A reflection of Shultz’s Reforming Theological Anthropology

These are responses to questions listed on the discussion board for Evangelical Seminary’s course CT902: The Formation of the Human Person.

Question 1In your reading of Shults, what did you learn or notice anew about ‘relationality’? How would you characterize your overall response to using relationality as a framework for exploring the richness of what it means to be human?

The concept of theological anthropology is new to me as is the concept of relationality.  I had not engaged this issue before.  Some parts of the book were new, others were not new but I had not read them in light of relationality,  I thought Shultzs use of Kegan and Loeder was interesting because I engage their work somewhat in my chaplain residency and had awareness of the need to self differentiate and how that would affect one’s understanding of life experiences such as being admitted to the hospital.  But really how successful one is in working through relationality will depend on which “fiduciary structure” one is in. It will affect how open you are to others and to learning and growing, even having that “transforming moment.” Changing relation can be a scary thing and without good support and or fiduciary “structure,” that can be deconstructive, not re-constructive.  Clearly Shultz, despite his own deconstruction is not wanting to deconstruct his reader’s understanding of relationality but to help transform it. I suppose there was some transformation in the reading process. However, it seems for that to take place at a deep level one needs to stay in it for a time. I do admit my overall response to the book was a mix of cautious and somewhat ambivalent. I don’t think this is because I am in the traditionalist fiduciary structure per se but maybe it is. I will have to consider it further.  

Question 2Employing the framework Shultzs describes in chapter three (the dialectic between theological and psychological experiences of fear), what have you found strengthens or inhibits your own transformational learning in your doctoral work/research? How might those insights inform your preparation for teaching/presenting later in this course?

I am okay with the dialogue between theology and psychology as I feel they are very closely related. As I stated already it was interesting he used Kegan’s work to talk about how people will move forward in understanding relationality. He speaks of repression and fear as if they are blockers for growth and change, even transforming change. I think that is true that they are factors.  The growth and transformation often happen slowly and unnoticeably, until it is noticeable.  Fear can play a role in how fast that change happens.  Too much and not enough can be real issues.  

As to my own experience in this program, if there has been transformational growth it is not super obvious to me right now,  It has been stressful in my personal life with managing work and family, and kids. I think I have given in too much to the psychological fear of succeeding in this program. Will I pass the comp? WIll the dissertation even make sense. I feel my work hasn’t been the best that it can be and often I know it could be better and that upsets me and that hinders the growing experience a bit. Even though my learning environment has always been warm and supportive and encouraging, and I really do like the track focus, I almost literally physically and emotionally burned out at the end of the last term (which is what our ‘Rule of Life’ project was supposed to help us prevent – help us set rhythms in place to avoid burn out). I think I will be fine from here on out, but I do need to be more careful in this final term. I will need stoutness of heart and the courage I mentioned to have confidence and put that into the presentation and not let my fears and anxieties overrule me in the coming weeks. 

Question 3As you engaged with Shults’s proposals for reforming theological anthropology in Part III, which of them did you find most challenging, and why? How did you respond at first, and how has that response deepened or shifted for you as you continued to process the challenge? 

Here is where I am at with this – it felt like the first two parts were the long-winded way of saying, how you think of sin, and human nature and, the imago dei is wrong.  Here is a better way to look at it.  I see the value of mixing theology and modern views to discern what it is we believe, but as a biblical track student, I did recoil slightly at a few places,  I know that Shultz has since become an atheist and I felt this section show the path for how that may have happened for him. Even so, while there are modern concerns to consider in such a topic as human nature and sin, the Bible remains our final rule for faith life and practice.  I will need to consider his definition further as he says that “sinning has to be understood in the context of its relation to the general human longing for goodness” (ch 9 kindle). Lots of people long for goodness and it’s not found in God. For others it is. Yet, it seems, maybe I see it differently than he does, but in my view while humans were made good in the beginning, they became sinful. The sin lies in disobedience, and perhaps in terms of relationality, it was changing one’s relation in the wrong direction, away from God instead of towards him. 

My issue with what Shultz had presented then was, that if I disagreed with his conclusions did that mean I am not in the right fiduciary structure to be able to receive what he has to say? if I think he is wrong, is that my fear or epistemic anxiety speaking? These were some of my challenges with the book.  In the end, he had some really good things to say, and some good theological assertions I liked and thought were well worded. It’s too bad he walked away from the goodness of God.

