The Whole World in His Hands
Global Evangelicalism: Theology, History and Culture in Regional Perspective by Donald M. Lewis and Richard V. Pierard is a relatively comprehensive look at the formation, history, and effect of Evangelicalism throughout the world. In it’s basic form it is a collection of essays. However, Lewis and Pierard do masterful job of weaving this collection together to form a logical and cohesive thought on the cause and effect of Evangelicalism. In the author’s own words: “The book is broken up into three major sections. The first section provides historical and theological background and offers a discussion of the vexed question of evangelicalism’s relationship to the process termed globalization. The second section offers surveys of evangelicalism’s history in different geographical areas of the world. The final section includes discussion of important themes in evangelical history.” (Lewis and Pierard, 17)
To understand global evangelicalism, you must first define evangelicalism. The book shows many nuances and perspectives due to the fact that evangelicals or evangelism is not a single group, but rather a collection of Protestant Christians that prescribe to a set of Biblical values and beliefs. British historian David Bebbington summarizes evangelicalism emphasizing four central beliefs: Conversion from sin provided through Jesus and his death on the cross, the Bible as ultimate authority for doctrine and living, compassion ministry as an expression of the church in evangelism to the world, and the centrality of the Jesus work of redemption on the cross and completion through the resurrection.
The second term to understand is globalization. Globalization is defined by Lewis as “process of modernization and worldwide spread of a common culture is usually referred to by scholars as “globalization.” (Lewis and Pierard, 81) Lewis also notes that “the expansion of evangelicalism beginning in the eighteenth century both coincided with and contributed to the global expansion of Western nations.” (Lewis and Pierard, 81) Therefore, globalization has fueled evangelicalism in the world. As globalization has accelerated beginning in the twentieth century with the growth of technological advancement so has the growth of evangelicalism, their respective growth are directly related.
What I find amazing in the analysis of this book is the “coincidence” of the evangelical movement occurring and accelerating concurrently with globalization. Looking at the historical significance and timing of both entities demonstrates God’s orchestration of His Great Commission. There is also a tension between globalization and evangelicalism in that one is viewed inherently secular and the other sacred. Yet both worlds collide, where secular growth and development is actually used to power the sacred mission of the Church. According to D.W. Bebbington in his book Evangelicalism in the Modern Britain, even the history of capitalism, which is blamed for major negative side effects of globalization, finds its roots in the protestant and evangelical world. One could argue that evangelicalism is the catalyst for the growth and development of globalization. Secular society would notably reject the notion of such an origin as insane, but it is very logical and plausible.
There are even similarities in the drivers that formed both globalization and evangelicalism. Dissent of the status quo, a belief that things could and should be different. Cooperation and ecumenical movement in the belief that we are more a like than we are different; we should work together for ultimate good. Revival of life and health not only for the church but the world. Missions and the idea of going into every man’s world has dominated both movements, albeit for different motives. Decentralization of both religion (decline of organized and state religion) and globalization in the form of mass communication and access for all to information through the internet.
In essence, it is amazing to me how God works. It never ceases to astound me how God fulfills and discloses his will. As the timeless children’s church hymn goes, He truly has the “whole world” in His hands.
5 responses to “The Whole World in His Hands”
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Hey AC. I think I hear what you are saying about evangelicalism and globalization. You mention that globalization is secular and evangelicalism is sacred. Do you have room for a type of globalization that hasn’t lost it’s sacredness? What about wings of the evangelical church that operate and look pretty darn secular?
What I find amazing in the analysis of this book is the “coincidence” of the evangelical movement occurring and accelerating concurrently with globalization.
Given this statement, how do you respond to the school of thought that says we are just “Westernizing” the world? Even if Evangelicalism is at the center of globalization, does the spread of the Gospel carry with it the accidental export of culture?
You said: “One could argue that evangelicalism is the catalyst for the growth and development of globalization.” What was your take on the equivalence of evangelicalism and the spread of Americanism and capitalism? Do you agree?
As “evil” as the West is portrayed at times, do you feel that globalization is following in some shape a pursuit of Matthew 28 and Mark 16? Going into all the world has truly opened more doors than evangelism.
Great blog. I would add one more dimension to your blog. I think Pentecostalism’s emergence is a significant contributor as well. What do you think?
Aaron, I also enjoyed the section on globalization. Even though I have read about the topic in different books, this was the first time that I read a detailed analysis of the different dimensions of globalization (definitely a good reference source for my dissertation!). You bring a good insight about the relationship between globalization and evangelicalism. I kept thinking that in light of all of your international travels, you probably get to see a tangible picture of some of the aspects that the book describes. I admire your dedication to your ministry and your studies. May the Lord continue to give you the strength and wisdom to manage all of these responsibilities.