Item description for Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism by George Marsden...
Overview In this historical overview of American fundamentalism and evangelicalism, Marsden provides an introduction to these growing religious movements and a deeper analysis of two themes that have been especially prominent and controversial in these traditions--views of science and views of politics.
Publishers Description In this historical overview of American fundamentalism and evangelicalism, Marsden provides an introduction to the growing religious movements and a deeper analysis of two themes that have been especially prominent and controversial in these traditions views of science and views of politics.
Citations And Professional Reviews Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism by George Marsden has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Library Journal - 01/01/1991
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Studio: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.4" Width: 5.5" Height: 0.7" Weight: 0.55 lbs.
Release Date Jul 1, 2000
Publisher Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
ISBN 0802805396 ISBN13 9780802805393
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Marsden's Title Says it All Oct 6, 2007
Among his fellow religious historians, George M. Marsden is widely recognized as the leading expert on the long history of the Christian fundamentalist movement in America. In 1991, the year before he became the Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame, Marsden published an edited collection of his essays on the principle subjects of his expertise entitled, Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.). As Marsden wrote in his preface, Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism (hereafter, UFE) is intended to provide non-experts interested in these subjects with "an overview of American fundamentalism and evangelicalism" (vii), as well as Marsden's own well-considered interpretations of several recurring themes.
UFE's 208 pages are divided into two parts. Part one, "Historical Overview' (pp. 7-81), documents from 1870 onward the ideological rift in American Protestantism that spawned what came to be known as "fundamentalism," a species of evangelicalism determined to confront secularism and all manner of Christian apostasy--and in no uncertain terms. Part one of UFE is divided into two chapters. The first chapter (9-61) chronicles the growing dissatisfaction of conservative, evangelical Protestants with their "modernist" brethren who appeared ever willing to sacrifice any and every long-cherished Christian belief and practice on the altars of academic and political correctness. Chapter two (62-82) focuses mainly on fundamentalism's complicated relationship since 1930 with that much broader subcategory of Protestantism known as evangelicalism, a multi-denominational group characterized by its belief in "(1) the Reformation doctrine of the final authority of the Bible, (2) the real historical character of God's saving work in Scripture, (3) salvation to eternal life based on the redemptive work of Christ, (4) the importance of evangelism and missions, and (5) the importance of a spiritually transformed life" (4-5).
Part two, "Interpretations," examines the long history of evangelicalism's involvement in American politics (chap. 3); the seeming ambivalence of evangelicals toward the affairs of this world, its modern epistemology and technology, and group dynamics, generally (chap. 4); the surprisingly close--even dependent--relationship of evangelicalism with Enlightenment science (chap. 5). Chapter six discusses how fundamentalism has succeeded in marginalizing itself by dismissing out of hand all but the Young Earth Creationist's (YEC) conclusions regarding paleogeology and biology. The concluding chapter, "Understanding J. Gresham Machen," briefly examines the personality and thought of the extremely controversial Princeton theologian generally agreed to have been the most academically-accomplished fundamentalist of his day (1881-1937). The below will examine and offer brief comment on all of UFE's seven chapters.
Chapter one, "The Protestant Crisis and the Rise of Fundamentalism" (9-61), describes how from 1860-1900 the traditional evangelical worldview and ethic lost a great deal of its power and prestige in America at the same time the major Protestant denominations were tripling in size. Marsden cites several factors capable of accounting for this paradoxical development: (1) a series of serious intellectual assaults on biblical reliability, particularly from German Higher Criticism and Darwinism; (2) immigration and its resultant religious pluralism, a phenomenon highlighted by the American Catholic church, which quadrupled in size; (3) the virtual disappearance of conservative evangelicals from the faculties and administrations of the oldest and most well-respected American universities; (4) fundamentalism's several public relations debacles in the second half of the 1920s, e.g., the infamous "Scopes Monkey Trial." Marsden details how the external success of the Protestant Church in America during the late 1800s as witnessed by its tremendous numerical growth as well as an unprecedented interest in Sunday schools and foreign missions masked a growing and eventually indefensible threat from a much larger and thoroughly disinterested segment of the American public. Summarizing the great reversal of fortune since 1870, Marsden observed that "[a]lthough rearguard actions were fought [after World War I] to keep America Protestant, the fact of the matter was that the age was over when the United States was in any significant sense a bastion of `Christendom'" (51).
Chapter two, "Evangelicalism Since 1930: Unity and Diversity" (62-82), describes evangelicalism's great diversity of opinion on numerous political and theological issues. Marsden observes that by the late 1970s the venerable religious coalition was so divided it was not possible to determine which wing of evangelicalism's ideological spectrum the great Dr. Billy Graham occupied (76). While so many "Neo-Evangelicals"--i.e., believers in traditional, fundamental Christian tenets who wished to avoid offending non-believers whenever possible--agonized over issues like inerrancy, the growth of the federal government, and the war in Viet Nam, their more pugnacious fundamentalist brethren spoke with comparative perspicuity. Charles E. Fuller, Francis Shaeffer, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, et al had their faults, to be sure, but a tendency to equivocate on highly controversial political/cultural/theological issues was not among them. This is not to say that since 1930 fundamentalism has spoke with one voice on every hot button issue (Marsden cites Falwell's devastating rejection of Robertson's '88 bid for the presidency ), but fundamentalism's place on the theological and political spectrum could usually be easily located--on the right.
