The Rise of Evangelicals | Notes & Review

Posted on November 14, 2012


Noll, Mark A.; Shelley, Bruce L.; Rosell, Garth M.; Sweeney, Douglas A.; Marsden, George; Mouw, Richard J.; Martin, William; Tait, Jennifer Woodruff (2012-09-07). The Rise of the Evangelicals: The birth of a movement that changed America (Christianity Today Essentials). Christianity Today, 2012. Kindle Edition.


But when you start listing the attributes of evangelicals, it’s hard to come up with a single list or definition upon which everyone agrees. Well, except maybe this one: As one scholar put it after a long debate on the subject: “Evangelicals are those who like Billy Graham.” There’s a great deal of truth there. (Locations 29-31)

This particular cultural expression of evangelicalism started in 1942, and depending on who you talk to, is now in decline, or morphing into something new, or merely the now-largest expression of non-Catholic Christianity. (Locations 39-41)

Prologue: The Pre-Evangelicals

One cannot comprehend modern evangelicalism without understanding 20th century fundamentalism. We cannot fully explore the fundamentalist phenomenon here—though you may want to read the Christian History issue on the topic. But a brief overview is needed in order to grasp the drive of early evangelicals to break away and form their own distinctive movement. —The editors

During the late 19th century, most of the mainline Protestant churches struggled to cope with the rise of modernism (which favored adaptation to modern views and trends) along with scientific naturalism, higher biblical criticism, and spiritual apathy. Hundreds of thousands of evangelicals left the large denominations, forming smaller churches to combat the sins of the age.

The vast majority of evangelicals, however, stayed with the mainline and tried to purify their churches from within. By the early 1910s, they formed a massive, cross-denominational movement for reform based on a common acclamation of the “fundamental,” or cardinal, doctrines of Christianity.

The most popular list was “The Five Point Deliverance” of the Northern Presbyterians. The 1910 Presbyterian General Assembly ruled that all who wanted to be ordained within their ranks had to affirm the Westminster Confession and subscribe to five fundamental doctrines: 1) the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible; 2) the virgin birth of Christ; 3) the substitutionary atonement of Christ; 4) the bodily resurrection of Christ; and 5) the historicity of the biblical miracles.

At roughly the same time, A. C. Dixon, R. A. Torrey, and several other luminaries published 12 volumes of essays called The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth (1910–15). The books, which were mailed to ministers and missionaries around the world, opposed all kinds of modernism, from higher biblical criticism to theological liberalism, from naturalism to Darwinism to democratic socialism. Building on the momentum of the Northern Presbyterians, they rallied people from different Protestant traditions to a least-common-denominator flag of orthodoxy.

By the late 1910s, the conservatives entrenched along the Protestant mainline were poised for battle in defense of the fundamentals. The interdenominational World Christian Fundamentals Association (WCFA), heavily influenced by premillennial dispensationalism, gathered conservatives for whom mainline apostasy was a sign of the coming great tribulation. With eschatological urgency, it reinforced the resolve of anxious evangelical leaders “to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people” (Jude 3). In a 1920 editorial published in his Northern Baptist paper, the Rev. Curtis Lee Laws referred to these evangelicals (himself among them) as “fundamentalists.” He deemed the name a badge of honor.

During the early 1920s, battles ensued in nearly every mainline Protestant body between the fundamentalists and those who wanted to remain “tolerant” and “open-minded” in response to modern learning. The fundamentalists were defeated in almost every case. They lost control of the mainline and its varied ministries. They lost control of mainline colleges and theological seminaries. Most of them withdrew, forming their own separate ministries. Many began to advocate “second degree separation”—separation not only from sin, worldliness, and apostasy, but also from other Christians who were standing too close to these things.

