A Transforming Faith: Explorations of Twentieth-Century American Evangelicalism

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Over the course of the twentieth century, evangelicals have in a variety of ways adjusted their world view to accommodate the changes in modern life. At the same time, there are important continuities between the ideas and attitudes of evangelicals in the 1920s and those of the late 1970s. Little attention has actually been paid to changes in this important social and political group since the Scopes trial and the election of 1976, when evangelical concerns played a major role in national politics. David Watt, in...

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Overview

Over the course of the twentieth century, evangelicals have in a variety of ways adjusted their world view to accommodate the changes in modern life. At the same time, there are important continuities between the ideas and attitudes of evangelicals in the 1920s and those of the late 1970s. Little attention has actually been paid to changes in this important social and political group since the Scopes trial and the election of 1976, when evangelical concerns played a major role in national politics. David Watt, in this readable and persuasive book, examines what happened in that fifty-year period. This book is an intellectual history of the evangelical movement in the period of its rise to prominence and power.

What Watt finds is that changes were more striking than continuities. Many of these changes manifested themselves in shifts of focus--from an emphasis on the second coming of Christ to the family, from privatization to politicization of religious concerns, from an antipathy to therapeutic practices to an acceptance of many of the assumptions of modern psychology. Watt believes that evangelicalism, as every other "ism," is subject to the influence of conflicting ideologies.

The book explores ideas and attitudes, not practice. It is based on the popular literature produced by evangelicals. In many ways it does not develop and prove a thesis; rather, it puts what we think we know about the experience of evangelicalism in this country into the context of the lives of evangelicals themselves.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Using popular religious publications such as Moody Monthly and Christianity To day , Watt examines the changing relationship between Evangelicalism and the surrounding culture. Starting with the controversies of the 1920s (such as the famous Scopes trial of 1925), he traces shifting attitudes toward politics, the family, women, and modern psychology. Watt is interested in showing how dominant cultural influences have caused significant changes in attitudes and beliefs. He concludes that the Evangelicals now look less like a force bent on reforming American so ciety and ``more and more like a group of Americans that are trying--quite successfully--to fit in.'' This compares well to George Marsden's Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism ( LJ 1/91), which emphasizes where Evangelicals differ from the popular culture. Recommended.-- C. Robert Nixon, MLS, Lafayette, Ind.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813517162
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/1991
  • Pages: 213

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