Is God affected by our Prayers? An Open view.

IS GOD AFFECTED BY OUR PRAYERS?
by Terence E. Fretheim (2012)

When asked about their prayers, many people say that God has three answers available: Yes, No, and Wait (or some variation thereof). I invite you to consider an additional response: God has determined to answer prayers in a positive way, but God’s will to do so is being successfully resisted. This resistance may come from within ourselves (e.g., our arrogance), but it may also come from powerful factors at work in the context about which we are praying.

Some people speak with too much confidence regarding the effectiveness of prayer. I pray for a parking place, and lo! one appears around the next corner. Or, the efficacy of prayers is related to the depth of one’s faith. Really? Do you suppose that the apostle Paul did not have enough faith, and that was why his prayer to remove the thorn in his flesh failed?

Among believers, a remarkably limited sense regarding the efficacy of prayer is common. Sometimes, prayer is nothing more than a meditation that centers us or quiets us down, like a good nap! Others will extend the point: Prayer has an effect on the relationship between the one praying and God; the relationship is, say, made more mature. But all too often, change is thought to occur only on the human side of the relationship. Yet, the Bible claims that God is also affected by prayers offered. Many biblical texts claim that prayers do have an effect upon God and do shape the future (e.g., Exod 32:7-14; 2 Kings 20:1-7; Luke 18:1-8). God will take the human expression of concern with utmost seriousness, not least because God values the relationship and honors it. Somehow, the power of God is made more available in a situation because we have prayed.In such considerations, much depends on one’s image of God. For some believers, God cannot be affected by our words and God certainly cannot be persuaded by what we say. God will do what God will do — regardless of what people have to say. At the same time, prayer is sometimes so conceived that God always gets God’s way. God’s will always gets done! Or, does it?

Consider several factors. Our relationship with God is not mechanical in nature, as if our prayers triggered in God some already programmed responses. One must insist on the living, dynamic character of the relationship. Responses within any relationship — with human beings or with God — are never programmed or predictable, even between those who know each other very well. And this is even more the case in that God is God and we are not. Another factor to be taken into account is the pervasiveness of sin and evil that can get in the way of God’s responses to our prayers. For example, we pray for healing, and healing is not forthcoming. When that happens, we may end up blaming God for not answering our prayers. We so often make God the “heavy” in these matters.

In fact, however, it may have been the medicine we were (not) taking or a member of the medical community who blew it.Sometimes when we pray, we may think: all that is at work in this situation is our prayer and God. But a multitude of other factors are present in any given moment of prayer. Some of those factors may be so resistant to God’s will, that God’s will does not get done. The accumulated effects of sinfulness may be so powerful that even God’s options are limited (in view of promises made, to which God will be faithful). And God’s heart is the first heart to break, and God’s tears the first to flow. An analogy may be suggested: human sinfulness has occasioned numerous instances of the misuse of the environment. Some of that misuse (e.g., pesticides) has caused cancer in human beings and devastated animal populations. Human beings may be forgiven by God for their sin, but the effects of their sinfulness will continue to wreak havoc beyond the act of forgiveness.

We confess that in response to prayer God is at work in these effects, struggling to bring about positive results in and through human (and other) agents. It is not a question as to whether God wills good in the situation. The issue is God’s relational commitments that may entail self-limiting ways of responding to evil and its effects in the world. Anti-God factors may be powerfully present and shape the future in negative ways, even for God.To conclude, prayer is a God-given way for God’s people to make a situation more open for God, to give God more room to work, knowing that God always has our best interests at heart. Prayers do shape the future in ways different from what would have been the case had no prayers been uttered. At the same time, the people of God are not in the hands of an iron fate or a predetermined order of things. God’s will may be successfully resisted or God may be open to taking new directions in view of new times and places. Yet, never changing will be God’s steadfast love for all, God’s saving will for everyone, and God’s faithfulness to promises made.

– Terence E. Fretheim (1936-2020) taught Old Testament theology at Luther Seminary (St. Paul MN) for 45 years.

