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Christian Reconstruction: R.J. Rushdoony and American Religious Conservatism
Christian Reconstruction: R.J. Rushdoony and American Religious Conservatism
by Michael J. McVicar
Edition: Paperback
Price: £35.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction to the man and the movement, 16 July 2015
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Rousas John Rushdoony (1916-2001) was the founder of Christian Reconstruction, Theonomy or Dominionism as it has been variously designated. He has been described as ‘political heretic’ (Rodney Clapp), 'a man every bit as potentially murderous as Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot or anyone else you may want to name amongst the annals of evil' (BCSE ) and as ‘founder of the Christian homeschooling movement and an intellectual catalyst of the Christian Right’ (Christianity Today 2 April 2001: 25).

The school of thought that he founded has been described as ‘a dangerous secret society intent on turning the United States into a theocracy’ and as the ‘think tank of the religious right’! As McVicar asserts Rushdoony is an ‘enigma — at once intellectually deep and emotionally distant, a complex mix of hubris and humility’. In this well researched and written book McVicar helps us to understand Rushdoony the man and Christian Reconstructionism the ‘movement’ a little better.

McVicar looks at the influences on Rushdoony by taking a biographical and chronological approach. It was as a missionary on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation in Owyhee, Nevada that he began to see what he saw as the overreach of the government. This shaped his view of the need for limited or minimal government. In March 1946 he came across Cornelius Van Til’s The New Modernism. This seemingly caused a paradigm shift in his thinking and he adopted Van Til’s presuppositionalist approach. Van Til gave him the tools to critique the role of the state and to develop his Christian approach to the state.

In 1952 he took up the pastorate of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Santa Cruz. This was not an easy time for him and his family. His wife had a breakdown and sued for divorce. Rushdoony had custody of the their three youngest children. McVicar’s chapter 2 entitled ‘The anti-everything agenda’ tells of Rushdony’s association with several right wing Christina organisations, these included Spiritual Mobilisation, William Volker Charities Fund and the Centre for American Studies (CAS). It during this time that Rushdoony came across Albert J. Nock’s idea of the remnant. Rushdoony ‘developed an explicitly religious notion of the Remnant’ (p 61). Rushdoony’s approach was separation rather than connection this didn’t help to win many friends. He was eventually fired from the CAS.

Chapter 3, ‘A Christian renaissance’ describes the beginings of Rushdoony’s Christian Reconstructionism. It started when Gary North introduced Rushdoony to the women associated with the Betsy Ross Book Shop. The Chalcedon Foundation was started in 1965. The plan was to develop a Christian College but that never materialised, but the task of Christian reconstruction and Christian dominion had begun.

The main factors that contributed to the Chalcedon project were presuppositionalism, post-millennialism, and the need to return to biblical law which entailed a reduction in the reach of the state and the focus on the role of the family. Kuyper’s sphere sovereignty was utilised, but it was a truncated version of it. The only spheres Rushdoony recognised were the church, the state and the family. Missing from the influences McVicar cites is Robert L. Dabney. Dabney’s view of the American civil war was taken up and developed by Rushdoony and incorporated into his 'Christian' America view of history.

Rushdoony’s tussle with Christianity Today is well told in chapter 4. Here again Rushdoony’s separatist approach made him few friends. In 1969 Rushdoony began his lectures on what came to be his seminal work The Institutes of Biblical Law. Gary North later said of the book ‘I recognized early that this book would launch a movement’ (Christian Reconstruction 12(2), March/April 1988). In it Rushdoony posited that the biblical law was still binding and provided the ‘structuring blueprint for all aspects of life’ ( p 129). As McVicar notes:
‘Through the law, the reconstructed Christian male - or “dominion man,’ as Rushdoony called him — could “take dominion” over the plate and “reconstruct” all of life in Christ’s image.’
The exclusive language is deliberate - Rushdoony and the Reconstructionist approach is very patriarchal. Women were to be a ‘helpmeet’ to the men. For Rushdoony the family was ‘the most important institution in society’. It was during this time that Gary North and Greg L. Bahsen became more involved with Rushdoony.