Nothing symbolized their defeat more powerfully than the Scopes Monkey Trial held in Dayton, Tennessee, in the summer of 1925. A high school teacher named John T. Scopes was solicited by the fledgling American Civil Liberties Union to test his state’s new law against the teaching of evolution. Celebrity lawyer Clarence Darrow was retained for his defense. The prosecution’s legal team included William Jennings Bryan, a Presbyterian and famous politician. Fundamentalists won the case (at least temporarily), but they were ridiculed by Darrow and the press. Despite their intellectual rigor and strength in northern urban areas, the fundamentalists have been portrayed ever since as country bumpkins. (Kindle Locations 89-121)

Chapter 1: Harold John Ockenga: ‘America’s Hour Has Struck’

While Ockenga remained firmly committed to theological purity, he remained equally passionate about the need for evangelical unity. “Cooperation without compromise,” became a byword for the NAE. But many of Ockenga’s fundamentalist colleagues remained convinced that the new evangelicals were abandoning purity in their quest for unity. A college friend wrote, “How it grieves me, Harold, to see you giving way here a little and there a little to policies that will be the ruination of our country. . . . Combination is weakness! Separatism is Power! in the sight of God.” (Locations 236-240)

Defining the Vision: Culturally Engaged Orthodoxy

Drawing the Line: Competing Theologies

Chapter 2: Youth for Christ: Winning Over a New Generation

Fueled by Prayer: A Story of Personal Transformation at YFC

Evangelical Entrepreneurs: YFC and the Parachurch Phenomenon

Chapter 3: Henrietta Mears: Rewriting Christian Education

Chapter 4: Billy Graham: The Early Crusades

Many outsiders were unaware of what was happening within the ranks of this segment of conservative Christianity, and many would never fully understand their differences. But during the struggle that came to a head in 1957, the mask of evangelical unity was lifted, and the terms fundamentalism and evangelicalism came to refer to two different movements. (Locations 632-634)

Chapter 5: Awakening a Conscience for Social Justice

How many of you, during the past six months, have preached a sermon devoted in large part to a condemnation of such social evils as aggressive warfare, racial hatred and intolerance, the liquor traffic, exploitation of labor or management, or the like—a sermon containing not merely an incidental or illustrative reference, but directed mainly against such evils and proposing the framework in which you think solution is possible? – Carl F.H. Henry (Locations 640-643)

Henry was chagrined when “[n]ot a single hand was raised in response.” But he was not really surprised. He knew that inattention to such matters was a general characteristic of the evangelicalism of his day. He also knew, however, that this pattern was out of step with the mainstream evangelical tradition. “For the first protracted period in its history,” he observed, “evangelical Christianity stands divorced from the great social reform movements.” (Locations 643-646)

In a “great reversal” (Smith’s term), evangelicals retreated from these reformist efforts around the turn of the century, fostering instead a social pessimism and an almost exclusive focus on evangelism and individual piety. (Locations 649-650

But in a larger sense, the impulse for all of the evangelical activist programs from the mid–20th century onward can be traced back to the new evangelicals’ original call for a corrective to the “uneasy conscience.” (Locations 707-708)

Chapter 6: Invigorating Christian Scholarship

…it is difficult to imagine the pitiable state of evangelical scholarship as it looked at the end of World War II. “Fundamentalist” was the more typical title to designate the whole movement we now call “evangelical,” and to be a “fundamentalist” meant, with very few exceptions, that one stood outside mainstream academia. (Locations 711-713).

Evangelical renaissance. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the vision of a few strategically based men of 60 years ago helped to reinvigorate the ideal that the evangelical branches of the body of Christ should include a respected place for intellectual service. (Locations 768-769)

Chapter 7: A Fraying Movement? Worries About Division

“It is time that the evangelical movement sees itself for what it is: a lion on the loose that no one today seriously fears.” – Carl F.H. Henry

…as the movement grew it also began to diversify, exceeding the grasp of the new evangelicals. …In the 1950s, Graham made changes in his methods—such as desegregating seating and including non-evangelicals in his crusades—that upset some fellow conservatives, especially in the South. Right-wing fundamentalist leaders opposed Graham publicly and encouraged their constituents to turn their backs on the evangelist. | During the early 1960s, the new evangelicals also began to divide on theological grounds. Fuller Seminary softened its stand on biblical inerrancy and in 1970 dropped the doctrine from its theological statement, causing widespread controversy. (Locations 783-790).

Challenges for a new generation. It has become rather obvious over the course of the past half century that larger-than-life leaders like Billy Graham cannot unite all evangelicals, at least not by themselves. (Locations 802-804)

This does not mean, however, that the new evangelical aspirations to oneness in Christ were in vain. It simply means that evangelicals are past the days of defining themselves primarily in opposition to “mainline” Protestants, whose churches have less and less to do with many younger evangelicals. (Locations 805-807)

Evangelicalism presumptively acts as if it were the permanently appointed preserver of “the faith once-for-all-delivered” and specially entrusted with ecclesial keys to the kingdom. But no earthly movement holds the Lion of the Tribe of Judah by the tail. We may need for a season to be encaged in the Lion’s den until we recover an apostolic awe of the Risen Christ, the invincible Head of a dependent body sustained by his supernatural power. Apart from life in and by the Spirit we are all pseudo-evangelicals. – Carl F.H. Henry (Locations 816-819).

