An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Kuyperania May 2015

Kathryn Lofton of Yale University has reviewed Bratt's biography of Kuyper here: Church History / Volume 84 / Issue 02 / June 2015, pp 462-46

Jeff Liou and David Robinson report from the Kuyper Center for Public Theology's recent conference on "Faith and Race": Our Racist Inheritance: A Conversation Kuyperians Need to Have
Particularly interesting are the comments on the piece by Bruce Wearne:
It seems to me that these two writers confirm something I've been saying for some time - the North American Kuyper interest is too easily "blurred" (a Kuyperian concept) with an implicit reduction of Christian life to (enlightened) argument. The blurring occurs whether it is within the academy, and usually that means within the North American academy, or where scholars try to encourage their colleagues to follow North American fashions ...
and
If we are concerned with a Christian political view of the world then we will avoid reducing our political life to "argument". That is to simply make Abraham Kuyper into a neatly cut, theological cardboard cut-out for commercial publishing purposes. 

Tony Reinke poses the question: Does God delight in non-Christian art? To answer it he draws briefly upon Kuyper.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Interview with Glenn Friesen - part 2

Part 2 of an interview with Glenn Friesen about his newly published book Neo-Calvinism and Christian Theosophy. Part One was here.




You have addressed some of these issues in the book before - what have the responses to them been?

In 2003 I published my article “The Mystical Dooyeweerd: The relation of his thought to Franz von Baader.” The reaction was one of consternation. Although he had no previous knowledge of Baader, D.F.M. Strauss wrote an article opposing my ideas. He did not mention Kuyper’s positive appreciation for Baader, even though I had discussed this on the online reformational discussion group “Thinknet.” And he mistranslated some of what Baader says. On Thinknet, I encountered a surprising amount of bullying, rudeness, and ad hominem arguments. I had not expected this from Christian scholars. There seemed to be almost no interest in any text-based analysis to see what Dooyeweerd had really said, but only aggressive and defensive rhetoric.

On the other hand, through Thinknet I did meet some people like you whom I respect and with whom I have tried to stay in touch.

What has the response to the book been so far?

It is still very early, but so far I am very encouraged by the responses. There seems to be a new interest in exploring the historical issues that I have raised, and in finding out more about Franz von Baader and Christian theosophy.

Why do you think it prompted those responses?

Good question. I think having all of this information in one book makes it much more difficult to ignore the historical issues that I raise. I also think that the passage of time has helped. It is more than 10 years since I first wrote my first article using comparative philosophy. Since then, other historical research (my own, as well as research by others like Lieuwe Mietus) has confirmed my initial assessment.

Does it matter that Dooyeweerd was influenced by Baader? What issues are at stake here?

As Peter Koslowski (former professor at the Free University) said, Baader was a great Christian. So if we are concerned only about Dooyeweerd’s philosophy being a Christian philosophy, then it does not matter that it does not find its source in Calvin. You will find more references to Christ in my book than in most books on reformational philosophy. Baader had a very high view of Christ, and of the Trinity.

But won’t some people be upset by the connection to Christian theosophy?

Yes, those who view Dooyeweerd in terms of traditional Calvinism will have to adjust their views. He was not a traditional Calvinist. Nor was Kuyper. These people can give up their Calvinism. Or they can give up Dooyeweerd and neo-Calvinism. Both options will be painful, particularly for those who have spent their entire careers teaching that Dooyeweerd’s philosophy is Calvinistic. Dooyeweerd regretted that he used the term ‘Calvinistic’ to describe his philosophy. He appealed for a more ecumenical outlook.

Those who emphasize the idea of “religious antithesis” as a dividing line between groups of people will also be unhappy. These people try to use Dooyeweerd’s philosophy in an “us versus them” kind of way. But Dooyeweerd says that the line of antithesis does not run between groups of people, but within our own hearts. Even Christians sometimes act in ways contrary to a Christian worldview.

Baader was a Catholic. Doesn’t Dooyeweerd oppose Catholic thought as being based on a ground-motive of nature/grace?

