Book

A Controversial Spirit

Philip N. Mulder

Published in print May 2002 | ISBN: 9780195131635
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834525 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0195131630.001.0001

Series: Religion in America

A Controversial Spirit

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Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists in the American South competed divisively with each other during the First and Second Great Awakenings, establishing a spirited evangelical presence in the region, but left wanting a common religious influence that would fulfill ecumenical ideals. Presbyterians and Baptists set the tone by subordinating New Light techniques to their denominational traditions, the Presbyterians countering the novelties of the revivals with their long‐standing emphasis on education and decorum, and the Baptists demanding that converts be judged by their knowledge of core doctrines. The two Calvinist denominations successfully limited the innovative Methodists, who had hoped to transcend the others’ sectarian spirit with piety and ecumenism – the very definition of the New Light. Methodists were absorbed into the arguments over denominational differences, and all the groups turned their aggressiveness toward each other as the Anglican Church, formerly their target of mutual dissent, disintegrated during the American Revolution. Left to encounter each other during outdoor preaching, camp meetings, and neighborhood discussions, Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists became obsessed with their own debates over proper religion and the acceptable measure of New Light piety. In their polities, beliefs, rituals, and conversions, these churches, led by the Baptists, defined evangelicalism as a controversial spirit, with the New Light ideal of the Methodists falling into the rivalry of denominationalism.

Keywords: American South; Baptists; conversion; denominationalism; ecumenism; evangelicalism; Great Awakening; Methodists; New Light; Presbyterians

Book.  244 pages. 

Subjects: Christianity

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Table of Contents

Introduction in A Controversial Spirit

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Good Reasons to Believe in A Controversial Spirit

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Believe and be Baptized in A Controversial Spirit

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Experimental Religion in A Controversial Spirit

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Contending for Liberty in A Controversial Spirit

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Sowing and Reaping in A Controversial Spirit

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Choosing God's People in A Controversial Spirit

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The Highest Original in A Controversial Spirit

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Conclusion in A Controversial Spirit

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