Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s

Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s

Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s

Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s

Synopsis

This major textbook is a newly researched historical study of Evangelical religion in its British cultural setting from its inception in the time of John Wesley to charismatic renewal today.The Church of England, the Church of Scotland and the variety of Nonconformist denominations and sects in England, Scotland and Wales are discussed, but the book concentrates on the broad patterns of change affecting all the churches. It shows the great impact of the Evangelical movement on nineteenth-century Britain, accounts for its resurgence since the Second World War and argues that developments in the ideas and attitudes of the movement were shaped most by changes in British culture.The contemporary interest in the phenomenon of Fundamentalism, especially in the United States, makes the book especially timely.

Excerpt

The Evangelicals of Britain have been neglected. A few themes have been selected for attention by historians-such as John Wesley and the rise of Methodism, William Wilberforce and the struggle against slavery, Lord Shaftesbury and the campaigns for social reform-but many aspects of the movement remain in obscurity. Light has been shed by studies of particular organisations and denominations, but the development of Evangelicalism as a whole has been examined very little. That is surprising, because it has been a major tradition within the Christian churches. In the mid-nineteenth century it set the tone of British society. In the 1970s both archbishops of the Church of England were drawn from it. And from the 1790s onwards the missionaries it despatched did much to mould the Christian faith in many other parts of the world. The neglect of the Evangelicals is undeserved.

This book attempts to fill a gap by providing an overall survey of the movement. It therefore has a twofold task. One dimension is to consider the influence of Evangelicals on society. More research has been done on this aspect of the movement in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries than on any other. The dependence of this study on earlier work will be very apparent here. More attention, however, is paid to how Evangelicalism itself has changed. Religion, as Edward Gibbon once remarked with tongue in cheek, has never existcd in the pure form in which it descended from heaven. It has always been affected by its surroundings at the same time as influencing those surroundings. Studies of churches founded by missionaries have been well aware of this principle. Discussion of British Evangelicalism has been much less alert to the effects of its host culture. So the second main dimension of the book is an exploration of the ways in which Evangelical religion has been moulded by its environment.

The movement has been self-consciously distinctive and unitary. It has consisted of all those strands in Protestantism that have not been either too high in churchmanship or too broad in theology to qualify for acceptance. It has spanned the gulf between the Established Church and Nonconformity in England and Wales and has bound together bodies north and south of the Scottish border. It has nourished close links with co-religionists abroad, especially in the English-speaking world. Although this study considers influences from overseas, and particularly from America, it concentrates on developments within Britain. Even Ireland, united constitutionally

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