In chapter three, "Evangelical Politics: An American Tradition" (85-97), Marsden discusses at some length the long shadow evangelicalism has cast over American politics. Marsden notes the anti-Catholicism of evangelicals in the 1850s; Republican nominee Blaine's 1884 claim that the Democratic party of Grover Cleveland was the party of "rum, Romanism, and rebellion;" the evangelical split over Democratic fundamentalist W. J. Bryan's three attempts to win the presidency. Marsden's point--that evangelicalism's interest in politics did not begin with Jerry Falwell--is well made. Conservative evangelicals have had and continue to have an enormous amount of clout in American electoral politics, as prominent Massachusetts politicians like Senator John Kerry and former governor Mitt Romney can well attest.
Chapter four, "Preachers of Paradox: Fundamentalist Politics in Historical Perspective" (98-121), recounts the ongoing discussion within evangelicalism as to what the Gospel of Jesus Christ has to say concerning the numerous difficult issues confronting contemporary American society, and how it should say it. Marsden cautions that making generalizations about the views of Evangelicals on political and theological issues are "particularly hazardous" (110). Marsden also takes issue with the time-honored myth that evangelicalism is inherently anti-intellectual. Marsden assures that at least "one side of the fundamentalist mentality is committed to inductive rationalism" (118).
Marsden expands on these thoughts in chapter five, "The Evangelical Love Affair with Enlightenment Science" (122-52). Marsden enumerates four phases of the Enlightenment era and concludes the first--Newton and Locke's "ideals of order, balance, and religious compromise"--and the fourth, similar, and based on Scottish Common Sense Realism, "had major lasting effect on the United States" (129). Marsden contrasts the turn-of-the-century epistemology of a conservative Reformed theologian from Holland, Abraham Kuyper, with that of another conservative theologian, Princeton's champion of biblical inerrancy, B. B. Warfield. Warfield ridiculed Kuyper's claim that science for believers differed substantially from science for atheists. For Warfield et al, science was the ally of religion--provided of course the discipline was not redefined so as to limit all inquiry to natural causes and effects. Marsden goes on to document how most evangelicals laboring in the natural sciences were open to old earth interpretations of the first two chapters of Genesis. The "warfare" between science and religion was begun by missionary atheists like Draper and Huxley long after Darwin published in 1859 (139-40).
Chapter six, "Why Creation Science?" (153-81) discusses how YEC took root in fundamentalist circles even though quite a number of prominent conservative Christian theologians (e.g., the above-mentioned Warfield) were quite open to considering seriously other explanations. Marsden suggests the Premillennialists' dependency on exact biblical numerology combined with the South's knee-jerk resistance to any and all intellectual innovations generated from the North succeeded in elevating YEC dogma very nearly to the exalted doctrinal status of the virgin birth.
The final chapter, "Understanding J. Gresham Machen" (182-201), is devoted to the controversial protégé of B. B. Warfield, who coincidentally (or not) founded Marsden's alma mater in 1929, Westminster Theological Seminary. Acknowledging Machen's several personal and ideological foibles, Marsden nonetheless presents Machen as a thinking man's fundamentalist, a praise-worthy, serious academic whose razor-sharp mind produced a number of intellectually rigorous arguments in support of the traditional views of Christianity he had inherited from his esteemed Princeton predecessors. Machen clearly saw the ideological ditch modernism and postmodernism were driving Christianity into, and made a number of cogent arguments based on the above-mentioned Common Sense Realism, e.g., historical facts, upon which traditional Christianity is based, are in fact objectively real, and obtainable by historians.
Marsden's chapter on Machen is the only one in which Marsden's opinion of the subject is easily discernible. Marsden is clearly an admirer of Machen, undoubtedly because of the courageous way in which Machen imparted his own considerable academic abilities and respectability in support of the principle tenets of Christian fundamentalism, not entirely unlike Marsden himself.
Unveiling the complex origins of an influential movement Jun 12, 2007
It's not very fashionable among the intelligentsia to take Fundamentalism seriously, and to try to understand how it emerged and what are its motivations. Marsden's introductory review is therefore particularly important because he does precisely that: lucidly written, he takes the protagonists seriously, and shows the many and complex religious, social and political motivations of those who founded and developed Fundamentalism. I personally found the two chapters on the interaction with Science to be particularly illuminating, emphasising how the present opposition to evolution was not inevitable, given the variety of views at the outset of the movement. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to go beyond media stereotypes and wants to gain some real insight into Fundamentalism.