North married one of Rushdoony’s daughters and has described himself as one of the co-founders of Christian Reconstruction (Christian Reconstruction March/April 1988). Both North and Bahnsen were popularisers of Rushdoony’s views. Bahnsen lectured at RTS Jackson and his students included Kenneth Gentry, James B. Jordan, David Chilton and Gary DeMar, a group McVicar called the ‘hard core of the second and third generation of Reconstructionists’ (p160). Bashen’s theonomic views weren’t appreciated by at at RTS and he was fired from his post. The catalyst for the firing was the publication of his Theonomy in Christian Ethics.

North, Bahnsen and several of Bahnsen’s students went to Tyler, Texas. There they became involved with Westminster Presbyterian Church pastored by Ray Sutton. They developed their own form of Reconstructionism which McVicar aptly describes as ‘a complex mix of Rushdoony-style Reconstructionism, paramilitary survivalism and an aggressive theological polemics’ (p 182).

They fell out with Rushdoony over the nature of the church. For Rushdoony the key institution is the family, for the Tyler Group it was the church. And they developed very strict measures of church discipline. Sutton is now a bishop in the Reformed Episcopal Church, unfortunately the story of this radical change is untold.

McVicar’s book received a warm review on the Chalcedon website — this is testimony to McVicar’s even handedness; McVicar even had articles on Rushdoony published in Chalcedon’s Faith and Life magazine.

Comparisons have to be made with Julie Ingersol’s Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstruction, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. Unlike McVicar, Ingersoll was once an insider; she was married to a key Reconstructionist. McVicar had direct access to Rushdoony’s library (of over 40,000 volumes!) and papers. Ingersoll concentrates more on the legacy of Rushdoony as seen in Christian education, creationism, biblical economics, the religious right and the revision of Christian American history. She is also more academic and empirically based than McVicar. For McVicar Rushdoony is main focus, for Ingersoll he is the background.

For a good introduction to Rushdoony the man the best staring point is McVicar, for the on-going legacy then Ingersoll. The books complement each other.


Power In Service: An Introduction To Christian Political Thought
Power In Service: An Introduction To Christian Political Thought
by Willem Ouweneel
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.75

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It outlines clearly and accessibly what a reformational approach to politics looks like, 10 Mar. 2015
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What is the Kingdom of God? This question opens the book by Ouweneel, the second volume in the Academic Introductions for Beginners series. This is an apposite question. Ouweneel develops the idea that politics cannot be separated from the kingdom of God. Likewise politics is also rooted in creation and grounded in creational ordinances - despite what Augustine thinks.

Drawing on a reformational approach Ouweneel ably shows, in this brief but brilliant book, that politics is an important area for Christian involvement. Humans are political agents, but since the fall all of life has been tainted with sin and that includes politics. But we can look forward to a fully redeemed politics when Christ returns.

Ouweneel utilises the kuyperian concept of sphere sovereignty to examine the relationship between the church and the state. Employing Dooyewerd’s analysis of institutions he sees the State as a juridicial institution that maintains public legal order. He stresses the importance of the separation of church and state but rightly affirms that this does not mean a separation between religion and society, as all of life is religious - all the way down. The role of the state is limited, it cannot play the role of a moralist but neither is it neutral.
He makes excellent use of the Vollenhoven's distinction between structure and direction to show how the fall has changed the direction but not the structure of the human heart. Ouweneel sees structure and direction as two polarities, as horizontal and vertical.

He makes a very good point in noting that Christians often make the mistake of identifying the ‘world’ with ‘society’. Many Christians then avoid society thinking that in doing so they are avoiding the evil world. Hence, an avoidance of politics. Understanding the world as direction, and society as structure helps avoid such a non-biblical pietistic approach to society. Avoiding society taken to an extreme would be to withdraw into a monastery; but then that too is a society!

Also helpful is his discussion on being strangers and pilgrims. As he points out we cannot escape society and social institutions; no societal relationship is of itself evil, biblically there is no distinction between sacred and profane.

Several of the key themes are then covered in a case study in the final chapter on Christian schools and religious and moral education imposed by the state.

