Who Is An Evangelical? Resource Review

K idd, T.S. (2020). Who is an evangelical?: The history of a movement in crisis. Yale University Press.
“Kidd makes a persuasive case for returning the term ‘evangelical’ to the religious convictions that once loomed as more important for ‘evangelicals’ than political adherence. This book is as important as it is timely.” Mark A. Noll

In a sweeping tour of American evangelicalism, historian Thomas Kidd (2020) explores the roots of the Protestant movement in his work Who is an Evangelical? With detailed historical exposition, Kidd explains how the popular understanding of evangelical as White and political is “historically peculiar” (p. 1) given its multiethnic origins and kingdom minded social engagement. Educators desiring to impart a historically robust treatment of evangelicalism’s impact to their students will benefit from Kidd’s research and analysis. Kidd’s clarity on the scope of evangelicalism allows educators to wade through the sociopolitical freight of the term while gathering insights on American evangelicalism with world Christianity in view.

Evangelicals are “born again Protestants who cherish the Bible as the Word of God and who emphasize a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit” (p. 4). Kidd’s work offers a robust picture of evangelicalism emerging from these doctrinal tenants yet considers various ethnicities and denominations. Exploring evangelical influence from Latin America, Korea, and Africa, allows Kidd to foster a broader conversation answering the question “who is evangelical” amid the twentieth century shift of world Christianity to the Global South. Readers will benefit from his detailed analysis of doctrinally aligned immigrant-led churches and ministries. Educators gain perspective from Kidd’s treatment of Puerto Rican New Yorker Sonny Arguinzoni’s ministry in Los Angeles, Chinese church plants under James Tan in Boston, the Protestant Latino churches in South Boston, and others highlighting lesser-known participants in a textured evangelical movement (see chapter five). Additionally, consistent with Bebbington’s quadrilateral, Kidd demonstrates how evangelicalism possesses a concern for social engagement evident in civil rights activists like Fannie Lou Hammer. Kidd’s multiethnic approach bolsters educators’ repertoire of faithful evangelicals who engaged the changing culture with biblical conviction.

Kidd leaves readers with a deeper appreciation for the multiethnic reality of evangelicalism in America. The contributions of ethnic minorities speak to the unity in the Spirit inspiring educators and students to continue in the faith shared all over the world. Educators who incorporate Kidd’s research into their curriculum will cultivate students’ appreciation of how evangelicals from various cultural heritages shaped the Christian faith in this spiritual movement. His culturally expansive work provides a solid foundation for educators to encourage an accurate telling of the Christian story in America.

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