Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The American Church Experience

The American Church Experience: A Concise History, By Thomas A. Askew and Richard V. Pierard. Grand Rapids, Mi. : Baker Academic, 2003. 288 pp. ISBN 0-8308-3201-7.

This is the author's version of a work that was submitted/accepted for publication in the following source:

Shaffett, J. E. Christian Librarian 49:39 no. 1 2006.

Thomas A. Askew (Ph.D., Northwestern University) is Stephen Phillips Professor of History emeritus and executive director of the East-West Institute of International Studies at Gordon College. He is coauthor or editor of five books relating to religious, educational, and political themes. Richard V. Pierard(Ph.D., University of Iowa) is professor of history emeritus at Indiana State University and scholar in residence at Gordon College. He is a board member of the American Baptist Historical Society and the author of numerous books and articles relating to the history of Christianity.

The American Church Experience includes over forty illustrations, an extensive bibliography of important recent literature in the field of American church history, an index, and a well-written narrative of the history of American Christianity. Its prose is intelligible, interesting, and balanced. It provides a good overview of American churches in 240 pages. It is highly recommended for church, public, and academic libraries.

The book is divided into five parts: The Old World Heritage(2 chapters), Colonial Foundations(1607-1783) (3 chapters); The Nationalization and Expansion of the Churches(1784-1860) (4 chapters) ; Disruption, Devotion, and Debate (1861-1916) (5 chapters) ; The Churches in a pluralistic Society (1917- Present) (6 chapters). The authors in the preface tell the reader that as they paint the picture of American Church history in five parts, they will “pay particular attention to the evangelical tradition”. The authors do cover other groups in the narrative.

Some of the people covered in this book are: John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, Anabaptists, Pilgrims, John Winthrop, Roger Williams, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Francis Asbury, Charles Finney, Dwight L. Moody, Billy Sunday, Phoebe Palmer, Fanny J. Crosby, Henry Ward Beecher, Walter Rauschenbusch, and many more. Some of the major events covered: English Reformation, Great Awakening, American Revolution, Church-State relations, missions, education, and diversity in religious life, slavery, Darwinism, fundamentalism, social gospel, and others. It describes all these topics in an even-handed manner.

The authors incorporate the religious experience of African-Americans and women into the larger narrative. They situate the history of Christianity “within the social, political, economic, and cultural context of American history”. Askew and Pierard accomplished their goal of writing a broad outline of American Christianity, paying particular attention to the evangelical tradition.  

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