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Christianity in the Twentieth CenturyA World History$
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Brian Stanley

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691196848

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691196848.001.0001

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Wars and Rumors of Wars

Wars and Rumors of Wars

The Response of British and American Churches to the First World War

(p.12) Chapter One Wars and Rumors of Wars
Christianity in the Twentieth Century

Brian Stanley

Princeton University Press

This chapter suggests that the consequences of the First World War for patterns of Christian belief and the life of the churches were indeed great, but that they stimulated, not an immediate loss of faith, but rather the emergence and increasingly distinct self-definition of some of the most characteristic themes and divergent styles of Christianity in the modern world. It then identifies the main implications of the war for Christianity on a world stage. First, the war came close to destroying the spirit of Protestant internationalism that had been so powerfully symbolized and fostered by the World Missionary Conference held at Edinburgh in June of 1910. A second consequence of the war was the gradual erosion of credibility of the European ideal of “Christian civilization,” and consequent softening of the antithesis between “Christian West” and “Non-Christian East.” Third, the war led some theological interpreters to question the more facile expressions of Christian liberalism and social optimism to which sections of the Protestant churches had succumbed since the dawn of the twentieth century. A fourth spiritual consequence of the war was the stimulus it imparted to forms of religion that emphasized the suprarational, and hence the limits of rational human capacity to change the world.

Keywords:   First World War, Christian belief, churches, Christianity, Protestant internationalism, Christian civilization, Christian liberalism, social optimism, religion, World Missionary Conference

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