Remember that in his 1965 farewell address, Dooyeweerd praised Michael Marlet, a Jesuit, for having seen the ecumenical nature of his philosophy. The previous year, Dooyeweerd said that it was the new Catholic theology that caused him to abandon his plan to issue Volume 2 of Reformation and Scholasticism. He had planned that volume as a polemic against scholasticism. But he said that the book had now lost its point! He says that new Catholic theology has now raised the following ideas (1) it speaks about man’s radical corruption (2) it opposes any split between a domain of philosophy belonging to natural light of reason and a domain of theology belonging to the divine light of revelation (3) it denies the autonomy of thought (4) it affirms the religious center of man. See Dooyeweerd’s 1964 talk

Would you describe yourself as a theist, a panentheist or a pantheist? Why?

My own views are not really relevant for a history of the sources of Dooyeweerd’s philosophy. But it should be pointed out that for some reason, pantheism seems to be the biggest fear of reformational philosophers. They seem concerned to place as much of a boundary as they can between God and creation. Too often, this boundary has prevented a close experiential relationship with God. Dooyeweerd gives a different explanation of boundary.

That does not mean I am defending pantheism. Not at all. Neither Baader nor Dooyeweerd is pantheistic. Pantheism is the belief that the cosmos is God. Panentheism is the view that the cosmos is not identical to God, but that it is contained within God. Dooyeweerd speaks of “the religious law of concentration.” God is always more than his creation. Nor can we say that God had to create in order to fulfill himself. God freely chose to create. The world is dependent on God, but God is not dependent on His creation, except to the extent that he freely makes himself so, as in Christ’s kenosis and incarnation. Dooyeweerd emphasizes that Christ was subject to all laws, and not just the ceremonial law.

But how can we hold to the idea of panentheism and still accept the doctrine of creation out of nothing?

Both Baader and Dooyeweerd discuss the problematic issues around the idea of “creatio ex nihilo” or “creation out of nothing.” There cannot be a “nothing” alongside of God. All creation is out, from and towards God. There is no other Being from whom or from which creation could derive. Although the term ‘panentheism’ was coined by Krause after Baader, Baader uses a similar idea of Immanenz within God. And Dooyeweerd was influenced by De Hartog’s use of panentheist ideas, which in turn relied on Baader.

What do you think are the biggest issues facing Dooyeweerdian scholarship today?

Reformationals need to read Dooyeweerd again, without preconceptions of what his philosophy is about. For that, we also need better translations of Dooyeweerd. Dooyeweerd was so dissatisfied that he changed translators after volume I of the New Critique. Volume II was also unsatisfactory, so Dooyeweerd translated volume III himself. I have provided my translations of some of Dooyeweerd’s work online, including previously unpublished works that I found in the archives. I have tried to translate in a consistent way that reflects what Dooyeweerd says is most important.

An even larger issue is that reformationals need to appreciate the importance of the history of philosophy. They often jump much too quickly to systematic philosophy. They start to re-write the philosophy in the form that they think it ought to have been stated instead of examining what Dooyeweerd really said. In that way, they frequently miss the heart of what Dooyeweerd is saying.

Reformationals need to separate their theology from their philosophy. Dooyeweerd says that theology depends on philosophy. But most reformationals try to fit their philosophy into their existing theology. As a result, their Christian philosophy has become ‘immanence philosophy’ within the meaning of Dooyeweerd’s use of that term. Dooyeweerd says that without the idea of the supratemporal heart, they will end up affirming the autonomy of thought. Their philosophy and theology is then very hard to distinguish from the modernism that they want to criticize. Again, this will be very painful to admit.

What books are you reading at the moment?

I read a lot of literature. I enjoy stories of mysterious interconnectedness, meaningful coincidence, complex hyperlinked plots, spiritual epiphanies, personal growth, extreme situations (exterior or interior) and unexpected grace. I enjoy the novels of Ian McEwan. For sheer pleasure in reading the English language, I enjoy Nabokov, and I have been intrigued by his theory of time. Without necessarily endorsing his views, I recommend the book Nabokov’s Otherworld by Alexandrov. It contains a fascinating account of how literature achieves the experience of epiphanies for the reader.

For philosophy and theology, I have been reading Daniel Boyarin, a Jewish scholar who, like Alan Segal, tries to understand early Christianity in terms of Jewish merkabah mysticism. He regards Paul’s account of his ascent to the heavens as an early Jewish source. He also argues that the early church and rabbinical Judaism did not diverge until several centuries after Christ. His research relates quite well to Margaret Barker’s temple theology, and the way that the temple mediated between time and eternity, much as the aevum functions in Dooyeweerd’s philosophy. I have no doubt that our theology needs to be reformulated. André Troost has given one such attempt, which I discuss in my book.

