Baptists and religious liberty: 1700-1900
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SubjectFreedom of religion.
Church and state.
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This dissertation examines the theological and historical understanding of religious liberty and separation of church and state among seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth-century American Baptists. Chapter 1 provides a brief overview of the historiography of Baptist advocacy of religious liberty and church-state separation. Chapter 2 begins with an overview of the contemporary legal, cultural, and political debate in America over the role of religion in public life. After examining this overarching cultural debate, this chapter turns to the contemporary debate among Southern Baptists over the proper scope and nature of religious liberty and church-state separation. Chapter 3 examines seventeenth-century English and colonial Baptist advocacy of religious liberty. Chapters 4 and 5 provide a detailed analysis of Backus's and Leland's understanding of the scope and nature of religious liberty and separation of church and state. Particular attention is devoted to the theological justifications for religious liberty and church-state separation among seventeenth and eighteenth-century Baptists. Chapter 6 examines the social, theological, and political trends of the late eighteenth century and the nineteenth century to determine how this theological and cultural matrix affected the Baptist understanding of religious and separation of church and state. This work contends that the competing historiographies of religious liberty among contemporary Southern Baptists reflect theological, cultural, social, and political influences of the late eighteenth century and the nineteenth century more than developments intrinsic to the doctrine of religious liberty and separation of church and state among seventeenth and eighteenth-century Baptists. From Helwys and Clarke to Backus and Leland, Baptist advocates of liberty grounded their call for full religious liberty and church-state separation in such foundational theological and ecclesiological doctrines as justification by faith through grace, sofa scriptura , believer's baptism, and the doctrine of the church. Contrary to much modern scholarship, I will argue that Backus's and Leland's heirs in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century Baptists allowed the rapidly changing political, social, and theological realities of this era to influence and shape their understanding of religious liberty and church-state separation in a number of ways which differed from their Baptist forefathers.