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Evangelicals and evangelicalism are the subject of a host of new books, some of which are outstanding. Alister McGrath's "Evangelicalism and the Future of Christianity," due in February 1995 from InterVarsity Press, is exemplary in its combination of buoyant faith and constructive critical assessment, neither one canceling out the other. McGrath explores the history of evangelicalism and its distinctive strengths and weaknesses in the context of a "global renaissance of evangelicalism."
"The Christian vision of the future now seems increasingly to belong to evangelicalism," McGrath writes, yet he identifies areas of concern as well. One is a tendency among evangelicals to be ignorant of our "family history."
To remedy that weakness, there is at hand a wealth of recent scholarship. Two of this month's reviewers, Mark Noll and David Bebbington, joined with George Rawlyk (professor of history at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada) to edit a wide-ranging collection of essays, "Evangelicalism: Comparative Studies of Popular Protestantism in North America, the British Isles, and Beyond, 1700-1990" (Oxford, 430 pp.; $55.00, hardcover; $19.95, paper). Rawlyk and Noll coedited a companion volume, "Amazing Grace: Evangelicalism in Australia, Britain, Canada, and the United States" (Baker, 429 pp.; 519.99, paper). Both contain a number of excellent contributions.
A good starting point is Andrew Walls's magisterial essay in the Oxford volume, "The Evangelical Revival, the Missionary Movement, and Africa." Walls writes, "Christian mission is not simply about the multiplication of the church .... It is about the penetration of cultures and ways of thought by the word about Christ. It is about translation-one might almost say the translation of the word into flesh, since its starting point is the incarnation .... "And he concludes, "As for the missionaries, they achieved sometimes in spite of themselves exactly what they believed they had been sent to do. After all, they had ...