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Agency, Voluntarism, and Predestination in American Religion

Summary and Keywords

In the free marketplace of religious ideas that is the United States, Americans have disagreed over many things. The form of church government, the proper way to worship, the extent of the scriptural canon, and the limits of racial and gender inclusion are but a few of the questions on which the nation’s majority Christians have erected boundaries among themselves, to say nothing of their differences with non-Christians. Yet an equally important source of denominational divisions has been the nexus of issues surrounding agency (humans’ freedom to act as they choose), voluntarism (defined here as the quest for salvation through this-worldly action), and predestination (the otherworldly question of whether God predetermines each person’s eternal destiny). Particularly contentious has been the question of predestination, especially the problem of whether God elects persons for salvation conditionally (based on their foreseen faith or merit) or unconditionally (based solely on his inscrutable wisdom). In the 16th and 17th centuries, this debate cut across the Reformation divide, with each position represented among both Catholic and Protestant scholastics. The New England Puritan clergy were the first major bearers of this scholastic tradition, which abounded with paradox and logical distinctions. The intensity of Puritanism’s predestinarian psychology generated a widespread anti-Calvinist backlash in the 19th century and contributed to the growth of a number of upstart denominations, including Methodists, Universalists, Restoration Movement “Christians,” Mormons, Adventists, and Christian Scientists. Debates over free will and predestination also bred factionalism and even threatened schism in several denominations, including the Congregationalists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Baptists. Less frequently, non-Christians weighed in, occasionally embracing the trope of anti-Calvinism as a way to demonstrate their own traditions’ compatibility with American freedom. By the early 21st century, though the rise of nondenominational megachurches and an increase in “nones” (people with no religious identification) had weakened the hold of traditional doctrines on many Americans, the tension between voluntarism and predestination remained basic to theism as it has been for millennia.

Keywords: predestination, free will, agency, voluntarism, election, reprobation, Calvinism, Arminianism, Molinism, supralapsarianism, infralapsarianism

An Ancient Question

The question of whether humans have free will or their actions are predetermined is one of the most debated in the history of religions. Some measure of freedom is generally regarded as necessary for moral accountability, but religious thinkers since ancient times have argued over whether free choice can coexist with any form of determinism, divine or otherwise. In the traditions rooted in India (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism), the doctrine of karma (action) is ambiguous. On the one hand, a person’s destiny is determined by the actions of past lives, either one’s own or those of others. On the other hand, statements of the doctrine emphasize responsibility in the here and now: “What a man turns out to be depends on how he acts and on how he conducts himself. If his actions are good, he will turn into something good. If his actions are bad, he will turn into something bad.”1 In Abrahamic monotheisms, theologians have long attempted to balance the scriptural themes of human freedom and divine providence. The Hebrew Bible clearly links free choice to moral accountability (Deut. 30:15, 19), even while emphasizing God’s foreknowledge (Isa. 46:10). Similarly, passages in the Qur’an (e.g., 76:29–30 and 81:28–29) imply humans’ ability to choose right from wrong (“let him who will,” 76:29), even while asserting divine determinism in the next breath (“you do not will but that God wills,” 76:30).2

Christianity, the middle religion in the Abrahamic lineage, reframed the question of human free will around Christ: Does an individual choose Christ or does Christ choose the individual? The New Testament admitted of both interpretations, sometimes within the same biblical book. The Apostle Paul invoked God’s declaration of divine sovereignty to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy” (Rom. 9:15, quoting Exod. 33:19), but then reasserted human agency: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13, quoting Joel 2:32). The Eastern (Orthodox) church inclined toward the latter view, teaching that humans are not so enslaved by sin that they cannot freely choose to follow Christ or do genuinely good works. But the Western church (Catholic and Protestant) followed St. Augustine, who argued that Adam and Eve’s sin permanently tainted human nature itself, causing all future people to be born guilty and thus deserving of divine punishment. Why God chooses to have mercy on some (the predestined elect) but not others (the reprobate) is not for humans to question. Augustine appealed to the “unchangeable truth” of John 15:16 (“You did not choose me but I chose you”) and further maintained that God does not predestine certain persons for salvation based on their foreseen conduct since some lives are cut short at birth, before the individual has any chance to do good works.3 Augustine believed that birth defects in infants proved that all people are born deserving of punishment. That some babies are born without defects merely reveals God’s electing grace for what it is: something completely unmerited.4 Since God’s eternal decree could not be changed, the only hope for humans in this life was to avail themselves of the grace offered in the church’s sacraments. Against Donatist rigorists who insisted that baptism and the Eucharist had no effect if administered by unworthy priests, Augustine defended the objective reality of the sacraments as actual means of grace.

Yet Augustine’s sacramentalism, which placed a mystical faith in churchly rites, stood in tension with his predestinarianism, which stipulated that each person’s fate was already sealed. This tension was as much responsible for Western Christian and later American battles over predestination as the more familiar dichotomy between free will and determinism. Popular Catholicism gravitated toward sacramental solutions to the question of “Am I saved?” But many early Protestants, in rebelling against perceived abuses of the sacramental system, revived Augustine’s strong predestinarianism as a way of diminishing the power of churchly intermediaries. “No one who wishes to be thought religious dares simply deny predestination,” declared John Calvin, who echoed Augustine’s view that God elects certain persons without regard to any faith he foresees in them.5 As for passages of scripture that seemed to suggest a universal offer of salvation, Calvin likewise followed Augustine in limiting their application to the elect. Paul’s claim in 1 Timothy 2:4 that Christ “desires everyone to be saved” meant only that the elect are chosen from all stations of society. Calvin conceded that predestination was a grave mystery, yet he also regarded it as “very sweet fruit” for those whom God had irrevocably chosen as his own.6

Predestination in Colonial New England

The migration of the first Europeans to North America coincided with the age of post-Reformation scholasticism, when Catholic, Lutheran, and Calvinist intellectuals engaged in abstruse, Latinate debates over predestination. Few, if any, theologians doubted that God elects certain persons for salvation, but they disagreed on whether he does so conditionally (based on their foreseen faith or merit) or unconditionally (based solely on his inscrutable wisdom). In colonial America, Calvinist scholasticism became the dominant tradition, thanks to the influence of the New England Puritans, who founded several of the nation’s earliest universities. Calvinist orthodoxy was codified in the Canons of Dort (1618–1619) and the Westminster Confession (1647), which together enshrined the principles later summarized by the acronym “TULIP”: total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints. It was a stark rule of faith that nevertheless offered unshakable comfort to its true believers. All people sin in Adam, and from this mass of condemned sinners, God elects a certain number according to his own good pleasure, without regard to their foreseen faith; Christ’s death, though sufficient for the whole world, is effective only for the elect, who cannot fail to receive God’s grace and persevere to the end.

