The Evangelical Coalition

"Olson’s introduction to postfundamentalist evangelicalism (new evangelicalism) is striking in that the history I was taught by fundamentalist professors matches exactly what Olson describes." - Don Johnson

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TylerR's picture


Don wrote:

Many younger men in the “on-line discussion mosh pits” need to read this chapter. They tend to have a highly revisionist view of the period. It will not do to construct a narrative justifying your prejudices. You need to let real history inform your thinking about the current state of affairs and the way forward.

I read this chapter four days ago. I think it's the best short introduction on the subject I've read, and I agree with it. I am unsure what Don is getting at.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Jay's picture

In any case, it is interesting to me that evangelicals seem satisfied with creating a coalition based on a bare minimum theological viewpoint. Fundamentalists tend to have a more insistent basis for fellowship, and tend to cooperate within denominational commonalities, with a few exceptional incidents.

I think that what Don decries as the "bare minimals" of New Evangelicalism is simply the rejection of a lot of "barnacles" that attached themselves to the FBFI type Fundamentalism that so many of us have cut loose from.  This is why there were several attempts to determine what the actual fundamentals were in the late '90s and early '00s to figure out what was key and what wasn't.  That's also why those arguments on SI from so many years ago about "traditional" vs "cultural" fundamentalism happened and were important.

That said, it's easier to write off entire swathes of your followers than it is to listen and respond to concerns or make any appropriate changes necessary.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

TylerR's picture


I am very grateful to Don for bringing Olson's book to my attention. I cannot recommend highly enough his brief discussion of the various uses of the word "evangelical." That introductory chapter alone is worth the price of the little book. Some other good resources:

  • Frances Fitzgerald's "The Evangelicals." A great history of the movement.
  • David Beale's "In Pursuit of Purity." I had recent correspondance with Beale and he is working on a second edition.
  • Bauder and Delnay's "One in Hope and Doctrine."
  • Beale's discussions in his historical theology
  • Larry Oats' biography of the Cederholms for some perspective on the splintering of the CBA movement.
  • A number of books are coming out in the next few months about what, exactly, evangelicalism is. Thomas Kidd has one. An book edited by (I believe) Mark Noll also addresses similar themes.

I encourage younger fundamentalists to read books about evangelicalism from outside your orbit. McCune, Moritz, Oats, Beale, Pickering (et al) are fine. But, there is a much wider world. Different perspectives on old controversies. Read widely. Olson's book is a good place to start!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Don Johnson's picture

He's done outstanding work also. Reforming Fundamentalism is another important book on Fuller Seminary also Fundamentalism and American Culture.

I would say that you need to read the Fundamentalists as well. The Evangelical historians confirm what they say. The Fundamentalists understand separation better, however.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

josh p's picture

Just finished Mardsen’s, “Fundamentalism and American Culture” today in fact. It was good and helpful even if there were places where I think he over simplified things.