Bebbington Thesis

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Secondly, a marked dividing line thereby separates today’s Reformed evangelical Christianity from the Christianity of the Reformers and Puritans.

And, thirdly, as Garry Williams argues in this book, out the Arminianism of Wesley and the Calvinism of Whitefield would have an equal claim to be integral and foundational to the new movement.

And it is not as obvious as Bebbington maintains that an understanding of assurance, and the ease or difficulty with which assurance was attained, differed markedly between the centuries.

The book also includes a response to these arguments by David Bebbington himself.

Space does not permit a full examination of the contents of The emergence of evangelicalism here.

I have selected just two contributions of particular significance.

As assurance came more easily during the eighteenth century, Bebbington argued, so Christians became more confident and more active in the propagation of the faith.

They dared to engage in evangelistic and missionary enterprises that played little part in the life and thinking of seventeenth-century Puritans. In the first instance, if the thesis is correct, the movement to which evangelicals now belong must be characterised as something new, a movement which arose barely 300 years ago on the back of Enlightenment thought.

Dr Bebbington’s thesis not only describes these as the main features of evangelicalism, but also argues that they mark evangelicalism as a new movement.

Evangelicalism proper, according to Bebbington, began in Christian history at the time of the eighteenth-century revival under Whitefield and Wesley and those associated with them.


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