Guaranteed Pure

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Guaranteed Pure

The Moody Bible Institute, Business, and the Making of Modern Evangelicalism

Timothy E. W. Gloege, Jim Manchester


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In the history of the Moody Bible Institute, foundedin 1886 by shoe salesman turned revivalist Dwight Lyman Moody, Timothy Gloegefinds an answer to why Christian ethics seem to go hand in hand with free-marketcapitalism. Taking the story back to the origins of modern fundamentalism as itarose within the social and cultural context of the Gilded Age and theProgressive Era, Gloege reveals longstanding connections between Chicagoevangelicals and business and shows that the marriage between modern businessand the so-called “old-time religion” developed symbiotically, forever alteringthe American religious landscape.

By 1920, a shifting coalition of businessmen,midlevel bureaucrats, and ministers had forged a remarkably resilient form ofconservative evangelicalism that deviated in key respects from traditionalProtestantism and that embraced modern consumer-oriented ideas and strategies.At the bottom was evangelicalism’s thoroughgoing individualism, demonstratedprominently in the privilege it gave to a personal relationship with God as theessence of an authentic faith. This individualism aligned with key developmentswithin capitalism and facilitated a remarkable confluence of business andreligious ideas resistant to the influence of Darwinian science’s basicorientation toward aggregated populations conditioned by nature or nurture.

For these evangelicals, to challenge capitalism wasto challenge the foundations of evangelical orthodoxy. Guaranteed pure fromboth liberal theology and populist literalism, this was a new form of old-time religionnot simply compatible with modern consumer capitalism but uniquely dependent onit.