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Reformed Literature
A Presbyterian Internet Journal

Christianity in America -   A handbook

Edited by Noll, Hatch, Marsden, Wells and Woodbridge

Published by Lion

The editors of this book have now each established themselves in the popular evangelical consciousness as some of the best living reformed historians.

The aim of this book is to provide a tour of American Christianity from its inception down to the completion of this book in 1980. The first thing that will strike you when you pick up the volume is the sheer wealth of pictures and images throughout the book - while it maintains its narrative history on the white pages it also has many cream inserts with sideline accounts of interesting characters and movements.

The book quotes a litany of Americans including those of a true Reformed pedigree to itinerant Arminian evangelists. The opening pages contain the quote from Charles Hodge that ‘Every man you see is either an Episcopalian or a Methodist, a Presbyterian or an Independent, an Arminian or a Calvinist. No one is a Christian in general.’ Yet, it also gives Billy Sunday remarking ‘Going to church don’t make a man a Christian any more than going to a stable makes a man a horse’ and Harry Rudin’s ‘Present day Christianity has lower standards for church membership than those for getting on a bus.’.

The book starts with the colonial times and tries in a couple of pages to chart how the European Church and the Romanist affected the early development of the continent. It includes a resume of Puritanism and John Winthrop all the way down to the Reformed Dutch and German settlements and those of the Quakers like William Penn. It addresses life and religion in colonial times and doesnt shirk the difficult periods like the Salem Witch trials.

After dealing with the Great Awakening it then tackles the period of the Revolution (Rebellion) and the religious views of those involved. It proceeds to chart with a real clarity the development of the many streams with the denominations on the continent right down to the present day.

In its most recent section we see men like Martin Luther King, Pat Robertson and Oral Roberts and the rise of Pentecostal Catholic movements and the so-called Unification Church.

Overall, if you want an easy, simple and well illustrated overview of American Church History this is not a bad place to start.