My recent post “‘Evangelicals’ Who Are Not Evangelicals” generated quite a discussion about who’s in, and who’s out of the evangelical camp. The study of evangelicalism has seen an amazing renaissance in the past fifty years, so here’s a list of five excellent books on evangelicals and their history. The usual disclaimers: I’m not including my own books! And these are by academic scholars – mostly historians – writing books that are accessible to a general audience.
David Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain. Not only is this the essential study of evangelical development in Britain, but Bebbington here gave us his famous “quadrilateral” of evangelical characteristics: activism, biblicism, crucicentrism, and conversionism.
George Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture. OK, Marsden was my doctoral advisor so I am biased, but this is arguably the most important book ever written on American evangelicalism, as it masterfully tells the story of the intellectual roots of late nineteenth century “fundamentalism” and the coming of the fundamentalist-modernist crisis in America’s churches. If you have not read it, stop everything and get a copy right now.
Catherine Brekus, Sarah Osborn’s World: The Rise of Evangelical Christianity in Early America. In my jacket endorsement for the book, I wrote that it is “simply one of the best books I have read on the life of an American evangelical, female or male, particularly because Brekus is able so successfully to combine historical analysis of evangelicalism with the details of Osborn’s life and writings.”
Darren Dochuk, From Bible Belt to Sunbelt: Plain-Folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism. From my fellow Marsden student, Dochuk’s book is one of the most important books ever written on the rise of religious conservatism in the 20th century.
Michael Emerson and Christian Smith, Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America. This brilliant and devastating take on evangelicals and race will never let you look at this pressing topic the same way again.
I would love to see your suggestions for additions or replacements in the comments thread!
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