Within this Reformed consensus, however, transatlantic debates raged over the finer points, including the order of the “decrees,” or the logical progression of divine decisions within the plan of salvation. Some theologians, such as the English Puritan William Perkins (1558–1602) and the American Samuel Willard (1640–1707), defended a supralapsarian (from the Latin, “above the Fall”) position, whereby God decreed to (a) elect certain individuals and reprobate others, (b) create humans in his image, and (c) permit the Fall (lapsus). To its proponents, this logic safeguarded the absolutely unconditional nature of predestination. God’s primal purpose was to glorify himself, manifesting his mercy in election and his justice in reprobation. Even the creation was merely a means to this end. But to other thinkers, including the Geneva theologian Francis Turretin (1623–1687) and the American Congregationalist Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758), supralapsarianism was nonsensical because it seemed to make a nonentity (the not-yet-created person) the object of election. They maintained instead an infralapsarian (“below the Fall”) position, whereby God decreed unconditionally to (a) create humans in his image, (b) permit the Fall, and (c) elect certain fallen people to salvation in Christ while passing over the rest and leaving them in their lapsed state to suffer eternal damnation.

Laypeople were less concerned with such abstract issues than with the practical question of assurance: “How do I know if I am elect?” To assist their flocks, the clergy became consultants in casuistry, the theologians’ term for the study of cases of conscience. Though a person’s election presumably could not be known directly, it could be inferred from its promised effects, including belief or faith. Thus, the clergy offered the “practical syllogism” as one form of assurance: Whoever believes in Christ is elect. I believe; therefore, I am elect. The clergy also spoke in covenantal language that implied that salvation was not a foregone conclusion but depended at least in part on human response to Christ.

At the same time, however, the clergy emphasized that God alone could enable persons to believe in Christ and that he granted this saving faith to but a small minority. “’Tis a thousand to one if ever thou bee one of that small number whom God hath picked out to escape this wrath to come,” declared the first-generation Massachusetts Bay Colony minister Thomas Shepard in his oft-reprinted Sincere Convert (1640).7 Similarly, Boston minister Increase Mather warned his parishioners in 1720 that they should “fear and tremble and be concerned” about their salvation since the Lord’s chosen were but a “little flock” (Luke 12:32), a “remnant” (Rom. 11:5), and the “fewest of all people” (Deut. 7:7).8 The urgency of this message was heightened by Massachusetts minister Michael Wigglesworth’s perennial bestseller, Day of Doom (1662), which imagined Christ at the Last Judgment separating the proverbial sheep from the goats (Matt. 25) as people trembled in their loins, almost dead with fear.

Puritan spirituality was therefore dialectical, with assurance of salvation alternating with doubt and self-abasement. Ironically, despite the Puritans’ deep hostility to Romanism, this spiritual regimen had parallels in such Catholic devotional masters as Bernard of Clairvaux, Thomas à Kempis, and Francis de Sales. The Puritans’ goal was a kind of ecstatic agony that took comfort from election’s visible effect (faith) even while acknowledging the dangers of spiritual presumption since the elect were known only to God. Historian Michael McGiffert thus described the central paradox of a Puritan’s piety: “The less assured he felt, the more assurance he actually had.”9

Anti-Puritan Backlash in the 18th Century

The Puritan synthesis on predestination—confessional, intellectual, dialectical—did not survive the 18th century unscathed but faced a backlash on multiple fronts. The initial challenges came from within Puritanism itself. The first was a renewed demand among laypeople for the assurance and comfort provided by the sacraments. Many laity resisted the church’s system of reserving full membership for persons judged by the clergy to be “visible saints” (people whose faith suggested that they were also among the “invisible saints” of the elect, known only to God). Thus arose the famous Half-Way Covenant, endorsed by a synod in 1662, that allowed baptized adults who had declined to submit to the test of a public conversion relation for full church membership to present their own children for baptism.

A more radical challenge from within Puritan ranks was antinomianism (a derisive term meaning “against the law”), which repudiated all legalistic means of assurance and instead looked to the immediate witness of the Spirit as the distinguishing mark of the elect. The Holy Spirit, in other words, communicated directly with the chosen, giving them a supernatural sense of assurance. This perspective had been foreshadowed by Anne Hutchinson (1591–1643), who was banished from Massachusetts Bay for claiming the power of prophecy, but it lived on in the 1730s and 1740s in the revivals of the Great Awakening as various laypeople claimed entranced visions of themselves transported to heaven, where Christ showed them their names written in the Book of Life (Rev. 20:12).10 Such radicalism foreshadowed in certain respects the emergence in the early 20th century of Pentecostalism, which claimed a literal Spirit blessing as the infallible mark of the saved.

Outside of Puritanism, broader challenges came on two fronts—enlightenment and evangelical. As early as the mid-17th century, thinkers of the European Enlightenment had attacked the seeming rigidity of inherited orthodoxies on predestination. During the Puritan Oliver Cromwell’s brief overthrow of the monarchy in England, Anglican latitudinarians ridiculed the Commission of Triers charged with examining the Calvinist orthodoxy of all candidates for the ministry. Predestination here appeared as a joyless doctrine, the pathological fixation of a vindictive and narrow-minded cabal of clerics. Early American Anglicans were the vanguard of this moderate Enlightenment perspective that eschewed dogmatism in favor of a friendlier Christianity.11 Samuel Johnson, an Anglican priest and founding president of King’s College (later Columbia University), denounced the “empty Cob-webs of Scholastic Metaphysics” and insisted that absolute, unconditional election was “manifestly repugnant to the general Drift of the whole Word of God.”12 Later, Samuel Seabury, the first American Episcopal bishop, argued that predestination “is to the mind what jaundice is to the body”; the “whole Bible appears tinctured with a sickly, yellow hue, when the predestinarian looks into it, especially if he be of a morose and vindictive temper, as most commonly is the case.”13

The evangelical challenge came chiefly from the Methodist movement, which began as a revival within Anglicanism under John Wesley (1703–1791); his brother Charles (1707–1788); and George Whitefield (1714–1770), their fellow member of the “Holy Club” of evangelical students at Oxford. Unlike Whitefield, the Wesleys embraced the theology of the Dutch theologian Jacob Arminius (1560–1609), who did not deny the doctrine of original sin but argued that God grants all people a measure of prevenient grace repairing their wills just enough to enable them to accept or reject Christ. God’s decree of election, moreover, is conditional upon his foreknowledge of how each person will freely decide. For the Wesleys, the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election rendered insincere Jesus’s own invitation in Matthew 11:28 (“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden”). While John Wesley was the theologian of the movement, his brother Charles wrote hymns skewering the Calvinists for imputing their doctrine of predestination to God: “Still shall the hellish doctrine stand, / And Thee for its dire author claim? / No: let it sink at Thy command / Down to the pit from whence it came.”14 Such polemics eventually contributed to a bitter rift between the Wesleys and Whitefield, who in barnstorming across the colonies during the Great Awakening adhered to a traditional Calvinist theology. Back in England, Whitefield’s fellow Anglican Calvinist Augustus Toplady, author of the famous hymn “Rock of Ages,” fired back at the Wesleys, condemning their Arminian theology as thinly veiled popery (with its alleged emphasis on human works) and the “Gangrene of the Protestant Churches.”15

