Wednesday, 1 October 2008

More on the Emergence of Evangelicalism

John Wolffe, Professor of Religious History in the Open University, weighs in (Tell Me, Where Was Evangelicalism Bred?) on The Emergence of Evangelicalism: Exploring Historical Continuities edited by Michael Haykin and Kenneth Stewart.

Wolffe's thoughts: the main argument of the book is overstated. He writes,

'
As Bebbington points out, despite its length, the book’s coverage is limited in its denominational range, being focused on Presbyterian and Nonconformist dimensions, and giving relatively little attention to Methodism, which was a central expression of Evangelicalism. Indeed, the treatment of Anglican Evangelicals is also skewed, more attention being given to Calvinists such as Newton and Toplady than to Arminians such as Wesley, who was surely far too pivotal to early Evangelicalism to be dismissed as a "deviation"'.

5 comments:

Brandon Withrow said...

Thanks for the link to the review.

Ken Stewart said...

Readers of this blog will not have to take John Wolffe's word for it much longer. The North American edition (from Broadman and Holman) will be available as of October 15th with the altered title _The Advent of Evangelicalism_. Online retailers such as Amazon will offer the $24.99 paperback for as little as $16.49.

Wolffe's charge of an anti-Wesleyan slant is unfortunate. We had a fine Wesleyan scholar involved but cancer in his family required him to drop out of the project. Wolffe has fastened on a single comment of a single contributor. Besides, we did have a wide range of contributors, including several charismatics and a Missouri Synod Lutheran. The suggestion of a Puritan and Reformed hegemony is really overblown as readers will find for themselves.

Exploring the Study of Religious History said...

Ken,

Always glad to have you stopping by our blog, and many thanks for reminding us of the release dates for the (hopefully highly anticipated!) North American edition.

In re your comments on Wolffe's anti-Wesleyan charge, I believe Wolffe was taking issue with the 'limited' denominational coverage rather than believing there wasn't a wide range of contributors, which there was. It appears that he thought the diverse group of contributors were too narrow in their focus and may have used atypical examples in their attempts to persuade.

I think you may be right, however, that Wolffe's comments are directed at a single contributor.

Cheers,

Andy

Ken Stewart said...

Andy:
Thanks for your interaction. We can be patient to see what a whole range of reviewers will say. But Wolffe, in addition to unduly focusing on the sentiments of single contributor, seems to have proceeded on the dubious assumption that it was somehow illegitimate for this volume to have concentrated on gathering voices which were determined to restate the case for evangelical continuity, rather than on giving continuity and discontinuity arguments equal time. It appeared to the majority of the contributors, however, that discontinuity arguments have ruled the roost for the past two decades. What is imbalanced or discourteous about restating a position that may have been unjustly relegated to the margins?

Exploring the Study of Religious History said...

Ken,

Yes, you are right. It will be good to hear what a variety of historians have to say on the book.

Interesting thoughts. I understand your concerns in regards to the discontinuity/continuity focus. I have trouble believing, however, that the majority of authors who have investigated the relationship between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, and have come to believe there is a good deal of discontinuity, do so as a result of some sort of agenda i.e. to look for discontinuity only. I think they look for both and then see which one emerges more prominently.

Wouldn't it then be appropriate for the one that emerged more prominently to be seen to represent reality more clearly. And, wouldn't it also be appropriate for that reality to rightly 'rule the roost.'

Cheers,

Andy