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Heaven in the American Imagination$
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Gary Scott Smith

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199738953

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199738953.001.0001

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Heaven in the Progressive Years

Heaven in the Progressive Years

Personal Growth, Service, and Reform

(p.134) 7 Heaven in the Progressive Years
Heaven in the American Imagination

Gary Scott Smith

Oxford University Press

As the nation became more prosperous and powerful and more Americans enjoyed a higher standard of living, many concluded that the best features of this world were “writ large” in heaven and that achieving earthly dreams was as important there as worshipping God. Numerous authors depicted heaven as a place of energetic and productive endeavor and service where residents fully utilized their talents. Proponents of the Social Gospel exhorted Christians to concentrate on improving conditions on earth rather than preparing for heaven and their own salvation. To them, social justice and the good life were not chiefly ideals to be realized in the afterlife, but goals to be achieved on earth. Stressing God's love and mercy, many theological liberals claimed people would have a postdeath probationary period to respond to the gospel. Evangelicals countered that individuals must accept Jesus as their savior and Lord on earth to go to heaven.

Keywords:   heaven, service, Social Gospel, salvation, social justice, probationary period

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