Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Cosmopolitan Evangelicals

So this post is more in the realm of sociology than history, but there is a significant amount of overlap. I wondered if any of you had seen or read D. Michael Lindsay's book Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite. He contends that the major division in the American evangelical movement is not between those who support the political right and the political left, but between "populist" evangelicals and "cosmopolitan" evangelicals. In an interview conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life Lindsay comments:

"I differentiate between two kinds of evangelicals. Populist evangelicalism has been what a lot of attention has been devoted to. This is the domain of, “We’re going to take back Washington.” A lot of Patrick Henry [college] embodies populist evangelicalism. Principally seeing politics as the arena where you have to bring about cultural change using mass rallies.

An exemplar of this was, in 1980, there was a Washington for Jesus rally, which Bill Bright and a number of other evangelical leaders organized. It’s the idea that a radio commentator would get on and say, “You need to call your congressman today. They’re voting on an issue.” And the evangelicals would flood the phone lines on Capitol Hill. This is an important part of evangelical activism. But I think it’s actually [part of] the previous generation.

That generation is dying off, and it’s being replaced with what I call cosmopolitan evangelicalism. This is the evangelicalism of the establishment, where the edges have been softened. The cosmopolitan evangelicals that came up time and again in my research are those folks who interact regularly with people of different faiths and of no faith at all. They rub shoulders in the secular world all the time. And they don’t lose their faith as a result of that, but they interact with their faith in different ways.

So whereas populist evangelicals want to take back America or convert to the Christianization of this country, cosmopolitan evangelicals have a more modest goal. They simply want their faith to be seen as legitimate, authentic, and – they hope in the end – attractive and winsome. In the same way, they do want their faith to draw others, but [they use] different forms of mobilization [that are] far more subtle, more nuanced, and because of that, more significant."

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Fuller Seminary's "Theology, News & Notes"

Liz thought it would be good to draw our attention to Fuller's Theology, News & Notes publication. The winter 2008 edition was dedicated to the topic of evangelical identity. There are several excellent articles, and most of them interact with an aspect of Bebbington's quadrilateral.

James Bradley, the Geoffrey W. Bromiley Professor of Church History at Fuller, carefully constructs a summary of evangelicalism in the issue. He parses evangelicalism's growth into four stages and examines "a single thread of evangelical theology, the substitutionary atonement, to show how different historical eras and contexts shaped evangelical emphases, and at the same time, how certain elements of the gospel became prominent in the evangelical tradition" (p. 4)