Recent year have seen a significant number of helpful book on a Christian approach to politics - in particular David Koyzis’ Political Visions and illusions and James Skillen’s The Good of Politics. This book is a helpful addition to those. It outlines clearly and accessibly what a reformational approach to politics looks like.


Wisdom For Thinkers: An Introduction To Christian Philosophy
Wisdom For Thinkers: An Introduction To Christian Philosophy
by Willem Ouweneel
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It provides us with an excellent and largely accessible introduction to reformational philosophy, 28 Feb. 2015
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This is the first part of a proposed series entitled ‘Academic Introductions for Beginners’. So far there are four volumes published:

Wisdom for Thinkers
Power in Service
What then is Theology?
Searching the Soul

And two more are proposed on biology and history.

Ouweneel is a prolific author - he has published 165 works - primarily in Dutch and has three earned doctorates in genetics (University of Utrecht, 1970), philosophy (VU, Amsterdam 1986 - one of his supervisors was Andree Troost) and theology (University of the Orange Free State, SA, 1993). He is thus adequately equipped to deal with these subjects. He has worked as a school teacher, as a scientific officer, laboratory researcher, as a part-time pastor, and as professor of theology, philosophy of science, ethics, psychology in several universities and as a French and German teacher. This wide academic and work background makes Ouweneel an ideal person to write such a broad series.

All the books in the series are written from a Dooyeweerdian reformational perspective. Wisdom for Thinkers lays the foundation for the series. It provides us with an excellent and largely accessible introduction to reformational philosophy. In it he covers a wide range of topics including the nature of philosophy and worldviews, a Christian view of cosmic reality, a Christian view of entities, anthropology, the philosophy of science, and the relationship between philosophy and theology. Several of the chapters are then developed in the subsequent books. For example, there is much overlap between the chapter here on philosophy and theology and his What Then Is Theology? And in the latter he keeps referring back to this book. Those unfamiliar with Christian philosophy would do well to read this introductory book before diving into those later in the series. Reformational philosophy is not known for its accessibility and there are a large number of new terms that have been coined by adherents of this approach - primarily because old terms don’t adequately express the intricacies of God’s creation. Ouweneel has done much to remedy this as this book is accessible, most of the technical terms are clearly defined, but the subtle nuances and technicalities contained in the terms may well overwhelm someone who has not come across this Christian philosophy before. A glossary would have helped solve some of these problems. (I have been working on one see here.)

Ouweneel presents clearly the Dooyeweerdian perspective and is not afraid to develop and adapt the approach, but where he differs from Dooyeweerd he does often make it clear that he does. For example Dooyeweerd sees fifteen modal aspects, Ouweneel sixteen. He splits the psychic aspect into perceptive and sensitive modes and he has coined the term ‘sportive’ to describe the modal aspects from the analytical to the pistic.

There are a small number of frustrations I found with the book. These include the lack of a glossary, the use on exclusive language, the lack of references (but perhaps this is deliberate to make the book more accessible) and the surprisingly short bibliography (2.5 pages). These shortcomings are however more than compensated for by the excellent indexes (8 pages of subject index and 3 pages of scripture index), the price of the book, and the making of a Dooyeweerdian approach (almost) accessible.

This book is a great beginning for what promises to be an excellent series.


Cornelius Van Til, Reformed Apologist and Churchma (American Reformed Biographies)
Cornelius Van Til, Reformed Apologist and Churchma (American Reformed Biographies)
by John R. Muether
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

4.0 out of 5 stars helped me to understand Van Til as a person, 20 Feb. 2015
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Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987) is seemingly something like marmite: either loved or hated. Or as Muether puts it: "…Van Til's readers could be divided into those who did not agree with him and those who did not understand him." (p 15) This excellent biography has certainly helped me to understand Van Til as a person a little more.

Van Til was the longest serving member of J Gresham Machen's then newly founded Westmister Seminary. He remained there teaching apologetics until his retirement in 1972. As a polemicist and controversialist he fought against modernism, arminianism, Barthianism, new evangelicalism, and Catholicism. He wasn't a populariser, and he regretted that he couldn't write as clearly and accessibly as Machen in Christianity and Liberalism. Nevertheless, John Frame described him as "perhaps the most important Christian thinker since Calvin.”

