Today’s book is more of a textbook than a read-for-fun book.
What is an “Evangelical Christian?” Other than “Not a Catholic or an Episcopalian,” that is?
Trying to nail that answer down first, and then examining the history of what fits with Evangelical Christianity is the opening challenge of this book. After that, Evangelicals around the World addresses the global spread of this sector of Christianity. In short, there is no small task here, even for 400+ pages of densely spaced writing.
Before we talk too much about content, let me make this observation: this book is nicely printed. It’s full-color throughout, enabling the illustrations, maps, and graphs to pop out well. It also features footnotes! Academic-type works are harmed by endnotes, so I love to see footnotes.
Now, to content: the work opens with 200 events in history that illustrate the depth and breadth of Evangelicalism. This is followed by an attempt to define “evangelical” in broad enough terms to include many groups while still showing a restriction to its meaning. This chapter does well in the attempt, and I will not reproduce it here. The authors did well by using both “what it is” and “what it isn’t” to line out the definition.
From there, we see a development of Evangelical interaction with other Christian groups. One could take issue with which groups are counted as Christians—certainly some Evangelicals would—but the authors are mainly working on mainstream views here.
Then we see summaries of doctrines that Evangelicals agree on, with good notations on what range of opinions exists even in these areas. Rightly, the defining characteristics are the belief that the Bible is true and Jesus sent us to carry the message. How that bounds out is where there is much discussion!
Finally, the book wraps with a region-by-region look at international Christianity. This section serves as a helpful introduction, though international situations can be so fluid that some of this data will be obsolete soon. Still, the snapshot of “where things stand right NOW” is a valuable reminder that America is not the center of the Christian world.
In all, I think this is a valuable book on current church status and an encouragement that the Gospel keeps going forth. It’s not the first book you should read every day, but if your church wants to learn where things are, it’s a good help and start. I would also commend it to homeschoolers to couple, as a reference, with geography—learn about the church in each area as well.
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