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A fascinating sequel to 2019's Australian Christian Book of the Year, which the judges described as "a seminal and epic contribution to Australian Christian history, thoroughly researched, deeply insightful and a pleasure to read."
The 'vital religion' generated by the Evangelical Revival of the Eighteenth Century and which did so much to shape the British Empire in general and the Australian colonies in particular is the subject of The Fountain of Public Prosperity, the first volume of this revisionist study of Australian history. The three major themes of the current volume - the transition of the evangelical movement in the twentieth century from spiritual empire to an antipodean Christendom; the capacity of evangelicals to attend to the conscience and consciousness of the Australian soul; and the interaction of evangelical Christianity with secularism - also invite fresh readings of the national history.
The extensive treatment of evangelical involvement in World Wars I and II and in the wars in Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan, constitutes one of the most comprehensive treatments yet written of evangelicals and of war. Harsh reality forged major changes in the evangelical movement here understood as 'culturally adaptive biblical experientialism'. Moving on from the quietism of pietism and the optimism of postmillennialism, evangelicals forged a sturdier apologetic enabling them to defend the Gospel intellectually. They also embraced, with the help of Alan Walker and Billy Graham, an energetic evangelism more calculated to address global fears and personal anxieties. By the beginning of the 21st century, the movement had trifurcated into conservative, progressive and Pentecostal branches. But each had learned the necessity of bringing a prophetic ministry to bear on social issues in order to achieve greater engagement with the wider society.
Evangelical Christianity, a reformist movement seeking to make individuals and society 'more Christian', seized opportunities to resist rampant secularisation. There was the spiritual opportunity in 1959 with the phenomenally successful Billy Graham crusades; the cultural opportunity in the 1970s, unleashed by Gough Whitlam's 'new nationalism' when the 'Jesus people' sought to forge a way for the faith outside the mainstream churches; the political opportunity of the first decade of the 21st century when prime ministers on both sides of the political divide supported the interdependence of church and state in the delivery of social welfare and the definition of national values.
This ambitious study seeks to recognise the influence of 'the public opening up of the word of Christ to the world' and 'to tell the truth about his influence' on Australia's social and cultural history. At the beginning of the 21st century, in spite of secularism's success in marginalising faith, evangelical Christianity continues to be as much a public ethic as a personal credo.
The previous volume in this series, The Fountain of Public Prosperity: Evangelical Christians in Australian History 1740-1914 by Stuart Piggin and Robert Linder is the 2019 Australian Christian Book of the Year.