Very Useful Apr 5, 2007
This book is a hybrid, essentially a compilation of some of Marsden's shorter writings. The opening sections are concise narratives of the development of the fundamentalist movement from the post-Civil War period to the recent past. This is essentially a distillation of Marsden's more extensive narration presented in some of his other books. Marsden covers the shock of the Civil War, the impact of rapid urbanization, industrialization, and the influx of non-Protestant immigrants. This is followed by the debate over liberalization or modernization of the Protestant churches with the hiving off of more conservative, fundamentalist oriented movements. Marsden has a nice intermixture of theological, social, and political history in these chapters. The second half of the book is a series of topical essays on issues related to the history of the modern evangelical movement. These include the political involvement of evangelicals, the relationship between evangelical movements and modern science, and an insightful essay on the maverick theologian, J. Gresham Machen. Like all of Marsden's work, this book is written well and quite thoughtful. For individuals interested in a good precis of the relevant history of the modern evangelical movement and the shifting relationships of evangelicals to political activity, this is an excellent book.
Succinct, interesting, and somewhat challenging Oct 10, 2006
I will not repeat what has been said by other this site reviews; some of which are excellent. My own favorite chapters are "The Evangelical Love Affair with Enlightenment Science," and "Why Creation Science?"
What has not been noted in the earlier reviews is language - the jargon or specialized vocabulary. Many of these are words I suppose from seminaries and/or various religious groups themselves. For example, you will often confront terms like "hermeneutical," and "dispensational premillennialists." Shades of graduate school, in my case the jargon of sociology which was so off-putting. I seem to recall also that the religious groups themselves like to dress up their creeds and thought in jargon.
I always stumble on such languate because I cannot seem to retain the definitions in mind as I move forward in the book. Thus, while I enjoyed this book immensely - and learned a great deal - I would have learned (and retained) more if I could clearly remember the new concepts/language.
In sum, a book well worth reading, and just as timely in 2006 as when published in 1991. I just wish we could all speak the same language.
Catholism, Fundamentalism, Liberalism, & Da Evangelical Jul 1, 2006
What set Martin Luther apart from the Catholic Church. What beliefs, what world view bring a certain group of people together? What type of theology makes a person an evangelical. What theology makes a person a fundamentalist? In what way does an evangelical and a fundamentalist concur? How does their thought and behavior come to a cross purpose? To unite against the Catholic church? To unite against modernist? To unite against theological liberals? Does one need to comprehend the catechism of the Catholic church to be an evangelical or a fundamentalist? George M. Marsden clearly does not believe so, because this work or his work about American culture 1870-1930 and Fundamentalism describes this part of the dynamic in theological thought. This book and his previous book is about the dynamic between the Liberal theology, modernist theology, fundamentalism, and evangelicalism. The difference between evangelicals and fundamentalism is in the willingness to be forthright and direct about your differences between other traditional Christians and the more contemporary schools of theological thought.
George M. Marsden as a historian and a theologian does appreciate inerrancy of scripture and the bible being God's written word. He does seem to be more historian then theologian. His work concerns the interplay of theologian, theology, University culture, accademic scholarship, and the culture within the country. Part of the culture is how professors interact with each other within their disciplines and outside. The culture of the University eventually effects society as a whole. Does the theologian concur with predominant thought or does he argue alternatives. To pick up on the assumptions of those who oppose the idea of the supernatural happenings or Being.
To this end end George M. Marsden does review creation science in this work, the thoughts of J Gresham Machen in some detail along with a biographical sketch. This does serve as a good starting point in understanding the distinction between the evangelical and the fundamentalist. The evangelical tends to lean more on sentimentalism so to avoid making distinctions with other evangelicals or Liberals. The Fundamentalist may use sentimentalism, but often it is used to further his arguments for the supernatural and the inerrancy of scripture. The Fundamentalist is one more willing to have an argument over doctrinal differences. His purpose is to forthright with scripture. The evangelical main purpose is to bring souls into God's church.
This book does discuss interdenominational cooperation among evangelicals through nondenominational church organizations. These groups exist by blurring the distinctions between different church denominations. The Evangelist must have people working behind the scenes to bring the numbers who attended a Billy Graham crusade. The evangelist Billy Graham had to avoid being divisive with the evangelical community and did not encourage conflict with the modernist or Catholic Community. That by Marsden, would preclude Billy Graham being considered a Fundamentalist. A more soft and less distinct theology.
George M. Marsden also discusses Jerry Falwell. Who sought to be a fundamentalist preacher, but also a major player in the cultural and political disputes within society. He was and is not a separatist like Bob Jones was or the University still seeks to be. Jerry Falwell saw America was moving away from God and sought the country to change direction. To bring debate and provacation within the American culture. Bob Jones to recruit students who want to move the citizenry so the American culture be more distinctive. A more clear Fundamentalist Christianity to come more visible in the United States.