Jerry Falwell sounds a dramatic call for an evangelical fundamentalist alliance in The Fundamentalist Phenomenon (Doubleday, 1981), which he edited with Ed Dobson and Ed Hindson.

No fundamentalist spokesman is as pointedly critical of contemporary fundamentalism as is Falwell, and none more sharply censorious of evangelicalism. Nonetheless, he calls for a coalition of fundamentalists and evangelicals that would “reshape the forces of conservative Christianity.” Falwell declares the 1980s the decade of destiny for spiritual revival and political renewal in America: “The time has come for the Fundamentalists and Evangelicals to return our nation to its spiritual and moral roots.”

Establishment evangelicalism’s response to this remarkable appeal, and also that of Falwell’s fundamentalist cohorts, could influence the structural fortunes and public opportunities of theological conservatism in America for the remainder of this century. The appeal merits careful study and comprehensive dialogue by leaders qualified to speak for the many divergent strands of American Bible believers.

Falwell’s summons does not explicitly extend to ecumenically identified evangelicals, most of whom lack interevangelical affiliation. But despite sharp criticism of theologically plural contexts, he admits that more believers survive an ecumenical climate than he once thought.

Pastor of an outsize church, chancellor of Liberty Baptist College, mass-media merchant of the gospel, and energetic sociopolitical crusader, Falwell at times wears enough hats to confound his critics over which role he speaks in on issues. Menachem Begin, who talked with Falwell by phone after Israel’s destructive strike against Iraq’s ...

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