Defending Agency: Anti-Predestinarianism in the Young Republic

The American Revolution unleashed a tsunami of populist energy that fed on the American republic’s founding myth of starting afresh, or, as the historian Bernard Bailyn once put it, shedding “the heavy crust of custom that was weighing down the spirit of man.”16 For many Americans, this meant throwing off the alleged shackles of old scholasticisms, particularly the predestinarian orthodoxies codified in such documents as the Westminster Confession. Moreover, the disestablishment of the old state churches enacted by the First Amendment (1791) created an unprecedented system of religious free enterprise. Into this void burst a variety of groups who all, in one way or another, made liberty or human agency their rallying cry.

Among the earliest voices were leading political revolutionaries. Thomas Paine, best known for galvanizing support for the war with Britain with his pamphlet Common Sense (1776), penned what is believed to be his last essay, “Predestination: Remarks on Romans 9:18–21,” against Calvinism’s doctrine of election. “Nonsense ought to be treated as nonsense wherever it be found,” he declared. The “absurd and impious doctrine of predestination, a doctrine destructive of morals, would never have been thought of had it not been for some stupid passages in the Bible, which priestcraft at first, and ignorance since, have imposed upon mankind as a revelation.”17 Meanwhile, the nation’s third president, Thomas Jefferson, a deist who rejected the miraculous claims of Christianity, aired in private correspondence his own disdain for Calvinist orthodoxy. Writing to John Adams, Jefferson dismissed the deity of five-point Calvinism (TULIP) as a “false god” and a “daemon of malignant spirit.”18

While deists such as Paine and Jefferson remained a minority, their vehement opposition to “priestcraft” and its scholastic subtleties was shared by frontier Methodists, who moved westward with the new nation. Among the most colorful was “Crazy” Lorenzo Dow (1777–1834), a wild-eyed, long-haired evangelist who ridiculed Calvinists for talking out of both sides of their mouths: “You can and you can’t—You shall and you shan’t—You will and you won’t—And you will be damned if you do—And you will be damned if you don’t.”19 Methodism also produced more academic spokespersons, including Wesleyan University president Wilbur Fisk (1792–1839), who was sharply critical of the New Divinity theologians (the New England successors to Jonathan Edwards) for what he regarded as their failed attempts to prove that human free will was still possible within a predestinarian scheme. The New Divinity men included the African-American Congregational minister Lemuel Haynes (1753–1833), who insisted that the “agency and government of God” were “perfectly consistent with the liberty and freedom of men.” But Fisk and other critics countered that there was no straightforward way of reconciling the two, at least not without miring oneself in metaphysical quicksand. Similarly, Richard Allen (1760–1831), founder of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, lauded the Methodists’ no-nonsense theology in his autobiography, Life Experience and Gospel Labors (1833), as did the AME itinerant Jarena Lee (1783?–1850), whose earlier brush with Presbyterian Calvinism had plunged her into suicidal despair.

The Methodists’ populist style and their emphasis on human agency so propelled their numbers that by 1860 there were nearly as many Methodist churches as post offices in the United States.20 But the Methodists were just one of a host of groups who emerged in an antebellum milieu that blended republican ideology (with its stress on natural rights, popular sovereignty, and civic virtue) with a Protestant emphasis on the Bible as a charter of liberties. Some of the groups were the reform societies of the so-called Benevolent Empire: the American Bible Society (1816), the American Sunday School Union (1824), the American Tract Society (1825), the American Home Missionary Society (1826), and the American Anti-Slavery Society (1833). Though Calvinists and Arminians alike joined these causes, the Benevolent Empire was founded on the voluntarist assumption that this-worldly action is vital, if not paramount, in religion.

Christians were not the only religionists who drank deeply from the well of voluntarism. The journalist and diplomat Mordecai Manuel Noah (1785–1851), probably America’s best-known Jew in the early 19th century, bespoke what historian Jonathan Sarna has identified as American Judaism’s essentially “Arminian” orientation. “My faith does not rest wholly in miracles,” Noah declared in a widely publicized 1837 address. “Providence disposes of events, human agency must carry them out.”21 Later, the pioneering Reform rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise (1819–1900) criticized Luther and Calvin for assuming that natural human reason “is under the control of Satan; and yet man is accountable to God for his deeds.” Judaism, Wise contended, centers on the idea of free will, which it “maintains without qualification.”22 Elsewhere Wise invoked Deuteronomy 30:15 to prove free choice: “Behold, I have given before thee this day the life and the good, and the death and the evil.”23 Similarly, American Muslims drew on scripture to support a voluntaristic ethic. Alexander Russell Webb (1846–1916), who came from a white, middle-class family and attended a Presbyterian church as a child, encountered Islam by way of theosophy and eventually became a Muslim.24 Webb cited the Qur’an 10:98: “Let there be no forcing in religion; the right way has been made clearly distinguishable from the wrong one.” He also took pains to argue that Muslims believe in predestination in the sense of divine foreknowledge, not compulsion. An orthodox Muslim, he insisted, “is not a believer in the Calvinistic idea of predestination. He does not believe that man’s course is irrevocably fixed from the cradle to the grave, and that he cannot stray out of it by a voluntary act of his own.”25

Other voices came from a disparate group of upstart denominations that shared a populist revulsion toward high Calvinism. The Universalists one-upped the Methodists by arguing that Christ not only offered salvation to all people but would actually save everyone in the end. In his own study of scripture under the tutelage of the Welsh minister James Relly, the Universalist founder John Murray (1741–1815) concluded that when the Apostle Paul spoke of Christ’s having “chosen us in him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4), the “us” did not mean an elect minority of the human race, as the Calvinists had taught, but all of humanity.26 Meanwhile, the Restoration Movement, which gave birth to the Disciples of Christ and Churches of Christ, rallied followers with the slogan, “No creed but the Bible,” and emphasized scripture’s “whosoever will” offers of salvation. The movement’s co-founder Alexander Campbell (1788–1866) charged that verses typically used to justify Calvinistic predestination were “either wrested, perverted, or misapplied.”27 Later in the century, both the Seventh-day Adventist founder Ellen G. White (1827–1915) and the Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy (1821–1910) insisted on humans’ freedom to choose life or death and criticized the intellectual legacies of Calvinism. Eddy in particular recalled her childhood wrestling with her father’s “relentless” Calvinist theology. Wracked by a literal and figurative fever, she went to God in prayer, and “the ‘horrible decree’ of predestination—as John Calvin rightly called his own tenet—forever lost its power over me.”28

