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THE GROWTH OF CONSERVATIVE EVANGELICAL RELIGION
By Irving Hexham
(This article appeared in W.E. Hewitt, ed.,The Sociology
of Religion: A Canadian Focus,
Toronto, Buttterworth, 1993)
Theologically Conservative Churches and inter-denominational para-church organizations, sometimes called Fundamentalists, "Born Again Christians," or even Charismatics, prefer the name Evangelicals. Therefore, in this chapter, will use the generic term Evangelical to encompass a wide range of denominational and inter-denominational groups that share a common core theology, basic Christian worldview, and similar experiential reality.
Since the mid-1970's Evangelical groups have regularly been in the news first as a result of various celebrities, such as Charles Colson and Bob Dylan, claiming to be "born again," and later through the success and excesses of American television evangelists (Newsweek, 25 October 1976; The Wall Street Journal, 19 May 1978; New Internationalist, August, 1990). It comes as a surprise, therefore, to discover there is no serious book written by a historian, sociologist, theologian, or other scholar that gives an overview of Evangelical Christianity in Canada.
The only book which makes an attempt is Judith Haiven's highly critical Faith, Hope, No Charity: An Inside Look At the Born Again Movement in Canada and the United States (1984). The tone of the book is set by Charles Tempelton in his "Introduction" when he says: "I have had considerable experience with evangelists...Most of them were ignorant men with narrow minds and circumscribed interests..These are potentially dangerous men...[because] most evangelicals no longer take Jesus seriously" (p. 10).
Following these highly prejudicial statements the author suggests that "intolerance" characterizes Evangelical Christianity (p. 16) which can be described as "myopic, intolerant, right-wing, fascist, even anti-Semitic..."(p. 22). Supporting such a stinging incitement are numerous books, press, radio and television reports that regularly portray Evangelical Christianity in a highly negative light. (Cf. Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, 1984; James Barr, 1977).
It comes as a surprise, therefore, to discover there is another side to the story. Many scholarly books give sympathetic accounts of Evangelical Christianity (Cf. Marsden, 1980; Bebbington, 1989; Bruce, 1984). Yet in Canada only the negative side of the Evangelical tradition gets attention. This chapter attempts to correct the imbalance in Canadian coverage of Evangelical Christianity by presenting an overview of Evangelicals as they see themselves.
Who Are Evangelicals?
Considerable confusion exists about who Conservative, Evangelical, or "born-again," Christians, really are and what they believe. The press, on radio and television, often refer to Evangelicals "as being more a cult than a religion" (Haiven 1984:22). In sociological terms Evangelicals are sectarian because they insist on a profession of faith, conversion, or a "living relationship with Jesus Christ the Lord" as the basis for full Church membership.
But, here readers need to be careful by not confusing the sociological and theological use of the term "sect." Since Weber and Troelsch the term "sect" has signified any religious group that is exclusive in its membership. In theology sect has a different meaning and implies deviation from Christian orthodoxy. Evangelical Christians are proud that they uphold theological orthodoxy and reject the liberal or modernist theological views that triumphed in academic theology during the nineteenth century. Evangelicals are found in a wide spectrum of Protestant Churches including many mainline denominations, such as the Anglicans, Presbyterians and United Church of Canada, which are dominated by liberal theology.
In mainline churches they usually form a vocal minority that protests such theological fads as Death of God Theology, the replacement of personal faith by social commitments and various forms of modern spirituality which negate traditional Christian beliefs. Outside of Canada the one mainline exception is the Church of England where the majority of ministers, including Archbishop George Carey, are Evangelicals. In Canada most Evangelicals are found in Baptist and Pentecostal type churches.
Evangelicals in Canada
Reginald Bibby estimates that "Conservative Protestant groups currently form about 6% of the nation..." (Bibby 1887:27). Other writers give a slightly higher figure of 7% (Motz 1990:43). Using Church membership figures as the basis for estimating the percentage of Evangelicals in Canada it appears that about 5% of Canadians belong to Evangelical denominations (Motz 1990:65; Jacquet and Jones 1991) while about 3% of mainline church members are Evangelicals. Therefore, it seems that around 8% of Canadians identify as Evangelicals (Motz 1990:66) compared with 22% to 44% of Americans (Gallup and Castelli 1989:93).
