Power, Politics and the Fragmentation of Evangelicalism: From the Scopes Trial to the Obama Administration, By Kenneth J. Collins alt

Power, Politics and the Fragmentation of Evangelicalism

From the Scopes Trial to the Obama Administration

by Kenneth J. Collins

Power, Politics and the Fragmentation of Evangelicalism
  • Length: 299 pages
  • Published: August 02, 2012
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 6339
  • ISBN: 9780830863396

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Kenneth J. Collins tells the narrative history of the political and cultural fortunes of American evangelicalism from the late nineteenth century through the contemporary era.

He traces the establishment of the evangelical enterprise in American culture and its influences on the political and social values of the American landscape throughout the twentieth century, as well as its fragmentation into competing ideological camps. Underlining how both sides of the liberal-conservative divide have diluted their message through political idioms, Collins suggests a way forward for evangelical political identity that avoids the pitfalls of fundamentalism and liberalism.

Will American evangelicalism outlive its partisan history? As Kenneth Collins tells the story, there is reason to think so.

"Kenneth Collins gives us a sweeping overview of the large forces that have led evangelicals, in recent decades, to become major actors in the bitter 'culture wars' that continue to bedevil American society. He makes a justly searing indictment of the principled assault by secularists on religious freedom, while giving sobering admonitions for evangelicals' often defective ways of resisting that assault."

Meic Pearse, professor of history, Houghton College

"A major Wesleyan scholar, Kenneth Collins, has provided a significant assessment of the promise and problems of modern evangelicalism. From intelligent design to power politics, he has set forth a valuable critique of fundamentalism, neo-evangelicalism, the religious right and the evangelical left. Protestants of different traditions will find Collins a perceptive analyst of the changing dynamics within evangelicalism."

Thomas C. Oden, emeritus Henry Anson Buttz professor of theology, Drew University

"Kenneth Collins has here issued an invitation to a scholarly forum on evangelical priorities, politics and power in culture and the public square. As at a truly good debate one is forced to think, to agree, to disagree and to admire the skill of the debaters, so it is here. As the fault lines of evangelicalism widen under the tectonic forces of power, postmodernity and personalities, Collins's reflections on teleology, the image of God and the power of the Spirit offer useful bridges to reopen communication between the estranged subcultures of contemporary evangelicalism."

Dr. Peter A. Lillback, president, Westminster Theological Seminary

"Collins writes with both the wide-ranging knowledge of a historian and the personal engagement of a Wesleyan statesman who has been actively involved in the evangelical movement throughout his career. It would be an understatement to say his provocative narrative of the movement as interpreted through the lens of its various bids for power is as refreshingly honest as it is illuminating. But more importantly, he provides sage guidance and direction for the movement as it seeks to navigate these perilous waters while remaining faithful to the gospel in the twenty-first century."

Dr. Jerry Walls, professor of philosophy, Houston Baptist University

"Power, Politics and the Fragmentation of Evangelicalism is a much-needed critical analysis of evangelical engagements with public policy by a Wesleyan scholar. I strongly recommend it to readers interested in learning about the pitfalls of both the religious right and left. While the book is bound to be controversial, especially among those who advocate evangelical social action, it contains much wisdom and a prophetic warning about how the search for power corrupts religion."

Roger E. Olson, professor of theology, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University

"As the evangelical voting block fractures and as Billy Graham's capacious shadow fades, a rather significant question looms: Whither American evangelicalism? Perhaps for too long we've relied on political power. Collins, drawing on an insightful exploration of the twentieth century and a deft analysis of the current horizon, points us to the power of common grace and ultimately to the power of the Spirit."

Stephen J. Nichols, Ph.D., author of Jesus Made in America

"This is an important work for understanding the currents of contemporary evangelical life and the contribution that Spirit-empowered believers can make as the gospel of reconciliation is proclaimed and practiced."

Charles Self, Encounter: Journal for Pentecostal Ministry, Fall 2013, Vol. 10


1. Cultural Shifts, the Rise of Fundamentalism and the Great Reversal
A Cultural Legacy
The Progressive Movement and the Great War
Cultural Challenges to the American Protestant Empire
Intellectual Challenges to the American Protestant Empire
Higher Criticism of the Bible
The Scopes Trial
The Wesleyan and Pentecostal Difference
The Social Gospel
The Great Reversal
The Fundamentalist Dilemma
2. Fundamentalism, Neo-Evangelicalism and the Search for Power
The Great Depression and Its Aftermath
The New Deal
The Shifting Theological Context
The Rise of the Neo-Evangelicals
The Infrastructure of Neo-Evangelicalism
The National Association of Evangelicals
Christianity Today
Fuller Theological Seminary
The Ministry of Billy Graham
The Popularity of Religion and the Threat of Communism
Wesleyan Evangelicals Coalesce
The Civil Rights Movement
3. Evangelicals, the Religious Right and the Moral Life of the Nation
The Great Society and an Activist Supreme Court
Social Action and the Young Evangelicals
Watergate and the Election of an Evangelical President
The Rise of the New Religious Right
The Christian Coalition
Culture Wars
Wesleyan Evangelicals and the Religious Right
Evangelicals and Catholics Together
Conservative Evangelicals and the Republican Party
4. Evolution, Intelligent Design and the Transformation of Culture?
The Scopes Trial Revisited?
Evolution as Neo-Darwinism
Theistic Evolution
Leading Wesleyan Evangelicals (and Others) Debate Theistic Evolution
Neo-Darwinism as a Sufficient Explanation
Intelligent Design
A Working Definition of Intelligent Design
The Intellectual Strategy of Intelligent Design
Intelligent Design's Critique of Mutation and Natural Selection
Michael Behe and Irreducible Complexity
William Dembski and Complex Specified Information
Making Way for Doubt and Ambiguity: Laughlin, Anderson, Himmelfarb and Berlinski
Methodological Naturalism and the Wedge
Methodological Discipline?
Metaphysical Naturalism
The Cultural Strategy of Intelligent Design
The Supreme Court and Evolution
The Judiciary Declares Intelligent Design a Religion and Defines Science
5. The Resurgence of the Evangelical Left
The Rise of the Evangelical Left
The Politics of the Evangelical Left
Jim Wallis
Tony Campolo
Brian McLaren
Jimmy Carter
The Housing Crisis as a Case Study in Political Mischief and Confusion
Leftist Political Philosophy and the Modern Democratic State
Where the Evangelical Left Falters
The Manhattan Declaration
The Evangelical Left Falters Again
6. Beyond Ideology: The Renewal of Catholicity and the Development of an Evangelical Political Philosophy
The Rise of Barack Obama
The Public Voice of the Church
Yoder to the Rescue?
Come to Church and Get Alienated
The Challenges of the Modern Liberal Democratic State
A New Kind of Secularism
Revisioning Separation of Church and State
People of Faith as Second Class Citizens
Separation of Church and State Has Become Separation of Church and Culture
The Priority of the Church or Democracy?
What?s an Evangelical to Do?
The Beginnings of a Political Philosophy
What Kind of Power?


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Kenneth J. Collins

Kenneth J. Collins (PhD, Drew University) is professor of Historical Theology and Wesley Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary. He has published several books including The Theology of John Wesley (Abingdon, 2007), The Evangelical Moment (Baker, 2005), and John Wesley: A Theological Journey (Abingdon, 2003).