The best books on evangelicalism

5 authors have picked their favorite books about evangelicalism and why they recommend each book.

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Love God, Heal Earth

By Sally G. Bingham,

Book cover of Love God, Heal Earth: 21 Leading Religious Voices Speak Out on Our Sacred Duty to Protect the Environment

Sally Bingham founded and served as president of Interfaith Power & Light, one of the most important interreligious organizations addressing climate and environmental crises. For this 2009 book, she invited twenty religious leaders from a myriad of traditions, including Buddhist, Evangelical Christian, Unitarian-Universalist, Muslim, and Judaism, to name a few. Though the book is more than a decade old, their reflections are timeless. And they give us a snapshot of what religious leaders were saying about ecology and faith at a time when environmental awareness was still struggling to gain traction.


Who am I?

The Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade is the Associate Professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky.  An ordained Lutheran minister since 2000, Leah has written five books, including three focusing on environment and faith. She has served as an anti-fracking and climate activist, community organizer, and advocate for environmental justice issues, She’s also the “EcoPreacher” blogger for Patheos.com. She has recently launched a partnership with the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development to create a monthly resource called EcoPreacher 1-2-3 for busy pastors wanting to address environmental issues in their sermons.


I wrote...

Rooted and Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis

By Leah D. Schade, Margaret Bullitt-Jonas,

Book cover of Rooted and Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis

What is my book about?

Rooted and Rising is an edited volume intended for readers who are concerned about the climate crisis and who thirst for the wisdom and spiritual resources of fellow pilgrims grappling with despair. The book has 21 chapters by religious environmental activists from several different religious traditions, including Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Quaker, Indigenous, and post-Christian punk.  Writers represent intersectionalities of different genders, races, LGBTQIA, ethnicities, ages, and geographic locations.  Each of the seven sections has discussion questions as well as spiritual practices, making it ideal for book groups. If you’re looking for inspiration to renew your capacity for compassionate, purposeful, even joyful action for the climate, this is the book for you.  

Divided by Faith

By Michael O. Emerson, Christian Smith,

Book cover of Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America (Revised)

Even if you are not a person of faith, evangelicalism in America has caused great division. Thus, understanding how conservative Christianity looks differently in white and Black communities is a good place to start being introduced to issues of race and justice. Many leaders in the church say Divided by Faith is the next most influential book for them—next to the Bible! 


Who am I?

Growing up in rural Southern Maryland, I first began to notice a difference between Blacks and whites because of the way I was treated when I hung out with my African American friends. South of the Mason Dixon line, racial differences are often clear. Throughout my childhood and young adult life some of the most influential people who invested in me were African American. As I began to learn about their stories, my heart grew with a love for racial justice and equality. My work and adult life has focused on righting wrongs, responding to global and domestic poverty, to writing and working against inequality and oppression.


I wrote...

Beyond Hashtag Activism: Comprehensive Justice in a Complicated Age

By Mae Elise Cannon,

Book cover of Beyond Hashtag Activism: Comprehensive Justice in a Complicated Age

What is my book about?

Activist Mae Elise Cannon takes us beyond the hashtags to serious engagement with real issues. God calls the church to respond substantively to the needs of the poor, the realities of racial inequity, and the mistreatment of women and the marginalized. We can accomplish change through a range of strategic avenues—spiritually, socially, legally, politically, and economically. And addressing the domestic and international injustices of our day takes us on a journey of spiritual transformation that brings us closer to God and those around us.

Channel your passion to care effectively for your neighbor and the world. This book will help you understand and put into action what it means for the church to be a place of peace, justice, and hope.

The Evangelicals

By Frances FitzGerald,

Book cover of The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America

This Pulitzer prize-winning history, thoroughly researched and engagingly written, is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the history of American evangelicalism. While it now defines the religious right, evangelicalism has espoused different religious and political positions from its eighteenth-century founding to the present, as Fitzgerald thoroughly documents. Initially, a populist rejection of established churches, in the nineteenth-century evangelicals split over the issue of slavery; Southern evangelicals insisted that the Bible endorsed it. In the twentieth century, evangelicals separated from fundamentalists and became more politically engaged as American business interests used religion to wrest evangelicals from the Democratic Party and political conservatives identified abortion as the issue most likely to galvanize them.

Since the 1980s evangelicals have become a dependable voting bloc for the Republican Party, but Fitzgerald concludes, younger evangelicals are more open and concerned with climate change and gender equality. There is no book I can recommend…


Who am I?

I am a history professor at Southern Methodist University. When some students in my university classes believed that the Enlightenment was so evil I should not be allowed to teach it, I wondered what they were taught in high school. I became more directly involved when I spoke before the State Board of Education of Texas against the ahistorical standards they stipulated for history, including that Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin were central to the Enlightenment and Moses to the founding documents of the United States. These standards distorted history to emphasize the role of religion in the American founding. I wondered: How could a state school board stipulate such ahistorical standards? Where had they come from? Who supported them and why? I wrote Hijacking History to address these questions.


