Jeffrey McDonald is an Affiliate Professor of Church History at Sioux Falls Seminary. This interview is based on his new book, John Gerstner and the Renewal of Presbyterian and Reformed Evangelicalism in Modern America (Pickwick Publications, 2017).
JF: What led you to write John Gerstner and the Renewal of Presbyterian and Reformed Evangelicalism in Modern America?
JM: I wrote this book because I felt that John Gerstner and members of the old United Presbyterian Church of North America had been neglected. The UPCNA was a Covenanter/Seceder influenced denomination that contributed in numerous ways to rise of modern evangelicalism and their work and legacy needs to be appreciated and understood.
JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of John Gerstner and the Renewal of Presbyterian and Reformed Evangelicalism in Modern America?
JM: The argument of the book is that John Gerstner’s efforts led to a revival of interest in Jonathan Edwards and that he helped facilitate the modern resurgence of Presbyterian and Reformed evangelicalism. I demonstrate that the Pittsburgh Seminary church historian made many contributions to American Christianity and became a key shaper of evangelicalism.
JF: Why do we need to read John Gerstner and the Renewal of Presbyterian and Reformed Evangelicalism in Modern America?
JM: I think my book should be read because it provides good contextual history of a vital faction within American evangelicalism and illuminates very aspects of Presbyterian history. It also shows that evangelical marginalization by mainline Protestantism has led to the growth of evangelicalism.
JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian? (Or if you are not an American history, how did you get interested in the study of the past?)
JM: I was a history major in college and loved church history in seminary. In seminary I read Don MacLeod’s excellent biography of W. Stanford Reid and that really showed me how I could combine ministry with historical scholarship. I became a historian because history is important to Christians and I enjoy studying and illuminating the past.
JF: What is your next project?
JM: My next book will be a 20th century history of American Presbyterian and Reformed Evangelicalism. My next project will look at the movement from a broader perspective and provide in depth analysis of the various streams.
JF: Thanks, Jeff!