the early ministers of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and as the author of informative articles in the Westminster Theological Journal and the Presbyterian Guardian on the origins of the OPC.) Now

Professor Marsden has published the results of long research on American fundamentalism in the twentieth-century’s most important book by an evangelical concerning evangelicalism.

Fundamentalism and American Culture is a learned, sophisticated, deeply researched, and witty book. It tells an important story, which recent developments in American politics have made unexpectedly timely. It also offers a series of rich interpretations from a self-consciously Christian point of view.

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