I wrote...

Hijacking History: How the Christian Right Teaches History and Why It Matters

By Kathleen Wellman,

Book cover of Hijacking History: How the Christian Right Teaches History and Why It Matters

What is my book about?

Hijacking History analyzes the high school world history textbooks produced by the three most influential publishers of Christian educational materials. For them, history is the story of God's actions interpreted through the Bible and a weapon to condemn civilizations that do not accept the true God or adopt "biblical" positions. These textbooks use history to identify ideas God abhors and has punished, including evolution, humanism, biblical modernism, socialism, and climate science. These judgments lead students to believe that God sanctions rightwing social and political views and that America must advance them as well as their sectarian, intolerant Christianity as “biblical truth.”

As Hijacking History argues, the ideas these textbooks promote have significant implications for contemporary debates about religion, politics, and education, and pose a direct challenge to a pluralistic democracy.

The South and the North in American Religion

By Samuel S. Hill,

Book cover of The South and the North in American Religion

Strangely, very few books about the Christian right explain the differences between southern and northern evangelicals. Hill’s book is an eye-opener. It links theology directly to politics. A historian, Hill is a wonderful writer.


Who am I?

I was a correspondent in Vietnam in 1966, 1971, 1973, and 1974. I worked for The New Yorker on the last three dates, and I have been back several times since the end of the war. My book, Fire in Lake won the Pulitzer Prize, the Bancroft Prize for history, and the National Book Award, among other prizes.


I wrote...

The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America

By Frances FitzGerald,

Book cover of The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America

What is my book about?

The evangelical movement began in the revivals of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, known in America as the Great Awakenings. A populist rebellion against the established churches, it became the dominant religious force in the country. During the nineteenth century white evangelicals split apart, first North versus South, and then, modernist versus fundamentalist. After World War II, Billy Graham attracted enormous crowds and tried to gather all Protestants under his big tent, but the civil rights movement and the social revolution of the sixties drove them apart again. By the 1980s Jerry Falwell and other southern televangelists, such as Pat Robertson, had formed the Christian right. Protesting abortion and gay rights, they led the South into the Republican Party, and for thirty-five years they were the sole voice of evangelicals to be heard nationally. Eventually, a younger generation proposed a broader agenda of issues, such as climate change, gender equality, and immigration reform.

Reforming the World

By Ian Tyrrell,

Book cover of Reforming the World: The Creation of America's Moral Empire

Reforming the World sees Ian Tyrrell, the master practitioner of transnational approaches to US history, at the peak of his powers. After tackling the world temperance movement, and US-Australian environmental connections, Tyrrell here turns to the “soft power” of Christian missionaries and evangelicals as they proselytized around the world and hoped to remake it in their image. You cannot fail to be gripped by the idiosyncratic personal histories of Tyrrell’s protagonists which he captures with characteristic attention to detail, humanity, and clear-eyed analysis. This is an important story in its own right, but what’s important is the way in which it sets the scene for US power in the twentieth century.


Who am I?

I am a historian of the United States' global pasts. What excites me most in both research and teaching is approaching familiar topics from unconventional angles whether through unfamiliar objects or comparative perspectives. To do so I have approached the US past from the perspective of its emigrants and the global history of gold rushes, and am doing so now in two projects: one on the ice trade and another on the United States’ imperial relationship with Africa between the Diamond Rush of 1867 and the First World War. I currently teach at the University of Oxford where I am a Fellow in History at St Peter’s College.


I wrote...

Made in Britain: Nation and Emigration in Nineteenth-Century America

By Stephen Tuffnell,

Book cover of Made in Britain: Nation and Emigration in Nineteenth-Century America

What is my book about?

The United States was made in Britain. For over a hundred years following independence, a diverse and lively crowd of emigrant Americans left the United States for Britain. From Liverpool and London, they produced Atlantic capitalism and managed transfers of goods, culture, and capital that were integral to US nation-building. In British social clubs, emigrants forged relationships with elite Britons that were essential not only to tranquil transatlantic connections, but also to fighting southern slavery. As the United States descended into Civil War, emigrant Americans decisively shaped the Atlantic-wide battle for public opinion. 

Blending the histories of foreign relations, capitalism, nation-formation, and transnational connection, Stephen Tuffnell compellingly demonstrates that the United States’ struggle toward independent nationhood was entangled at every step with the world’s most powerful empire of the time. With deep research and vivid detail, Made in Britain uncovers this hidden story and presents a bold new perspective on nineteenth-century trans-Atlantic relations.

