America's God

Mark A. Noll

Published in print November 2002 | ISBN: 9780195151114
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834532 | DOI:
America's God

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Examines the emergence – and then the broad effects – of a singularly American synthesis of convictions. That synthesis of evangelical Protestant religion, republican political ideology, and commonsense moral reasoning came into existence during the second half of the eighteenth century and then exerted a telling influence on American life through the time of the Civil War. Elsewhere in the North Atlantic world, the main Christian traditions opposed both “Real Whig” republicanism and the “commonsense” principles of the era's new moral philosophy. Not so in America. Through a series of contingent circumstances – revival in the 1740s, colonial warfare with France, the struggle for independence, a great surge of evangelical denominations in the new republic, and the leadership of Protestant thought and agencies in creating a national culture – distinctly American forms of Christian republicanism and theistic common sense became the common intellectual coinage of the new United States. In turn, these patterns of thought pushed theology, for both educated elites and sectarian populists, toward greater stress on the individual, on free will, and on personal appropriation of the Bible. The very centrality of commonsense Christian republicanism also, however, set the stage for the intellectual tragedy of the Civil War – when dedicated Christians, both North and South, were convinced that the Bible supported only their own side. The story is at once a great triumph of creative theological energy and a significant tragedy of theology captured by culture.

Keywords: Bible; Christian; Civil War; common sense; evangelical; moral philosophy; Protestant; republican; theology

Book.  636 pages. 

Subjects: Christianity

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Introduction in America's God


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