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Liberalism without Illusions
Renewing an American Christian Tradition
By the 1930s most mainline Protestant traditions promulgated the key tenets of liberalism, especially an embrace of modern intellectual theory along with theological and religious pluralism.In Liberalism without Illusions, Christopher Evans critiques his own tradition, focusing in particular on why so many Americans today want to distance themselves from this rich and vibrant heritage. In a time when attitudes about “liberal” vs. “conservative” theology have become the focus of the culture wars, he provides a constructive discussion of how liberalism might move forward into the twenty-first century, which, he argues, is indispensable to the future of American Christianity itself.
Chapter 1: Why Do Americans Distrust Liberals?
Chapter 2: Evangelical and Modern: Christian Liberalism in the Nineteenth Century
Chapter 3: Christian Liberalism and the Social Gospel Heritage
Chapter 4: The Diffusion of Liberal Theology
Chapter 5: Did Liberalism Win?
Chapter 6: Does Liberal Theology Still Matter?
Chapter 7: Liberalism without Illusions
Epilogue: Past Imperfect
"... a wise and learned book."
—Justus D. Doenecke, New College of Florida, Anglican and Episcopal History (2012, 81:3)
"Evans expertly guides us through liberal Protestantism, revealing the lost treasure of the tradition and the nuggets of power and wisdom that can and should be harvested. An antidote to the separation of piety and social action, this book levies a powerful argument that any adequate theology enables church leaders to inspire its members to love justice, seek mercy, and walk humbly in service to the world. This is a prophetic call."
—James K. Wellman Jr., author of Evangelical vs. Liberal: The Clash of Christian Cultures in the Pacific Northwest
"This exciting and impressively sane book is a pleasure to read. Evans raises sharp questions with his own tradition and offers wise direction for its future. It will keep you turning the pages."
—Tex Sample, Robert B. and Kathleen Rogers Professor Emeritus of Church and Society, Saint Paul School of Theology
"... admirably readable and [a] sustained challenge to liberal illusions that the heady days of Walter Rauschenbusch, Horace Bushnell, and Harry Emerson Fosdick are likely to return any time soon ..."
—John Saxbee, Haverfordwest, Modern Believing (54:4)
“…this book makes a significant contribution to the moral life of the church and how liberal Christianity could be more authentically church and continue to speak appropriately to pressing social issues.”
—James M. Brandt, Saint Paul School of Theology, Journal for the Society for Christian Ethics (33:2)
“A strong argument for the appeal and relevance of a liberal theology. Evans brings the liberal and evangelical stories into a compelling conversation, making a case for a liberal theology that reclaims its evangelical roots and its place in the life and witness of the church.”
—Gary Dorrien, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics, Union Theological Seminary, and Professor of Religion, Columbia University
"Evans (The Kingdom Is Always but Coming: A Life of Walter Rauschenbusch), a professor of church history at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, makes no pretensions about the scope of his work. This book does not include a comprehensive view or extensive history of liberal theology—that can be found elsewhere, and in much larger tomes. Instead, he sets out to reclaim and rejuvenate this misunderstood, formerly vibrant, and ostensibly weakening movement in American Christianity. To rejuvenate any school of thought, that school must be understood, and here Evans is at his finest. He begins by immediately confronting the pejorative meaning the 'culture wars' have attached to the word 'liberal' and follows by proposing a new foundation on which to build a more historical, rather than hyped, understanding of liberal Christianity. Finally, Evans transcends the limits of stereotypical 'ivory tower history' by offering more than just analysis. He offers solutions. The liberal Christian movement in America is not dead, he concludes, and history shows how to prevent it from dying. Anyone interested in 20th- and 21st-century American Christianity needs to read and consider the suggestions Evans has to offer."
—Publisher's Weekly, 1/26/2010
Christopher H. Evans is Professor of the History of Christianity in the School of Theology, Boston University. His previous books include the award-winning The Kingdom is Always But Coming: A Life of Walter Rauschenbusch; The Faith of Fifty Million: Baseball, Religion, and American Culture; and The Social Gospel Today.