Orville Jenkins's Reviews > Return to Justice: Six Movements That Reignited Our Contemporary Evangelical Conscience

Return to Justice by Soong-Chan Rah
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it was amazing

These authors provided an excellent and thorough historical and thematic survey of the movement in the United States and worldwide known as Evangelical Christianity. The focus from which they develop this clarifying history is the question of social justice, beginning with the early activism in this area for the 1800s.

They outline in some detail the sociological and theological influences behind the withdrawal and separatist salvationist trend that became stronger, identifying itself in fundamentalism.

They focused on key personalities and events and distinguished between various religiocultural themes and political movements that have constituted or influenced this movement to clarify the complexity, and even uncertainty, of the evangelical label.

I had met some of these personalities, and read books by more, and was aware of many of the names. But I grew up and entered ministry in a milieu totally unaware of all but the historical use of the term Evangelical other than to identify Protestantism in general.

My Southern Baptist background never was identified as evangelical in the years of my association with them. It was in the missions context that I became more consciously aware of the term in broader usage. Our mission cooperated with everyone on any common goals, and in East Africa we pioneered people-group oriented missions approaches.

These authors identify the origins of the Church Growth Movement in association with the reinforcement of American racial separation in churches. This also became a problem in the attempt to internationalize the more formal evangelical organization and cooperation efforts.

I never knew of this dynamic, becoming aware of the related Homogeneous Unit Principle, developed by Peter Wagner. It fit the situation for peoples with absolutely no background in Christian faith. It had nothing to do with growing a church or denomination. It had to do with facilitating initial awareness of Jesus Christ and God's revelation of Love to a discreet ethnic and language group. Practicalities were in focus in our situation, and Baptists were the most multiethnic and multilingual denomination in Kenya.

It was very helpful to learn of the socio-cultural character of American evangelical, many components of which I was aware of from the study of religious movements in the USA. It was especially to clarify the relationship of oldline Fundamentalism with the confusing and vague use of the self-label or other-label as "evangelical."

The dynamics affecting Christian movements and churches in other cultures were clarified here, by identifying the primarily white American ethos and character of Evangelicalism. I was more aware of the problem in regard to a western imperialism within the missions context. In Kenya I had access to skilled and thoughtful African Christian leaders, as well as Asian and Latin American due to the international stature of Nairobi as a conference and staging area for training and outreach.

This was a worthwhile purchase that I ironically found in the bargain books counter of a local Christian books store. It filled lots of gaps in my sociological awareness of streams in the modern Christian movement.
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Reading Progress

January 24, 2018 – Started Reading
January 26, 2018 – Finished Reading
January 27, 2018 – Shelved

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