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  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: February 2015

5 - Protestant pathways into the modern world


Now I saw in my dream, that the highway up which Christian was to go, was fenced on either side with a Wall, and that Wall is called Salvation. Up this way therefore did burdened Christian run, but not without great difficulty, because of the load on his back.

He ran thus till he came at a place somewhat ascending; and upon that place stood a Cross, and a little below in the bottom, a sepulchre. So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with the Cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back; and began to tumble, and so continued to do till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more.

Then was Christian glad and lightsome, and said with a merry heart, He hath given me rest, by his sorrow, and life, by his death. Then he stood a while, to look and wonder; for it was very surprising to him that the sight of the Cross should thus ease him from his burden. He looked therefore, and looked again, even till the springs that were in his head sent the waters down his cheeks.

Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, published in England in 1678, became a Protestant classic. It offered an allegorical tale of one man's struggle to overcome sin and win salvation, and succeeded in translating the objective truths of Protestant theology into the subjective experience of ‘Pilgrim’, the Protestant everyman.

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An Introduction to Christianity
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Further reading
The english reformation
Patrick Collinson's The Birthpangs of Protestant England: Religious and Cultural Change in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1986) is an elegant introduction. Christopher Hill's The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas during the English Revolution (London: Temple Smith, 1972) offers a classic treatment of radicalism in the English Revolution
Varieties of protestantism
Ernst Troeltsch's classic study of The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches (London: Allen and Unwin; New York: Macmillan, 1931) still offers one of the most helpful analyses of the varieties of post-Reformation Protestantism
Patrick Collinson's work on Puritanism is clear and insightful. See, for example, The Elizabethan Puritan Movement (London: Cape, 1967). On Pietism, see Mary Fullbrook's account of Pietism in three different national contexts, Piety and Politics: Religion and the Rise of Absolutism in England, Württemberg, and Prussia (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983), which teases out the movement's sociopolitical potentials. Patricia Caldwell's The Puritan Conversion Narratives: The Beginning of American Expression (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985) looks at subjectivist aspects of Puritanism in an American context
On Methodism see David Hempton, The Religion of the People: Methodism and Popular Religion 1750–1900 (London: Routledge, 1996); John Kent, Wesley and the Wesleyans: Religion in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002); and Dee Andrews, The Methodists and Revolutionary America: The Shaping of an Evangelical Culture (Princeton, NJ, and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 1996)
On the radical reformation groups, including the Quakers, see Michael Mullett's Radical Religious Movements in Early Modern Europe (London and Boston, MA: Allen and Unwin, 1980), which is particularly useful in placing them in their wider politico-economic contexts
Prophetesses, witches and godly wives
There are two useful, wide-ranging accounts of women and religion in the early modern world: Merry E. Wiesner, Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe (second edition, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000), and Marilyn J. Westerkamp, Women and Religion in Early America 1600–1850 (London: Routledge, 1999)
On the witch hunts, see Brian Levack, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe (London and New York: Longman, 1987); R. Kieckhefer, European Witch Trials: Their Foundations in Popular and Learned Culture 1300–1500 (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1976); Christina Larner, Witchcraft and Religion: The Politics of Popular Belief (New York: Blackwell, 1984); and Lyndal Roper's thought-provoking collection of essays, Oedipus and the Devil: Witchcraft, Sexuality and Religion in Early Modern Europe (London and New York: Routledge, 1994). See also Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1971)
Barbara Welter's account of ‘The Cult of True Womanhood’ is contained in essays collected together in Dimity Convictions: The American Woman in the Nineteenth Century (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1976). On women and religion in nineteenth-century America, see also Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), and Lori D. Ginzberg, Women and the Work of Benevolence (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1990)
The American experiment
Sydney E. Ahlstrom's A Religious History of the American People (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1972) offers a magisterial survey of religion in north America. Nathan Hatch's The Democratization of American Christianity (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1989) accounts for the success of American evangelicalism in terms of its ability to throw off power from on high and harness the energies and commitments of ordinary people. John Butler's Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990) is a work of revisionism that argues (among other things) that Protestant Christianity in America has always been less democratic than its supporters would like to claim. On slavery and American religion see Albert J. Raboteau, Slave Religion: The ‘Invisible Institution’ in the Antebellum South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978)
Evangelicals and liberals
Boyd Hilton's The Age of Atonement: The Influence of Evangelicalism on Social and Economic Thought, 1785–1865 (Oxford: Clarendon; New York: Oxford University Press, 1991) is a classic. David Bebbington's Evangelicalism in Modern Britain (London and Boston, MA: Unwin Hyman, 1989) is a major historical survey that treats evangelicalism as an Anglo-American movement and sheds a great deal of light on its relation to the wider culture. See also George M. Thomas's Revivalism and Cultural Change: Christianity, Nation Building, and the Market in the Nineteenth-Century United States (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1989)
There is surprisingly little literature on liberal Christianity, and no general introduction to the subject. Most histories of liberal Christianity deal primarily with its American manifestations. Conrad Wright's The Beginnings of Unitarianism in America (Hamden, CT: Archon, 1976) remains the standard account of the Unitarian movement. See also Henry F. May, The Enlightenment in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976); Kenneth Cauthen, The Impact of American Religious Liberalism (New York: Harper and Row, 1962); and William R. Hutchison, The Modernist Impulse in American Protestantism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982). For a more general portrait of liberal religion, see Linda Woodhead and Paul Heelas, Religion in Modern Times: An Interpretive Anthology (Oxford and Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2000)