Review | History of Evangelicalism Series

The History of Evangelicalism series from InterVarsity Press offers a close look at the people, movement, and ideas that arose over the last three hundred years of the Christian movement. This five-volume series seeks to integrate the diverse yet cohesive social and intellectual history of English-speaking Evangelicalism. The associations, books, practices, beliefs, networks of influence, and prominent individuals which descended from the eighteenth-century British and North American revivals all come into view.

The first volume, The Rise of Evangelicalism, answers the question: “where did evangelicals come from?” Written by Christian thinker and church historian, Mark Noll, he offers a multinational narrative of the origin, development, and rapid diffusion of evangelical movements in their first two generations—theology, hymnody, gender, warfare, politics, and science are all taken into consideration. This volume starts with a close look at the political, ecclesiastical, and spiritual landscapes of Britain and North America in the 17th Century. It is also full of biographical materials that highlight the age of revival and revivalism through the influences and lives of Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and the Wesleys. The book ends with the developments in the mid-1790s with the full-scale British mobilization against revolutionary France.

The second volume, The Expansion of Evangelicalism, focuses on the history between the 1790s and 1840. Written by history professor John Wolffe, he used extensive primary sources that balance British and American developments and also discuss Canada, Australia, the West Indies, and other regions. Here we see the rapid expansion of Evangelicalism through different movements like Methodism, Presbyterianism, the formation of different societies, and the continuation of Revivals and Revivalism. It highlights the lives of prominent figures like William Wilberforce, Thomas Chalmers, and Charles Finney. It also covers aspects of the movement such as spirituality and worship; the place of evangelicalism in the lives of women, men, and the family; and its broader social and political effects—giving particular attention to the question of slavery.

The third volume, The Dominance of Evangelicalism, is set in the nineteenth century which is a critical period not only in the Evangelical but in the religious history as a whole. Written by history professor David W. Bebbington, he writes on the historical and theological developments of Evangelicalism and its distinctive and sociocultural influence. It highlights figures such as Charles Spurgeon, Dwight Moody, George Muller, JC Ryle, and discusses different facets such as the practice of faith, worship, theology, and the church’s impact on society.

The fourth volume, The Disruption of Evangelicalism, is set at the end of the nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. Here, Geoffrey R. Treloar writes on the Evangelical history set in the backdrop of the modern, contemporary world, and the increasing sway of naturalistic and materialistic approaches to life. He divided the era into two phases: before 1914 and after 1918, offering perspectives on conversionism and the life of faith, biblical and theological perspectives, social engagement, and mission. This volume highlights the global missional lives of Reuben Torrey, John Mott, the birth of Pentecostalism, and the post-war Evangelical era.

The fifth and final volume, The Global Diffusion of Evangelicalism, covers the post-war Evangelical history up to the present. Professor Brian Stanley discusses the globalization of movements of mission, evangelism, and revival, paying particular attention to the charismatic and neo-Pentecostal movements. This volume highlights prominent Evangelical figures such as Billy Graham, John Stott, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and lesser-known figures, such as Edward Carnell, John Gatu, and John Laird.

Final thoughts

It is said that you live life by looking forward, but you only understand it by looking backward. I think the same is true with Christianity—its history and development. Through Church history, we’ll see and find not only the victories and gains but also the pitfalls and losses of yesterday so we can set our foot on better and higher grounds. I really enjoyed this five-volume History of Evangelicalism. It is filled with narratives and biographical sketches of events and influential individuals that ultimately lead us to what Evangelicalism is today. These are solid materials. I highly recommend it to any Church history buffs.


Disclosure: A review copy of History of Evangelicalism Series (ISBN 9780830825806) was provided for review by InterVarsity Press, from whom you may purchase a copy.

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