Antebellum Evangelicalism and the Diffusion of Providential Functionalism

Joel L. From

In this essay Joel L. From notes that antebellum evangelicalism was widely articulated in terms of a providential functionalism that descends from Isaac Newton’s system of the world. In the eighteenth century, Newton’s theory was broadly applied in popular and intellectual culture. This general application of systematic and functionalist concepts provides the context within which the doctrinal systems, Baconian inductivism, and ecclesiological practices of nineteenth-century evangelicals should be understood. This prior penetration of Newtonian analogies into the theological and popular discourse of the eighteenth century furnished antebellum evangelicals with rich materials whereby they could engage the social, moral, and religious conditions of their own century. Mr. From is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Briercrest Bible College.

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Last Updated: January 1, 2003
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