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Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ: The Renewal of Evangelicalism in Postwar America Paperback – March 31, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A familiar presence at universities, Campus Crusade for Christ exemplifies for historian Turner the type of nondenominational parachurch organization that has contributed to the surge of evangelicals' political and social influence since the mid-1970s. Bill Bright founded Campus Crusade, focused chiefly on evangelism, at UCLA in 1951; in his 50 years as president he turned it into a worldwide organization. Turner, a professor of American history at the University of South Alabama, uses Bright's story to dig into the early postwar roots of evangelicalism, including its ties to conservatives, anticommunism, use of sales techniques, painful split from fundamentalism, ambivalence towardcharismatic Christians and unresolved tensions with mainstream American culture. Most interesting are the influence of Henrietta Mears, director of Christian education at the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, on Bright's generation of evangelicals, and Campus Crusade's counteractivism at Berkeley in the 1960s. By the end of the book, Bright remains an enigma, but Turner's chronological account is a thought-provoking glimpse into the trajectory of modern evangelicalism as it moved toward its current involvement in national politics, opposition to abortion and gay marriage, and explosive growth in developing countries. (Apr.)
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Review

Crisply written and well-crafted. . . . An important contribution to a new generation of evangelical historiography.--Journal of Southern History



Sheds new light on the past half-century of religious life in the United States, and the author is to be commended for developing the history without becoming either defender or mocker of the subject. . . . Exceptionally well done . . . it deserves a wide audience of professional and amateur historians alike.--Maryland Historical Magazine



[An] intelligently contextualized biography. . . . Turner has done a wonderful job of bringing Bill Bright out of the shadow of Billy Graham and thereby greatly enhancing our understanding of the new evangelicalism.--The Journal of American History



Carefully researched and well-written. . . . An informative and erudite book that will be welcomed by students of American religious history--The Alabama Review



A useful supplement for courses on American Christianity. . . . We need more books like Turner's to deepen our understanding.--Church History



Anyone who wants to understand modern American evangelicalism and its impact on the nation's culture and politics will find Turner's book informative and rewarding.--Georgia Historical Quarterly



An excellent analysis of postwar American evangelicalism. . . . Well-written, thorough, carefully researched, and engaging.--Religious Studies Review

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; First Edition (US) First Printing edition (March 31, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807858730
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807858738
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #929,374 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Daniel D. Sweet on April 1, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This work on Bill Bright and the historical survey of Campus Crusade for Christ reflects a fair and balanced and historically accurate account of this important evangelical personality and movement. Much of the inner workings of the early years are explored in vivid detail. The battle between fundamentalism and evangelicalism pits Bill Graham against Bob Jones University. Bill Bright is forced to choice sides. This crisis moment, one of many throughout the history of this organization, is perfecftly set by the author in the crucible of the early emergence of evangelicalism. Though the book is about CCC and Bill Bright, it is properly subtitled "The Renewal of Evangelicalism in Postwar America" for in this work the reader catches the continual struggles, victories and setbacks for CCC as a microcosm of the entire movement, especially for parachurch organizations. Some of the historical narative in this work follows closely other biographies on Bill Bright. But this is the first histography to actually disclose both the good and the bad, the positive and the negative, with balance and objective historicity. Other biographical works have function as propoganda for CCC (Amazing Faith, I Found It). On the flip side, articles from Protestant liberal magazines on one end and fundamentalist (hear Bob Jones University Press) on the other end, have both presented Bill Bright as the antichrist, a tyrannt and heretic. Nice balance, good understanding of the 50s, 60s and 70s, allowing the reader, even if from more recent birth, to put their minds around the times. As the evangelical 70s receives appropriate historical evaluation, this work will serve as a model approach to the individuals and the organizations that comprise evangelicalism.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jeff A. Stucker on September 27, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As someone who was involved in Campus Crusade for Christ as a student in the 1980's and graduated from the now-defunct International School of Theology (a CCC school) in the 1990's, I eagerly read this history, in large part to understand the background to my own personal history.

This book does not disappoint. It is much more thorough than I could have imagined, while also having a sense of drama throughout.

John Turner adeptly weaves the story of Bill Bright and CCC with that of the burgeoning evangelical movement (including Billy Graham, Henrietta Mears, and countless other well-known figures -- yes they're all connected). At 238 pages of dense details, and another 50 pages of notes, bibliography, and index, this book walks the tight line between scholarly and popular history. Each chapter captures the theme of a segment of history, from the evangelical-fundamentalist split in post war America, to the ongoing relationship between evangelism and anti-communism, to the rise of the religious right.

Throughout the book, Turner highlights the innovations and controversy spawned by Bright and his organization -- innovations that changed the landscape of Christian evangelism and evangelicalism. Each of these innovations were highly controversial at their onset but have become familiar over time: the concise summary of the gospel in the "Four Spiritual Laws", the bold use of mass media in Here's Life, America and the Jesus film, and the never-seen-at-this-level fundraising success of individual staff members raising their own support money (each campus or international missionary soliciting their livelihood from friends family and personal business contacts).
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jan Davis on August 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
As a former, 13 years, CCC staff member and subsequent investor in many CCC projects, Turner does a thorough job exploring and explaining the people and forces that formed Bill Bright and the ministry of CCC. Bill Bright's growth as a man and as a follower of Christ is carefully developed while not ignoring his feet of clay. The book was helpful to my understanding my own history. This is a good read for those interested in the history of CCC.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Steven H Propp TOP 100 REVIEWER on December 18, 2012
Format: Paperback
John G. Turner is professor of history at the University of South Alabama, and the author of Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet. He wrote in the Introduction to this 2008 book, "What follows is a mostly chronological history of Campus Crusade's ministries within the United States... I examine the place of evangelical religion on the American campus since the middle of the twentieth century... I use Campus Crusade's fund-raising literature and Bright's activities to trace the political evolution of evangelicalism since 1945... Finally, I analyze the changing ways that evangelicals have understood and prescribed gender roles since 1945... I also highlight the ministry's periodic anti-intellectualism, its infatuation with large crowds and statistics, and the messy ways Bright connected his mission to partisan politics."

Bill Bright (1921-2003) withdrew from Fuller Theological Seminary, resolving, "I'm not going to be sitting here studying Greek when Christ comes!" He and a fellow student "told the faculty of their intention to leave 'because Christ was coming.' Turner concludes, "Either because of his prophecy-inspired resolution, his academic frustrations, or a lack of funds, Bright withdrew from Fuller Seminary." (Pg. 31)

He suggests that Bright "believed few congregations---Presbyterian or otherwise---would actually nurture the evangelical faith of his converts... Bright's negative conception of most churches reflects evangelicalism's heritage of fundamentalist separatism... Bright's desire to start a new campus organization reflects the entrepreneurial and unstructured nature of parachurch evangelicalism.
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Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ: The Renewal of Evangelicalism in Postwar America
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