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Republican TheologyThe Civil Religion of American Evangelicals$
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Benjamin T. Lynerd

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199363551

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199363551.001.0001

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Covenantal Origins

Covenantal Origins

(p.57) 3 Covenantal Origins
Republican Theology

Benjamin T. Lynerd

Oxford University Press

When republican theology first came to dominate the American pulpit in the 1770s, it displaced covenant theology, the idea that societies form for the purpose of extending God’s redemptive kingdom on earth. The question of how to put the new covenant to work in the polis spawned the diverse experiments in Puritan governance to which the likes of Hobbes and Locke responded with their various social contracts. The eighteenth century witnessed theological clash and compromise between the imperatives of the Christian covenant and those of the social contract. Republican theology of the American founding represents a latter stage of this dialectic. At the midpoint stands the Scottish moral sense tradition, exemplified in this chapter by Francis Hutcheson, which infused Lockean politics with a robust Christian morality. Jonathan Edwards’ rebuttal of Scottish moral sense in the 1750s reveals an American evangelical tradition that, for a few more years at least, would retain the moral idealism of the new covenant.

Keywords:   covenant theology, Puritan, Scottish moral sense, Francis Hutcheson, Jonathan Edwards

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