QOTD: Robert P. Menzies

From the pen of Pentecostal scholar and theologian Robert Menzies:

Pentecostals, today, likewise affirm that every Christian has been called and promised the power [of the Spirit] needed to become bold, Spirit-inspired witnesses for Jesus. The Church is nothing less than a community of end-time prophets … The Church, in “these last days,” Luke declares, is to be a community of prophets — prophets who are called to take the message of “salvation … to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6).

Read more here….

Terry Fretheim and the Renewal of Creation Theology

CREATION to ESCHATON

One of my favorite Old Testament scholars, Terence Fretheim, died yesterday (November 16, 2020).

Terry was both a wonderful person and a brilliant biblical scholar. He excelled both in detailed exegesis of the Old Testament and in his reflections on the theological and ethical meaning of of this ancient text.

The first book of his that I read was The Suffering of God: An Old Testament Perspective (1984), which was a short but profound study of how God is affected by us. Although the book focuses on the Old Testament, it helpfully laid the foundation for understanding the coherence of both Testaments, since the same God who allowed himself to be affected by humanity at the flood (God’s heart was grieved by human evil) and by Israel’s unfaithfulness (see the prophet Jeremiah), ultimately became incarnate and went to the cross for our sake.

I found some similarity…

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on the Church as a Chosen race, a Holy nation (1 Pt 2:9)

I read Minear’s book Images of the Church in the New Testament and wrote this response to the image of the church as a Chosen race, a Holy Nation:

I chose the church image of the church as “a chosen race” [35] and the church as “a holy nation” [36]. I chose to do both because I see them as connected and in some ways two sides of the same coin. Both these images are referenced in 1 Peter 2:9 which reads: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Peter uses many images for the church in this letter- these are just two. He starts out his letter “To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces….” He then proceeds through the letter to delineate characteristics of the elect and their calling, which can also be seen as the chosen. Joel Green has “elect clan” for chosen race in 1 Peter 2:9 (Green, 1 Peter Two Horizons Commentary, Kindle loc 861) This reading would fall in line with Peter’s usage. Yet elect and chosen are similar concepts.

Under the heading of “the People of God” (ch 3) Minear seeks to explicate those images in the New Testament that are analogous to conceptualizing the church as a community, the people of God (Minear, Images, ch 3, Kindle loc 1369). For Minear, the basic function here is to relate to the contemporary Christian “the historic community” they belong to “whose origin stemmed from God’s covenant promises and whose pilgrimage had been sustained by God’s call” (ibid kindle loc 1377) As it was for them, so it is for the church today.

In 1 Peter 2:9, we find a little bit of what is called “intertextuality.” This is when the author makes intertextual connections and or allusions, such as recalling past events and reinterpreting them in light of the present (a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own possession, etc). For the Jewish people in biblical times, the exodus event and the narrative that tells the story shaped Israel as the people of God well through to the time of Christ. It is the heart of the Torah and is central to their theology. After being enslaved 430 years, through the leadership of Moses, God called his people out of Egpyt and out of the land of slavery. Exodus 19:5-6 and also Isaiah 43:20-21, which recalls the exodus and Sinai events (Ex 19), are foundational Scriptures for these images. 

Three months after YHWH called Israel out of Egypt, and led them through the desert, they came to Sinai. There they spent a year getting to know YHWH and getting acclimated to being on their own in the wilderness. It was here God established his covenant with the people of Israel and essentially let them know he would be their God and they would be his people. In the ANE world it was common for a king to set up such a relationship with a group of people; to be their king and they to be his people. It was on the one hand, a standard King/vassal relationship, yet on other hand, YHWH was not like the ANE gods and sought a reciprocal relationship with his people (c.f. Walton’s ANE Thought and the OT, 2018). The terminology in Exodus 19:5-6 is common King to vassal language. What sets it apart here is that YHWH is the one true God and he is a living God (as evidenced when he told Moses he was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and stated as such by Jesus in Matt 22:32). For YHWH, Israel was his “treasured possession.” 

The term here sᵉgullâ while typically referring to private property or one’s personal possession (like precious stones or a special ring, etc), it also “was a master’s term of endearment for a beloved vassal” (c.f. S.A. Lowenstamm, “עם סגולה,” in Linguistic Studies Presented to Ze’ev Ben-Hayyim (Jerusalem, 1983), 321-328 [Hebrew]). Israel was God’s precious possession special to him and him alone. Perhaps like with the image of Israel as God’s wife, sᵉgullâ was a term of endearment. She was his precious to him and him alone.

