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The Smell of Sawdust: What Evangelicals Can Learn from Their Fundamentalist Heritage [Paperback]

By Richard J. Mouw (Author)
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Item description for The Smell of Sawdust: What Evangelicals Can Learn from Their Fundamentalist Heritage by Richard J. Mouw...

"The Smell of Sawdust" stimulates reflection about the strengths and weaknesses of the evangelical movement's fundamentalist heritage, and how these factors still influence believers today. At once a stirring popular history and a sharp assessment of fundamentalism, this book can appeal to Mouw's broad cross-section of readers and reflective thinkers both in and out of the evangelical tradition.

Publishers Description
Many evangelicals paint fundamentalism with the same broad, negative brush. But we owe more to our pietist-revivalist roots than we realize. Richard Mouw s awareness of fundamentalism s problems hasn t robbed his appreciation for its strengths. The Smell of Sawdust sheds thoughtful and revealing light on the colorful parentage of contemporary evangelicalism. If you detect fondness, even a hint of nostalgia, you re right. From its history, to its ethos, to its mores and methods, Mouw takes you on a fascinating journey through the pros and cons of the 'sawdust trail.' Whatever your outlook on the revivalist tradition, whether favorable or not so favorable, these candid, thought-provoking insights will inspire your respect for fundamentalism s strong points, help you learn from its weaknesses, and above all, enrich your life as a Christian. Like the author, you ll find yourself singing the old gospel hymns with new understanding and depth. Filled with anecdotes from the amusing to the poignant, this book takes you back to the sawdust-covered earth of the early tent meetings . . . earlier, to the spiritual hunger that sparked the pietist movement . . . and later, into today, where we strive to effectively communicate the nonnegotiables of our faith to a needy world. The Smell of Sawdust is gentle and deeply personal. It is also wise--neither judgmental nor naive, but healing, furnishing redemptive insights into the character of our fundamentalist heritage. This book will broaden the perspective of thinking Christians who want to engage both their hearts and their intellects to reach the soul of our culture with the gospel."

Awards and Recognitions
The Smell of Sawdust: What Evangelicals Can Learn from Their Fundamentalist Heritage by Richard J. Mouw has received the following awards and recognitions -
  • Christianity Today Book Award - 2001 Winner - History/Biography category

Citations And Professional Reviews
The Smell of Sawdust: What Evangelicals Can Learn from Their Fundamentalist Heritage by Richard J. Mouw has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • CBA Retailers - 02/01/2001 page 59

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Zondervan
Pages   160
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.32" Width: 5.65" Height: 0.75"
Weight:   0.643 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 1, 2000
Publisher   Zondervan Publishing
ISBN  0310231965  
ISBN13  9780310231967  
UPC  025986231965  

Availability  0 units.

More About Richard J. Mouw

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Richard J. Mouw is Professor of Faith and Public Life and former president of Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California. His other books include"Abraham Kuyper: A Short and Personal Introduction"and"Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World."

Richard J. Mouw currently resides in the state of California.

Richard J. Mouw has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Calvin Institute of Christian Worship Liturgical Studies

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Reviews - What do customers think about Smell Of Sawdust?

simplicity beyond complexity  Jan 17, 2007
Few things today are more fashionable than a condescending dismissal of all things fundamentalist. True, there is legitimate material there, but Mouw reminds believers that there is much in that tradition for which we ought to be thankful. He should know. He grew up with impeccable fundamentalist credentials, tent meetings and all, and so he remembers the sweet smell of sawdust. Since that deeply personal heritage he has moved quite a distance and now serves as president of Fuller Theological Seminary. He is a regular participant in cutting edge religious issues with a broad and deep spectrum of conversation partners--Muslim dialogue, the Orthodox church, faith in the public arena, and so on. So, he is well placed to come full circle, from the popular sport of rejecting fundamentalism to reaffirming what is good in that tradition.

