Liberal & Evangel.Protestantism/US

IST 3085 (Hybrid)

Instructor:       Antony Alumkal (He/Him)

Office Phone:  303-765-3131


Course Description: This course compares liberal and evangelical forms of Protestantism in the United States, drawing on both scholarly analysis and popular works. Topics of focus include interpretations of the Bible, race, gender, politics, and science.

Click link below for the draft course syllabus:


The course aims to introduce students to the following:

  1. The shared historical roots of liberal and evangelical theology as attempts to reconcile Christianity with modern (enlightenment) thought.
  2. The primary beliefs associated with each religion subculture.
  3. How these two religious subcultures operate in public life and popular culture.

  1. The following books are required texts for the course.

Bolz-Weber, Nadia. 2019. Shameless: A Case for Not Feeling Bad about Feeling Good (about Sex). New York: Convergent.

Borg, Marcus J. 2003. The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith. San Francisco: HarperSanFranciso.

Evans, Christopher. 2010. Liberalism without Illusions: Renewing an American Christian Tradition. Waco: Baylor University Press.

Marsden, George. M. 1991. Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Warren, Rick. 2002. The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? Grand Rapids: Zondervan. (Note: Feel free to use a later edition of the book, but make sure not to buy one of the companion books like The Purpose Driven Life Journal. Used copies start at $0.01 + shipping on Amazon.)


  1. The following readings are available as pdfs on the Canvas site:

Alumkal, Antony. 2004. “American Evangelicalism in the Post-Civil Rights Era: A Racial Formation Theory Analysis.” Sociology of Religion 65:195-213.

Alumkal, Antony. 2012. “Racial Justice in the Protestant Mainline: Liberalism and Its Limits.” Pp. 275-298 in Faith and Race in American Political Life, edited by Robin Jacobson and Nancy Wadsworth.  Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press.

Alumkal, Antony. 2012. “Strategic Frame Ambivalence: Intelligent Design and Reparative Therapy Navigate the Worlds of Religion and Science.” Paper presented at the American Sociological Association, Denver, CO.

Balmer, Randall. 1993. Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America. New York: Oxford University Press. Chapter 2

Gallagher, Sally. 2004. “The Marginalization of Evangelical Feminism.” Sociology of Religion 65: 215-237.

Marti, Gerardo and Gladys Ganiel. 2014. The Deconstructed Church: Understanding Emerging Christianity. New York: Oxford University Press. Introduction.

Tinker, Tink. 2013. “Why I Do not Believe in a Creator.” Pp. 167-179 in Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry: Conversations on Creation, Land Justice, and Life Together, edited by Steve Heinrichs. Waterloo, Ontario: Herald Press.


  1. The following readings are available for free download:

Alumkal, Antony. 2022. “Why John Shelby Spong Was Not a Progressive Christian Voice.” Broadview.

Cantwell, Christopher D. 2021. "How the Study of Evangelicalism Has Blinded Us to the Problems in Evangelical Culture.” Religion Dispatches.

Everhart, Ruth. 2017. “A Pastor’s #MeToo Story: When the Church Silences Women and Protects Abusers” Christian Century 134:22-25.

Little, Anita. 2017. “A Progressive Christian Conference with an All-White Lineup: What Could Go Wrong?” Religion Dispatches.

Shoemaker, Terry. 2021. “White Gen X and Millennial Evangelicals Are Losing Faith in the Conservative Culture Wars.” The Conversation.

  1. The first type of assignment in the course will be regular postings on Canvas. You will be expected to make two kinds of posts for each posting assignment. First, you should make a substantive response to the assignment question. (The assignment questions will be posted in advance on Canvas). Second, you should make a substantive response to another person’s post. The response may be a question about the post, asking for clarification or more information about a specific issue raised. Alternatively, you can respond by adding more analysis (e.g. discussing why the statement may be true), describing a personal experience that relates to the statement, or discussing implications (“if this is true, then…”). The point is to have a conversation. If your posts are of good quality (answering the question and demonstrating an understanding of the course readings) and adhere to norms of class conduct (see below), you can expect to receive full credit (an A).


