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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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Shifting Conceptions of Heaven from the Roaring Twenties to the Fabulous Fifties

Shifting Conceptions of Heaven from the Roaring Twenties to the Fabulous Fifties

(p.158) 8 Shifting Conceptions of Heaven from the Roaring Twenties to the Fabulous Fifties
Heaven in the American Imagination

Gary Scott Smith

Oxford University Press

The most popular views of heaven during these four decades reflected the nation's increased religious diversity. Heavenly recognition, implementing heavenly principles in this world, adopting a heavenly perspective toward earthly life, and preparing for heaven all remained important, but new themes and perspectives emerged. Many Christians repudiated traditional views of heaven, refused to speculate about heavenly life, or argued that preoccupation with heaven inhibited, rather than inspired, endeavors to improve conditions on earth or to live ethically. Many continued to insist that heaven's residents grew intellectually, morally, and spiritually. Disagreement over the relative merit of faith and works as grounds for admission to heaven grew more intense. Evangelicals and fundamentalists underscored God's saving action in Christ; Catholics stressed the role of the church, the sacraments, good works, and purification in purgatory; and liberal Protestants and Jews accentuated human character and agency. These groups also debated the conventional concept of hell.

Keywords:   heaven, faith and works, evangelicals, fundamentalists, Catholics, liberal Protestants, Jews, hell

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