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Chosen Nations

Pursuit of the Kingdom of God and Its Influence on Democratic Values in Late Nineteenth-Century Britain and the U.S.

By Christina L. Littlefield

Publication Year: 2013

At the heart of the biblical myth of chosenness is the idea that God has blessed a people to be a blessing to others. It is a mission of solemn responsibility. The six British and American thinkers examined in this study embraced the myth of chosenness for their countries, believed that the liberties they enjoyed were inherently tied to their Protestant faith, and that it was their mission to protect and spread that faith, and its democratic fruit, at home and abroad.

Each theologian in this study—Robert William Dale, Hugh Price Hughes, and Brooke Foss Westcott in England; Walter Rauschenbusch, Henry Codman Potter, and Josiah Strong in the United States—wanted, in Rauschenbusch's words, to “Christianize the social order,” seeking to evolve their countries into true Christian nations that would lead to an international kingdom of God. They were all products of their time, yet ahead of their time, and their pursuit of a true, free, national Christianity helped support the development of Western democratic values. However, their belief in chosenness also fuelled imperialistic claims, neglected the rights of native peoples, led to anti-Catholicism, and hindered the religious liberties of others.

Published by: Augsburg Fortress Publishers

Series: Emerging Scholars

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

I would like to thank my University of Cambridge supervisor, Professor David M. Thompson, for taking a chance on a strange American girl who had a steep learning curve when it came to European history, a penchant for journalistic colloquialisms, and a tendency toward self-indulgence when it came to word limits. I appreciate your direction and patient reading in helping me transform...

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1. The Search for Shared Values

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pp. 1-20

One of the ongoing debates in contemporary theology, philosophy, sociology, and politics is over what role, if any, religion should play in the public sphere, or the routine public exchange of ideas.1 Led by thinkers such as Jürgen Habermas, there has been a growing recognition of the role Judeo-Christian thought had in establishing Western democratic values and new interpretations of what...

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2. Where, When, and Who: The Late-Nineteenth-Century Mindset in Great Britain and the United States

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pp. 21-66

This book will examine how prominent Christian thinkers applied their faith to the formation of national identity and to the debates on religious liberty, social reform, and political liberty in late-nineteenth-century England and the United States. In order to explore the dynamics involved—the push and pull of theological and secular ideas, national, and denominational differences—this...

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3. Chosen Nations: Christianising the Social Order

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pp. 67-112

Central to the civil religion of these nineteenth-century thinkers was the appropriation of a biblical myth: the Old Testament concept of chosenness, with its emphasis on covenant responsibility. Christians claimed they were the inheritors of the chosenness enjoyed by the ancient Jews early in their history, and Christian-dominated nations, both Catholic and Protestant, had long used...

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4. Religious Liberty: Cracks in the Kingdom Vision

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pp. 113-142

The six thinkers in this study insisted England and the United States owed their civil liberties and freedoms to their Protestant Christian identities, which created an inherent tension between their desire to respect religious liberty and maintain that Protestant dominance. Like other social gospel writers, most naively believed room could be made for those outside the Protestant fold to...

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5. Social Reform: Pursuing the Kingdom of God

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pp. 143-184

All of the desires of the social gospellers—to Christianise society, to live up to the covenant responsibility inherent in chosen nation mythology, to vindicate Christianity and present its solutions for the modern age, to pursue the kingdom of God on earth—came to a head in their calls for social reform. To differing degrees, each perceived that industrialisation and urbanisation had created an...

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6. Political Liberty and Democracy: Legislating the Kingdom

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pp. 185-214

As illustrated in the last chapter, pursuit of the kingdom of God naturally led to political agitation. They disagreed, however, over the methods to be pursued in Christianising the nation; questioned the role of legislation versus conversion in furthering the kingdom; and debated the rightful role of the minister, the church, and the individual Christian in politics. Christian involvement in...

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7. Civil Religion, Then and Now

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pp. 215-230

One of the most difficult questions this dissertation aimed to answer was whether Christianity truly undergirded the democratic values of the six thinkers or whether the theologians simply adapted their Christianity to the dominant secular themes of the day. The answer, culled from reading thousands of pages of their sermons, is a typical theological paradox: yes to both counts. For...


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pp. 231-254


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pp. 255-263

Back Cover

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p. 273-273

E-ISBN-13: 9781451469622
E-ISBN-10: 1451469624
Print-ISBN-13: 9781451465570
Print-ISBN-10: 1451465572

Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Emerging Scholars