Book Review: After Evangelicalism by David P. Gushee

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Mark I. Pinsky, The New York Journal of Books
“Gushee writes in deft, graceful, accessible, and sometimes clever prose.”

Robert Conrwall, Pondering On A Faith Journey
“Perhaps with voices like his, as he outlines his vision in After Evangelicalism, we might find a path toward a new way of being Christian that isn’t defined by partisan politics, racism, sexism, and other isms. Instead, we will find a way forward that truly reflects the way of Jesus.”

Kristen Kobes Du Mez, Calvin University
“Drawing on his own spiritual journey, David Gushee provides an incisive critique of American evangelicalism [and] offers a succinct yet deeply informed guide for post-evangelicals seeking to pursue Christ-honoring lives.”

The Rundown

Evangelicalism hasn’t lived up to its calling in the western mind. With Bebbington’s definition of evangelicalism, we might surmise, in a vacuum of history, that biblicism, crucicentrism, conversionism, and activism are attributes within this Christian framework worth emulating and promoting. But in western history evangelicalism has shown us a faith that has been sapped of its theological orthodoxy and an orthopraxis so corrupt that one must wonder if it is Christian at all.

Distrust of higher education has been an enduring feature of fundamentalism and evangelicalism.

David P. Gushee

The author makes mention of the difference between biblical ethics and American evangelicalism, albeit quite late into the book, making the reader believe that evangelicalism is one and the same across the board with other ethnic groups. He considers the fact that evangelicals of different colors and stripes view their purpose within their respective communities differently than the hyper-individualistic, conservative-centric, hyper-capitalistic, and nationalistic faith of American evangelicals. 

Understanding just how intellectually limited certain evangelical circles have become throughout history it can seem to the reader that evangelicals have been without a thoughtful champion for decades. Again, if the metric and measures by which we dictate intellect and wisdom are white, European, male, and Calvinist, then, by God, not many are intelligent or wise, to begin with. The majority of the planet would fall under the discarded category of disillusionment and heresy with this kind of metric.

But thankfully evangelical circles are waking up to the dangers of biblical literalism, fundamentalism, racism, ethnocentric Christianity, and other horrors caused by an erroneous understanding of Christ, scripture, and faith. 

This re-enlightenment within Christian circles is seen or at least understood nowadays as deconstruction or reconstruction. Where one ends up after this series of inquiries and discoveries is more revealing of their intent in the effort but that it is necessary is out of the question. 

Deconstructing bad Christianity is unmistakenly necessary for a believers sanity and spiritual maturation. To think otherwise is to find pleasure in ignorance and comfort in a cultic environment that is hostile to knowledge and the truth.

What is missing from this analysis of evangelicalism is the robust history of evangelicalism outside of the White American religious paradigm. Seldom do writers reflect on the history of black evangelicals, Latin American evangelicals, or Coptic Christians who have stretched years ahead of White American evangelicalism in doctrinal purity and social reform. Outside of this nuanced understanding of global evangelicalism we’re often left with the idea that evangelicals subsist primarily and exclusively of white Americans. And because this idea dominates our headspace we are taught to believe and accept that anything produced or taught by white evangelical leaders is orthodox, standard, conventional, and that anything other than this must be a deviation from the accepted norm, namely, anything non-white, anglophonic, or male, is heresy. 

If we forgo deconstructing colonial, imperial, American, white, racist, individualist, capitalist, and West-minded Christianity, we will be left with a broken faith, run by corrupt power-hungry moguls, worshipping buildings and institutions, creating and reproducing spawns of satan who settle in the pulpit to demonize women, minorities, and groups most vulnerable to systemic injustices pushed by the church. 

This kind of Christianity promotes and defends spiritual and physical oppression.

This is not Christianity, it is, as a another author once called it, “White American Folk Religion.” Johnathan Walton

Destroy the rotten structure and rebuild on the person of Jesus Christ. After Evangelicalism looks beautiful if the end goal is Jesus. It does, however, look rather bleak for the spiritual pilgrim if the goal of deconstruction is deliverance but their end result is apostasy.