It is tempting for politicians and social scientists to dismiss such a small group of people as irrelevant. But, a comparative perspective shows that to do so would be a big mistake. In America over 68% of the population claim to be church members (Gallup and Castelli 1989:16) but, in Canada only 9.5% d (Bibby 1987:15). Canada is, therefore, more like Britain where only 8% of the population are associated with any church (Brierley 1991:204).
When we turn from membership to actual attendance and operationalizable commitment a completely different picture emerges. Motz (1990:65), estimates that on a normal Sunday 810,000 Canadians attend mainline churches. At the same time another 1,016,000 Canadians attend churches belonging to Evangelical denominations. This figure is supported, in a very imprecise way, by the fact that during an inter-faith week of prayer in 1992, involving all Calgary churches, Evangelical denominations gave out about 1/3 more advertising leaflets than those belonging to mainline Protestant denominations.
Another indicator of Evangelical vitality and real influence comes from financial statistics. Compare the per capita giving for the following denominations:
Mainline Denominations $ 283.04 Evangelical Denominations United Church of Canada: Associated Gospel Churches: $ 993.86 Anglicans: $ 299.92 Baptist Union of Western Canada: $1,100.57 Presbyterians: $ 350 Christian and Missionary Alliance: $1,891.22 (Source: Jacquet and Jones, 1992:278-279).
We must also recognize that even between the mainline denominations giving increases in proportion to the number of Evangelical congregations within the denomination. To put these figures in perspective it comes as a shock to anyone used to thinking of the Anglicans as a major religious community in Canada to realize that in 1991 one large Baptist Church in a Western Canadian city employing five clergy had a $105 more in its annual budget than the entire Anglican Diocese consisting of 92 clergy and over 100 congregations.
Anyone doubting these figures has simply to check the annual reports of their local churches to discover the reality of religious commitment in Canada. Other measures of religious commitment, such as use of time, involvement in the community etc. also confirm that Evangelicals are far more committed than either mainline Protestants or Roman Catholics (Mackie and Brinkerhoff 1986).
It is clear that when Canadian religiosity is measured in terms of actual involvement Evangelicals represent the core religious group in Canadian society. Remove Evangelicals and a Christian presence would virtually disappear from Canadian life.
Evangelicals and Social Issues
Many mainline church members will strongly object to the statements just made and will argue that Evangelicals represent a narrow, ingrown, group emphasizing "spiritual things" at the expense of Christian charity. This argument is used by Haiven who says "born agains are mysteriously silent on love or charity...They were sceptical of and angered by mainline churches' aid to developing countries, their speaking out on Canadian social issues, and; their allying their church and their membership with popular struggles against oppressive regimes in, for example, South Africa..."(Haiven 1984:18). Therefore, secular critics and many mainline Christians argue, mainline denominations make a far greater social contribution to Canadian society than Evangelicals.
Plausible as this argument seems the facts do not support it. One can find some people calling themselves Evangelicals who make little or no contribution to society. But, the evidence does not support such negative views. Evangelicals have a lively interest in world affairs and the plight of the poor both in Canada and overseas. They are also very involved in a wide range of social initiatives. Anyone who regularly reads either Evangelical denominational or the two national Evangelical interdenominational journals Christian Week and Faith Today will immediately see that Evangelicals have a great interest in social issues and actively support the poor and oppressed.
As a group Evangelicals strongly support foreign aid (Faith Today's regular column "World Relief and Canada," and Christian Week: "Farmer gives away a field of wheat," 26/9/1989:17; "MEDA becomes broker for LIC `debt swaps," 24/9/1991; and "Christians challenged by level of world need," 28/5/1991:1); are involved with child poverty and sexual abuse (Faith Today, Nov/Dec 1986; Christian Week, "Hurting people find church offering real help," 5/11/1991:1); support a multi-cultural society and seek acceptance for refugees and minority groups (Faith Today, July/August 1988; and Christian Week, "Racism out of vogue: practice continues," 29/8/1989:7); are deeply concerned about poverty in Canada (Faith Today, September/October 1991; Christian Week, "A drastic re-ordering of our national priorities," 4/2/1992:6); and unlike most Canadians they are acutely aware of the injustice done to native peoples (Faith Today, May/June 1987; Christian Week, "Native justice advocates see role for Christian churches," 2/12/1991:2); finally, they decidedly do not support apartheid or the South African Government (Faith Alive (Today), November, 1985: 27-30; Christian Week, "Glimmer of hope for apartheid's peaceful end," 20/3/1990:5), nor are they anti-semitic (Faith Today, November/December 1989; Christian Week, 10 October, 1989, Editorial, p. 6).
