Star Rating: 4
This is the fifth volume in the series,‘A history of evangelicalism’, produced under the general editorship of Professors David Bebbington and Mark Noll. The author is well known as a historian of twentieth-century evangelicalism.
As anticipated, therefore, Prof. Brian Stanley provides an authoritative account of developments in the evangelical world over the second half of the 20th century. After setting the scene, he explains the development of ‘evangelicalism’ and ‘conservative evangelicalism’, over against the ‘fundamentalism’ from which the former groups were seeking to distance themselves in the mid-20th century.
In the chapters that follow, he outlines the principal developments and events in a variety of connected areas: mission and evangelism; evangelical scholarship; preaching; apologetics; evangelical approaches to social justice, including Lausanne 1974; the rise of the Charismatic and new Pentecostal movements; and the issues of hermeneutics, gender and sexual ethics, which came to the fore in the 1970s onwards. The treatment focuses mainly on the USA and the UK, without neglecting other parts of the world.
All these areas are tackled with clarity and substantial learning. The connections between the various events described are brought out. The main lines of development are clearly drawn. The result is a very interesting historical overview of a period, which will be personally familiar, at least in part, to many potential readers.
Key figures such as Billy Graham and John Stott receive quite a bit of attention, but they do not dominate at the expense of other significant leaders of the time.
The book, and the series to which it belongs, are based on the premise, which has been subject to robust challenge, that evangelicalism, at least as we know it today, began in the early 18th century. The book is almost entirely concerned with para-church institutions and events and has little to say about actual churches. This seems rather lopsided, though it may say more about the nature of 20th century evangelicalism than about the book itself.
This volume will provide a sound, readable and thought-provoking account of evangelicalism in the second half of last century, for anyone who is looking for a reasonably detailed, one-volume account of that topic.
London Theological Seminary