"Evangelical Disenchantment" by David Hempton

Evangelical Disenchantment Nine Portraits of Faith and Doubt David Hempton

Publication date:
13 Aug 2013
Yale University Press
246 pages: 235 x 156mm
9 b-w illus.
Sales territories:

Insightful portraits of nine public figures who became enchanted and then disenchanted with evangelical religion

In this engaging and at times heartbreaking book, David Hempton looks at evangelicalism through the lens of well-known individuals who once embraced the evangelical tradition, but later repudiated it. The author recounts the faith journeys of nine creative artists, social reformers, and public intellectuals of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including such diverse figures as George Eliot, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Vincent van Gogh, and James Baldwin. Within their highly individual stories, Hempton finds not only clues to the development of these particular creative men and women but also myriad insights into the strengths and weaknesses of one of the fastest growing religious traditions in the modern world.

Allowing his subjects to express themselves in their own voices—through letters, essays, speeches, novels, apologias, paintings—Hempton seeks to understand the factors at work in the shaping of their religious beliefs, and how their negotiations of faith informed their public and private lives. The nine were great public communicators, but in private often felt deep uncertainties. Hempton’s moving portraits highlight common themes among the experiences of these disillusioned evangelicals while also revealing fresh insights into the evangelical movement and its relations to the wider culture. 

Featuring portraits of:

·        George Eliot

·        Frances W. Newman

·        Theodore Dwight Weld

·        Sarah Grimké

·        Elizabeth Cady Stanton

·        Frances Willard

·        Vincent van Gogh

·        Edmund Gosse

·        James Baldwin

David Hempton is Alonzo L. McDonald Family Professor of Evangelical Theological Studies and John Lord O’Brian Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School. He is also Dean of Harvard Divinity School. He lives in Bedford, MA.

"A beautifully written and artfully constructed book that draws intriguing conclusions about the nature of evangelical Protestantism."—Mark Noll, University of Notre Dame

“This book charts new territory by close examination of a series of case studies of people previously well-known but not previously compared. Hempton succeeds wonderfully well in producing compelling mini-biographies.”—Thomas Kidd, author of The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America

“Hempton tells these stories with excellent skill, insight, and fair-mindedness. These accounts of loss of faith of prominent figures illuminate not only their personal struggles but also some fascinating relationships between evangelicalism and mainstream public culture, especially in Great Britain and the United States.”—George Marsden, author of Fundamentalism and American Culture