The most dramatic repudiation of Calvinistic predestination came in Mormonism, whose founder, Joseph Smith Jr. (1805–1844), received a series of new revelations that became the Book of Mormon and other Latter-day Saint scriptures. This enlarged canon abounds with unqualified assurances of free will. Humans, like God, are free “to act for themselves and not to be acted upon” (2 Nephi 2:26). Man is an “agent unto himself”; he has “moral agency” and is “accountable for his own sins” (Doctrine and Covenants 29:35, 101:78). Similarly, the Westminster Confession’s doctrine of limited atonement is confuted by 2 Nephi 25:16, which speaks of “the atonement, which is infinite for all mankind.” Even Smith’s inspired corrections to the King James Bible reveal subtle anti-Calvinist redactions. Smith modified the favorite Calvinist proof-text, John 6:44 (“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him”) to read: “No man can come unto me, except he doeth the will of my Father who hath sent me.” Likewise, Smith modified 1 Corinthians 1:24 (“But unto them which are called”) to read, “But unto them who believe,” replacing a predestinarian implication with a voluntaristic one.29 Finally, Mormonism’s Articles of Faith, composed by Smith in 1842, abandoned predestination’s entire substructure in the Augustinian doctrine of original sin: “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.” Just three months before his death, Smith expanded this notion when he elaborated the doctrine of preexistence. Adam’s choice in Eden was neither the beginning nor the end of human free will. In premortal life, all persons were radically free, self-existent intelligences.30 Premortal spirits continue to exercise free will when they come to earth in mortal bodies, and their free agency will persist in the postmortal life to come.

Disputes within Denominations in the 19th and 20th Centuries

Agency and predestination not only marked boundaries between different religious groups but also fueled factionalism within denominational traditions. The internal dispute among Catholics originated in Old World academic contexts and resembled in certain respects the Calvinist-Arminian divide among Protestants. On the one side were conservative Thomists such as Domingo Báñez (1528–1604), a Dominican theologian at Salamanca, who reiterated Thomas Aquinas’s own position that predestination was antecedent to foreknowledge of human merits in God’s eternal logic. (In a passage that even Puritan theologians loved to cite, Aquinas had dismissed as “mad” the notion that a person’s merit, as foreseen by God, could play any role in election; otherwise, grace would lose its gratuitous character.31) On the other side were Molinist theologians, named for Luis de Molina (1535–1600), a Spanish Jesuit who challenged the seeming determinism of the stricter Thomists. Molina theorized that predestination was subsequent to divine foreknowledge of human merits, but this foreknowledge was of a special kind, scientia media (middle knowledge), that did not interfere with human freedom. The debate became so heated that Pope Paul V in 1607 declared a truce, in effect ruling the teaching of both sides to be acceptable; Benedict XIV confirmed Paul’s decision in 1748.

Papal authority—and Latin disputation—thus prevented the battle, known as the De Auxiliis controversy (for the help or assistance, auxilium, given to humans by God’s grace) from spilling over into the world of the laity. The church’s sacramental system, which offered grace tangibly and continually, also tended to eclipse abstract doctrinal concerns in the lived religion of Catholics. As Francis Patrick Kenrick (1796–1863), bishop of Philadelphia and later archbishop of Baltimore, argued, grace is not a once-and-for-all proposition, as many Protestants believed, but a gift that Christians needed to receive via the sacraments throughout their lives. Protestants, in his view, were spiritually presumptuous in assuming that elect persons were justified immediately upon believing in Christ. The progressive idea of justification, which tempered joy with “holy fear,” was the moral strength of Catholicism, in contrast to Protestantism’s “greater incentives to sin.”32 Later, Kenrick’s onetime assistant, Augustine Francis Hewit (1820–1897), a convert to Catholicism from Congregationalism who became the superior general of the Paulist Fathers, singled out the “Calvinistic heresy” for subverting the sacraments as the instrumental causes through which grace is communicated. He praised the Arminian theology of the Methodists for defending “the freedom and ability of the will to use efficaciously the means of grace.”33

Kenrick and Hewit were correct that many Protestant traditions lacked a sense that the sacraments were much more than memorials of a grace already given to the elect in God’s eternal decree of predestination. This exacerbated the potential for serious conflict over predestinarian doctrine, even among Protestants at the higher end of the sacramental spectrum, such as Lutherans. Protestants, moreover, had no pope to settle disputes, which meant that doctrinal splits could sometimes result in outright schism. Four of the largest groups to experience significant internal strife were, in roughly chronological order of the controversies, Congregationalists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Baptists.

As heirs of the Puritans and Jonathan Edwards, 19th-century Congregationalists inherited the weightiest American Protestant tradition of reflection on predestination and the will. They also had to contend with a wider culture that increasingly viewed John Calvin as an un-American bugbear.34 Consequently, Congregationalists expended considerable intellectual energy in an attempt to show that God was not a cosmic despot who coerced the wills of his subjects. This academic project is broadly known as the New England Theology, a lineage running from Edwards and his New Divinity successors such as Samuel Hopkins, through the Andover Seminary professors Leonard Woods and his successor Edwards Amasa Park, as well as the New Haven theologian Nathaniel William Taylor. Foundational to this tradition was Edwards’s distinction, developed in Freedom of the Will (1754), between natural and moral ability. Under normal circumstances, people had a natural ability to obey God and repent, meaning that in the absence of physical or mental impairment or some external coercion, their minds and bodies were fully capable of turning to Christ. Moral ability referred to what people did by free choice of their wills, which was inseparable from the psychological inclinations or dispositions governing their choices. A person inclined toward sin lacked the moral ability to choose Christ. But because the sinner’s refusal to convert was entirely due to his own unwillingness, and not due to any natural inability, he was fully responsible for his actions. As Newburyport minister Daniel Fiske put it, “sinners can do what they certainly will not do.”35

