Professor Hankins on Fundamentalist U

I’m tickled pink this morning to read a new review of Fundamentalist U from a scholar I have long admired. Barry Hankins of Baylor offered an insightful review today in the pages of Christianity feud

What did he think? As he explains,

Laats attempts to identify the distinct nature of non-denominational, fundamentalist-evangelical higher education in the 20th century. And he succeeds admirably. . . .

In explaining how this struggle [between fundamentalism and neo-evangelicalism] played out, Laats helps us better understand both Christian higher education and the historic relationship between fundamentalism and evangelicalism.

My favorite bit of all?

With fundamentalism subject to such a fluid range of definitions, controversies often centered on the question of authority. In other words, who gets to define fundamentalism for the college? Is it the board, the president, the faculty, or the students (certainly not, unless you ask them)? This was not shared governance but something akin to WrestleMania.

Professor Hankins explores the book’s treatment of issues such as creationism and racism in evangelical higher education and sends us off with a heartening conclusion:

Overall, Fundamentalist U is an exhaustively researched and well-written book, even when it dwells on episodes we might prefer to forget.

Leave a comment


  1. I read the review yesterday. It was a favorable review, and I appreciated how he broke down the different topics you write about. I hope the review helps sell a ton of books for you!

  2. Does the book answer the question of whether there is an essential difference between “fundamentalist” and “evangelical?” Reading Hankins, it sounds like the answer is close to “there is no essential difference” — just regional, cultural antagonisms that Hankins uses to quietly virtue-signal a bit to indicate Wheaton was or is less racist or not racist, compared to BJU. This is the type of distinction I’ve always found northern Evangelicals obsessed with defending to the point they can’t really think about the issue. It’s irresponsible in a historian, but I imagine the scope of the book provides an excuse. Even if you don’t mention Doc Hawk and other relatively recent events, it is quite the elephant in the room. Wheaton, by keeping homosexuality an acceptable bigotry, allows all the traditional hierarchies of hate and bigotry to be masked beneath “religious freedom” and “traditional morality.” I think we’re all quite aware of how this racket works now, and it says something that Hankins and CT in 2018 can filter their reality so carefully.


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