Cover image for Blessed assurance : a history of evangelicalism in America
Blessed assurance : a history of evangelicalism in America
Balmer, Randall Herbert.
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Publication Information:
Boston : Beacon Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
139 pages ; 23 cm
Introduction: a city on a hill -- Challenging the routine of religion: eighteenth-century pietism and the evangelical tradition -- Diversity and stability: the paradox of religious pluralism -- Visions of rapture: optimism and apocalypticism in American culture -- A pentecost of politics: evangelicals and public discourse -- A loftier position: American evangelicalism and the ideal of femininity -- Winning the country back: the ironies of the religious right -- The vocabulary of evangelicalism.
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BR1642.U5 B34 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Veteran historian of evangelicalism Balmer considers six topics in that history: the pietist influence on colonial America, religious liberty as a politically stabilizing force, the complicated appeal of apocalypticism, evangelicalism's prominence in nineteenth-century public discourse, the evangelical idealization of feminity, and the Religious Right's crusade to save America politically. He informatively documents and incisively analyzes each but is most provocative on the first two. In colonial pietism, whose preaching style and tone seem direct precursors of later evangelical revivalism, he discovers a weighty but forgotten and neglected Dutch contribution to U.S. culture. His perspective on First Amendment religious freedoms--that they have served to deflect passionate enthusiasm from politics into religion, with the result that U.S. politics has been stably centrist and U.S. religion turbulently factional--makes for the most intriguing chapter in the book, even if the one on the Religious Right is the feistiest. From first page to last, riveting. --Ray Olson

Publisher's Weekly Review

This impressionistic collection of essays addresses selected issues of evangelical history from colonial times to the present. Balmer, chair of the religion department at Barnard College of Columbia University, has achieved well-deserved fame for his nuanced explorations of the varieties of American Protestantism, and this book displays some of his strengths. Balmer offers several correctives to the prevailing wisdom about evangelicalism's origins, such as his argument that the European movement of Pietism had as much to do with evangelicalism's development as did English Puritanism. He is at his most provocative and convincing when he suggests that America's religious diversity, enshrined in the First Amendment, has been the source of its remarkable political stability. Unfortunately, the second half of this book is limited by omissions that are surprising given Balmer's previous work: he focuses on the most strident and conservative representatives of the tradition without acknowledging the broader evangelical firmament. It is disappointing that a book purporting to explain "evangelicalism" makes no mention of the pivotal (and politically centrist) role of the National Association of Evangelicals or such publications as Christianity Today, while devoting significant time to right-wingers Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and the like. Such emphases only reinforce popular prejudices about the purported ultraconservatism of evangelicals. Nonwhite expressions of evangelicalism are likewise underrepresented. While this book fails to do justice to the breadth and diversity of the evangelical tradition, readers can return to Balmer's previous work Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory for a candid yet sympathetic representation of the varieties of American evangelicalism. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

These two books together give an excellent overview of the past development, present objectives, and future possibilities of American evangelical Christianity. Balmer (Ann Whitney Olin Professor of religion, Barnard) traces the origins of evangelicalism from its beginnings (in the Second Great Awakening) to the present. He points out its broad popular appeal and sees its greatest strength as its willingness to use the latest communication techniques in each era. He also discusses current political and moral struggles. Looking toward the future, Webber attempts to reconcile evangelicalism with postmodern philosophy. Returning to the traditions of the very early church, the author attempts to show how such ancient paradigms as the "Christus Victor" concept as well as nonverbal communications through symbolism could revitalize the evangelical message in an age moving away from linear, verbal thinking. Both books are well written and readable scholarly works with some interesting insights into this important segment of religion in America. Recommended for academic and public libraries.ÄC. Robert Nixon, Lafayette, IN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.