Additionally, sᵉgullâ was a near technical term for a valued treaty partner – one who went out to represent the treaty, in this case, the covenant made with YHWH; they live by the covenant stipulations, not as a set of rules to follow, but from out of a relationship with YHWH as a light to the nations. Israel was God’s treasured possession. His chosen race, (the people he formed for himself” (Isa 43:20)), hence their function as a royal priesthood and a holy nation. They were the people of God, set apart, called out, and meant to serve him and represent him and the covenant in the world. It is highly reciprocal and participatory. Sᵉgullâ also indicates “a particular portion of one’s possessions not used for ordinary purposes but saved for a special purpose” (A. B. Ehrlich, Randglosses zur hebr. Bibel  [1908], 1:336f.). That they were his chosen people, a holy nation, his treasured possession – shows God had uniquely chosen them out of all the nations to be his own and that not for the ordinary but for a special purpose – that purpose ultimately is missional – to be a light to the nations and see his salvation to the ends of the earth! (Isa 49:6).

Moving forward to 1 Peter 2:9, Peter writes this letter to “God’s elect” – the chosen. Here Peter is including all who have been redeemed by Christ and are now “in him.” Ultimately, it was through Jesus’ redemptive act on the cross and through the resurrection, God created a people as his chosen race, his precious possession. And he reminds the reader in 1Peter 2:10, “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” A people who once were not now are. Peter has appropriated the prior terms of endearment YHWH used for Israel and applied them to all of God’s people who are now his “treasured possession,” his “chosen race,” those he set apart to be a “holy nation,” set apart “to declare the praises of him who called them out of darkness and into his marvelous light.” The people of God now constitute all who are “in Christ.” They are the chosen ones, chosen to be his “holy nation.” The interesting thing about “nation” is that it refers to “a body of persons united by kinship, culture, and common traditions, nation, people,” “τὸ ἔθνος.” This “elect clan,” these “chosen people” are no longer just the people of Israel but are now all God has chosen in Christ. They are no longer defined by ethnicity (ἔθνος – ethnos, from where we get ethnicity or nationality) but instead by their identity in Christ. They are not marked out by anything but kinship in Christ, and the common fellowship as “the people of God.” 

The church now is this very thing. The church as a whole is the “chosen people” of God – a “holy nation” – set apart “to declare his praises” among the nations. Regardless of mega, mini, or para-church – each is a segment of the whole – the people of God called to be his sᵉgullâ in their respective communities – those who represent God to the people around them in their neighborhoods, schools, employment, and so much more. So now this image should unite churches and not divide them. It should bring churches and ministries together “to proclaim the praises who called them out of darkness and into his marvelous light” and make known Christ to the world.  Together we are the people of God, his chosen people, a holy nation.

Why study the LXX?

Question: How you would answer a friend who is asking you why you are bothering to study the Septuagint? Of what value is the study of the Septuagint for a faithful Christian who is seeking to know God better? 

The Septuagint is the Bible Jesus and the Apostles read. In Christianity, we believe in the authority of the Bible as the written word of God, that words matter, and that the word of God matters. While the Bible is God’s word in human words, it is divinely inspired. The Septuagint (also LXX for 70 because tradition holds that the original portion, the Torah (or the Pentateuch) was written by 70 men -but in time it refers to the whole Old Testament) is the translation of the Hebrew and Aramaic portion of the Bible (the Old Testament) into koine Greek, the same language the New Testament is written in.  Koine Greek was the common language of the time, similar to how English is today. 

