Monday, 26 May 2008

The Emergence of Evangelicalism

I thought the first post should be dedicated to the appearance of a recent book evaluating David's descriptive definition of Evangelicalism: The Emergence of Evangelicalism: Exploring Historical Continuities (Nottingham: IVP, 2008) edited by Michael Haykin and Kenneth Stewart. (You can find information on it here, here and here). Unfortunately--for all you US based folks--it is only available in the UK at the moment.
The Emergence of Evangelicalism is, as its subtitle suggests, a book which explores the continuity between the religion of the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and the evangelical religion that emerged in the eighteenth century. A whopping 18 scholars on both sides of the Atlantic contribute essays to the book. At the heart of the book is the question, 'Did Evangelicalism predate the eighteenth century?' This question was the title of an article by one of the editors (Kenneth Stewart) which appeared in the Evangelical Quarterly 77:2 (2005): 135-153 (it is available on ATLA Religion Database in pdf format for all of you who are, like myself, occasionally too lazy to go to the library!) The central question of the book is a good one, but it is not the first and only question concerning the adequacy of David's quadrilateral. Several other books have questioned the sufficiency of the quadrilateral (see Andrew Atherstone's recent work on Charles Golightly). One of David's former students, Timothy Larsen, has flagged up one of the problems with the quadrilateral: it assumes certain contextual information. He comments:
'For example, if no context is made explicit, an argument could be made that St Francis of Assisi was an evangelical. St. Francis, after all, had a clear, dramatic conversion experience; he was so committed to activism that he pioneered friars out itinerating amongst the people, preaching the gospel, and ministering to physical needs rather than being cloistered monks; his biblicism was so thorough that his Rule was made up mostly of straight quotations from Scripture; his crucicentrism was so profound that it reached its culmination in the stigmata.' (T. Larsen in The Cambridge Companion to Evangelical Theology (Cambridge University Press, 2007), 2.)

Yet, no other definition of evangelicalism comes close to rivaling the scholarly acceptance of David's quadrilateral. I think many people get hung up on the descriptive/prescriptive qualifications when examining the definition as it is configured in the quadrilateral. As historians, we are not (or should not be) attempting to place a prescriptive framework on the past. We hypothesize but then look for data which will make or break our hypothesis. My own thought on the quadrilateral is that although it possesses a few minor cracks, it is a solid descriptive definition of Evangelicalism.


Thoughts?

Andy

14 comments:

Exploring the Study of Religious History said...

Andy, I'm excited about the new book too, but not about the price - $50 is the cheapest I've found. Any advice for grabbing a more affordable copy? Perhaps David has some connections with the publishers?

Jon

Exploring the Study of Religious History said...

Jon,

The amazon.uk site was the cheapest I could find (around $30). It's unfortunate that IVP US opted out of publishing the book. I think something is in the works for it to be published in the US in the coming year. You could always do what I did--find a journal to let you do a book review of it and then get the book for free!

Cheers,

Andy

Marty said...

Dear Andy,

I'm excited about your new blog! I picked up the reference from the Conventicle. The question about Bebbington's quadrilateral has interested me for years.

One of the issues I do have is concerning the word "evangelical" which Luther coined and became greatly used in the Continental reformation. Why do we start with 18th century when speaking of this word when it's use goes back to Luther? Shouldn't we rather see the 18th century movement as a part of a broader evangelicalism that began at the reformation, which had its own 18th century characteristics?

Every blessing,

Marty.

Exploring the Study of Religious History said...

Hey Marty,

Good to hear from you and glad that you are as excited as we are about the blog!

A few (late-night) thoughts: I'm not sure whether or not Luther actually 'coined' the term, but for a moment we can set that aside. Basically, as you might have already gathered from our first post, it is a subject of debate. My understanding is that the ways in which revivalists in eighteenth-century Britain and America combined English Puritanism and Continental Pietism with ideas from the Enlightenment was done in such a way that they created a new religious movement. This collaboration of ideas and experiences in the eighteenth century, while containing a good degree of continuity with the past (e.g. Reformers), ultimately broke with the past through new and different emphases on activism and conversion--see Bebbington's quadrilateral for definitions. So, for example, Methodism (the largest evangelical body in America during the majority of the 19th century) emerged as having much more of a Moravian concept of conversion than a Puritan one.

Your central question--were the changes (between the Reformation and the 18th century) great enough for a break to have occurred--is a good one. Based on the evidence, it seems that a majority of scholars think a break occurred. One of the questions for me is to what degree Luther and the rest of the Reformers identified themselves as 'evangelicals'? Were there a large number of religious minded Protestants who were applying the label to their own convictions and attitudes before the late 18th and early 19th century? Not so sure about this.

I think greater latitude could be given, but as historians we are really trying to describe what is going on i.e. we are allowing those involved to draw, or extend, the lines of definition. It isn't necessarily what we think but rather what they thought.

