Understanding The Activist Impulse

I’ve blogged before about the great new book, The Activist Impulse: Essays on the Intersection of Evangelicalism and Anabaptism. Recently, “History of Christianity” — the blog of the American Society for Church History, the premiere academic organization for church historians and theologians — asked me to review the book. (A slightly amended version of this review will appear in a future issue of Brethren in Christ History and Life.)

In the review, I use the biography of Samuel F. Wolgemuth — a Brethren in Christ bishop who went on to become the first president of Youth for Christ International — as a frame for the book’s central theme: that Anabaptism and evangelicalism compliment, rather than corrupt, one another.

Here’s a taste of the review:

How do we make sense of someone like Samuel Wolgemuth—someone whose theological identity lies deep within traditions as seemingly divergent as Anabaptism and evangelicalism?

Historian Jared S. Burkholder and theologian David Cramer provide one answer to this question in their recent edited volume, The Activist Impulse: Essays on the Intersection of Evangelicalism and Anabaptism (Wipf and Stock, 2012). As their title indicates, Burkholder and Cramer see evangelicalism and Anabaptism as linked by a shared “activist impulse,” a desire to “engage American society” and to make “vigorous efforts . . . in support of Christian ideals” (p. 2). This shared “impulse,” though understood and operationalized differently in each tradition, has created a space for myriad “intersections,” both historical and theological, between these two movements during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. By focusing on these intersections rather than the obvious departures, argue Burkholder and Cramer, church historians and theologians might gain more nuanced insights into Anabaptist-evangelical relations.

[Other historians argue that] as evangelical influence increases, Anabaptist distinctives decrease and, ultimately, vanish.  Burkholder and Cramer want to move beyond such dichotomistic thinking. “While such arguments still carry some weight, and some Anabaptists continue to resent the appeal of popular evangelicalism,” they admit, “others see plenty of opportunity for integrating the two traditions” (p. 3).

Check out the whole review here. (If you’re interested, you can buy The Activist Impulse here. I’d recommend it!) You can find more coverage of The Activist Impulse on the blogs of its editors, Burkholder and Cramer.

About Devin Manzullo-Thomas

Father to Lucas. Husband to Katie. Prof and administrator at Messiah College. PhD student at Temple University. Member of Grantham BIC.
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2 Responses to Understanding The Activist Impulse

  1. johnfea says:

    Good to see you back in the saddle, Devin

  2. Pingback: The Jesus People and the Brethren in Christ | The Search for Piety and Obedience

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