The next time you hear someone refer to “the evangelicals,” a good first question to ask might be, “Which ones?”Here are four main tracks: The evangelicalism mainstream; premillennial populism; progressive-minded evangelicals who had organized the Evangelicals for Social Action; and black evangelicals who labored through their own ministries and institutions.
To generalize, the mainstream media only knows one form of “evangelicalism,” which can be frustrating.
In his book, American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism, historian Matthew Avery Sutton primarily focuses on the apocalyptic radicalism of early fundamentalist-evangelicals, which went from being the overwhelmingly dominant perspective to fissuring into various tracks.
Here’s a nice summary of the divergence using the metaphor of tracks:
At precisely the same time that elite, highly credentialed leaders like [Carl] Henry and [Harold] Ockenga were downplaying radical apocalypticism in order to create a respectable movement that could exercise serious influence in national and global politics, populist ministers like [Hal] Lindsey and [Tim] LaHaye, as well as more respectable theologians like [John] Walvoord, reconnected evangelicalism with the kinds of strident apocalypticism that hark back to the 1930s.