Frank was brought up in a missionary family and is a graduate from Wheaton College. Today he has authored a number of books including Less than Conquerors: How Christians entered the 20th century. The book explores and criticizes the manner in which evangelicals in the United States sought to control their destinies and their circumstances for the better part of 19th and 20th centuries1.
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The book has examined the spiritual importance of these events mainly by comparing them to a biblical comprehension of the word of God. This review explores the tactics devised by evangelicals to regain their lost status and power2. From the start, the author pointed out some personal postulations regarding the history of evangelism.
The author seems to hate the theology or gospel of prosperity3. In addition, he abhorred seeing Christianity as a strong cultural force, and seemed to detest the industrialization aspect. Other criticism are spread throughout the book: Frank is against prosperity, hates people who make big businesses and terms naïve people who are optimistic about the history of the world, and enjoys suffering images of prophets.
He understood faithfulness as a form of mysticism and not obedience. The author indicated that Calvinism was a theology of desolation: spirituality was wraithlike.
One of the weakest points of Frank is that evangelicals presided over a service by simply outlining their history instead of preaching the word of God. In other words, they engaged in self glorification4. This may be true because writers have a third eye, but may not be the case for all evangelicals. He further explored the cultural, financial, as well as psychological aspects for the faith particularly of people he does not identify with; instead, he considers his personal understanding of the word of God as real.
At the beginning, the author indicates that these evangelicals were inspired by events that happened during the civil war; however, his analysis in most cases is not historical5.
Frank held the view that the American Civil War as well as its aftermath created divisions in the belief of people, but then, he wrote most of his work before civil war transpired. The author described the unending anxieties over industrialization and change that drove evangelicals to emphasize devoutness, yet he provided no explanation about other theologies that were not pietistic in this fast changing modern world.
In a simple way, Frank argued that extensive civilization was the leading cause of psychological disorders, yet he did not mention or even disrepute what other researches said on the same or why they held a different view. According to the author, during the last part of 19th and first part of 20th century, rapid social change was evident to a point that most evangelicals could not manage the new America successfully.
During this time, evangelicals showed anxiety towards the future6. In addition, they believed that crises facing them were caused by someone who was a devoted faithful. With this, the author explored two religious ideas –Victorious Life theology and Dispensationalist theology as they functioned as coping mechanisms for evangelicals7.
In conclusion, Frank has approached or analyzed evangelicals in both fronts-positive or constructive and negative. On the positives, Franks explored the contribution of evangelicals in stimulating current Christian faith. On the negative side, his arguments against particular theological views were shallow. Frank contrasted certain historical ideas with the evangelism. This means that the word of God is not understood via historical reason.
Frank, Douglas. Less Than Conquerors: How Evangelicals Entered the Twentieth Century. New York: Eerdmans Publishers, 1986.
1 Frank, Douglas, Less Than Conquerors: How Evangelicals Entered the Twentieth Century. (New York: Eerdmans Publishers, 1986), 4.
2 ibid, 2.
3 Ibid, 312.
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4 Ibid, 6-7.
5 Frank, Douglas, Less Than Conquerors: How Evangelicals Entered the Twentieth Century. (New York: Eerdmans Publishers, 1986), 10-14
6 Ibid, 4-5.
7 Ibid, 25-34.