Every Leaf, Line, and Letter: Evangelicals and the Bible from the 1730s to the Present, Edited by Timothy Larsen

Every Leaf, Line, and Letter

Evangelicals and the Bible from the 1730s to the Present

Edited by Timothy Larsen

Every Leaf, Line, and Letter
  • Length: 328 pages
  • Dimensions: 6 × 9 in
  • Published: May 04, 2021
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 4175
  • ISBN: 9780830841752

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"I was filled with a pining desire to see Christ's own words in the Bible. . . . I got along to the window where my Bible was and I opened it and . . . every leaf, line, and letter smiled in my face."The Spiritual Travels of Nathan Cole, 1765

From its earliest days, Christians in the movement known as evangelicalism have had "a particular regard for the Bible," to borrow a phrase from David Bebbington, the historian who framed its most influential definition. But this "biblicism" has taken many different forms from the 1730s to the 2020s. How has the eternal Word of God been received across various races, age groups, genders, nations, and eras?

This collection of historical studies focuses on evangelicals' defining uses—and abuses—of Scripture, from Great Britain to the Global South, from the high pulpit to the Sunday School classroom, from private devotions to public causes.


  • David Bebbington, University of Stirling
  • Kristina Benham, Baylor University
  • Catherine Brekus, Harvard Divinity School
  • Malcolm Foley, Truett Seminary
  • Bruce Hindmarsh, Regent College, Vancouver
  • Thomas S. Kidd, Baylor University
  • Timothy Larsen, Wheaton College
  • K. Elise Leal, Whitworth University
  • John Maiden, The Open University, UK
  • Mark A. Noll, University of Notre Dame
  • Mary Riso, Gordon College
  • Brian Stanley, University of Edinburgh
  • Jonathan Yeager, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

"Evangelicals have always been people of 'the book.' Regardless of their levels of literacy, they have loved and tried to live by the contents of the Bible. Some have done so as highly learned theological exegetes. Most have been more simple hearers and doers of the Word. But no matter their ethnicity, race, gender, or social class, they have done their best, when at their best, to honor every 'leaf, line, and letter' of the Scriptures. This all-star cast of first-rate scholars and associates of David Bebbington, one of the most important evangelical scholars of our age, has compiled the best collection of short essays ever written on the diversity of evangelical uses of the Bible. This book is a must-read for serious students of evangelicalism, their study of the Scriptures, and the historiographical legacies of Bebbington himself."

Douglas A. Sweeney, dean and professor of divinity, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

"Those readers, whether friendly or hostile to evangelicals, who imagine that there is one standard 'evangelical' approach to the Bible will receive a salutary surprise from this volume of essays. Each piece is of high scholarly level, marking an advance in its own area; together they demonstrate that the relation of evangelicals to the Bible has always been relative to history, geography, politics, and culture, and that this contextual shaping of the evangelical mind is especially true of the new generation of evangelicals in the Global South. Yet the reader is enabled to recognize an evangelical identity in all the diversity and is left with a greater understanding of how, for evangelicals, this stems from a confidence that the biblical text has the capacity to transform human lives. The book is itself an outstanding example of a new era of evangelical scholarship and demands to be taken into account henceforth by all who presume to write about 'evangelicals,' an achievement which is due in no small measure to its skillful compilation by Timothy Larsen."

Paul S. Fiddes, professor of systematic theology, University of Oxford, and author of A Unicorn Dies

"In Every Leaf, Line, and Letter, an all-star list of contributors offers fresh insight into how evangelicals across time, space, and cultures share an emphasis on Scripture and yet interpret the Bible in a rich variety of ways. This volume is a feast that will tantalize and satisfy all sorts of readers, from the casual browser to the rigorous scholar. A welcome addition to every library of evangelical studies."

Candy Gunther Brown, professor of religious studies at Indiana University and author of The Word in the World: Evangelical Writing, Publishing, and Reading in America, 1789-1880

"It's not exactly true that this book explores Every Leaf, Line, and Letter of the Bible, as if such a project were even possible in a single volume. But the dozen contributions still offer a dazzling range of acute and informative studies of evangelical uses of Scripture over the past three centuries, all rooted in exemplary scholarship. Global and transnational themes are very well covered, and the authors show admirable concern with perennial themes of race and empire, of gender and social justice. The resulting book is both valuable and provocative."

Philip Jenkins, Baylor University

"One could hardly ask for a more interesting and comprehensive set of essays on the role of the Bible in evangelical life. It is a historical anthology that 'gets into the weeds' without getting lost—meaning each essay prompts one to think about contemporary biblical issues that evangelicals wrestle with today."

Mark Galli, former editor in chief of Christianity Today

"At a moment when talk about evangelicalism tends to veer wildly from vituperation to pious reassurance to aggressive counterattack, this splendid collection of essays is good medicine. Both in the range of subjects considered and the quality of the scholars represented, it provides an indispensable survey."

John Wilson, contributing editor, Englewood Review of Books, and senior editor, Marginalia Review of Books

"In Every Leaf, Line, and Letter, Tim Larsen and his colleagues offer a must-read for all evangelicals concerned with the role the Bible plays in the cultivation of faith. The historical sweep they construct is impressive, granting context for why our better angels find in the Bible immeasurable inspiration while our lesser demons wield it as a sword of division. Their work is an appropriate tribute to David Bebbington and what is arguably the most contentious corner of his widely cited quadrilateral. Professors, pastors, and laypersons alike will find great value in letting these essays sit with them, reflecting on how the Bible calls us to a life worthy of being Christ's body."

Todd C. Ream, professor of higher education at Taylor University and publisher of Christian Scholar's Review


Introduction, Thomas S. Kidd

Part One: The Eighteenth Century
1. British Exodus, American Empire: Evangelical Preachers and the Biblicisms of Revolution, Kristina Benham
2. Lectio Evangelica: Figural Interpretation and Early Evangelical Bible Reading, Bruce Hindmarsh
3. Faith, Free Will, and Biblical Reasoning in the Thought of Jonathan Edwards and John Erskine, Jonathan Yeager

Part Two: The Nineteenth Century
4. "Young People Are Actually Becoming Accurate Bible Theologians": Children's Bible Culture in Early Nineteenth-Century America, K. Elise Leal
5. Missouri, Denmark Vesey, Biblical Proslavery, and a Crisis for Sola Scriptura , Mark A. Noll
6. Josephine Butler's Mystic Vision and her Love for the Jesus of the Gospels, Mary Riso

Part Three: The Twentieth Century
7. The Bible Crisis of British Evangelicalism in the 1920s, David Bebbington
8. Liberal Evangelicals and the Bible, Timothy Larsen
9. "The Only Way to Stop a Mob": Francis Grimké's Biblical Case for Lynching Resistance, Malcolm Foley
10. "As at the beginning": Charismatic Renewal and the Reanimation of Scripture in Britain and New Zealand in the "long" 1960s, John Maiden

Part Four: Into the Twenty-First Century
11. The American Patriot's Bible: Evangelicals, the Bible, and American Nationalism, Catherine A. Brekus
12. The Evangelical Christian Mind in History and Global Context, Brian Stanley

Acknowledgements, Thomas S. Kidd
General Index
Scripture Index


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Timothy Larsen

Timothy Larsen (PhD, University of Stirling; DD, University of Edinburgh) is McManis Professor of Christian Thought at Wheaton College. His many books include George MacDonald in the Age of Miracles, Crisis of Doubt: Honest Faith in Nineteenth-Century England, and The Oxford Handbook of Christmas.