This theological artifice begged many technical questions and led to various rifts among the New England theologians, who split into “Tasters,” “Exercisers,” and other factions, each with a different take on the operation of the will amid its bondage to sin.36 The overall result was what historian Allen Guelzo has called a “double vocabulary of radical free-willism and radical Calvinism.”37 Yet not all of the theological descendants of Jonathan Edwards believed that it was logically possible to reconcile the two. Among the skeptics was Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of the famous antislavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), who in a more theological novel, The Minister’s Wooing (1859), satirized the Congregational minister, Dr. Hopkins (based on Samuel Hopkins), for his dogmatic doublespeak: “One Sunday he tells us that God is the immediate efficient Author of every act of will; the next he tells us that we are entire free agents.”38 Stowe’s elder sister Catharine Beecher (1800–1878), an educational reformer, was equally caustic but traced the problem with the New England Theology to Western Christianity’s embrace of Augustinian predestinarianism over Pelagian perfectionism. (Pelagius’s denial of original sin was declared a heresy in the 5th century.) Seizing upon the North African context of Augustine’s career as a metaphor for his deleterious influence, she concluded that reasonable people had a duty to resist the “African enslavement of Anglo-Saxon minds” no less than to combat the “Anglo-Saxon enslavement of African bodies.”39

Lutherans, meanwhile, unlike most other Protestants, maintained an almost Catholic confidence in the objective reality of grace in the sacraments. (Against Calvinists, Lutherans insisted on the manducatio impiorum, or the notion that even the godless still eat Christ’s true body in the Eucharist.) But this did not insulate immigrant Lutherans from a massive conflict over predestination in the late 19th century that came to be known by the German mouthful Gnadenwahlslehrstreit (literally, “election-of-grace doctrine controversy”). The battle partly originated in a dispute between Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm Walther (1811–1887), the founding president of the Missouri Synod, and Friedrich August Schmidt (1837–1928), Walther’s former student at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. Walther, a staunch antirationalist, revived the strong predestinarianism of Luther, who in a famous debate with Erasmus had denied free will and insisted that all things happen by necessity. Walther thus spoke of humans as being elected “unto” faith, without any conditions, whereas Schmidt preferred the 17th-century Lutheran scholastic formula that God elects persons “in view of” faith (intuitu fidei), or in light of the faith that he himself grants to them. Schmidt and his allies accused Walther of crypto-Calvinism, while Walther and his allies accused Schmidt of synergism. The controversy soon spilled over into other synods and even split clergy and laypeople. One Ohio pastor found himself locked out of his parish; a similar fracas between a Michigan pastor and his congregation went all the way to the state supreme court.40 Ultimately, the conflict led several synods to withdraw from the Missouri-dominated Synodical Conference and heightened the Missouri Synod’s own tendency toward ecumenical isolationism.

For Presbyterians, the flashpoint was the Westminster Confession, which since colonial times had been at the center of “subscription” controversies over whether clergy must adhere unconditionally to its tenets. The most contentious sections of the document were Chapter III (“Of God’s Eternal Decree”), which asserted that the number of the elect “is so certain and definite that it cannot be either increased or diminished,” and Chapter X (“Of Effectual Calling”), which contained a fateful reference to “elect infants,” implying that other infants were damned from birth.41 Various Presbyterian clergy, including Lyman Beecher (1775–1863), patriarch of the famous Beecher clan, had tried to downplay the “elect infants” clause, angering conservatives but emboldening liberals in a push for a revised confession. Among the prominent advocates of revision was church historian Philip Schaff (1819–1893), professor at Union Seminary in New York, who argued that the confession was needlessly explicit in speaking of God’s wrath.

An initial revision effort in 1893 in the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA, the predominately Northern body) failed to receive the support of a majority of presbyteries. But by 1900, the revisionists had enlisted more support, including that of former U.S. president Benjamin Harrison, who died of influenza before the effort concluded. In 1903, the PCUSA General Assembly adopted a Declaratory Statement that left the disputed chapters unchanged but explained that “the doctrine of God’s eternal decree is held in harmony with the doctrine of his love to all mankind.” Regarding infants, the statement added that “all dying infancy are included in the election of grace.”42 Mark Twain quipped that “it has taken a weary long time to persuade American Presbyterians to give up infant damnation and to try to bear it the best they can.”43 Such joking aside, the Declaratory Statement had an immediate ecumenical benefit, paving the way for a reunion of the PCUSA with a majority faction from the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, founded on the Kentucky-Tennessee frontier in 1810 in opposition to the perceived fatalism of Westminster.

Baptists were supposedly noncreedal, adhering to the doctrine of “soul liberty,” but they were divided almost from the beginning between General (or Arminian) and Particular (or Calvinistic) factions. Both groups emerged in England out of 17th-century Puritanism. General Baptists (so named because of their belief in the general, or universal, saving potential of the atonement) made clear in a 1611 confession of faith that God did not predestine certain individuals to wickedness but instead elected and damned people based on their future belief in Christ. Particular Baptists adopted the Westminster Confession’s unconditional election as their own; their Second London Confession (1689) reproduced Chapters III and X almost verbatim. The essential contours of the debate continued in colonial America, where Anglican itinerant Charles Woodmason scoffed at Baptists in the Carolina backcountry who “Divide and Sub divide, Split into Parties—Rail at and excommunicate one another” over the “Knotty Points” of speculative theology.44 The doctrinal conflict was a major factor in splits over missionary activity, with Primitive Baptist groups (both white and black) concluding that missions were futile since God had already separated elect from reprobate. Among adherents to this “hard-shell” perspective, as its opponents dubbed it, were Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks Lincoln, parents of the future U.S. president, who steeped their son in what one biographer described as “a Calvinism that would have out-Calvined Calvin.”45

Though most Baptists regarded the antimission position as too extreme, they still divided over whether God elects persons unconditionally or based on their foreseen faith. By the mid-20th century, the disagreement had become especially bitter among Baptist fundamentalists, whose doctrine of biblical inerrancy led them to conclude that the Bible must have only one view of predestination since the book had just one infallible author (God). To the fundamentalist stalwart W. A. Criswell (1909–2002), longtime pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, unconditional election was “good old Bible doctrine” that was “woven into the very fiber of the Holy Scriptures.”46 His rival Texas evangelist, John R. Rice (1895–1980), editor of the Sword of the Lord newspaper, insisted that Calvinists had twisted the Apostle Paul to suit their purposes and that the Bible actually revealed a God who takes human conduct into consideration in his decree of election.47 Echoes of the Criswell-Rice dispute continued after 1979 when inerrantists seized control of the Southern Baptist Convention. At the turn of the 21st century, the presidents of the two leading Southern Baptist seminaries represented the opposing sides: R. Albert Mohler Jr., a Calvinist, at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky; and L. Paige Patterson, a quasi-Arminian, at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. (Patterson’s is a modified Arminianism because he and most other Baptists accept the Calvinist doctrine of perseverance, which they call “eternal security.”)