Epilogue: How History Shaped Contemporary Evangelicalism

…evangelical acceptance of civil rights did not mean that evangelicals accepted the means used to secure them—federal power, which soon expanded well beyond civil rights. Sociologists Robert Wuthnow and Steve Bruce have demonstrated how resentment against intruding national authority—especially on sexuality, the family, and public schools—fueled evangelical attachment to the Republican Party, as putatively the party of small government. (Locations 896-899)

People movements. The three more diffuse movements were tightly interwoven with broader developments, but each still deserves brief attention on its own.

1. A new wave of voluntary organization. A partial listing of the new agencies and institutions includes InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (1938), the Summer Institute of Linguistics (1934) and Wycliffe Bible Translators (1942), Young Life (1941), the National Association of Evangelicals (1942), the Navigators (incorporated 1943), Youth for Christ (1944), Fuller Theological Seminary (1947), Campus Crusade for Christ (1951), World Vision (1953), and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (1954). These new organizations were purebred evangelical in their commitment to traditional Christian faith. But they were also purebred evangelical in expressing those commitments independently, focused on need, and with organizational creativity. They have reconstructed the infrastructure of contemporary American evangelicalism. (Locations 907-918).

2. The charismatic movement.

3. The Jesus People movement. As historian Larry Eskridge has shown, the Jesus People found a potent antidote to sex, drugs, and rock ’n roll in the Bible, the Spirit, and rock ’n roll. (Locations 937-939).

Old message, new language. These evangelicals embraced the modern media, instead of treating them as evil. They set theological battles of former eras aside to communicate with as many contemporaries as possible. They considered women fully capable of active public service. They forsook traditional theological language and traditional versions of the Bible to spread Scripture with new language. They set out boldly—as in Washington, where CT was based in its early years—to engage contemporary world affairs, politics, culture, and the arts with the historical truths of the Christian faith. (Locations 992-996).

Theology and culture. It is exceedingly difficult to know whether cultural, political, and demographic revival also means spiritual revival. Historically, evangelicalism has had integrity when it maintains the substance of classical Christian faith; it has exerted influence and enjoyed a broad appeal when it responds effectively to impulses within its host cultures. When evangelicals think only about honoring their heritage, they easily lose sight of the gospel imperative to evangelize and to be salt and light in the world. Conversely, when they think only about effective witness and responding to urgent psychological needs, they easily lose sight of the gospel imperative to preserve the truth in righteousness. (Locations 1027-1032)

Appendix 1: Timeline: America’s Evangelical Explosion

1914: World War I (ends in 1918)


1920: Rev. Curtis Lee Laws first uses term “fundamentalist”
1920: Prohibition
1920: 19th Amendment gives women right to vote
1921: Latin American Mission (Harry and Susan Strachan)
1923: J. Gresham Machen publishes Christianity and Liberalism
1924: Evangelical Theological College, later called Dallas Theological Seminary
1925: Scopes Monkey Trial
1927: First “talking” motion picture
1928: Henrietta Mears becomes Director of Christian Education at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood
1929: Stock market crash begins Great Depression
1929: Fundamentalists leave Princeton to form Westminster Theological Seminary


1930: Christian Business Men’s Committee / Connecting Business Men to Christ
1931: Christian Medical Association / Christian Medical and Dental Association
1931: Zondervan Publishers 1933: Navigators (Dawson Trotman)
1933: Gospel Light Publications (Henrietta Mears)
1933: Scripture Press (Victor and Bernice Cory)
1934: Summer Institute of Linguistics (W. Cameron Townsend)
1936: Student Foreign Missions Fellowship (Robert McQuilken)
1936: Harold John Ockenga
1937: Old Fashioned Revival Hour radio show (Charles Fuller)
1937: Child Evangelism Fellowship (Jesse Overholtzer)
1939: Pioneer Girls / Pioneer Clubs (Betty Whitaker)
1939: Hitler’s invasion of Poland sparks World War II


