3133237__Stanley_Elkins__Slavery_

3133237__Stanley_Elkins__Slavery_ - Slavery Running head:...

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Slavery 1 Running head: Stanley Elkins and James McPherson: Slavery Stanley Elkins and James McPherson: Slavery [Author’s Name] [Institution’s Name]
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Slavery 2 Stanley Elkins and James McPherson: Slavery The critical importance of debate over slavery for the course of theology in America lay not only in the fact that fundamental differences so thoroughly divided the era's first rank of Protestant thinkers and denominations. According to Stanley Elkins, it was even more that the intellectual resources that evangelical Protestants had so eagerly embraced in order to further their efforts of evangelization, church building, and social construction—and that, therefore, had become so important for their own theologies—were powerless in the face of division over slavery. Commonsense moral reasoning perceived directly and intuitively the propriety of the slave system and perceived with equal force its impropriety. Republican principles contradicted slavery and affirmed slavery. Most damagingly, Reformed, literal approaches to the Church could sanction slavery and also condemn it. The potent tools with which evangelicals had constructed the nation lost their potency when they turned to address this issue. Debates over slavery were critical for American theology because they implicated the intellectual alliances that had made this theology what it was. On the other hand, James McPherson believes that the problem of the Church and slavery was always an exegetical problem, but never only an exegetical problem. If the Bible was God's revealed word to humanity, then it was the duty of Christians to heed carefully every aspect of that revelation. If the Church tolerated, or actually sanctioned, slavery, then it was incumbent upon believers to hear and obey. The logic was inescapable. By 1861 and the firing on Fort Sumter, the application of that logic had created a theological crisis of the first order. Despite widespread distaste for slavery and a good deal of antislavery activity from some quarters, more and more of the God-fearing in the era's
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Slavery 3 most influential churches had come to believe what almost no Protestants elsewhere in the world still believed—that at least in some senses and with respect to some purposes, the Church did in fact sanction slavery. If, however, the preponderant view concluded that the Church allowed or upheld slavery, anything but unanimity existed about how to act upon that conclusion. The crisis of the time was created by the fact that three sizable and vocal constituencies offered conflicting answers to the problem. Each, moreover, was decisively influenced by the effort to interpret the Church literally and in accordance with Reformed traditions. Although Stanley Elkins’ book is impressive in many ways, it also displays
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3133237__Stanley_Elkins__Slavery_ - Slavery Running head:...

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