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on 23 May 2008
Hart reviews the literature on modern Evangelicalism, and finds it a movement without a center -- a loose trans-denominational association of people who don't really like rigid fundamentalism, or modernism, who end up adopting a kind of lowest-common-denominator version of historic Christianity. He cites scholars like George M. Marsden, who says, "In point of fact, the glue holding evangelicalism together has actually been the culture of celebrity, which is perhaps the flip side of denying the authority of traditions" -- so that an evangelical is basically "anyone who likes Billy Graham".

The book suggests that mega-churches of the airwaves or big revivals are no long-range substitute for real communities with real institutions and traditions. And for sure there's a lot of truth in that. Still, the book raises more questions than it answers. How well does it account for the Pentecostal movements among Black churches or Catholics? What are the positive sides of Evangelicalism's transcending old denominational boundaries? Can religious community be based more on shared questions and experiences than on institutions and doctrines? How are Evangelicals changing in their social and political values?

Hart is clearly more interested in raising good questions and making people think than in supplying his own answers. And in that, his book is highly successful.

--author of Correcting Jesus: 2000 Years of Changing the Story
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