  1. Students are required to attend the Gathering Days session on April 28, 1-5 pm.


  1. Students are required to write a final research paper. The paper should be approximately 10 pages for masters students and 12 pages for Doctor of Ministry students (don’t worry if the list of references puts you over). It should present information about a particular religious group, movement, or product (e.g., book or movie) and then discuss how this case confirms, contradicts, or expands concepts from the course read­ings. For example, you might analyze the theology presented on the Focus on the Family website and then discuss how it does or does not match Marsden’s description of evangelical beliefs, and then contrast the theology with that of liberal Protestants as described by Evans and Borg. Hint: Do not make your description of what you studied so long that there is no room left in the paper to discuss the course readings. You want the paper to demonstrate that you have mastered the readings. When in doubt, say more about the course readings.


Online and Classroom Conduct

The course should involve a free exchange of ideas, which means you are welcome to express your viewpoints and to disagree with the viewpoints of the instructor or your fellow students. This should always be done in a way that shows respect for the other people involved in the course. If you are not sure how to disagree without coming across as disrespectful, try saying, “I would like to respectfully disagree with that.” Many students like saying, “Let me push back on that…” which also works. Inappropriate posts (e.g., airing personal grievances instead of answering the assignment question) will be deleted.



Each week there will be a written lecture (Word file) posted on Canvas along with a short video providing additional information (commenting on the previous week, walking you through the week ahead). I normally record the video on Sunday night, and then insert the video on the next day’s (Monday) assignment page in Canvas.

Discussion Posts: 30%

Gathering Days Participation: 20%

Final Paper: 50%

Students may take the course pass/fail if they request this option by email during the first two weeks of class. You do not need to provide an explanation for why you are choosing this option.

My assumption is that students in a masters program can be expected to produce above average academic work. Therefore, the modal grade I assign is B+. A paper will earn a B+ if it 1) fulfills all of the requirements of the assignment and 2) demonstrates that the student has a solid (though not necessarily flawless) understanding of the con­cepts in the course readings and lectures. A paper will earn a grade higher than a B+ if it fulfills the assignment and demonstrates exceptional insight into the course concepts. A paper will earn a grade of B or B- if there are minor to moderate shortcomings in either fulfilling the assignment or demonstrating understanding of course concepts. Grades below B- are reserved for papers with major shortcomings in either area.

Mar 29, 2022TueCourse Introduction; American Evangelicalismdue by 05:58AM
Mar 29, 2022TueDiscussion 1due by 05:59AM
Apr 05, 2022TueAmerican Evangelicalism; American Liberal Protestantismdue by 05:58AM
Apr 05, 2022TueDiscussion 2due by 05:59AM
Apr 07, 2022ThuZoom Meeting 1due by 11:00PM
Apr 12, 2022TueAmerican Liberal Protestantismdue by 05:58AM
Apr 12, 2022TueDiscussion 3due by 05:59AM
Apr 19, 2022TuePopular Evangelicalismdue by 05:58AM
Apr 19, 2022TueDiscussion 4due by 05:59AM
Apr 28, 2022ThuGathering Days Readings--Popular Liberal Christianity due by 07:00PM
Apr 28, 2022ThuGathering Days Participationdue by 11:00PM
May 03, 2022TueRecovery from Gathering Days--No Readingdue by 05:58AM
May 10, 2022TueThe Emerging/Emergent Churchdue by 05:58AM
May 10, 2022TueDiscussion 5due by 05:59AM
May 17, 2022TueRace and Gender in American Protestantismdue by 05:58AM
May 17, 2022TueDiscussion 6due by 05:59AM
May 20, 2022FriZoom Meeting 2due by 02:00PM
May 24, 2022TueUmbrella Groups; Christian Right Pseudosciencedue by 05:58AM
May 24, 2022TueDiscussion 7due by 05:59AM
Jun 04, 2022SatFinal Paper Duedue by 05:59AM