What music do you like to listen to?

I have sung in several choirs. I like to listen to Glenn Gould’s Bach. I love the Lieder of Schubert and Mahler (and his song cycle “Das Lied von der Erde”). I like the jazz of Bill Evans and of Keith Jarrett. I have a grand piano and a couple of guitars, and although I will never play professionally, they give me pleasure. I did have a cello, but lost it in Calgary’s recent flood.

For popular music, I listen mostly to older “confessional” songwriters like Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Nick Cave, Bruce Cockburn, Joan Osborne, Nina Simone, and Daniel Lanois.

What do you like to do for fun?

This is beginning to sound like an online dating site, but okay. I play about 6 hours of tennis a week, year round. I bicycle on the river paths near my home. I bought new downhill skis last year, and enjoy skiing at Sunshine and Lake Louise. I also bought a new set of golf clubs, and enjoy hacking away, although breaking 100 is still barely achievable. I jog up to 10km a day—up to the zoo to see the bears and back home. No marathons for me. I enjoy travelling with my children, and snorkeling off a nice beach. Closer to home, my garden brings me joy. I am an avid film buff, especially of older movies like those of Kieslowski or Bresson. I very much liked last year’s movie “Boyhood.” And I enjoy Danish Nordic Noir. “After the Wedding” is great. And the Turkish movie “The Edge of Heaven” is amazing.

If you had one last meal what would it be?

I recently made a batch of sorrel soup, or summer borscht, a recipe from my Mennonite heritage. My mother used to make it, and so I made it on Mother’s Day, in memory of her. The taste brought back an awesome number of memories (retrocipations), rather like the way that Proust’s madeleine (cake) allowed him to remember his past. So I think that would be important, along with some chunky whole grain bread, a good selection of cheeses, and a highly hopped West Coast style IPA.

Has your Mennonite past influenced you?

Of course. It continues to challenge me in its emphasis on community, simplicity of lifestyle and service for others, especially international aid. Its theology is less appealing. I wish that Menno Simons had followed the ideas of the Anabaptist Hans Denck instead of those of Melchior Hoffman, but that is another story. The fact that I have left my Mennonite roots has perhaps made it easier for me to explore other traditions. I was baptized in the Christian Reformed church and confirmed as an Anglican. I attended a Quaker high school, and the Quakers are perhaps still the group most congenial to my understanding of Dooyeweerd, with their emphasis on listening to the inner light and of religious self-reflection. But of course Quakers were highly influenced by Boehme, so there should be a connection to Dooyeweerd.

So, what's the next project?

I have several books I intend to publish on the topic of inter-religious dialogue. They are also consolidations and revisions of what I have written in the past. After that, I may try my hand at translating more of Franz von Baader. There is almost nothing of his work available in English. I have translated three of his articles online, but there are many more articles that are of interest.



Monday, 25 May 2015

Interview with Glenn Friesen - part 1

J. Glenn Friesen M.A. LL.B, DLitt et Phil has published a new book looking at the roots of reformational philosophy. He has a website Christian non-dualism. This is the first part of the interview.  Details of his book and a view of some of the contents can be found on Amazon's website.





Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Glenn. What led you to write your book Neo-Calvinism and Christian Theosophy?

I have spent a large part of my life studying Dooyeweerd, and I have published many articles about his philosophy. I thought it would be helpful to summarize this research in one book. But once I started the book, the project became much larger. It eventually included a lot of new research.

Why should we read your book?

If you are at all interested in the ideas of neo-Calvinism, in the idea of a Christian worldview, in Abraham Kuyper, or in the philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd, or in the very different philosophy of Dirk Vollenhoven, then I think you will also be interested my book. I explore the development of these ideas and challenge many commonly held views of what they mean. The historical facts that I discuss will need to be taken into account in any future discussion of Neo-Calvinism or Dooyeweerd.

Even if you think you are familiar with Dooyeweerd, there are many ideas in my book that will surprise you. Check out the dynamic diagram of the modes of consciousness on page 313. The diagram is by Janet Danielson. See how Dooyeweerd’s idea of retrocipations and anticipations differs from what he has been assumed to say. Take a look at the explanation of ‘enstasis,’ ‘systasis,’ ‘dis-stasis’ and ‘ana-stasis.’ Look at the history of the idea of individuality structures and enkapsis. No one has examined Dooyeweerd’s philosophy in this kind of detail before.

