Course offers a fresh look at modern evangelicalism

Posted: March 21, 2013

Course offers a fresh look at modern evangelicalism

By Kayla Malanka

Briercrest College and Seminary is offering students a fresh look at the history of modern evangelicalism in a modular course May 6-12, taught by Dr. Bruce Hindmarsh.

“It will be a course on history, theology, and spirituality,” Dustin Resch, dean of the Seminary and assistant professor of theology at Briercrest College and Seminary, said.

“We are located within the evangelical tradition, and so coming to learn about that tradition and what has shaped us–our strengths, our weakness–is the kind of thing that would be most appropriate to study,” he said.

Dr. Hindmarsh, James M. Houston professor of spiritual theology at Regent College, said that the class will go beyond looking at the history of evangelicalism in the 18th century.

“With modern evangelism people usually talk about its origins 300 years ago or so,” Hindmarsh said.

“But surprisingly this is a movement that didn’t just die out or come and go, but it endured. It was a missionary movement that spread to five continents and became a whole foundational way of being a Christian in the modern world.”

Hindmarsh said students will journey across three centuries and five continents with the aid of the newly published book, A Short History of Global Evangelicalism.

“We will read the book and talk about it,” he explained. “My lectures will be organized around flushing out the book, and that will help structure the course. It will be a chance to be update with some of the most recent scholarship on the history of evangelicalism.”

Students will also read through and discuss Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, The Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals and Jonathan Edwards: On Revival to gain a deeper understanding of how evangelism spread, who some of the key figure were, and how this affects Christian life and faith today.

“These are relatively short texts that allows students to get right into some primary reading,” he said. “It is some first-hand eyewitness history.”

Hindmarsh said the course is suitable for any student who is curious about their history and wants to learn more about the evangelical movement.

“Students don’t need to be intimated saying, ‘well I haven’t done very much history’ or ‘I don’t know very much about this,’” Hindmarsh said. “That is what makes the person a great candidate to take the course.”

Hindmarsh is familiar with helping people who are just beginning to study evangelicalism to feel confident in the information he presents.

“The course is designed to take people with no particular knowledge of history or evangelicalism to that place where they can really understand what is going on,” he stated. 

Students should expect to come away with a greater sense of story and biography of key leaders, as well as useful knowledge on the history of modern evangelicalism.

“I think it is always important in a graduate course that I try and help students learn not just to be descriptive or know the story, but also to know what they think about history and how to do good history,” he added.

“I want them to be able to start exercising judgment about how they can begin to discern what is authentic and healthy for the church.”

Ultimately, though, his goal is that students would find renewal.

“I really hope that students will catch a renewed sense of confidence in their faith, in the gospel and a keener sense of confidence in proclaiming the gospel,” Hindmarsh said.

“I hope they will come away encouraged and go, ‘it’s wonderful to see how gospel has shaped the whole movement’ and is changing lives.”

Hindmarsh said one of the benefits of taking the course at Briercrest is that the relatively small classes allow for questions and interaction.

“We have time to unpack case studies and to talk,” he said. “So if there are particular issues that students come with or questions they have there is usually time and flexibility to go there and look at those things.”

Hindmarsh said his passion in learning about the movement comes from a deep desire to know more about his own identity as a Christian, and to really understand evangelicalism and its history.

“My career as a scholar has been a matter of understanding more about what it means to be people who are of the gospel,” he remarked. “And not to lose my fire for evangelism and for spreading the gospel.”

Dr. Hindmarsh is a 25-year scholar of the history of modern evangelicalism, a doctorate graduate from Oxford, has had two major books published, and is the current president of the American Society of Church History..

“He is world class and it is a real honour to have him in our midst,” Resch said.

This course qualifies as a for-credit course, an audit course, or a back-to-Briercrest scholarship course.