REINVENTING AMERICAN PROTESTANTISM by Donald E. Miller

REINVENTING AMERICAN PROTESTANTISM

Christianity in the New Millennium
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

 One of the most engaging, insightful discussions yet of American Protestantism's recent trend toward ``postdenominational'' churches. Miller (Religion/Univ. of Southern Calif.) uses his sociology training to contextualize a phenomenon that scholars have too breezily dismissed: Americans are leaving the mainline churches in droves, and many are finding spiritual homes in what Miller calls ``new paradigm'' churches that often rent space in shopping malls and warehouses because they have no facilities of their own. These churches, like the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, Calvary Chapel, and Hope Chapel, emphasize a common evangelical theology. But they have resisted incorporation into denominations, reflecting their baby-boomer leaders' distrust of established institutions. Dress is casual, ministers are often untrained, and adherents are encouraged to take an active role in congregational growth. Miller maintains that the burst of new paradigm churches represents nothing less than a second Protestant Reformation; these churches are abandoning the staid cultural forms of traditional Protestantism (organs, choirs, and vestments) in favor of newer ones that young people find culturally relevant (guitars, small support groups, and beach baptisms). New paradigm churches have reinvigorated Luther's ``priesthood of all believers'' with their stress on lay-led Bible studies and healing circles. One reason Miller's study works so well is that he takes these new rituals seriously and claims that they fill a very real spiritual need. In particular, where traditional Protestantism has emphasized the rational at the expense of the experiential, new paradigm churches fill this void through physical healings and deeply felt personal conversions. This elegant book offers something for everyone: Scholars will appreciate Miller's well-conceived sociological positioning of this phenomenon (with particular nods to William James and Robert Bellah), and other folks will value the compelling personal testimonies.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-520-20938-9
Page count: 245pp
Publisher: Univ. of California
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1997