Item description for American Evangelical Story, The: A History of the Movement by Douglas A. Sweeney...
Overview Examines the important events and personalities of the major strands of evangelicalism from the Great Awakening of the 1700s to the present, and each chapter includes annotated suggestions for further reading.
Publishers Description "The American Evangelical Story "surveys the role American evangelicalism has had in the shaping of global evangelical history. Author Douglas Sweeney begins with a brief outline of the key features that define evangelicals and then explores the roots of the movement in English Pietism and the Great Awakening of the eighteenth century. He goes on to consider the importance of missions in the development of evangelicalism and the continuing emphasis placed on evangelism. Sweeney next examines the different subgroups of American evangelicals and the current challenges faced by the movement, concluding with reflections on the future of evangelicalism. Combining a narrative style with historical detail and insight, this accessible, illustrated book will appeal to readers interested in the history of the movement, as well as students of church history.
Citations And Professional Reviews American Evangelical Story, The: A History of the Movement by Douglas A. Sweeney has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Library Journal - 07/01/2005 page 87
Booklist - 08/01/2005 page 1972
Library Journal - 07/15/2005
Christianity Today - 05/01/2006 page 68
Choice - 02/01/2006 page 1030
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More About Douglas A. Sweeney
Douglas A. Sweeney (Ph.D., Vanderbilt University) is associate professor of church history and the history of Christian thought and director of the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
Reviews - What do customers think about American Evangelical Story, The: A History of the Movement?
Communicating History with a Purpose May 3, 2007
One of the first advantages for Sweeney's study can be seen in how he opens up the word, definition, and conception of evangelicalism. By no means does he have rose colored glasses about the history of evangelicalism, but at the same time he is not afraid to declare the greatness of the movement itself. In fact, it seems that he regards the movement as one that carries the beneficent ideals of the European Protestant Reformation[s] and Protestant Great Awakening[s], both of which are influenced through the American experiment.
Sweeney first opens up the box, as it were, of Christian presuppositions with respect to the global presence of Christianity, and then gives commentary on how evangelicalism fits into that global structure. His intent here is to demonstrate that there is diversity within evangelicalism, to be sure, but also that evangelicalism is perhaps the most vital movement on the scene of the Christian religion. On this point Sweeney is correct. There is an advantage for Sweeney's study here because he is not merely trying to be ecumenical, but to be realistic that Christianity is encompassed by much more than just the word or designation of evangelical. However, at the same time Sweeney is by no means apologetic about his own evangelical presuppositions. He also humbly counts himself within the movement.
One example within Sweeney's study is the subject of the Great Awakening within early New England, which Sweeney labels, "the regional center of American evangelicalism." Thus, it seems that Sweeney regards the dynamic of early Puritanism very important. He is right on this point because this period within American evangelicalism sets the precedent for much of American Christianity. In addition to this, he gives a very positive view of Whitefield and Edwards. One of the eloquent segments of his writing deals with the dichotomy between the "New Divinity" and the "Old Calvinists." He says, "The New Divinity of the Edwardsians dealt primarily with the experience of revival and conversion. As Calvinists, they taught that none could come to faith in Christ except by supernatural grace, but as evangelists, they knew that saving grace came through the gospel." This is a very good description of the rationale of the New Light Calvinists and thus shows how the major theological perspective of Calvinism was nuanced for the American evangelical context.
Where Sweeney does a particularly good job at painting a high-quality picture of evangelicalism, he also is quick to point out its historical scars. In his chapter, "Crossing the Color Line without Working to Erase It", he unabashedly admits historical mistakes within the evangelical movement. Some of these include "heroes" of the faith such as Edwards and Whitefield preaching the universal gospel, and yet "paradoxically" owning slaves at the same time.
However, as fast as Sweeney admits to the now irrational and unspeakable atrocities committed by evangelicals of the past, he adamantly argues for the substantive good that has been accomplished by evangelicalism. He says that "...despite such undeniable moral failure, God has used the evangelicals to promote the gospel of grace among literally millions of African Americans...Ever since the Great Awakening, white evangelicals have engaged in Christian outreach to black people--never adequately but faithfully and consistently." To this quote, Sweeney must be commended. Not only is he honest about evangelical failures of the past, but his main point is that God's purposes are being fulfilled through morally stained people--black or white. His sections on black evangelicals demonstrate this perspective very well. Further, he does a particularly good job in the same chapter by describing the dynamics of the black evangelical movement. Thus, Sweeney expresses something very profound: being evangelical does not have to do with color, creed, or denomination, but with being a gospel witness.
Although Sweeney says that his study is intended to show the history of evangelicalism, which it of course does, it also conveys much more. Sweeney says that his hope is that the book may be a memorial that bears witness to God's faithfulness. Furthermore, Sweeney hopes not just to educate persons about historical evangelism, but to help believers regain their "spiritual bearings." This strategy by Sweeney is a refreshing perspective that demonstrates his zeal to be a faithful interpreter of evangelical history, and also to communicate that same history with the purpose of showing God's faithfulness. Thus, Sweeney's portrayal of evangelicalism can be helpful for all persons hoping to understand this movement within the broader Christian church.
Very Well Written! Oct 9, 2006
I was very impressed with this book. Some of the other evangelical histories I've read (namely the ones by Mark Noll) have been very detailed, but not always interesting to read. Now, from the keyboard of Douglas Sweeney, we have a tight history of the evangelical movement that reads like a novel. He traces the origins of evangelicalism to the first Great Awakening in the 1730s. We learn of how Christians from different denominations banded together to support the revival preaching of men like George Whitefield, John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards.
We also read about the more Arminian leanings of the 2nd Great Awakening in America, which spanned much of the 19th century and featured the thunderous preaching of Charles Finney and Francis Asbury.
The role of female preachers in evangelicalism is discussed, namely Phoebe Palmer, and Aimee Semple Macpherson, who eventually founded the Foursquare Gospel Church.
I also appreciated the discussion of black evangelicals and mourned with the author over the sad history of segregation and apathy between whites and blacks in the evangelical movement.
There is also a chapter about the holiness and pentecostal movements, and the fissure that developed between neo-evangelicals and fudamentalists. Sweeny concludes with an epilogue about the uncertain future of the American Evangelical movement, including a brief glance at the major division with Southern Baptist circles.
This is the best book I have come across on the American Evangelical movement and I heartily recommend it.