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Contested Christianity
The Political and Social Contexts of Victorian Theology

By Timothy Larsen

Contested Christianity
Paperback, 242 pages $24.95
Published: 1st March 2004
ISBN: 9781602581777

Subjects: All Religious Studies, All Theology, Historical Theology

This volume explores the cultural, political and intellectual forces that helped shape and define nineteenth-century British Christianity. Larsen challenges many of the standard assumptions about Victorian era Christians in their attempts to embody their theological commitments. In contrast to other studies of the period, Larsen highlights the way in which Dissenters and other free church evangelicals employed the full range of theological resources available to them to take stands that the wider culture was still resisting – e.g., evangelical Nonconformists enfranchising women, siding with the black population of Jamaica in opposition to their own colonial governor, championing the rights of Jews, Roman Catholics, and atheists. All of these stances belie the stereotypes of Victorian evangelicals currently in existence (even among Victorian scholars) and properly shift the focus to Dissent, to plebeian culture, to social contexts, and to the cultural and political consequences of theological commitment. This study brings freshness and verve to the study of religion and the Victorians, bearing fruit in a range of significant, and often counter-intuitive, findings and connections.


Part One: The Social Contexts of a Private Faith

1. Gender Egalitarianism: The Baptist Women of the Mill Yard Church

2. Religious Respectability: The Reverend Newman Hall's Divorce Case

3. Spiritual Exploration: Thomas Cook, Victorian Tourists, and the Holy Land

Part Two: The Social Contexts of a Contested Faith

4. Biblical Criticism and the Crisis of Belief: D. F. Strauss's Leben Jesus in Britain

5. Biblical Criticism and the Desire for Reform: Bishop Colenso on the Pentateuch

6. Biblical Criticism and Anti-Christian Rhetoric: Joseph Barker and the Case against the Bible

7. Biblical Criticism and the Secularist Mentality: Charles Bradlaugh and the Case against Miracles

8. The Appeal of Victorian Apologetics: Thomas Cooper and the Case for Christian Orthodoxy

Part Three: The Politics of Free Church Polity

9. Free Church Ecclesiology: Lay Representation and the Methodist New Connexion

10. Free Church Politics and the Gathered Church: The Evangelical Case for Religious Pluralism

11. Free Church Politics and Contested Memories: The Historical Case for Disestablishment

12. Free Church Politics and the British Empire: The Baptist Case against Jamaica's Colonial Governor



Timothy Larsen challenges many stereotypes of Victorian religion in this volume. He shows that Evangelical Nonconformists, far from being uniformly obscurantist or fanatical, could be creative and fair-minded; and he reveals that reflective freethinkers could return to the faith they had once deserted.

—David Bebbington, Professor of History, University of Stirling

Publication Details:

 Paperback , 242 pages

  HIS015000, REL015000, REL070000
 Baylor University Press

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