Fleming Rutledge is a preacher and teacher known throughout the US, Canada, and parts of the UK. She is the author of eight books, all from Eerdmans Publishing. Her most recent book, The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ, is the product of the work of a lifetime and is being described as a new classic on the subject.
One of the first women to be ordained to the priesthood of the Episcopal Church, she served for fourteen years on the clergy staff at Grace Church on Lower Broadway at Tenth Street, New York City.
Fleming and her husband celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2009 and have two daughters and two grandchildren. She is a native of Franklin, Virginia.
Discerning God's Work In The World: Tips From The Times For Preachers: Who is the best interpreter of American evangelicalism?
Saturday, April 05, 2008
Who is the best interpreter of American evangelicalism?An article that I find thrilling has just appeared in The New York Review of Books. It is an essay-review by the estimable Andrew Delbanco (author of The Death of Satan, a book I admire) of Garry Wills' new book Head and Heart: American Christianities. Wills' book is sure to find a large audience, but Delbanco is quite critical of it for reasons that should please liberal-evangelical Christian believers.
It is a fact that sometimes a sympathetic nonbeliever can give a better account of Christianity than a believer (Delbanco is a Sephardic Jew, probably nonobservant). The great Harvard historian Perry Miller, who was an unbeliever, was a dazzlingly insightful interpreter of the Puritans of New England (and a superlative literary stylist to boot). Miller did not get everything right, but he is a joy to read and he tapped into something enormously important about Christianity in early America. If you think you don't like the Puritans, read Miller (a good place to begin is Errand Into the Wilderness). Another non-practicing nonbeliever (well, sort of) is Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times, who defends evangelicals every chance he gets.
Delbanco's essay-review takes Garry Wills to task for being "animated...by anger" against anything he deems to be anti-Enlightenment. He thinks Wills has a narrow view of the Puritans and of the early evangelicals, so that his conclusions about subsequent developments are wrong too.
Here is an excerpt from the Delbanco essay:
[Wills' book] sometimes gives the impression that everything admirable in American history is the fruit of the Enlightenment, and everything coarse and stupid is the legacy of evangelical Christianity. Of course, as Wills well knows, evangelicals played a large role...in the antebellum abolitionist movement and in later reform movements...Evangelicals have taken part in social reform from the Great Awakening to the civil rights era....
The New York Review of Books charges a pretty penny for access to its online edition, so I don't know if this link will work for you or not. Delbanco's essay-review is in the April 3, 2008 issue.
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