Covenant Brothers

By Daniel G. Hummel,

Book cover of Covenant Brothers: Evangelicals, Jews, and U.S.-Israeli Relations

Much of the focus in news media and the popular imagination about evangelicals and foreign policy centers on Israel, with many pundits and scholars alike emphasizing the centrality of apocalyptic end-times prophecies to the development of conservative Christian support for Israel. Hummel’s exceptionally researched and beautifully written book provides much-needed nuance to this often one-dimensional narrative. His careful reading of U.S. and Israeli sources sheds new light on the emergence of evangelical Christian Zionism after 1948 and its many permutations throughout the decades that followed. This is a crucial read for understanding the complexities and religious dynamics of modern U.S.-Israeli relations.


Who am I?

I am an associate professor of history at Trinity University in San Antonio, TX, where I teach courses on modern United States history, U.S. foreign relations, and public history, direct our minor in museum studies, and direct the Mellon Initiative for Undergraduate Research in the Arts and Humanities. I am particularly interested in how domestic culture, ideology, and values have informed how the United States has engaged with the world around it. My recent work has explored the influence of conservative religious groups in foreign affairs, and I’m at work on a new book about national security and the congressional debates that unfolded over foreign aid after World War II.


I wrote...

To Bring the Good News to All Nations: Evangelical Influence on Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Relations

By Lauren Turek,

Book cover of To Bring the Good News to All Nations: Evangelical Influence on Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Relations

What is my book about?

My book tells the story of how and why politically-conservative evangelical groups in the United States became powerful as a foreign policy lobby by the 1980s. It starts off in the late 1960s and 1970s, explaining how the economic and cultural transformations of those decades, such as decolonization, globalization, and shifts in the dynamics of the Cold War, coincided with evangelical Christian anxieties about the state of global missionary work to create a new foreign policy consciousness within this group.

The book then traces how these (predominantly) white, politically-conservative evangelicals translated this consciousness into foreign policy advocacy that shaped U.S. relations with the Soviet Union, Guatemala, South Africa, and other Cold War hotspots. It also reveals that as part of their activism, they helped to develop a conservative agenda for U.S. human rights policies that focused very narrowly on the promotion of religious freedom abroad. 

Words Upon the Word

By James S. Bielo,

Book cover of Words Upon the Word: An Ethnography of Evangelical Group Bible Study

The most common kind of book club in America is a Bible study. And while lots and lots of people have opinions about how you should read the Bible, or who is doing it wrong, no one delves into how real readers read the sacred text like James Bielo.

An ethnographer who is interested in American religion, Bielo is a careful and kind observer, who does everything he can to understand what people are doing when they read the Bible together. He takes you with him and you’ll see the world differently because he did.


Who am I?

I'm a journalist and a historian who writes about how American evangelicals are complicated. I was trying to explain Left Behind in graduate school and I talked and talked about the theology in the book—all about the doctrines of the rapture, the antichrist, and the millennium. Then my professor said, “But it’s fiction, right? Why is it fiction? What are people doing when they read a novel instead, of say, a theological treatise?” I had no idea. But it seemed like a good question. That was the spark of Reading Evangelicals. But first, I had to read everything I could find about how readers read and what happens when they do.


I wrote...

Reading Evangelicals: How Christian Fiction Shaped a Culture and a Faith

By Daniel Silliman,

Book cover of Reading Evangelicals: How Christian Fiction Shaped a Culture and a Faith

What is my book about?

The history of American evangelicalism told through five mega-bestselling novels, the people who sold them, and the readers who had mixed feelings. There is so much Christian fiction and it is read by so many people—millions and millions. What my book proposes is…maybe that’s important? In the history of bestselling evangelical fiction, we can see the hopes, fears, and imagination of American evangelicals. We can see the core question that evangelicals ask themselves and the conversation that grows out of the diverse and sometimes contradictory answers. And then, by paying attention to how and where those books are sold, we can understand how the “imagined community” is held together.

Above All Earthly Pow'rs

By David F. Wells,

Book cover of Above All Earthly Pow'rs: Christ in a Postmodern World

This is one of the best critiques of our postmodern culture that you can find from a writer who can make an analysis from both a theological and historical perspective. He also gives an analysis of the evangelical church and how it has been captured by that culture. David Wells points out that there is a conflict within the church today between the plague of postmodernism and the Christian gospel. We must get this sorted out, and this book not only helped me do that, but helped me guide others in accomplishing that goal. So relevant and valuable was the information in this book, I simply could not put it down until I had read it cover to cover.


Who am I?

When writing about sexuality it is important to me to write about true intimacy. Especially for those who have broken their wedding vows and for those who have been betrayed, who still long for real intimacy with spiritual and sexual maturity. My book, False Intimacy: Understanding the Struggle of Sexual Addiction (1992), was the first Christian book published on the subject of sexual addiction. I have for over thirty years counseled 1000s of sexually broken people from all across the U.S. who came to see me for a week of intensive counseling. I have taught on the subject of sexuality in all fifty states as well as over twenty foreign countries. No subject is more important to our spiritual maturity and sexual maturity.


