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Deconstructing Evangelicalism: Conservative Protestantism in the Age of Billy Graham [Paperback]

By D. G. Hart (Author)
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Item Specifications...

Pages   224
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.52" Width: 5.54" Height: 0.58"
Weight:   0.71 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 1, 2005
Publisher   Baker Academic
ISBN  0801031184  
EAN  9780801031182  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Millions of Americans identify themselves as evangelicals. But what does the word mean? For author D.G. Hart, twentieth century evangelicalism centers on Billy Graham -those in sympathy with him and those reacting to him. In Deconstructing Evangelicalism, the author provocatively argues that evangelicalism is a concept that has obscured more of Christianity than it has revealed and should be abandoned as a separate religious identity. Instead, he suggests that American Christians rediscover their rich theological heritage rather than continue to struggle along with "a minimalist acount of the Christian faith." Softcover,224 pages.

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More About D. G. Hart

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! D. G. Hart is professor of church history and academic dean at Westminster Seminary in California.

D. G. Hart currently resides in Philadelphia, in the state of Pennsylvania. D. G. Hart has an academic affiliation as follows - Westminster Theological Seminary.

D. G. Hart has published or released items in the following series...
  1. American Intellectual Culture (Hardcover)

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Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Evangelism > General   [2161  similar products]
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Evangelism   [541  similar products]
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Protestantism > General   [754  similar products]
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Protestantism   [139  similar products]

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Questioning what the Evangelical movement has wrought  May 23, 2008
Hart reviews the literature on modern Evangelicalism, and finds it a movement without a center -- a loose trans-denominational association of people who don't really like rigid fundamentalism, or modernism, who end up adopting a kind of lowest-common-denominator version of historic Christianity. He cites scholars like George M. Marsden, who says, "In point of fact, the glue holding evangelicalism together has actually been the culture of celebrity, which is perhaps the flip side of denying the authority of traditions" -- so that an evangelical is basically "anyone who likes Billy Graham".

The book suggests that mega-churches of the airwaves or big revivals are no long-range substitute for real communities with real institutions and traditions. And for sure there's a lot of truth in that. Still, the book raises more questions than it answers. How well does it account for the Pentecostal movements among Black churches or Catholics? What are the positive sides of Evangelicalism's transcending old denominational boundaries? Can religious community be based more on shared questions and experiences than on institutions and doctrines? How are Evangelicals changing in their social and political values?

Hart is clearly more interested in raising good questions and making people think than in supplying his own answers. And in that, his book is highly successful.
An Enjoyable Read  Mar 16, 2006
What is an evangelical? When the boundaries of a definition are broadened wide enough, eventually the definition collapses in on itself, and the meaning of the movement becomes meaningless.

D. G. Hart writes a great book declaring that "Evangelicalism" is not a real identity, but instead is a well-intended construction of conservative Christians in the post-World War II climate of modernism vs. fundamentalism. Seeking to define a segment of Christianity in opposition to either the Fundamentalism or modernism, a large swath of pastors, theologians, pollsters, historians, evangelists, musicians, etc. worked to create a unified "Conservative Protestantism". The resulting edifice is known as "Evangelicalism".

Fifty+ years later it is painfully obvious that the only "unity" of evangelicalism is a unity that is so devoid of biblical theological substance that... who cares about evangelicalism? In a nutshell, Hart argues that it is time to dump the idea of Evangelicalism.

I have read dozens and dozens of books on the history of American Christianity, with a great number of these focusing on Evangelicalism. I say that because it is hard to tell if this would be an enjoyable book to read if you haven't already consumed a lot on the history of Evangelicalism. For me, the book was a delight. I love discovering new historical insight into key figures such as Carl Henry, Billy Graham, Fuller Seminary, the CCM industry, religious pollsters, etc. I think Hart writes exceedingly well. He is one of those authors that is not afraid to state his strong convictions. He calls it like he sees it - and this makes for good reading.

Here are some quotes from early on in the book:

"This book is about the way neo-evangelicals built the evangelical edifice and how academics have maintained the facade of the building commonly known as conservative Protestantism."(28)

"But the chief aim is to document the construction of evangelicalism as a scholarly tool of analysis and the concomitant deconstruction of evangelicalism as an expression of Christian faith and practice." (29)

"The first part of the book examines the scholarly construction of evangelicalism during the last twenty-five years... The last half of the book explores the way evangelicalism as a post-World War II religious movment has fragmented." (29)

"Without a self-conscious notion about ministry, a common theology, and a coherent understanding of worship, evangelicalism has deconstructed."(29)

One of the best quotes in the book comes in the last paragraph:

Was it actually conceivable that the word evangelical could hold together disparate Protestant beliefs and practices and mold them into some kind of unified whole? Even more basic was whether such an evangelical identity was desirable. The idea to make evangelicalism the conservative version of Protestantism was an interesting attempt to create an alternative religious voice that would counter mainline Protestantism and Roman Catholicism and would beat fundamentalism at the public relations game. But this evangelical movement was simply duplicating work already being done, not to shape a nation but to shepherd God's flock. Before evangelicalism, Christians had churches to hear the Word preached, to receive the sacraments, and to hear sound counsel and correction.Without evangelicalism, Protestant Christianity may not be as unified (when has it ever been?), but it will go one. And without the burden of forming a nationally influential coalition, American Protestants in all their Heinz 57 varieties, from Presbyterian to Calvary Chapel, may even be healthier.

Hart's book is both entertaining and thought-provoking.