Engaging in textual criticism and the study of the Septuagint is a reflection of this concern for the authority of the word, that words matter, and that God’s word matters. Some time before Christ, a man named Aristeas wrote a “letter” detailing the account of how and why the Septuagint came to be. While in part it was to have a copy of “the Law of the Jews” in the Library at Alexandria, written in a language people could read, in time, it came to be understood as divinely inspired and on par with the Hebrew Scriptures as the word of God. It became the word of God for Greek speaking Jews and later, the early church. In time both the Hebrew text and the Septuagint were held to be the divinely inspired word of God and gives support to what have as “the Bible” today.  As an example, the Old Testament in Eastern Orthodox Bible today is based on the Septuagint. Additionally, the Septuagint gives us access to versions of the Jewish Scriptures that would have been familiar to most Christians outside Judea and that were clearly known to and used by several of the NT authors, famously the author of Hebrews (several of whose exegetical points are sustained by the LXX but not the MT, our “go to” text for the Hebrew Bible).

Study of the LXX and its history, in effect, compels us to worship. It helps us know the miracle we hold in our hands today that we call the Bible. Studying the LXX reveals the missional heart of God to adapt to cultures and situations; to keep his word, and be sure his word is in a language that can reach the whole world.  This is why we should bother studying the Septuagint and how such study helps us know and love God. 

Review of 40 Questions about Typology and Allegory

It is with thanks to the Kregel blogger review program that I am able to offer a review of Mitchell Chase’s book 40 Questions about Typology and Allegory (Grand Rapids, Kregel, 2020). Chase is the preaching pastor at Kosmosdale Baptist church, in Valley Station, KY. He also serves as n adjunct professor for Boyce College and Southern Seminary. He has a Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Kregel has several works in the 40 Questions About series and this is the latest contribution.

Chase’s purpose in writing this book is to “orient Bible readers to the subjects of typology and allegory, that we might be more faithful readers of Scripture” (12). Chase puts forth that in view of the “big story” of the Bible, it is important to understand how that story is told, as much as that it is told (25). In highlighting typology and allegory, the book 40 Questions About Typology and Allegory, then, is an “invitation to a kind of reading, a kind of seeing” (12), a way of reading the Bible that helps the reader “see” the various connections and patterns of Scripture that reveal the message of the Bible to the reader.

The way to come about this “seeing” is by spending extended time reading and re-reading Scripture over and over, and in the process paying attention to the way the biblical story is told such as with the use of narrative recapitulation (29) or the use of metaphors or personification (30), even metonymy or symbolism (31). Typology, then, refers to “an impression, image, example, or a pattern” (35). Allegory occurs where a passage “says one thing in order to say something else” (193). Chase acknowledges that the notion of allegory in the Bible is controversial. Most often the only real place where there is allegory in the Bible is Galatians 4 where Paul, in talking about Hagar and Sarah, is speaking “figuratively” (Gal 4:21-31). However, Chase notes allegory “invites the reader beneath the surface to discern a deeper significance in the words used in the passage” (193-194). One example he cites is Isaiah 5 where there is language about destroying a vineyard but really it is an allegory for God’s coming judgment (193). In this, he fully acknowledges the dangers of allegory (196) but also beleives it should not be avoided altogether.

It is clearly stated that although though they are related, typology and allegory are not synonymous (197). Chase states:

“Both are examples of seeing significance in a text that is beyond the text itself. Unlike a type, an allegory does not have to be historical. For instance, allegories might appear in visions or parables that are not meant to be taken literally. Unlike and allegory, a legitimate type depends upon correspondences and patterns in redemptive history that link too, and escalate toward, the antitype…. Typological exegesis discerns organic connections and development across redemptive history and through progressive revelation … Allegorical interpretation views the text under consideration as having a deeper meaning, understanding the text too ‘say other” than what the words read” (197).

Chase spends several chapters exploring types and allegories and how to identify them throughout Scripture as well as showing how it was done in Church history through the Enlightenment into the modern era closing out with discussing how it should be practiced in the church today and why should it matter (that it helps reveal the interconnectedness of Scripture and seeks to magnify Christ in all of Scripture.


Some examples of types would be the Ark of Noah, which is a type of Christ. The Ark is the type, Christ is the antitype. Just as the Ark protected Noah and his family from the Flood, so those “in Christ” will be protected from the day of judgment (129). Another is the tabernacle in the wilderness which again, is a type of Christ. The Tabernacle is the type, Christ is the antitype. The Tabernacle is the symbol of God’s presence among and with Israel, Jesus is the true and greater tabernacle. He is fulness of God’s presence with and among us (142).

