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"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.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Rob Warner Reiniventing English Evangelicalism

Rob Warner
Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2007
ISBN 978-1-84227-570-2
Pbk, xviv +284, £19.99

This book, as the subtitle suggests, is a theological and sociological examination of English evangelicalism in the last three or so decades of the last millennium. Warner writes as an observer-participant, but as one that seems to be increasingly disaffected.
This is a big movements and men (there is a distinct lack of women) view of evangelicalism that has been surveyed. Warner seems to delight in using obscure terms and inventing jargon, for example we have Calverism and Stottian. And we have "Evangelicals' propensity for missiological pragmatism leads to cognitive bargaining within the prevailing culture" and an "interstitial formulation within an ineluctably bifurcatory tradition". These belie its origins as a PhD thesis. Several times he mentions loosening grip of 'twentieth century conservative calvinistic hegemony', I was never aware the Calvinism had England in its grip in the twentieth century. The assertion is never backed up with evidence.

Part One looks at the big "movements"; he covers the Evangelical Alliance, Spring Harvest, the Alpha course, Christian magazines and the decade of Evangelism. All these have a chapter devoted to them. He draws upon extensive interviews - but these are anonymous and so its difficult to know the position and rank of the interviewees in evangelicalism and how much of a view from the pew we are getting. It seems to be very much a top-down view that we are provided with. The common theme in most of these "movements is a vision inflation: they all seem to promise much more that they factually delivered.

Part Two concentrates on pan-evangelical bases of faith. From early EA formulations through the evangelical Anglican bases at Keele (1967) and Nottingham (1977) to the Evangelical Alliance's "interstitial formulation" of 2005. The issue of penal substitution, universalism and the inerrancy/ infallibility of the Bible all come to the fore in these discussions.

Although the scope is English evangelicalism the shadow of the States is felt - particularly through the issue of inerrancy (cf Chicago Statement of 1978).

1966 was the year of the Lloyd Jones-Stott disagreement over evangelical separatism. The Warner seems to maintain evangelical differences were mainly ecclesiastical, but by the end of 1990s these disagreements had widened and there was a split (bifurcation) between the entrepreneurial conversionist/ activist pole and a more conservative biblicist/ crucicentric pole, the differences now included revelation, soteriology, social justice, the role of women and the interface of the gospel and culture. The hegemony had fractured.

This is an important book. It presents a progressive evangelical's view of evangelicalism; one that needs to be taken seriously. We should all take to heart the tendency towards "vision inflation".


Foreword – David Bebbington

Introduction: A Resurgent, Contested Tradition

 Late modern charismatic entrepreneurialism in the context of church decline

1. Calverism and the Evangelical Alliance 1982-2001
2. Spring Harvest :A Case Study in Evangelical Exceptionalism
3. Evangelical Trends: Late-Onset Decline
4. Deconstructing the Decade of Evangelism
5. Alpha: A Second Case Study in Evangelical Exceptionalism
6. Sociological Perspectives on Entrepreneurial Evangelicals

 From pre-critical inclusivity to the self-attenuated calvinistic hegemony, and the subsequent emergence of post- and neo-conservatism, with bifurcatory prospects

 7. Foundations of Evangelical Ecumenism, 1846-1912
 8. EA-1970 and the Conservatice Undertow, 1928-1981
 9. Emergent Openness, 1967-1977
10. The Conservative Counter-Trend, 1978-1999
11. Progressive Evangelicals: The Post-Conservative Emergence, 1996-2000

Conclusion: Conflictual Identities: The Dynamics and Trajectories of Evangelical Convictions

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