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Reinventing English Evangelicalism,…

Reinventing English Evangelicalism, 1966-2001: A Theological and…

by Rob Warner

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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 the evangelical Anglican formulations 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) and

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/ crucientric 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".
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  stevebishop | Apr 2, 2016 |
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