Secularisation and evangelicalism : a study in the reaction of conservative Christianity to the modern world
The history of the concept of secularisation is traced from its use as an anti-religious ideological term, through the modifications and refinements of classical sociology, to its association with modernisation in recent theory. Particular attention is given to the works of Bryan Wilson, Peter Berger and David Martin. The historical and sociological evidence which calls into question the classic theory of secularisation is cited and both the persistence of religion and the growth of new quests for the transcendent are shown to increase the pressure for a new paradigm for the understanding of the place of religion in the modern world. While British Evangelicalism's post-Victorian decline could be cited as evidence in support of the strong secularlisation thesis, its recent resurgence may point to religion's persistence in the modern world. The rise and fall of Evangelicalism is outlined, from its emergence in the eighteenth-century Revival, through its growing identification with middle-class culture in the Victorian era, to its reduction to the level of a religious sub-culture by the first half of the present century. Particular attention is given to the 'varieties of evangelicalism' and it is noted that, in contrast to those who attempted to use the belief-system as an ideological support for the defence of hierarchical society, radical Evangelicals insisted that religion must lead to historical and social transformation. The resurgence of conservative Christianity since the mid-point of the twentieth-century is described and analysed and a variety of possible futures for the revived Evangelical movement are suggested. Finally, the implications of the history of modern Evangelicalism for secularisation theory are outlined and it is argued that the time is ripe for an attempt to bridge the ideological gulf concerning religion which dates from the European Enlightenment.