In my day job at Messiah College, I keep running into people who are reading Molly Worthen’s Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism. The book chronicles a broad swath of Evangelical history — from the 1940s and the emergence of public figures like Billy Graham, to the recent present (i.e., 2000s). As you might suspect, Worthen covers a lot of ground, seeking to show how Evangelicalism in America is beset by a “crisis of authority.” Evangelicals, claims Worthen, emphasize the “authority” of Scripture (through interpretive strategies that vary widely across the Evangelical spectrum) while at the same time lacking a central authority figure (like the Pope in the Catholic tradition). Worthen suggests that this crisis is what makes Evangelicalism incredibly complex, fragmented, and difficult to understand.
This book has been sitting on my shelf for months. As soon as I get a respite from the semester’s workload, I’m hoping to delve in. From what I can tell, Worthen’s account will undoubtedly shed light on my ongoing research into the historical interactions between the Brethren in Christ and Evangelicals.