One negative thing - why is there only one passing mention of Francis Schaeffer?
A Parachurch or a Church?  Oct 9, 2005
If you don't read Christianity Today for edification, are you an evangelical (10)?

I picked up DG Hart's Deconstructing Evangelicalism at my local "Christian bookstore" where stacks of this 2004 hardcover text were already on clearance for $4.95! The clerk thought I was looking for "destructive evangelism" and it is no wonder that he thought of the book as destructive. In this provocative monograph Hart takes on the evangelical subculture of which such bookstores are a part. Deconstructing Evangelicalism questions whether there actually is such a "thing" as evangelicalism. Is it a legitimate category of religious expression that can be measured by social scientists and codified by systematic theologians? Or is it an identity that has been formed by tenuous assumptions and sloppy scholarship? Given this provoking thesis I bought the book from a store that nearly paid me to take it. For these kinds of stores to sell Deconstructing Evangelicalism is like B.Y.U. opening up a Starbucks on campus; like your local Chinese takeaway giving out pizza coupons.

Deconstructing Evangelicalism: Contemporary Protestantism in the Age of Billy Graham (Baker Academic, 2004) discusses "the e-word" and whether it should exist as a conceptual category. "Evangelicalism needs to be relinquished as a religious identity because it does not exist" (16). From this confrontational opening, Hart goes on to show that historians (ch 1), social scientists (ch. 2), and pollsters (ch 3) have mistakenly measured and assessed a movement that is not a church but a temporary coalition based more on celebrity than theology. In the second half, Hart looks at the polity (ch 4), creed (ch 5), and liturgy (ch 6) of evangelicalism - or really, the absence thereof. There is no polity because leaders like Billy Graham, James Dobson, and Tim LaHaye have no ecclesial authority. There is no creed beyond that of Scriptural inerrancy which is really no creed at all and says almost nothing. Finally, there is no liturgy in evangelicalism which embraces pop culture over meaningful encounter.

DG Hart is an outstanding historian and his book judiciously probes important aspects of evangelicalism's coalition including the founding of Fuller Seminary, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Evangelical Theological Society, the ascendancy of biblical inerrancy, and key research (e.g. by M. Noll and G. Marsden) that has defined the movement. Deconstructing Evangelicalism is not as scholarly as another Hart text I have read (The University Gets Religion) yet it is still intended for the academically minded. Hart shows a good bit of wit throughout as he compares the movement to Home Depot in that it has a lot of goods but assistance is hard to find, and as he fears that readers will donate his book to the annual public library sale.

The foil of liturgy-less, creed-less, and polity-less evangelicalism is "historic Christianity." Once evangelicalism is in conversation with classic forms of faith it ceases to exist: "Is evangelicalism still evangelicalism once it aligns itself with any of the historic expressions of Christianity? (186)" He continues to brandish the Reformed theologian's sword: "[T]traditional Christianity may indeed be better off without the cutting and pasting theology and practice that low-church Protestantism has performed" (196). Ouch! Yet in spite of these swipes, one is left to wonder what "historic" and "traditional" Christianity" would consist of. As the author himself says, "Showing the hollowness of evangelicalism is insufficient without an alternative" (31). While he quickly suggests an ecclesiology that is centered in word, sacrament, and ordination there isn't much sturdy construction that matches this deconstruction. Perhaps this is better defined in Hart's other texts (he is a prolific author) such as Recovering Mother Kirk. Yet it seems to me that much of his "classical" Christianity is a sophisticated attempt to justify personal preference for a type of formalism that is more cultural than universal.

Other weaknesses include an almost exclusive focus on American evangelicalism (this movement is strong in England [John Stott is the evangelical pope for many], Australia, and other parts of the globe -- why didn't Hart consider this?) and an absence of reference to recent evangelical theologians such as J.I. Packer, Millard Erickson, and Stan Grenz.

Even with these deficiencies, Hart's main thesis is worth considering. Is evangelicalism an identity so built on parachurch activities that it fails to qualify as a church? At day's end, is "liking Billy Graham" enough to qualify as a religious identity? Is the evangelical structure built on shifting sand? Readers who have had exposure to evangelicalism will enjoy this book and will find themselves challenged to rethink the materials and the tools their identity is constructed from.
Insightful and Interesting  Jun 6, 2005
"Deconstructing Evangelicalism" is both less and more than the title suggests.

Those readers who are interested in a social and theological critique of evangelicalism will be enlightened by this work which is best read with Ian Murray's "Evangelicalism Divided" and David Wells' "No Place for Truth". The book is somewhat less than it claims to be in that if you don't read these other books it would be rather difficult to evaluate the conclusions that Hart draws.

"Deconstructing Evangelicalism" is clearly aimed at a target audience of seminary students, professors, and professional historians. If you are in that category - this is clearly a text you should read. As one of the finest social-historians of 20th century American relgion, Hart is consistently insightful and the reader can have confidence that the scaffolding of observations is based on a foundation of solid scholarship.

For those who have read other works by D.G. Hart, this book needs no recommendation: Everything Hart writes is worth reading. For those who are unfamiliar with Hart, I would recommend "Defending the Faith" as your introduction to his scholarship.
Not all it could have been  Dec 30, 2004
This book is far, far, far from what it could have been. Yes, there is some interesting thought here but not enough for 197 pages. This book is definitely not for the average Evangelical but useful for the scholarly Evangelicals. C. R Biggs "Biggsman" review will be better than the book for many people.

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