Who are the New Evangelicals?

<< Chapter 1: Who Are The Brethren in Christ?

Brethren in Christ leaders C. N.
Hostetter, Jr. (second from left)
and Arthur Climenhaga (second from
right) pose with evangelical icon
Billy Graham during a 1967 National
Association of Evangelicals
gathering. (BICHLA Photographic
Collection, “People — Individuals/
Families,” Box 3 (Ch-Cu), Folder
“Climenhaga, Arthur M.”

Post-World War II “new evangelicalism” is commonly known to include figures like Billy Graham and Carl F. H. Henry, organizations like Youth for Christ and the National Association of Evangelicals, and publications like Christianity Today. These people, groups, and periodicals had a significant impact on American cultural life in the postwar years.

New evangelicalism, a movement with deep intellectual and theological roots in American Protestantism, emerged directly from early 20th century fundamentalism. Unlike their more cantankerous fundamentalist colleagues, new evangelicals took an irenic stance toward religious life and inter-denominational fellowship. Without discarding fundamentalism’s “doctrinal essentials,” like the divinity of Christ or the infallibility of the Bible, new evangelicals were willing to work with and embrace Bible-believing Christians from all denominations, including those condemned by fundamentalists as “liberal” (like Presbyterians) or “heretical” (like many Holiness churches). New evangelicals, on the whole, thought that using such separatism as a test of true faith was scandalous, and they urged like-minded Christians to rally behind any cause that might bring about a greater emphasis on world-wide revival and evangelism.

For more on fundamentalism and evangelicalism, check out George Marsden’s Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism and Joel A. Carpenter’s Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism.

Moreover, new evangelicals were also more attuned to the nuances of American popular culture, and willingly embrace its forms as means to promote revivalism. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, for instance, formed its own motion picture production company with Hollywood experts, and produced numerous Christian-themed films.[1] Youth for Christ founders urged local chapter leaders to hold programs featuring jazzy gospel music, energetic preaching, and rehearsed testimonies — sanctified versions of the material young people might hear on “secular radio.”[2] Evangelicals also encouraged the use of popular media such as print advertising and television to spread the Gospel.[3] Altogether, new evangelicals demonstrated a willingness to accept the forms of American popular life — a stance that probably helped their movement to make a major impact on America.

Chapter 3: Being “Born Again” >>

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2 thoughts on “Who are the New Evangelicals?”

  1. “EVANGELICAL”
    Earlier today I squirmed at the TIME magazine use of the term “evangelical Christian” to describe political supporters of Mr. Santorum. I have done a lot of squirming lately. I grow weary at this use of the word in a political sense. I like the NAE explanation “What is an Evangelical”. http://www.nae.net/church-and-faith-partners/what-is-an-evangelical.

    Perhaps for your purposes it is not necessary to draw a distinction between the current popular political usage of the word. On the otherhand, for those not familiar with the term, a distinction may be useful.

    Is “more cantakerous” the best modifier of “fundamentalist colleague”? The American popular usage of the word [difficult, crabby, cranky, obstinate] may not apply to the fundamentalist colleague? Does the British sense of cantankerous: “stubbornly obstructive and unwilling to cooperate” describe the fundamentalist?

    “irenic” I’m familiar with the term. I hope users of the tool may also understand the word. It seems a nice counterbalance to the British sense of cantankerous.

    “sanctified versions” This reminds me of Garrison Keillor’s term “sanctified Brethren” when he refers to his Plymouth Brethren background. Considering Keillor’s humorous context, I have no problem with his use of the word. If I correctly understand these Brethren they attempted to live holy lives. I wonder about the use of the important theological term “sanctified” in your context, especially since the versions produced are incapable of sanctification.

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