More significant in giving lie to claims that Evangelicals do not support charitable causes are the financial statistics issued by individual congregations. A comparison of data from churches belonging to mainline and Evangelical denominations shows that in general Evangelicals churches devote more of their budgets to charitable causes than mainline churches. Even allowing that most members of mainline churches make their charitable donations to secular rather than religious agencies the average charitable giving of Canadian taxpayers is only $215 per annum. This figure includes all money given to churches.
Thus, on the unlikely assumption that Evangelical donors give absolutely nothing to secular causes the amount they give to their churches, a proportion of which always goes to charity, indicates that, on average, Evangelicals give more to charity than members of mainline churches. Further, a complex network of social programs originate within the Evangelical community demonstrating their practical commitment to charity
Evangelical Social Programs
Most Germans happily pay church tax although very few actually go to church. When asked why so many people are willing to pay a percentage of their income to the churches the usual reply is that while personally they no longer attend church they recognize that the churches run many social welfare programs far better and for much less cost than similar government programs. Therefore, supporting the church actually saves taxes because if the government took over church activities there would be a dramatic rise in taxation (Source: interviews in Germany, 1991).
Regular articles in Evangelical publications such as Christian Week and Faith Today show that individual Evangelicals, congregations and denominations are all involved in a wide variety of social programs which benefit the entire community. A dramatic instance of such action is the free Christmas Day dinner offered by First Baptist Church in Calgary to anyone who requests it. Last year alone the church fed over 700 people and this is not the only example. Throughout Canada many other Evangelical churches offer free Christmas dinners to the needy. Nor, is feeding the needy at Christmas an isolated event.
The same church supports a free weekly dinner for poor children from the Victoria Park area of the city, various activities for pensioners, support groups for the unemployed, and a major outreach to street people that involves counselling and the provision of food and shelter. In addition the church runs such normal programs as a dynamic youth group, Bible studies and prayer groups, etc. in Canadian cities, run equally impressive programs. The Burnaby Christian Fellowship has among its many social programs one for people on probation plus a highly professional counselling service.
The Langley (B.C.) Vineyard Church runs a second-hand clothes shop and a work training program, which includes providing daycare, for women who are single parents. Evangelical churches also support inter-faith food banks and similar programs in addition to their own food programs, shelters for the homeless, like the Hobbit House in Vancouver, assist battered women by providing houses of refuge, run old peoples homes, camps for poor children and a host of other activities that usually go unnoticed (Cf. The Alberta Report, 2 March, p. 38-39).
In addition to clearly social programs that, contrary to the criticisms of Haiven, are open to all. Evangelical churches run a variety of specifically religious programs which have social implications. From weekly Sunday schools for children through youth groups; Vacation Bible Schools to summer camps; men's and women's fellowships to weekly Bible studies; churches provide inter-personal networks that have important social as well as religious functions. Attending a "Prayer Fellowship" for businessmen or a "Women Aglow" meeting can provide the participant observer with endless ammunition for ridicule.
It is very easy to criticise the language used, expectation that God hears prayer, and sometimes childlike trust in the Bible. If, however, the observer suspends judgement and, following anthropological practice, develops an empathy with the group a very different picture emerges.The seemingly sexist businessmen's group functions at least as well as many secular support groups intended to help men cope with their problems. Similarly, the prayer requests of Women Aglow meetings reveal real needs which could otherwise drive people to despair. Once a rapport develops between members of such groups they freely discuss acute marital and work problems, positive suggestions are made and, very often, wisdom is gained in a uniquely sympathetic atmosphere where people feel they can be completely open because they trust one another.
What is more participation in Evangelical groups is free or simply involves the regular cost of coffee or a meal, usually breakfast in a medium priced hotel. Donations are, of course, sought but they are voluntary and add up to far less than the fees charged by secular organizations that provide similar services. Although usually totally ignored by social scientists, Christian support groups play an important and underestimated role in society. There are no national registers or similar sources providing a comprehensive overview of Evangelical social programs.