An example of allegory in Chase’s view would be that of Cain and Abel. Abel represents God’s people and Cain “was the template for future opponents of God’s people” (256). Chase states further, “The religious leadership in Jesus’ day was Cain, for they dishonored God despite their outward conformance to sacrificial laws” (Mt 15:8-9). Jesus is Abel who faces opposition and is put to death in the process. The Jews were Cain because “though he came to his own, his own received him not” (Jn 1:11), etc (256). 

While I am leery of allegories and think any effort to explore types should be done with care and caution, I think Chase has provided a useful and valuable resource for the church and for the average Christian to read the Bible in ways probably not previously done. All too often types and allegories are done in excess and are abused so that most shy away from or avoid them altogether. However, it was practiced by Paul and the Apostles, and was practiced all through Church history (sometimes well, often in embarrassing ways). Exploring types and allegories is a perfectly valid way of doing biblical theology. If done with precision and care, and with a love for truth, I think it can lead to helping Christians know Christ and the Scriptures in new depths and will only deepen their love for God and his written word.

Review of Aída Spencer’s James commentary

It is with thanks to the Kregel blogger program that I obtained a copy of Aída Besançon Spencer’s commentary on James in the Kregel Exegetical Library set. This slim volume is a treasure trove of solid biblical scholarship on the Letter of James. Spencer is Senior professor of New Testament at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and a Presbyterian minister. Her specialty is literary and historical analysis and this is what guides her work on the commentary. She seeks to note James’ stylistic features and images while also taking seriously the historical background of James.

This means she holds to James the brother of Jesus as the author. She supports her view in that there are a number of references to the teachings of Jesus in the letter and this could only come from someone who was close to Jesus and traveled with him, she also makes significant comparison with Acts 15 from which to draw her conclusion. Her ultimate goal, then, in this commentary, because it is not always apparent to the reader, is to show the the thematic unity of the Letter of James. She does this by utilizing her skillset in literary analysis and by highlighting the relationship between verses and the meaning of words within their context.

One of the great aspects of this series is the exegetical aspect. The KEL set is new and so it brings with it newer approaches to study of the text and discerning its meaning. This means each chapter contains a translation of the the chapter with a grammatical analysis. For example:

James 1:2a Consider for yourselves all joy, my brothers and sisters,* (initial sentence; main clause)

James 1:2b whenever you might fall upon various trials, (subordinate adverbial clause; temporal; answers when)

James 1:3c knowing (subordinate adverbial clause; causal; answers why)

*ἀδελφός in the plural here is generic (LSJ, 20; BDAG; 18).

This followed by an outline and then a discussion on the literary structure. Structure is important because it leads to discerning the meaning of the passage. Then there is the exposition of the text throughout which are are words in bold indicating word that are discussed in depth. For Spencer, words are the building blocks of meaning as they are stacked into clauses, sentences and paragraphs. She discusses words that are key to the meaning of the text. For example, in James 1:1, she bold “diaspora” and then discusses in-depth the historical context in order to discover which “diaspora” James is referring to (she argues it is probably the earliest one that affected the Messianic Jews in Jerusalem (8:1)).

Once she has done the expositional portion, explaining quite deeply the text of James verse by verse and at times word by word, she follows it up with a discussion of the theological and homiletical topics and themes in the chapter. This commentary by Kregel is for pastors and in-depth Bible teachers. It is well suited for teaching and preaching as sermon points are suggested for consideration.

This is a strong commentary on the Letter of James and is chock full of the very wisdom and understanding James encourages his readers to have and exercise. Spencer is adept at the biblical languages and both historical and literary analysis and presents such in an accessible manner that leaves the reader both informed about the text and spiritual encouraged by the message within.

If some suggestions were offered, I might say it could be helpful to offer a suggested sermon or teaching outline for the chapter or pericope discussed and perhaps for the non Greek reading pastor, the Greek could be transliterated.

Review of The Democratization of American Christianity

The essence of Nathan O. Hatch’s book The Democratization of American Christianity (Yale University Press, 1989) lies the notion that in early American history, religion in the United States became “of the people, for the people, and by the people.” In the age of Jacksonian Democracy where anti-establishment sentiments were already embedded in the fabric of the nation, Hatch shows how “the transitional period between 1780 and 1830 left as indelible an imprint upon the structures of American Christianity as it did upon those of American political life” (6).  Tracing the dynamics and patterns of “five different traditions or mass movements,” (4) this work demonstrates the relentless energy of a people who sought to take back religion from the elites of society.  In the post Great Awakening era it was the era of the common man.  Int a nutshell, Americans were tired of who they considered to elite ministers talking over their heads and leaving them feeling empty and talked down to in regards to the faith. 

