Historians long took fundamentalists and neo-evangelicals at face value when they claimed to be champions of “the old-time religion.” In fact, the dramatic tension in leading scholarly accounts of modern American Protestantism often emanated from the epic clash between these putative conservatives, intent on preserving biblical authority and essential doctrines, and their modernizing liberal counterparts.

But in recent years, this consensus has come under fire, as a rising chorus of scholars has insisted that evangelicals were, from the very beginning, modernizers in their own right. Books by Gloege, Dochuk, and others have sought to redefine evangelicalism, not as a stable tradition marked by an unwavering commitment to an unchanging deposit of faith, but as a profoundly anti-institutional orientation that prized disruptive innovation and despised all would-be regulators, federal and denominational alike. In these scholars’ telling “the old-time religion” was always, first and foremost, a brand.1

Vaca’s Evangelicals Incorporated represents...

You do not currently have access to this content.