1940: Word of Life (Jack Wyrtzen)
1941: Japanese attack Pearl Harbor
1941: Young Life (Jim Rayburn)
1941: Carl McIntire founds American Council of Christian Churches
1941: First “Word for Life” youth rally held
1942: National Association of Evangelicals
1942: Wycliffe Bible Translators (W. Cameron Townsend)
1943: National Religious Broadcasters
1944: Ockenga holds “scholar’s conferences” (until 1947)
1945: Youth for Christ (Torrey Johnson)
1945: Guideposts (Norman Vincent Peale)
1945: U.S. drops atomic bombs on Japan
1945: United Nations founded
1945: Evangelical Foreign Missions Association / Evangelical Fellowship of Mission Agencies
1945: Christian Airmen’s Missionary Fellowship / Mission Aviation Fellowship (Betty Greene)
1945: Chicagoland Youth for Christ’s Memorial Day pageant at Soldier Field
1945: Billy Graham becomes first full-time evangelist of Youth for Christ International

1947: Carl Henry publishes The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism
1947: Fuller Theological Seminary (Charles Fuller)
1947: Accrediting Association of Bible Institutes and Bible Colleges / Association for Biblical Higher Education
1948: YFC Congress on World Evangelization in Beatenberg, Switzerland
1948: Evangelical Press Association
1948: L’Abri (Francis and Edith Schaeffer)
1949: Cold War nuclear arms race begins
1949: Graham’s Greater Los Angeles crusade


1950: Graham’s Boston crusade
1950: World Vision (Bob Pierce)
1950: Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
1950: Christian Booksellers Association
1950: Joseph McCarthy launches anti-Communist campaign
1950: Korean War (ends in 1953)
1950: Truman authorizes U.S. military aid in Vietnam War
1950: The Hour of Decision radio show begins
1951: Campus Crusade for Christ (Bill Bright)
1952: Trans World Radio (Paul Freed)
1952: Compassion International (Everett Swanson)
1952: Time magazine notes “serious interest in religion in America”
1954: Graham’s London Harringay crusade
1954: Medical Assistance Programs/MAP International
1954: Fellowship of Christian Athletes (Don McClanen)
1954: Brown v. Board of Education
1956: Christianity Today
1957: Russians launch Sputnik
1957: Timothy Smith publishes Revivalism and Social Reform
1957: Graham’s New York crusade
1959: Bible Study Fellowship (Audrey Wetherell Johnson)


1960: Youth With A Mission / YWAM (Loren Cunningham)
1960: Operation Mobilisation (George Verwer)
1960: Teen Challenge (David Wilkerson)
1960: Christian Broadcasting Network (Pat Robertson)
1960: Coral Ridge Ministries (D. James Kennedy)
1960: Graham visits eight African nations in three months
1962: Tyndale House Publishers
1962: Graham visits seven nations in South America
1962: Crisis at Fuller Seminary over biblical inerrancy
1963: Christian Camp and Conference Association
1963: National Black Evangelical Association (William Bentley, Tom Skinner)
1963: John F. Kennedy is assassinated
1963: Trinity Evangelical Divinity School makes plans to become a major evangelical seminary dedicated to preserving inerrancy
1963: Henrietta Mears dies
1964: Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts (Bill Gothard)
1965: Francis Schaeffer holds first major U.S. speaking event in Boston
1966: Berlin Congress on Evangelism
1967: Thru the Bible radio show (J. Vernon McGee)
1967: Women’s Aglow Fellowship/Aglow International
1968: Martin Luther King Jr. is shot
1969: Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
1969: First man on the moon
1969: Woodstock


1971: Food for the Hungry (Larry Ward)
1971: Maranatha! Music
1971: Christian College Consortium
1971: Jim Wallis and others found The Post-American, later called Sojourners
1973: Roe v. Wade
1973: Watergate scandal; Nixon impeached
1973: Evangelical representatives sign Chicago Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern
1973: Trinity Broadcasting Network (Paul and Jan Crouch)
1976: Christian College Coalition/Council for Christian Colleges and Universities
1976: Jimmy Carter elected President
1976: Prison Fellowship Ministries (Chuck Colson)
1976: Newsweek declares “The Year of the Evangelical”
1977: Focus on the Family (James Dobson)
1977: American Family Association (Donald Wildmon)
1978: Evangelicals for Social Action (Ron Sider)
1979: Feed the Children (Larry and Frances Jones)
1979: Concerned Women for America (Beverly LaHaye)
1979: Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability

