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Evangelicals and culture in England 1790-1833

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Evangelicals have traditionally been regarded as antiintellectual, ascetic, and philistine. This thesis examines the truth of the allegation with reference to a particular generation, that which came to the fore after the death of Wesley and had largely died out as the Oxford Movement began to gather pace. It is common practice to analyse the influence of these Fathers of the Victorians upon their descendants. This study attempts instead to discover how far evangelicals were themselves influenced by the thought and taste of their age. It shows how their theology reflected that of their contemporaries, for evangelicals shared the eighteenth century belief in the priority of reason over the senses, and, rejecting pentecostalism, agreed with the apologists that Christianity would only be disseminated by the proper use of human means. In some respects therefore their theology encouraged cultural and intellectual pursuits, which were sometimes evangelistically useful, andw®e inany case assumed to be more concordant with spirituality than 'sensual' or 'worldly' activities. Evangelicals engaged in such pursuits to a far greater extent than is often recognised, both their competence and their taste bearing comparison with that of their non-evangelical fellows.
At the same time however other facets of evangelical theology militated against academic and aesthetic interests. Their increasingly rigid attitude to the Bible made evangelicals less willing and less able even than other dogmatic Christians to examine new ideas. Their deeply-rooted otherworldliness caused them to disparage any activity which was not immediately conducive to man's eternal well-being. Thus some evangelicals eschewed all non-religious pursuits as 'vanity', while even
the most cultured were unable theologically to reconcile
their enjoyment of the arts with their faith. In their
failure lies the justice of the traditional charge of philistinism.


(1979). Evangelicals and culture in England 1790-1833


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