I finished Rob Warner's book last night and agree with the reviewers that it is a very significant study of the past 25 years or so of the movement that I've been a member of all my Christian life.
I don't think it has the same charm and impact as Pete Ward's Growing Up Evangelical and that's partly due to the - in my view - massive overuse of sociological jargon. Some pages contain a plethora of arcane terms that make reading heavy going at times.
That aside, the analysis is fascinating and - again in my view - spot on. I found his description and comparison of the various bases of faith written over the past 20 years really interesting.
His overall conclusion that evangelicalism might be splitting (bifurcating is the term he uses) into two camps - one more entrepreneurial and activist, the other increasingly theologically conservative - seems right. You only have to think about what's happened to Word Alive - until last year part of Spring Harvest and but this year a stand alone event sponsored by the two most conservative groupings in evangelicalism (UCCF and New Frontiers). The split with Spring Harvest was, as I understand it, entirely for doctrinal reasons - SH is too liberal for some in the UCCF/Oak Hill/Evangelicals Now stable.
I think this is a pity because one of Spring Harvest's strengths over the years has been its diversity. Reading between the lines of Rob's book, I wonder if SH's days are numbered and with its passing whether evangelicalism will fragment into increasingly narrowly defined groups that have little contact with each other and even less dialogue.
I think that will spell a significant defeat for us and possibly lead to a decline in evangelical numbers - as Rob suggests, we might only have bucked the trend in general church decline for a short while because of the energy of the some of the participants; if we begin to fall out over increasingly arcane points of doctrine, we only have ourselves to blame if our churches empty in the coming years.
On a more positive I picked up the new Nick Cave album today - DiG!!! Lazarus Dig!!! (he insists on all the exclamation marks) - and extremely fine it is too. He really has no business producing his finest work now he's in his fifties - but I'm jolly pleased he is. And I got Toumani Diabate's The Mande Variations. He is described as the world's greatest kora player - the multi-stringed instrument of Mali (where Diabate comes from). It's sublime and beautiful, eight pieces of virtuoso playing and gorgeous tunes. What more could a boy want?!