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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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American Foundations

American Foundations

(p.79) 4 American Foundations
Republican Theology

Benjamin T. Lynerd

Oxford University Press

Republican theology, the merging of Christian piety with the philosophy of limited government, came to dominate the vernacular of American evangelicals by the 1770s as a point of entry to the Revolutionary project. The intellectual journeys of two prominent figures of the American Founding, John Witherspoon and Benjamin Rush, showcase the development of republican theology. Witherspoon, who found a way to make Scottish moral sense palatable to evangelicals, trained both pastors and statesmen at the College of New Jersey. Rush, the Philadelphia doctor, popularized republican theology with a steady stream of proposals—on everything from prison reform to public education—to make American society more just, humane, and, above all, virtuous. An analysis of their writings reveals not only the content of republican theology, but also its provenance, its adaptability to various moral and political agendas, its early influence on evangelical thought, and its early trials as a political philosophy.

Keywords:   American Founding, John Witherspoon, Benjamin Rush

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