Mark Noll went with the flow and got it wrong, says Dale Coulter. Writing on Renewal Dynamics , the weblog of the faculty of Regent University Divinity School, he describes the development of the idea that middle American Christians were anti-intellectual, beginning with Richard Hofstadter’s famous work  Anti-Intellectualism in American Life . For him

Evangelical revivalists were simply another brand of populism and therefore part of the problem rather than the solution. These revivalists were the obstacles of American pluralism with their sectarian identities and their use of apocalyptic imaginary.

This, says Dale, a member of Evangelicals and Catholics Together as well as editor of Pneuma , the Society of Pentecostal Studies’ journal, helped create “a new national myth.”  Noll, perhaps the most distinguished Evangelical historian, accepted that myth but tried to prove that it didn’t really describe Evangelicals. He “utilized Hoftstadter to foist blame for the scandal of the evangelical mind upon those belonging to the Holiness-Pentecostal movement.”

I have no opinion on this debate, but it is fascinating as a study of two ways of reading the history of conservative Protestantism in the United States.

Articles by David Mills

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