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This chapter discusses the commitment to biblical authority in American Protestantism, including the ongoing debate over how to read and interpret the Bible; and the doctrines most common to American Protestant churches and denominations, including doctrines about God, creation, human nature and sin, the atoning work of Christ on the cross, the work of the Holy Spirit, salvation, the church and sacraments, and the future of the world. In each case, the Bible is often the source of disagreement and debate.
Over the last three decades, there has been an explosion of scholarship related to American Protestantism. Hundreds, if not thousands, of monographs and journal articles have appeared on this broad topic across the fields of history, theology, ethics, politics, sociology, and literary studies. Numerous scholarly societies – including the American Academy of Religion, the American Historical Association, the American Society for Church History, and the Southern Historical Association, to name just a few –have taken the breadth and diversity of American Protestantism as a subject for extensive discussions.
American Protestantism has been the dominant form of Christianity in United States since the colonial era and has had a profound impact on American society. Understanding this religious tradition is, thus, crucial to understanding American culture. This Companion offers a comprehensive overview of American Protestantism. It considers all its major streams—Anglican, Reformed, Lutheran, Anabaptist, Baptist, Stone-Campbell, Methodist, Holiness, and Pentecostal. Written from various disciplinary perspectives, including history, theology, liturgics, and religious studies, it explores the beliefs and practices around which American Protestant life has revolved. The volume also provides a chronological overview of the tradition's entire history, addresses its prominent theological and sociological features, and explores its numerous intersections with American culture. Aimed at undergraduate and graduate students, as well as an interested general audience, this Companion will be useful both for insiders and outsiders to the American Protestant tradition.