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The Dominance of Evangelicalism: The Age of Spurgeon and Moody (History of Evangelicalism) Hardcover – November 7, 2005
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The Dominance of Evangelicalism is meticulously well researched. Bebbington has shown himself to be an extraordinary scholar, not only of modern evangelicalism, but also of historical evangelicalism and the development of its theological thought. (Pneuma Review, Summer 2007)
"In this new study, Bebbington reveals the extraordinary influence of 19th-century evangelicalism. His striking conclusion is . . . Evangelicals rule! The secret to evangelicalism's success lies in its distinctives." (Timothy Larsen, Christianity Today, June 2006)
About the Author
David W. Bebbington (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is professor of history at the University of Stirling in Scotland and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society. His principal research interests are in the history of politics, religion and society in Britain from the eighteenth to the twentieth century and in the history of the global evangelical movement. His recent books include Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s (1989), Victorian Nonconformity (1992), William Ewart Gladstone: Faith and Politics in Victorian Britain (1993) and Holiness in Nineteenth-Century England (2000). He has edited The Baptists in Scotland (1988), Evangelicalism: Comparative Studies of Popular Protestantism in North America, the British Isles and Beyond, 1700-1990 (1994), Gladstone Centenary Essays (2000), The Gospel in the World: International Baptists Studies (2002) and Modern Christianity and Cultural Aspirations (2003).
Top customer reviews
This book covers English-speaking evangelicalism from 1850 to 1900, complementing the wider chronology but narrower geography of his earlier book, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s (Routledge, 1989). The two share the key (and very useful) definition of evangelicalism in terms of cross, conversion, Bible, and mission. In both books, Bebbington analyzes how evangelicals interacted with the intellectual and cultural currents of the day: Scottish common sense realism, Romanticism, evolution, respectability, and so on. But he approaches the present study thematically (as opposed to chronologically, as in the previous book), an approach that works well and isn't very redundant for this relatively short period.
Bebbington writes clearly and concisely, supplying many and vivid illustrations drawn largely from primary periodicals. I highly recommend this book, for scholars and interested lay people alike, in addition to Evangelicalism in Modern Britain.
The Prologue contains a discussion of the social and political context.
1. Bebbington overviews global evangelicalism, 1850 - 1900.
2. He describes the diversity of evangelicalism: social, denominational (Anglican, Presbyterian, Congregational, Baptist, Methodist, and others), and geographical (England, the rest of the British Isles, the rest of the British Empire, United States, and South Africa). But evangelicals bonded and cooperated across these divisions.
3. He describes evangelicals' spirituality, worship, home missions, Sunday schools, revivals, and foreign missions.
4. Evangelicals used Enlightenment ideas, especially the Scottish common sense philosophy associated with Francis Bacon. This had many results: attempting to reconcile science with religion, Calvinism decaying and Arminianism rising. Postmillennialism, missiology, and pragmatism in church structure are all discussed.
5. Romanticism influenced not only Catholic, Anglo-Catholic, and Unitarian thought, but also evangelical -- resulting in higher church liturgical forms, poetic and eloquent sermons, various theories of Biblical inspiration, favorable opinions toward evolution, and liberal trends in doctrine (e.g., emphasizing the Fatherhood of God and the Incarnation of Christ, and downgrading eternal punishment to conditional immortality).
6. There were conservative trends affected by Romanticism, too: faith missions (relying on God alone for support and not making collections), premillennialism (in both historicist and futurist flavors), and holiness thought (especially the Keswick and proto-Pentecostal forms).
7. Evangelicals interacted with social trends in important ways, especially feminine ascendancy and race relations. Also, they were generally conservative with respect to entertainment during the period at hand and crusaded against desecration of the Lord's day, Catholicism, sexual immorality, and alcohol. Included is a discussion of the social gospel movement.
8. Figures of denominational growth during the period are included in the conclusion.
If you are looking for a biographical account of Spurgeon & Moody, along with a sketch of their times, this is not the book for you. On the other hand, if you want to read a thorough account of broad evangelical trends from the 1840s to the 1890s and are comfortable with a 'thick' read, then there is much to interest you in this book. Bebbington gives a survey of the movements of evangelicalism during that time, their effects on culture, and the degree to which culture may have influenced the development of evangelical theology and action.
Though not a popular-level writer like the secular historical works of Stephen Ambrose and David McCollough, Bebbington provides a great deal of helpful information on Christianity in that day. At times, you may wish that he was more clear about certain trends being unbiblical and outside the pale of what is genuinely evangelical, for at the outset he defines 'evangelical' as (1) holding to a strong allegiance to the Bible, (2) attached to the cross and substitionary atonement, (3) concerned for personal conversion and regeneration, and (4) active, to the point of often being activists. However, as he proceeds to unfold history, the groups he ranks within the context of 'evangelical' appear separate from these four marks and no mention is made of the discrepancy.
Bebbington's knowledge of that time period runs deep. It is too bad that there is not more analysis and evaluation within this volume to help the reader better understand the strengths and weaknesses that developed within evangelicalism in that time. Mark Noll, Iain Murray, S.M. Houghton, and David Wells are all good, if different, examples of how history can be analyzed and learned from. Bebbington's book provides ample information, with perhaps a slight emphasis on the sociological, as compared to the aforementioned authors, and largely leaves it to the reader to read critically and thoughtfully. - John Pleasnick, Christian Book [..]