Much more to be said, but I'll wait to hear back from you and get some sleep in the meantime.

Thanks for writing Marty!

Best

Andy

Anonymous said...

What is the difference between descriptive and prescriptive?

Exploring the Study of Religious History said...

I am told the book will be published in the States by B&H Publishing Group under a different name. B&H felt the term 'emergence' had too many connotations.

Kindest Regards

Cullen

Marty said...

Dear Andy,

Thanks for your reply. Several thoughts in response.

[1] Yes I am questioning whether Bebbington's elements of discontinuity in conversion / assurance and activism, are in fact correct. [See, for example, Garry Williams Tyndale Bulletin paper on this point]. The 18th century movement may've been different on conversion / assurance to mainstream Puritanism, however I'm not sure if it was that different to the reformers.

[2] A good comment about the usage of the word "evangelical" is found at the beginning of Diarmaid MacCulloch's book "Reformation". He believes it was used quite extensively (I don't have the book near me at the moment) as a designation for those following the reformation.

I do look forward to Haykin's new volume!

God bless you,

Marty.

Exploring the Study of Religious History said...

There is a notable difference between the Puritans of the 16th and 17th century and the 'Evangelicals' of the 18th century - 'Activism'. Whereas the Puritans concentrated their efforts on evangelizing their children through catechism and family devotions, men like Edwards, Wesley, Whitefield, etc. actively spread the gospel beyond their tight-knit community. This is one of the reasons that the quadrilateral has determined the 1730s to be a dividing point between like-minded Protestant Christians. Puritan doctrines were carried forward by 18th c. Evangelicals, but with the added emphasis upon missions.

Jon

Marty said...

Dear Jon,

Thanks so much for your response. Yes, that's exactly right about activism. Is "activism" the best word to convery this difference? Perhaps. I wonder if it doesn't confuse.

But again, it's not that we can't find evangelistic effort before 1730s. Calvin was involved in planting 2000 churches in France from Geneva and sent missionaries to Portugal. In the 17th century Gijsbert Voetius trained up missionaries for Indonesia.

It seems to me that there is some continuity but the evangelistic strategy of the 18th century evangelicals is much more pronounced and explicit.

It's interesting, I don't know about the 18th century, but the "evangelist" of Eph. 4:11 was thought to have passed away in the 1st century with the apostles. Was this modified in the 18th or 19th centuries?

God bless,

Marty.

Ken Stewart said...

Dear Andy:
A friend in Dublin has drawn your kind initial discussion of _The Emergence of Evangelicalism_ to my attention. It is gratifying to see discussion begun at this early stage.
Just a few items that may help the circulation and discussion of the book forward.
1. The forthcoming USA edition will indeed come from B&H (formerly Broadman and Holman)of Nashville. No price is suggested as of yet. B&H simply pledges that the book will be available when major academic conferences come in November.
2. Potential readers on both sides of the Atlantic can find more attractive pricing by looking on the web. Amazon and others are selling it at slight discount (I saw one price of just over 15 pounds). Though B&H has exclusive rights for all of North America, there is nothing to stop an individual on this side of the Atlantic from in effect importing a single copy, However, shipping is pricey.
3. Finally, I think it is fair to say that the underlying question which the book addresses is _not_ the quadrilateral, per se, but the supposition that the components of the quadrilateral are all only in place from 1730 onwards. Contributors provide strong evidence that the case for drawing the line at 1730 is debatable, at best.
Kenneth Stewart (co-editor)
Covenant College
Lookout Mountain, GA 30750

Exploring the Study of Religious History said...

Dear Marty,

Good comments. Yep, I do think that there is a fair amount of continuity but that it was much more pronounced in the 18th century. In re Eph. 4:11, not sure. I haven't looked at people's beliefs throughout history concerning the distribution of gifts. Could be that it was modified, but I just really don't know.

Dear Ken,

Welcome! Thanks for the updates and clarifications. Yes, the line of demarcation is debatable. I look forward to diving more deeply into the book and weighing up the evidence provided by the contributors. I hope to have another posting on the book in the future.

Best,

Andy

Ken Stewart said...

Andy:
To follow the earlier exchange, I note that there is now a copy of this book listed as available for review at:
www.hope.ac.uk/theological-book-review/theological-book-review.html

Hope, Liverpool is taking over the management of this review, and the web is being used (at least initially) to solicit reviewers.

Ken Stewart

Exploring the Study of Religious History said...

Ken,

Great tip! Thanks for that.

Andy

J. R. Miller said...

Hi, I am glad to join in your study of history. I would also like to present to you an historical survey I have been putting together regarding the rise of Pentecostalism in America (and also some of the influences of the Keswick Convention from your side of the pond). If you are interested, please take a look. I would love to read your insight if you care to post on them.

You can find all the details at Promise of The Father.