The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America
Thomas S. Kidd (5 stars)
First, the bad news. Christians who lived through the 18th-century Great Awakening in colonial America were prone to division, vulnerable to false teaching and emotional excess, and generally all too human. This is what a historic revival looks like? Now, the good news. Something powerful was moving among the people, despite their flaws. Baylor University historian Kidd tells this story with a superb command of detail, even as he keeps the big picture in mind. Especially for evangelicals—for whom this is family history—but also for anyone who wants to understand more deeply the American experience, Kidd's book is essential.
The Return of History and the End of Dreams
Robert Kagan (4 stars)
This slim book is a spin-off from a two-volume work in progress, the first volume of which CT reviewed in January 2007. Any book by Kagan is worth reading. Here you feel you are sitting in on an after-dinner conversation with a very smart, experienced observer of world affairs. But as he talks about "the return of great power nationalism" and "the vices and virtues of American hegemony," you may wish you had a companion volume by another expert to elucidate Kagan's subtext. That the end of the Cold War didn't signal the onset of the millennium hardly comes as news. So what is Kagan really trying to tell us? That's a subject for another night.
Making the Best of It: Following Christ in the Real World
John G. Stackhouse, Jr. (5 stars)
Along with Andy Crouch's Culture Makers (forthcoming from IVP in August), this is the most helpful recent account I have read of "what it is to be Christian in the world," as Stackhouse writes. He advocates "a new Christian Realism." The Niebuhrs, C. S. Lewis, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer are his principal inter-locutors, but he has read widely across several disciplines. Exceptionally fair-minded yet never waffling, blessedly down-to-earth yet never bumptious, Stackhouse is a winsome guide.
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John Wilson is editor of Books & Culture.
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