The nearest thing to a general source is the now outdated Christian Resources Handbook: A Directory of Christian Organizations in Canada (Scott, 1986). While this is helpful it only hints at the full range of Evangelical activity. The major problem is that while the Handbook concentrates on specific national and regional organizations overlooking local inter-church initiatives and individual congregations.
For example, it gives no indication of the thousands of day care programs run by Evangelical churches or half-way houses like the one set up by Toronto's York Minster Park Baptist Church. Therefore, lacking easily obtainable sources the researcher must visit denominational headquarters and local congregations to gather data from the annual reports of congregations and similar documents.
Evangelical Theology and Worldview
The worldview of Evangelical Christians is that of historic Christianity which today seems very strange to many people. Evangelicals begin by presupposing, although many also argue for the rationality of belief in, a self-existent, personal, God who is both the creator and sustainer of the universe (Cf. Plantinga 1967). They explain the human predicament, in a world where evil is a reality, in terms of a primordial human rebellion against God. Subsequently, God's love was revealed through His actions in history and incarnation in the person of Jesus who died on the cross to redeem humans from sin. The ultimate triumph of good over evil and evidence of the truth of the gospel is seen in the resurrection of Jesus. Accepting the original goodness of creation and God's continuing providence Evangelicals have no difficulty believing in the reality of miracles because the laws of nature originate with God. They also accept the Bible as "the Word of God" through which the Creator reveals Himself to His creatures.
The presence and continued activity of the Holy Spirit, the third person in the Godhead or Trinity, who also guides the Church today is also important in understanding Evangelical religion as a living faith (Cf. Orr 1948:32-36; Pinnock, 1985). Evangelicals claim to be orthodox in their acceptance of historic Christianity, by which they mean a faith based on the Bible, the Ecumenical Creeds and the Protestant Reformation (Carnell 1961; Griffith-Thomas, 1930).
The core beliefs of Evangelical Christians are thus identical with those of Roman Catholicism and traditional Anglicanism. This can be seen by comparing the Thirty-Nine Articles, found at the back of the Book of Common Prayer (See also Griffith-Thomas, 1930), with the doctrinal statement of any major Evangelical denomination, independent congregation or para-church organization. Evangelicals believe in the Trinity, the Incarnation of Christ, His bodily resurrection, the activity of the Holy Spirit, and Original Sin. Where both traditional Anglicans and Evangelicals separate themselves from Roman Catholicism is, like the Protestant Reformers, on the question of Salvation understood as Luther's Justification by Faith alone.
Among themselves Evangelicals divide over the mode of Baptism. Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists and other members of mainline groups favouring infant Baptism while Mennonites, most Pentecostals, Baptists, independent churches and para-church groups insist on adult or "believers baptism." Like all Protestant groups there are various forms of Church government among Evangelical denominations, although most North American churches tend towards some form of congregationalism.
The expression "born again" is used among Evangelicals to refer to the conversion process by which non-believers become Christians. Popularized in the 1950's by Billy Graham (Graham, 1955:133) and later in the 1970's by Charles Colson (Colson, 1977), it is often regarded as a mark of Evangelical oddity. Yet Jesus first used the term (John 3.3) which became a favourite theme of many great preachers including John Wesley and Charles Spurgeon (Toon 1987).
Probably the best short introduction to Evangelical religion in John Stott's Basic Christianity (1958). A short, but valuable systematic presentation of Evangelical theology, is T.C. Hammond's 'In Understanding Be Men' (1936) while Valiant for the Truth (Fuller, 1961) provides an excellent introduction to the way Evangelicals see the historic Christian tradition. John Stott's Issues Facing Christians Today (1984), Gerald Vanddezande's Christians in the Crisis (1983) and Brian Stiller's Critical Options for Evangelicals (1992) give an overview of Evangelical responses to social issues.
Evangelicals, Scholarship and the Arts
To many people acceptance of the Evangelical worldview and theology sound like intellectual and artistic suicide. Certainly the belief that no intelligent person can be an Evangelical is propagated by the media, secular and theological critics. Such a view completely fails to understand the dynamics of Evangelical religion and does a grave miss-service to anyone attempting to understand its attraction. Since the 1960's there has been a renaissance of Evangelical scholarship, especially among philosophers, as the journal Faith and Philosophy amply demonstrates.
