Geoffrey R. Treloar. The Disruption of Evangelicalism: The Age of Torrey, Mott, McPherson, and Hammond. IVP Academic, 2017. See here to purchase the book.
The Disruption of Evangelicalism is Volume 4 of the “History
of Evangelicalism” series. This volume covers evangelicalism from the
time shortly before World War I, to the time shortly before the onset of
World War II. It looks at evangelicalism in the United States, Great
Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
As I read this book, I was comparing it to another book that I read: Gary Dorrien’s The Making of American Liberal Theology (1805-1900).
What made Dorrien’s book satisfying was that it went deeply into the
biographical background and ideas of liberal thinkers. Geoffrey Treloar’s book
covered a lot more territory, but it did not have as much depth. It
relayed different evangelical perspectives at a surface level. While it
included anecdotes about evangelical thinkers and personalities, they
usually focused on a surface-level, brief description of their ideas
rather than offering details about their personal backgrounds or
There were exceptions to this characterization. R.A. Torrey was
contrasted with D.L. Moody, with Torrey looking more methodical,
intellectual, and focused on hell than Moody was. Geoffrey Treloar also
shares that Torrey was active in social justice until he decided to
devote more time to trying to save souls. The brief anecdote about the
suffragette who gave up the feminist cause to proclaim the imminent
Second Coming of Christ was also interesting. The stories about World War I and its effect on evangelicals had more of a personal element. Treloar provided some
background information about Aimee Semple McPherson, but he devoted most
of that discussion to explaining how she fit and did not fit the
religious trends of the time, and what exactly she did that made her a
Reading this book was more like eating a lot of tasty snacks than
eating a satisfying meal. There were a lot of interesting discussions
in this book. That discussion of McPherson was one of them. The book
was also helpful in that it communicated the different evangelical
positions on socialism, the social Gospel, sanctification, the baptism
of the Holy Spirit, the nature of Scripture, World War I and its
aftermath, the League of Nations, prohibition, the New Deal, and the
rise of totalitarian states in Germany, Italy and Russia. There were
conservative and there were liberal evangelicals, and yet, as Treloar
demonstrates, there were plenty of times when theological conservatives
ventured into territory that would be considered politically liberal.
In its breadth, the book covered material that would probably be absent
from a lot of histories of Christianity, such as evangelicals’ struggle
with the question of where the souls of unsaved casualties of war went
after their death. The book also mentioned the series Evangelicalism, which was a liberal evangelical version of the famous Fundamentals.
While the discussions of the different positions were surface-level,
they were clear: one could understand what the different evangelical
thinkers believed and why. The discussions about the nature of
Scripture were not as good as other discussions in the book. While the
book talked about the attempts of centrist and liberal evangelicals to
incorporate historical-criticism into their view of Scripture, there was
some unclarity about how exactly they did so. Treloar tried to explain
this, for he mentioned such considerations as progressive revelation.
Perhaps examples of their usage of the historical-critical method in a
religious or homiletical setting would have clarified their stance on
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest!
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