Liberalism Without Illusions



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Paul Harvey

Here's a review of a
new book about religious liberalism through the 20th century, by the author of a very fine biography of Walter Rauschenbusch (The Kingdom is Always But Coming). It should be of interest to some.

Evans, Christopher H.
Liberalism without illusions: renewing an American Christian tradition. Baylor, 2010. 207p bibl index afp; ISBN 9781602582088 pbk, $24.95. Reviewed in 2010sep CHOICE.

Evans (Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School) offers a careful, nuanced book about American theological liberalism. As a professor at a school "identified with the heritage of theological liberalism" and as "someone who has spent years in parish ministry," Evans believes that "there is much in the liberal tradition that is critical to the future of American Christianity" and that "the tradition is in need of critique." Following chapter 1, "Why Do Americans Distrust Liberals?" Evans narrates the progress of liberalism from the 19th century through the social gospel of the early 20th century and into the heyday of liberalism before and immediately after WW II. He then discusses its "diffusion" and even decline in the last half of the 20th century. In the face of negative numerical indicators (mainline denominational size, etc.), Evans argues that liberal theology still matters. He urges liberals to focus less on the academy and more on the local congregation and to discover ways of fueling a grassroots movement, as evangelical theology has been so successful at doing. This is a valuable work for anyone interested in the past and future of Protestant theology in the United States. Summing Up:Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates and above. -- I. Birdwhistell, Georgetown College

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