Van Til developed an apologetic method known as presuppositionalism. He maintained that
"that unless God is back of everything you cannot find meaning in anything. I cannot even argue for belief in Him without already having taken Him for granted. And, similarly, I contend that you cannot argue against belief in Him unless you also first take Him for granted. Arguing about God's existence, I hold, is like arguing about air. You may affirm that air exists, and I that it does not, but as we debate the point we are both breathing air all the time. (In Why I Believe in God)
He attempted to forge a path between the views of Kuyper and Warfield. Francis Schaeffer was influenced by his approach though Van Til didn't fully approve of Schaeffer's adaptations; he thought that it wasn't consistent. For Van Til Calvinism was the most logical and consistent worldview. No other approach was consistent and he took it upon himself to point out where inconsistencies lay.

Muether posits that we can't understand Van Til's theological commitments without understanding his ecclesiology: "His apologetic was self-consciously ecclesiastical as much as theological" (p 15). Consequently, the biography focuses more on Van Til's ecclesiastical life than on other aspects of his long academic career. But this means that what it doesn't do in any depth is explain Van Til's more novel ideas. But then perhaps that's going beyond what Muether aims to do. As Muether notes "To focus solely on Van Til's novelty fails to appreciate the many ways in which he tried to preserve tradition by standing on the shoulders of those who went before him."

For Van Til, and Kuyper before him, Calvinism alone does "full justice to the cultural mandates of Christ." The touchstone for Van Til was consistency. The problem with everyone else such as Schaeffer, Gordon Clark, Oliver Buswell and Barth et al was that they were not being, as Van Til saw it, consistent Calvinists.

Van Til comes over as someone who is zealous for truth and is keen to defend it at any cost. He seems to see things in black and white there are few greys. Perhaps because of this he was involved with a number of controversies. These are dealt with well in the book. Murther even suggests that the Clark-Van Til controversy should really be the Murray-Van Til controversy. His disagreements with Dooyeweerd are mentioned only briefly. The issue of common grace is dealt with somewhat more fully.

In the useful bibliographic essay that concludes the book Muether suggests books and papers that could provide more information on the novelties of Van Til. (Muether recommends Banshan's Van Til's Apologetic and Frame's Cornelius Van Til)

Muether writes with great respect and understanding for Van Til. He has drawn on a wide range of resources, including interviews with many of Van Til's colleagues, family, and friends, as well as having access to many of Van Till's personal letters.

The book is a pleasure to read. It is well produced - a rarity in these days of POD - and well written. It explains Van Til the man. It gave me a much better understanding of the motivations of Van Til and helped me to appreciate the man more. We can't ask more from a biography.


The Good of Politics: A Biblical, Historical, And Contemporary Introduction (Engaging Culture)
The Good of Politics: A Biblical, Historical, And Contemporary Introduction (Engaging Culture)
by James W. Skillen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important book, it should be read widely, 20 Feb. 2015
It's often said that religion and politics don't mix. It's also said that politics and religion should be avoided in polite conversation. In an interview for Vanity Fair magazine Tony Blair was asked about his Christian faith, Alistair Campbell, Blair's former communications Chief (aka spin doctor), immediately interrupted and said "I'm sorry, we don't do God".

Contrast this with a scene in the film Amazing Grace. William Wilberforce when considering giving up his political career for one in religion was visited by members of the Clapham Sect and Thomas Clarkson. Clarkson says to Wilberforce ‘We understand you are wondering whether to pursue politics or religion’. Hannah More responds: ‘We humbly suggest you can do both’.

That is the reformational response. We can serve God and do politics – in fact we can serve God in doing politics. Religion and politics do mix! In part this is why Skillen has written this excellent book, the title of which may seem to some Christians to be outrageous - how can politics be good?

His main aim is to show the creational role of politics and thus politics can be good. The current Christian consensus is that politics is a necessary evil. Skillen exposes this misunderstanding and ably shows the creational role of politics.