Such men as Lorenzo Dow and Elias Smith effectively thumbed the elite and began to preach in the vernacular to the local people in the local churches. They encouraged the people to think and act for themselves in their pursuit of God (37, 69, 75, etc). These were men who had little to no formal “larnin” or “edication” (20) and instead sought to function in their own sense of personal calling and public speaking ability. And the people loved them for it. In many instances, elite pastors would preach and the audience would not know or understand a word spoken. They left feeling as they did before they came.  In contrast, one Methodist itinerant, Billy Hibbard related that some had said one of his sermons was the best they ever heard “because they could remember so much of it” (136). This was the goal, it was accomplished.

In the end, the issue was that of populist religion in America. Pop culture. Pop religion. Religion that reached the masses and was run by common people. It was a battle for authority. Hatch does well to demonstrate a great reversal that took place between the elite and the common person. No longer was authority based on education, or training, or stature. Authority lie instead in the sense of person calling and the democratic art of persuasion.  How many people can you move to the altar by your preaching? That is where the power is.  The epilogue does well to show populism continues to remain embedded in American culture, religiously and politically.  Although the book focuses on just a short period in American history it does well to explain why American religion is the way it is, and probably always will be.

Review Global Evangelicalism

In Global Evangelicalism by Lewis and Pierard present an edited volume that essentially deconstructs what they refer to at the “secularization thesis” (11). This thesis held that “religion was a historical phenomenon associated with premodern societies and that its demise was inevitable in the modern world” (11). The incidence of rapid growth and global/geographical spread of evangelicalism proves otherwise. Even so, the notion of Evangelicalism remains enigmatic and difficult to define. Has the global spread contributed to this? Even Noll asks the question “who are evangelicals and where are they to be found? (17). He acknowledges it was mainly a western phenomenon but that now it is a global one. He then briefly surveys the different global expressions of evangelical Christianity ranging from Fundamentalist to Pentecostal and Charismatic expressions to various expressions in Africa noting evangelicalism’s ability to adapt to different cultures (23).

Piety is foundational to evangelicalism. Piety is what gives evangelicalism the global thrust because tangential to it is a quest for personal renewal out of which comes a passion for missions. Shenk explores mission as one of the theological reasons for the global spread of evangelicalism (44ff). This heart for missions also flowed out of the recovery of the whole gospel (55). This led to the formation in 1974 of the Lausanne Congress for World Evangelization which in turn developed into a truly international body of believers. The world at this point was far from secularized in the modern world. What is important to keep in mind also is that there is the global spread of evangelicalism and there is globalization. They aren’t the same thing. One is religious and the other more political and economic. He notes globalization is more than what some have made it out to be. The question is what is the relationship between globalization and evangelicalism. Lewis demonstrates that both Islam and Christianity have a globalizing dynamic to them (68). He explores the dynamic further.

Part two of the book largely explores the complex impact Christianity has had on the continents of the Southern Hemisphere, especially Africa, Asia, and Latin America. This is where the growth and impact of evangelicalism has had the most growth in recent decades. These nations were most receptive to the messages of Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement – they resonate much with their own worldviews. Evangelicalism is particularly diverse in Africa and Kalu notes they hardly recognize they share the same heritage (164). Latin America is dominated by the Catholic church but the message of Pentecostalism and Liberation theology has made significant inroads regardless, such that Padilla explores the question of whether Latin America is turning Protestant (175ff). A major aspect of the change lies in convertive piety – people are asked to make personal decisions to which many have responded. Sunquist notes that while Christianity has grown in Asia, indigenous leadership resisted Western ideas and western control of churches (210) such that despite the hard work of evangelicalism much of Asian remains unreached (less than 5% (228). Even so, the church in Asia continues to grow.  Global Evangelicalism does well to show God is on the move in seeing his salvation to the ends of the earth.