World Without End
by James Moorhead (9780253335807)

World Without End
 
James Moorhead
Release Date: 01 January 1999
Format: Hardback
Pages: 272
Category: Protestantism & Protestant Churches
ISBN: 9780253335807
ISBN-10: 0253335809



In the nineteenth century, many American Protestants were both modern and precritical in their views of the future. They expected almost limitless, orderly progress as Christianity and democracy spread and as technology and prosperity increased. Yet they also believed that, many centuries hence after progress had run its course, the Second Coming of Jesus and a supernatural End to the current world would occur. If these Protestants had one foot in the world of steamships and the telegraph, the other was still firmly planted in the cosmos of the Apocalypse - a universe where angels poured out vials of wrath, the dead would rise again, and the wicked would be cast into a lake of fire burning forever. During the years of this study, the delicate balance represented by this view (technically called postmillennialism) was lost. Although some Protestants became premillennialists expecting an early end of the world and the imminent return of Jesus, most did not. Among the moderate to liberal mainstream Protestants upon whom this study focuses, postmillennialism eroded into a hope that this world would be the scene for limitless spiritual improvement and temporal progress. The sense of an End vanished. The author demonstrates that this change was symptomatic of a series of major transformations in American religion and culture. It reflected the triumph of critical biblical scholarship. It exhibited the new face of Protestant piety - a piety in which the fear of hell disappeared, heaven became the best of this world writ large, and negative associations with death were suppressed. The new view of the future also reflected the ethos of an emerging consumer culture which stressed unending growth and unsatiated longing. The author traces the way in which the altered view of the End shaped the foreign missions movement, the social gospel, and ecumenical endeavour. He shows how the hope encouraged churches to adopt the ideal of businesslike efficiency and to bureaucratise their endeavours. In short, "World Without End", in chronicling changing views of the last things, also traces the emergence of some of the central dynamics - and discontents - of mainstream Protestantism in the twentieth century.

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