I wrote...

Undefiled: Redemption from Sexual Sin, Restoration for Broken Relationships

By Harry Schaumburg,

Book cover of Undefiled: Redemption from Sexual Sin, Restoration for Broken Relationships

What is my book about?

We are living the chaos of cybersex, impersonal sex, adultery, prostitution, pornography, incest, gender confusion, sexual dysfunction, and sexual dissatisfaction in marriage. Undefiled offers readers an opportunity to find spiritual, relational, and sexual maturity. Sexual impurity creates a cycle of destruction, that comes from a serious misunderstanding of our sexuality. Yet real change is possible, where there is sexual redemption with sexual and relational maturity.

When sexuality is practiced as our Creator designed it, we not only grow relationally and sexually but we draw ourselves closer to God. Spiritual, relational, and sexual maturity must be brought together for restoration after the damage brought by unfaithfulness. There is hope for real change and true intimacy is available. The sexually broken can be undefiled and find a new level of intimacy.

To Serve God and Wal-Mart

By Bethany Moreton,

Book cover of To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise

Having grown up in a southern evangelical family in the 1980s and ‘90s, I never understood why my parents, like other southerners, were such staunch supporters of Sam Walton and Wal-Mart, when the chain store's economic approach of buy low, sell low, eroded small-town life. Then I read Moreton's book and it all made sense.


Who am I?

I've always been fascinated by the ways religion reconciles contradiction. Both of my parents were public school teachers in the panhandle of Florida, and I now work at a public university in Texas, yet the culture in which I was raised, of white evangelicalism, supported economic policies of neoliberalism that defunded public life. My interest in American religion is motivated by the question of why we participate in systems that harm us. This is an economic question, but sufficient answers must address the power of religion to shape what we see as morally good and bad. These books all do that.


I wrote...

Religion Around Bono: Evangelical Enchantment and Neoliberal Capitalism

By Chad E. Seales,

Book cover of Religion Around Bono: Evangelical Enchantment and Neoliberal Capitalism

What is my book about?

My book details how evangelical Protestantism was diffused into global popular culture in such a powerful way that it shaped how those in Europe and America came to understand the continent of Africa as always in need of their help. The book tells a story of the most significant promoter of cultural evangelicalism after the Cold War: U2's Bono. As Billy Graham was to the U.S. political policies of the 1970s and '80s, Bono was to American-led neoliberal policies of corporate intervention in Africa after the 1990s. The book contends that to understand how neoliberalism continues to frame the politics of the good, you must understand the power of evangelicalism to make us feel good.

The Millennial Maze

By Stanley J. Grenz,

Book cover of The Millennial Maze

The issue of eschatology, and the so-called “millennium” in particular, are the subject of multiple, often wacky, interpretations. Stanley Grenz’s The Millennial Maze cuts through the nonsense. His is one of the best comparative analyses by a single author of the major millennial views. He looks at the history of millennial thought and the development of postmillennialism, historic and dispensational premillennialism, and amillennialism, which he characterizes as, respectively, essentially optimistic, pessimistic, and realistic outlooks concerning eschatology. His approach is irenic, and he notes the virtues that each view brings toward our overall view of eschatology. In short, Grenz’s book is a good and balanced introduction to the subject.


Who am I?

I am the director of Equipping Church Leaders-East Africa. East African church leaders (and most Christians everywhere) are interested in eschatology (the study of the “last things”). I have been fascinated by this subject for decades, particularly since I attended a church that took eschatology seriously. After a time, however, I realized that something was amiss in that pastor’s understanding of eschatology. That motivated me to study eschatology on my own and begin compiling an extensive library on the subject. While pursuing my M.Div. at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, I wrote two major papers on the subject and now have written the most comprehensive synthesis on biblical eschatology currently available.


I wrote...

Biblical Eschatology, Second Edition

By Jonathan Menn,

Book cover of Biblical Eschatology, Second Edition

What is my book about?

Biblical Eschatology, 2nd ed. provides what is not found in any other single volume on eschatology: it analyzes all major eschatological passages (including the Olivet Discourse and the book of Revelation), issues (including the second coming of Christ, the millennium, the rapture, and Antichrist), and positions (including all the major views of the millennium) in a clear, but not superficial, way. The book concludes with a chapter showing how eschatology is relevant for our lives. Clarity and understanding are enhanced by multiple comparative tables and appendices. Subject and Scripture indexes are included. The book interacts with the best of Evangelical and Reformed scholarship. The extensive bibliography provides an excellent source for the reader's further study.

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