Predestination in a Post-Denominational Age

Inter- and intradenominational battles over predestination remain vigorous in some quarters in the 21st century, thanks in no small part to blogs and other online successors to the pamphlet wars of bygone days. Yet an increasingly large segment of the American population knows little about the predestinarian doctrines that once engaged ordinary citizens from the cities to the frontier. In some cases, doctrinal literacy has declined within the churches themselves, especially in nondenominational megachurches, which tend to shun theological disputes as divisive relics that are off-putting to religious seekers. Even some megachurches that are loosely denominational, such as Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, steer clear of the predestinarian disputes that have roiled their parent denominations (in this case, the Southern Baptist Convention). Warren, who once called the Calvinist W. A. Criswell the “greatest American pastor of the 20th century,” avoids the term “Baptist” at Saddleback, which has attracted a membership of over twenty thousand by featuring self-help, practical preaching.48 Similarly, Warren’s runaway bestseller, The Purpose-Driven Life (2002), reflects a strongly providential and even predestinarian worldview while studiously avoiding these terms. The epigraph on the dedication page, Ephesians 1:11, is one of only six verses in the Bible containing the Greek verb translated in the King James Version as “predestinate.” Yet Warren cited the version of the verse from The Message, Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase, which referred to God’s “designs on us” without using any form of the term “predestination.” Later in the book, Warren emphasized another classic predestinarian proof text, Romans 8:28–29, this time from the New Living Translation, which also avoided explicit mention of predestination. Nevertheless, the idea of divine foreordination could not be stronger in the book’s message. “God prescribed every single detail of your body. He deliberately chose your race, the color of your skin, your hair, and every other feature,” Warren declared. “Nothing in your life is arbitrary.”49

Whereas important remnants of predestinarianism survive (albeit minus old theological jargon) in many evangelical megachurches, another recent form of Protestantism questions the whole edifice of traditional Christian doctrine. Leaders of the so-called Emerging Church movement have sought a more progressive, this-worldly Christianity that upends many bedrock assumptions about the afterlife and its importance. An early proponent was the onetime megachurch pastor Rob Bell, whose bestselling Love Wins (2011) neutralizes the urgency of predestination by questioning the existence of a place of punishment for the reprobate. Bell’s doubts about hell are hardly new. In 1690, the archbishop of Canterbury John Tillotson, in Of the Eternity of Hell Torments, criticized as absurd the conclusion that all human sins deserve an infinite penalty because they are committed against an infinite God. Bell echoes this sentiment and also questions the traditional view of election: “If there are only a select few who go to heaven, which is more terrifying to fathom: the billions who burn forever or the few who escape this fate? How does a person end up being one of the few? … God choosing you instead of others? What kind of faith is that? Or, more important: What kind of God is that?”50

More conservative evangelicals have criticized Bell’s Emerging Church perspective as a warmed-over liberalism and a way station on the road to unbelief.51 Their fears about declining religiosity are not unfounded. The 2014 Religious Landscape Study by the Pew Research Center found that 23 percent of U.S. adults were “nones,” people who identify with no religion. (This was a 7-percent increase from the previous study in 2007.) Pew found the proportion of nones among millennials (people born between 1981 and 1996) to be even higher—35 percent.52 What this means for the future of old predestinarian debates remains uncertain. Social scientists and church-growth experts are divided over whether young adults are closet seekers ripe for a return to traditional forms of Christianity or whether they are simply the leading edge of an inexorable tide of religious apathy. The future religious profile of Americans will also depend on the growing strength of non-Protestant, and indeed non-Christian, religious groups.

Yet whatever proportion of the American population remains religious in coming decades, one thing seems certain. The tension between voluntarism and predestination will persist because each perspective fulfills a basic religious need. Voluntarism appeals to humans’ desire to be in control of their own destinies. For voluntarists, religion is about making free choices that lead to some desired religious end. This orientation has been particularly suited to American democracy, which so enshrined the voluntary principle that some Americans came to regard liberty, understood as the divinely granted right to self-determination, as nearly synonymous with religion itself. Predestinarianism, on the other hand, acknowledges the inescapable truth that some things in life are beyond human control. The most profoundly inexorable reality is death, which accounts for predestinarianism’s otherworldly focus. As a religious aesthetic, predestinarianism surrenders to an almost mystical awe before the all-determining power of the divine. Conversely, voluntarism celebrates the beauty and dignity of humans as self-directed moral beings. These religious worldviews have rarely been mutually exclusive, despite the vehemence of partisans for each side. Both perspectives have enriched American religion in countless ways, and the tension between the two seems likely to continue as a source of religious ferment.

Review of the Literature

The themes of agency, voluntarism, and predestination are so complex in and of themselves, and have implications for so many other doctrinal questions, that the relevant theological and philosophical literature could fill a library. However, treatments of these issues that focus on the American context are fewer. Two broad histories of antebellum American theology, published nearly simultaneously, are essential. Mark A. Noll’s America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln (2002) shows how European theological traditions were Americanized, especially under the influence of republican ideology. E. Brooks Holifield’s Theology in America: Christian Thought from the Age of the Puritans to the Civil War (2003) surveys the discrete traditions, both Protestant and Catholic, involved in a variety of American theological controversies. The only book-length treatment of American debates over predestination is Peter J. Thuesen’s Predestination: The American Career of a Contentious Doctrine (2009), which argues that the fractious denominational landscape of American Christianity owes far more to predestinarian disputes than previous scholarship has acknowledged. Thuesen also argues that the tension between predestinarianism and sacramentalism has been at least as important as the more familiar opposition between predestination and free will.

Predestination’s tension with free will has nevertheless exerted considerable influence over American religious thought. A standard history of 18th- and 19th-century American Protestant discussions of free will and determinism is Allen C. Guelzo’s Edwards on the Will: A Century of American Theological Debate (1989), which shows the centrality of Jonathan Edwards’s Freedom of the Will (1754) in setting the parameters of the controversy. Also helpful is Guelzo’s updated account, “The Return of the Will: Jonathan Edwards and the Possibilities of Free Will,” in Edwards in Our Time: Jonathan Edwards and the Shaping of American Religion (1999), which Guelzo co-edited with Sang Hyun Lee. Two older surveys of the New England Theology stemming from Edwards remain important: the sympathetic (and wistful) account by Frank Hugh Foster, A Genetic History of the New England Theology (1907), and the less sympathetic appraisal by Joseph Haroutunian, Piety versus Moralism: The Passing of the New England Theology (1932). The Edwardsean tradition was rooted, of course, in an older Puritanism whose predestinarian theology and psychology were exceedingly complex. Within the vast scholarship on 16th- and 17th-century Puritanism, studies by Theodore Dwight Bozeman, David D. Hall, Michael McGiffert, Perry Miller, Dewey D. Wallace Jr., and Michael P. Winship (all cited in the bibliography) are especially important for understanding the movement’s predestinarian valences. In addition, Richard Muller’s work, including his Dictionary of Latin and Greek Terms Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology (1985), elucidates the European scholastic vocabularies that were the Puritan theologians’ native tongue.