Well recognized scholars like Alvin Plantinga (Philosophy), Nathan Hatch (History), James Davidson Hunter (Sociology), Donald Guthrie (New Testament Studies), G.C. Berkouwer (Theology), Bob Goudzwaard (Economics), Paul Marshal (Politics) Richard Bube (Engineering), Elaine Storkey (Feminism), Elaine Botha (Philosophy of Science), and John Polkinghorne (Physics) all identify with Evangelicals.
Canadian Evangelical scholars include Larry Hurtado and Richard Longnecker (New Testament) R.K. Harrision and the late Peter Craigie (Old Testament) J.I. Packer and Clark Pinnock (Theology), Phillip Wiebe and Henk Hart (Philosophy), David Jeffery (English), John Toewes and Ian Rennie (History), Walter Thorson (Physics), Peter Krüger (Chemistry) and many more. Rudy Wiebe and Janette Oke (Literature), Margaret Avison (Poetry), Rex Deverell and Bruce Stacey (Playwrights), John Innis (Acting), Peter and Patricia Gerretsen (Film-making), Wayne Eastcott (Print-making) Tim Denbok (Painting), are only a few successful Canadian artists (Cf. Faith Today, November/December, 1988). The Rosebud School of the Arts (Alberta Report 23/12/1991) in Drumheller, Brookstone Productions in Toronto, and the Pacific Theatre, Vancouver, are just a few of many Evangelical initiatives in theatre.
Canadian Evangelical benefit from the Mennonite and German tradition of classical music. But, younger rock groups, like Vancouver based Rise Up, have not attained the status of American Evangelical groups like the internationally famous Petra and the heavy metal Stripper. Nevertheless, the Canadian contribution to large, and increasingly mature, Christian music market is growing. >In education Evangelicals support Christian schools across the nation. Some of these, particulary those started by Dutch Christians, maintain a very high academic standard, others are embarrassingly poor.
The same fluctuation in academic standards is found in the many Bible Colleges across Canada. Some like Ontario Bible College are excellent, others are narrow and parochial. Evangelical liberal arts colleges, including the King's College, Edmonton, Trinity Western University, Langley, B.C., Providence College, Manitoba, and Redeemer College, Ancaster, generally promote undergraduate education of a high calibre. The flagships Canadian Evangelical Educational institutions are Regent College, Vancouver, a first class graduate school of theology that emphasises the laity, the Institute for Christian Scholarship (ICS), Toronto, which offers graduate education in philosophy, and Ontario Theological Seminary (OTS). What makes Regent College and the ICS particularly interesting is that both have produced a significant number of academics who have gone on to teach in secular institutions, while OTS is the largest seminary in Canada.
Their global impact and the ways in which contact with other cultures impact Canadian society through Christians is another important feature of Canadian Evangelical religion. Evangelical organizations, like the Mennonite Economic Development Agency (MEDA), World Vision, Youth With A Mission, and a host of smaller mission and development agencies bring a Canadian presence to many parts of the world. In turn Canadians who serve overseas with such organizations return to Canada with new perspectives and cultural understanding. In addition various action groups like the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Citizens for Public Justice, and MEDA express evangelical social and political concerns while the Canadian Scientific Affiliation seeks to bring together Christians working in the sciences.
Are Evangelical Churches Growing?
Various American writers, such as George Gallop and Dean Kelly, claim that Conservative evangelical churches are more successful than mainline churches in attracting and maintaining new members. In Canada, Reg Bibby has disputed these claims arguing that "it has never been demonstrated that Conservatives have actually been successful in reaching unaffiliated or inactive Americans..." (Bibby, 1987: 27).
He says "Some theologically conservative Protestant groups, such as the Pentecostals, the Christian and Missionary Alliance and the Salvation Army, have grown faster than the population during this century. Others, however, including the Baptists and Mennonites, have not..." (p. 27) To back up this claim Bibby cites his and Merlin Brinkerhof's Calgary study which seemed to show that "for all their efforts, 70% of the new additions come from other evangelical churches...Another 20% were the children of evangelicals. Only about 10% of the new members had come from outside the evangelical community..."(Bibby, 1987:29).
Before it is possible to conclude that Bibby is correct far more research needs doing. The basic weakness of his study lies in its methodology and definition of "new additions." For his primary data about Church growth Bibby relies on interviews with church leaders not the new members themselves. Therefore, a considerable margin of error may have crept into the data through the failure of his informants to really know their own congregations. Further, because he relies on a random sample of churches he missed some highly transient churches and para-church groups that are able to make but not retain converts.