Appendix 2: The Top 50 Books that Have Shaped Evangelicals

50. Revivalism and Social Reform, by Timothy L. Smith

The new evangelicals were rightly wary of the liberal “social gospel.” Yet they knew Jesus called them to serve the oppressed. Historian Timothy L. Smith destroyed the myth of the “heavenly minded” evangelical and helped us remember our history of personal and social holiness.

49. Knowledge of the Holy, by A. W. Tozer

The Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor and mystic invited us behind the curtain and into God’s presence.

48. The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom, with John and Elizabeth Sherrill

The staple conundrum of late-night ethics discussions in Christian college dorms—Do you lie if the Nazis knock on your door asking for the Jews you are hiding?—was a question ten Boom lived.

47. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, by F. F. Bruce

Yes, they are. And it took F. F. Bruce only 120 tiny pages to show it.

46. Out of the Saltshaker and into the World, by Rebecca Manley Pippert

“Christians and non-Christians have something in common,” author Rebecca Pippert noted. “We’re both uptight about evangelism.” Out of the Saltshaker helped generations of fearful students (and other would-be evangelists) to loosen up.

45. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, by Mark A. Noll

Few people have accused evangelicalism of being an intellectual movement—but now we feel bad about it, at least.

44. The Gospel of the Kingdom, by George Eldon Ladd

Ladd’s work called a generation of evangelicals to a higher level of scholarship, and his “already-but-not yet” take on God’s kingdom influenced charismatic theologians and cessationists alike.

43. Operation World, by Jason Mandryk

The who, where, what, why, when, and how many of unreached peoples.

42. The Purpose-Driven Life, by Rick Warren

A recommended resource to have on hand when faced with a home intruder (a la Ashley Smith) or when seeking to turn around an African nation (a la Rwanda).

41. Born Again, by Charles W. Colson

As we now know, the metamorphosis of a Nixon administration crook into a prison evangelist wasn’t just a phase.

40. Darwin on Trial, by Phillip E. Johnson

This Berkeley law professor’s takedown of scientific naturalism launched Intelligent Design and gained creationists a level of public attention they hadn’t enjoyed since the Scopes trial.

39. Desiring God, by John Piper

Who expected a Calvinist Baptist to redeem hedonism for Christ?

38. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, by Lesslie Newbigin

“A profound rethinking of missions in a pluralist context,” says Wheaton College English professor Alan Jacobs, who nominated the tome.

37. God’s Smuggler, by Brother Andrew with John and Elizabeth Sherrill

Brother Andrew’s autobiography “instilled in me a concern for the persecuted church and ignited courage in my heart to serve those who suffer for Jesus,” writes Charisma editor J. Lee Grady.

36. Left Behind, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins

The book launched a series that launched a marketing empire that launched a new set of rules for Christian fiction. The series spent a total of 300 weeks—nearly as long as the Tribulation it dramatized—on The New York Times bestseller list.

35. The Stork Is Dead, by Charlie W. Shedd

Shedd published his sex advice for teens in 1968 and got evangelicals talking about the topic four years before The Joy of Sex was published.

34. This Present Darkness, by Frank E. Peretti

InterVarsity Press editor Al Hsu says Peretti’s horror thriller “challenged evangelicals to take spiritual warfare and the supernatural seriously.” Maybe, in some cases, too seriously.

33. The Late Great Planet Earth, by Hal Lindsey with C. C. Carlson

In the beginning—before the Left Behind series was a sparkle in the cash registers of religious booksellers—there was The Late Great Planet Earth. It’s hard to imagine that Jenkins and LaHaye would have sold 43 million copies of their bestsellers if Lindsey hadn’t first sold 15 million copies of his dispensationalist hit.

32. The Cross and the Switchblade, by David Wilkerson with John and Elizabeth Sherrill

Amazing things started happening when, in 1958, a country preacher arrived—Bible in hand and Holy Spirit in heart—in the ghettos of New York City. Christian Retailing reports that “more than 50 million copies are in print in 40-plus languages of the book that gave birth to the ministry of Teen Challenge.”

