*** DEBUG END ***

Secularisation, Pentecostalism and Violence by David Martin

18 May 2018

Duncan Dormor on the challenge of ploughing a different furrow

MY FIRST encounter with David Martin’s work was borne of stubbornness. Given the choice of what sociology essay to write next, I chose, to the despair of my lecturer, secularisation rather than Marxism — despair, since he was of the clear view that secularisation was a very dull subject and that the decline of religion was utterly predictable, whereas Marxism. . .

The year was 1988: nearly a decade after the Islamic Revolution in Iran, and just over a year before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Socialist empire. Neither monumental change was predicted by the enlightened guild of sociologists. At the same time, largely unrecognised and misunderstood, the spectacular growth of Pentecostal Christianity in Latin America, and elsewhere, was in full bloom.

This latest volume covers many of the themes that Martin has dedicated his life to exploring: secularisation, the relationship between religion and violence, and Pentecostalism. It is, however, aimed at the scholar rather than the general reader — for whom I can strongly recommend recent publications such as Ruin and Restoration (2016) or Religion and Power (2014).

Here, these important subjects are considered for the most part within a “sociology of sociology”. That is, Martin draws on his own experience to consider how ideas are received, ignored, or rejected as a consequence of pre-existing cultural assumptions, the “inner workings, jostlings and power-plays of academic research”, geography, or simply the scholar’s native tongue.

This book divides into three unequal parts. Six chapters on the “travels and travails” of the concept of secularisation are followed by two chapters each on “ancillary debates” and “examples”. It functions like a sort of extended marginalia, to accompany Martin’s substantive contributions, in which he recollects the near-mandatory road signs of his discipline, the wrong turns and meanderings, and those fellow travellers whose work seems to have been underestimated (e.g. Werner Stark, William Pickering, and Christie Davies).

Inevitably, the central focus is secularisation, but there is also an excellent account of the way in which Martin’s research into the rise of Pentecostalism was received (and fiercely resisted) by fellow academics.

As ever, the breadth of reference is staggering, and the peripheral vision (history, philosophy, anthropology) is clear-sighted; and yet there remains space for highly pertinent discussion, for example, of the development of Islamic State.

For the aspiring sociologist of religion, this book is essential reading. Indeed, many young academics across the humanities would clearly benefit from the long view encapsulated here.

The Revd Duncan Dormor is Chief Executive of USPG.

Secularisation, Pentecostalism and Violence: Receptions, rediscoveries and rebuttals in the sociology of religion
David Martin
Routledge £120
Church Times Bookshop £108

Free UK delivery from the Church Times Bookshop this month: enter code CTPOST at the checkout. (Until 31 May 2018, Church Times price books only.)

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards


Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available



Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website


ViSIt our Events page for upcoming and past events 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)