Subscribe to Christianity Today
by David Hempton
An Authentic Narrative of Some Remarkable and Interesting Particulars
Declaring himself to be "an evangelical historian of evangelical history," Mark Noll has contributed a distinguished opening volume to InterVarsity Press's five-volume history of evangelicalism— which, when complete, will cover the period from the 1730s to the 1990s. Designed for the general reader, the series aims to treat evangelicalism as a transnational movement, and to present thoughtful interpretive frameworks based upon a wide command of primary and secondary literature. although intended primarily as a work of synthesis, Noll's volume is distinguished by the scope of its knowledge, the lucidity of its prose, the cleverness of its organizing principles, and the integrity of its judgments.
The working definition of evangelicalism employed by Noll is taken from David Bebbington's influential quadrilateral of conversionism, biblicism, activism, and crucicentrism, a useful definitional paradigm which leaves sufficient room for the classical evangelical emphases on individualism and religious experience. although Noll's volume concludes with some ringing endorsements of the centrality of evangelical religious experience in the lives of ordinary men and women, the central concern of his book is with the rise of a transnational religious movement rather than an exploration of how evangelical religion was lived and practiced by its adherents.
After supplying some helpful information about the social, political, and ecclesiastical landscape of the 18th century, the first major question addressed by the book is where evangelicalism came from. As anyone who has ever thought about it will testify, this deceptively simple question is uncommonly difficult to answer. Noll looks for the roots of evangelicalism among international networks of serious-minded Calvinists, continental European Pietists unhappy with Lutheran scholasticism, and English High Churchmen concerned about the spiritual mediocrity of their own established church. He shows how representatives of each tradition ...