After reading my book, some readers will reject neo-Calvinism and Dooyeweerd’s philosophy. Others will embrace my findings as a way of understanding Dooyeweerd’s philosophy as a coherent whole. And they will see the possibility that this provides for ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue.

What is neo-Calvinism and what is Christian theosophy?

Neo-Calvinism is usually linked to Kuyper’s idea that every part of our life (every square inch of our existence) is to be governed by our Christian worldview. As I discuss in my book, a worldview is not a theoretical set of concepts. It is not a theology or even a philosophy. It is a way of looking at the world, of seeing differently. A Christian philosophy is a theoretical account of that non-theoretical worldview.

And what is Christian theosophy?

‘Theosophy’ means “the Wisdom of God.” Christian theosophy looks for the revelation of God’s Wisdom within his creation. To use Boehme’s phrase, it is looking for “the signature of God” within creation. Christian theosophy then seeks to use that Wisdom of God in order to help creation be what it ought to be. At present, there are only “anticipations” of such future fulfillment, but the Christian theosophist seeks out those anticipations and helps to realize them.

What first alerted you to the similarities between Baader and Kuyper and Dooyeweerd?

It was a book by Mike Sandbothe, entitled The Temporalization of Time. Sandbothe reviewed several theories of time, including Franz von Baader’s. I was surprised by the similarity to Dooyeweerd’s theory of time, so I started reading Baader. I was astonished by the similarities for his entire philosophy, too numerous to be coincidental. The connection to Baader also made sense of many previously obscure ideas in Dooyeweerd. After writing my first article, I then discovered that Kuyper had read Baader, and that he praised Baader’s ideas—particularly Baader’s rejection of the autonomy of thought. There is no doubt that Kuyper was influenced by Baader in this and other ideas, including the idea of sphere sovereignty, the idea of a created heaven, the idea of our central selfhood, and even the idea of a Free University.

How did you get introduced to Dooyeweerd's philosophy?

I first heard about Dooyeweerd when I spent two months at Francis Schaeffer’s L’Abri Fellowship (Switzerland) in 1970. I was interested in the idea of a Christian philosophy. The staff at l’Abri were aware of Dooyeweerd’s work, but also suspicious of him for reasons they could not explain. As you know, Schaeffer was much more strongly influenced by Cornelius Van Til than by Dooyeweerd. As I discuss in my book, Dooyeweerd did not share Van Til’s ideas, and regarded his view of Scripture as rationalistic.

After L’Abri, how did you pursue studies of Dooyeweerd?

I found a copy of his New Critique of Theoretical Thought in the Lutheran Seminary library at the University of Saskatchewan. The set had been donated by William Hordern, a Lutheran scholar of Paul Tillich. I understand that Tillich expressed interested in Dooyeweerd. That is not surprising in view of Tillich’s interest in Jacob Boehme, who is so prominent in the tradition of Christian theosophy. Tracing the similarities would make a good doctoral thesis.

And did you study Dooyeweerd’s philosophy at any educational institutions?

Well, I briefly attended the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto. I realized I needed to get closer to the source, and so I learned Dutch, and received a Netherlands Government Scholarship to study at the Free University of Amsterdam.

How did that go?

I was incredibly disappointed by my studies at the Free University. I left after completing a preliminary degree. Dooyeweerd had retired, and systematic philosophy was being taught by Hendrik van Riessen. I was fortunate to meet with Dooyeweerd at his home, and Dooyeweerd told me that he did not agree with the way that his philosophy had been changed by Van Riessen and his student D.F.M. Strauss. Dooyeweerd later wrote an article confirming his disagreement and outlining some of his differences in detail.

Van Riessen was a most opinionated man who expressed great annoyance at my questions. Once during a discussion in class, he walked out and slammed the door of the classroom. He was not used to a student challenging his ideas. There was no way that I wanted to work with him for my doctorate. And I did not see anything specifically Christian in the functionalistic philosophy that he taught.

But you did pursue graduate studies elsewhere?

Yes, I obtained an M.A. in philosophy from Western Ontario, a degree in law from McGill, and a doctorate in religious studies from the University of South Africa.

As a lawyer, did you find that Dooyeweerd helped you in the practice of law?

