The Century of Evangelicalism -- By: David A. Rausch

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 19:0 (NA 1987)
Article: The Century of Evangelicalism
Author: David A. Rausch


The Century of Evangelicalism

David A. Rausch

Carl Hermann Voss

Editorial Note: This is chapter 6 in its entirety of Protestantism — Its Modern Meaning, published in November, 1987 by Fortress Press in Philadelphia. This chapter, “The Century of Evangelicalism,” is preceded by the chapters, “What Is Protestantism?”, “The Precursors of die Reformation,” “The Reformation,” “Puritanism and Pietism,” and “The Age of Enlightenment.” It is followed by the extensive chapters of “Protestant Liberalism” and “Fundamentalism.” The last three chapters of the book are “Religion in the Black Community,” “New Religious Movements,” and “Protestantism — Its Modern Meaning.”

“What! Have you found me already? Another Methodist preacher!” exclaimed the shocked settler who had just pitched his tent on the ground of his future western home in 1814. “I left Virginia to get out of reach of them, went to a new settlement in Georgie,… but they got my wife and daughter into the church… I was sure I would have some peace of the preachers, and here is one before my wagon is unloaded!”

The Methodist missionary, Richmond Nolley, looked the bewildered man straight in the eye and counseled: “My friend, if you go to heaven, you’ll find Methodist preachers there; and if to hell, I am afraid you will find some there; and you see how it is in this world; so you had better make terms with us, and be at peace.”

Modern Evangelism

The nineteenth century was the great age of the modern Evangelical movement. Protestantism was permeated with the revivalistic spirit, and its compulsion to spread the message of the gospel to every corner of the earth was fervent and aggressive. Its goals went beyond revamping society. Indeed, optimistic nineteenth-century initiatives were to remake the world.

The term “evangelical” (pertaining to the gospel or good news) had been used to describe Lutherans in their assertion of Protestant principles during the Reformation era and soon had been commonly applied to all German Protestants, Lutheran and Reformed. By 1800, the word connoted a broader, ecumenical spirit that influenced the Protestant movement in Britain and America. Evangelical enthusiasm to “spread the gospel” and “win precious souls to Christ” soon recaptured portions of the German churches as well, and spread through France, Holland, and other parts of Europe.

In the United States, the mainline Protestant churches considered themselves “evangelicals” and called themselves “evangelicals.” A century ago, Episcopalians, Methodists, Prebysterians, and Baptists were all within the framew...

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