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American Apocalypse

By Matthew Avery Sutton
March 2015 | Review by Stuart Fisher
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • ISBN: 978-0-674-04836-2
  • Pages: 446
  • Price: 25.95
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Book Review

This book reviews the history of evangelicalism in America from the turn of the nineteenth century to today. It outlines its evolution from radical evangelism, through the fundamentalism of the 1920s, to the evangelicalism of modern times.

Its particular emphasis is on the development of an apocalyptic evangelicalism stressing pre-millennialism. The author’s main contention is that the traditional view that evangelicals retreated into isolationism after the debacle of the Scopes trial in the 1920s is, in fact, incorrect.

Instead, a robust case is made that fundamentalism reinvented itself and, with slick organisation and financial backing, became a new force to be reckoned with.

To reinforce his case, the author quotes extensively from within the movement. He uses an array of magazine articles, sermon extracts and other sources to prove the point. He also quotes extensively from key players, such as Billy Sunday, Charles Fuller and Billy Graham.

He concludes with evidence from the Reagan and Bush administrations, showing just how powerful a lobby the ‘evangelical right’ was in the affairs of state. American apocalyptic evangelicalism is therefore seen to be far from a spent force (though perhaps modified to meet changing cultural contexts).

This book will be of interest to anyone seeking to know more about American evangelicalism and its millennial emphasis. It will be of particular interest to pastors and historians, though many may find the book a little long-winded.

It should be borne in mind that this book is not a full treatment of evangelical history. Although this is made clear in the introduction, I felt the overall balance of the book was lost as a result. One is left thinking that all American evangelicals are Arminian and pre-millennial!

Stuart Fisher


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