Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Everything you know about Evangelicals is wrong: Book Review

The Book

Title: Everything You Know About Evangelicals is Wrong: Well, Almost Everything
Author(s): Steve Wilkens; Don Thorsen

This is another salvaged book from a Borders Bookstore (Bon)fire sale. I picked it up at a cheap-o price thinking it might be a nice little read someday. It sat on my shelf for nigh unto a year until I decided to pick it up for real. It turned out to be a nice 2-day read. It is jam-packed with information that makes sense to the reader.

Technical Merit

Stylistically, I give this book 4.2 out of 5 stars. It is beautifully written! It is difficult to weave Theology with humor, but the authors achieve a remarkable balance between the two. They always remind us that Theology must be freed from the theoretical realm & applied to the real world.

Throughout the book, the authors write in first person to show when they are writing from their own experience. There are a couple chapters where the authors explicitly state that they are arguing their own position on the topic at hand because they have more experience in that area. I find that to be an honest way to go about writing on this topic which turns out to be a very broad umbrella.


The authors undertake the enormous task of defining that division of Christianity that identifies themselves as "Evangelical." What does that term mean? Who is allowed to call themselves evangelical? And, somewhat more importantly, when the world hears that demarcation, what characteristics immediately pop into their minds?

The book takes the reader on a survey of the Church history, religious dogma, creeds, social revolutions & tent revivals that helped shape the world-view that is evangelicalism. It seeks to explain why we have so many denominations that seek to describe themselves as "Evangelical-(dash)-Fill in the blank."

You will quickly find out by looking at the table of contents that the authors take a negative approach to this topic--they seek to define Evangelicalism by what it is not. They argue that Evangelicals are not all: mean, stupid, dogmatic, waiting for the rapture, anti-evolutionists, inerrantists, rich Americans, Calvinists, Republicans, racist, sexist & homophobic. Granted, some Evangelicals can be described in those terms, but these terms are a caricature that is imposed on the whole & only reinforced by a fringe minority of real persons. In other words, while some people consider a specific stance on these elements to be a litmus test for the Evangelical (sometimes even a prerequisite for the believer), it is clear that they should not be main components of a functional definition of the movement.

My Takeaway

It appears that the authors are not arguing for Evangelicalism as a denominational distinctive, rather as a paradigm through which particular Christians view the world. By arguing against a narrow definition of the term, they effectively pitch a tent that includes most of Christendom. Invariably, Evangelicals will protest this ecumenism, which only affirms the diversity of this group.

I enjoyed the survey of Christendom that this book conducts. While the authors strive to accurately & fairly describe the positions held by all Christians on each of these points, the information offered in the chapters are by no means comprehensive. The result is a nice base of reference without being overwhelming. I expect to refer back to individual chapters when considering these topics in the future.

More Reading

Till Kingdom Come: A #BTSermon
Origins & Distinctives of the Plymouth Brethren
Salus Populi Suprema Lex
Christopher M. Jimenez. Powered by Blogger.

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