Jesus Made in America: A Cultural History from the Puritans to the Passion of the Christ
Stephen J. Nichols
$20, 240 pages
Liberal scholars looking for Jesus remade him in their own image. So argued Albert Schweitzer in his landmark 1906 book, The Quest of the Historical Jesus. Fundamentalists cheered Schweitzer's critique even as they cringed at his own conclusion that Jesus was a failed prophet of the end times.
During the 20th century, evangelicals proudly turned back many such attempts to deconstruct the biblical Jesus. Yet if evangelicals today still regard Jesus Christ as true God from true God, fully God and fully man, they don't dwell on it. Their music, trinkets, DVDs, and movies market a Jesus who will hold you tight, model generosity, and tell you how to vote. So argues Stephen J. Nichols, research professor of Christianity and culture at Lancaster Bible College and author of Jesus Made in America: A Cultural History from the Puritans to the Passion of the Christ.
"Today's American evangelicals may be quick to speak of their love for Jesus, even wearing their devotion on their sleeve, literally in the case of WWJD bracelets," Nichols writes. "But they may not be so quick to articulate an orthodox view of the object of their devotion. Their devotion is commendable, but the lack of a rigorous theology behind it means that a generation of contemporary evangelicals is living off of borrowed capital."
Nichols's declension narrative begins with kind words for the Puritans. He shows how Jonathan Edwards, the Connecticut pastor who preached "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" in 1741, paired deep devotion to Jesus Christ with meticulous theology. He introduces readers to Edward Taylor, another Puritan pastor serving ...