Lucas: An Evangelical History Review, no.4, September 1988.
The problem of the role of Evangelicalism in history is naturally interesting to members of the Evangelical History Association. It is also a vital question in Australian, and indeed 'modern1, history generally, however, and one that must be dealt with early by such organisations, like the EHA, which have interests in both history and religion. The result of evangelicals not having an interest in their own history has, to date, been the creation of an image of Australian evangelicalism as the handmaiden of Orange Lodge fanaticism and anti-intellectual obscurantism. While, as O'Farrell and others pointed out in 1980, it is still early days yet in the writing of Australian religious history, there is already developing a literature consistent in its negative interpretation of the historical contribution of evangelicalism. Manning Clark is chief among this order, but he is followed by Serle in his seminal From Deserts Prophets Come, and others too varied to name.
A major approach to some of these problems has been underway for some time now, under the direction of EHA President, Dr. Stuart Piggin. Marshalling scholarship from all over Australia, the project aims at the writing of a History of Evangelicalism in Australia, and in the course of its development has thrown up a variety of interesting themes and perspectives. Some of these will be discussed in the seminar on this topic to be held at the EHA Conference, to be held in conjunction with the September ANZ ATS/ ANZTS Conference in Canberra. In preparation for that Conference, and to raise the level of consciousness about the project, we publish herein what is essentially a colloquiam raising the key elements for discussion. It is interesting enough to stand on its own, but hopefully it will also inspire contributions and thought amongst the readership of Lucas.
Towards the same ends have been some other recent developments in the EHA. Something of the promise of evangelical history could be glimpsed recently at an excellent paper given by Janet West at Moore College. The degree of interest elicited from the difficult subject of ex-College Principal Davies, not to mention the tact with which it was handled, were key elements of a virtuoso performance. With the Melbourne group of EHA members organising towards a paper reading later this year, the September meeting working towards the generation of an historical synthesis of evangelical experience, and networks of cooperation being built up amongst correspondents international and domestic, such developments generate a feeling of depth in evangelical historical endeavour. With union of purpose, it is only a matter of time before such movements begin to produce works of lasting scholarly and creative value. The very energy and creativity exhibited in such works are, in themselves, sufficient answers to charges of obscurantism as a central part of evangelicalism. Read Think. Pray. Act. Such is the praxis of a lively faith.
© Southern Cross College and the Evangelical History Association of