Not really, although I would like to look at this again sometime in view of my recent research. Dooyeweerd was a professor of jurisprudence, and his doctoral thesis had to do with the role of the Dutch cabinet. Now the common law system in North America and England is very different from the Dutch legal system, and so many of his specific ideas are hard to carry over into our system. In any case, I don’t think that Dooyeweerd’s philosophy can be applied in a mechanical way, even to law. It is a vision of how we are to do our theoretical work. I am, however, very intrigued by Bohatec’s suggestion that positive law is the synthesis of the essential and the peripheral, of equity and the constitutive. This seems to relate to Dooyeweerd’s (and Baader’s) distinction of the center and the periphery, of Idea and concept. Can this be applied to the difference between law and equity? In our common law legal system, equity was developed by the Court of Chancery to mitigate the harshness of the law by applying certain equitable maxims–for example, that someone may not seek certain kinds of relief if he or she does not have “clean hands.” Those seeking equity must do equity. Ideas of trust and fiduciary duties also come from equity. In my book, I discuss Dooyeweerd’s view of anticipations as finding the ‘figure’ within temporal reality. Finding the ‘figure’ in things is the opening process. He specifically discusses some of these ‘figures’ when law is opened up by anticipations, such as the legal idea of “good faith.”

What about the view that our law is based on the Bible?

No. Dooyeweerd specifically disagrees with that viewpoint. He criticizes Friedrich Julius Stahl for the view that our law is based on the Ten Commandments. He did not believe that Scripture should be used that way. He also disagreed with Groen van Prinsterer’s way of reading Scripture.

What do you see as the key differences between Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven?

Dooyeweerd followed the ideas of Christian theosophy. Vollenhoven did not. Instead, Vollenhoven followed the ideas of his mentor Jan Woltjer, although he did not give adequate credit to Woltjer. Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven disagreed with respect to almost every issue, whether in theology, ontology, or epistemology. They disagreed as to our human nature and of our selfhood, of the relation of time to eternity, of the nature of theory, of how we are to read the Scriptures. What is confusing is that they used similarl terminology, like ‘modality.’ But they used these terms in totally different ways.

But surely Vollenhoven and Dooyeweerd agreed on the Christian ground-motive of creation, fall and redemption?

No. They both used those terms. But they did not agree as to their meaning. For Dooyeweerd, creation, fall and redemption all occur in the supratemporal root. Vollenhoven does not share the idea of a supratemporal root, or even of the supratemporal. Vollenhoven’s philosophy is what Dooyeweerd calls ‘immanence philosophy.’ It is philosophy restricted to what is immanent to (within) time. For Dooyeweerd, it is of crucial importance that we transcend time in our selfhood. And that idea is also essential to understanding creation, fall, redemption, the working of the Word of God, and even the incarnation of Christ.

(To be continued)

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Galatians by Peter Oakes

Galatians
Paideia: Commentaries on the New Testament 
Peter Oakes
Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2015
ISBN 978-1-4412-4651-6
240pp


There are three important things that one needs to keep in mind when interpreting scripture: context, context and context. That of the writer’s, the audience and the present reader's as well as the social, political and cultural milieu. The Paideia series of commentaries focus on context: 
Paideia: Commentaries on the New Testament is a series set out to comment on the final form of the New testament Text in a way that pays due attention both to the cultural, literary, and theological settings in which the text took form and to the interests of the contemporary readers to whom the commentary is addressed.  
Peter Oakes, the author, is New Testament lecturer at Manchester University, he begins by ‘taking an initial look at Galatians, together with relevant external evidence such as the use of Galatians, to gather with relevant external evidence such as the early use of Galatians, to give us a provisional idea of the nature of the text.’  He arrives at fairly conservative and largely uncontroversial positions: Paul is the author writing between AD 46-61 - up to his imprisonment in Rome. He divides the main structure of Galatians into three parts: the narrative (1:11-2:21), argument (3:1-4:11) and instruction with argument (4:12-6:10). 

After each section of the commentary is a ‘Theological issues’. However, these read more like a devotional section for daily reading notes particularly when questions such as ‘What would it mean for present day Christians..?’

The strength of this commentary is its use of external evidence and the stress on the context. The text is helpfully supplemented by ‘side bars’, photographs and maps. He interacts well with more recent work on Galatians in an easy accessible style. The book will be particularly useful for undergraduates.