This misunderstanding has been prevalent since Augustine. Augustine suggested that institutions of government are unnatural and are permitted by God only in response to sin as both a punishment and a remedy for our sinful condition. If this is the case, as Skillen points out, then natural law cannot provide a basis for unnatural institutions. This Augustinian-perpetuated error stems from not having a strong enough view of creation. God created humans for political life and thus it can be good and it is ‘not a neutral terrain’ (p. 118).

Skillen shows the deficiency of the Augustinian perspective in the first two sections - biblical and historical. In the third and final section he looks at what Christian political involvement might look like. Here he surveys important topics such a economics, the environment, education, family and citizenship as vocation.

This is an important book, it should be read widely - and not just by Christians who have an interest in politics - but by every Christian who is touched by politics.


Francis Schaeffer and the Shaping of Evangelical America: Fundamentalist Warrior, Evangelical Prophet (Library of Religious Biography)
Francis Schaeffer and the Shaping of Evangelical America: Fundamentalist Warrior, Evangelical Prophet (Library of Religious Biography)
by Barry Hankins
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Shows how Schaeffer could be so influential and yet so flawed, 20 Feb. 2015
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Hankins, a historian at Baylor University, has provided an excellent, critical, but not unsympathetic, intellectual biography of L'Abri's Francis Schaeffer. We see here the journey of Schaeffer from fundamentalist to cultural critic and back again as he embraced, or rather was embraced by, the Christian Right.

Hankins seems ambivalent towards Schaeffer, on the one hand he recognises the impact he has had on evangelicals in helping them to be more culturally and intellectually aware and on the other he sees the weaknesses in Schaeffer’s position. Schaeffer was good at painting the large picture but was weak and even wrong on some of the key details.

Schaeffer’s strength was that he was a populariser; his weakness was that he was a populariser. This comes through clearly in Hankins biography.

Hankins provides a helpful overview and critical assessment of most of Schaefffer’s works. He shows that “Schaefer's analysis of western history was compelling in its broad outlines, but problematic in its details” p96. Schaeffer’s analysis of the Renaissance didn't acknowledge the difference between the Italian and the northern forms. He was reliant on the now discredited approach, popular at the time, of Jacob Burkhardt's approach to the Renaissance.

Nevertheless, Schaefer struck a chord with modernist Christians. He was the man for that time. But it Is clear that the time for him is not now, as Hankins shows the sales of C.S. Lewis’s far outstrip the sales of Schaeffer’s books today.

Hankins has performed an excellent job of placing Schaeffer in context and showing how he could be so influential and so flawed. The latter comes out clearly in his exchanges with Mark Noll and George Marsden over Schaeffer’s claims in A Christian Manifesto that the US was founded as a Christian country. Hankins insightfully points out:

"It seems that for Schaeffer, when a Christian utilised non-Christian thinking [eg Aquinas], the product was sub-Christian, but when a non-Christian [eg Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers] used Christian influences, the product was thoroughly Christian." (p 170).


Explorations in the History of Psychology: Persisting Themata and Changing Paradigms
Explorations in the History of Psychology: Persisting Themata and Changing Paradigms
by Harry a. Van Belle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.00

5.0 out of 5 stars A distinctively Christian approach that avoids being simplistic and biblicistic, 20 Feb. 2015
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There are several textbooks that provide an overview of the history of psychology, but none that do it from a Christian perspective, until now. Van Belle, emeritus professor of psychology at The Kings University College in Alberta, Canada, has produced an excellent introduction to, and overview of, the history of psychology utilising the Dutch Christian philosopher Vollenhoven’s approach. It is the fruit of many years teaching university students in North American and in Africa. Now students everywhere can benefit from Van Belle’s wisdom, insight and experience.

History is important it places where we are within a context. A historical perspective is important in showing not only where we have come from but also in revealing the ideologies at work in a subject. Van Belle, in utilising Vollenhoven’s approach, helpfully shows the continuities and discontinuities in the history of psychology: “The history of psychology necessarily consists of both persisting thematas and changing paradigms” (p. i).

