American Protestant Theology

American Protestant Theology: A Historical Sketch

Translated by Damian Bacich
Introduction by Archibald J. Spencer
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    American Protestant Theology
    Book Description:

    In American Protestant Theology, Luigi Giussani traces the history of the most meaningful theological expressions and the cultural significance of American Protestantism, from its origins in seventeenth-century Puritanism to the 1950s. Giussani clarifies and assesses elements of Protestantism such as the democratic approach to Church-State relations, "The Great Awakening," Calvinism and Trinitarianism, and liberalism. His rich references and analytical descriptions reconstruct an overview of the development of a religion that has great importance in the context of spiritual life and American culture. He also displays full respect for the religious depth from which Protestantism was born and where it can reach, and expresses great admiration for its most prominent thinkers and spiritual leaders, including Jonathan Edwards, Horace Bushnell, Walter Rauschenbusch, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Paul Tillich. Further testament to Giussani's clear-minded and comprehensive knowledge of Christianity, American Protestant Theology makes the work of a master theologian available in English for the first time.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8951-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. vii-xxxii)
    Archibald J. Spencer

    The task of introducing a previously published book to readers in a new language is fraught with ambiguity. Where does one start? What parameters should guide such an operation? What information about the author should be included? Such questions cannot be answered by seeking out a few examples of where it has been done elsewhere. The exercise reveals no “standard introduction.” In fact, it only reveals a wide-open field in which the book being introduced can sometimes be overtaken by the introduction itself. One great example of this is J.B. Baillie’s introduction to the English edition of G.W.F. Hegel’s Phenomenology...

  4. Preface to the First Edition
    (pp. xxxiii-2)
    Luigi Giussani
  5. 1 Puritan Origins
    (pp. 3-16)

    The important role the religious factor played in the formation and character of the colonies that would later make up the United States of America is well known. The first societies to colonize the new land took care to make it known that the spread of religion was one of their goals, indeed, their “maine and cheefe purpose,”¹ asserted a leaflet published in 1615 by the council of the first English colonial enterprise in America, the Virginia Company.

    The strongest reason for the influence exerted by the religious factor in the Protestant colonies of seventeenth-century America is found in the...

  6. 2 New England Theology
    (pp. 17-52)

    At the end of the seventeenth century and the beginning of the eighteenth, grave concerns burdened the genuine Puritans. Reduced religious fervour and interest caused a decline in the frequency of the “tests” that proved the “conversion” conferring the right to full membership in the community of the faithful. Thus, the idea was increasingly asserted that the Holy Spirit could become present and act not only in a direct way, but also through certain means available to human initiative, such as Scripture reading, prayer formulae, attendance at divine services, and the exact observance of the law.

    Nevertheless, on the level...

  7. 3 The Liberal Movement
    (pp. 53-99)

    An early premise to the Liberal Movement, which would dominate the American scene from the final decades of the nineteenth century on, was posited by a radicalization of the situation in the Unitarian churches leading to the rise of the Transcendentalist Movement, which a noted historian of American philosophy described as “the flowering of the Enlightenment,”¹ but which, perhaps, would be better to emphasize as a Romantic school of thought.

    Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) and Theodor Parker (1810–1860) are the most famous names, but there are other significant figures, such as George Ripley (1803–1880), Orestes August Brownson...

  8. 4 Realism
    (pp. 100-132)

    What eventually defeated the idealism of the Social Gospel was not its opponents from the right or from the left, but history itself. It was the First World War that brought to the forefront its illusory and utopian character. The Great Depression of a decade later revealed the incurable unease into which the force of events had plunged such optimism. The Second World War marked the definite collapse of utopia. Thus, “Since 1914 one tragic experience has followed another, as if history had been designed to refute the vain delusions of modern man.”¹

    Scientific naturalism had rebuked the Liberal theologians...

  9. 5 Recent Trends
    (pp. 133-148)

    During the Second World War a Neo-liberal trend had manifested consistent renewal. In it, there came together also personalities who were initially active in the Neo-orthodox orbit. The contents of a symposium, published in 1942 by David Everett Roberts (1911–1955) and Henry Pitney Van Dusen (1897–1975), provides excellent documentation in this regard: Liberal Theology: An Appraisal. Human nature and human reason are defences against that “veiled … glance of agnosticism”¹ for which Willard Learoyd Sperry of Harvard University would scold Neo-orthodoxy in his Religion in America (1946).

    Among the more significant names, Charles Clayton Morrison (1874–1967) must...

  10. APPENDIX ONE Aspects of the Conception of History in Reinhold Niebuhr
    (pp. 151-171)
  11. APPENDIX TWO Reinhold Niebuhr and the Foundations of His Ethics
    (pp. 172-188)
  12. APPENDIX THREE The Recovery of Religious Values in American Personalism and the Philosophy of Edgar Sheffield Brightman
    (pp. 189-202)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 203-230)
  14. Index
    (pp. 231-238)