31. The Next Christendom, by Philip Jenkins

The Penn State professor confronted North American Christians with the shocking truth that they were not the center of the universe.

30. Roaring Lambs, by Robert Briner

Back in the early ’90s, when engaging the culture wasn’t the “in” thing to do, Roaring Lambs inspired countless Christian artists to become artists who are Christians.

29. Dare to Discipline, by James Dobson

In the permissive ’70s, Dobson did what he still does best—calling us to focus on the family.

28. The Act of Marriage, by Tim and Beverly LaHaye

The explicit marriage manual told men how to satisfy their wives. “Fundies in their undies,” joked religion scholar Martin E. Marty.

27. Christy, by Catherine Marshall

A privileged city girl finds faith and a husband in rural Appalachia—sounds like a TV series to us.

26. Know Why You Believe, by Paul E. Little

Now we do.

25. Boundaries, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

Sometimes, it’s good to say no. This, in a nutshell, is the message that some ministry-weary Christians still need to hear.

24. The Meaning of Persons, by Paul Tournier

Swiss physician Paul Tournier awakened us to the deep interconnectedness of the physical, the emotional, and the spiritual.

23. All We’re Meant to Be, by Letha Dawson Scanzoni and Nancy A. Hardesty

Scanzoni and Hardesty outlined what would later blossom into evangelical feminism. For better or for worse, no evangelical marriage or institution has been able to ignore the ideas in this book.

22. The Genesis Flood, by Henry M. Morris and John C. Whitcomb

In 1961, hydraulic engineer Henry M. Morris and biblical scholar John C. Whitcomb infused young-earth creationism with new energy. They argued that the biblical deluge could explain fossils and geological layers.

21. The Master Plan of Evangelism, by Robert Emerson Coleman Using Jesus’ methods, Coleman showed the intimate, indispensable relationship between evangelism and discipleship.

20. A Wrinkle In Time, by Madeleine L’Engle Madeleine L’Engle told CT that when she tried to be a Christian with her “mind only,” she ceased to believe. But then she realized that God was a storyteller. Her 1962 classic modeled the power of imagination to energize belief.

19. The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer “Although cheap grace has entered into the common vocabulary of evangelicals,” says theologian Roger Olson, “the full weight of Bonhoeffer’s exploration of true Christian discipleship has yet to be borne by many of us.” Translated into English in 1949, Bonhoeffer’s classic remains a devastating critique of comfortable Christianity.

18. The Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard

With this call to discipleship, “Willard joins the line of Thomas ŕ Kempis, Luther, Fenelon, Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, Zinzendorf, Wesley, Frank Laubach, Dorothy Day, and other master apprentices of Jesus,” wrote Books and Culture editor John Wilson in a review, praising the University of Southern California professor’s “philosophical depth” and “penetrating understanding of Scripture.”

17. What’s So Amazing About Grace?, by Philip Yancey

With trademark self-deprecation, Yancey wrote: “Grace comes free of charge to people who do not deserve it, and I am one of those people. I think back to who I was—resentful, wound tight with anger, a single hardened link in a long chain of ungrace learned from family and church. Now I am trying in my own small way to pipe the tune of grace. I do so because I know . . . that any pang of healing or forgiveness or goodness I have ever felt comes solely from the grace of God.”

16. Basic Christianity, by John Stott

The slim volume “has introduced more people to Christ than any book I know other than the Bible,” says author James Sire.

15. The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, by Carl F. H. Henry

Henry’s call to cultural engagement seems unremarkable today. That’s because we took his advice to “pursue the enemy, in politics, in economics, in science, in ethics.”

14. Let Justice Roll Down, by John M. Perkins

The civil rights activist got white Christians thinking about his three-pronged solution to America’s systemic race problem: relocation, reconciliation, and redistribution.

13. Evidence That Demands a Verdict, by Josh McDowell

Who says faith is only for the heart and not the head? Not Josh McDowell.

12. Power Evangelism, by John Wimber with Kevin Springer

Lifestyle evangelism is great, but signs and wonders are spectacular.

11. Celebration of Discipline, by Richard J. Foster

It “opened the door for many evangelicals to intentionally practice spiritual disciplines and find a connection with the church throughout history,” writes Phyllis Alsdurf, professor of journalism at Bethel College.

