The American Evangelical Story Sparknotes

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The American Evangelical Story: A History of the Movement, by Douglas A. Sweeney. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2005. 208 pages. Reviewed by Susan L. Schulte.

Introduction Evangelicalism by its very nature is hard to define. In fact, Douglas Sweeney, Chair of the Church History and the History of Christian Thought Department at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School states, “precious little consensus exists among those who have tried to describe the evangelical movement.” Nevertheless, Sweeney does an excellent attempt by briefly explicating the diverse history of the evangelical movement in his book, The American Evangelical Story: A History of the Movement. Sweeney, a Lutheran and expert in American religion and culture not only introduces …show more content…

It is an aptly chosen title, since he provides an overview on evangelicalism and its progression of religion in America. This book is well suited as a synopsis for church laity or as an accompanying text for students, since the chapter-by-chapter themes provide the reader with the pivotal points in evangelicalism’s development from the eighteenth century to the 1960s. Although a Lutheran, Sweeney’s own roots in evangelicalism do not overpower the historical account of other denominations. In fact, he only devotes a small section to Pietism, as it pertains to the overall story. Sweeney’s premise unfolds as each chapter builds upon the other. He logically begins with evangelicalism’s roots and connects each movement to its generation (e.g. cycle of revival and decline since the Great Awakening). In addition, within each branch of the movement, he not only reveals the spiritual impact it has generated, but also the consequences of its imperfections or failures as well. As a result, Sweeney offers a streamline volume, which demonstrates the diverse and rich heritage of evangelicalism in America as well as presenting a positive position for its …show more content…

First, although Sweeney is an expert in American religion and culture, the book has inaccuracies. According to Mullin, “Pat Robertson's second-place finish in the 1988 Iowa caucuses surprised "all but his supporters," he did not win as Sweeney reports (150)” and “the World Relief Commission of the NAE began in 1944 (not 1945) as the War Relief Commission (172).” However, these inaccuracies do not take away from his premise. Yet, the reader is left wondering if the author’s research was specious. Next, while Sweeney does mention women as a vital part of the American evangelical story, a themed chapter devoted to their labors would be beneficial to both laity and scholar. Ziefle agrees. In his review, he states, “one cannot help but think a separate chapter specifically set aside to discuss women’s roles would have also been desirable.” Nevertheless, Sweeney does represent the rich heritage that women have contributed to the movement. Lastly, Sweeney disappointingly concludes his history of evangelicalism with the 1960s. Leaving the reader to assume there has been no significant change in the movement in the past forty-five years. However, this seems unlikely, since Robert Warner has written a book entitled, Reinventing English Evangelism, 1966-2001: A Theological and Sociological Study. Therefore, Sweeney premise lacks the rich and spiritual powerful heritage of the movement from 1970s to

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