The most quoted authors are in order: Martinus Boer, Hans Dieter Betz, Richard Longnecker, Louis Martyn, James Dunn, Richard Hays, F.F. Bruce and Tom Wright.


We are well served with excellent commentaries on Galatians, not least Dunn, Bruce, Longnecker, Schreiner and Moo - and now to that list we could add Oakes. 

Friday, 15 May 2015

WYSOCS: Faith & Wisdom in Science with Tom McLeish 5-6 June 2015



Full details and an online booking form here.

In these three talks Tom will:

  • Ÿ outline the current ‘science and religion’ debate and its false assumptions
  • Ÿ present the Hebrew tradition of Wisdom as a resource for insights about the sciences
  • Ÿoffer a biblically-inspired framework for fruitful living, thinking and communicating in our changing world

The talks will prove invaluable for those interested in approaching the sciences from new, fresh and Christian perspectives.

Faith and Wisdom in Science, Professor Tom McLeish
Leeds City Academy, Woodhouse Cliff, Leeds. LS6 2LG

Doug Blomberg's Inaugural Presidential Address at ICS, Toronto

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Renato Coletto: Kuyper’s razor?

Kuyper’s razor? Rethinking science and religion, trinitarian scholarship and God’s eternity
Renato Coletto
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi 49(1) (2015).
doi: 10.4102/ids.v49i1.1891

"This article explores three research fields in contemporary Christian scholarship and argues that the way they are approached is often questionable due to the basic assumptions, the methods or the implications. The following allegations are proposed. Research on the relationship between religion and science is based on a framework of assumptions which does not reflect the biblical standpoint properly. Trinitarian scholarship expects too much from the presumed correspondence between Trinity and created reality, whilst it tends to neglect other resources available to Christian scholarship. Scientific reflection on God’s eternity is speculative in as much as it tries to transcend the modal horizon of knowledge. In these three cases (other cases are also briefly mentioned) it is argued that ‘Kuyper’s razor’ (an approach promoted in the Kuyperian reformational tradition) would help rethinking research in these areas."

Kuyper's Om de Oude Wereldzee on Dutch TV

(Re)Discovering an Evangelical Heritage

Rediscovering an Evangelical Heritage
A Tradition and Trajectory of Integrating Piety and Justice
Donald W. Payton with Douglas M. Strong
Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014 
ISBN: 978-1-4412-4643-1


The original book, Discovering an Evangelical Heritage, of which this is a revised and updated diversion had its origins in a series of articles in Post American, now Sojourners (June-July 1974 to may 1975). This version adds 'Re' to the title as well as five chapter postscripts and a new introduction and conclusion. The heritage discovered was that evangelicalism had a strong commitment to social justice; personal piety didn't mean a neglect social reform and justice. He discovered a tradition of evangelical social activism that had been 'buried and largely forgotten'. Contemporary American evangelicalism is often portrayed as right wing and socially conservative, Payton through a series of case studies shows that this was not always the case. As Strong notes in his helpful and insightful introduction:
'Dayton's narrative of socially active Christians contradicted the negative reputation of revivalism as an other worldly enterprise concerned only with saving souls.' 
What is surprising in this book is the evangelicals Dayton examines. They include: Jonathan Blanchard, Charles Finney, Theodore Weld, Arthur and Lewis Taipan, Orange Scott and Luther Lee. They are all from the Arminian end of the evangelical spectrum. If Jonathan Edwards and Charles Finney can both be regarded as evangelicals - it raise the question as to how effective and/ or appropriate is the evangelical label? Is it too elastic a term to be useful? 

In his final chapter Dayton examine some of the reasons why this social active heritage has been lost among North American evangelicals. He identifies a number of issues that prompted what elsewhere Moberg terms the 'great reversal’; including: 
an institutionalisation of the movements diluted the reform impulse
complex social realities posed too much of a problem
a fatalistic, and often pessimistic, pre-millennialism replaced the optimistic post-millennialism
the growth in impact among evangelicals of the "Old School" of Presbyterianism, especially as it found expression in the "Princeton Theology" with its incarnation of conservative views. 

Not all evangelicals accept Dayton's thesis - and not just those of a right wing fundamentalist persuasion, e.g. George Marsden. Nevertheless it provides a useful insight into American evangelicalism.  Particularly helpful is the commentary by Strong - this helps place the book within its original context as well as updating the discussion.