The intellectualism of New England Calvinism helped produce a widespread populist backlash in the early republic that is the subject of Nathan Hatch’s The Democratization of American Christianity (1989). On the intellectual plane, the rise of Enlightenment thought also corroded inherited theologies, as James Turner’s Without God, Without Creed: The Origins of Unbelief in America (1985) eloquently describes. Scholarship on individual denominations has also contributed to the history of predestinarian debates. Books by Ann Lee Bressler on Universalists, Terryl L. Givens on Mormons, David Hempton on Methodists, Lefferts A. Loetscher on Presbyterians, E. Clifford Nelson on Lutherans, and Robert W. Prichard on Episcopalians (all cited in the bibliography) are among the works that either include sections on relevant denominational controversies or contribute more broadly to the understanding of predestinarian or voluntaristic dynamics within particular theological traditions.

Further Reading

Bozeman, Theodore Dwight. The Precisianist Strain: Disciplinary Religion and Antinomian Backlash in Puritanism to 1638. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.Find this resource:

    Bressler, Ann Lee. The Universalist Movement in America, 1770–1880. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.Find this resource:

      Caskey, Marie. Chariot of Fire: Religion and the Beecher Family. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1978.Find this resource:

        Givens, Terryl L. Wrestling the Angel: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Cosmos, God, Humanity. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

          Guelzo, Allen C. Edwards on the Will: A Century of American Theological Debate. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1989.Find this resource:

            Hall, David D. Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment: Popular Religious Belief in Early New England. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989.Find this resource:

              Hatch, Nathan O. The Democratization of American Christianity. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989.Find this resource:

                Hempton, David. Methodism: Empire of the Spirit. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005.Find this resource:

                  Holifield, E. Brooks. Theology in America: Christian Thought from the Age of the Puritans to the Civil War. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003.Find this resource:

                    Hutchison, William R. The Modernist Impulse in American Protestantism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1992.Find this resource:

                      Kuklick, Bruce. Churchmen and Philosophers: From Jonathan Edwards to John Dewey. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985.Find this resource:

                        Loetscher, Lefferts A. The Broadening Church: A Study of Theological Issues in the Presbyterian Church Since 1869. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1957.Find this resource:

                          McGiffert, Michael, ed. God’s Plot: Puritan Spirituality in Thomas Shepard’s Cambridge. Rev. ed. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1994.Find this resource:

                            Miller, Perry. The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century. Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 1939.Find this resource:

                              Muller, Richard A. Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1985.Find this resource:

                                Nelson, E. Clifford, ed. The Lutherans in North America. Rev. ed. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980.Find this resource:

                                  Noll, Mark A. America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.Find this resource:

                                    Prichard, Robert W. The Nature of Salvation: Theological Consensus in the Episcopal Church, 1801–73. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997.Find this resource:

                                      Smith, H. Shelton. Changing Conceptions of Original Sin: A Study in American Theology Since 1750. New York: Scribner’s, 1955.Find this resource:

                                        Sweeney, Douglas A., and Allen C. Guelzo, eds. The New England Theology: From Jonathan Edwards to Edwards Amasa Park. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006.Find this resource:

                                          Thuesen, Peter J. Predestination: The American Career of a Contentious Doctrine. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.Find this resource:

                                            Turner, James. Without God, Without Creed: The Origins of Unbelief in America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985.Find this resource:

                                              Wallace, Dewey D. Jr. Puritans and Predestination: Grace in English Protestant Theology, 1525–1695. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1982.Find this resource:

                                                Winship, Michael P. Seers of God: Puritan Providentialism in the Restoration and Early Enlightenment. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.Find this resource:

                                                  Winship, Michael P. Making Heretics: Militant Protestantism and Free Grace in Massachusetts, 1636–1641. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002.Find this resource:


                                                    (1.) Brihad-Aranyaka Upanishad 4.4.5, in Upanisads, trans. Patrick Olivelle (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 65.

                                                    (2.) Qur’an 76:29–30, 81:28–29, in The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary, eds. Seyyed Hossein Nasr et al. (New York: HarperOne, 2015), 1456, 1482.

                                                    (3.) Augustine, On the Predestination of the Saints (De praedestinatione sanctorum, written in 429), in Four Anti-Pelagian Writings, trans. John A. Mourant and William J. Collinge, in The Fathers of the Church, vol. 86 (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1992), 246, 259–260.

                                                    (4.) Elaine Pagels, Adam, Eve, and the Serpent (New York: Vintage, 1988), 135.

                                                    (5.) John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), III.21.5 (p. 926), III.22.1–6 (pp. 932–940).

                                                    (6.) Calvin, Institutes, III.24.16 (pp. 983–984), III.21.1 (p. 921).

                                                    (7.) Thomas Shepard, The Sincere Convert, Discovering the Paucity of True Believers and the Great Difficulty of Saving Conversion (London, 1640), 94.

                                                    (8.) Increase Mather, Awakening Soul-Saving Truths, Plainly Delivered, in Several Sermons (Boston, 1720), 70, 75–76, 99.

                                                    (9.) Michael McGiffert, ed., God’s Plot: Puritan Spirituality in Thomas Shepard’s Cambridge, rev. ed. (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1994), 20. On Catholic parallels to Puritan devotional regimens, see Charles E. Hambrick-Stowe, The Practice of Piety: Puritan Devotional Disciplines in Seventeenth-Century New England (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1982), 25–39. Also essential on Puritan piety is Charles Lloyd Cohen, God’s Caress: The Psychology of Puritan Religious Experience (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986).

                                                    (10.) Douglas L. Winiarski, “Souls Filled with Ravishing Transport: Heavenly Visions and the Radical Awakening in New England,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 61 (2004): 3–46.

                                                    (11.) On Anglicans as vanguard of the Enlightenment, see Norman Fiering, “The First American Enlightenment: Tillotson, Leverett, and Philosophical Anglicanism,” New England Quarterly 54 (1981): 343.

                                                    (12.) Samuel Johnson, A Letter from Aristocles to Authades, Concerning the Sovereignty and the Promises of God (Boston, 1745), 3, 26.

                                                    (13.) Samuel Seabury, Discourses on Several Important Subjects (New York, 1798), 126.

                                                    (14.) Charles Wesley, Hymns on God’s Everlasting Love, first ser. (1741), in Charles Wesley: A Reader, ed. John R. Tyson (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), 297.

