Power, Politics and the Fragmentation of Evangelicalism: From the Scopes Trial to the Obama Administration

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Overview

Kenneth J. Collins tells the narrative history of the political and cultural fortunes of American evangelicalism from the late nineteenth century through the contemporary era.

He traces the establishment of the evangelical enterprise in American culture and its influences on the political and social values of the American landscape throughout the twentieth century, as well as its fragmentation into competing ideological camps. Underlining how both sides of the ...

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Power, Politics and the Fragmentation of Evangelicalism: From the Scopes Trial to the Obama Administration

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Overview

Kenneth J. Collins tells the narrative history of the political and cultural fortunes of American evangelicalism from the late nineteenth century through the contemporary era.

He traces the establishment of the evangelical enterprise in American culture and its influences on the political and social values of the American landscape throughout the twentieth century, as well as its fragmentation into competing ideological camps. Underlining how both sides of the liberal-conservative divide have diluted their message through political idioms, Collins suggests a way forward for evangelical political identity that avoids the pitfalls of fundamentalism and liberalism.

Will American evangelicalism outlive its partisan history? As Kenneth Collins tells the story, there is reason to think so.

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Editorial Reviews

Meic Pearse
"Kenneth Collins gives us a sweeping overview of the large forces that have led evangelicals, in recent decades, to become major actors in the bitter 'culture wars' that continue to bedevil American society. He makes a justly searing indictment of the principled assault by secularists on religious freedom, while giving sobering admonitions for evangelicals' often defective ways of resisting that assault."
Thomas C. Oden
"A major Wesleyan scholar, Kenneth Collins, has provided a significant assessment of the promise and problems of modern evangelicalism. From intelligent design to power politics, he has set forth a valuable critique of fundamentalism, neo-evangelicalism, the religious right and the evangelical left. Protestants of different traditions will find Collins a perceptive analyst of the changing dynamics within evangelicalism."
Doctor - Peter A. Lillback
"Kenneth Collins has here issued an invitation to a scholarly forum on evangelical priorities, politics and power in culture and the public square. As at a truly good debate one is forced to think, to agree, to disagree and to admire the skill of the debaters, so it is here. As the fault lines of evangelicalism widen under the tectonic forces of power, postmodernity and personalities, Collins's reflections on teleology, the image of God and the power of the Spirit offer useful bridges to reopen communication between the estranged subcultures of contemporary evangelicalism."
Doctor - Jerry Walls
"Collins writes with both the wide-ranging knowledge of a historian and the personal engagement of a Wesleyan statesman who has been actively involved in the evangelical movement throughout his career. It would be an understatement to say his provocative narrative of the movement as interpreted through the lens of its various bids for power is as refreshingly honest as it is illuminating. But more importantly, he provides sage guidance and direction for the movement as it seeks to navigate these perilous waters while remaining faithful to the gospel in the twenty-first century."
Roger E. Olson
"Power, Politics and the Fragmentation of Evangelicalism is a much-needed critical analysis of evangelical engagements with public policy by a Wesleyan scholar. I strongly recommend it to readers interested in learning about the pitfalls of both the religious right and left. While the book is bound to be controversial, especially among those who advocate evangelical social action, it contains much wisdom and a prophetic warning about how the search for power corrupts religion."
Stephen J. Nichols
"As the evangelical voting block fractures and as Billy Graham's capacious shadow fades, a rather significant question looms: Whither American evangelicalism? Perhaps for too long we've relied on political power. Collins, drawing on an insightful exploration of the twentieth century and a deft analysis of the current horizon, points us to the power of common grace and ultimately to the power of the Spirit."
Dr. Peter A. Lillback
"Kenneth Collins has here issued an invitation to a scholarly forum on evangelical priorities, politics and power in culture and the public square. As at a truly good debate one is forced to think, to agree, to disagree and to admire the skill of the debaters, so it is here. As the fault lines of evangelicalism widen under the tectonic forces of power, postmodernity and personalities, Collins's reflections on teleology, the image of God and the power of the Spirit offer useful bridges to reopen communication between the estranged subcultures of contemporary evangelicalism."
Dr. Jerry Walls
"Collins writes with both the wide-ranging knowledge of a historian and the personal engagement of a Wesleyan statesman who has been actively involved in the evangelical movement throughout his career. It would be an understatement to say his provocative narrative of the movement as interpreted through the lens of its various bids for power is as refreshingly honest as it is illuminating. But more importantly, he provides sage guidance and direction for the movement as it seeks to navigate these perilous waters while remaining faithful to the gospel in the twenty-first century."
Charles Self
"This is an important work for understanding the currents of contemporary evangelical life and the contribution that Spirit-empowered believers can make as the gospel of reconciliation is proclaimed and practiced."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780830839797
  • Publisher: InterVarsity Press
  • Publication date: 8/27/2012
  • Pages: 299
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Kenneth J. Collins (Ph.D., Drew University) is professor of Historical Theology and Wesley Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary. He has published several books including The Theology of John Wesley (Abingdon, 2007), The Evangelical Moment (Baker, 2005) and John Wesley: A Theological Journey (Abingdon, 2003).