Using the anthropological technique of in-depth life history interviews professor Karla Poewe has established that at least some transfer growth, correctly identified by Bibby, came from new converts made by churches like the Calgary Christian Centre and the para-church Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship International. The role of such institutions in making converts who then quickly move on to more stable churches needs careful investigation (Unpublished data).
The Global Impact of Canadian Evangelical Christianity
Many writers see the growth of Evangelical Christianity as an American plot fostered by groups like the CIA (Cf. Gifford, 1988). Reality is, however, far more complex. American evangelists influence Africans but African religion also influences North Americans (Poewe, 1988 & 1989). Similarly, Canadian Evangelicals have a considerable impact on other Christians world-wide. Internationally known evangelists like Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944), Leighton Ford, devotional writer Oswald J. Smith (1889-1986) all made significant contributions to the international evangelical movement.
Similarly, Canadian theologians W. H. Griffith-Thomas (1861-1924) A.B. Winchester (1858-1943), John McNicol (1869-1956) Dyson Hague (1857-1935) William Cavan (1830-1904) and T.T. Shields (1873-1955) made significant contributions to the formation and growth of the Fundamentalist Movement in its initial, more intellectual, stage. (Marsden, 1980; Rawlyk, 1990a:158-171). Institutionally Canadians founded the fast growing Christian and Missionary Alliance (A.B. Simpson, 1843-1919), and the Sudan Interior Mission (R.V. Bingham, 1872-1942), while the Charismatic/Pentecostal Movement received a major boost by the Latter Rain Movement that originated in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, in 1948 (Riss, 1987).
Today two uniquely Canadian educational institutions Regent College, Vancouver, and the Institute for Christian Studies, Toronto, draw a sizable proportion of their students from around the world. Even more significant is that fact that in Australia, Austria, Britain, New Zealand, South Africa, Singapore, the United States and several other countries there are now similar institutions explicitly modeled on the Canadian originals.
Other lesser known institutions, like Prairie Bible Institute in Three Hills, Alberta, and Briarcrest Bible College in Saskatchewan have an equally global impact on local churches and missionary activity. Both draw large numbers of students from overseas and send many Canadians to other nations as missionaries. The impact of these schools on American fundamentalism also should be recognized because many best selling American authors and preachers, like Don Richardson (1974), trained in Canada.
The academic climate in Canadian Universities does not encourage the study of Evangelical Christianity (Rawlyk, 1990:4-5). Religious Studies Departments, in particular, are stocked with disillusioned theologians, often from Fundamentalist homes, whose cynicism hides their failure to distinguish between their own social mobility, lower class or rural backgrounds, and the dynamics of religious belief. In this situation the Biblically based language used in conservative Christian circles is easy to ridicule. It is also very easy to doubt the sincerity of Evangelicals and take offence at what are genuine concerns about religious truth. Political prejudice also plays a role in this disparagement of Evangelicals.
Although conservative Christians are theologically orthodox, many are politically liberal and sometimes quite radical. But, they do not conform to academic fashion. Therefore, while being at least as critical of Canadian social policies as members of the New Democratic Party the same people were, in the past, far more critical of communist regimes. This anti-communism, based on the experience of fellow believers, often made them look reactionary. For example, a book like Richard Wurmbrand's Tortured for Christ (1967) sounded like pure fiction when it first appeared. Since the fall of East European Communism, we know that what once could be dismissed as "wild exaggerations" was really an understatement (Cf. Die Zeit, 11-13 März, 192, p. 11-12; 7-14 Februar, 1992, p. 4-5; Der Spiegel, 10, 1992, p. 28-37; 11, 1991, pp. 41-46). Therefore, academics ought to be careful in dismissing Evangelical views of world affairs too easily. Sometimes grassroots contacts are better informed than academic analysts.
In truth very little has been written about Evangelical Christianity in Canada and much of what has appeared is very biased. Solid sociological and anthropological studies that recognize the need for empathy and a thorough understanding of theological issues are needed. But, they must be done in a comparative perspective if Evangelicals are not to appear alien. Only when viewed within the historic Christian tradition and seen in relation to other Christian and religious groups in Canada can the significance, strengths and weaknesses of Canadian Evangelical Christianity be appreciated.
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