The first half of the book is taken up with the Greek and the Middle Ages. Although psychology as a separate discipline, rather than being a sub-discipline of philosophy, didn’t exist until the nineteenth century, the Greek and scholastic roots prove illuminating. The final sections of the book deal with a number of key psychological schools and shifting emphases on consciousness, the unconscious mind, adaptation, functionalism, behaviourism and then cognitive and humanistic psychology.

Each chapter closes with a list of references and a ‘Some issues to stimulate discussion’, this section provides helpful prompts for discussion and will prove invaluable for those who want to use the book as a college text. For those who want a history of psychology then this is the book to go to, the added advantage is that it is from a distinctively Christian approach that avoids being simplistic and biblicistic. Van Belle has served us well.


Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism
Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism
by Molly Worthen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating picture of evangelicalism, 20 Feb. 2015
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Worthen, assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, paints an interesting picture of North American evangelicalism.

Surprising in a history of evangelicalism there is no mention of Bebbington’s quadrilateral as the defininition of evangelicalism, so then how does Worthen define evangelicalism? In a sense she doesn’t. She presents a wide-ranging consortium of views and these include anabaptists, methodists and pentecostals. She rightly notes that defining it has produced more debate than agreement (p 3) and she sees history as being the best too for ‘pinning down’ evangelicals (p 4).

She attempts to answer three questions (p 6) which evangelicals seem obsessed with: how to reconcile faith and reason; how to know Jesus; and how act publicly on faith in an increasingly secular public square. An intellectual civil war!

She focuses both on institutions - for example Wheaton College, Fuller Seminary, Biiola, Bob Jones University, Christianity Today - and individuals - J. Gresham Machen, Carl Henry, Francis Schaeffer, Billy Graham, Howard Ockenga, John Howard Yoder and George Eldon Ladd, James Dobson and Hal Lindsey, Harold Lindsell all get largish parts.

Surprisingly Gordon Clark has more than a bit part. Wheaton College’s (1936-43) Clark is mentioned along with Cornelius Van Til regarding presuppositionalism, which Worthen maintains they developed from Abraham Kuyper (p 30), but also as a mentor for Carl Henry and Edward Carnell, and in relation to the development of the notion of Weltanschauung (world- and life-view)among (neo)evangelicals. See shows how worldview has become a powerful rhetorical strategy; we have worldview academy, worldview initiative, worldview curriculum, worldview studies, for most of them their understanding of worldview is a far remove from the espoused by Kuyper.

Worthen, as an evangelical outsider, draws a fascinating picture of evangelicalism, her book will help evangelicals see themselves from another’s perspective and help them better contemplate what of evangelicalism is God-given and what is cultural fluff.


Drama of Scripture, The: Finding Our Place In The Biblical Story
Drama of Scripture, The: Finding Our Place In The Biblical Story
by Craig G. Bartholomew
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Help makes sense of the storied scriptures and of our storied world, 20 Feb. 2015
The Drama of Scripture is the first book in the trilogy that also includes Living at the Crossroads and Christian Philosophy. First published in 2004, now a decade later we have the updated second edition.

The success of the first edition has been justly deserved. It has been translated into Russian, Korean, Chinese, Czech and Spanish. There were UK and US version and an abridged version with a study guide published as The True Story of the Whole World and now this second edition.

The second edition hasn’t changed the narrative structure; the biblical story of creation, fall and redemption still remains, as do the chapter titles. The main additions are not major but include mainly updated references and a few literary tweaks, its length has been increased by almost ten per cent.

The book was written for first-year undergraduates but the appeal will be wider. In an age when biblical literacy is waning, even in the church, this book will provide a welcome tool in the pastor’s, and was as educator’s, arsenal. Few books do a similar job of retelling the biblical narrative as a coherent, unified, integrated story of redemption. Even fewer do it with the grace, humour and accessibility of Bartholomew and Goheen. The book will help makes sense of the storied scriptures and of our storied world. Finding our place in the scriptures will help us to find our place and role in the world. This second edition is to be warmly welcomed.


Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism in the United Kingdom during the Twentieth Century
Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism in the United Kingdom during the Twentieth Century
by David W. Bebbington
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £79.00

4.0 out of 5 stars The book deserves a wider reading than the price tag would permit, 20 Feb. 2015
It has been the received wisdom that fundamentalism is largely an American phenomenon that has had little impact on British evangelicalism. Here David Bebbington and David Ceri Jones have complied a volume looking at the relationship of evangelicalism and fundamentalism in Britain.

Bebbington is well know for his seminal Evangelicalism in Modern Britain and Jones is co-author of The Elect Methodists and is working on a history of evangelicalism in Wales, so both are well equipped to edit this volume.

Fundamentalism has been described as ‘the crypto-zooology of the theological world. It need not be argued against. It can be dismissed.’[1] Fortunately, in this volume it is not dismissed but examined in the light of the evangelical movement in Britain. Both fundamentalism and evangelicalism are notoriously difficult to define. The most oft-quoted definition in this book is Marsden’s tongue in cheek definition of fundamentalists as ‘evangelicals who are angry about something’ (cited in, for example, pages 116, 148, 231, 255, 339, 351, 363). Perhaps evangelicalism is then fundamentalism made more socially acceptable. Or as John Mark Reynolds, cited by Holmes, puts it an evangelical is ‘a fundamentalist who watches The Office.’ Or Marsden's (1980) ‘a mosaic of divergent and sometimes contradictory traditions and tendencies that could never be totally integrated’. Like the soap in a bath it is difficult to get a hold of - and very slippery.

Nevertheless, these authors all make an excellent attempt to examine British evangelicalism to see if there are any fundamentalist tendencies in it. Most think not. Though, of course it depends how each is defined. Some see the relationship as intersecting sets (e.g. Holmes), for some the intersection is an empty set, others as a spectrum of views (eg Warner).

The majority of the book is devoted to historical case studies. Warner and Holmes take a broader look and examine statements of faith and theological perspectives.

The Fundamentals the 12 volumes that were largely responsible for the fundamentalist movement so it is fitting that the first chapter takes a look at the British contributions to it. Treloar notes that there were 17 British contributors (out of the 90)who contributed about 400 of the 1400 pages. This alone shows that fundamentalism isn’t just an American phenomenon. He proceeds to provide brief biographies of the contributors.

One of the contributors was Thomas Whitelaw of Kilmarnock and he is the subject of the next chapter. One interesting chapter is that on Methodism. Its inclusion is intriguing as the Methodists are hardly renowned for their evangelicalism let alone fundamentalism, but Wellings identifies one small group that did have fundamentalist tendencies. One of the editors of the Fundamentals was A.C. Dixon - at one point he moved to England to Spurgeon's Metropolitan Tabernacle. It is surprising then that he didn’t play a greater role among the British Baptists. Bebbington provides a helpful look at the Baptists and Andrew Atherstone at the Anglicans - both of them deal with the inter-war years.

One key characteristic of the fundamentalists is their anti-Catholicism stance this is taken up by John Maiden. Surprisingly is the inclusion of a chapter on women. Surprising as women were often overlooked by the predominantly male leadership. Wilson provides an excellent analysis of female involvement in fundamentalism, in particular Mrs Horrocks and Elizabeth Morton.

The section on the later twentieth century includes chapters on John Stott and Billy Graham. A sociological exploration of new churches in York brings the narrative up to date. A surprising omission is a chapter on D.M. Lloyd Jones, particularly as Jones is the editor of a volume on him. But then the omission may be overlooked in that there is book on him! The National variations section deals with the Ulsterman W.P. Nicholson, Scotland and post-War Wales. The final section on theological reflection looks at Pentecostalism, evangelical bases of faith, and theology.

For those with an interest in twentieth-century evangelicalism this book is a treasure trove. The book is replete with sources and avenues for further research. The book deserves a wider reading than the price tag would permit.

The majority of the chapters appear in this volume for the first time, those by Bebbington, Randall and Tidball are reprints of articles published first elsewhere. Each chapter has its own footnotes and there is a useful 17-page bibliography and an even more helpful 15-page index.

[1] Bauder, K.T. 2011. In Four Views of the Spectrum of Evangelicalism ed. A. D. Naselli and C. Hansen. Zondervan.


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