The Rise Of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield and the Wesleys by Mark Noll

What exactly does it mean to be ‘evangelical’? Today the term is so disputed that it is even being called irrelevant. Others prefer to call  themselves ‘post-evangelical’. Roger Olson (whose writings, while I do not agree with him, I enjoy) has written that the term “evangelical” is an essentially contested concept without boundaries. This is in contrast to David Bebbington’s classic view that there are four key ingredients to evangelicalism – conversion; focus on the Bible; life of service for God; Christ’s death as the crucial matter in providing atonement.

Mark Noll and this book, would disagree with Roger Olson, and side towards David Beggington. The Rise Of Evangelicalism is the first of five books which will examine the development of evangelicalism through the ages. This volume looks at it’s beginnings (1730’s – 1790’s)

Noll shows us that evangelicalism came out of a convergence of three main movements – the Anglicanism; the puritan movement (which did not think the established church was reformed enough) and European pietism. Profiling Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield and John and Charles Wesley, Noll shows how one of the key elements (and boundaries) of evangelicalism and the Revivals experienced at this time was the emphasis and proclamation of the new birth found in Christ Jesus and the power of godliness & individual transformation.

This book is not just a helpful introduction to the roots of evangelicalism and what evangelicalism looked like, but it is also a wonderful introduction to the key men who were instrumental during the great revival of the 18th century. Noll’s scholarly and well written style makes this an enjoyable and informative read. One additional feature of this book is the wonderful bibliography at the back of the book.

Highly recommended.

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