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The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume IIThe Long Eighteenth Century c. 1689-c. 1828$
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Andrew Thompson

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198702245

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198702245.001.0001

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(p.11) 1 Presbyterians
The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume II

Alasdair Raffe

Oxford University Press

Older accounts of English Presbyterianism in the long eighteenth century tended to paint a picture of numerical decline and an inevitable drift away from Calvinist orthodoxy towards Unitarianism. This chapter qualifies this picture in several ways. It suggests that, despite a reduction in numbers, Presbyterians remained politically and intellectually influential. Furthermore, while there was undoubtedly some theological drift, others remained orthodox and the disputes within congregations about theological direction are testament to the diversity of views held. The chapter also highlights the need for care with labels—local cooperation between different strands of Dissent was common. The rigidity of denominational division was more apparent in retrospect and could, itself, be used as a tool to create separate denominational identities.

Keywords:   Calvinism, Congregationalism, denominationalism, orthodoxy, patronage, Presbyterianism, rational Christianity, Unitarianism

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