Evangelical Devotion Becomes A Movement

The thesis of Bruce Hindmarsh, in (The Spirit of Early Evangelicalism) is that evangelicalism’s earliest founders were shaped by the experience of the indwelling of the Spirit, and hence evangelical devotion became both central and was shaped by the presence of God in a person’s life.

Modernity permitted it to become a movement, a “global” movement. Modernity’s evangelicalism meant the transportation of evangelical devotion hither and yon.

Evangelicalism, then, co-exists with modernity and without modernity it could not have become what it is. (Which isn’t to say that evangelicalism is modernity.)

There are some readers of this blog who will want to contend that evangelicalism is Luther and Calvin or say that it is Augustine or that it is New Testament. Evangelicalism, as we know it, is shaped by modernity and without modernity it wouldn’t be what it is. By the way, Don Dayton has been saying this in a different way for a long, long time: Rediscovering an Evangelical Heritage. What I will be looking for in Hindmarsh is how much “justice” or social justice he finds in the “spirit” of early evangelicalism.

Back to Hindmarsh’s exceptional new study, and I hope you either purchase this or get your library to purchase this book.

Evangelical devotion then was not determined by territory or the hierarchy of a parish but by devotion and small groups and voluntarism. Mobility made it a movement. Three marks of a (sociological) movement:

(1) a concerted campaign to spread the movement,

(2) a repertoire of actions, including associations and coalitions and public meetings and rallies and demonstrations and statements to the public media,

and (3) public announcements of legitimacy and worthiness of respect and numbers.

[SMcK: These three elements still mark evangelicalism in many of its forms.]

In that evangelical devotion is not parish determined, it also developed a distinct ecclesiology, what Hindmarsh calls experiments:

1. The ideal of a narrative community, or a radical congregationalism.
2. A small church within the larger church based in genuine conversion, or Pietism.
3. An interconfessional and international brotherhood, or a Moravian theme of inter-denominationalism.

What could only happen as it did was due to modernity’s greater mobility. An experience-shaped identity formed into international “connexions” of evangelical devotion.

At the lower level, locally, the movement was constituted by an intensive experience of the disciplined, small group religion, with these voluntary communities then also linked by the means of personal “connexions” of leaders. The quest for “true religion” in the modern world united these communities, even while rivalry, theological dispute, and ecclesiastical loyalties led at the same time to partisan divisions and sharp disagreements in the contestable public sphere. There would be both connections and disconnections (57).

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