*The Weekly Standard* Review of *The Bible Cause*

Bible Cause CoverThomas Kidd of Baylor University offers a generous review of The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society:

The ABS was one of the largest and most successful of the great benevolent societies of the antebellum period, and its continued (though not unalloyed) prosperity through the present day makes it an ideal case study. Some readers with no direct connection to the ABS might ask why they should read the history of a single Christian organization. I would challenge the premise of the question: Legions of people in America and around the world have been touched by the ABS in ways they do not realize. Fea helped me see how deeply my own family’s Bible-owning and reading was shaped by ABS imprints. Moreover, focusing on one denomination or agency over a long period of time illuminates broader trends in American religion. The ABS shaped American religion and publishing; but external forces, from war to immigration, also influenced the society. Some readers may find the details of ABS policy and governance a bit overwhelming, but the massive significance of the ABS justifies what Fea has written…

The most fascinating part of Fea’s account is the changing theological allegiance of the ABS over the past 75 years. At its inception, and for a century afterwards, the American Bible Society was basically an “evangelical benevolent society in an evangelical culture.” But when religious conflicts of the 1910s and ’20s split Protestants into fundamentalists (proto-evangelicals) and modernists, the ABS largely aligned with the modernist leaders of the mainline denominations. Given the prevalence of Eisenhower-esque American civil religion, and the continuing financial and cultural sway of the mainline churches, this alignment made sense: After World War II, the ABS’s dissemination of Scripture was grounded in the quest for a just and humane world order, championed more generically by the United Nations and the World Council of Churches.