A debut book offers a concise introduction to Evangelicalism from an informed insider.
Coleman was originally drawn from the cultural Christianity of his parents to the fervent commitment of Pentecostalism, and this began a lifelong quest to refine and practice his faith. Eventually, he was born again into Evangelicalism, but he recalls that he slowly experienced doubts both about its core doctrinal components and its lack of inclusiveness, or openness to people of diverse backgrounds. The book is bifurcated into two parts: a scholarly account of the theology and history of Evangelicalism and a memoir recounting the author’s grappling with his own doubts about his faith. The first part is as lucid a précis as is available; Coleman patiently describes a widely misunderstood religious sect in accessible prose. What emerges is not only an unambiguous account of what it means to be Evangelical, but also a picture of a church much less monolithic than is commonly thought. Despite some basic theological commitments, Evangelicals are engaged in their own share of intramural disputes about scriptural exegesis, salvation, homosexuality and gay marriage, and a number of other significant topics. In the autobiographical portion of the book, Coleman candidly discusses the crisis of faith he experienced as he discovered differences between his view of the Bible and most Evangelicals’, and this interpretive dissonance ultimately birthed a philosophical skepticism that nearly destroyed his faith. He found his way back to God, though no longer as an Evangelical, and counsels that its members rethink their relations to non-Christians (“But as the world becomes smaller, and our communities become filled with people from differing backgrounds, there will be those that need alternative models of faith to that which Evangelicalism can provide”). The book concludes with an actual entry from the author’s journal that affectingly conveys the anguish he suffered from his trials of doubt. Coleman writes under a nom de guerre, apparently so as not to challenge the faith of the Evangelicals he knows, though it’s not entirely clear why writing anonymously will diminish the volume’s power to potentially nurture doubts. Nevertheless, this is a moving and educational book that will resonate with all of those in search of an authentically religious life.
A superb account of an increasingly important religious movement.