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. Cultural Shifts, the Rise of Fundamentalism and the Great Reversal
2. Fundamentalism, Neo-Evangelicalism and the Search for Power
3. Evangelicals, the Religious Right and the Moral Life of the Nation
4. Evolution, Intelligent Design and the Transformation of Culture?
5. The Resurgence of the Evangelical Left
6. Beyond Ideology: The Renewal of Catholicity and the Challenges of a Modern, Liberal Democratic State
Conclusion: What Kind of Power?
Select Bibliography
Subject Index

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 10, 2012

    Collins explores the strengths and weaknesses of the Evangelical

    Collins explores the strengths and weaknesses of the Evangelical Right and Left and concludes that political power should not be equated with the power of the Gospel. Unfortunately, as Collins notes, the Right often mistake the free enterprise system with the freedom of the gospel while the Left often adhere to the idea that the Kingdom of God is manifested by partisan political activism for distinct policies in terms of social and economic justice. Consequently, Evangelicals from both sides of the political spectrum have alienated each other and have diminished the universal nature of the gospel, which is greater than any political narrative. Collins concludes that every Christian must live by the narrative of the gospel instead of certain political narratives if they want to truly change the hearts and minds of secular America.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 10, 2012

    Power, Politics and the Fragmentation of Evangelicalism is a gre

    Power, Politics and the Fragmentation of Evangelicalism is a great read whether you are a political liberal, moderate or conservative! It’s message gets at the heart of contemporary American evangelicalism. Through surprisingly balanced and careful assessment (and that’s hard to do whenever you talk religion and politics), Collins surveys the culture shaping events of religion in America and rightly identifies how evangelicals have influenced politics and social values. Furthermore, the last fifty years of American history also show us that both the religious right and the religious left have compromised the authentic Gospel of Jesus Christ in favor of cultural acceptance and relevancy. Collins challenges evangelicals to realize that regardless of political affiliation, evangelicals must not allow themselves to be pushed off of their narrative in the midst of an increasingly secular culture. If evangelicals wish to work for the kingdom of God in America, they must embrace something greater than a distorted view of what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.

    Collins’ own words capture the heart of Power, Politics and the Fragmentation of Evangelicalism as he states, “With political judgments in their proper place, with social visions not immediately equated with the kingdom of God in crude, idolatrous ways, evangelicals of all persuasions can be free to acknowledge their brothers and sisters of differing views around the Lord’s Table, celebrating a God of holy love who transcends them all. Clearly, far more unites American evangelicals than what divides them. Such a gracious truth, however, can only be obscured when disparate political judgments or social visions displace the richness of the gospel, that is, the universal love of God manifested in Jesus Christ.”

    As the United States faces yet another election in 2012, Collins’ work is of the utmost importance! If you're looking for a great read, then I highly recommend this book! Whether you're a liberal or conservative, Christian or not, this book packs a powerful punch as our culture considers the current status of religion and politics in light of the upcoming election. You won’t be disappointed!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted November 3, 2012

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    Posted October 21, 2012

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