10. Evangelism Explosion, by D. James Kennedy

This more than any other book (“The Four Spiritual Laws” is a pamphlet) gave evangelicals a systematic way to share their faith. It made the question, “If you were to die tonight, do you know for sure that you would go to heaven?” standard evangelistic fare.

9. Through Gates of Splendor, by Elisabeth Elliot

The account of the martyrdom of five young missionaries at the hands of a feared “Stone Age” tribe in Ecuador helped launch a generation of cross-cultural evangelists into the world’s hard places. Author Jerry B. Jenkins told CT, “The story left me feeling spiritually slain.”

8. Managing Your Time, by Ted W. Engstrom

Evangelicals have historically been entrepreneurs and mystics, so we have run into much personal burnout and organizational chaos. With this book, Ted W. Engstrom gave evangelical leaders permission to organize their ministries rationally and efficiently.

7. Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, by Ronald J. Sider

“God is on the side of the poor!” Sider writes. To neglect them is to neglect the gospel.

6. The Living Bible, by Kenneth N. Taylor

One of the first in a wave of easy-to-read, modern English versions of the Bible, Kenneth N. Taylor’s Living Bible came out in 1971, complete with its signature green cover. Book design has come a long way since then.

5. Knowing God, by J. I. Packer

Packer was magisterial in substance, but adopted the tone of a fellow traveler. He convinced us that the study of God “is the most practical project anyone can engage in.”

4. The God Who Is There, by Francis A. Schaeffer “This book, and its companion volumes, accomplished something startling and necessary: It made intellectual history a vital part of the evangelical mental landscape, opening up the worlds particularly of art and philosophy to a subculture that was suspicious and ignorant of both,” writes John Stackhouse, professor of theology and culture at Regent College.

3. Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis Anyone who has read this far into the list doesn’t need any explanation about why Lewis’s work of apologetics placed this high—right?

2. Understanding Church Growth, by Donald Anderson McGavran

Although evangelicals have always been enamored with large and growing numbers (e.g., the Great Awakenings), it was Donald McGavran who gave us phrases such as “church growth” and “the homogeneous unit principle” and who made the endeavor a “science.” Today, every pastor in North America has a decided opinion about whether or how much he or she buys into church-growth principles.

1. Prayer: Conversing With God, by Rosalind Rinker

In the 1950s, evangelical prayer was characterized by Elizabethan wouldsts and shouldsts. Prayer meetings were often little more than a series of formal prayer speeches. Then Rosalind Rinker taught us something revolutionary: Prayer is a conversation with God. The idea took hold, sometimes too much (e.g., “Lord, we just really wanna . . .”). But today evangelicals assume that casual, colloquial, intimate prayer is the most authentic way to pray.

— VIA —

CT has provided an easily accessible series of books on various topics, and I have appreciation for their research, concision, and their willingness to make these available. As with any other topic, the history and journey of Evangelicals in America provides a much needed perspective for the challenges and issues we face today. Personally, I have been in conversations with people recently about specific definitions of “the gospel,” “evangelical,” and “emergent” as well as other doctrines and precepts of “evangelical” Christianity. They (the conversations, and the people with whom I am conversing) have illuminated a consistent and perpetual blindness from which consecutive generations throughout history regularly suffer. My favorite quote from this reading is from Henry,

Evangelicalism presumptively acts as if it were the permanently appointed preserver of “the faith once-for-all-delivered” and specially entrusted with ecclesial keys to the kingdom. But no earthly movement holds the Lion of the Tribe of Judah by the tail. We may need for a season to be encaged in the Lion’s den until we recover an apostolic awe of the Risen Christ, the invincible Head of a dependent body sustained by his supernatural power. Apart from life in and by the Spirit we are all pseudo-evangelicals. – Carl F.H. Henry (Locations 816-819).

Oh how I wish more would abandon the hubris and narcissism of convicted doctrine and embrace the humility of the Spirit. Oh how I wish more would realize that the tail they hold may actually be their own. Oh how I wish more would recover that “apostolic awe” and wonder, and embrace the whole of evangelicalism with affection, and not fetter it with time-bound narrow interpretations.

This eBook helps us to do just that. To see that within our family there are disagreements, shifts, perspectives, ideas, ideals, and compromise, is to see that if Christian evangelicalism was robust enough to withstand the past century, it will be flexible enough to bend far into the next.

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