For more than half a century, Rousas John Rushdoony and his followers have articulated and disseminated what they understand to be a biblical worldview, based in aspects of traditional reformed theology and both the Old and New Testaments. This worldview seeks to apply biblical law to every aspect of life and to transform every aspect of culture to establish the Kingdom of God. While some components of their vision are so extreme that Christian Reconstructionists are often dismissed as an irrelevant fringe group, other aspects of their vision have taken root in conservative American Protestantism, especially in the Christian homeschool movement, and therefor influenced American conservatism more broadly. This essay outlines that worldview and points to some of those areas of influence.
The churches of the Anglican Communion discussed issues of sex and gender throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century. Arguments about gender focused on the ordination of women to the diaconate, priesthood, and episcopate. Debates about sexuality covered polygamy, divorce and remarriage, and homosexuality. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, these debates became intensely focused on homosexuality and were particularly fierce as liberals and conservatives responded to openly gay bishops and the blessing and marriage of same-sex couples. By the second decade of the twenty-first century, the sex and gender debates had become less acrimonious, the Anglican Communion had not split on these issues as some feared, but the ‘disconnect’ between society and the Church, at least in the West, on issues such as the Church of England’s prevarication on female bishops and opposition to gay marriage, had decreased the Church’s credibility for many.
This essay examines conflicts concerning sex, sexuality, and gender within Black churches. Black churches are American Protestant churches with a predominantly Black leadership and congregation. Often serving the oppressed and underprivileged, Black churches have a history not only of providing for the spiritual needs of Black Americans, but also of fighting for social justice. Increasingly, controversies have begun to emerge within these churches, about gender equality, HIV/AIDS and safer sex education, and, perhaps the most controversial, about homosexuality and same-sex marriage. This essay discusses how Black churches have responded to these issues and the impact that HIV/AIDS has had on this response. Additionally, examples of the role of women and sexual minorities in Black church denominations and congregations will be provided.
William K. Kay and Stephen J. Hunt
Historically, the majority of Pentecostal churches stem from holiness and revivalistic streams of Christianity, while neo-Pentecostal churches are often indigenous plantings that broke away from congregations established by earlier Protestant mission. Given their stress on religious experience and their belief in the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, Pentecostal churches have always stressed individual holiness, and this holiness is understood in terms of abstinence from drugs, alcohol, gambling, immodest dress, and sexual immorality as traditionally defined. This chapter describes adjustments and initiatives that indicate how new norms may emerge. The issue is essentially concerned with the interpretation of Scripture and variations in church government. Where these interpretations align with an LBGT-friendly hermeneutic, LBGT-friendly Pentecostal churches will and have emerged. Such changes tend to occur in new or split-off groups rather than in traditional Pentecostal denominations, especially when denominations are governed by large ministerial conferences where decisions are by secret ballot.
Richard A. Bailey
In scholarly discussions about “race” in the Americas, colonial New England often receives little attention. While race-based slavery perhaps never commanded the same attention in the northern colonies as in regions farther south, “race” factored into nearly every aspect of life in New England from the outset. This chapter not only discusses how scholars have approached this conversation but also investigates some of the ways in which New Englanders made sense of themselves and the peoples of varying ethnicities, relying at times on the specific theological context of New England puritanism. Focusing on the ways in which New Englanders wrestled with the dilemma of racial thinking within their theological system brings New England fully into the discussion of the intersections between “race” and religion in colonial America.
Calvin B. DeWitt
In building the movement called evangelical environmentalism, there were two great needs. First was the need to build a creation theology, and more specifically a creation-care theology. This was achieved by an academy of evangelical scientists, ethicists, and theologians who grew in numbers and publications from 1980 to the present and, becoming aware of itself as such, officially became the Academy of Evangelical Scientists and Ethicists in 2005. Second was the need to find ways to put this evangelical creation-care theology into practice. Various work to meet this need was attempted in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with the World Evangelical Fellowship creating the first evangelical environmental network—the International Evangelical Environmental Network—in 1992. This, in turn, led to the formation of the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN) in 1993. This essay discusses the widespread secularization of American society, evangelicals and evangelicalism, evangelical relation to human authority, theology and Sola Scriptura, pre-1980 roots of academic evangelical environmentalism, development and emergence of academic evangelical environmentalism, and development and emergence of the EEN.
John Witte Jr.
The chapter analyses the mainline Lutheran, Calvinist, and Anglican models of sex, marriage, and family and their gradual liberalization by Enlightenment liberalism. The theological differences between these models can be traced to their grounding in Lutheran two kingdoms doctrines, Calvinist covenantal theology, Anglican commonwealth theory, and Enlightenment contractarian logic. Lutherans consigned primary marital jurisdiction to the territorial prince or urban council. Calvinists assigned interlocking marital roles to local consistories and city councils. Anglicans left marital jurisdiction to church courts, subject to state oversight and legislation. The early Enlightenment philosophers, many of them Protestants, pressed for a sharper separation of church and state in the governance of marriage, and for stronger protections of the rights and equality of women and children within and beyond the marital household. But they maintained traditional Protestant prohibitions on extramarital sex and no-fault divorce in an effort to protect especially women and children from exploitation.
This chapter examines the continuities, development, and diversity found among evangelical Christians as they explore different patterns of evangelical response to new and challenging questions relating to sexuality and gender. Evangelicals have generally accepted contraception although there has been some recent opposition. Understandings and responses to divorce and remarriage vary from prohibition to generous accommodation with general acceptance of diverse genuinely evangelical views. Issues of gender and women in church leadership have, however, caused tensions and divisions between more restrictive ‘headship’ views and more egalitarian understandings, raising issues related to biblical inspiration and authority as well as hermeneutics. In contrast to diversity in these areas, most evangelicals remain committed to a sexual ethic focused on marriage and abstinence for the unmarried, and thus opposed to any approval of homosexual partnerships. Although some evangelicals are questioning this, most see change here as unbiblical and going beyond evangelicalism.
A small but highly visible minority of white Christian leaders vigorously supported the African American struggle for full freedom. However, these leaders represented an exception, not the mainstream, in the history American Protestantism, which has only rarely championed racial equality. Protestant leaders who openly joined civil rights initiatives came from the most liberal ranks of the Protestant traditions, and they often pursued civil rights activity over strenuous objections from their parishioners. The civil rights years exacted significant changes in the American religious landscape. Those traditions that most visibly supported the freedom struggle lost members in droves, while conservative traditions thrived.
H. Paul Santmire and John B. Cobb
The sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation in Europe, sparked by Martin Luther and John Calvin, who are sometimes called “the Magisterial Reformers,” is of more than historical interest, since the trends of thought and social formation which it set in motion are still of wide-ranging consequence, particularly with regard to the theology of nature. A complete account of Reformation theology and piety would take into account the voices of what is often called “the left wing of the Reformation.” However, in general, the later attitudes of Protestants toward nature, including those of most Baptists, have not been greatly affected by the distinctive teachings of this group, whereas large numbers of Baptists and others who trace their heritage to these left-wing sources, as well as those who stand more directly in the traditions of Luther and Calvin, have been influenced in this regard by the legacy of the Magisterial Reformers. This article examines the teachings of Luther and Calvin concerning nature. It also discusses the Reformation tradition, the culture of modernity, and the ecological crisis.