I couldn’t quite maintain the standards of academic decorum when I saw that the newest issue of Books & Culture included my first piece for the best Christian cultural review around. The sports expression “Act like you’ve been there before” comes to mind…
(Both halves. I’m seeing too many instances of “Christ” Gehrz and Chris “Gerhz,” people.)
Seriously, to get to share the cover with the likes of Nicholas Wolterstorff, Alan Jacobs, David Bebbington, and Philip Jenkins is both thrilling and humbling. I also enjoyed that my name is right next to Lauren Winner’s — both because I enjoy her work so much and because when my mom saw a cropped picture of the cover that cut off Winner’s first name, she told me it looked like I had won some kind of prize. (“Winner • Chris Gehrz.”)
Fittingly, not only is my name right under that of John Schmalzbauer, but his article and mine are next-door neighbors.
Mine (I hasten to add) is an essay reviewing Reclaiming Pietism, Roger Olson and Christian Collins Winn’s fine attempt to retrieve that oft-overlooked evangelical tradition. Here’s my concluding thought:
Of course, one thing these and other hallmarks of the Pietist ethos have in common is that they “are always in danger of falling back into dead orthodoxy.” Perhaps this volume will help to rescue forgetful evangelicals from such a loss and such a fall, for as fragile and fleeting as the Pietist ethos can be, it endures because it is splendidly adaptable—as capable of reinvention in response to our own “crisis of piety” as in centuries before.
Then John’s review of Timothy Gloege’s Guaranteed Pure: The Moody Bible Institute, Business, and the Making of Modern Evangelicalism also tells the story of John’s great-grandfather, who grew up among a certain kind of Midwestern Lutherans: “Shaped by the dual inheritance of Lutheran confessionalism and Norwegian Pietism (especially the legacy of the revivalist Hans Nielsen Hauge), they followed a religion of both head and heart.” John concludes that for his great-grandfather and many other Scandinavian immigrants, “Pietism primed the pump,” as they “traded the structures and rituals of ‘churchly Christianity’ for the experiential religion of American revivalism.” This helps illustrate one of my few substantive critiques of Reclaiming Pietism: that Christian and Roger say far too little about Scandinavian and Scandinavian-American Pietism in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
(Coincidentally, the issue also includes an interview with Houghton College president Shirley Mullen, who, like John, wrote a kind endorsement of our book on Pietism and higher ed. In her conversation with Todd Ream, Shirley reflects on being one of the few women to preside over a Christian college, the “growing cultural puzzlement about the very notion of Christian liberal arts,” and Houghton’s Wesleyan identity. I love her closing statement: “Frankly, there is no other institution in our society so comprehensively and intentionally committed to the cultivation of human wholeness as the private residential college. That includes a commitment to service—for the sake of the church and the sake of the world.”)
Finally, I’m honored that my piece follows a review essay by Mark Noll, who’s only one of the most gifted historians and thoughtful Christian intellectuals around. Few others warrant their own spiritual-intellectual memoir, but I’m glad he was talked into writing From Every Tribe and Nation, another of those books I’m reading more slowly than I’d like. Noll seems to appear in every other issue of B&C; this one is a review essay on Christianity in 20th century Canada.
At least for now, my article on Pietism is behind the B&C firewall. But if you’re not already a subscriber, let this be the reason you become one.