Mouw quotes two people in his final chapter to explain what he is after. Paul Ricoeur once referred to what he called a "second naivete." Oliver Wendell Holmes put it this way: "I do not give a fig for the simplicity that is prior to complexity; but I would give my right arm for the simplicity that lies beyond complexity" (p. 151). It is all too easy to see things in black and white, in uncomplicated, simplistic terms. Like any movement, though, fundamentalism is far too complex for such a dismissive attitude. But when you engage all the critical questions which fundamentalism deserves, there can be no romantic return, but there can be an honest appreciation for all that is good in the movement--radical commitment to the Gospel, a commitment to the Biblical story, and a sense of wonder in God's great grace.
Not as thorough as I'd hoped  Oct 28, 2006
As an evangelical, I had reason to read this book. I was hoping for a compelling history of our fundamentalist origins along with insights into what we've discarded from our heritage and what we've adapted to become what we are.

Instead, the book was mostly personal ramblings.

Since I was wanting thoughtful history rather than mere memory, I have to say I was disappointed.
Interesting reflections... will definitely revisit  Feb 29, 2004
I am a former evangelical, and have come to the point in my pilgrimage where I am able to offer a more balanced assessment of my evangelical past. Mouw, on the other hand, was brought up fundamentalist (in the historic sense of the word), is now evangelical, and tries here to reflect positively on what he gained from his fundamentalist heritage.

I should admit from the offset that Mouw was in general far too soft on fundamentalism for my tastes. But then, as he candidly admits, his "lengthy exposure to fundamentalism has not left [him] badly bruised," though he acknowledges for many others such is not the case.

I should also confess that I found some of his areas of agreement with fundamentalism a little puzzling: He seems to accept almost unquestioningly that a decline in "Christian" standards in society is reason for political action; he appears to suggest that if a book by Hal Lindsey can lead someone to Christ, dispensationalism is, in some small way, vindicated (could God be speaking despite Lindsey's dispensationalism rather than because of it?); indeed, Mouw has a habit of finding good points and then using them to vindicate fundamentalism, if only partially, but they are too often unconvincing (eg. dispensationalism is vindicated because it addresses the need for Christians to know something about the future -- a debatable point in any case -- but could you not vindicate Seventh-Day Adventism, or indeed any scheme of eschatological prediction, in the same way?).

Having said that, Mouw does manage to put across something of the "warm piety" of fundamentalist religion, the emphasis on closeness to and personal relationship with God. Indeed, that is what I will carry on with me from evangelicalism, despite its failings. He also reminds us of the danger of a Christianity that simply becomes an ideology (so early liberalism, in many respects), a matter of following a set of teachings, divorced from any concept of an actual atoning work of God in Jesus Christ. And even if Mouw does tend to be a little too easy-going on fundamentalism, he does offer a perceptive, albeit gentle, critique on several important points. Lastly, he models a good attitude that many of us who have left behind our religious upbringings would do well to learn from -- one of a certain amount of respect, appreciation and fair analysis.

I recommend this book for fundamentalists, as it certainly will present them with a challenge, for evangelicals who wish to understand fundamentalists better, and for those who have left fundamentalism or, like myself, have moved on from evangelicalism altogether.

The sawdust smells fine, but the leftism doesn't  Feb 20, 2003
The author, president of Fuller Theological Seminary and former professor of philosophy is, I'm afraid, a bit of a lefty politically. His basic thesis is that, while American fundamentalism does indeed have some shortcomings (e.g. anti-intellectualism, otherworldliness, legalistic separatistism), we should appreciate its positive aspects and be very careful to preserve the baby while disposing of the bathwater. The trouble is, he believes the bathwater should include any remaining conservative/libertarian political ideas!

During the 1960s, the author bought into the leftist "social justice" critique of America, believing Old Testament biblical warnings (e.g. Amos) indicated injustice in the "systems and structures" of our society. He describes how his pro-MLK Jr., pro-civil rights movement and anti-Vietnam war feelings ran against the grain of many of his evangelical associates and how he sought to "ground" his newfound moral convictions (i.e. to justify political leftism as being endorsed by Jesus, the Bible and traditional evangelical piety). Much later, he spoke to a Christian audience on these themes and was afterward confronted by a man who said "you didn't learn that stuff from the Bible - you got it from Karl Marx!" The author responded by quoting an old hymn:

I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold,
I'd rather have Him than riches untold;
I'd rather have Jesus than houses or lands,
I'd rather be true to His nail-pierced hands.

