Christian Fundamentalism in America: A Cultural History

By Howell, Patrick J. | Theological Studies, March 2014 | Go to article overview

Christian Fundamentalism in America: A Cultural History


Howell, Patrick J., Theological Studies


Christian Fundamentalism in America: A Cultural History. By David S. New. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2012. Pp. 259. $35.

Religious studies scholar New sets out an ambitious thesis to explain the great divide in American identity by tracing its religious origins. America hosts a war of ideas, he explains, about the beliefs that provide identity, purpose, and coherence for the people who live by them (1).

N. cites commentators who have observed that "Puritanism is in the spiritual DNA of American religion, of American national ethos" (4), and the United States "is a nation with the soul of a church" (9). Yet throughout the history of the country deep divides have existed around religious identity.

N. provides a comprehensive, highly readable, and thorough account of the complex dimensions of the American religious experiment. He amply explains the primary streams of fundamentalism, apocalyptic theology, liberalism, the social gospel and reactions against it, and most of the wandering tributaries of theological and religious experimentation on the American scene.

His narrative not only masterfully summarizes the theological arguments for the diverse movements of Puritanism, the Great Awakening, the Second Awakening, Millenarianism, Liberalism, the emergence of Fundamentalism, and subsequent conservative efforts to preserve the core of Christian belief; it also provides attractive sketches of the key personalities--Jonathan Edwards, Charles Chauncy, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Dwight Moody, William Jennings Bryant, among others--for a renewed conversation. …

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