Key to Kidd’s strategy is definition. He characterizes evangelicals as “born-again Protestants who cherish the Bible as the Word of God and who emphasize a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.”  Conversion, Scripture, and experience of the Holy Spirit, accordingly, allow Kidd to decide who is part of his story and whom to exclude. It is a curious approach if only because Kidd cites no historical, theological, or ecclesiastical sources for his definition. Nor does it shape the contents of his book since Kidd does not explore doctrines of regeneration, Scripture, or the Holy Spirit, investigation that would have supported his definition. As it stands, Kidd uses his own definition to select his subjects. The trouble with this approach becomes evident when he writes about Barack Obama. The former president claimed that during one service at Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, while kneeling before the cross, “I felt God’s spirit beckoning me” . For Kidd, this qualifies as a conversion, but it was a “mainline” variety, not “an evangelical conversion.” In contrast, he regards George W. Bush’s conversion as evangelical. Although the president avoided the phrase “born-again,” “he made it clear that Jesus had changed his ‘heart’” . Kidd would likely agree that he lacks the capacity to discern a person’s heart. At the same time, the way he defines evangelicalism and selects his subjects reflects Kidd’s control over his material.
D. G. Hart, “ D. G. Hart’s Review of Who Is An Evangelical?: The History Of A Movement In Crisis, by Thomas S. Kidd” in Books At A Glance February 17, 2020.