                                                    (15.) Augustus Toplady, A Letter to the Rev. Mr. John Wesley: Relative to His Pretended Abridgment of Zanchius on Predestination, 2d ed. (London, 1771), 20; and Augustus Toplady, A Caveat against Unsound Doctrines: Being the Substance of a Sermon Preached in the Parish Church of St. Ann, Blackfryars, on Sunday, April 29, 1770 (London, 1770), 20.

                                                    (16.) Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 1967), 34.

                                                    (17.) Thomas Paine, “Predestination,” in The Complete Writings of Thomas Paine, 2 vols., ed. Philip S. Foner (New York: Citadel, 1969), 2:896.

                                                    (18.) Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, April 11, 1823, in Jefferson’s Extracts from the Gospels: “The Philosophy of Jesus” and “The Life and Morals of Jesus,” eds. Dickinson W. Adams and Ruth W. Lester (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983), 410.

                                                    (19.) Lorenzo Dow, History of Cosmopolite (1814), quoted in John H. Wigger, Taking Heaven by Storm: Methodism and the Rise of Popular Christianity in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 18.

                                                    (20.) . Mark A. Noll, The Old Religion in a New World: The History of North American Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002), 61.

                                                    (21.) Quoted in Jonathan D. Sarna, American Judaism: A History (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004), 62, 75–76.

                                                    (22.) Isaac M. Wise, Judaism and Christianity: Their Agreements and Disagreements (Cincinnati, OH: Bloch, 1888), 53.

                                                    (23.) Isaac M. Wise, Judaism: Its Doctrines and Duties (Cincinnati: Israelite, 1872), 27.

                                                    (24.) On Webb, see Edward E. Curtis IV, Muslims in America: A Short History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 25–29; and Umar F. Abd-Allah, A Muslim in Victorian America: The Life of Alexander Russell Webb (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006).

                                                    (25.) Mohammed Alexander Russell Webb, Islam in America: A Brief Statement of Mohammedanism and an Outline of the American Islamic Propaganda (New York: Oriental, 1893), 16, 64.

                                                    (26.) James Relly, Union; or, A Treatise of the Consanguinity and Affinity between Christ and His Church (London, 1759), 39; and on Murray’s reading of him, see Russell E. Miller, The Larger Hope: The First Century of the Universalist Church in America, 1770–1870 (Boston: Unitarian Universalist Association, 1979), 3–10.

                                                    (27.) Alexander Campbell, ed., The Christian Baptist, rev. D. S. Burnet (Cincinnati: Burnet, 1835), 254.

                                                    (28.) Mary Baker Eddy, Retrospection and Introspection (1891; repr., Boston: First Church of Christ, Scientist, 1920), 13–14.

                                                    (29.) Thomas A. Wayment, ed., The Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the New Testament: A Side-by-Side Comparison with the King James Version (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret, 2005), 240–241, 267.

                                                    (30.) . Richard Lyman Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 533–537.

                                                    (31.) Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I.23.5, Blackfriars ed., vol. 5, God’s Will and Providence (Ia. 19–26), trans. Thomas Gilby (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1967), 123.

                                                    (32.) Francis Patrick Kenrick, The Catholic Doctrine of Justification Explained and Vindicated (Philadelphia: Eugene Cummiskey, 1841), 200.

                                                    (33.) Augustine F. Hewit, The King’s Highway; or, The Catholic Church the Way of Salvation, as Revealed in the Holy Scriptures, 3d ed. (New York: Catholic Book Exchange, 1893), 81; and Augustine F. Hewit, “The Presbyterian Revision,” Catholic World 51.304 (July 1890): 506–507.

                                                    (34.) Thomas J. Davis, “Images of Intolerance: John Calvin in Nineteenth-Century History Textbooks,” Church History 65 (1996): 234–248.

                                                    (35.) Daniel T. Fiske, “New England Theology,” Bibliotheca Sacra 22 (July 1865): 506, quoted in Joseph A. Conforti, Jonathan Edwards, Religious Tradition, and American Culture (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995), 121.

                                                    (36.) On the “Tasters” and the “Exercisers,” see the summaries in Mark A. Noll, America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 282–284; and E. Brooks Holifield, Theology in America: Christian Thought from the Age of the Puritans to the Civil War (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003), 143–146, 349–352.

                                                    (37.) Allen C. Guelzo, “An Heir or a Rebel? Charles Grandison Finney and the New England Theology,” Journal of the Early Republic 17 (1997): 75.

                                                    (38.) Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Minister’s Wooing, ed. Susan K. Harris (New York: Penguin Books, 1999), 45.

                                                    (39.) Catharine Beecher, An Appeal to the People in Behalf of Their Rights as Authorized Interpreters of the Bible (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1860), 380. See also Peter J. Thuesen, “The ‘African Enslavement of Anglo-Saxon Minds’: The Beechers as Critics of Augustine,” Church History 72 (2003): 569–592.

                                                    (40.) Both incidents were reported in the Lutheran press and are recounted in Hans Robert Haug, “The Predestination Controversy in the Lutheran Church in North America” (PhD diss., Temple University, 1968), 736–737, 741–742.

                                                    (41.) Latin-English edition of the Confession in Philip Schaff, ed., The Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes, 3 vols., 6th ed., rev. by David S. Schaff (1931; repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2007), 600–673.

                                                    (42.) Declaratory Statement in Schaff, ed., Creeds of Christendom, 920–921.

                                                    (43.) Mark Twain, Is Shakespeare Dead? From My Autobiography (New York: Harper, 1909), 130.

                                                    (44.) Richard J. Hooker, ed., The Carolina Backcountry on the Eve of the Revolution: The Journal and Other Writings of Charles Woodmason, Anglican Itinerant (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1953), 103.

                                                    (45.) William E. Barton, quoted in Allen C. Guelzo, “Abraham Lincoln and the Doctrine of Necessity,” Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association 18 (Winter 1997): 67.

                                                    (46.) W. A. Criswell, “Doctrine of Predestination” (sermon on Isaiah 46:9–11), November 20, 1955, and “God Hath Chosen You” (sermon on 2 Thess. 2:13–14), May 18, 1958, both online at Criswell Sermon Library.

                                                    (47.) John R. Rice, Predestined for Hell? No! (Murfreesboro, TN: Sword of the Lord, 1958), 17–18, 27–29, 80.

                                                    (48.) Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church: Growth without Compromising Your Message and Mission (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995), 25–26.

                                                    (49.) Rick Warren, The Purpose-Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 5, 22–23, 195–196.

                                                    (50.) Rob Bell, Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived (New York: HarperCollins, 2011), 2–3.

                                                    (52.) Michael Lipka, “A Closer Look at America’s Rapidly Growing Religious ‘Nones,’” Pew Research Center, May 13, 2015.