He then added "Once you've learned your lessons in economics from the songs of George Beverly Shea, Karl Marx comes off as pretty tame!" Dr. Mouw apparently believes that these implications point toward a position to the left of Karl Marx himself on the political scale! This would presumably mean applying the "social justice" methods of marshalling the coercive force of government to address (in a Marxist/leftist way) these issues of "justice and peace and social righteousness and faith's implications for a life of learning." It is unclear to me why a declaration that Jesus is more important than any worldly good is somehow inconsistent with politically conservative principles like free enterprise, limited government and individual liberty or should lead to support for forced government redistribution of such goods (playing to the covetousness forbidden by the 10th commandment and in direct violation of the 8th commandment against theft).

While I certainly agree that evangelicals should "develop a competent literature in every field of study," I would caution that the great temptation will be for unwary Christians, anxious to achieve cultural and scholarly "sophistication" and acknowledgement, to adopt uncritically the huge, well-developed and, at most universities, dominant, body of left-leaning academic perspective.

He assumes the leftist view that the Vietnam war was bad, in principle, vs. the conservative view that it was justified, but poorly executed (due to leftist leadership). He also assumes that leftist characterization and critique of such things as "unjust wars, oppressive racism, unbridled materialism" are on the mark, which I don't accept. He sees inconsistency in a man who opposed civil rights legislation (preferring racist attutudes be changed one by one though conversion), but then wanted to ban the teaching of evolution in public schools (the answer in both cases is to respect private property, maximizing civil society and minimizing political society, giving individual conscience the widest possible latitude).

He believes postmodernism has had some positive effects within the Christian community, bringing more openness to enduring mystery. My view is that the postmodern movement is an overreaction (with sour-grapes radical leftist, atheist roots to boot). In short, retain the Enlightenment, with its optimistic emphasis on reason and rationality (made possible by the light of God's Truth), but lose the leftist, progressivist faith in government (often to the point of replacing faith in God) to solve all of humanity's problems.

He discusses the dual nature of the gospel, personal and cosmic. It wonderfully allows us to sing "It is Well with my Soul" but, as we look around, we can see that all is not well with our world. He claims that this latter "enterprise we evangelicals have often failed to pursue with any sustained sense of urgency." But of course the key here is diagnosing the problem and suggesting cures, the leftist call for more government or the conservative/libertarian (and American founding) call for free enterprise, limited government, individual liberty, traditional values. Could it be that his sense of evangelical failure here is related to his committment to the leftist approach (in spite of its record of spectacular failure and even linkage to unbelief) and failure to see the true path to societal or "cosmic" wholeness in conservative approaches derived from the Judeo-Christian western heritage?

The author admits that some of his annoyance with the "inerrants" is related to their resistance to his (and others') calls for "social justice" (citing Amos' identity with the "oppressed," they'd respond that Amos was speaking in a theocratic dispensation and doesn't apply today...I'd respond that real oppression requires state support and the best way to minimize oppression is to effectively minimize state power, and furthermore that "social justice" inspired welfare-state schemes lead to still more oppression).

Bottom line; leaning left politically will eventually and inevitably lead to liberal theology (on the way to unbelief), watering down the fundamentals of the faith (to say nothing of losing our God-inspired American heritage of freedoms). That the leader of Fuller Seminary leans left politically is worrisome for the future effectiveness of Fuller (if not for the future of evangelicalism). Leaving aside his leftist assumptions, do I accept his criticisms of fundamentalism? Hmmm. Some of those criticisms emerge from his leftist perspective. Those I reject. Some of them, however, seem on the mark, particularly the call to abandon anti-intellectualism, exclusive otherworldliness and the separatistic spirit (enforced by legalism). In short, I agree with some of his diagnosis of the problems, but dispute most of his prescribed cures. In my opinion, most political leftists (Christian or not), with their big-government "solutions," antibusiness and anti-American attitudes are part of the problem, not the solution.

Catholic gets better understanding of Fundamentalists  Dec 12, 2002
A very close friend, a Baptist and supporter of Fuller Seminary, lent me "The Smell of Sawdust." As an ardent Catholic, I read it with ready-to-be-offended Catholic radar. Never was. Indeed, his treatment of Fr. George Rutler was quite nice, and Rutler is a hero of mine. For professional as well as personal reasons, I like reading about the differences between Fundamentalists and Evangelicals. George Marsden's "Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism" is also very good.

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