Again, the author’s intent is on the person of Jesus Christ. Be it within or without evangelicalism.

This book is reads like a barbed wired Tylenol American evangelicals need to swallow to break the fever and sickness they’re experiencing which was induced by their bedding racism, power, and control for the last one hundred or so years.


  1. Evangelicalism: Cutting Loose from an Invented Community
  2. Scripture: From Inerrancy to the Church’s Book
  3. Resources: Hearing God’s Voice beyond Scripture
  4. God: In Dialogue with the Story of Israel
  5. Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet, Lynched God-Man, Risen Lord
  6. Church: Finding Christ’s People
  7. Sex: From Sexual Purity to Convenant Realism
  8. Politics: Starting Over after White Evangelicalism’s Embrace of Trumpism
  9. Race: Unveiling and Ending White-Supremacist Christianity

RSDB (Read, Share, Dismiss, or Burn) Verdict:

Read and share. But use discernment when sharing it. 

A book like this, written by someone who has traversed the world of faith, religion, and ethics for well over thirty years, studying these avenues of thought and expressions, feeling his way through the multifaceted questions and answers of life and coming out with a particular conclusion can lead the neophyte wanderer to disastrous implications about their own journey.

What I mean is that Dr. Gushee has struggled and wrestled with ideas for decades and whoever tackles this book ought to have some maturity on not only the content they’re consuming from this book but also an analytical mind to discern whether or not to pursue the same avenues of belief. 

Young evangelicals may presume that After Evangelicalism is placed here to lead them out of faith altogether. This isn’t Dr. Gushee’s intent at all. But the problem is that certain evangelicals only know evangelicalism and to abandon it or perhaps grow out of it is to grow into something else where faith, belief, or religious piety is not needed nor esteemed. 

This is a precarious conclusion on the part of the unstable believer who relies heavily on tradition and denominational identity more than they do on the person of Christ. 

I wouldn’t say it takes a post-grad student to read this book and come away from it with hope. Hope is set in the faith of the individual, not necessarily in their traditional identity. But it does take courage and fortitude to see past evangelicalism, past the last one hundred or so years of culturally Americanized Christianity, to find Christ in a burning bush.

If a reader takes this book on and gets stuck with the grit, grime, and sins of this new tradition we call evangelicalism, then perhaps they’re better off reading another book that better explains true Christianity apart from Western thought. Refer them to materials of Christianity in Ethiopia, India, China, and beyond. Allow them to see the robust advent of a faith that swept the world over not through political or academic power but with monastic outreach missions and selflessness. 

Allow them to read how Christ operated and still operates in lesser known fields, farms, and camps. How Christ is alive and well outside of the American spiritual limelight. And after the reader discovers the infinite reach of Christ there, then, perhaps, they’ll be better prepared to understand that Christ is bigger than evangelicalism. Especially, White American Evangelicalism.

So read it. And take caution on who you share it with. Start someone off with Gentle and Lowly by Dane C. Ortlund.

Dr. David P. Gushee (PhD, Union Theological Seminary, New York) is Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University, and Chair of Christian Social Ethics Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam/IBTS.

Dr. Gushee is the elected Past-President of both the American Academy of Religion and Society of Christian Ethics, signaling his role as one of the world’s leading Christian ethicists. He is the author, co-author, editor, or co-editor of 25 books and approximately 175 book chapters, journal articles, and reviews. His most recognized works include Righteous Gentiles of the HolocaustKingdom EthicsThe Sacredness of Human Life, and Changing Our Mind. His book, After Evangelicalism, charts a theological and ethical course for post-evangelical Christians, a course he more personally relates in his memoir, Still Christian. (Website)

“The fear of barbarians is what risks making us barbarians.”

Tzvetan Todorov

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